Dear Voices community:
The combination of circumstances facing AmeriCorps are complex and we are at risk of a significant reduction in the number of people serving next year. To remind you, here are the headlines:
- President’s FY24 Budget Request: President Biden’s budget proposed to increase funding for AmeriCorps. But the President’s requested level of funding was insufficient to support the same number of service positions in FY24 as were awarded in FY23. Specifically, the Administration requested funding to support 47,000 AmeriCorps State and National (ASN) members in FY24, even though the agency awarded funding to nonprofits in FY23 to support 66,900 ASN members. (The Administration also requested funding for 7,200 VISTAs and 2,000 AmeriCorps NCCC members.)
The Administration’s budget request referenced that AmeriCorps State and National had a fill rate in FY21 of 50,536 positions. FY21 was one year into the pandemic when no one could find anyone to work anywhere and wages surged for the bottom 10% of workers.
Referencing “fill” rates from FY21 – versus “awarded” rates from FY23 – was one way to make the case for a smaller cohort of AmeriCorps positions. As you know, we recently surveyed the national service community and found that recruitment numbers are rebounding significantly (~35% year over year) and are way up from the FY21 fill rates.
- House and Senate: The House has drafted a FY24 appropriations bill that eliminates all funding for the AmeriCorps Education Awards, VISTA, NCCC, the Volunteer Generation Fund, State Commission Grants, and includes deep cuts to AmeriCorps State and National, Senior Companions, Foster Grandparents and the AmeriCorps agency. This bill would reduce the agency’s total budget by 50% – the lowest levels in nearly three decades.
The Senate is seeking substantially more and the Labor-H bill level funds most of the CNCS accounts; the one exception is the National Service Trust which the Senate cuts by $50M.
The two chambers are far apart on AmeriCorps funding and the strategy for completing the appropriations process is unclear. More on that below.
- Recission of American Rescue Plan Funds: As directed by the White House and Congress, AmeriCorps leaned heavily into their American Rescue Plan Funds to put more Americans into service and to increase the AmeriCorps member living allowances. The funding helped make important gains, including increasing the member living allowance to approximately $11/hour. The agency had plans to use the last of their ARP funds in FY24, but the unobligated ARP dollars were rescinded by the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA).
- Public Health AmeriCorps: Public Health AmeriCorps funds (which was supported by American Rescue Plan funds awarded to the CDC) were also rescinded by FRA which means that nearly 100 health-focused grantees (with $90M in grant awards supporting 4,000 members) may have to seek continuation funds from AmeriCorps State and National, placing additional pressure on the reduced pool of funds AmeriCorps has to distribute.
- The American Climate Corps: The White House recently announced the creation of the American Climate Corps. The only funding made available to support more AmeriCorps members serving in climate related positions was $15M over 5 years to support 80 AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps members. The announcement has generated a lot of interest in funding to support AmeriCorps members serving in conservation corps and other climate related programs. But with no new funding, this will put additional pressure on the reduced pool of funds AmeriCorps has to distribute.
What it will take to maintain the current footprint of AmeriCorps members: We asked AmeriCorps leadership how much funding they need to stay “whole” – so they can award the same number of AmeriCorps positions in FY24 – as in FY23, and to support the other investments made with American Rescue Plan funds. AmeriCorps says they need $335.5M more in FY24. Senators Coons and Cassidy sent a Dear Colleague to the Appropriations Committee in April seeking $300M more for FY24, so there is bipartisan support for increased appropriations.
The Bottom Line: Without more funding in FY24, the agency will be unable to fund as many AmeriCorps positions next year. The agency reports that if AmeriCorps is level funded at FY23 levels, this will support about 49,000 positions in FY24, down from about 75,000 positions awarded in FY23. That is a 35% cut in AmeriCorps members, over 26,000 service positions in total will be lost from AmeriCorps State and National, VISTA and NCCC.
It’s up to all of us to make sure that we get a better outcome for AmeriCorps funding (and remember, that happened last year, so it can be done!)
Where we are in the FY24 Appropriations Process:
While fiscal year (FY) 2024 technically began six weeks ago, Congress is still working through the federal budget process and the current CR is set to expire on November 17. We know that the next couple of months are going to be decisive, and we have been busy engaging lawmakers to share what is at stake if AmeriCorps funding is not increased and service member positions are cut next year. Last week, Jen, Tom and I were on Capitol Hill to meet with some of our congressional champions, and I will be back in Washington, DC, twice more this month to continue urging Congress to increase support for AmeriCorps in the FY24 funding bills. I know there are many other members of the Voices coalition scheduling DC meetings with Congress this month, while others are leading virtual engagements. For example, Conservation Legacy is relaying with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME); Colorado Youth Corps Association is reaching out to members of the Colorado delegation; and Up2Us Sports is corresponding with representatives in the states of their service members.
There is more below on the federal update, but we expect that as early as next week the House will try to bring their FY24 Labor-HHS Appropriations bill to the floor for debate. We have been ringing the alarm, since the summer, that this bill would cut AmeriCorps funding by 50%, to the lowest levels in nearly three decades—and recommends the elimination of all financial support for new AmeriCorps Education Awards. House National Service Caucus Co-Chair Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) have filed an amendment to the Labor-HHS bill to restore funding for AmeriCorps. While their amendment is generally symbolic, and may not be ruled in order, our congressional champions want the record to reflect that Congress should renegotiate the spending bill and invest in AmeriCorps.
We need everyone to keep engaging Congress and the White House, and we must pick up the intensity before the end of the calendar year. Please continue to share the results from your outreach with us – and we will highlight your activity in our roundup!
