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AmeriCorps Alums Advocacy Toolkit

Advocacy is one of the most rewarding ways for you to continue your support for AmeriCorps and truly make an impact. The most effective and powerful constituency capable of achieving expansion for AmeriCorps are its alumni. It's absolutely essential that alumni engage with decision-makers to let them know that their constituency supports these programs. Having participated in AmeriCorps, you are the best advocates for AmeriCorps and national service.

AmeriCorps Alums legislative priorities will revolve around 1) the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award and 2) a National Service Reserve Corps. We believe these issues are important not only to AmeriCorps alumni, but also to creating a shift in the way America views service and its place in our culture. With these issues as the foundation of our advocacy focus, we believe the AmeriCorps Alums Advocacy Toolkit will provide alumni across the country with resources to make a difference, while also helping to demystify the process behind advocacy. In this guide, you will discover tactics for effectively advocating for the continued support and expansion of AmeriCorps. Through the toolkit, you will:

  • Learn the legislative priorities and agenda that guide AmeriCorps Alums' advocacy focus
  • Learn about the history of national service and statistics that illustrate the impact of AmeriCorps
  • Discover how to utilize quickstart guides, templates, and Congressional contact information
  • Gain knowledge of the federal budget process
  • Become familiar with the lexicon that exists in the world of advocacy
  • Be able to organize and facilitate effective meetings with your elected officials

We want to work with you to make your efforts as effective as possible! If you have any questions or need help in developing your plan, please contact AmeriCorps Alums staff or members of the AmeriCorps Alums Advocacy Working Group- found in the below section of the toolkit. More important than anything else, however, is that you and your local Alums' chapter have fun and feel productive. This guide is a working document, and any suggestions or comments you have are welcomed at info@americoprsalums.org.

Yours in service,

The AmeriCorps Alums Advocacy Working Group

Introduction.................................................................................................. 

Table of Contents........................................................................................... 

AmeriCorps Alums Legislative Agenda and Other Key Information...................................... 

Legislative Agenda and Priorities.......................................................................

Position Statements and Talking Points for Legislative Priorities..................................

Impact Statistics on AmeriCorps.........................................................................

Overview and Timetable of the Federal Budget Process..............................................

AmeriCorps Alums Contact Information....................................................................

AmeriCorps Alums Staff..................................................................................

AmeriCorps Alums Advocacy Working Group Leads.....................................................

AmeriCorps Alums Advocacy Working Group............................................................

AmeriCorps Alums Chapter Leads.........................................................................

History......................................................................................................... 

History of National Service..............................................................................

Legislation Timeline..................................................................................

Numbers................................................................................................

History of AmeriCorps Alums Advocacy..................................................................

Landscape of National Service Advocacy................................................................

Quick Start Guides............................................................................................ 

Scheduling and Meeting with your Elected Representatives...........................................

Talking Points for Sponsor Support Letters............................................................

Calling a Member of Congress............................................................................

Templates & Samples.......................................................................................... 

Sample Letter to Congress................................................................................

AmeriCorps Alums Chapter Letter/Fax Template........................................................

Sample Op-Ed Instructions ................................................................................

Resources....................................................................................................... 

Glossary of Terms..........................................................................................

Advocacy Meeting Report Back Form.....................................................................

Congressional Contact Information......................................................................

U.S. Senate..............................................................................................

U.S. House of Representatives........................................................................

U.S. Capitol Hill Phone Numbers.......................................................................


The AmeriCorps Legislative Agenda is largely shaped according to alumni feedback. After conducting research on several potential advocacy focus areas, AmeriCorps Alums has carved out its key priorities based on the issues that will garner the highest levels of alumni engagement while also being politically viable for passage as new legislation. Below you will find an outline of our agenda for 2008.

Segal AmeriCorps Education Award

AmeriCorps Alums' top legislative priority for 2008 is to enhance benefits associated with the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. The focus will concentrate on four main areas, in order of legislative viability:

  • Elimination of taxation on the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award
  • Allowing transfer of the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award to a sibling, child, or grandchild
  • Protecting the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award against inflation by tying it to the Consumer Price Index (CPI)
  • Increasing the value of the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award to account for rising educational costs

National Service Reserve Corps

AmeriCorps Alums' other main legislative priority for FY 2008 is the creation of a National Service Reserve Corps. This corps will enroll 20,000 AmeriCorps alumni to provide the skills, experience, and human resources necessary in times of crisis and to address the challenges faced by communities across the country. The effort will concentrate on crafting language for a stand-alone National Service Reserve Corps Bill and garnering the strong bipartisan support necessary for the passage of such a bill.

