With the recent milestone of President Obama’s first hundred days in the White House, media outlets across the nation are taking the opportunity to reflect on our new leader’s dizzying start to his tenure. With that in mind, we would like to take a look at the progress of the president’s volunteer initiatives thus far.
If you recall, we took a first look at Obama’s plans for volunteerism during our review of both candidates’ perspectives during the election campaign. At that time, the future president’s objectives rested in the expansion of the AmeriCorps program. The AmeriCorps umbrella was to include subsets such as Classroom Corps, Homeland Security Corps, and Clean Energy Corps, to name just a few. Candidate Obama also wanted to incentivize participation through tax credits for college students and encourage growth through seed money for non-profit organizations.
We’re happy to report that on April 21st, just eight days short of his one hundred day mark, President Obama signed arguably this generation’s most comprehensive national service act into effect. True to his campaign promise, The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act aims to triple the number of volunteer opportunities across the nation through a vast Americorps expansion. The bill also has a local flavor with its earmarking of a “Volunteer Generation Fund” that is set to help local non-profits recruit, train, manage, and recognize volunteers. Efforts will be focused on education, health, clean energy, veterans, and economic opportunity. In sum, the Serve America Act authorizes funding of $6 billion over the next five years. In addition to the tax credits mentioned above for college students, incentives will also be offered to senior citizens, who can then pass the award on to their college-aged grandchildren.
The most refreshing aspect of the legislation is the fact that it was a bipartisan effort. The bill easily passed both the House and Senate on its way to the president for approval and was finalized a mere 22 days after its introduction. In the midst of one of our nation’s most tumultuous times, politicians from both sides of the aisle were willing to come together and affirm their opinion that volunteers are able to make a difference and will help our country overcome its current obstacles.
For more information about the bill, visit www.nationalservice.gov