Changing the Narrative About National Service

The idea of social responsibility and service to others is deeply rooted in our values. National Service plays a critical role in strengthening communities across our nation. AmeriCorps members are serving in areas devastated from natural disasters, providing support in battling the opioid epidemic, working with students to improve educational outcomes, fighting hunger addressing the root causes of poverty and the list goes on.

AmeriCorps deploys more than 80,000 volunteers in the U.S. every year. Since 1994, our community has benefitted greatly as 5,700 Erie County residents have served more than 8,000,000 hours through AmeriCorps. Adam Bartoszek

National Service is a cost-effective approach that addresses critical issues that face communities across the nation. Just .03% of total federal spending is allocated to the Corporation for National & Community Service, which administers AmeriCorps and related programming.

AmeriCorps leverages significant private investment ($480 million in non-CNCS funds annually) from the private sector, philanthropic foundations and additional sources. A study from Columbia University suggests for every $1 invested in National Service, there are returns to society of $3.95 in terms of higher earnings, more output, and community-wide gains. For every $1 of taxpayer spending, there are returns to the taxpayer of $2.20 in terms of higher taxes on output produced and lower spending on government programs.

Along with rigid fiscal oversight, National Service is also required to demonstrate measurables and impact through identified performance measures for the purpose of evaluating programming.

The return on investment doesn’t stop there. National Service instills civic value while developing valuable workplace, communication, and leadership skills critical for today’s workforce. Through practical experience, AmeriCorps provides on-the-job training and skill building, which helps participants transition from school to the workplace and accelerates career growth. It assists students with the high cost of education and creates opportunity for the unemployed and underemployed.

With decades of strong bipartisan support throughout our national and state legislatures, I’m always astonished to learn about call for the elimination of National Service funding. Voters from across the political spectrum overwhelmingly support investing federal taxpayer dollars to support National Service programs.

Perhaps the narrative needs to change. We should be discussing ways to expand National Service opportunities and allow more to serve their communities.