»National Service Reserve Corps (coming soon)

Impact Statistics on AmeriCorps 1

  • 600,000 AmeriCorps members since inception, 75,000 new members every year
  • More than 1.2 million community volunteers engaged every year
  • More than 2 million residents of the Gulf Coast have received assistance from AmeriCorps members since September 2005
  • 72% of AmeriCorps alumni report remaining active in community service after their year of service, 80% they continue to volunteer because of their time in AmeriCorps
  • 35% of AmeriCorps alumni go on to work in the public service sector
  • 31% of AmeriCorps alumni go on to work for non-profit organizations
  • 67% of employed AmeriCorps alumni work with people in poverty, 33% with the elderly
  • 90% of AmeriCorps alumni reported gaining useful skills from their experience as an AmeriCorps member
  • Of over 2,000 organizations where AmeriCorps members serve, 84% stated the AmeriCorps members helped to leverage more volunteers

Overview and Timetable of the Federal Budget Process 2

The federal budget process is a complex set of activities that includes formulation of the President's budget, interaction with Congress, and execution of the budget. While some of the activities are required by specific dates, many follow a more flexible schedule established by formal and informal rules and procedures. The Table below provides a timetable of the major steps in the executive budget process. Title III of the Congressional Budget Act establishes a specific timetable for the congressional budget process. These deadlines are also flexible to accommodate Congressional scheduling priorities.

Date

Activities

Calendar year prior to the year which fiscal year begins (i.e. 2007)

Spring

Office of Management & Budget (OMB) issues planning guidance to executive agencies for the budget beginning October 1st of the following year.

Spring and Summer

Agencies begin development of budget requests.

July

OMB issues annual update to Circular A-11, providing detailed instructions for submitting budget data and material for agency.

September

Agencies submit initial budget requests to OMB.

October-November

OMB staff review agency budget requests in relation to President’s priorities, program performance, and budget.

November-December

Based on recommendations by the Director of OMB, the President makes decisions on agency requests. OMB informs agencies of decisions, commonly referred to as OMB “passback.”

December

Agencies may appeal these decisions to the Director of OMB and in some cases to the President.

Calendar year in which fiscal year begins (i.e. 2008)

By first Monday in February

President submits budget to Congress. The President’s proposal sets the total amount of money that will be available for the budget.

February 15th

Congressional Budget Office submits report to Budget Committees.

Not later than 6 weeks after President submits budget

Committees submit views and estimates to Budget Committees. (Frequently, the House Budget Committee sets own date based on Legislative Calendar.)

April 1st

Senate Budget Committee reports concurrent resolution on the budget.

April 15th

Congress completes action on the concurrent resolution on the budget. (This is not signed by the President.)

May 15th

Annual appropriation bills may be considered in the House.

June 10th

House Appropriations Committee reports last annual appropriation bill.

June 15th

Congress completes action on reconciliation legislation. (If required by the budget resolution.)

June 30th

House completes action on annual appropriation bills.

By July 15th

President submits mid-session review to Congress.

August 21st (Or within 10 days after approval of a spending bill

Agencies submit apportionment requests to OMB for each budget account.

September 10th (Or within 30 days after approval of a spending bill)

OMB apportions available funds to agencies by time period, program, project, or activity.

October 1st

Fiscal year begins.

Calendar years in which fiscal year begins and ends (i.e. 2008 and 2009)

October-September

Agencies make allotments, obligate funds, conduct activities, and request supplemental appropriations (if necessary). President may propose supplemental appropriations and impoundments to Congress.

September 30th

Fiscal year ends.


AmeriCorps Alums Advocacy Working Group Leads

AmeriCorps Alums Advocacy Working Group

A list of all members of the AmeriCorps Alums Advocacy Working Group is located online at the following address:

www.americorpsalums.org/group/Advocacy

AmeriCorps Alums Chapter Leads

To inquire into advocacy efforts in your area, please contact your chapter leader. A list of chapter leaders is available online at the AmeriCorps Alums Advocacy Center (www.americorpsalums.org/?page=TAAdvocacyCenter).
 

The term “national service” signifies Americans of all ages enriching their communities through service to combat the challenges of poverty and meet critical needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment. The history of national service in America can be traced back to the early 1900s. American philosopher William James first introduced the concept of non-military national service in his essay, “The Moral Equivalent of War.” In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a program designed for young men to help rebuild the nation during the Great Depression. In the 1960s, Americans saw the inception of many service programs including the Peace Corps, Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), the Foster Grandparent Program, the Senior Companion Program and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). In the 1990s most of these programs were formally organized and incorporated as national service programs under what became the Corporation for National and Community Service.
 

