April 03, 2019

Duckworth Joins Reed, Coons, Larson & Colleagues in Introducing Bill to Expand and Promote Opportunities for National Service

ACTION for National Service Act, which incorporates Senator Duckworth’s 21st Century American Service Act, would also make college more affordable for young Americans


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) joined Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Chris Coons (D-DE) and U.S. Representatives John Larson (D-CT-01) and Joe Kennedy III (D-MA-04) in introducing legislation to help young Americans strengthen their communities and our nation through service while reducing their student debt burden. The America’s Call To Improve Opportunities Now (ACTION) for National Service Act, which builds on Senator Duckworth’s 21st Century American Service Act, would expand opportunities for service across the country, increase living stipend amounts, establish a 21st Century American Service Outreach Program and much more. The bill was introduced on National Service Recognition Day, which marks the positive work of service and volunteerism in communities across the country.  The day is sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a federal agency for service and volunteering that engages millions of Americans in service at more than 50,000 locations through AmeriCorps, VISTA, Senior Corps and other programs.

 “Expanding national service opportunities for young Americans is vital to the strength of our local communities and our entire nation,” said Senator Duckworth. “Just as picking up a rifle to defend our country is 'American Service,' so is delivering water filters to communities afflicted by lead-contaminated water, picking up a stick of chalk to reach children or a hammer to rebuild homes for those devastated by natural disasters. I’m proud to be working with my colleagues to make sure every young American has the opportunity to serve their country and get help paying for college.”

 “This bill will grow our capacity to enlist, equip, and empower young people to address pressing challenges while creating opportunities for advancement with respect to their education and job prospects.  It will increase volunteerism, strengthen our nation, and tap into an underutilized resource that can help transform communities across the country.  And it will provide tangible benefits to those who give back,” said Senator Reed. “Whether it is educating young people or helping communities rebuild, Americans are eager to find ways to serve, and we need to do a better job of connecting them to opportunities.  Making common cause with our fellow citizens and serving a purpose greater than ourselves is a hallmark of our nation.  It’s also crucial that we invest in the education and professional development of those who have sacrificed and given so much to our nation.  That’s why I’m pleased to introduce this legislation with my colleagues to help ensure that every American who wants to serve has the opportunity to do so, as well as future opportunities to get an education and build a better life.  I commend Congressmen Larson and Kennedy for their leadership on this issue, as well as my cosponsors in the Senate for their longstanding commitment to expanding national service opportunities and economic opportunities for all.”

 The ACTION for National Service Act would greatly expand access to national service and higher education opportunities. Specifically, the ACTION for National Service Act:

  • Gives all those who wish to serve the opportunity to do so, establishing a ten-year goal of providing the necessary federal funding to support at least one million service positions nationwide.
  • Significantly reduces student loan debt burdens by ensuring that individuals who serve two full terms of service are rewarded with an education benefit equivalent to four years of the average in-state tuition at a public, four-year college.
  • Increases access to national service opportunities by raising living stipend amounts, allowing volunteers to earn a meaningful wage during their service.
  • Makes the education benefit and living stipend free from federal taxation.
  • Elevates the existing CNCS to a Cabinet-level federal agency and appoints a Director of National Service with the same rank as Cabinet Secretaries. The Director would be required to establish an interagency working group to evaluate both education award eligibility for participants in programs outside of CNCS and the feasibility of granting Federal hiring preference to volunteers.
  • Creates a 21st Century American Service Outreach Program that will notify eligible individuals starting at the age of 17 about opportunities to serve in civilian national service programs and how to register.
  • Maintains the authority and programmatic responsibilities of state and local boards to direct federal resources to meet community needs and be responsive to local priorities.
  • Establishes a National Service Foundation to encourage private sector and philanthropic investment in expanding national service opportunities.

 Throughout her personal and professional life, Senator Duckworth has also been a strong advocate for the expansion of national service opportunities for all Americans. Duckworth served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years and continued to serve her fellow Veterans as Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and then as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Duckworth previously introduced the 21st Century American Service Act both in the House and the Senate to increase the number of service positions available through civilian national service organizations, educate all young Americans about the national service opportunities available to them and reduce financial barriers that prohibit some young Americans from serving.