DeLauro statement at hearing on Corporation for National and Community Service 2017 budget request
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing on a set of programs that tap into one of our best attributes as a nation. National service is a core American value. It makes this country exceptional. Service provides an unparalleled richness for those that participate, and gives citizens the greatest potential to change the face of the communities they serve.
Welcome Ms. Spencer. I look forward to talking to you today about the importance of National Service—particularly since it has been 16 years since the last Corporation for National and Community Service budget hearing. I know we tried to hold a hearing last year, but outside events intervened. So I am glad you are here today.
The Corporation for National and Community Service was founded on the idea that the government can and should play a role in giving citizens the opportunity to address pressing problems across the country. This is a powerful idea that carries on despite the partisan swirl.
Last year, we were able to make important investments in the Labor-HHS bill, including a small—and much-needed—increase for the Corporation for National and Community Service. By providing an additional $50 million for AmeriCorps and an additional $10 million for the National Service Trust, we supported an increase of more than 10,000 new AmeriCorps Members to serve, and created new opportunities in communities across the country.
In many ways, last year’s Omnibus moved the federal budget in the right direction. But I am troubled that the Labor-HHS bill received only a fraction of its fair share of the $66 billion increase provided by last year’s budget deal. While the other non-defense subcommittees received an average increase of 6.9 percent last year, the Labor-HHS bill increased by only 3.4 percent. We cannot repeat that this year.
Before we move to the CNCS request for fiscal year 2017, I want to spend a moment discussing last year’s House Labor-HHS bill, because I think it provides important context. Last year, my Republican colleagues passed a House mark that slashed CNCS funding by $367 million, a cut of 35 percent.
The majority voted for cuts that would have decimated programs that serve millions of our most vulnerable citizens—including children, seniors, veterans, Native Americans, and people with disabilities.
Fortunately, we reached a budget agreement last year, and we were able to avoid those harmful cuts.
Young people engaging in service become a part of the fabric of their communities, and carry that experience with them for the rest of their lives.
It gives citizens the greatest potential to move the needle on the issues of the day. Through CNCS programs, volunteers across America are preserving our parks and public lands, mentoring our students, providing job training for veterans, responding to natural disasters, and supporting our most vulnerable citizens in their hour of need. In the toughest times, in the face of adversity, in struggling communities—they are first on the ground.
And communities want programs like AmeriCorps—in 2015, CNCS was only able to fund one-third of all the grant applications it received.
Last week, in our HHS hearing with Secretary Burwell, we talked about the tragic situation in Flint, where thousands of children have been exposed to lead-poisoned water for more than a year. CNCS was quick to respond to this crisis and has been working with Michigan agencies and nonprofit organizations for the past few months to address the crisis in many ways.
As we speak, a nine-member AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps team is on the ground in Flint, going door-to-door to educate residents on using water filters appropriately and providing information on nutrition related to lead exposure.
Senior Corps volunteers and other CNCS members and volunteers are assisting in public education efforts, providing bottled water, managing donations, and helping to process hundreds of non-CNCS volunteers and place them where they are most needed. This is why CNCS programs are such an essential investment: they connect volunteers to communities in their hour of greatest need.
Ms. Spencer, in your 2017 budget proposal, I was pleased to see a request for a modest increase to the VISTA program, which would support an additional 230 full-time VISTA members who commit to serving for a year in some of our most impoverished communities.
But I am disappointed to see level-funding for the National Senior Volunteer Corps, and that CNCS’s budget request is more than $50 million below the agency’s budget in 2010, despite the enormous unmet need across the country.
Funding for CNCS is a smart investment. CNCS programs help more Americans graduate, pursue higher education, and find work. Unemployed individuals who volunteer are 27 percent more likely to secure full-time work. Every dollar invested in national service results in returns to society of nearly four dollars in terms of higher earnings, increased output, and other communitywide benefits.
But in order to properly fund CNCS—and the other programs in the Labor-HHS-Education bill that are so important to our constituents—we need to increase this subcommittee’s allocation. For the good of the communities that depend on these services, we must make this a priority.
Thank you. I look forward to the discussion.