Recovery Act Brings 200 VISTAs to Fight Poverty in New York City

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
Jul 30, 2009

NYC Mayor & National Service CEO Launch NYC Civic Corps,
Swear In VISTAs at City Hall

 

New York City – Help is on the way for more than 50 organizations fighting poverty in New York City, thanks to Recovery Act funding that is supporting nearly 200 AmeriCorps VISTA members who will engage New Yorkers in volunteer efforts to battle poverty in the nation's most populous city.

The Recovery VISTAs began their year of service today in the NYC Civic Corps after being sworn in by Corporation for National and Community Service Acting CEO Nicola Goren and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg at a ceremony at New York's City Hall.

The Corporation is investing more than $4.7 million in Recovery Act funding to support NYC Civic Corps, providing support for 193 VISTAs who will spend a year of full-time service working through 57 host site organizations throughout the five boroughs (see host sites below). The funding will support the VISTA members' living allowance, training, health care, and Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards to help pay for college or pay back student loans.

The NYC Civic Corps is a key initiative of NYC Service, the Mayor's blueprint to increase service and civic engagement and respond to President Obama's call for a new era of national service. The AmeriCorps VISTA members will help nonprofits and public agencies dramatically increase the number of volunteers they mobilize, and achieve greater results and have greater impact through a more strategic use of those volunteers.

"These Recovery Act VISTAs will give a powerful boost to the city's efforts to engage New Yorkers in the battle against poverty," said Nicola Goren, Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which administers AmeriCorps. "We commend the Mayor for his leadership and salute the men and women who've answered the President's call to service by dedicating a year of their lives to fight poverty at a time of great economic and social need."

“Today we launch the NYC Civic Corps – a group of nearly 200 caring, dynamic people who will lead our efforts to help more nonprofits and public agencies tap more volunteers to produce more results for our neighbors in need. That's the promise of NYC Service,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “With the launch of this exciting new initiative, we take another major step forward in our efforts to answer President Obama's call for a ‘new era of service.' I want to thank the Corporation for National and Community Service for its extraordinary partnership, and the nearly 200 NYC Civic Corps members here today for their willingness to step up and serve this City.”

The VISTAs who took the oath of office today were part of a total of 3,000 VISTAs funded by the Recovery Act. The Corporation has moved quickly and carefully to get Recovery funds to nonprofit groups and the communities they serve. Already the agency has filled 1,500 or about half of the VISTA positions, putting “boots on the ground” in distressed communities to provide foreclosure prevention and financial counseling, expand college access, help ex-offenders re-enter society, and support health care and independent living services. Recovery Act VISTAs have already generated more than $1.6 million in cash and in-kind resources for their projects, and mobilized more than 4,300 community volunteers.

The Recovery Act also funded an additional 10,000 AmeriCorps members through its State and National grants program. The Corporation acted quickly on those funds as well, holding a grant competition and announcing $85 million in Recovery Act grants in May. The funds went to dozens of 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.

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.

NYC Civic Corps members will be dispatched in teams, typically comprised of three members, to 57 public and nonprofit organizations in order to develop sustainable, impact volunteer programs that engage more New Yorkers to tackle the City's greatest challenges. Nearly 400 public and nonprofit organizations applied to be a part of the first-ever NYC Civic Corps. Members and host organizations were selected through a rigorous application process, screened by both the AmeriCorps VISTA program and a City committee formed by NYC Service.

“In this time of economic crisis, we need service and volunteering more than ever,” said Acting AmeriCorps VISTA Director Paul Davis. “We worked hard and fast to get these recovery funds into communities. These VISTAs will serve in our most vulnerable communities, providing hope and help to people facing economic crisis.”

Davis added that VISTA, with its anti-poverty focus, is ideally suited to help individuals and communities recover from the economic downturn. “VISTA delivers significant and sustainable results that reduce poverty and make a real difference in the lives of America's poor.” Last year more than 7,000 VISTAs collaborated with nearly 1,000 nonprofit, grassroots organizations and local government agencies, generating $183 million in cash and in-kind resources for their projects, and mobilizing more than a million community volunteers.

The infusion of up to 13,000 new Recovery Act AmeriCorps positions comes at a time of skyrocketing interest in AmeriCorps. During the previous 8 months (Nov. 2008 – June 2009) AmeriCorps received 146,699 online applications, a 217 percent increase above the 46,221 applications received during the same 8 month period a year ago. The sharp increase in AmeriCorps applications is being 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 economic downturn which is making more Americans take a closer look at public service positions, and an “Obama effect” of people responding to the President's call to service.

AmeriCorps is recruiting now for Recovery Act and other positions. Interested individuals should visit http://www.americorps.gov or call 1-800-942-2677 to learn more and apply for programs that are accepting applications.

Media Contact

Samantha Jo Warfield
(202) 606-6775
sjwarfield@cns.gov

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