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Price, Matsui, Houlahan, Bera, and Schrier Lead Effort to Bolster Public Health with National Service

May 5, 2020
Press Release

House Members Introduce Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act

Washington, DC (May 5, 2020) – Today, Representatives David Price (D-NC) and Doris Matsui (D-CA), Co-Chairs of the National Service Caucus, along with Representatives Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Ami Bera, M.D. (D-CA), and Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA) introduced The Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act.

Supported by over one hundred national service organizations, the legislation would provide a comprehensive, locally focused, national service strategy to address, move forward and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill creates 750,000 AmeriCorps positions and establishes a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to manage a quick, federal deployment to crisis regions. These new roles would prepare Americans with meaningful opportunities to improve public health while supporting the needs of local communities and economies. To encourage participation from Americans of all backgrounds, this legislation would also increase AmeriCorps living stipends and grant educational awards equivalent to two years of public college tuition. Empowering AmeriCorps will enhance communities’ ability to address, respond, and recover from the far-reaching impacts of COVID-19.

Original Cosponsors: Reps. Nanette Barragan (D-CA), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), David Cicilline (D-RI), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Joe Kennedy (D-MA), Peter King (R-NY), Annie Kuster (D-NH), John Larson (D-CT), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Paul Tonko (D-NY), and Lori Trahan (D-MA).

The U.S. Senate companion legislation has been introduced by Chris Coons (D-DE), who is joined by Jack Reed (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Dick Durbin (D-IL). Members of both the U.S House of Representatives and Senate are working to include this legislation in the upcoming COVID-19 relief package.

“National service organizations possess the unique skills to rise to the challenge during this COVID-19 public health crisis,” said Representative David Price, Co-Chair of the National Service Caucus. “As we respond and recover, America needs dedicated individuals, like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps members, that stand ready to tackle a wide range of challenges like bolstering public health initiatives, ramping up contact tracing, and supporting parents and teachers as they transition to e-learning. As Co-Chair of the National Service Caucus, I am proud to introduce the Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act to strengthen the response in our communities and our country.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has opened up fractures, but also new emergency and public health opportunities in our workforce that will live well into the future,” said Congresswoman Doris Matsui, Co-Chair of the National Service Caucus.  “As we move forward from this crisis as a country, we must not only strengthen our country’s health infrastructure, but we must also prepare a workforce with skills and leadership that extend beyond this pandemic. In times good and bad, the great AmeriCorps workforce has proven its capability to bridge divides in our local communities and help implement a national plan for a better tomorrow.”

“As our country works to reopen and rebuild, we need dedicated public servants who will help strengthen our communities, rebuild our economies and protect our most vulnerable,” said Congresswoman Houlahan. “As a veteran and former AmeriCorps Member, I know firsthand that national service is critical to our individual and collective successes. I am proud to be introducing the Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act. This legislation will help build a robust response to this pandemic utilizing and augmenting our National Service programs, including AmeriCorps and Peace Corps. Throughout our history, National Service programs and their Corps members have consistently bolstered communities across the country and globe. We will need them now more than ever in order to successfully emerge a stronger, more unified nation.”

“Throughout our history, Americans have always answered the call to national service during times of crisis,” said Congressman Ami Bera, M.D. “As our country continues to recover from the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, our national service programs will once again play an integral role in our nation’s recovery effort. I’m proud to join my colleagues in support of this bill which will empower a new generation of Americans to serve their country. I encourage Americans to explore their national and local service programs to learn how they can help in the nation’s recovery efforts.”

“Right now, the most important thing we can do to start moving towards “normal life" is to competently address this public health crisis,” said Congresswoman Kim Schrier, M.D. “For the last few months, I have been advocating for an extensive, national contact tracing program that will allow us to identify cases, isolate those patients, then find the people they’ve been in contact with, and test and quarantine them. Without a vaccine or an effective treatment, this is how we will combat this pandemic and allow people to feel more comfortable leaving their homes. Training and educating AmeriCorps and other National Service members in public health will broaden their skill base, expand the health care workforce, and stop this virus. By tapping into service-minded young people from all over our country, and then recruiting others, we may also spark a passion for public health and create the next generation of public servants to address some of our other pressing healthcare needs.”

