June 16, 2020

Harris, Coons, Wicker, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Expand National Service Opportunities, Uplift Communities Amid COVID-19 Crisis

The CORPS Act is supported by more than 150 national service and public health organizations across the country

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Tuesday joined Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), along with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Jack Reed (D-RI), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), John Cornyn (R-TX), Angus King (I-ME), and Susan Collins (R-ME), in introducing bipartisan 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 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.

“AmeriCorps members have a long history of service to our communities, and now more than ever, our country is relying on public servants as we continue to address the coronavirus pandemic,” Senator Harris said. “We must expand national service opportunities and ensure that every American who wants to serve is able to do so at this critical time. I am proud to join my colleagues to introduce this legislation.”

“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. I am glad to join Senator Coons in introducing the CORPS Act, which would enhance our national service programs and provide participants with the resources they need to endure this crisis. With their contributions, I am hopeful our nation can emerge stronger than ever before.”

“National service programs do extraordinary work in our most vulnerable communities,” Senator Booker said. “AmeriCorps volunteers have been helping strengthen neighborhoods for decades. Amid these tumultuous times, expanding national service programs like AmeriCorps will aid in our nation’s recovery from COVID-19.”

“The CORPS Act builds on the existing framework of AmeriCorps and Senior Corps to help lead our national rebuilding efforts,” Senator Graham said. “A focus on local rebuilding efforts and community service will pay dividends for our nation.”

“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,” said U.S. Senator Jack Reed, who helped create the bipartisan National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.

“As our nation strives to recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, it is vital that Americans are able to get back to dignified work,” Senator Rubio said. “I am proud to join my Senate colleagues in introducing legislation that will help Americans, especially Americans facing unemployment, contribute to our recovery by serving our local communities, promoting public health, and promoting economic recovery both for themselves and their own families, and for the community and nation they serve.”

“Just as picking up a rifle to defend our country is ‘American Service,’ so is helping out a food pantry for those at risk of hunger, assisting students with remote education and helping patients make critical health care decisions,” Senator Duckworth said. “We should be doing everything we can to make sure vital service programs like AmeriCorps are accessible to all Americans—especially those who come from underserved communities or have had contact with the juvenile justice system—who wish to serve during this time of reopening and rebuilding. That’s why I’m proud to help Senator Coons and Senator Wicker introduce this bipartisan proposal—which builds on my 21st Century American Service Act—in the next relief package.”

“National service volunteers, like those in AmeriCorps, have established strong records for providing critical help and assistance in times of crisis.  It makes sense to expand this sector to help communities and states overcome the unprecedented hardships created by the coronavirus pandemic,” Senator Hyde-Smith said.  “I especially appreciate that this bill prioritizes service to rural and underserved areas.”

“America must chart a path forward both for Covid-19 recovery and addressing racism. National service organizations create opportunity for Americans of different experiences and backgrounds to engage in meaningful solutions that make our communities stronger, safer and healthier for all,” said Dr. Cassidy.

“Wisconsinites have always been committed to serving their communities, and many folks in our state have answered the call to serve to combat COVID-19 throughout our neighborhoods. Now is the time to scale up our national service programs so those who want to take action and help our communities get through this pandemic have the opportunity to do so,” said Senator Baldwin. “I’m proud to cosponsor this bipartisan legislation that will help service organizations expand their reach to engage more people and bring communities together to combat this public health crisis, save lives and move our country forward.”

“This pandemic has presented our communities with public health and financial challenges unlike any we’ve seen in our lifetimes,” said Senator Cornyn. “This legislation would help utilize the wide-ranging skills of thousands of Texans serving in the AmeriCorps and Senior Corps during this crisis to serve those most in need.”

“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.”

“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.”

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.

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.
  • Provide flexibilities for programs to grow and respond quickly 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 high poverty communities.
  • Help organizations that have not previously hosted AmeriCorps members access the program.
  • 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 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.

For a one-pager on the CORPS Act, please click here

###