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Letter to Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education

Mikulski, Coons Urge Continued Support for National Service Programs

May 17, 2011

U.S. Senators Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) and Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), joined by 20 other Senators, sent a letter urging the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education to continue strong and robust federal funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). CNCS provides the funding necessary to manage a number of national and community service efforts, including volunteers engaged through the AmeriCorps program, which operates like a domestic Peace Corps.

With House Republicans calling for extreme cuts to CNCS programs like AmeriCorps, Learn and Serve America, and Volunteers In Service to America (VISTA), the Senators urged those on the Appropriations Subcommittee to continue their support. More than 500,000 people have participated in AmeriCorps since its creation in 1993 to provide vital services in communities across the United States.

"We strongly believe that whatever cuts are made to the budget will need to be paired with strategic, long term investments in economic growth and middle class job creation," the Senators wrote in the letter. "AmeriCorps' contribution to public safety, education, and housing do much to advance this agenda. We urge you to support continued funding for AmeriCorps and join us in acknowledging its importance to our future."

Senator Mikulski, co-chair of the Senate National Service Caucus, began her involvement with national service as a VISTA trainer in Baltimore and has long championed efforts to expand national service opportunities. In 1989, the Senator introduced the National Community Service Act, which created a program that evolved into what is now AmeriCorps. She has also been its chief advocate in the Senate, fighting to strengthen the organization and protect key AmeriCorps programs. In 2009, she led the fight on the Senate floor to pass the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which expanded service opportunities across generations and brought focus to AmeriCorps to guide its volunteer efforts.

Senator Coons is also a longtime advocate of community service, and helped found one of the first AmeriCorps programs in Delaware, which recruited mentors for students participating in the "I Have a Dream" Foundation college-attainment program.

Joining Senators Mikulski and Coons in sending the letter were Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Kristen E. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bernard Sanders (D-Vt.), Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jean Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Al Franken (D-Minn.).

The text of the letter follows:

May 16, 2011

The Honorable Tom Harkin
Chairman
Subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services and Education
Senate Appropriations Committee
131 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Richard Shelby
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services and Education
Senate Appropriations Committee
156 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senators Harkin and Shelby,

Thank you for your strong support of national service in the long-term continuing resolution for FY11. House Republicans proposed the virtual elimination of the Corporation for National and Community Service, so we are incredibly grateful that you maintained strong funding for national service activities. We are writing in support of FY2012 funding for CNCS and its vital programs, such as AmeriCorps, which has enabled nearly 500,000 people across the United States to provide vital community services since its creation in 1993. While we certainly recognize the threat posed by our deficit and the importance of a serious deficit reduction plan this year, we believe that the effective elimination of AmeriCorps, as called for in proposals such as H.R. 1, will do much more harm than good.

AmeriCorps remains one of the most successful programs Congress has created in the past twenty years. It was born of bipartisan cooperation and has been championed by leaders in both parties for enabling hundreds of thousands of young Americans to take a more active role in giving back to their communities. AmeriCorps has a multiplier effect, yielding much more in benefits than we put into it in dollars. It has expanded the work of charitable organizations and spurred innovative partnerships between the private and non-profit sectors. AmeriCorps has contributed participants to programs like Teach for America, Habitat for Humanity, Public Allies, City Year, and the American Red Cross. It also helps participants afford a college education through the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

We strongly believe that whatever cuts are made to the budget will need to be paired with strategic, long-term investments in economic growth and middle class job creation. AmeriCorps's contributions to public safety, education, and housing do much to advance this agenda. We urge you to support continued funding for AmeriCorps and join us in acknowledging its importance to our future.

Sincerely,

Barbara A. Mikulski
United States Senator

Christopher A. Coons
United States Senator

Sheldon Whitehouse
United States Senator

Jack Reed
United States Senator

Patrick Leahy
United States Senator

Carl Levin
United States Senator

Tim Johnson
United States Senator

Herb Kohl
United States Senator

Charles Schumer
United States Senator

Richard Durbin
United States Senator

Kristen E. Gillibrand
United States Senator

Mark Begich
United States Senator

Jay Rockefeller
United States Senator

Frank Lautenberg
United States Senator

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Bob Casey
United States Senator

Ben Cardin
United States Senator

Bernard Sanders
United States Senator

Diane Feinstein
United States Senator

Debbie Stabenow
United States Senator

Jean Shaheen
United States Senator

Al Franken
United States Senator


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