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About Senior Corps 
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Hurricane Volunteer Support Fund
In the wake of the recent hurricanes, the Corporation is coordinating volunteers to assist with repair and relief efforts in areas affected by this devastating storm. Your donation will support volunteers in providing food and shelter, managing donations, helping victims get necessary assistance, and long-term rebuilding efforts.
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USA Freedom Corps Partnering to Answer the President’s Call to Service
 
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 24, 2006

Office of the CEO

   

Statement of the Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2007 submitted to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies

 

DAVID EISNER
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
CORPORATION FOR NATIONAL AND COMMUNITY SERVICE

April 2006

On behalf of my colleagues, I appreciate the opportunity to submit testimony in support of the President’s budget request for the Corporation for National and Community Service for Fiscal Year 2007. I also wish to thank Chairman Regula, Ranking Member Obey, and all Committee Members for the spirit of partnership and support we receive from this Subcommittee. We look forward to working with you on this request.

When President Bush delivered his State of the Union address in January, there was a young man sitting next to First Lady Laura Bush in the visitor’s gallery. His name is Ja’Detrus Hamilton, and he is a volunteer.

Voted “Most Inspirational” by his fellow volunteers last year, this 11th grader and his family were forced to evacuate their Leakesville, Mississippi mobile home when Hurricane Katrina hit. As he has so many times in the past, Ja’Detrus rose to the challenge: he collected and delivered school supplies and backpacks to elementary school students, helped a local family repair their damaged home, and interviewed Gulf Coast residents to document their stories of hope and courage. He continues to lead other youth volunteers in rebuilding and recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast area.

Ja’Detrus is one face of national service. A Learn and Serve America grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service to his high school, in partnership with a non-profit organization called Youth Engaged in Service, provided Ja’Detrus with an opportunity to serve his community. As a result, he and his fellow students are helping their neighbors just when they most need help. In the process, these students are learning that they have the power to make a positive difference in this world, a lesson that will last a lifetime.

This power of service to change lives, for both the recipient and the provider, is one underlying rationale for the Corporation. The continued Federal investment in volunteering is an important sign of this nation’s commitment to service and it also provides key resources, leveraging the work of a national network of partners that engage volunteers from state and local government institutions to businesses to national non-profit organizations to small, faith-based and other community groups.

This national commitment to service is significant: volunteering is one of the cornerstones on which the United States is built. Volunteering contributes to our overall economic health. The approximately 200 million hours of service performed by volunteers in Corporation programs in 2005 is valued at as much as $4.2 billion, based on wage replacement costs cited by volunteer organizations in the Corporation’s Volunteer Management Capacity Study conducted in 2004.

In terms of daily life, it is impossible to place a value on the importance of neighbor helping neighbor, of communities coming together to meet common challenges. Volunteering is an essential part of building better schools, lifting people out of poverty, helping the elderly to live independently, responding to crises, and inspiring Americans to be more engaged citizens. The institutions of support have to be strong at a national, state and local level in order to meet immediate and long-term needs. Moreover, these are the links that help forge a common American character, a great source of strength in daily life and times of crisis.

The good news is that more Americans are serving than ever before. Since the President’s call to service following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the number of Americans volunteering in their communities has risen from 60 to 65 million. However, that amounts to only 29 percent of the total U.S. adult population over the age of 16. At a time when this nation faces tremendous demographic, security, and social challenges, more Americans need to volunteer – for the benefits volunteering brings to communities, to the volunteers themselves, and to the fabric of American life.

Measures of Success

In 2005, the Corporation had a remarkable record of achievement. Almost two million participants served directly through the Corporation’s programs, including over 500,000 through Senior Corps, nearly 75,000 through AmeriCorps, and some 1.5 million who participated in Learn and Serve America activities. Cumulatively, these participants provided about 200 million hours of service and helped meet critical community needs in education, the environment, disaster relief, public safety, public health, elder care, homeland security and a host of other needs. More specifically, in 2005, our programs supported mentoring for more than 300,000 children and youth in disadvantaged circumstances, including 16,000 children of prisoners; engaged an estimated 490,000 “at-risk” children and youth as volunteers; and, provided assistance for nearly 100,000 elderly, disabled citizens and their families in their efforts to live independently, among other accomplishments.

