WASHINGTON, D.C. | March 18, 2009 -
Neighbors helping neighbors.
This happens countless times every day across America: A college student teaching English to immigrants. A Boy Scout troop collecting canned food for the hungry. Families taking in neighbors who have lost their homes to a tornado, fire or flood.
Mr. Chair, the bill before us today, aptly named the GIVE Act, encourages the selfless actions I just described by updating decades-old national service programs to make them even more effective in the 21st century.
We know that national service programs are having a real impact. In fact, in the last three years, more than 4 million service hours have been spent helping Gulf Coast communities recover and rebuild after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That’s 4 million hours of service made possible by the organizations – and the individuals – who choose to participate in national service.
These programs are working, but we know they can be made stronger. To that end, H.R. 1388 allows for year-round service learning opportunities. It also offers a new emphasis on emergency and disaster relief and recovery. Finally, it offers increased opportunities for Baby Boomers – a generation known for its social consciousness.
But I would like to inform my colleagues of one fact that has not been given enough attention: This bill includes powerful new safeguards to protect taxpayers by making the service programs more accountable and performance-based. The bill also makes the programs it funds more competitive to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.
In addition, under H.R. 1388, individuals can receive federal funding to serve at organizations of their choosing.
Of course, to prevent fraud, these organizations will be closely examined. But, after such screening, part of the funds the bill provides will be dedicated to those people who believe they can make the greatest difference at small organizations.
And yet this bill also addresses national needs.
For example, this proposal adds a new Veterans Corps – giving people who served in our military a chance to serve their nation once more, and a chance for our nation to serve them. Through the Veterans Corps, vets and others can help the families of service members through their hardships and aid fellow veterans as they re-adjust to civilian life.
Finally, this bill makes disaster assistance a priority. It allows the Corporation for National and Community Service to develop a system to quickly mobilize former participants if they are needed. It also allows people to extend their service if their terms run out in the middle of a disaster.
Mr. Chair, I support this bill because Americans who give their time, talent and compassion to others clearly can help our nation – and we, as their representatives, should help them.
I want to thank Chairman Miller and Chairwoman McCarthy for ensuring such an open, bipartisan process. From the time this bill was drafted, Republicans have had a seat at the table. When we disagreed, we compromised. This is exactly how bipartisan legislating is supposed to work, and I hope it’s a process we can emulate in the future.
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