President Donald Trump is expected to present to Congress this week his plan for reigning in the federal budget, which includes eliminating funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and several divisions of the U.S. Department of Justice designed to protect the rights of women, minorities, and the environment. In addition to these highly controversial cuts, Trump’s proposal would eliminate the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) — the organization that facilitates AmeriCorps and other programs that serve low-income students and communities.
Founded in 1993, AmeriCorps has over 1 million alumni and 80,000 members currently serving in communities across the country. The program is geared to people ages 18 to 25, who perform public service in exchange for a living stipend, health insurance, student loan forbearance, and several thousand dollars in student loan forgiveness or tuition reimbursement. AmeriCorps members — typically college students or recent graduates — are assigned service projects that range from assisting with disaster relief and environmental protection efforts to helping low-income families and veterans.
Many AmeriCorps positions directly serve students and schools in low-income areas. Through programs like City Year, College Possible, and Teach for America, AmeriCorps members serve in approximately 11,000 underfunded schools nationwide; they provide tutoring and mentoring to K-12 students, as well as assist disadvantaged high school students with applying to and preparing for college.
As with other CNCS programs, government funding for AmeriCorps is leveraged with funds from partner organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and faith-based charities. Currently, CNCS’s annual $1 billion federal budget is supplemented by $1.25 billion from partner organizations. Specifically, AmeriCorps accounts for approximately 0.3 percent of the federal budget, leading many to argue that the services it provides vastly outweigh the money saved by eliminating it.
In a letter sent from Voices for National Service — an organization dedicated to preserving government funding for service organizations — a number of prominent Republicans urged Trump to reconsider eliminating the CNCS and AmeriCorps, citing the organization’s service to veterans and military families and its focus on patriotic citizenship.
Though experts say it is highly unlikely Congress will agree to all of Trump’s budget cuts, members of the AmeriCorps community — and the thousands of schools and organizations that benefit from its services — face an uncertain future.