National Service

National Service

National service should be part of what it means to be an American citizen. Our country faces great challenges—from economic inequality to education to climate change—and we need the talents and efforts of every citizen to overcome them and make our nation stronger. That’s why Governor O’Malley believes that every young American should have the opportunity to serve his or her country through national service.

National service should be expanded to help address our nation’s biggest challenges. The benefits are immense and go beyond the value of the service itself. National service is a critical strategy for addressing youth unemployment, which Governor O’Malley has committed to cut in half with good jobs within three years. It creates pathways for young people to meaningful careers, and often leads to lifetimes of public service. For many, national service is a springboard to college, and can provide college course credit or financial support. And, by bringing people together—including people from all ethnic, income, and geographic backgrounds—national service will become a shared experience among all Americans, helping to build community and heal our democracy.

GOAL: PROVIDE UNIVERSAL ACCESS TO NATIONAL SERVICE OPPORTUNITIES

Reinvest In Domestic National Service

Younger Americans intuitively understand the importance of public service and are doing it in record numbers. However, more than two out of three applicants who want to participate in national service programs are denied the opportunity because our nation has invested too little to expand and strengthen AmeriCorps and other service corps.

As president, Governor O’Malley will:

  • Fully Fund AmeriCorps To Provide 250,000 Service Opportunities By 2020—And 500,000 By 2024, Putting America On A Path To 1,000,000 Service Opportunities. The bipartisan Serve America Act of 2009 authorizes up to 250,000 AmeriCorps positions. However, Congress has failed to provide adequate funding for national service programs. Republicans have repeatedly tried to defund them and have not made expansion a priority.

    Every young American who wants to serve their country should be able to do so. O’Malley will recommit our nation to expanding AmeriCorps and Senior Corps—helping Americans lead lifetimes of service. To start, he will ensure that proven programs have adequate funding to meet demand, so that the need for quality volunteers and services drives funding, and not the other way around.

  • Develop New Federal Service Corps. Federal agencies should invest in national service, in partnership with AmeriCorps or other service organizations, to fulfill their missions. For example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency recently launched FEMA Corps to assist with disaster preparedness, response, and recovery—saving the agency as much as $60 million annually, while preparing thousands of young people for careers in emergency management.

    O’Malley will charge other federal agencies to launch similarly targeted service corps. He has already announced plans to create a Clean Energy Job Corps, which could be housed within the Department of Energy and would work to disseminate clean energy technologies across America. Other federal service corps programs could address veterans’ issues, education equity, and childhood hunger.

  • Partner With The Private Sector To Expand Service. Private businesses, industry groups, non-profits and others are helping lead the expansion of national service. O’Malley will support ongoing efforts to develop an online Service Year Exchange that centralizes all public and private service programs, providing a resource for young people seeking service positions, organizations seeking service members, and funders looking to support these efforts. As a first step, he will launch a public-private certification program that allows organizations to create full-time national service programs that offer stipends as well as education and job-training opportunities to young people. O’Malley will also encourage private sector employers and universities to give preference to those who have completed a year of national service.

Expand National Service Opportunities Abroad

Today, our nation faces increasingly interconnected challenges, from climate change to pandemic disease to growing political instability. In the face of these challenges, the Peace Corps is more important than ever. Volunteers work in collaboration with the global community to address the world’s toughest issues, while playing a critical role as citizen ambassadors in villages and towns that have sometimes never before met an American. Moreover, the Peace Corps provides invaluable skills to its volunteers that help them thrive in careers in our globalized world.

As president, Governor O’Malley will:

  • Double Peace Corps Membership. Existing funding supports fewer than 7,000 Peace Corps volunteers each year. O’Malley will partner with Congress to finally double the number of Peace Corps volunteers, providing critical public services in the corners of the world that most need them.
  • Help Achieve Full Employment For American Veterans. Returning servicemen and women are hungry for ways to continue serving their country. Many are ideal candidates for the Peace Corps: they are comfortable working in foreign environments and have real professional skills to offer, often including language ability. Expanding the Peace Corps should be used as a way to fight veterans’ unemployment, especially among younger veterans who experience unemployment at higher rates than other veterans.

Make National Service A Gateway To Good Jobs And Careers

Young Americans who complete a service year after high school are better prepared for college and often pursue public service careers. For many young people, a year of service provides opportunities for mentorship and leadership, and a path to a career that would not have existed otherwise. Governor O’Malley wants a Year of Service to become the most sought-after, prestigious and rewarding opportunity available to young people in America, serving as a pathway to high-quality jobs and satisfying careers.

As president, Governor O’Malley will:

  • Use Service To Overcome High Barriers To Employment. National service can provide young people from low-income neighborhoods the tools to rebuild their communities and escape poverty. O’Malley will expand proven programs like YouthBuild and the Youth Opportunity Corps that support unemployed or under-educated people through mentorship, on-the-job training, and leadership opportunities.
  • Link Military Service To Civilian Service. Roughly 70 percent of people would be turned away from military service if they tried to enlist, due to a disability, health issue, or lack of education. As an alternative, military recruiters should provide information regarding civilian national service programs to all those deemed ineligible for military service. These individuals could complete national service programs that support veterans and military families with childcare, healthcare, and transition programs for returning troops. Finally, veterans should be able to use a portion of their GI benefits toward a term of national service.
  • Expand Federal Service Employment Benefits. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and those who successfully complete the AmeriCorps VISTA program receive one year of noncompetitive eligibility hiring status with the federal government. Noncompetitive status allows federal agencies to hire candidates for positions without going through the formal application process, improving their chances of employment with the federal government. Governor O’Malley will extend this benefit to all those who successfully complete full-time AmeriCorps programs and other full-time service opportunities.

Use National Service To Help Make College Debt-Free.

Governor O’Malley strongly supports all levels of government partnering with colleges and universities to remove barriers for students dedicated to public service careers. Governor O’Malley recognizes that our government is only as strong as the people who populate it, and that we need our country’s best and brightest serving the American people. To recruit and retain them, Governor O’Malley supports incentives that encourage national service and help participants graduate from college debt-free.

As president, Governor O’Malley will:

  • Expand Pell Grants to Increase Higher Education Awards For Service. AmeriCorps members receive an educational award equal to the maximum Pell Grant in a given year. O’Malley would make that award, like most other scholarships, tax-exempt. In addition, O’Malley has already proposed expanding Pell Grants to give all students the option of a debt-free education. As part of this expansion, he would make returning service corps members eligible for an enhanced Pell Grant award equal to the average cost of attending a public university in the member’s state.
  • Make Service Part Of The Undergraduate Experience. O’Malley supports efforts to integrate service into higher education, through credit-earning programs offered as part of a “year away,” senior thesis, or summer program. He would make academic service-year participants eligible for education awards, and would exempt student loans from accruing interest during students’ terms of service.
  • Encourage Service Through Federal Work-Study. O’Malley has already proposed reforming and expanding the federal work-study program to serve three times as many students and provide more meaningful, substantive, career-oriented opportunities. O’Malley would evaluate work-study programs in order to expand the most worthwhile and successful ones, and would improve or eliminate ineffective ones. He would also raise the program’s service threshold so that at least 25 percent of funds would support community-service jobs.

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