KENNEDY AND HATCH ISSUE CALL FOR SERVICE
"SERVE AMERICA ACT" WILL INCREASE NATIONAL AND COMMUNITY SERVICE OPPORTUNITIES FOR AMERICANS OF ALL AGES
Senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) today introduced the "Serve America Act," a bill to expand national and community service opportunities for all Americans. Senators Mikulski, McCain, Dodd, Cochran, Reid, Gregg, Durbin, Wicker, Murray, Snowe, Kerry, Lincoln, Cardin, Rockefeller, Schumer, Whitehouse, Menendez, Bayh and Landrieu are also sponsors of the legislation.
The goal of the legislation is to encourage 175,000 more Americans to give a year of service to address specific national challenges such as strengthening our schools or increasing economic opportunities, thereby expanding the number of such service participants to 250,000. The legislation will also increase opportunities for individuals to serve at any stage of their life, from childhood through retirement, and will support social entrepreneurs with innovative solutions to tackle our most pressing problems.
"President-Elect Obama has called on Americans to serve, and they've already shown they're ready to answer the call, with hundreds of thousands signing up to volunteer on Martin Luther King Day of Service. I'm delighted to join Senator Orrin Hatch in introducing this important bill. Our legislation will make it possible for many more Americans to continue to serve - to devote a year or longer to contribute to their country and their community," said Senator Kennedy, Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which oversees existing service programs. "The Serve America Act will increase service opportunities for Americans of all ages, from young people helping to improve their own communities, to retiring professionals who can apply the skills they've gained over a lifetime to some of our greatest challenges. It will enable many more Americans to be part of the solution to major national challenges, such as the lack of health care in our needy communities, the problems in our schools, and the energy and environmental crises that threaten our planet. With the current economic crisis hitting our families and communities so hard, it's as important as ever that we help each other."
Senator Hatch said, "For many years, I have advocated for increased opportunities for volunteer service. The Serve America Act represents an effective and fiscally responsible approach to providing private citizens with an opportunity to help their communities. Investing in the commitment and ingenuity of the American people is a mutually beneficial way of addressing our nation's most pressing problems. Indeed, as private citizens begin to do more in their communities, in the long run, it will mean that the government will have to do less to provide for those in need. I'm proud to join my colleague Senator Kennedy and a bipartisan group of Senators in supporting this important legislation."
THE SERVE AMERICA ACT
A Legislative Initiative to Expand and Improve Domestic and International Service Opportunities for All Americans
Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Senator Orrin Hatch
· Expand opportunities for people to serve at every stage of life.
· Use service to meet specific national challenges. Put service to work to solve our most pressing challenges, such as tackling the dropout crisis and strengthening our schools; improving energy efficiency; safeguarding the environment; improving health care in low-income communities; expanding economic opportunities for low-income individuals; and preparing for and responding to disasters and emergencies.
I. Ask Many More Americans to Give a Year to Solve Specific Challenges: Building on the success of AmeriCorps, the legislation will create new, effective "Corps" focused on areas of national need. It will ask 175,000 Americans to give a year of service through these corps as part of a new national commitment to solve these challenges, expanding the number of national service participants to 250,000.
II. Increase Opportunities to Serve by People of All Ages:
· For Students, Increase Service Early in Life: Service early in life will put more and more youth on a path to a lifetime of service. The legislation will improve opportunities for young people in low income, high-need communities to engage in service to improve their own communities.
· For Working Adults, Encourage Employers to Let Employees Serve, by establishing a tax incentive for employers who allow employees to take paid leave for full-time service.
· For Retirees, Value Their Skills and Make Service Work for Them. Many retiring citizens are ready, willing, and able to be involved in service and have skills the public needs - but none of the current service programs are structured with their needs in mind. The legislation will enhance incentives for retirees to give a year of service through the Corps, and will establish "Encore Fellowships" to help retirees who wish to transition to longer-term public service.
· For Americans of All Ages, Increase Volunteering. Not all Americans can make a significant time commitment to service, but many volunteer in other ways. The legislation will expand the volunteer pool by establishing a "Volunteer Generation Fund" to help nonprofit organizations recruit and manage more volunteers.
III. Support Innovation in the Nonprofit Sector: Social entrepreneurs who have launched innovative nonprofit organizations such as Teach for America and Citizen Schools in Boston are experimenting with new solutions to pressing problems. The legislation will recognize and support the role of effective social entrepreneurs in solving our national challenges:
* Establish a Commission to study and improve how the federal government, nonprofits, and the private sector work together to meet national challenges effectively.
* Apply Effective Business Strategies to the Nonprofit Sector, by establishing a network of "Community Solution Funds" that are basically venture capital funds to help the nonprofit sector seek talent and put it to work.
IV. Improve and Expand International Service and America's Respect in the World
* Support for Short-Term International Service Opportunities: We must expand the Peace Corps so more Americans can provide critical assistance to people across the globe while promoting America's international standing. But many skilled Americans are unable to give two years. The legislation will strengthen the current "Volunteers for Prosperity" program, which coordinates and supports short-term international service opportunities for skilled professionals to serve in developing nations.