AmeriCorps up for cuts

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

The Appropriations Committee in the House of Representatives has recently proposed a slew of cuts in its budget proposal for the 2011 year. One of these cuts will eliminate AmeriCorps as a part of the continuing resolution to fund the government for the remainder of this fiscal year. Luckily, these cuts are currently only proposed, and they would have to be approved by the Senate and the White House in order to be enacted. These proposals, however, represent an increasing apathy toward national service — an apathy that I, for one, am disgusted by.

Eliminating AmeriCorps will not only effectively cripple the volunteer work of individuals participating in the program, but will also cripple non-governmental organizations that rely heavily on the manpower of AmeriCorps participants. These participants, who are paid a small stipend to cover basic housing and food costs, save organizations from the costs of hiring employees outside of AmeriCorps. A recent Wyoming study published in the Casper Star-Tribune cited that national service programs provide $220 million in direct services to Wyoming annually at a cost of $3.7 million to the federal government. The study estimates that if AmeriCorps were eliminated, 862 jobs would be lost in addition to more than $850,000 in higher education money.

Like Wyoming, Pennsylvania also relies heavily on national service programs. In 2011 AmeriCorps will provide more than 3,700 individuals the opportunity to provide what calls intensive, results-driven service to meet education, environmental, health, economic and other pressing needs in communities across Pennsylvania. AmeriCorps organizational funding in Pennsylvania generally passes through the governor-appointed PennSERVE: the Governor’s Commission of Citizen Service, which in turn awards grants to nonprofit groups to respond to local needs.

In Pittsburgh, AmeriCorps participants are actively working in education, health, and community-building organizations across the city. Pittsburgh AmeriCorps programs include KEYS Service Corps, Pittsburgh Health Corps, Public Allies, JumpStart and Literacy*AmeriCorps — all of which would be affected negatively by the elimination of the national program. Funding cuts to AmeriCorps, which would lead to the eventual end of the program, will severely damage the state of service in our nation. Potential participants and the organizations they would work with will be rendered useless by funding cuts.