Thursday, March 26, 2009

Obama's "Civilian Army" Takes Shape

Our disgusting and disconnected from reality ruling class just can't seem to stop spending money that we do not have. It was a truly breathtaking spectacle as they all congratulated themselves for honoring Senator Ted Kennedy with our money!

Associated Press
March 26, 2009

Senate votes to triple AmeriCorps, spur more opportunities for national service

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate voted Thursday to give tens of thousands of people more opportunities to mentor children, clean parks and help the poor, a sweeping call to national service in a time of need.

The legislation would triple the size of the Clinton-era AmeriCorps and broadly expand incentives for students and seniors to give back to their communities, at a cost of $5.7 billion over five years. It also would create five groups to help poor people, improve education, encourage energy efficiency, strengthen access to health care and assist veterans.

The vote was 79-19. Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., changed his vote after the roll call to support the measure.

The bill was named for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who is being treated for brain cancer but returned to the Senate to vote on legislation that he has long championed. Kennedy, joined by his son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., received a standing ovation from his Senate colleagues at the conclusion of the vote.

The legislation would increase AmeriCorps to 250,000 from its current 75,000 positions over eight years, its largest expansion since the program was launched in 1993.Bolstering national service programs has been a priority of President Barack Obama, who credits his service as a community organizer in his early 20s for giving him direction in life. Obama said Thursday during an online town-hall meeting, "I think there are young people all across America who are eager for that opportunity."

The House, which passed a similar bill last week, plans to bring the Senate version to a vote as early as Monday.

The measure won support from both parties despite assertions by some Republicans that it represents a costly and unnecessary intrusion by government into something Americans already do eagerly and in great numbers — help their neighbors and communities.

One opponent, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said volunteerism is "alive and well" and Congress should stay out of the way.

"Could we agree that just maybe there's one area of our society in which we don't have to add more government?" Kyl asked during debate on the measure. "I think volunteering to help our neighbors might be a good place to start."

But Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican who co-sponsored the bill with Kennedy, said government's role will be limited, with volunteers and national service participants doing the heavy-lifting.

"Help offered by a compassionate neighbor will always be superior to government-driven approaches designed in Washington," Hatch said, adding that the measure ensures that service action would be spurred by local organizations and community needs.

The Senate bill would set up a fund to help nonprofit organizations draw more volunteers and establish a summer program for middle and high school students, who would earn a $500 education award. The measure would also create $1,000 fellowships for older people who get involved in public service. It would also increase the education awards of AmeriCorps participants, whose work ranges from building homes to responding to disasters.

After completing their service, AmeriCorps participants can receive up to $4,725 to help pay for college or pay off student loans. The Senate bill would increase that award to $5,350 and require that it match any future increases in Pell Grant scholarships. Unlike the House-passed legislation, the Senate version would allow older AmeriCorps members to transfer their education awards to their children or grandchildren.

Some AmeriCorps participants get a living stipend while they are working for 10-12 months. The stipend ranges from $11,400 to $22,800 for the year. Most participants, who are predominantly ages 18 to 26, get $11,800.

Obama's proposed budget for next year calls for more than $1.1 billion for national service programs, an increase of more than $210 million.

AmeriCorps was created during President Bill Clinton's administration. Its first class of 20,000 members started serving in 1994.

Over the last year, the program has received three applications for every slot, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service, the agency that oversees the program.

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