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AmeriCorps

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

AMERICORPS

Mrs. CLINTON. Mr. President, last Friday, on July 25, just as it was preparing to leave town and recess, the House of Representatives sent to the Senate an emergency supplemental appropriations bill that fails to meet the needs that have been outlined by the President and by the majority of Members of the House and the Senate. I rise to express my profound disappointment with the House leadership for their action. It put the Senate in the objectionable position of having to adopt or reject the House version because any effort to amend that bill would delay urgently needed disaster aid.

The House-passed bill includes only $984 million for disaster emergency spending, even though the President requested $1.55 billion for disaster relief and emergency assistance. These funds are needed to cover the unexpected costs of the winter storms, as well as tornadoes and hurricanes which are affecting Texas and other southern States. Just last week we saw the streets of Denver flooded so high, cars were floating in the streets.

The House bill also leaves out $289 million to fight fires in the West even though this is proving to be one of the driest seasons on record. At this time there are 45 large fires burning in the West, a total of almost 400,000 acres of active wildfires. If they continue to rage, these fires will take more lives—five were lost in the last week alone—and ruin homes and even communities. How are these communities, which are experiencing the worst fiscal crisis in a generation, to cover these costs without any Federal assistance?

The House bill also neglects to provide $50 million for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to cover unanticipated costs associated with the Shuttle Columbia accident and to allow NASA to begin to implement measures recommended by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. The President requested these funds and I agree that we should provide them. When the Columbia space shuttle accident occurred, it devastated our Nation, reminding us that we cannot become complacent about space travel. Let us at least learn from this accident and ensure that it never happens again by implementing the recommendations of the accident board.

Of most concern to me and to the New Yorkers I represent, the House bill fails to include $100 million for
AmeriCorps—emergency spending that the Senate passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 71 to 21 July 11. This funding is not only supported by the vast majority of Senators, it is also strongly supported by the majority of House Members.
Two hundred and thirty four Representatives from both sides of the aisle signed letters to the President requesting additional funds for AmeriCorps.

In addition to Members of Congress, the Governors have weighed in to support AmeriCorps. Forty-four Governors including Governor Bush from Florida, Governor Taft from Ohio, and Governor Pataki from my home State of New York sent a letter to the President and Congress asking us to provide additional funding for AmeriCorps.

Over 145 U.S. mayors, including the mayors of Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, San Diego, and New York, have sent letters in support of additional funding for AmeriCorps. One hundred and ninety college and university presidents have signed a letter in support of additional funding for AmeriCorps.

Two hundred and fifty business and philanthropic leaders took out full-page ads in the New York Times and the Financial Times asking the President to request $200 million in additional AmeriCorps funding.

One thousand eleven hundred and eight community-based programs that relay on AmeriCorps to meet their community's vital needs have also sent a letter to Congress about their support for this funding and I ask unanimous consent to print that letter into the Record now as well.

Seventy-one editorials have appeared in newspapers from coast to coast endorsing the additional funds for AmeriCorps and calling on Congress to act to prevent programs from being forced to close and prevent thousands of young people from being denied the opportunity to serve.

So how do we account for this outpouring of support?

Mr. President, I submit that it is for the simple reason that AmeriCorps works. For the price of a small grant towards higher education and a small living stipend, AmeriCorps volunteers transform communities. They fill vital gaps that otherwise would go unfilled and in the process, they make the future brighter for themselves and so many others in our
society.

Sister Mary Johnice, who runs a shelter in Buffalo, described the impact AmeriCorps has had on her organization at a
recent event, "AmeriCorps forms a team of workers, hard workers, who make a difference in other people's lives. They are selfless, outstanding and sacrificial, never counting the cost of what they do and whom they serve." She went on to describe how Buffalo has come to count on AmeriCorps members during difficult times. "Everyone knows when snow hits the City of Buffalo, although it's a beautiful sight, the city can be paralyzed," said Sister Johnice. "I worked with AmeriCorps to pack thousands of food bags, and deliver heavy packages of food to the homebound. I saw AmeriCorps workers walk miles for a prescription a new mother needed after having a baby. I looked at workers shoveling snow for hours so emergency vehicles could move. And I witnessed faith and love in action . . . lives touching lives! Isn't that what life is all about?" she asked.

