Corporation for National and Community Service – Cut from the Federal Budget?

March 1, 2011 at 2:58 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Class, Community, ESOL, Family Learning, Volunteers | 2 Comments
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On this, the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Peace Corps, I think about the United States and its commitment to service and human rights on the world stage.  How we, as a nation, step forward to help those most in need, both with financial and human resources through NGO’s as well as through Government agencies.  The Peace Corps was founded and funded because it’s the right thing to do.  “To whom much is given, much is expected.”  In 1993 the Corporation for National and Community Service (including the programs AmeriCorps, Senior Service Corps and AmeriCorps VISTA) was created with the same philosophy, but to provide the service in our home country. Today, 5 million people are engaged in service to their communities in the United States through the federally funded CNCS, helping organizations all over the country.  And now, the recent budget bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, under consideration in the U.S. Senate has taken away this program.

The Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, and its jurisdictional partners, Loudoun Literacy and Beacon for Adult Literacy in Prince William County host an AmeriCorps Program through the Corporation for National and Community Service.  But let us be clear about how the funding works.  The CNCS is a federally funded program, but its grants to non-profit or public sector institutions require matching funds, and its service members are not paid a salary, only a small living stipend.  So, the CNCS investment in an organization leverages thousands of dollars in matching private funds and donated volunteer hours.  It is one of the best examples of public-private-nonprofit sector partnerships that exist nation-wide.  The grant program also offers an opportunity for young people graduating from high school or college an opportunity to gain job-training skills through service work and seniors who might be living in isolated settings an opportunity to engage in cross generational activities and service.

The Literacy Council of Northern Virginia receives an AmeriCorps grant to host seven AmeriCorps members, four serve with LCNV, two serve with Loudoun Literacy and one serves with Beacon in Prince William County.  The members’ living stipend is a cost-share agreement: LCNV funds a little more than one-third of the members’ stipend. This match is raised through charitable contributions from individuals, corporations and private foundations.  The members teach adult ESOL classes in all of the literacy programs where they serve.  The members receive training in teaching adults, sensitivity training in working with different cultures, and administrative training working in a nonprofit office environment.  It is one of the most cost effective and efficient ways for a nonprofit to do business:  leveraging service, education, and job-training with federal and private money to teach adults and empower them to become productive members of society.  Why would anyone think to cut a program such as this out of the federal budget?

As a disclaimer, though I write this for the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia and on behalf of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, my salary is not included in the CNCS grant, nor is it included in the matching funds. The Literacy Council’s CNCS grant is only 10% of LCNV’s operating budget. Yet, the AmeriCorps members teach collectively 12 adult ESOL classes, of the 14 classes offered, for LCNV.  Over the past twelve years, LCNV has hosted 32 AmeriCorps members, and hired nine for full time positions after their years of service.  How is this not a good investment of tax-payer-dollars?  Please consider writing to your Congressional leaders and ask them to spare the budget cut to the Corporation for National and Community Service.

-Patti Donnelly, Executive Director



  1. AmeriCorps has been a wonderful experience. I’ve gotten a great deal out of my service year so far, and I know I have been able to touch a lot of lives.


  2. I wrote legislators to speak out about the value of my Americorps experience. Thank you for being such a leader and advocate, Patti.


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