Senate Passes the Serve America Act

Senators have passed the Edward M. Kennedy Service America Act (S. 277 / H.R. 1388) by a vote of 79 to 19.  The Senate’s bill was inserted into the House bill as a substitute amendment.  So although passage occurred on the House bill, it actually contains the contents of the Senate measure.

The AP reports that the House will take up a vote on the Senate version next week.  The Senate bill would cost upwards of $5 billion over a five-year period.

Here are a few key provisions, taken from an official summary and an article by Congressional Quarterly:

  • will create new, effective “Corps” focused on areas of national need
  • will ask 175,000 Americans to give a year of service through these corps as part of a new national commitment to solve these challenges, expanding the number of national service participants to 250,000
  • establishes a tax incentive for employers who allow employees to take paid leave for full-time service
  • will build upon the existing framework and enhance incentives for retirees to give a year of service through the new Corps, and will establish “Encore Fellowships” that help retirees transition to longer-term public service
  • will expand the volunteer pool by establishing a “Volunteer Generation Fund” to help nonprofit organizations recruit and manage more volunteers
  • will establish a commission to study and improve how the federal government, nonprofits, and the private sector work together to meet national challenges effectively
  • more than triple the number of AmeriCorps volunteers
  • create a Community Solutions Fund to award grants for “social entrepreneurship” projects — private-sector initiatives for tackling social problems
  • will strengthen the current “Volunteers for Prosperity” program, which coordinates and supports short-term international service opportunities for skilled professionals to serve in developing nations

Specifically, the bill would authorize the following funding for Fiscal Year 2010 according to a Senate Republican summary linked below.

  • $97 million for Learn and Serve America, including $10 million for summer of service grants, $20 million for youth engagement zones, and $7 million for campuses of service;
  • $100 million for the anti-poverty VISTA program;
  • $115 million for the Foster Grandparent program;
  • $70 million for the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program;
  • $55 million for the Senior Companion program; and
  • $10 million per year for the Volunteers for Prosperity Program for fiscal years 2010-
    2014.

That policy summary also notes that the legislation would “also authorize ‘such sums as may be necessary’ for AmeriCorps, National Service Trust, Investment for Quality and Innovation, and National Civilian Community Corps programs in fiscal years 2010-2014.”

Notably, the title was changed after the final vote to include Senator Ted Kennedy’s (D-CT) name. He was on the floor to be recognized and was given a standing ovation.

Update: You might have noticed that the vote total changed from 78 to 79 in support of the bill. The AP reports that Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) was the member switched his no vote after the roll call was completed.

Additional Links:

Last-Minute Amendment Adoptions:

Update (4/21): President Obama has signed this bill into law.

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