1990: National and Community Service Act of 1990: This Act created an independent federal agency, the Commission on National and Community Service. The Commission was charged with supporting four streams of service:

1. Service-learning programs for school-aged youth;

2. Higher education service programs;

3. Youth corps;

4. National service demonstration models.

1992: National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC): A bipartisan group of Senators drafted legislation to create NCCC as a demonstration program to explore the possibility of using post-Cold War military resources to help solve problems at home. The NCCC, enacted as part of the 1993 Defense Authorization Act, is a residential service program modeled on the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps and the United States military.

1993: The Corporation for National and Community Service: The Corporation is part of our nation's history of commitment to building a culture of citizenship, service, and responsibility. It was created to connect Americans of all ages and backgrounds with opportunities to give back to their communities and their nation. It merged the work and staffs of two predecessor agencies, ACTION and the Commission on National and Community Service. The Corporation was directed to manage three main programs:

  • Senior Corps, which incorporated the longstanding Foster Grandparents, Retired and Senior Volunteer, and Senior Companion Programs.
  • AmeriCorps, which incorporated the longstanding AmeriCorps*VISTA, AmeriCorps*National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), and the newly created AmeriCorps*State and National programs which began in 1994.
  • Learn and Serve America, formerly known as Serve America.

2002: USA Freedom Corps: In his 2002 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush announced the creation of the USA Freedom Corps. USA Freedom Corps is a coordinating council that works to strengthen our culture of service and help find opportunities for every American to serve. In an effort to expand service, this legislation brought together agencies such as the Peace Corps,

Citizen's Corps, and the Corporation for National and Community Service. More information can be found at: http://www.usafreedomcorps.gov/about_usafc/call/index.asp

Numbers

Approximately 75,000 AmeriCorps members serve their country annually. Each year the Senior Corps supports more than 500,000 older volunteers, and Learn and Serve America supports more than one million students in service. 

History of AmeriCorps Alums Advocacy

Since our inception in 2004, one of the AmeriCorps Alums priority areas has been to act in support of AmeriCorps by advocating for its continued existence and expansion. Recent history has seen a steady, incremental decrease in funding to national service, which has led to an advocacy agenda centered on restoring funding to national service programming rather than expanding it. Beginning in mid-2007 however, an effort was launched to rewrite the legislation governing national and community service programming, and with this effort came a renewed sense of optimism that allowed our advocacy focus to shift toward the expansion and strengthening of AmeriCorps. This effort is commonly referred to as the reauthorization of the National Service Act (originally authorized in 1993).

Advocacy Focus

AmeriCorps in General: As an overarching objective, AmeriCorps Alums advocacy efforts have existed, and will continue to exist, to promote, expand, and strengthen AmeriCorps. Since 2004, we have mobilized alumni to support legislative efforts that have enhanced AmeriCorps. We have also mobilized alumni to voice their opposition to legislative efforts that have been deemed detrimental to AmeriCorps.

AmeriCorps*National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC): February of 2006 marked the beginning of a turbulent period for NCCC, when the President's FY 2007 budget request proposed the elimination of NCCC. The news quickly spread through the AmeriCorps Alums network, and alumni and NCCC supporters were rapidly and effectively mobilized in support of this unique AmeriCorps program. From the groundswell of support, the effort produced a positive outcome that affirmed NCCC's value to communities all across the country. NCCC funding for FY 2007 was proposed at just $5 million—enough to allow for the closing of the five campuses around the country. Through the advocacy efforts of AmeriCorps Alums and our partners, the FY 2007 program was funded at $36.7 million, $10.5 million above its FY 2006 levels.

In February of 2007, the President's FY 2008 budget again proposed to significantly reduce NCCC funding- this time to $11.6 million. An advocacy effort similar to that of 2006 ensued, and the result was the restoration of NCCC funding levels equal to $23.7 million.

In February of 2008, the President's FY 2009 budget request again proposed an NCCC funding reduction to $9.8 million. AmeriCorps Alums is once again tapping its network in support of NCCC, rallying especially around the important disaster relief services it provides across the country.

AmeriCorps Segal Education Award: Beginning in early 2008, AmeriCorps Alums began efforts to work with Congress to create legislation concerning the Education Award. The effort concentrates on four areas:
  • Eliminate taxation of the Education Award.
  • Transferability of the Education Award to grandchildren or immediate family members.
  • Tie the Education Award to the Consumer Price Index to account for inflation.
  • Increase the value of the Education Award to $10,000 to account for rising educational costs.

United StatesPublic Service Academy: During the early part of 2007, AmeriCorps Alums began supporting efforts to bring the U.S. Public Service Academy to the American people. This institution, modeled on the U.S. military academies, proposes to provide a free education to young U.S. citizens in exchange for five years serving communities in a public service capacity.

