Press Release: 2019-06-26
WASHINGTON – Today, Reps. John B. Larson (CT-01), Joe Kennedy III (MA-04), and Seth Moulton (MA-06) were joined by Reps. Donna Shalala (FL-27) and Katie Hill (CA-25) and introduced ACTION for National Service.
ACTION for National Service has 185 original cosponsors. This legislation renews President Kennedy’s historic call to service by expanding national service opportunities like AmeriCorps, while offering student loan relief in exchange for service. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) has introduced a companion bill in the Senate, alongside Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Chris Coons (D-DE). The bill’s introduction fell on the 58th anniversary of the first class of Peace Corps volunteers beginning training.
“Expanding public service is an opportunity to unite Americans around a national mission to tackle the biggest challenges we face,” said Congressman Moulton. “This is also the chance for Americans do their part for the country and learn new skills. I hope it brings us closer to the day when serving the country is an expectation even if it’s not a requirement.”
“Fifty years later after President Kennedy’s famous call to service, his words still ring true today. ACTION for National Service will give people the opportunity to serve their communities and fund their education. Paying for higher education is something that many people struggle with, and this legislation will allow students to help their communities, and in turn receive either student loan relief or an educational credit. For every year of service, students will receive the equivalent of two-years in-state tuition. The saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats, and this legislation will achieve that,” said Congressman Larson.
“Public service is an enduring resource that spans the globe and helps us find common humanity in our shared community,” said Congressman Kennedy III. “But too often today in a time of immense challenge the world over, Americans are forced to choose between service and stable income, or between contributing to their country and making their monthly student loan bill. This bill will help us dramatically expand the conversation around national service and ensure we are leaving no human capital on the table.”
“I’m pleased to join with Congressman Larson in this effort to increase volunteerism, strengthen our nation, and help transform communities across the country. This legislation will grow our capacity to enlist, equip, and empower young people to address pressing challenges while creating opportunities for advancement with respect to their education and job prospects. It will connect more Americans to opportunities to serve and provide tangible benefits to those who give back,” said Senator Reed, who, along with the late-Senator John McCain established the independent National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service in 2017 and is the lead Senate sponsor of the bill.”
“I am a proud former Peace Corps Volunteer, and I’ve seen first-hand the value of federally funded service programs. National service programs support historically underserved communities and contribute to the personal, professional, and educational development of volunteers. The goal laid out in this bill—one million national service positions ten years after enactment—is an ambitious one, but if we show the same spirit and dedication in our work as the thousands of volunteers across the country do in theirs, I have no doubt we can achieve it,” said Congresswoman Shalala.
“In my former life, I served as the executive director of PATH, People Assisting the Homeless, which is an AmeriCorps VISTA site in California. I can’t overstate the value that AmeriCorps provided to our organization and how wholeheartedly I support ACTION for National Service as both an expert in the field of social services and a public servant. Not only is this a tangible and pragmatic way to address the student loan crisis, but it reaffirms our American dedication to service and to our country. I am proud to support individuals supporting our most vulnerable communities,” said Congresswoman Hill.
“Every year more than 75,000 young Americans serve their nation through AmeriCorps. Their patriotic service lifts up communities and helps them develop as leaders and citizens, but they are still the exception.” said AnnMaura Connolly, President of Voices for National Service.
“Scaling national service would be a game changer for our communities and our country, and the ACTION for National Service Act would expand the number of service positions and increase the benefits so everyone – regardless of socioeconomic background – has the opportunity to spend a year in service. Voices for National Service is proud to support the ACTION for National Service Act, which would elevate and protect the spirit of service embodied in AmeriCorps, help make college affordable and inspire a new class of young leaders nationwide.”
America’s Call to Improve Opportunities Now (ACTION) for National Service Act would achieve the following goals:
1. Reduce the burden of student loan debt by ensuring young people who serve two full terms of service are rewarded with an educational benefit equal to four years of average in-state tuition where their college is located.
2. Ensure that the educational benefit is exempt from federal taxes.
3. Advance national and community service as a civic and national priority by elevating the Corporation of National & Community Service (CNCS) to a new Cabinet-level agency
4. Support at least one million full-time federal service positions a year—providing all who wish to serve the opportunity to do so.
5. Increase access to national service opportunities by raising AmeriCorps living stipend amounts.
6. Create a 21st Century American Service Outreach Program to notify eligible individuals about opportunities to serve.
Right now, less than 1 percent of the nation serves in the military, AmeriCorps, and the Peace Corps combined—but not through lack of interest. In 2012, AmeriCorps alone received nearly 600,000 applications, but was forced to turn away nearly 80 percent of those who just wanted to make a difference in their communities. Americans who wish to serve should be encouraged to do so, and we have the power to do that.