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AmeriCorps Funding Set to Be Slashed

June 14, 2003|From Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Local directors of AmeriCorps, the community-service program President Bush has praised and promised to expand, said Friday they have been notified of cutbacks in their allocation of volunteers for the coming year.

Memos sent to the states by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the parent agency for AmeriCorps, indicate that dozens and perhaps hundreds of long-established programs, including some singled out for praise by the president and First Lady Laura Bush, will lose their funding.

Sandy Scott, spokesman for the corporation, said the memos that set off the alarms Thursday are "guidance" to the states and final numbers will not be announced until Monday.

Alan Khazei, the founder and chief executive of Boston-based City Year, one of the oldest and most highly praised community programs, said the national office has told him "only three of [City Year's] 10 programs will be funded. It is devastating. Basically, national service in America has been wiped out or reduced to a shell this week."

The corporation's board learned last month there might be only enough money to cover half of the 50,000 volunteer slots for fiscal 2003. Volunteers are eligible for grants to pay for college.

Administration officials said the cutbacks result from complex accounting and management problems, plus a reduction in congressional funding.

Bush had proposed a 50% increase in the program's size -- to 75,000 members. But Bush has not intervened to block the cutbacks.

Paul Schmitz, who runs Public Allies, an 11-year-old program that recruits and trains young adults to work for community groups, said its programs in Milwaukee, Chicago and Cincinnati, which now have 88 AmeriCorps workers, "will receive no funding and no volunteers for next year."

"We had 100 applications and interviewed 77 people last week," he said, "and now we may have no slots for them. People are in tears about what is happening."

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