Obama Signs Serve America Act
Not since the Peace Corps of President Kennedy has the urge for volunteerism been so strong in America, or so urgently needed.
And so, with the stroke of a pen -- many pens, actually -- President Barack Obama signed into law the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.
The bill provides nearly $6 billion during fiscal years 2010 through 2014 for service entities, including AmeriCorps and four new corps: a Clean Energy Corps to encourage energy efficiency and conservation; an Education Corps to help increase student engagement, achievement, and graduation; a Healthy Futures Corps to improve health care access; and a Veterans Service Corps to enhance services for veterans.
The new law will increase the number of volunteers nationwide to 250,000 from 75,000, and will increase the full-time education award that service members receive in exchange for their work to $5,350 for 2010. It will create the Summer of Service program for middle and high school students to volunteer in their communities, letting them earn up to $1,000 for college costs.
The bill will also expand the focus of the National Civilian Community Corps to include disaster relief, infrastructure improvement, environmental and energy conservation, and urban and rural development, according to a summary of the bill available on the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee's Web site.
The bill includes a national Call to Service Campaign to encourage all Americans to engage in service and to observe September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance.
The Serve America Act has received praise from national service organizations, including the American Red Cross and Voices for National Service.
And while the right-wing Heritage Foundation calls the Act "the death of public service," this on the heels of conservatives lamenting "foolish deficit spending" (they would know), among other nasty expletives, the new-found commitment on the part of the feds to public service and volunteerism is most welcome, indeed.
Hopefully, the desire to serve, encouraged by increased funding and support from Washington, will trickle down to state and local government, and to the very communities that now, more than ever, need the helping hands of volunteers.
Yes, now is the time for all good Americans to come to the aid of their community. Volunteer!