Landscape of National Service Advocacy

The world of national service (especially AmeriCorps) faced a major funding crisis in 2003. Through this challenging time, many national service programs banded together to stand up for national service and help restore its funding. The funding crisis was the catalyst that led to the formation of organized advocacy efforts within the national service industry. Some of the most influential organizations are listed below.

Voices for National Service: Voices for National Service is a coalition of national service programs and state commissions committed to expanding opportunities for Americans to serve. Founded in 2003 in response to major cuts in federal funding that threatened hundreds of AmeriCorps programs, Voices for National Service mobilized supporters to spread a critical message: America needs AmeriCorps.

Voices for National Service's coordinated response mobilized AmeriCorps champions from all walks of life – including 44 governors, 148 mayors, 80 senators, and 233 congressmen – to build support that resulted in a record appropriation of $441 million for AmeriCorps in fiscal year 2004 – an increase of 62% over the year before. Since then, the coalition has expanded its work to incorporate Learn and Serve America, Senior Corps, and other national service programs, becoming the leading “voice” for national service on Capitol Hill.

Hands On Network: Hands On Network is a national nonprofit whose core mission is to inspire, equip and mobilize people to take action that changes the world. Its collective network—now the largest in the nation—connects 370 civic hubs managing millions of volunteers and 50,000 volunteer driven community impact projects annually around the country. By connecting ideas to people to projects, Hands On Network enables our nation to share ideas, practices, and stories, wherever they happen, and shaping a movement to re-imagine the notion of citizenship for the 21st century. Hands On Network's broad reaching knowledge about service and volunteering and service positions the organization as one of the foremost experts on service and volunteering.

The Corps Network: The Corps Network is a proud advocate and representative of the nation's Service and Conservation Corps. Its number one goal is to sustain and grow the Corps movement. The Corps Network's member Service and Conservation Corps operate in 42 states and the District of Columbia. Over 21,000 Corpsmembers, ages 16—25, contribute more than 16 million hours of service annually.

Service and Conservation Corps are a direct descendant of the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, in which three million young men dramatically improved the nation's public lands while receiving food, shelter, education, and a precious $30-a-month stipend.

1) Form a group of interested AmeriCorps alumni and supporters

  • Announce the creation of your group: This can be as easy as an email or as sophisticated as a kickoff party. Let your group know how important it is to be involved in advocacy efforts and how easy it can be. Some members may even discover a newfound love for advocacy and the political process!
  • Develop an advocacy agenda for your local AmeriCorps Alums chapter: Start with the national advocacy agenda and then build from there. The national agenda depends on local advocacy from alums in order to be successful. Within the national agenda, decide if there are particular pieces you'd like to spend more time on. In addition, see if there are other issues specific to your local chapter or geographic area. Feel free to contact the Alums Advocacy Committee for help on developing your plan.

2) Schedule your visit

  • Find your Representatives' contact information: This information can be found below on page 22 or on the AmeriCorps Alums Advocacy Center. There are several other ways you can find the contact information for your elected officials at all levels of government (local, state, and federal). Please check out www.congress.org, www.house.gov, www.senate.gov or www.USA.gov to find your representatives' contact information. Remember that all federal officials have offices locally and in Washington DC.
  • Schedule your appointment: This is surprisingly easy to do! Staffers are usually very nice; it is their job to schedule an appointment and work with your group on concerns you may have or ideas you would like to see implemented. Call the office first, and then follow the instructions the staffer gives you. Just give them a call!

3) Prepare for your visit

  • Go over talking points with members attending the meeting: Appoint someone to be the delegation lead. Everyone should talk during the meeting, but this individual will be in charge of keeping the group on track during the discussion (i.e. if the discussion starts to wander, this person will attempt to redirect it back to the original purpose).
    • Make sure everyone is on the same page and has a good idea of what the agenda is.
    • It's perfectly fine to have printed sheets of talking points for group members to use during the meeting.
  • Prepare a statement of position to leave with the representative: The statement of position outlines your main points on whatever subject you're advocating and contains other important information such as contact information, basic statistics, and other supporting materials. You can model your statement of position off of the AmeriCorps Alums' statement of position, which can be found in the online version of the AmeriCorps Alums Advocacy Toolkit at www.americorpsalums.org/?page=TAAdvocacyCenter.
    • If nothing else, the statement of position is a physical trail that you went and spoke with the representative or staff member and can be used to build legitimacy throughout your efforts. The more you can show you've been reaching out, the more likely it is that you'll get a positive response.

