At 1-Year Anniversary of Recovery Act, AmeriCorps Shows Impact on Communities and Nonprofits
Washington D.C. – They are connecting the unemployed to jobs, preventing home foreclosures, weatherizing homes, teaching in underserved schools, restoring parks, and recruiting volunteers. Their ranks include laid-off workers, retirees, and recent college grads.
They are the 15,000 AmeriCorps members funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed into law one year ago. Preliminary reports from around the country indicate that Recovery Act AmeriCorps members are providing vital services to people and communities in need, strengthening the capacity of the organizations they serve, and advancing their own education and career goals.
“With so many Americans struggling to make ends meet, and so many nonprofits facing soaring demands with shrinking resources, we need to tap the energy of citizens to help in our nation's recovery,” said Kristin McSwain, Chief of Program Operations of the Corporation for National and Community Service, AmeriCorps parent agency. “By mobilizing volunteers and expanding the capacity of hundreds of nonprofits across the country, these Recovery AmeriCorps members are giving vital help to our most vulnerable citizens and strengthening our civic infrastructure.”
The Recovery Act provided $200 million to support more than 15,000 Americans to work as AmeriCorps members in distressed communities, offering job counseling and placement services, providing foreclosure prevention and financial counseling, weatherizing homes, strengthening food banks, supporting health care and independent living services, and providing other assistance to people facing unemployment, poverty, or other economic challenges. Many of the AmeriCorps positions have been filled by people from demographic groups with high unemployment rates themselves, including young adults and minorities.
The Corporation for National and Community Service acted swiftly to get funding into communities and boots on the ground, swearing in the first AmeriCorps VISTA members on April 24, two months after the Recovery Act was signed, and making AmeriCorps grants on May 14. The legislation provided funding to support roughly 11,500 AmeriCorps members through the AmeriCorps State and National grants program, and approximately 3,765 AmeriCorps VISTA members. As of January 31, 2010, 8,925 AmeriCorps State and National members and 3,605 VISTA members had been enrolled. The members are serving with more than 600 nonprofit organizations and public agencies throughout the country.
Most Recovery AmeriCorps members began their service last summer or fall and are still serving, so the full impact of their service won't be reported until later this year. But preliminary progress reports show these Recovery AmeriCorps members have:
- Leveraged more than 135,000 volunteers to serve 1.1 million clients
- Provided employment and skills training and counseling to more than 35,000 clients
- Helped place more than 5,400 people in jobs
- Provided foreclosure and housing assistance services to more than 22,000 people
- Generated more than $18.3 million in cash and in-kind resources for nonprofits
Recovery AmeriCorps members are tackling a wide range of issues facing low-income communities, including:
- Equal Justice Works has placed 335 AmeriCorps members across the country to provide legal assistance to victims of foreclosures and others facing financial challenges as a result of the recession. These members have helped 1,899 people needing home foreclosure and housing assistance, and have already saved 662 homes from foreclosure.
- NeighborWorks VISTA members have recruited more than 6,000 volunteers, generated more than $4.5 million in cash and in-kind resources, assisted in saving more than 4,500 families' homes from foreclosure, and built the capacity of financial fitness and asset-building programs for more than 5,500 individuals in underserved communities.
- Twenty Recovery Act AmeriCorps members serving with the Michigan Campaign to End Homelessness AmeriCorps Program have provided housing assistance and foreclosure prevention services to 845 individuals and have prevented 133 foreclosures.
- AmeriCorps Recovery VISTAs serving with the STAR Center in Western Tennessee have recruited more than 535 volunteers who have contributed 6,000 hours of service providing assistive technology and referrals for people with disabilities to help them fulfill their goals of education, employment, and independent living. Their efforts have enabled more than 300 disabled clients to receive employment and skill training and more than 20 disabled individuals have been placed in jobs.
- AmeriCorps VISTA members at the Youth Conservation Corps in Waukegan, Illinois, help at-risk, economically disadvantaged youth get their lives back on track, complete their GED, and find employment. The members have recruited 90 community volunteers, raised $625,000, and helped provide employment and skills training and counseling for 33 clients, resulting in 25 job placements.
- The California Conservation Corps' 119 Recovery Act AmeriCorps members have weatherized and made more energy-efficient 1,064 homes, and have restored 28 trails and 42 acres of native habitat.
- Recovery Act AmeriCorps members serving with the Montana Conservation Corps have weatherized 539 homes and conducted energy audits to help residents lower their energy bills.
Additional Recovery Act program profiles and success stories are on the Corporation's Recovery Act website.
AmeriCorps members serving in Recovery Act positions say the experience is providing them valuable skills, money for education, and most of all, the satisfaction that comes from helping others.
“It's tremendously rewarding to be the Career Center instructor and help unemployed people find work. With help from the AmeriCorps Education Award, I was able to defer my loans and I'll be using it in the future to pay for part of my master's degree in sociology. I've been able to gain valuable experience that I would not have otherwise had. I love getting up in the morning and coming into work,” said Chris Mills, who helps unemployed and disabled individuals find work through Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids, Mich.
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 were funded through the regular Fiscal Year 2009 budget through AmeriCorps State and National, VISTA and NCCC.
The President's FY 2011 budget request proposes funding to support approximately 105,000 AmeriCorps members, continuing the growth path for AmeriCorps set out under the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act signed into law last April.
The Recovery Act positions came at a time of soaring interest in AmeriCorps. Between November 2008 and Oct. 2009, AmeriCorps received 235,541 online applications, a 184 percent increase or 152,842 more applications above the 82,699 applications received during the same 12 month period the previous year.