The House passed the Build Back Better Act, a roughly $2.2 trillion package of spending and tax breaks to expand the social safety net and combat climate change.
The bill includes $15.2 billion for the AmeriCorps Agency to be spent over an 8-year investment period. This funding would support the Civilian Climate Corps with a flagship AmeriCorps program to help with wildfire remediation, disaster response and preparedness, environmental conservation, a transition to green energy infrastructure and more. The Act would also raise the AmeriCorps member living allowance, increase the AmeriCorps Education Award and expand benefits for all AmeriCorps members, making national service a more equitable opportunity for all young people.
The House passage is a significant accomplishment, but there is still a long way to go before this bill reaches President Biden’s desk. The Senate is likely to make changes, and all 50 members of the Democratic caucus must vote in favor. There are still two key hold outs who have yet to offer a public endorsement of the package. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) has set a Christmas deadline for final passage.
BBB Act Summary
Provides $15.2 billion for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) in support of national service activities. Included in this funding is:
- $3.2 billion to AmeriCorps State and National and $600 million to VISTA to increase living allowances for all participants including those working in education, public health, and other critical areas.
- Raises the minimum AmeriCorps and VISTA living allowances to 200% of the poverty line.
- The U.S. Federal Poverty Guidelines for 2021 set the poverty line for a single individual at $12,880. Using this number, the Act would establish a minimum living allowance around $25,760.
- $80 million for NCCC operations and to increase living allowances for AmeriCorps NCCC members.
- Raises the maximum federal limit on AmeriCorps grants from $18,000/Member Service Year to 125% of the minimum living allowance for a full-time equivalent position.
- Using the U.S. Federal Poverty Guidelines for 2021, this could raise the maximum cost/MSY to $32,200. If CNCS funds programs at the proposed max cost/MSY, the delta between the mandatory minimum living allowance ($25,760) and the maximum funds/member ($32,200) is $6,440 for other allowable program expenses.
- The agency can waive AmeriCorps State and National match requirements in whole and in part, if the grantee can demonstrate that it serves an underserved or low-income community, a significant percentage of its participants are low-income individuals, and the program cannot meet the match requirements.
- $400 million for State Commission Admin Grants and gives the CEO the ability to waive match if a State Commission can demonstrate a need for a waiver.
- $6.9 billion for AmeriCorps State and National, VISTA and NCCC to establish a Civilian Climate Corps with up to 300,000 new member positions over the 8-year BBB Act investment period. CNCS must ensure awards are made to entities that serve, and have representation from, low-income communities or communities experiencing adverse health and environmental conditions; programs utilize culturally competent and multilingual strategies; projects planned with community input and implemented by diverse participants who are from communities being served by such programs; and programs that provide participants with workforce development opportunities.
- $1 billion (FY22-29) and $79.8 million (FY30) to CNCS to carry out these activities. The agency must use these funds to address audit findings and IG recommendations and to coordinate efforts and activities with the Departments of Labor and Education to help prepare AmeriCorps members to transition to high-quality jobs or further education.
- $300,000 to CNCS to develop, publish, and implement a plan for the CCC within 180 days of the bill’s enactment. CNCS must consult with the Secretary of Labor and the IG as they develop the plan.
- $49.5 million to CNCS for outreach and member recruitment from communities traditionally underrepresented in national service programs and from communities experiencing a significant dislocation of workers.
- $75 million to the Inspector General’s office.
- $1.15 billion to the National Service Trust Fund to fund education awards for the new members. The value of a full-time education award is tied to a maximum Pell Grant. The BBB Act increases the maximum Pell Grant by $550.
- $1.66 billion to the National Service Trust Fund to provide a supplemental education award to all members serving during the BBB Act investment period. The value of the supplemental ed award is equal to 50% of a maximum Federal Pell Grant.
Click here to read Voices for National Service’s statement on the Build Back Better Act.