June 17, 2003
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Dear President Bush:
We write to express our strong support for AmeriCorps and recognize the leadership you have shown on this issue over the years. We know you agree that AmeriCorps is an outstanding program which has proven successful in addressing our homeland security needs, leveraging volunteers, and improving the quality of services available to a broad range of Americans.
Unfortunately, as you know, the Corporation for National Service officially announced yesterday unprecedented and drastic funding cuts, from 50 to 95 percent in every state. These cuts mean that under the State Competitive funding stream the Corporation will only fund 2,036 volunteers, compared with 11,236 last year. Many states will see their volunteer allocations under the competitive stream drop by as much as 90 percent and 16 states are shut out completely.
The State formula grants will be cut just as severely. According to the Corporation, small states like Maine, New Hampshire, and West Virginia will be able to fund only 10 AmeriCorps volunteers through the State Formula funding stream. Last year many of these states funded close to or more than one hundred positions.
We understand that you are planning to request another supplemental appropriations bill in the near future. We hope that in this request you will include additional funding for AmeriCorps so the program can sustain the same level of volunteers it did in 2002. We prefer that the OMB's accounting methodology is adopted rather than the approach taken by GAO, but what is urgently needed in the supplemental is $200 million and a lifting of the 50,000 member cap.
Without a supplemental appropriation, this dramatic decrease in AmeriCorps positions will be devastating to volunteers and the people who rely on their help. It is also likely to damage, if not destroy, the infrastructure of many small programs, which do not have the resources to sustain a significant cut to their budget for even one year. Already, thousands of eager volunteers put their plans on hold to accommodate the five month freeze on enrollments instituted by the Corporation.
Being told that they will have to again forgo their plans to serve will be demoralizing for the individuals and harmful to the reputation of AmeriCorps and our shared goal of greater national service.
June 17, 2003 Page Two
The loss of AmeriCorps positions will reduce opportunities for national service just as record numbers of Americans are engaging in community and public service. Our national service programs work to meet critical needs in education, public safety, health, and homeland security. Following the tragic events of 9/11, even more Americans are looking for ways to give back to their communities and the country, and we ought to support their efforts.
We support your efforts to resolve the accounting problems that have plagued the Corporation. We want to work with you to correct the Corporation's management of the National Service Trust as soon as possible. But in working to fix the Trust, we should be careful not to punish thousands of well meaning Americans who seek to serve their country and communities for mistakes made by Corporation executives.
In your 2002 State of the Union address, you called for every American to dedicate 4,000 hours to community service throughout their lives. In your 2004 budget request, you proposed increasing the number of AmeriCorps volunteers from 50,000 to 75,000. Unfortunately, due to serious errors made by the Corporation, fewer than half this number of Americans will be allowed to serve their country through service.
We should support, not oppose, efforts to encourage more Americans to enter public service. We should do everything in our power to reward the American men and women who have chosen to serve the country and their communities in the hope of meeting the nation's critical education, safety, health, and homeland security needs.
We urge you to request additional funding in the supplemental appropriations bill to ensure that AmeriCorps remains a strong and vital program today and in the future.
Senators Kennedy, Alexander, Baucus, Bayh, Ben Nelson, Biden, Bingaman, Boxer, Breaux, Cantwell, Chafee. Clinton, Cochran, Collins, Corzine, Daschle, Dayton, DeWine, Dodd, Durbin, Edwards, Feingold, Feinstein, Gordon Smith, Harkin, Jeffords, Kerry, Kohl, Landrieu, Lautenberg. Leahy, Levin, Lincoln, Lindsey Graham, McCain, Murray, Pryor, Reed, Rockefeller, Sarbanes, Schumer, Snowe, Stabenow