Call Your Congressperson

Legislative Update from Capitol Hill

Congress is engaged in a heated debate over fiscal priorities and deficit reduction strategies that has divided the House of Representatives and the Senate. Congressional leaders are locked in a legislative stalemate, and the future of service and volunteerism in America hangs in the balance.

Background

On February 19th, the House of Representatives passed a year-long spending bill – H.R. 1 – that eliminates funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and all its programs. This bill, which jeopardizes jobs, economic investment and service in communities all across the country, passed 235-189. You can click here to learn how your Representative voted.

On March 9th, the Senate voted on H.R. 1, as well as a Senate alternative. Neither of those measures, which are roughly $50 billion apart in terms of overall funding levels, secured sufficient support to advance. The Senate alternative – that included $1.17 billion for CNCS, enough to sustain all its programs at current funding levels – only secured 42 affirmative votes. Click here for an interactive map to learn how your Senators voted on both bills.

Congress is now six months into the fiscal year, and a compromise must be reached soon. House and Senate leadership are engaged in high-level budget negotiations in hopes of reaching agreement on a FY11 budget bill that can pass both chambers and receive White House approval. But the question is: will the compromise bill fund the Corporation for National and Community Service.

It’s up to us to make sure that the answer to that question is “YES”. We need to pick up the phone and ask Congress to pass a year-long spending bill that funds the Corporation for National and Community Service.

There is a lot at stake, and if the Corporation for National and Community Service is eliminated, the results will be irreversible. Faith-based and community organizations will shut down and most will not be able to reopen even if funding is restored later. The systems by which services are delivered in communities will break down. We cannot afford to lose these invaluable resources.

Call Congress Today

Call Congress and explain what will be lost if Congress cuts or eliminates CNCS. Lawmakers will eventually agree on how to fund the government for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, but cost-effective and successful services are threatened if the final package cuts or eliminates funding for AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Learn & Serve America and other service initiatives.

Call your Senators and Representatives and explain what services will be lost in your community if CNCS shuts down.

Tell them you reject the elimination of CNCS as proposed by the House of Representatives, and you want Congress to pass a bill that sustains funding for service and community volunteering.

 

Instructions for Calling the House of Representatives:

  1. Please check to see how your Congressperson voted on H.R. 1.  (Click here for the vote tally.)
    • If they voted ‘YEA’, you should open by saying that you are “disappointed that your Representative voted for a bill that eliminates funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service and dismantles the service programs (AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Learn & Serve America, Volunteer Generation Fund and the Social Innovation Fund) that are hard at work in their congressional district.“
    • If they voted ‘No’, you should open by saying “thank you for voting against H.R. 1, legislation that will eliminate the Corporation for National and Community Service.”
  2. Encourage both supporters and opponents of H.R. 1 to work with the Senate to fund the Corporation for National and Community Service.
  3. Use Talking Points below to make the case for funding the Corporation for National and Community Service. Explain what will happen locally if the funding cuts become law.

Instructions for Calling the Senate:

    1. Ask your Senator to “reject the House cuts and to pass a FY11 budget that funds the Corporation for National and Community Service. Do not eliminate or cut programs like AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Learn & Serve America, Volunteer Generation Fund or the Social Innovation Fund. These are cost-effective, critically-needed and highly-leveraged programs.”
    2. Use Talking Points below to make the case for funding the Corporation for National and Community Service. Explain what will happen locally if the funding cuts become law.
    3. While the Senate has not been able to secure enough votes to pass a FY11 budget, the legislators did take two test votes on the H.R. 1 and a Senate alternative. The Senate rejected both spending bills, demonstrating that neither the House-passed measure to further cut spending by $58 billion nor Appropriations Committee Chairman Inouye’s (D-HI) proposal to cut $4.7 billion from the budget enjoys sufficient support.
    4. Click here for an interactive map to learn how your Senators voted on both bills – H.R. 1 (that eliminates CNCS) and the Senate alternative (that sustains funding for CNCS at FY10 levels.)

      Talking Points for House and Senate:

      • If you shut down or cut the Corporation for National and Community Service, you will decimate vital services in our communities when millions of Americans need food, shelter, healthcare, job training and educational support. 
      • Communities are counting on national service participants and community volunteers to meet the increased demand for services. 
      • Provide an example of your local impact and what will be lost if your program is eliminated.  Example: My organization has 140 AmeriCorps members serving in 10 Boston Public Schools.  They are providing targeted and school-wide interventions in literacy, match, attendance and classroom behavior.  If Congress eliminates AmeriCorps, nearly 2,000 high-risk 3rd-9th graders will no longer receive this additional support in the classroom.  
      • The CR will only push unemployment rates up.  Unemployment numbers -- particularly for young people, veterans and military spouses, older Americans and people of color -- remain alarmingly high.   
      • For Americans who are struggling to find work, national service programs offer participants the opportunity to earn a subsistence-level stipend, develop skills, and create pathways to future employment.  Eliminating programs like AmeriCorps, Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions will result in jobs lost for the service participants and the staff who supervise them.  Example: If Congress eliminates AmeriCorps, our 140 AmeriCorps members and the staff that supervise them will be out of work.
      • The federal investment made in faith based and community organizations through the Corporation for National and Community Service leverages $799 million in matching funds from companies, foundations and other sources.  
      • If you defund the national service programs, whole organizations will shut down and most will not be able to reopen again even if funding is restored.       

      How to Contact Your Member of Congress

      U.S. SENATE - We have a one-stop tool to that will make calling your Senators free and easy.  Follow these simple steps to be directly connected with your Senator’s office:

      • Call 1-855-US-SERVE (1-855-877-3783).
      • Enter your zip code and listen to brief instructions and talking points.
      • Press 1 to be connected to your senior Senator or press 2 for your junior Senator.
      • You’ll be directly connected to your Senator's office.
      • After calling your first Senator, call again to connect with the other one.  Both need to hear from us.
      • If you get a busy signal, please call back!  You will be able to skip instructions and talking points after you enter zip code.

      U.S. HOUSE - While 1-855-US-SERVE is presently focused on the Senate, follow these easy steps to call the House of Representatives:

      • If you need help determining the members of your congressional delegation, visit www.congress.org. This database will provide you with contact information for your elected officials.
      • You can call your Representatives directly or be connected through the Capitol Operator (202-225-3121).  Once connected, identify yourself as a constituent and ask to speak to the Legislative Assistant in change of national service or appropriations.
      • Call your legislator’s District office too. You should call their local office and make sure the staff working in the congressional district also understands how this cut will impact your community.

      Given the severity of the cuts that passed the House, you may experience some difficulty calling the Capitol. It is important that you keep trying. It is critical that our lawmakers hear from the constituents directly impacted by their decisions.