WASHINGTON, DC – The American tradition of public service to others has long been a pillar of U.S. citizenship.  When President John F. Kennedy delivered his inaugural address on January 20, 1961, he famously challenged his fellow Americans: “Ask not what your country can do for you: Ask what you can do for your country.”

In an effort to expand and promote opportunities for national service, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Congressman John B. Larson (D-CT-01) today teamed up with their colleagues to reintroduce the America’s Call to Improve Opportunities Now (ACTION) for National Service Act.  This bicameral legislation 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. 

“Expanding opportunities for national service will help more young people answer 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 build new partnerships for service, increase volunteerism, and strengthen our nation,” said Senator Reed.

“I am proud to reintroduce ACTION for National Service today alongside Senator Reed, to honor the legacy of President Kennedy’s commitment to public service. Americans want to serve their country, and providing an educational benefit for two full terms of service will help ease mounting student debt and make college more affordable. I’m proud this legislation addresses two of our nation’s biggest concerns: the rising cost of higher education and climate change by empowering young people to better serve their community and create opportunity for themselves,” 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 Tammy Baldwin (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). 

Cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives include: Andy Kim (D-NJ-03), Stephen Lynch (D-MA-08), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA-05), Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06), Sean Casten (D-IL-06), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Joe Courtney (D-CT-02), Judy Chu (D-CA-28), Veronica Escobar (D-TX-16), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-05), Suzan DelBene (D-WA-01), Robin Kelly (D-IL-02), Dina Titus (D-NV-01), Mark Pocan (D-WI-02), Eric Swalwell (D-CA-14), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ-12), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-19), Mike Quigley (D-IL-05),  John Garamendi (D-CA-08), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL-08), Seth Moulton (D-MA-06), Salud Carbajal (D-CA-24), Ann Kuster (D-NH-02), John Sarbanes (D-MD-03), Gwen Moore (D-WI-04), Joe Neguse (D-CO-02), Diana DeGette (D-CO-01), and Jim McGovern (D-MA-02).

The ACTION for National Service Act is supported by more than 40 endorsing organizations, including Voices for National Service, Habitat for Humanity International, YouthBuild USA, City Year, and With Honor Action.

“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 that Representative John Larson and Senator Jack Reed are introducing this legislation so that every young American – regardless of socioeconomic background – has the opportunity to spend a year in service.”

“The ACTION for National Service Act is a much-needed and bold vision for national service that would help bring our country together,” said Kaira Esgate, CEO of America’s Service Commissions, and its States for Service coalition. “ACTION for National Service would strengthen our nation’s service infrastructure and ensure every American has an equitable opportunity to serve their community and get on a path to further education and a meaningful career. On behalf of state service commissions, I thank Sen. Reed and Rep. Larson, and all the original co-sponsors, for recognizing the important role national service can play in addressing unmet needs in our states and communities.”

“We are grateful to Sen. Reed and Rep. Larson for their leadership in reintroducing the ACTION for National Service Act, legislation that would dramatically increase the number of national service opportunities over the next decade, bringing us closer to our vision of making a service year an opportunity and expectation for all young Americans,” said Kristen Bennett, CEO of Service Year Alliance. “This critical legislation invests in robust living allowances and education benefits for all AmeriCorps members, making national service more accessible and college more attainable for young people of all backgrounds. As long-time national service champions, Sen. Reed and Rep. Larson both recognize the power it has in building talent pipelines into in-demand sectors and developing the next generation of leaders that America so desperately needs. We look forward to working with them to bring our shared vision to life.”