The Corporation continues to be highly focused on implementing the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, and we want to highlight some recent activities since our last update in July.
I want to start by thanking all of you who shared your thoughts during our public input process. We received thousands of comments through listening sessions, conference calls, emails, web postings, and recent grantee meetings, and our work to implement the law has been greatly enhanced by your thoughtful ideas and suggestions. There will be more input opportunities coming up, and I hope you’ll continue to participate.
In order to implement the various components of the Serve America Act, we have assembled a team of more than 80 staff from across the Corporation. Led by an executive steering committee consisting of our most senior managers, this team has 15 working groups focusing on both specific program areas and cross-cutting topics such as technology, training, and performance measures. This team has been hard at work, and some of the fruits of their labor are outlined below. For more information about all aspects of the Serve America Act, I encourage you to bookmark our Serve America Act landing page, which we are updating frequently.
On September 10, we published an interim final rule in the Federal Register. This rule aligns the Corporation’s regulations with the Serve America Act provisions that go into effect on October 1. It can be found on our rulemaking page or at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/pdf/E9-21671.pdf. I encourage you to read the rule, which goes into effect today, and make your own program and policy changes accordingly.
Next on the Corporation’s rulemaking agenda is the Senior Corps 80/20 rule and Serve America Act provisions that affect the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award and the National Service Trust. These include the number of terms of service, the transferability of the education award for those over 55, and more. Our goal is to publish a proposed rule for comment in November.
AmeriCorps State and National
On September 17, in conjunction with our annual AmeriCorps grantee meeting, we published a Notice of Funding Opportunity for 2010 AmeriCorps grants. The notice, available on our funding opportunities page, reflects the new priorities and program features of the Serve America Act, including giving priority to applicants that address compelling unmet needs in education, the environment, healthy futures, veterans, and economic opportunity. The notice also outlines the new options for national performance measures and fixed amount grants. A working group of state and national grantees has been assisting us in developing the pilot performance measures, and more information on both performance measures and fixed amount grants will be available by November. We also are gathering input from a working group of state commissions and national direct grantees on implementing the single competition established by the Serve America Act. The application instructions require multi-state projects to describe their consultations with the state commission in each state in which they propose to operate. The working group will disseminate a set of best practices for that process when they are complete.
Under the Act, Training and Disability Funds are now available to all Corporation grantees. These funds are distributed on an annual basis to each state through its state commission. Beginning in January, organizations operating Corporation programs should contact their state commission for information on training and funding for reasonable accommodation.
Segal AmeriCorps Education Award
The Serve America Act made important changes to the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, including increasing the amount of future awards, expanding the available uses of future awards, and authorizing individuals over 55 to transfer the award to a child or grandchild under certain conditions. Some of these provisions take effect today, while others must undergo rulemaking.
Beginning today, the maximum education award value will be equivalent to the maximum value of the Pell Grant for the award year for which the national service position was approved. For terms of service supported with 2010 funds, this amount will be $5,350. Because approval of national service positions is on a different schedule for VISTA and NCCC than for AmeriCorps State and National, eligibility for the increased education award will depend on the program in which a member is enrolled. In essence, VISTA and NCCC members who enroll after October 1 will be eligible for the higher amount, while AmeriCorps State and National members will be eligible when they enroll in programs funded by 2010 grants, which will be awarded next summer. We encourage you to read the FAQ on the changes to the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award for more details about these changes.
The Serve America Act requires NCCC to increase the number of disadvantaged youth serving in the program. In order to achieve this goal, NCCC is forming partnerships with other youth serving organizations to identify individuals graduating from programs that would meet this objective. Our first partnership is with the National Guard Youth Challenge, and will kick off in January. In addition, the Act requires closer consultation between NCCC and state service commissions on NCCC project deployment. NCCC has developed a protocol to facilitate this consultation and has solicited feedback from state commissions.
A working group composed of Corporation State Office and Senior Corps staff has begun work on the process for RSVP competition. Their initial efforts are focused on designing the evaluation process outlined in the Act that each RSVP grantee must undergo in preparation for competition. Our current thinking is that this evaluation will combine existing monitoring activities with input from the Advisory Councils hosted by each RSVP grantee. Staff is working on developing a survey that we will post for comment through the OMB information collection process. Once finalized, this will provide the mechanism for collecting stakeholder input. Angela Roberts, the Acting Director of Senior Corps, is working with the National RSVP Association and the National Senior Corps Association to identify project directors to serve on the working group moving forward.
Social Innovation Fund
The Social Innovation Fund is tentatively scheduled to release its first Notice of Funding Opportunity later this year. In preparation for that release, we have been holding meetings with key stakeholders including Members of Congress, grantees and partners, nonprofit organizations, foundations, evaluation experts, government leaders, and others to discuss its design. The first public briefing call on the status of the Social Innovation Fund will be on Thursday, October 15, at 1:00 pm. Details about the conference call will be available shortly on our Social Innovation Fund page, along with other background.
We will keep you informed as we continue to move forward. Thank you for your continued commitment to National Service and to the successful implementation of the Serve America Act.
Corporation for National and Community Service