By Congressman Lloyd Doggett
“I am an AmeriCorps member, and I will get things done.”- AmeriCorps Pledge
One million strong – In the early 1990s, the National Community Service Act was signed into law. Just over 15 years later, AmeriCorps swore in its one millionth member with that very pledge— a simple commitment to get the hard things done. Selfless, patriotic and resourceful, those that serve with AmeriCorps and other programs managed by the Corporation for National and Community Service represent the best of our nation. I am pleased that a few AmeriCorps alumni have worked in my Washington office, contributing a unique perspective from their community service.
Tradition of service threatened – President Trump’s proposed budget cuts include the elimination of the Corporation for National and Community Service, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps. Cutting funding to these crucial investments will not make American great; it will weaken our country’s commitment to service. As a member of the National Service Congressional Caucus, I have publicly opposed President Trump’s disastrous budget proposal – it threatens our national and economic security by diverting funding away from smart investments in our economy, like public education, healthcare and national service. To show my continued support for each AmeriCorps service member, I recently urged the House Appropriations Committee to maintain and strengthen AmeriCorps funding.
Federal support for national service also generates support from the private sector. According to a report from Columbia University, for every $10 in federal money spent, another $15 is separately raised from private sources to fund AmeriCorps partnerships across the country. Those same researchers also estimated that every dollar invested in national service programs results in almost four dollars in return to society. AmeriCorps members’ service has greatly benefitted their own futures as well— the Corporation for National and Community Service recently found that participation in community service by unemployed Americans increases the likelihood they will obtain employment by 26 percent.
If you have ever had the pleasure of seeing an AmeriCorps member at work, you understand the ways in which they multiply their impact. Most AmeriCorps members receive only a modest living allowance and an education award to help pay for school, but across the country, AmeriCorps members are providing job training, building homes, teaching in schools and responding to emergencies.
While the Trump Administration is pressuring Congress to cut federal spending, investments in national service are a mere fraction of the federal budget. Eliminating these programs will not alleviate the federal deficit in an impactful way, but would drastically harm the communities that these programs serve.
Deep in the heart – Since its inception, federal AmeriCorps programs have provided more than 1.4 billion hours of service to communities and earned $3.3 billion in scholarships to pay for college. The State of Texas hosts 28 unique AmeriCorps programs, and AmeriCorps members are expected to serve over 2.7 million hours to our state this year alone.
Earlier this month, I announced over $2 million for City Year San Antonio from the CNCS with several Members of the San Antonio delegation. I have seen firsthand the difference these young people are making in San Antonio, like at Martin Luther King Academy on our City’s East Side. While corps members in City Year San Antonio may provide mentorship, tutoring and school climate support to struggling students who, statistics say, are less likely to finish college than their wealthier peers, others may choose to serve with the College Advising Corps to provide college advising to first-generation, underrepresented students.
Teach For America Corps members will teach full-time in San Antonio’s low-income schools, committed to providing a transformational education. AmeriCorps often leads to a lifetime of community service. But President Trump, through his cruel budget, would terminate this success and similar initiatives across America. To continue serving San Antonio, we must resist.
I represent both the families living in our most vulnerable communities and also those who work in our neighborhoods to serve them. No matter which pathway AmeriCorps members select, they make an undeniable impact in our communities and do the work that inspires hope in an uncertain political climate. I pledge, like the AmeriCorps members throughout my district, that I will work to “get things done” and protect these vital programs from elimination.