4) Visit with your Representative

  • Tell your story: Make it personal! Explain why you served in AmeriCorps, what kind of work you did, and how the experience impacted you. Speak from the heart about why AmeriCorps is so important to you.
  • Stick to your talking points: It's always nice to have a conversation with whomever you're visiting with, and it's definitely encouraged to create a relationship with your representative's office. Just make sure you get your main points across in the meeting.
  • Log your visit and what was discussed: We have created an online submission form for your visits. Please visit the Advocacy Center on the AmeriCorps Alums website to fill out and send in the form. This will help us keep track of which elected issues our alums are meeting with and the issues they have discussed. The online submission form can be viewed and completed online.

Writing an Op-Ed

1) Decide what you want to write about

  • Isn't it supposed to be about AmeriCorps?
    • Not necessarily! It should be about a subject related to national and community service and from an alumni perspective, but we're not going to dictate exactly what you should say. 
    • Coordinating with your local Alums chapter will make the letter stronger. Involve your fellow alumni and supporters in the crafting and distribution of your letter. What issues is your chapter focusing on? Is there a local issue involving AmeriCorps or national service? Is there something relevant that has recently been in the headlines? 
  • Conviction: You must have conviction to truly write a good op-ed. Choose a topic you can write about clearly and with obvious passion. Remember that this is going to be printed and is meant to convince people of your position.

2) Do your research

  • Read what's already been written: If it's a major headline, there's probably been plenty of coverage. Before you say something that may have been impacted by more recent developments, make sure you know what has been going on. Also, if there are any other editorials or op-ed pieces that have been written on the subject, you may want to respond or reiterate what's already been said.
  • Find any additional supporting evidence: Some issues require a little more background information. Quick information can be found via Wikipedia or Google Scholar (although all wikis should always be double checked for the facts). Statistics on national service can usually be found easily through the Corporation for National and Community Service and the AmeriCorps Alums Advocacy Center. Let us know what you're working on, and we will be more than happy to help.

3) Write your op-ed

  • Hamburger essay: Remember what your English teacher used to say? Follow the same structure. First the intro, then the body, and finally the conclusion. See the sample op-ed on page 16.
  • Show your AmeriCorps pride: Don't forget to state that you are an AmeriCorps alum. Explain when and where you served and the kind of work that you did during your term of service
  • Get a second opinion: Your local Alums chapter is your team. Get input on content, as well as help with grammar and spelling. The more people you involve in this stage, the more likely they'll get involved with other advocacy efforts as well.

4) Send it to your local paper and/or other applicable publications

  • Local newspapers: There's always a local paper and the smaller it is, the more likely your op-ed will be published. Feel free to branch out to other papers in your region. Send your op-ed to national and regional papers as well—you never know what they will choose to publish that day.
  • Other media sources: Think creatively about other media outlets that you could contact. Would this be a good fit for an online journal or blog that you read on a regular basis?

Talking Points for Sponsor Support Letters

Purpose:

  • AmeriCorps Alums is collecting letters of support from project sponsors and organizations who have worked with AmeriCorps, either with an entire AmeriCorps team or individual AmeriCorps members.
  • We will be collecting these letters on an ongoing basis to demonstrate the impacts of AmeriCorps in communities, and to provide a foundation of documented support for the continued funding of the program.

Logistics:

  • You are welcome to use any written format for your letters.
  • Please e-mail to sponsor@americorpsalums.org or mail to 600 Means Street, Suite 210; Atlanta, GA 30318.
  • Photographs are welcome, but please label with location, date, and a brief text description of the scene depicted in the picture.
  • Please include your name and contact information on the letter.
  • Please let the AmeriCorps Alums Advocacy team know when you send in letters or do other advocacy on behalf of AmeriCorps. We would like to keep track of your efforts so that we know what's happening in the field.

Information to include:

  • Most important is to tell your story! Explain why you applied for an AmeriCorps team or members, or how AmeriCorps ended up working for your organization.
  • Please include the official name of your organization and briefly explain the work that you do.
  • Include dates in which the AmeriCorps team or member(s) served with your organization.
  • Explain the work that the AmeriCorps members did. When possible, please provide quantitative measures of accomplishments such as the number of houses built or repaired, number of children tutored, miles of trails built, etc. Please also explain the intangible benefits of AmeriCorps service to your organization and to your community.
  • If you are comfortable doing so, include language of support for the AmeriCorps program and the need for continued high levels of funding for the program.
  • Be as specific and as personal as you can throughout the letter.

Thank you so much! By taking the time to write these letters, you are helping to ensure that AmeriCorps members can continue to serve in communities across the nation.

