SEATTLE – Communities across Washington would feel the effects of proposed cuts to federally supported volunteer programs.

People who are accepted into the AmeriCorps service organizations are tutors in grade schools, do conservation and disaster-response work, help veterans transition into college and more. But in Congress, these programs and their administrative agency face a $500 million cut in the House budget.

Debbie Schuffenhauer, executive director of Serve Washington, said that as well as trimming individual programs, funding for state offices such as hers would be eliminated.

“It’s hard to say what the infrastructure would look like,” she said. “State commissions manage about 75 percent of the federal AmeriCorps funding, so we’re the local voice, you know. We identify the needs and help ensure that service is addressing the local needs.”

The proposal would cut the national number of available spots for AmeriCorps volunteers by 40,000. Schuffenhauer said about 2,000 people volunteer statewide, and Serve Washington receives seven applications for every open position.

Wendy Spencer heads the Corporation for National and Community Service, which operates AmeriCorps, the Senior Corps and other volunteer initiatives. It’s the same story nationally, she said; people want the job skills and communities need the assistance, so cutbacks would come at a bad time.

“While we have 75,000 opportunities today for AmeriCorps members to serve, we have hundreds of thousands of applications,” she said. “So, we are literally turning down young and old, who want to serve their community.”

Spencer said estimates are that for every federal dollar invested, the programs generate as much as $3 in services. In his first run for office, President Obama had pledged to increase the number of positions in national service programs to 250,000.

 

– Chris Thomas