Toward the end of the fiscal year, the Corporation redirected as many resources as possible to deal with the terrible aftermath of the Gulf Coast hurricanes. Within a month of Katrina’s landfall, more than 13,000 Corporation-sponsored members were involved in a range of activities related to hurricane relief and recovery. Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve programs in 43 states and the District of Columbia supported evacuee needs in hundreds of shelters for housing, food and medical attention. Program members have staffed 24-hour call centers, organized fund-raisers, helped evacuee children register in new public schools, managed and sorted more than 2,700 tons of clothing and 1,000 tons of food donations, served more than 900,000 meals, and supervised thousands of unaffiliated volunteers in a wide range of activities. Late in March, AmeriCorps members assumed from FEMA the management of a tent city in Pass Christian, Mississippi that is being used to provide temporary living quarters for volunteers.

Over 300 Corporation programs have provided an estimated 789,000 hours of service in the Gulf region to date. Since September 2005, the Corporation has managed an additional 26,142 unaffiliated volunteers though its national service programs.

The Corporation also has taken steps to build disaster relief and response capacity in non-profit, state and local organizations through grants to partners. Since last fall, we have awarded an additional $13 million in disaster augmentation grants to existing Senior Corps and AmeriCorps grantees in support of their disaster relief and recovery projects. The Corporation also focused the 2005 Challenge Grant competition on disaster relief projects. Along with our partners, the Corporation continues to deploy national service participants in support of Long-Term Recovery Committees in Mississippi and Louisiana. Overall, this capacity building will help local communities add to their ability to respond to disasters, independent of Federal intervention.

The Corporation’s Fiscal Year 2007 Budget Request is based on a new five-year strategic plan that commits the Corporation to ambitious targets in four focus areas, tying those internal measures of success to national goals.

The first of those focus areas is mobilizing more Americans to volunteer. The Corporation established a national target of 75 million Americans volunteering by 2010, based on the President’s call for every American to dedicate 4,000 hours to service. In addition to supporting this goal, we will continue to focus on promoting lifetime volunteering in our members and participants. In 2005, for example, a survey of AmeriCorps members indicated that 72 percent continue to volunteer after they complete their term of national service. We seek to raise that to 90 percent by 2010.

The Corporation’s second strategic focus area is to ensure a brighter future for all America’s youth, particularly those considered “at risk.” A key national target in this area is the number of children and youth receiving mentoring services. Today, 2.5 million children receive these services nationwide; we have set a national target of 5.5 million by 2010 based on consultation with other Federal agencies and leaders in the field. The Corporation’s performance measures in this area will focus, in particular, on mentoring children of prisoners, a successful program started in FY 2005 that we plan to extend by 65 percent over the next five years. We will also increase our efforts to recruit at-risk children and youth for participation in our programs to support them in finding opportunities to serve in the communities in which they live. In 2005, 486,000 at-risk youth participated in Corporation-sponsored programs. By 2010, we intend to raise that number to nearly 606,000.

Our third strategic focus area is engaging students in communities. The Corporation aims to engage 5 million college students in service by 2010, up from 3.27 million in 2005. Another important goal is to ensure that at least 50 percent of America’s K-12 schools incorporate service-learning into their curricula, up from 32 percent in 1999. Service-learning is the “on-ramp” for engaging and educating youth about the value of community service.

Finally, our nation faces a tremendous demographic challenge with the aging of the 77 million-strong Baby Boom generation. An important strategic focus of the Corporation is to find a way to help turn this challenge into an opportunity by engaging Baby Boomers as volunteers. Baby Boomers bring the advantages of experience and education, and are motivated to make a difference during their retirement years. Our goal is to increase the number of Baby Boomers volunteering from 25.8 million today to 28.8 million in 2010. We will do that, in part, through more aggressive recruiting strategies such as our “Get Involved Campaign” launched at the recent White House Conference on Aging. We are also working with grantees and the non-profit community to create higher quality, more Boomer-appropriate service opportunities, and program designs suitable to their interests.

