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Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act

Overview of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009 (Serve America Act)

President Barack Obama signs the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act on April 21, 2009, at a Washington, DC, elementary school, joined by Vice President Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr, Jill Biden, Members of Congress, former President Clinton, former First Lady Rosalyn Carter, and an audience of nonprofit leaders and national service volunteers. The bill’s namesake and longtime service champion Sen. Kennedy co-authored the legislation with Sen. Orrin Hatch.

On April 21, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act at an elementary school in Washington, DC (read more). The Serve America Act reauthorizes and expands national service programs administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) by amending the National and Community Service Act of 1990 and the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973.

Since the Act's signing, volunteering is up, momentum is strong, and a new vision for service is taking effect. At a time of great need, Americans are answering a call to serve. This landmark law is making America stronger by focusing service on key national issues; by expanding opportunities to serve; by building the capacity of individuals, nonprofits, and communities; and by encouraging innovative approaches to solving problems.

Serve America Act


The Serve America Act is landmark legislation that charges CNCS and our partners to dramatically expand opportunities for Americans to serve, to focus on critical national issues, to be a catalyst for social innovation, and to support the nonprofit sector. The law both expands our existing programs and creates new initiatives to increase service opportunities and strengthen our civic infrastructure.

Following passage of the Act, CNCS embarked on lengthy public input process, receiving thousands of comments through listening sessions, conference calls, emails, and web postings. We thank all those who submitted comments, which we have reviewed as part of the implementation process.


On August 20, 2010, CNCS issued a final rule implementing changes in the National Service Trust and other provisions as directed by the Serve America Act. The final rule was developed after a thorough review of extensive public input. It makes a number of changes that will further our goal of expanding opportunities for Americans to serve by increasing incentives, expanding eligibility, and improving the benefits for those who answer the call to serve.

Funding Opportunities

CNCS provides grants to national and local nonprofits, schools, government agencies, faith-based and other community organizations and groups committed to strengthening their communities through volunteering. The following notices of federal funding opportunity reflect programmatic changes resulting from the passage of the Serve America Act.

Segal AmeriCorps Education Award

The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act expanded the authorities of the National Service Trust, including changing the basis for the amount of the award and expanding its available uses.

Social Innovation Fund

The Social Innovation Fund, a public-private collaboration created by the 2009 Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, is designed to create new knowledge about how to solve social challenges in the areas of economic opportunity, youth development and school support, and healthy futures, and to improve our nation’s problem-solving infrastructure in low-income communities.

Press Releases, Official Statements, and Updates

Legislative History

The Serve America Act, S. 277, legislation to reauthorize and strengthen the national service laws, was introduced by Senators Kennedy and Hatch on January 16, 2009. On March 26, 2009, the Senate voted 79-19 to pass national service reauthorization legislation, naming the bill the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.

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