NAICU Washington Update

Senate Adopts "Kennedy" Serve America Act

March 30, 2009

The Senate has passed a bill reauthorizing the 1990 National and Community Service Act, and renaming it in honor of its original co-sponsor, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).  The House is scheduled to reconsider and pass the Senate version of the bill on Monday, March 30, so that President Obama can sign the bill before traveling overseas. 

The bill, S. 277, aims to increase participation in AmeriCorps from 75,000 to 250,000 over the next five years.   AmeriCorps participants receive annual awards to help with education costs that, under the Senate bill, would increase to $5,350 - equal to this year's Pell Grant maximum of $5,350.  Volunteers over age 55 can transfer their earned education awards to their children or grandchildren.  The bill also creates four new volunteer corps in the areas of education, clean energy, health futures, and opportunity (focused on financial literacy).

Reconsideration by the House was necessary because the Senate made changes in the House-passed legislation.  As one of those changes, the Senate modified a House amendment by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) that would have made organizations - including colleges and universities - that engage in legislative advocacy ineligible to participate in national service programs.

The Senate bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 79 to 19.  The vote had been previously reported as 78 to 20, but Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) was allowed to change his vote to yes.

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