“All that’s required is a willingness to make a difference. And that is, after all, the beauty of service. Anybody can do it,” said President Barack Obama minutes before he signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act into law on Tuesday afternoon.
The president’s approval of the bill is the most sweeping expansion of national service programs since the creation of AmeriCorps in 1993. In the president’s 2010 budget, he’s requested $1.1 billion for the Corporation for National and Community Service, administers of AmeriCorps, which is a 25% increase over last year. With strong bipartisan support, the law went from introduction into final passage in less than a month.
Melody Barnes, director of the White House Domestic Council, said during a press conference call that there was an overwhelming response to the president’s call to service on Martin Luther King Day. Instead of the usual 5,000 projects taking place on that day, there were over 13,000 projects nationwide, resulting in the largest turn out in 14 years.
“During the course of the campaign, the president talked about [how] government can’t be the solution to all of our problems,” says Barnes. “We have to work together and empower Americans to work alongside the government to solve our education, health care, and energy problems and challenges.”
The law will help to triple the number of volunteers in the AmeriCorps program from 75,000 to 250,000 by 2017.
“AmeriCorps programs provide the infrastructure for volunteers,” says Stephen Goldsmith, vice chair of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “The bill strengthens a program called ‘Summer of Service’ providing opportunities for middle-and high school students to serve, increases social innovation funds, streamline grantees, and support more non-profits.”