Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, both members of the National Service Caucus, joined a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing legislation to expand national service programs significantly to help the country respond to and recover from the public health, economic, and social crises facing the nation in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Cultivating Opportunity and Response to the Pandemic through Service (CORPS) Act was also introduced by Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and John Cornyn (R-Texas).
The CORPS Act would double the number of AmeriCorps positions available this year to 150,000 and provide a total of 600,000 service opportunities nationwide over the next three years to unemployed youth and others looking to assist their communities. These positions could support a variety of response and recovery efforts based on community needs, including expanding food pantry capacity, mentoring and tutoring at-risk students, bridging health inequities by expanding access to COVID-19 screening and testing, and more.
“From delivering meals to providing critical outreach to seniors experiencing loneliness as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers are making a lasting difference in the lives of countless individuals in Maine and throughout the country,” said Senator Collins. “The CORPS Act builds on this existing foundation of successful service by increasing the number of positions to respond to this current crisis, as well as providing critical flexibility to respond to local needs as we eventually move into the recovery stage.”
“As Americans work to recover from the wide-reaching impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members have tackled growing challenges with energy, enthusiasm, and compassion,” said Senator King. “We need to build on their good work, and empower them and others to help strengthen our communities – addressing both obstacles caused by the pandemic and those that predated the virus. In essence, this legislation is a bet on the American people’s ability to respond to a crisis with dedication and ingenuity – and there’s no group I have more faith in.”
“We are very proud that Senator Collins and Senator King are both original cosponsors for this very important bill for the nation. Here in Maine, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members are already on the frontlines helping our communities deal with impacts of the pandemic. For example, in Portland, the Opportunity Alliance’s Foster Grandparents have been participating on Zoom calls with the teachers and students, Senior Companions have made over 1,000 Wellness calls to clients helping to reduce their isolation, ensuring they have food and medicines and being a friendly voice during a very difficult time. This bill will assure that these services can continue and that more volunteers can be recruited,” said Tess Scannell, board member of Senior Corps in Maine and former National Director of Senior Corps.
“The CORPS Act makes some long needed updates to National Service and greatly expands the options Volunteer Maine, the state service commission, would have to aid Maine communities. Both AmeriCorps and Senior Corps are powerful strategies for tackling local challenges through intense citizen service. The reasonable expansions would support more ‘boots on the ground’ for response and recovery. As exciting, is the potential of the Bush Volunteer Generation Fund, which would support the micro-nonprofit programs that found themselves on the front lines of Maine’s pandemic response. Their operations are a different but equally powerful engine of volunteer community service. We are grateful to Senators Collins and King for seeing a path forward and supporting efforts to strengthen Maine through volunteerism,” said Maryalice Crofton, Executive Director, Volunteer Maine.
The bill has gained the support of more than 150 additional organizations, including City Year, Habitat for Humanity International, Hunger Free America, Jumpstart, National Health Corps, National Senior Corps Association, National Youth Leadership Council, and YouthBuild. For a full list of supportive organizations, please click here.
For a one-pager on the CORPS Act, please click here.