Jeffords hopeful AmeriCorps funding will be restored

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(Host) Senator James Jeffords says he’s optimistic that Congress will restore funding for the AmeriCorps program in the next few weeks. A number of non-profit agencies in Vermont are watching this issue very closely because they depend on this program to help provide essential services to Vermonters.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The AmeriCorps program was created in 1993 as a national community service agency. It currently has approximately 130 members in Vermont who work in one of five different programs including substance abuse, elderly services and youth literacy efforts.

The national AmeriCorps program has been plagued with accounting problems and the Bush administration refused to provide additional money to meet a growing demand for new members. If the funds are not appropriated, Vermont’s will lose all but 20 of its AmeriCorps workers by the fall.

The U.S. Senate has just voted to appropriate $100 million in its supplemental budget bill to help AmeriCorps deal with its current crisis. Senator Jeffords says it’s critical to save this program:

(Jeffords) “Young people have an opportunity to do things which are really helpful to making our society in better shape and gives them a feeling of confidence and experience in leadership and all those things. And as far as the country goes, it really makes it a better place to live in many ways and gives up a feeling of confidence that we’re doing some very good things – not only for the young people involved but for the country itself.”

(Kinzel) Nancy Sherman is the director of the statewide Neighbor to Neighbor program. Her organization depends on 25 AmeriCorps workers to help provide essential services to elderly Vermonters who live in rural parts of the state. If the money is not restored, Sherman says it will be very difficult to continue with these services:

(Sherman) “It means that 25 AmeriCorps slots for members won’t be filled and these members won’t be hosted by the area agencies on aging around the state. And they won’t be there to go out and do direct service or successful aging program. Aa lot of elders and adults with disabilities who are served are on the edge. These are key services that enable them to stay at home and independent and connected and not depressed.”

(Kinzel) The issue will now be considered a special House-Senate conference committee that will review the entire supplemental budget bill.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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