Washington DC -- As part of AmeriCorps Week, the Corporation for National and Community Service today announced $85 million in Recovery Act grants to put 10,000 AmeriCorps members in distressed communities to meet critical social needs resulting from the economic crisis.
The funding will go to existing AmeriCorps grantees to engage members in providing employment training, financial planning, and housing assistance; prevent home foreclosures, support tutoring and literacy programs, weatherize homes, strengthen food banks, expand nonprofit capacity, recruit and manage volunteers and provide other services to economically distressed communities.
“In this time of economic crisis, we need service and volunteering more than ever,” said Nicola Goren, Acting CEO of the Corporation, which administers AmeriCorps. “These AmeriCorps members will serve in some of America's most distressed communities, providing hope and help to people facing tough times.”
Two sets of Recovery Act grants totaling 10,000 AmeriCorps member positions are being announced today – $55.5 million in AmeriCorps state and national competitive grants supporting 6,954 new positions, and $30 million in AmeriCorps formula grants to state service commissions supporting 3,050 positions. Collectively, these members are projected to earn over $25.1 million in Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards to help pay for college or to pay back student loans.
A complete list of new grantees, amounts approved, and the numbers of AmeriCorps members to be supported is available by clicking here.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided $200 million to the Corporation to engage AmeriCorps members in service to help economically distressed communities, and the agency has moved quickly and carefully to get funds to nonprofit groups and the communities they serve.
In addition to the 10,000 AmeriCorps positions being announced today, the Corporation previously approved approximately 3,000 AmeriCorps VISTA positions. These VISTAs will provide foreclosure prevention and financial counseling, expand college access, help ex-offenders re-enter society, organize literacy programs, and support health care and independent living services. The first group of Recovery VISTAs were sworn in to service last month by Acting CEO Nicola Goren.
The AmeriCorps positions funded by the Recovery Act are one-time investments to address the economic downturn, and are in addition to the nearly 75,000 AmeriCorps positions that will be funded through the regular Fiscal Year 2009 budget through AmeriCorps State and National, VISTA and NCCC. The 2009 AmeriCorps grants will be announced later this month.
The Recovery Act announcement comes during AmeriCorps Week, an annual recognition to salute the 574,000 individuals who have served in AmeriCorps, thank the community partners that make their service possible, and recruit more Americans into service. More than 350 AmeriCorps Week events are taking place across the country including service projects, recruitment fairs, and recognition events.
Among the grants to 35 national organizations are $1.8 million to Habitat for Humanity to support 131 AmeriCorps members to recruit volunteers and build homes for low-income families; $1.2 million to the Equal Justice Works to support 335 members to expand legal services to victims of the foreclosure crisis in five states; and $843,169 to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation to engage 100 members who will serve as housing counselors in 13 cities to help low-income residents avoid foreclosure and coordinate weatherization, energy-efficient, and blight reduction programs.
The 137 state grants resulted from a competition between programs forwarded by Governor-appointed state service commissions. Some of the larger grants included $1.5 million for the California Conservation Corps to support 113 members to conduct low income home weatherization to assist elderly, disabled, and other low income individuals and $1.6 million for the Washington Service Corps to provide promote energy conservation, enhance food bank operations, and expand college access and job opportunities across the state.
Today's announcement also includes $30 million in formula grants to states and two territories. State service commissions, which determine what organizations receive these funds, were provided their allocations in March. All grants funded by the Recovery Act – formula and competitive -- were required by statute to go to existing grantees. The law also allowed for funding to support programs that lost match resources due to the economic crisis.
“We are investing in proven organizations to help individuals and communities recover from the economic downturn,” said Kristin McSwain, Chief of Program Operations. “For nonprofits facing the double whammy of increasing demands and declining donations, these AmeriCorps members and the volunteers they mobilize will provide a powerful shot in the arm to help them expand their reach and impact.”
The Recovery Act grants come at a time of strong momentum for national service. Last month President Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which, among other provisions, will set AmeriCorps on a path to grow from 75,000 to 250,000 annual positions by the year 2017. The agency is holding a cross-country Listening Tour and launched a website to get public input on implementing the Act.
Online applications to AmeriCorps have risen dramatically in recent months, fueled by a “compassion boom” of Americans wanting to help their neighbors in tough times, increased interest in public service by millennials and boomers, the economy, and an “Obama effect” of people responding to the President's call to service. Between November 2008 and April 2009, AmeriCorps received 76,404 online applications, up 230% from the 23,145 applications that came in the same six month period a year ago.
AmeriCorps was established in 1993 as a way for Americans to give back to their communities and country and earn money for college in return. Since then, more than 574,000 men and women have taken AmeriCorps's pledge to “get things done for America,” providing more than 718 million hours of service, mobilizing tens of millions of volunteers, and improving the lives of countless citizens. AmeriCorps members serve with more than 4,100 nonprofit, faith-based, and community groups each year, helping them expand their reach and better meet their mission. Last year AmeriCorps members mobilized or managed 2.2 million volunteers for the organizations they serve.