Washington, D.C. – Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva joined President Barack Obama today for the signing of legislation that will launch a new era of national service and volunteerism, the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.
The ceremony, which took place at The SEED School of Washington, D.C., highlights President Obama’s call for Americans to do their part to help the nation’s economy recover by making a difference in their communities.
The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, H.R. 1388, will provide the greatest expansion of national service since President John F. Kennedy first issued his call to serve almost 50 years ago. Among other things, the bill will create 175,000 new volunteer opportunities for Americans to help meet the nation’s pressing challenges, including energy, education, health care, veterans’ needs, and more.
As a member of the Education and Labor committee, Congressman Grijalva had several amendments included in the bill. He worked with some of his colleagues to see that some service award recipients over 55 are able to transfer their awards to their children, foster children or grandchildren. He also worked to ensure that allowable activities in the Clean Energy Service Corps would include parks and public lands.
“Americans have always answered the call to service and volunteering,” said Grijalva. “Our national service programs have accomplished this every day on the frontlines of communities across America. This legislation will expand volunteerism in our country and provide volunteer organizations the resources and support needed to continue serving our communities.”
The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act will engage Americans of all ages, from middle school through retirement, in service and volunteerism.
The legislation will:
•Provide nearly $6 billion during fiscal years 2010 through 2014 for service entities;
•More than triple the number of volunteers serving in this country from 75,000 to 250,000 and establish four new service corps: a Clean Energy Corps to increase energy efficiency and conservation, an Education Corps to help increase student engagement, achievement and graduation, a Healthy Futures Corps to help improve health care access, and a Veterans Service Corps to enhance services for veterans. These 175,000 new volunteer opportunities will expand current AmeriCorps programs and provide members for these four new service corps;
•Increase the education award service members receive in exchange for their contributions to $5,350 for next year, the same as the maximum Pell Grant scholarship. The award will also be permanently linked to match any future increases in the Pell Grant;
•Create new opportunities for older Americans and retirees and allows them to transfer their education awards – up to $1,000 for at least 350 hours of service – to a child, foster child or grandchild;
•Establish a new Summer of Service program to engage middle and high school students in service and allows them to earn a $500 education award to put toward college;
•Double the resources available to engage youth with disabilities in service;
•Strengthen disaster relief efforts and establish an alumni corps of former service participants who can help respond during natural disasters and other emergencies;
•Bolster students’ education by establishing service-learning opportunities that use real world service activities to teach students about a certain topic; and
•Establishes a call to service campaign that encourages Americans to volunteer and observe September 11th as a National Day of Service and Remembrance.
Despite the state of our economy, the desire to serve is growing. In 2007, more than 61 million Americans spent over 8 billion hours volunteering. Young Americans are also serving in record numbers: more than a quarter of Americans over the age of 16 have volunteered.