June 16, 2020

Duckworth Helps Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Dramatically Expand National Service in Next COVID-19 Relief Package


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today joined U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and 11 of her Senate colleagues in introducing bipartisan legislation to expand national service programs significantly to help the country respond to and recover from the public health, economic and social crises facing the nation in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. The Cultivating Opportunity and Response to the Pandemic through Service (CORPS) Act would double the number of AmeriCorps positions available this year to 150,000 and provide a total of 600,000 service opportunities nationwide over the next three years to unemployed youth and others looking to assist their communities. These positions could support a variety of response and recovery efforts based on community needs, including expanding food pantry capacity, mentoring and tutoring at-risk students, bridging health inequities by expanding access to COVID-19 screening and testing, and more.

“Just as picking up a rifle to defend our country is ‘American Service,’ so is helping out a food pantry for those at risk of hunger, assisting students with remote education and helping patients make critical health care decisions,” Senator Duckworth said. “We should be doing everything we can to make sure vital service programs like AmeriCorps are accessible to all Americans—especially those who come from underserved communities or have had contact with the juvenile justice system—who wish to serve during this time of reopening and rebuilding. That’s why I’m proud to help Senator Coons and Senator Wicker introduce this bipartisan proposal—which builds on my 21st Century American Service Act—in the next relief package.”

“Thousands of young people across the country are calling for greater opportunity and for new and meaningful engagement to address persistent inequities that have only been exacerbated by COVID-19,” Senator Coons said. “Now is the time to mobilize that energy to make our communities stronger and healthier for everyone. The CORPS Act will empower Americans to give back to their communities while earning a college opportunity and valuable skills for the future. I’m pleased to introduce this bipartisan bill with Senator Wicker and my colleagues at this critical time and look forward to working with them to include it in the next relief package considered by the Senate.”

“Helping our nation respond to and recover from the coronavirus outbreak will require an all-hands approach,” Senator Wicker said. “Boosting the ranks of our service corps is a cost-efficient way to get communities the help they need. I am glad to join Senator Coons in introducing the CORPS Act, which would enhance our national service programs and provide participants with the resources they need to endure this crisis. With their contributions, I am hopeful our nation can emerge stronger than ever before.”

U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Jack Reed (D-RI), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), John Cornyn (R-TX), Angus King (I-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) also helped introduce this legislation.

The CORPS Act is based on the Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act, which Duckworth helped Coons introduce in May. Specifically, the CORPS Act would:

  • Fund national service positions for a three-year response and recovery period and grow them to the level authorized in CNCS’s bipartisan, most recent reauthorization. Under the CORPS Act, the number of positions could grow from 75,000 to 150,000 the first year and then steadily to 250,000 by year three.
  • Provide flexibilities for programs to grow and respond quickly to dynamic local recovery needs.
  • Prioritize funding for activities directly related to our response and recovery, such as:
    • Public health services,
    • Programs that support economic opportunity,
    • Education support (including for adult learners), and
    • Services that combat nutrition insecurity.
  • Prioritize expanding programs and services in rural and high poverty communities.
  • Help organizations that have not previously hosted AmeriCorps members access the program.
  • Ensure that individuals’ financial resources do not limit participation by temporarily increasing the AmeriCorps living allowance to 175 percent of the federal poverty line and tying the value of the Segal Education Award to twice the value of the maximum Pell grant, harmonizing the treatment of both with other programs by making them nontaxable.
  • Fund new online tools for Senior Corps to safely move to a teleservice model.
  • Encourage participation by members of low-income and underrepresented communities and extend priority enrollment to Peace Corps, U.S. Fulbright, and AmeriCorps participants whose service or grants was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Invite participation by a diverse range of Americans by launching an awareness and outreach campaign on response service opportunities and supporting the Volunteer Generation Fund.

The bill has gained the support of more than 150 organizations, including City Year, Habitat for Humanity International, Hunger Free America, Jumpstart, National Health Corps, National Senior Corps Association, National Youth Leadership Council, and YouthBuild. For a full list of supportive organizations, please click here.

A one-pager on the CORPS Act is available here