In the process of reaching these strategic targets, we also will seek to engage with more rural and distressed communities, build new partnerships with faith-based and other community organizations, strengthen the vast network of non-profit organizations that work with volunteers, and improve our ability to respond to emergencies and disasters.

Our strategic plan is providing us important targets and measures of success. We are working especially hard to assess the economic impact of national service programs though the Corporation’s decentralized system of grant making makes this a challenging task. The largest percentages of our participants are volunteering with local organizations who invite Corporation’s programs into their communities as partners with them, and it is the partnering organization that determines performance measures. Roughly three-quarters of AmeriCorps grant funds, for example, are distributed through state-based service commissions through a rigorous competitive process, and all of these grantees have a required graduated financial match for the Federal grant they receive. Sustaining an AmeriCorps program requires, therefore, commitment from the local community, which often comes in the form of organizational partnerships, in-kind resources, sponsorship of a volunteer station, and mobilization of volunteers to support the project. Also, the recently completed AmeriCorps Rulemaking requires increased grantee matching. We expect that AmeriCorps grantees will improve on demonstrating how much they accomplish, showing their deepening reach into communities, and their ability to mobilize greater number of volunteers, all with gradually decreasing federal dollars.

Going forward, the Corporation will collect data and conduct cost-benefit analyses on more of our programs. A preliminary analysis suggests, for example, that our Senior Companion program reduces Medicaid costs for in-home services and nursing home care. We are looking at a potential net savings to the federal government from Senior Companion Programs services provided in certain state Medicaid waiver programs. This program, which is part of Senior Corps, brings together volunteers over the age of 55 and frail elderly and disabled adults who need some assistance in order to live independently; the Medicaid savings come from the quantifiable psychological and health benefits that accrue to both the volunteer and recipient of this service, as well as the money saved by keeping seniors out of long-term care facilities. We are committed to conducting this kind of analysis across our programs to the fullest extent possible in the coming years.

The President’s Fiscal Year 2007 Budget Request

The President is requesting $851.5 million for the Corporation for National and Community Service in Fiscal Year 2007. This request signifies the President’s continuing commitment to a federal investment in national service and to, as he said in his State of the Union address, “a compassionate, decent, hopeful society” that is defined by “who we are and how we treat one another.”

The President also noted in his State of the Union address, however, that “keeping America competitive requires us to be good stewards of tax dollars.” For FY 2007, that means increasing the cost-effectiveness and improving the results of all discretionary programs, including those at the Corporation. This budget includes investments that we believe will make our operations more effective and efficient. The main elements of the Corporation’s request include:

Senior Corps

The FY 2007 budget requests $217.6 million for the Senior Corps, about the same level as FY 2006. This budget request will allow us to support approximately 500,000 Senior Corps volunteers, to provide training and technical assistance for all Senior Corps projects, and to continue support for the Corporation’s Baby Boomer campaign, “Get Involved.” Specifically, this budget requests:

  • $59.7 million for RSVP: The most flexible of the Senior Corps programs with the largest number of participants, RSVP provides a wide range of opportunities for service by Americans aged 55 and over. It can also be a key point of entry for Baby Boomers. In 2005, RSVP non-stipended volunteers contributed 78.1 million hours of service. In FY 2007, we will support 440,950 RSVP volunteers serving in 780 projects.
        
  • $110.9 million for the Foster Grandparent Program (FGP): Foster Grandparents help address a critical challenge facing our nation, lifting the fortunes of children and youth, especially those with significant disadvantages to overcome. This stipended program focuses on mentoring, a particularly effective way to reach those most at risk, the two million American children with an incarcerated parent. In 2005, Foster Grandparents provided nearly 28 million hours of service to about 263,000 children with special and exceptional needs through a network of 337 grantees nationwide. The FY 2007 budget request will allow the Corporation to fulfill a key strategic priority by supporting 31,420 direct volunteers in the program.
          
