The U.S. Senate yesterday passed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. This bill is expect to pass the House next week and should be signed by President Obama shortly thereafter.
The NonProfit Times detailed some of the highlights of the bill:
The Serve America Act updates and strengthens national service programs administrated by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a federal agency created in 1993. Among the highlights touted in the new legislation are:
- Tripling the number of AmeriCorps volunteers from 75,000 a year to 250,000 volunteers a year.Creating four new “corps” to address America’s most pressing challenges, such as energy conservation, healthcare, education and veterans’ issues.
- Boosting the Eli Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, currently $4,725, to increase incentives for service and postsecondary education. Linking it to the maximum Pell grant in the future could make it reach $8,000 by 2014.
- Creating a “Summer of Service” program to encourage middle and high school students to engage in a summer of community service and put them on a path to a lifetime of service.
- Establishing “Encore Fellowships,” a one-year fellowship for Americans 50 and older. John Gomperts, president of Civic Ventures, a national think tank on Boomers, work and social purpose, described Encore Fellowships as “perhaps the biggest innovation in this bill.”
There may have been some confusion over the part of the legislation described below. While it was included in the original Senate version of the Serve America Act, it appears as if it may have been left out of the version that actually passed the Senate on March 26, 2009. We will keep you posted if and when we learn more.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the bill from our perspective is that it provides for the formation of a Commission on Cross-Sector Solutions. According to the text of the legislation, the purpose of this Commission is –
- to examine and recommend ways in which the Federal Government can interact more efficiently and effectively with nonprofit organizations, philanthropic organizations, and business to achieve better outcomes with regard to addressing national and local challenges, accountability, and utilization of resources;
- to provide advice to the President and Congress regarding new, more effective ways for the Federal Government to address national and local challenges in partnership with the nonprofit sector; and
- to support research that will advance the impact and effectiveness of the nonprofit sector and the way that the Federal Government interacts with such sector.
The need for cross-sector solutions to global and domestic crises has long been a focus of the work of the Global Philanthropy Forum. More significantly, this very subject is the theme of GPF annual conference coming up in less than four weeks in Washington, DC. The eventual passage of this bill should add extra energy to the conference!