Reed, Larson Lead ACTION to Increase Service Opportunities, Address Student Debt
ACTION for National Service Act would enhance access to national and community service opportunities, lower student debt, create a more engaged citizenry, and address national priorities
WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to expand and promote opportunities for national service, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Congressman John B. Larson (CT-01) today introduced the America’s Call to Improve Opportunities Now (ACTION) for National Service Act. This bill would enhance access to national and community service opportunities, lower student debt, create a more engaged citizenry, and address national priorities in education, infrastructure, health care, disaster relief, and poverty.
“As Americans, we take inspiration from those who have answered the call to serve, whether in defense of our nation abroad or strengthening our communities at home. This bill will grow our capacity to enlist, equip, and empower young people to address pressing challenges and give back to our nation while they earn money toward their education. It will increase volunteerism and strengthen our nation,” said Senator Reed.
“I am proud to introduce ACTION for National Service today with Senator Reed to honor President Kennedy's vision and renew our commitment to national service. President Kennedy famously said: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’ As we continue to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, this has never rung truer. The will to serve is there, but due to lack of sufficient funding, organizations must turn away applicants. Programs like AmeriCorps and SeniorCorps are vital to our communities. They give back by reducing high school delinquency through mentoring, increasing graduation rates with literacy programs, and responding to natural disasters when local authorities are in need. Our legislation also combats the harmful effects of climate change by creating a Civilian Climate Corps, allowing volunteers to help their communities face one of the biggest threats of our time. Just as important, ACTION for National Service will address the student debt crisis by increasing the education benefit participants receive for their service. We need to make higher education more affordable, and this is one opportunity to do so,” said Rep. Larson.
America’s Call to Improve Opportunities Now (ACTION) for National Service Act would achieve the following goals:
- Reduce the burden of student loan debt by ensuring young people who serve two full terms of service are rewarded with an educational benefit equal to four years of average in-state tuition.
- Ensure that educational benefits are exempt from federal taxes.
- Create a Civilian Climate Corps to help communities equitably fight and adapt to climate change.
- Support at least one million full-time federal service positions a year—providing all who wish to serve the opportunity to do so.
- Increase access to national service opportunities by raising AmeriCorps living stipend amounts.
- Create a 21st Century American Service Outreach Program to notify eligible individuals about opportunities to serve.
- Advance national and community service as a civic and national priority by elevating the Corporation of National & Community Service (CNCS) to a new Cabinet-level agency.
Cosponsors in the U.S. Senate include Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives include: Reps. Alma Adams, Nanette Díaz Barragán, Joyce Beatty, Ami Bera, Sanford Bishop, Julia Brownley, G.K. Butterfield, Salud Carbajal, Sean Casten, Yvette Clarke, Steven Cohen, Lou Correa, Jim Cooper, Angie Craig, Danny Davis, Diana DeGette, Rosa DeLauro, Suzan DelBene, Val Demings, Debbie Dingell, Veronica Escobar, Adriano Espaillat, Bill Foster, Ruben Gallego, John Garamendi, Jim Himes, Steven Horsford, Chrissy Houlahan, Hank Johnson, Robin Kelly, Derek Kilmber, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Annie Kuster, Jim Langevin, Brenda Lawrence, Ted Lieu, Stephen Lynch, Carolyn Maloney, Betty McCollum, Jim McGovern, Grace Meng, Gwen Moore, Richard Neal, Jimmy Panetta, Bill Pascrell, Donald Payne, Chellie Pingree, Mark Pocan, Ayanna Pressley, David Price, Mike Quigley, Jamie Raskin, John Sarbanes, Mary Gay Scanlon, David Scott, Terri Sewell, Tom Suozzi, Eric Swalwell, Mark Takano, Dina Titus, Rashida Tlaib, Paul Tonko, Marc Veasey, Maxine Waters, Peter Welch, and Frederica Wilson.
“The strong desire of young people to serve their communities coupled with the tremendous needs of our nation, means that now is the time to strengthen national service. The ACTION for National Service Act would?expand AmeriCorps to help struggling communities, while giving young people experience, skills, increased benefits, and post-service education scholarship to help pay for college,”?said?AnnMaura Connolly, President of Voices for National Service. “We’re grateful to the House and Senate national service leaders who have come together around this legislation so that every young American – regardless of socioeconomic background – has the opportunity to spend a year in service.”
“Every young person in America should have the opportunity to serve their community. We applaud Senator Reed and Rep. Larson for their re-introduction of ACTION for National Service which would dramatically increase national service opportunities over the next decade, moving us closer to our vision for national service,” said Kristen Bennett, Chief Strategy Officer of
Service Year Alliance. “From food security to fire recovery, classrooms to clinics, national service has played a huge role in meeting urgent local needs. This critical legislation invests in robust living allowance and education benefits for corps members, making national service more accessible and college more attainable for young people of all backgrounds. It also aims to increase awareness of national service and reiterates the need for a modern day Civilian Climate Corps — exactly what is needed to meet this moment in history. We are grateful to Senator Reed and Rep. Larson for their vision and will continue to work closely with them to make national service a common expectation and opportunity for all.”
“I would like to thank Rep. John Larson (D-CT-1) and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) for reintroducing the ACTION for National Service Act,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO The Corps Network.? “These past two years have shown just how important a sense of community is to our country. Having the opportunity to serve in a national service program, that gives back to the community, provides skills and opportunities to the participants, and prepares the next generation of workers and leaders, should be available to all.? The ACTION for National Service Act will help make that a reality.”
“The ACTION for National Service Act is a bold and transformational vision for national service,” said Kaira Esgate, CEO of America’s Service Commissions, and its States for Service coalition. “If passed, ACTION would raise the living allowance for AmeriCorps members, ensuring every American has an equitable opportunity to serve. On behalf of the state service commission network, I thank Rep. Larson and Sen. Reed for recognizing the important role national service can play in addressing nationwide challenges, including the climate crisis.”