Calling a Member of Congress

What to expect when you call

  • When you call the office of your Senator or Representative, a staffer will answer the phone. This person is likely to be a recent college graduate who is spending a year or two in Washington DC to gain experience working on Capitol Hill. In some cases, the person answering the phone might instead be an experienced member of the office staff who has been there for years. No matter who answers, be confident in delivering your message.
  • Either before or after you explain why you are calling, the staffer is likely to ask you for your name and where you are from. You should always tell the truth. Even if you are not a constituent of that state or district, your call will be logged and noted. If you did your AmeriCorps service in that member's district or state, it is important that you tell them that as well.
  • Remember, every call counts! Congressional offices keep track of how many people call for each issue every day. They are much more likely to listen and take action when their offices are flooded by calls on behalf of AmeriCorps.

Sample talking points

  • I am an AmeriCorps alumnus who served in XXX program in the year YYYY.  
  • I am calling to urge Representative or Senator to______ [FILL IN HERE DEPENDING ON THE ISSUE]. For example:
    • Provide robust funding for AmeriCorps in the FY09 Budget. At minimum, funding levels for the program should sustain the FY08 funding levels. The Recommended cuts from the House Appropriations Committee put portions of the AmeriCorps funds in grave jeopardy.
    • Congress should continue to provide adequate funding for AmeriCorps programs, and I hope Representative/Senator _____will oppose the proposed funding cuts by the House Appropriations Committee.
    • Restore full funding to the NCCC program. 
    • Vote Yes on the GIVE Act, which reauthorizes AmeriCorps and the other programs that are administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service.  
    • Please consider joining the National Service Congressional Caucus. 
  • Share your personal AmeriCorps story and how important the AmeriCorps program is to our country.
  • End by thanking them for their time.

Instructions:
1. Copy onto your letterhead.
2. Make any necessary changes to reflect the current year's funding levels and other priority issues.
3. Include your name and address to ensure a response.
4. Please FAX this letter to ensure its timeliness. Please also mail it.
5. In addition to your federal representatives, please also consider sending a copy to your State Representatives. Their contact information is available at www.Congress.org

<< Date >>

The Honorable << First and Last Name >>
U.S. << Senate or House of Representatives >>
Washington, DC << Senate 20510 or House 20515 >>

Dear << Senator or Representative >> << Last Name >>:

Please support AmeriCorps -- an important and effective national service program managed by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees each recommended different FY07 funding levels for some of the national service accounts - the most significant difference was the appropriation for AmeriCorps. The Senate recommended $383 million, while the House provided $40 million less, $342 million.

I understand that the fiscal environment is extremely difficult, but this is not the time to cut funding for national service. Our communities have enormous unmet needs, and national service represents a prudent and cost-effective investment in citizens who want to help meet those needs. Through AmeriCorps, citizens mentor and teach disadvantaged youth, respond to natural disasters, leverage local volunteers, protect the environment, and help build the organizational capacity of local community and faith-based organizations.

Public, civic, and business leaders are calling for the expansion of national service programs. Citizens, as witnesses to their communities' unmet needs, are eager also to serve. National events such as September 11th and Hurricane Katrina spur a passion for service. We should be expanding opportunities for individuals to serve, not eliminating them.

As negotiations continue on the Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill, I urge you to fund AmeriCorps at the Senate level, $383 million. Over the last several years, funding for AmeriCorps has been on a steady decline. I hope you will work to see this trend stopped and reversed. Robust appropriations are needed to match the growing demand for service opportunities through programs like AmeriCorps.

Please work toward expanding service opportunities by endorsing robust appropriations in the Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill.

Sincerely,

<< Your Name >>
<< Your Street >>
<< Your City >>, << Your State >> << Your Zip-Code >>
 
 
 
Instructions:

1. Locate instructions for how to write to the Opinion Editor of your paper. Instructions often appear on the Opinion page of the newspaper, or you can visit the newspaper's website for more information on how to submit an op-ed.
2. You can then write your own Letter to the Editor or op-ed. Write about your personal experience with national service programs and call for elected officials to support them by requesting full funding for national service.
3. It is best to be specific about recent legislation and what action you want taken.

Keeping the Faith With AmeriCorps 4
New York Times Editorial

June 17, 2006


Only lately recovered from devastating budget cuts imposed by Congress three years ago, the nation's flagship program for volunteers, AmeriCorps, is again on the chopping block. Unless the Senate rescues it, or President Bush displays a sudden and unexpected burst of leadership, this proven force for good stands to be seriously harmed.

The current crisis originated with Mr. Bush. He voices strong support for AmeriCorps. Yet, the budget proposal he submitted to Congress in March called for eliminating the National Civilian Community Corps, an elite arm of AmeriCorps that is based on five regional campuses and is positioned to rapidly deploy well-trained teams to help out in national emergencies, like Hurricane Katrina.

