photo © 2010 Vinoth Chandar | more info (via: Wylio)
I have never really paid much attention to what goes on in Washington DC. But if you have been following my blog or Facebook page, you know that the House of Representatives passed a budget this past Saturday requiring the elimination of the Corporation of National and Community Service, which funds AmeriCorps.
What you may not know is that the money Embrace Richmond gets from AmeriCorps goes to my AmeriCorps members in the form of living allowances and does not even come close to covering the cost of administering the grant. So basically every dollar that gets taken from AmeriCorps is taken out of the hands of AmeriCorps members across this country who are living off these meager stipends. So in other words, when Washington cuts AmeriCorps, they are moving people out of roles where they are “earning” a living by serving their neighbors and putting them into the welfare lines and unemployment lines. This makes no sense at all!
This is all just a political game that will have absolutely no positive bottom-line impact on the federal deficit. They are basically just moving expenses from one category to another in an attempt to win political points. It is absolutely insane. In an economy where there are not enough jobs, they will be eliminating jobs for the people who have the hardest time securing employment – the young and the poor.
Not only will this elimination result in significant numbers of people being without income, it will also hurt the hundreds of thousands of impoverished children and families who depend on the services provided by AmeriCorps members. For example, last year alone Embrace Richmond AmeriCorps members distributed more than $345,000 in goods to over 1000 individuals and we are just one of over 3,000 non-profits who participate in national service programs.
What I also don’t think people realize is that when AmeriCorps goes, a number of non-profits such as Embrace who depend on the AmeriCorps members are going to be severely impacted and some will likely have to close their doors, thus further eliminating jobs and services to the most vulnerable in our country. The ripple effect of this budget proposal is not even being considered.
In addition to eliminating AmeriCorps member jobs, hurting non-profits and the poorest of the poor who receive services, educational institutions will also be negatively impacted. A significant portion of the AmeriCorps compensation package comes in the form of educational grants. It is these educational awards that help people get a college education. Without these awards, many will be unable to continue to pursue higher education.
What Washington is not considering is the value of the more than 5 million volunteers who are mobilized every year and the significant private dollars being leveraged by AmeriCorps programs. Last year the programs supported by the Embrace AmeriCorps members matched 3 to 1 the dollars expended by the federal government and we mobilized 1,900 volunteers who served 12,600 hours. The dollar value of these volunteer hours and private dollars being invested demonstrates that AmeriCorps is one of the best investments America could make in fighting poverty, improving education and strengthening our country.
My AmeriCorps members make $6,500 per year and they are willing to work for that amount because they believe in this country and want to make it a better place. This bill is telling them that Washington does not think they are worth $6,500 and would rather have them begging and asking for handouts in the welfare or unemployment line. We are telling the millions of volunteers who support AmeriCorps programs that they are of no value and that the services they provide are unimportant.
I know this post is raw with emotion and probably not the wisest thing I have written. But I have signed every online petition, called my congressman, and I just don’t feel like anyone is listening. I know out there somewhere is someone who cares and I pray someone who has the power to stop this madness. So I will conclude this rant asking you not to sign another petition but instead to put this petition before God seeking provision for all those whose lives are dependent on the decisions being made by our elected officials.