Quincy Calimese, a young man from the Bronx said that AmeriCorps has changed his life. "I was waking up at two o'clock every day," he said. "I had nothing to do but run the streets and be the baddest person on the block, meanwhile getting others to do the same. Now I'm asleep by ten o'clock and up every morning at seven o'clock. I'm not running the streets and I try to motivate others to do the right thing, especially the younger kids. Mostly now I'm focused on my future as an architect and staying out of trouble. I spend a lot of time in the house, and now I'm reading, something I used to think was boring. I like how simple my life has become. No more worries, no more watching my back everywhere I go."

If the $100 million are not approved, programs like the ones Sister Johnice runs and the one Quincy Calimese participates in will be devastated.

National programs with proven records of success like CityYear, Teach for America, and Jumpstart will lose more than half of their sites. Jumpstart, which today serves 3,500 children, including 900 in New York, will probably have to close every one of its New York sites. This poster shows the progress of a shy little boy who, through the help of Jumpstart members,
is now about to write his name. He is on the path to a successful future thanks to AmeriCorps.

President Bush himself said of this program, "I want you to know, America can be saved one person at a time. You see, this great society of ours can be changed one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time. And these six heroic students, people who have said, listen, serving something greater than myself in life is an important part of being a citizen, have been a part of what's called Jumpstart." I believe that he meant those words when he spoke them. And I agree with him. So, how can we stand by and watch as Jumpstart loses 60 percent of its Corps members?

AmeriCorps is also integral to reducing the achievement gap between students living in high-poverty communities and their better off peers. Teach for America is an AmeriCorps program that recruits extremely talented and bright college graduates to teach in America's neediest schools. Last year 16,000 college seniors with average GPAs of 3.5 and average SATs of 1,300 applied to teach. Only 1,700 of them were selected. The majority of these students stay in education, devoting their careers to improving educational outcomes for low-income students. I am proud that the largest Teach for America corps in the country is in New York City. But I am deeply concerned about the number who will choose not to join the program after they learn that their education awards will not be forthcoming.

Mr. President, this is not a partisan issue. When I organized a letter in support of providing $3 million for Teach for America in April, 9 Republicans and 10 Democrats signed on. This program has strong bipartisan support. So, why will only 16 percent of Teach for America members receive education awards this year?

How did all of these programs, which have such overwhelming support, get to the point where they need an additional $100 million or they will go out of business?

Well, we have to look at the history. Yes, there was mismanagement by Corporation officials. The inspector general's report revealed that for a long time the Corporation was enrolling more volunteers than it had the resources in the trust to support.

But Congress has not helped the situation. In 2000 and 2001, believing that the Corporation was being overly prudent in the way it was managing the trust, Congress rescinded a total of $111.2 million. And in 2002, Congress appropriated nothing for the trust, leaving it to rely on the interest it was accruing from previously appropriated funds. At the time, it seemed like the right thing to do. And an independent analysis from KPMG LLP confirmed that the National Service Trust was solvent. How could Congress have foreseen the tragic events of September 11 and the President's Call to Service for every American?

Nevertheless, they occurred. And the response to the President's call was overwhelming. Twenty-five percent more volunteers enrolled in AmeriCorps in the year after he made his announcement.

Should we not have rescinded the funds from the trust? Probably. Should we have appropriated more for the trust in 2002? Yes. Should the President have acted sooner to ensure that the Corporation was allocating the correct number of volunteers, based on the resources it had at its disposal? Yes, I believe so. Should Corporation officials have been less accommodating to Americans who rose to meet the President's call to service? I suppose so.

But here we are today. And we have to act in the best interest of our Nation.

I believe we should reward the thousands of young people who signed up to serve their communities. They are not at fault for the misjudgment of the Corporation officials. Yet they are the ones who will be punished if we take the House's lead here today.

President Bush proposed to increase AmeriCorps by 50 percent. Instead it is about to be cut by 60 percent. This is not what the President claims to want. It is not what the majority of the Senate wants. It is not what the majority of the House wants. It is not what most Governors want. It is not what most mayors want. It is not what most community leaders want.
And it is not what most business leaders want.

I know we can do better for AmeriCorps, which has been such a lifesaver for so many communities across New York and America.

Today is a tragic day for AmeriCorps. It is a day when we are giving pink slips to 20,000 dedicated Americans who want to serve their communities. We are telling them that their service is no longer needed. I hope that we can find a way to do better by AmeriCorps when we return in September.

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