The president's budget proposal also requests $20 million less than last year to support the work of other AmeriCorps members across the country, though AmeriCorps says it will use $13 million left over from the previous budget and make other adjustments to close that hole.

The relevant appropriations subcommittee in the House has approved even deeper cuts. Its revised spending bill spares the civilian corps, but slashes operational money for the rest of AmeriCorps by $60 million — $40 million more than the president requested. On top of that, the maximum educational stipend for AmeriCorps members — who spend up to a year performing valuable tasks like tutoring at-risk children and cleaning up dilapidated public parks — would be significantly reduced, from $4,725 to $4,100. In all, the amount available for AmeriCorps volunteers would be cut by more than 15 percent.

Luckily, this is not the final word. The Senate subcommittee is led by Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican. His active backing for AmeriCorps in the past raises hopes that he will work to preserve the program's financing as the annual budget waltz proceeds. Of course, the task would be a lot easier if the president would only remember that this is a social program he actually likes.

 

Appropriations: In government and law, it is the act of setting aside/apart money for its application to a particular utility. It usually refers to the legislative designation of money for particular uses in the context of a budget or spending bill. An appropriation bill or ‘supply bill' is a legislative motion which authorizes the government to spend money.

Budget Request (See President's Budget Request for full explanation): A proposed spending and revenue plan submitted by the President to the Congress at the beginning of the budget cycle, which is on the first Monday in February. It includes detailed plans for every agency of the federal government.

Budget Resolution: The resolution is drafted concurrently by the House and the Senate budget committees. Following the traditional calendar, by early April both committees finalize their drafts and submit it to the respective floors for consideration and adoption. The budget resolution sets ceilings on broad sectors of the federal budget – discretionary spending and various categories of mandatory spending and revenues. The resolution is binding on the current Congress and is not signed by the President.

Once both houses pass the resolution, a conference report is drafted by members of the Senate and the House. The purpose of the conference report is to reconcile any differences that may exist between the House and the Senate versions. The conference report is usually adopted, therefore finalizing the budget resolution.

In contrast to most legislation passed by Congress, the budget resolution is a concurrent resolution and thus does not become law and does not require the signature of the President. As a result, no money has actually been appropriated at that point. The budget resolution then serves as a blueprint for the actual appropriation process.

Committees and Subcommittees: Issue-specific divisions of Congress charged with crafting legislation and proposing funding levels for the related issue(s). For the purposes of AmeriCorps and other national service programs, relevant committees include: the House of Representatives Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor HHS) Appropriations Subcommittee, the Full House Appropriations Committee, the House Education and Labor Committee, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor HHS) Appropriations Subcommittee, the Full Senate Appropriations Committee, and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee.

»House Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee on Appropriations (Labor HHS): The committee in the U.S. House of Representatives responsible for writing and marking up funding bills. They would be responsible for setting the funding levels for the Corporation for National and Community Service and its programs.

»House Full Appropriations Committee: The committee in the U.S. House of Representatives responsible for creating the finalized, comprehensive supply bill (including proposed AmeriCorps funding) that is submitted to the President for approval.

»House Education and Labor Committee: The committee in the U.S. House of Representatives responsible for writing laws and authorizing new legislation (or reauthorizing old legislation). They would be, and are, responsible for the reauthorization of the National Service Act of 1993. The specific and current piece of legislation that reauthorizes this act is referred to as the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act (a.k.a. the GIVE Act or H.R. 2857).


»Senate Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee on Appropriations (Labor HHS): The committee in the U.S. Senate responsible for writing and marking up funding bills. They would be responsible for setting the funding levels for the Corporation for National and Community Service and its programs.

»Senate Appropriations Committee: The committee in the U.S. Senate responsible for creating the finalized, comprehensive supply bill (including proposed AmeriCorps funding) that is submitted to the President for approval.

»Senate Health Education Labor and Pension Committee (HELP): The committee in the U.S. Senate responsible for writing laws and authorizing new legislation (or reauthorizing old legislation). They would be, and are, responsible for the reauthorization of the National Service Act of 1993.

Conference: Process whereby the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives reconcile any budget gaps that exist between the two bodies. Conference committee is a committee of the Congress appointed by the House of Representatives and Senate to resolve disagreements on a particular bill or version of legislation. The conference committee is usually composed of the senior Members of the standing committees of each House that originally considered the legislation.

Continuing Resolution: It is a type of appropriations legislation used by the U.S. Congress to fund government agencies if a formal appropriations bill has not been signed into law by the end of the Congressional fiscal year. The legislation takes the form of a joint resolution, and provides funding for existing federal programs at current or reduced levels.

Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS): The government entity responsible for administering AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn & Serve. The Corporation is the nation's largest grant maker supporting service and volunteering. Through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America programs, it provides opportunities for Americans of all ages and backgrounds to address critical community needs.