Congress has just one week before the expiration of the current stop-gap funding bill on November 17. To avoid a federal government shutdown, the House and Senate will need to enact another continuing resolution (CR)—so that lawmakers have more time to find consensus on all 12 annual spending bills. As of now, the path forward on a second temporary CR is unclear. According to news reporting, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) is looking to extend current funding levels into January, whereas Senate appropriators are generally asking for a CR until mid-December (possibly Dec. 8).
On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) filed cloture on a legislative vehicle that could eventually be used for a bipartisan funding extension. This will set up an initial procedural vote in the Senate for early next week. House Speaker Johnson is expected to unveil a “laddered” stop-gap spending plan, a two-step CR that would extend funding for four of the dozen appropriations bills until January, with the rest extended until February. There are reports that Johnson tentatively plans to go to the floor with a stopgap funding bill on Tuesday.
Speaker Johnson is also still pushing the House to pass the twelve individual spending bills, but the deep rifts within his party are starting to be revealed again. This week, the House had to table debate on the Transportation-HUD and Financial Services appropriations bills. Next week, Johnson will try to bring the Labor-HHS and Commerce-Justice-Science funding bills to the floor. These are the two most controversial of the annual spending bills, so the outlook for these bills isn’t good either. As we reported above, Rep. Matsui (D-CA) and Rep. Kilmer (D-WA) have filed an amendment to restore AmeriCorps funding to FY23 enacted levels. The manner in which this amendment was drafted makes this a largely symbolic effort, but the sponsors want the record to reflect that Congress should renegotiate the Labor-HHS spending bill and invest in AmeriCorps. The House Rules Committee will meet on Monday evening to review the 300+ filed amendments, and they will decide which amendments are “in order” and will be offered on the floor when the full House considers the Labor-HHS bill.
As you can tell, the outlook on federal funding is a bit opaque at the moment. But we must continue to find opportunities to engage our legislators during these remaining, and decisive, weeks of 2023. Please reach out to Ray AlQaisi, congressional affairs director (email@example.com), if you need any help or if you have updates from your efforts. Need ideas? See our advocacy resource webpage of light-lift strategies, ready-to-go templates, strong examples, and effective talking points—and see our summary blog: 6 Steps Every Advocate Can Take to Support AmeriCorps.
30 Days of #AmeriCorps30
This week, Voices launched a new social media campaign on Twitter/X and Facebook, “30 Days of #AmeriCorps30,” to highlight the strong bipartisan support for AmeriCorps in Congress. This campaign will run through December 19 and will highlight quotes and stories from members of Congress who have championed AmeriCorps, as well as ways to take action in support of a robust federal investment in AmeriCorps for FY24. Click here to see our initial “30 Days of #AmeriCorps30” posts that you can like and reshare.
- AmeriCorps released four new evaluation studies demonstrating the strongly positive returns from investments in AmeriCorps programs. The studies show that national service projects and programming both help the local communities that they serve and provide much in return to the public good. The research evaluations include AmeriCorps grantees, and proven program models, such as AmeriCorps Urban Safety Program Detroit; Colorado Home Instruction for Parent of Preschool Youngsters Program; Montana Conservation Corps; and Green City Force.
- AmeriCorps shared recap of AmeriCorps CEO Michael Smith’s recent experiences during a busy month of October where he participated in convenings, a variety of speaking engagements, and service events.CEO Smith traveled to multiple states, from Arkansas to Pennsylvania, to participate in events, such as the Comcast Project UP Summit and the AmeriCorps 30 Years Forward Summit hosted by President Bill Clinton. Relatedly, the Clinton Presidential Center recently shared video from the event, where champions, AmeriCorps members and alumni in their own words share what service means to them and their communities.
- CEO Smith was on Capitol Hill last week to meet with members of Congress, including Rep. Valerie Foushee (D-NC) and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), and discuss ways AmeriCorps service programs and members can continue to help meet community-needs in states like North Carolina and Missouri.
- Josh Fryday, the Chief Service Officer of California to Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Pedro Noguera, Dean of the USC Rossier School of Education, released a new op-ed making the case how AmeriCorps members with programs like City Year and California Volunteers can be a game-changer for student success and build the pipeline for future teachers.
- Tulaine Montgomery, CEO of New Profit, released a new podcast episode interviewing AmeriCorps CEO Michael Smith to discuss the power, impact and progress of national service projects and programs.
- AmeriCorps recently honored three community service members in Arkansas with the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, that honors individuals whose exceptional service positively impacts their community and inspires others to serve.
- Pennsylvania State Representatives Melissa Shusterman (D), Josh Seigel (D), and Dan Miller (D) introduced a resolution to honor AmeriCorps for its 30th year anniversary.
- Joe Solberg, City Finance Director for Weston, WV, is trying to implement an AmeriCorps program to support community organizations in service of local needs, such as educational initiatives.
- AmeriCorps members, serving with ServeMinnesota’s Climate Impact Corps, share their personal experiences and how they helped make a difference in their communities.
- Engage Arkansas, an AmeriCorps program, celebrated the AmeriCorps 30 year anniversary through a service project to serve in-need members of their community.
- Michigan is preparing to launch a new collaborative initiative – the MI Healthy Climate Corps – to help capacity-building and to efficiently direct resources to supporting communities.
- AmeriCorps Seniors in Kansas, with the AmeriCorps Foster Grandparent Program and Senior Companions, were honored for their exceptional service.
- AmeriCorps has helped over 15,000 veterans, in 30 years, who have served as AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors in the transition from military to civilian life.
- AmeriCorps and SBP are collaborating to help impacted communities recover after natural disasters in Puerto Rico.
Wishing you all well this Veterans Day, and we are grateful for all who serve our country.
Yours in service,
Voices for National Service
287 Columbus Avenue
Boston, MA 02116