A bill to expand AmeriCorps and create new community service opportunities has passed the House of Representatives. The Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education, or GIVE, Act passed today with bipartisan support in the House, and a similar bill, named the Serve America Act, has also been approved by the Senate education committee. It will move to the Senate floor early next week, where it is expected to be met with a similar level of enthusiasm. National service has been a priority of the Obama administration, so expect to see opportunities for community service expand shortly.
Over the course of five years, the bill will appropriate $6 billion to AmeriCorps, increasing positions from 75,000 to 250,000 and also increasing education stipends to $5,350--the same dollar amount as Federal Pell Grants. The GIVE Act also includes provisions to encourage middle school students to volunteer, as well as funding to increase volunteerism on college campuses. The GIVE Act will create volunteer programs focused on issues that have become major priorities in recent years, such as education and healthcare.
This legislation is heralded as the largest expansion in national service since the Kennedy administration. While AmeriCorps and other volunteer programs pay far less than a full-time job, many students have been showing increased interest in them due to the education stipends and living allowances they provide, as well as the opportunities for service and unique experiences volunteers gain. People serving full-time in positions affiliated with AmeriCorps or other programs also qualify for a new federal loan forgiveness program, which forgives Stafford loan debt for public service employees after ten years.