WASHINGTON, DC - In an effort to mobilize the power of national service, assist communities in need, and put more Americans to work combating the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and building a better future while also making higher education more accessible and affordable, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) joined with a bipartisan coalition led by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tammy Duckworth D-IL), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) in introducing the Cultivating Opportunity and Response to the Pandemic through Service (CORPS) Act. 

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.

In addition to helping the community and developing new skills, the CORPS Act would provide young people with a living stipend and post-service education scholarship opportunities.

“America is at a crossroads and people are eager to get to work in service to their communities and the nation.  This legislation will help elevate national service to uplift people and communities, strengthen our democracy, and help us address health, economic, and social challenges while also helping young people develop their skills and earn scholarship money,” said Senator Reed, who in 2017, along with U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), established the independent National Commission on Military, National and Public Service in 2017. 

The new bipartisan proposal introduced today reflects many of the provisions of Reed’s ACTION for National Service Act, which Senator Reed designed to increase America’s capacity to enlist, equip, and empower young people to address pressing challenges while creating opportunities for advancement with respect to their education and job prospects.

“Thousands of young people across the country are calling for greater opportunity and for new and meaningful engagement to address persistent inequities that have only been exacerbated by COVID-19,” Senator Coons said. “Now is the time to mobilize that energy to make our communities stronger and healthier for everyone. The CORPS Act will empower Americans to give back to their communities while earning a college opportunity and valuable skills for the future. I’m pleased to introduce this bipartisan bill with Senator Wicker and my colleagues at this critical time and look forward to working with them to include it in the next relief package considered by the Senate.”

“Helping our nation respond to and recover from the coronavirus outbreak will require an all-hands approach,” Senator Wicker said. “Boosting the ranks of our service corps is a cost-efficient way to get communities the help they need.”

The bipartisan bill has gained the support of more than 150 national service and public health organizations, including City Year, Habitat for Humanity International, Hunger Free America, Jumpstart, National Health Corps, National Senior Corps Association, National Youth Leadership Council, Teach for America, and YouthBuild.

“The CORPS Act introduced today by Senators Coons, Wicker, Booker, Graham, Reed, Rubio, Duckworth, Hyde-Smith, and Cassidy underscores the tremendous bipartisan support for AmeriCorps and Senior Corps and the critical role these programs are playing in helping their communities respond to and recover from COVID-19,” said AnnMaura Connolly, President of Voices for National Service. “The CORPS Act invests in the strong and capable national service infrastructure that has been deploying citizens of every background in service to their communities for decades. In addition to expanding AmeriCorps and strengthening Senior Corps to help communities with food distribution, supporting students, ensuring that medically vulnerable people continue to receive their medications and supporting public health needs.”

“America’s Service Commissions applauds the leadership of the bipartisan CORPS Act for recognizing service as a strategic solution to addressing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic through the CORPS Act. Expanding AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and the Volunteer Generation Fund is essential to engaging the millions of Americans who want to serve their country right now in response to this crisis,” said Kaira Esgate, CEO of America’s Service Commissions (ASC). “The CORPS Act will enable governors to help more underserved and rural communities, and the flexibility to get national service boots-on-the-ground quickly. Our network of governor-led state service commissions can provide the local infrastructure to get this done, and stands ready to implement the CORPS Act across every state.”

“At a time when local communities are in desperate need of additional support to tackle the public health and economic crises due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CORPS Act is helping meet these needs by expanding national service to support our communities as they respond and recover,” said Jesse Colvin, CEO of Service Year Alliance. “Not only can national service programs like AmeriCorps support critical public health initiatives, combat food insecurity, and fight learning loss, but by mobilizing hundreds of thousands of Americans into national service, we are putting people back to work, addressing record unemployment, and creating pathways to economic opportunity for people of all backgrounds. There’s never been a more important moment to invest in national service, and Service Year Alliance is proud to support this pivotal bipartisan legislation.” 

Specifically, the CORPS Act would:

•  Fund national service positions for a three-year response and recovery period and grow them to the level authorized in CNCS’s bipartisan, most recent reauthorization. Under the CORPS Act, the number of positions could grow from 75,000 to 150,000 the first year and then steadily to 250,000 by year three.

•  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,

- Programs that support economic opportunity,

- Education support (including for adult learners), and

- Services that combat nutrition insecurity.

•  Prioritize expanding programs and services in rural and underserved communities.

•  Ensure that individuals’ financial resources do not limit participation by temporarily increasing the AmeriCorps living allowance to 175 percent of the federal poverty line and tying the value of the Segal Education Award to twice the value of the maximum Pell grant, 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.

•  Encourage participation by members of low-income and underrepresented communities, those who have had contact with the juvenile justice system, and those of diverse abilities, and extend priority enrollment to Peace Corps, U.S. Fulbright, and AmeriCorps participants whose service or grants was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

•  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.