  • $46.9 million for the Senior Companion Program (SCP): With the aging of America, the number of people who need long-term care is expected to grow by 30 percent over the next 10 to 15 years – and then even more dramatically as Baby Boomers live out longer lifespans. Research has shown that the Senior Companion program provides important health benefits to its participants – both the individuals providing and receiving the service – including lower levels of age-related depression. In some cases, Senior Companion volunteers provide the necessary link to keep the clients in their own homes and out of nursing homes. In 2005, Senior Companions enrolled in 224 local projects served nearly 14 million hours and assisted 58,000 clients. The FY 2007 request will support 16,350 stipended direct volunteers in the program.

AmeriCorps

For our AmeriCorps programs, we are requesting a total of $359.4 million. AmeriCorps plays an important role in strengthening the nonprofit and volunteer infrastructure across the country and effectively builds in its participants a lifelong commitment to volunteering and civic engagement. Since 1994, nearly 500,000 men and women have served in AmeriCorps through thousands of national and local organizations. Our research shows that most AmeriCorps alumnae continue to be highly engaged in civic life long after their terms. Members completing a full term of service can earn an AmeriCorps Education Award of $4,725, which can be used to pay for college or repay eligible student loans. Our request for AmeriCorps includes:

  • $259 million for AmeriCorps State and National Grants: This program was set up as a largely “devolved” system of Federal aid, with roughly three-quarters of all funding awarded through governor-appointed State Service Commissions to community-based organizations to meet locally-determined needs. The remainder of the funds is distributed through a competitive process to national organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, the American Red Cross, and Teach for America. State and National grantees, not the Federal government, select and oversee AmeriCorps members who will serve with them and support their missions. This is an effective way of providing Federal resources to leverage local decision-making, where community needs are best defined. Of the projected 75,000 total AmeriCorps members, 67, 350 will serve with State and National grantees, an increase of 3,000 above the FY 2006 enacted level.

The Corporation is able to offset the amount of new budget authority required for the State and National program by (1) continuing to reduce the cost per member service year; and (2) supplementing new budget authority with $13 million of anticipated carry-over. Additionally, the AmeriCorps Rulemaking completed in 2005 is making AmeriCorps State and National more cost-effective by, among other things, increasing grantee match requirements.

  • $95 million for AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA): With 40 years of experience, VISTA remains on the leading edge of volunteer mobilization and capacity building within the non-profit sector, with a particular focus on serving the poorest Americans. VISTA is also at the forefront of the Corporation’s efforts to reach out to faith-based and other community groups. The $95 million request will allow VISTA to enroll 7,650 members, an increase of 2.7 percent; these members will, in turn, leverage more than 150,000 community volunteers. The increase in members will be accomplished through increased cost-sharing with VISTA partners. VISTA will also nearly double the number of part-time members in its Summer Associates program.

In 2005, VISTA members supported 548 financial asset development projects, leading to home ownership, individual development accounts, micro-enterprise development, technology access, and job training for disadvantaged communities and individuals. This program also supported some 690 faith-based and community initiatives including such projects as Potter’s House, a Texas Offenders Reentry Initiative, the Amachi program that started in Philadelphia to provide mentors for children of prisoners and has been replicated in several cities, and in Columbus, Ohio, a program that works with immigrant and refugee communities.

  • $4.95 million for the AmeriCorps*National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC): The 2007 budget request includes only the amount needed to close out the operations of the AmeriCorps*NCCC.

The NCCC is an AmeriCorps program administered directly by the Corporation. Because it is a Federal residential program with no cost sharing component, the NCCC has a substantially higher cost per participant than do other AmeriCorps programs, which are partially funded by grants or cost-sharing arrangements with other organizations. The cost and program design led to an “ineffective” rating in a recent Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) analysis.

Going forward, the Corporation will look for more cost effective ways to capture the benefits of this program, particularly in disaster relief, through other national service programs.

