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Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2004-Continued

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. MCCAIN. Mr. President, I rise today with my friend from Indiana to offer an amendment to the fiscal year 2004 Labor-HHS Appropriations Act. I would like to thank Senator SPECTER and Senator HARKIN for their support for this amendment.

I usually come down to the Senate floor to criticize the amount of unrequested spending in appropriations bills. Not often do I propose an increase in spending for a specific program. However, today, I feel obligated to offer an amendment to increase the level of funding for the Special Volunteers for Homeland Security program with the Corporation for National and Community Service. I am requesting that we raise our level of funding by $5 million, to bring the total level of funding to $10 million, which is what the program was funded at last year. The administration requested a total of $15 million for this program this year. We are simply proposing to restore one half of the additional money the President requested. This issue is of enough importance to the administration as it was included in their Statement of Administrative Policy.

The amendment Senator BAYH and I propose restores important money to the Special Volunteers for Homeland Security program, a critical component on national service. This amendment increases the funding for this program by $5 million to be more in line with the amount requested in the President's 2004 Budget.

We live in a time of heightened security where terror alerts have become an unfortunate reality. It is sobering to realize that the chances are strong that we will face another terrorist attack in the future. In addition to devoting considerable resources to fighting terror at home and abroad, we need to devote significant resources to preparing our domestic response to any future attack. We would be failing in our responsibilities if we do not adequately prepare for the next attack. The realities of the world in which we live today, require us to educate and prepare the public about terrorism and disasters. These volunteers are an extremely effective way to achieve our mission. We need to be fully funding these programs.

For a number of years, Senator BAYH and I have been working together to increase opportunities for service in the United States. We have introduced legislation, the Call to Service Act, in the last two Congresses that would increase volunteer opportunities with AmeriCorps. We have also worked together successfully to create a short-term enlistment program for our military. One of the fundamental aspects to any expansion of service opportunities must be to increase the number of volunteers in homeland security projects. Our legislation specifically calls for more volunteers to perform homeland security function. Service programs such as the one in this amendment provide an important resources in preparing our
Nation to respond to a range of emergencies by providing people who can serve in important capacities such as fighting forest fires, disaster relief, and working in hospital emergency rooms.

I would like to share some examples of the works these volunteers do in the various states and country. Currently, there are 17 programs that received money during the second year of this program. The grantees are a diverse group and are spread across the country from Alaska to Florida. Important groups such as Volunteer Florida, the American Red Cross of Greater New York and the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee are all grantees under this program.

In the first year of the program, 350 volunteers with the Municipality of Anchorage, Alaska were able to deliver training to help homebound seniors and help 4,500 disabled residents of Anchorage prepare to respond to a disaster.

In Oklahoma, volunteers with the city of Tulsa developed a citywide volunteer disaster mobilization plan. Volunteers helped to educate the general public by distributing a family preparedness guide provided with information how to prepare for disasters. The volunteers convened meetings that included information on bioterrorism response by local health departments and established safe and secure teams throughout the community to serve as trained resources.
I could go on at length about the good things these programs accomplish.

Increasing the Special Volunteers for Homeland Security program is consistent with our overall need to increase opportunities for Americans to serve their country. We need to increase spending for funding for all volunteer programs. Internationally, increasing programs such as the Peace Corps are important in spreading American ideals and values.
Domestically, programs such as AmeriCorps need to be expanded to provide services and assistance to those in need. Any expansion of AmeriCorps and domestic volunteer opportunities would be an excellent opportunity to increase volunteer positions in the area of homeland security.

Once again, I thank my colleagues from Pennsylvania and Iowa for their work on this important piece of legislation. I look forward to continuing my work with Senator BAYH and the rest of my colleagues in the Senate to increase national service opportunities.

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