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National service is a ‘force for good’ that deserves bipartisan support

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Longtime supporters of City Year and AmeriCorps gathered on Capitol Hill this spring in support of national service programs that are a “force for good” in our communities, saying these programs should be expanded rather than repeatedly targeted by White House budget cuts.

National service programs assist communities hit by natural disasters, help veterans and their families adjust to life after deployment, support opioid recovery programs, and help children learn to read. City Year AmeriCorps members infuse under-resourced schools with additional capacity, encouraging development of students’ academic and social-emotional skills like teamwork, leadership and confidence.

“We know that supporting national service is just good business,” Garrick Francis, Head of Federal Affairs, North, at CSX Transportation, said at an event attended by lawmakers including former presidential candidate Marco Rubio. “We all have a role to play in being an advocate for national service.”

City Year depends on its AmeriCorps members and private sector partners, like CSX Corp., to help ensure students have a better chance at success in classrooms and in life. At schools that partner with City Year, corps members create positive, consistent and trusting relationships with students. These relationships help to reinforce social-emotional skills like decision-making and self-awareness that can improve academic performance and increase graduation rates.

National service programs also allow young people to hone skills like leadership while helping communities to confront pressing challenges, Francis said. CSX is sponsoring 15 City Year AmeriCorps teams this year, adding to more than 3.3 million hours of service by teams supported by the railway company over its 23-year partnership with City Year.

AmeriCorps members themselves have a critical role to play in sharing the importance of national service. AmeriCorps alumni can reach out to lawmakers of both parties to press them to back national service programs during this year’s congressional budget discussions, Francis said.

Supporting national service programs also makes sound economic sense. Economists at Columbia University estimate that for every $1 invested in programs like AmeriCorps, society reaps $3.95 in benefits like higher incomes and other gains for communities.

Lawmakers including Rubio, Jack Reed and Rick Scott, joined members of Voices for National Service like CSX in supporting AmeriCorps and Boston-based nonprofit City Year in April at the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, underscoring bipartisan backing for national service initiatives.

“Because of what you do each and every day, we’ve got the best possible argument why this program should continue,” said Sen. Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island. “It’s your good works, your investment, your service for the nation.”

In March, The White House proposed for a third consecutive year to eliminate the Corporation for National and Community Service, which leads volunteering and service efforts and runs AmeriCorps, leaving it up to Congress to again reject the cuts and ensure funding. In May, the House Appropriations Committee proposed increased funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service, including for AmeriCorps. The government’s fiscal year 2020 budget begins in October.

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