  • 127.5 million for the National Service Trust: Each AmeriCorps member who completes his or her term of service is entitled to an AmeriCorps Education Award that can be used to pay for a college education or to repay qualified student loans. For a year of full-time service, the award is $4,725. The request for $124.7 million in new budget authority will be supplemented by $2.7 million of Trust funds de-obligated from unfilled slots awarded in prior years. The 2007 Budget proposes to terminate the President’s Freedom Scholarships program, which duplicates other service incentive awards. The Corporation will continue to encourage and recognize volunteerism through other programs such as the President’s Volunteer Service Award which was created in 2003 by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation to thank and honor Americans of all ages who engage in volunteer service.

Learn and Serve America

The 2007 budget includes $34.1 million for Learn and Serve America. The request will support the participation of about 1.2 million students in 1,500 local service-learning programs across the country.

As a teaching philosophy and a practice, service-learning creates “real-world” learning opportunities that improve academic performance, strengthen school- community connections, and instills in students a lifelong commitment to service and civic engagement. While the Federal investment in service-learning helps mobilize a local commitment, the success of service-learning ultimately depends on the commitment of parents, teachers, administrators, students, and members of the community. While a greater infusion of Federal dollars certainly has helped propagate service-learning more quickly in the past, we believe the Corporation and the nation should be able to increase the number of schools engaging in service-learning by encouraging a higher level of local commitment. To that end, the request also includes $1.1 million for outreach, training and technical assistance for Learn and Serve America, as well as $400,000 for a new “Students in Service Initiative”, which will help spread service-learning to more American high schools.

Management Excellence

The Corporation has taken strong steps in recent years to improve the management and operations of the agency, and increase cost-effectiveness. Our progress was recently acknowledged in a Congressionally-mandated report by the National Association for Public Administration (NAPA). The FY 2007 budget will continue those improvements with a $70.3 million request for program administration. The increase covers $2.9 million in current service adjustment and $1.4 million in one-time net costs to consolidate field administrative service centers.

The current services adjustments include a $900,000 payroll increase related to reduced employee turnover.

Consolidation of five service centers—which provide grants management, accounting and procurement support to the state offices—was recommended by NAPA and is expected to save over $1 million a year.

The Program Administration request reflects a net reduction of more than ten positions in 2006. The savings from these staffing reductions will fund investments to strengthen grants management, IT security and human capital. Other ongoing organizational cost-effectiveness initiatives include automating National Service Trust operations, integrating two large grants management systems and modernizing the VISTA payroll systems.

Conclusion

Volunteers are a cornerstone of the American economy and of our society. They help our citizens and communities address critical local needs in an affordable way. They complement federal, state and local programs, saving money in the process. Moreover, the spirit of service is a strong thread in the fabric of the American character that holds our democracy together.

The volunteers who participate in Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America make a tremendous contribution to their communities and to the country every day. In addition, many of the contributions of our programs, such as increased fund-raising capacity among non-profit organizations and a commitment to a lifetime of volunteering and community service among our students, will continue to generate social, civic and economic benefits to the nation far into the future. All of our programs also provide huge benefits to our volunteers themselves—tangible benefits such as improved job and leadership skills, improved health among our senior volunteers and improved educational opportunities for our AmeriCorps members who earn education awards.

These contributions represent only the direct effects of our programs, their participants and leveraged community volunteers. The Corporation also has a significant impact on overall national volunteering and support for our neediest citizens and communities. For example, our public outreach efforts to engage Baby Boomers in service is expected to generate many more local volunteers at all non-profits, not just those that are affiliated with the Corporation. Our Service-Learning Clearinghouse helps countless schools and communities to establish and improve service-learning programs that provide much-needed services to their communities, while improving the academic performance of their participants. The Corporation helps establish coalitions and partnerships among non-profits throughout the nation that provide services, such as tutoring and mentoring, to many more Americans.

Finally, the Corporation’s programs help promote an ethic of service and civic responsibility, and in so doing, help to promote the American character and values that are so critical to our democracy. Our mission today — to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering – has never been more important or more relevant. We look forward to working with this Subcommittee to meet the challenges and capture the opportunities of our time.

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