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Foxx Statement: Hearing on “Demanding Accountability at the Corporation for National and Community Service”

The Corporation for National and Community Service, or CNCS, is in charge of overseeing the community service activities of more than eight different federal programs and initiatives. For the current fiscal year, CNCS received more than $1 billion to carry out these programs, one of which is the AmeriCorps program.

As the head of the corporation, Ms. Spencer, you have a responsibility to ensure the federal funds you receive—which is no small sum—are being spent in full compliance with federal law. That includes policies that prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortion activities. We’re here today because the office of your Inspector General has reported one AmeriCorps grantee, the National Association of Community Health Centers, violated the law. As of today, this organization is still receiving taxpayer funds.

More specifically, this organization—one of the largest to participate in the AmeriCorps program—allowed AmeriCorps members to engage in illegal activity by providing support services during abortion procedures. Regardless of your position on the issue of abortion, the law is the law, and it must be followed. The most recent law reauthorizing CNCS programs explicitly prohibits the use of AmeriCorps resources to “provide abortion services or referrals for receipt of such services.”

For two years, these illegal activities were allowed to continue, completely undetected by the very agency meant to oversee these programs. The investigation that began when you finally did become aware of what had happened confirmed that taxpayer funds were used to support unlawful activities, but it also revealed much more.

The Inspector General also found that several AmeriCorps members were regularly tasked with conducting work performed by employees of the centers they supported. This activity is also against the law, but the grantee failed to stop or even report it. AmeriCorps members are to serve strictly in volunteer roles and should never preform the same tasks as employees. But, again, that’s not the end of it.

It was also discovered that the grantee’s senior management chose not to inform the corporation of instances of waste, fraud, and abuse, choosing instead to undermine transparency and avoid reporting information that would make them look bad.

This disturbing list of unlawful and dishonest practices really makes you wonder: How on earth was this allowed to happen? How were these activities allowed to go on for so long? And, why is the National Association of Community Health Centers still a grantee?

When the committee learned about this unlawful activity last month, Chairman Kline immediately called on the corporation to cease all future funding of this organization. On behalf of the committee, I am renewing that call today, Ms. Spencer. I sincerely hope that you will be able to provide us with a plan of action and describe steps you are taking to address this situation.

Revoking this grant would be a good start, but it’s also important to recognize that this is not an isolated incident. In fact, I chaired a hearing back in 2011 examining reports that AmeriCorps members had engaged in other unlawful activity. In response to questioning, the head of CNCS assured us the corporation would be diligent in educating grantees, “helping them to understand the rules,” and would require “all AmeriCorps grantees to annually assure compliance with regulations on prohibited activities.” It seems that neither strategy has solved the problem.

That’s why today I am also calling on the corporation to conduct a comprehensive review to ensure all other grantees in the program are complying with the law. Enough is enough. The corporation needs to be held accountable for the way it spends taxpayer dollars, and that’s why we are here today.