“As they have so many times before in times of great need, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members are stepping forward to serve, meeting critical needs in our communities during this pandemic,” said AnnMaura Connolly, President of Voices for National Service. “AmeriCorps members are integral to the COVID-19 response, supporting testing by serving at drive-thru testing sites, providing childcare for health care workers, delivering food and medicine to our most vulnerable, supporting students struggling with distance learning and increasingly supporting emerging contact tracing efforts across the country. As we face the triple threat of a health, economic, and educational crisis, we should lean into the robust and flexible national service infrastructure offered by AmeriCorps and Senior Corps to meet the acute needs mounting in our communities. Voices for National Service is grateful to Representatives Price, Matsui, Houlahan, Bera, Schrier, Cole, DeLauro, Cicilline and the other original cosponsors for their bold vision for expanding AmeriCorps as a transformational force for our country at this critical time.”

This legislation has gained support of over one hundred organizations including: American Conservation Experience, AmeriCorps Mentors for Success, America Forward, America Learns, American YouthWorks, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, America’s Service Commissions, Association for Utah Community Health, Bay Area Community Resources, Boston Cares, Boys & Girls Club of Utah  County, Breakthrough Central Texas, California Family Resource Action, Catholic Volunteer Network, Changeist, Child Abuse Prevention Center, Child Abuse Prevention Council of Sacramento, Cities of Service, Citizen Schools, City Year, Civic Assets, CivicWorks, Inc., CLIMB Community Development Coalition, Colorado Youth Corps Association, College Forward, College Possible, Communities in Schools, Conservation Corps of the Forgotten and Emerald Coasts, Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa, Conservation Legacy, The Corps Network, East End Neighborhood House, Education Northwest, Encore.Org, FoodCorps, Great Basin Institute, Great Oaks Charter Schools, Habitat for Humanity International, HandsOn Atlanta, Hunger Free America, Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center, Iowa & Minnesota Campus Compact, Jumpstart, Kansas Volunteer Commission, Homestead Affordable Housing, Larimer County Conservation Corps, Local Government Commission, Literacy Coalition of Central Texas, Literacy Minnesota, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Louisiana Conservation Corps, Maryland Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism, Massachusetts Service Alliance, Metropolitan Family Service, Mile High Youth Corps, Minnesota Alliance With Youth, Montana Education Partnership, National Association of Foster Grandparent Program Directors, National Center for Appropriate Technology, National Health Corps, National Senior Corps Association, National Youth Leadership Council, New Leaders, New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity, New York Cares, Northwest Youth Corps, Notre Dame Mission Volunteers, Oklahoma AmeriCorps, Ohio Reading Corps, OneStar Foundation, Oregon Volunteer Commission, Playworks, Points of Light, Public Allies, Prevent Child Abuse California, Reading Assist, Reading & Math, Inc., Reading Partners, Rebuilding Together, Regional Youth Adult Social Action Partnership, Relay Graduate School of Education, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, SBP, Serve Austin, Serve Colorado, Serve Connecticut, Serve Indiana, Serve Minnesota, Serve New Mexico Commission, Serve Ohio, Serve Washington, ShreveCorps, Sierra Nevada Alliance, Student Conservation Association, Service Year Alliance, Teach for America, TerraCorps, United Way of Dane County, United Way of King County, United Way of South Carolina, Up2Us Sports, UServeUtah, Volunteer Mississippi, Volunteer Tennessee, Volunteer West Virginia, Washington Campus Compact, Youth Action Programs and Homes, Inc., YouthBuild USA, Inc., YWCA Central Alabama.

Specifically, the Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act would:

  • Fund 750,000 national service positions over a three-year response and recovery period, in part to meet the projected need for as many as 300,000 public health workers.
  • Create a partnership between AmeriCorps and CDC inspired by FEMA Corps to provide for additional response surge capacity that could be deployed to specific areas as needed.
  • Provide flexibilities for programs quickly to grow and respond to dynamic local recovery needs.
  • Prioritize funding for activities directly related to our response and recovery, such as: public health services, emergency logistics, workforce and reemployment services, education support (including for adult learners), and services that combat nutrition insecurity.
  • Ensure that individuals’ financial resources do not limit participation by increasing the AmeriCorps living allowance to 175 percent of the federal poverty line and tying the value of the Segal Education Award to the cost of two years of public university tuition, harmonizing the treatment of both with other programs by making them nontaxable.
  • Fund new online tools for Senior Corps to safely move to a teleservice model.
  • Extend priority enrollment to Peace Corps, U.S. Fulbright, and AmeriCorps participants whose service or grants was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and encourage participation by members of low-income and minority communities, those who have had contact with the juvenile justice system, and those of diverse abilities.
  • Invite participation by a diverse range of Americans by launching an awareness and outreach campaign on response service opportunities and supporting the Volunteer Generation Fund.

A one pager on the bill can be found here. A copy of the legislative text can be found here.