CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
H.R. 1388 was introduced by Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and reported out of the Committee of Education and Labor by a vote of 34 to 3 on March 11, 2009. On March 18, 2009, the House passed H.R. 1388, the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act, by a vote of 321-105 (after passage and incorporation of the Republican Motion to Recommit). See the Legislative Digest for H.R. 1388 here.
Today, the House will consider the Senate amendments to H.R. 1388 under a closed rule, requiring a simple majority for passage. During consideration in the Senate, a substitute amendment was offered to insert the text of S. 277 for H.R. 1388. For more information on S. 277, please see reports from the Senate Republican Policy Committee as well as the Congressional Research Service. The bill the House will vote on today is essentially S. 277, with additional Senate amendments.
H.R. 1388 reauthorizes through FY 2014 the National and Community Service Act of 1990 (NSCA) and the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973 (DVSA).
The Corporation for National and Community Service administers volunteer and community service programs that are funded under the National Community Service Act of 1990 and the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973, which include AmeriCorps, the National Senior Service Corps, and School- and Community- Based Service Learning (Learn and Serve America). H.R. 1388 reauthorizes many of these programs, authorizes new programs and studies, and increases the authorization amounts on numerous programs.
NOTE: The entirety of the Republican Motion to Recommit offered by Rep. Foxx was not included in the Senate bill. Specifically excluded provisions include the co-location provision which included a prohibition on organizations that share space with those who promote or provide abortion, and the prohibition on organizations indicted for voter fraud. Amendments were offered in the Senate to incorporate some of these excluded provisions, but were not accepted by the Senate. Therefore, the bill being considered before the House today not only authorizes over $6 billion, but fails to include protections to ensure that organizations such as Planned Parenthood and ACORN receive these federal dollars. The House accepted the Republican Motion to Recommit by a vote of 318 to 105.
The Senate bill incorporates several amendments from Senator Burr (R-NC) to ensure that outreach is done to high schools with low graduation rates and ensure that the graduation rate utilized is one that was put forward by the Bush Administration in regulations. The bill prohibits entities from using title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or funds from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to meet the non-federal match and lowers the amount of the educational award an economically disadvantaged student can receive under the summer of service from $1,000 to $750. The Senate bill would also require the Corporation to conduct a longitudinal study on the impact of service-learning activities on factors like academic achievement, student engagement, and graduation rates.
The bill makes a few technical and other changes to the AmeriCorps program, including removing some duplicative uses of funds from the various corps. The bill also includes language to conduct a study regarding the establishment of a new volunteer Management Corps program and adds "music and arts education and engagement" activities to the list of activities that may be carried out by the Education Corps.
The bill includes an amendment to ensure that organizations promoting competitive and non-competitive sporting events involving individuals with disabilities may receive direct and indirect assistance to carry out national service programs.
The bill includes an amendment to require the Corporation to collect the full amount of an erroneous payment made to programs, as well as an amendment permitting individuals who receive Silver Scholars educational awards (individuals at least 55 years old) to transfer their awards to a child or grandchild.
The bill incorporates an amendment to strengthen criminal history checks for individuals working with vulnerable populations by requiring FBI fingerprinting, checks against state criminal registries and sex offender registries for participants working with vulnerable populations (children under age 17, individuals over age 60, and individuals with disabilities).
The bill includes an amendment that adds a Sense of the Senate that Congress should preserve the full income tax deduction for charitable contributions and seek out additional ways to encourage charitable giving.
The bill reduces the hour requirement that a Silver Scholar needs to serve from 500 hours to 250 hours to be eligible for an educational award. The bill creates a new use of funds for entities that can assist nonprofit organizations with building their capacity. The bill specifically reserves $5 million from the funds allocated in the bill for this use.
The bill funds an office created by the Bush Administration (Volunteers for Prosperity) in the United States International Agency for Development (USAID). The office currently receives funds out of a discretionary pot controlled by the U.S. Department of State.
Other notable amendments offered, but not accepted by the Senate include amendments to:
CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 1388 would cost $6 billion over 5 years.
While Ranking Member McKeon (R-CA) and some Republicans on the Education and Labor Committee support the passage of H.R. 1388, some Members have expressed concern with the significant spending increase for paid volunteer programs (i.e. AmeriCorps), and other policy concerns.
Some Members have expressed concern that this legislation would expand and authorize programs that have been audited and considered ineffective by the Office of Management and Budget. Some Members are concerned that this does not align with the new Administration's plans to encourage transparency and accountability in all federal government programs.
Some Members are also concerned with continuing to fund "paid volunteerism" through the AmeriCorps program. In some cases, organizations receiving AmeriCorps participants are required to ensure the participant is paid a living allowance, and often receive reimbursement for housing. Furthermore, participants who complete a "term of service" also receive an AmeriCorps Education Award (which can be $100 a month if the participant isn't in school). Participants are also eligible for medical benefits, and child care allowances (up to $400 per month).
Furthermore, some Members are concerned that AmeriCorps volunteers are currently employed (and recruited) by community organizations including Planned Parenthood. Members have expressed concern that federal funding should not support "volunteers" to be paid to work for abortion providers and grant them further flexibility with their finances and resources (understanding that money is fungible). For a recent example of an AmeriCorps job opportunity at a Planned Parenthood, click here. These Members are also concerned that without the proper safeguards, opportunities for community service participants to engage in activities that many find inappropriate (i.e. ACORN, Planned Parenthood) could become more commonplace under the Obama Administration. Furthermore, as was mentioned in the summary, the Senate amendments do not include the full language of the Republican Motion to Recommit, and therefore, do not adequately ensure that federal funds are not funneled to organizations such as Planned Parenthood and ACORN.
Additionally, some Members have expressed concern that Republican language which would have prohibited funding under this bill to be used to develop or distribute materials or operate programs directed at youth that are designed to promote or encourage sexual activity, distribute obscene materials to minors on school grounds, or provide sex education (unless such education is age appropriate and includes discussion of the health benefits of abstinence, HIV-prevention instruction, etc.) has been purposefully left out of the text of the bill-allowing such activities to be funded with federal dollars under the guise of community service programs.