Discretionary Spending: The part of the budget that is not mandated by existing law but must be made available by Congress each year.

Earmark: In U.S. politics, an earmark refers to a provision in legislation that directs funds to be spent on specific projects. Typically, legislators seek to insert earmarks which direct a specified amount of money to a particular organization or project in his/her home state or district.

Fiscal Year (FY): Refers to the 12-month time period on which the U.S. government bases its operating cycle (October 1 through September 30).

Federal Budget Process: The federal government of the United States operates on a budget calendar that runs from October 1 through September 30. Each year, the Congress authorizes each department, agency, or program to spend a specific amount of money, and the President signs the bill into law. This money may not be spent, however, until it has been appropriated for a given purpose.

Indexing: A practice that ties a financially related item (i.e. mileage reimbursement) to a standard market indicator such as the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Indexing helps to eliminate decreased valuation due to inflation.

H.R.: A standard indicator denoting proposed legislation originating out of the U.S. House of Representatives (i.e. H.R. 2851).

Mark-up: The process of marking up, making changes and/or amendments, bills and resolutions in committees of the House of Representatives.

Office of Management and Budget (OMB): The government entity responsible for analyzing and creating the U.S. government's annual budget.

President's Budget Request: Refers to the official annual request submitted by the President for the following year's budget. The budget begins in February with the submission of the President's budget. According to the act, the budget is submitted to the Congress on the first Monday in February. At this stage, the budget is not binding but merely constitutes an extensive proposal of the administration's intended spending for the following fiscal year. The budget proposal includes volumes of supporting information intended to persuade Congress of the necessity and value of the budget provisions. Funding requests for all federal independent agencies and cabinet departments are included in the President's budget request, and each agency and department provides additional detail and supporting documentation to Congress on its own funding requests.

Reauthorization: The process of modifying the original parameters and guidelines that govern a piece of legislation. As it relates to national service, reauthorization commonly refers to modification of the National Service Act of 1993.

Reconciliation: The process for enacting changes in law to bring mandatory spending and revenue levels into compliance with the budget resolution. A reconciliation bill, unlike appropriations bills, does not have to be enacted every year. Congress can decline to make, or fail to agree on, changes in these budget categories.

S.: A standard indicator denoting proposed legislation originating out of the U.S. Senate (i.e. S.960).

Scoring: The dollar amount associated with the cost of a bill.

Staffer: A commonly used term to identify staff members of Congressional offices.
 
 
 
 
 

Congressional Phone Numbers

Congressional Budget Office

(202) 226-2600

Congressional Record

(202) 512-0275

Congressional Research Service

(202) 707-5700

Federal Register

(202) 741-6000

Library of Congress

(202) 707-5000

Office of Special Services

(202) 224-4048

Postal Operations, House

(202) 225-3856

Postal Operations, Senate

(202) 224-5353

Senate and House Bill Status

(202) 225-1772

U.S. Capitol Switchboard

(202) 224-3121

House Phone Numbers

Democratic Cloak Room

(202) 225-7330

Democratic Floor Information

(202) 225-7400

Document Room

(202) 226-5200

Press Gallery

(202) 225-3945

Republican Cloak Room

(202) 225-7350

Republican Floor Information (Recorded)

(202) 225-7430

Senate Phone Numbers

Democratic Cloak Room

(202) 224-4691

Democratic Floor Information (Recorded)

(202) 224-8541

Document Room

(202) 224-7860

Press Gallery

(202) 224-0241

Republican Cloak Room

(202) 224-6191

Republican Floor Information (Recorded)

(202) 224-8601

Party Phone Numbers

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

(202) 863-1500

Democratic Governors Association

(202) 772-5600

Democratic National Committee

(202) 863-8000

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

(202) 224-2447

National Republican Congressional Committee

(202) 479-7000

National Republican Senatorial Committee

(202) 675-6000

Republican Governor's Association

(202) 662-4140

Republican National Committee

(202) 863-8000

 
 

Legend

+
Supported national service
-
Opposed national service
 
 
[2]Sources: The Executive Budget Process Timetable, CRS Report to Congress available at http://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/RS20152.pdf; House Committee on Rules available at http://www.rules.house.gov/budget_pro.htm
[3]Adapted from: “Our History and Legislation.” The Corporation for National and Community Service.  http://www.nationalservice.gov/about/role_impact/history.asp
[4]Source: New York Times Editorial from June 17, 2006
[5]Please note that D.C. area code is (202)
[6]Visit www.congress.org, www.house.gov, www.senate.gov or www.USA.gov to find more detailed contact information for your elected officials
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