Tens of thousands of Americans, from teenagers to baby boomers, soon will get a fresh chance to lend a helping hand in a time of need.
The House voted 275-149 Tuesday for a $5.7 billion bill that triples positions in the Clinton-era AmeriCorps program, its largest expansion since the agency’s creation in 1993, and establishes a fund to help nonprofit organizations recruit and manage more volunteers.
Congress was sending the bill to President Barack Obama, who often cites his years as a Chicago community organizer for giving him his political start. Obama has made national service programs a high priority. His budget proposal calls for more than $1.1 billion for the programs, an increase of more than $210 million.
The president, who began an eight-day European trip Tuesday, plans to sign the measure when he returns to Washington.
“I call on all Americans to stand up and do what they can to serve their communities, shape our history and enrich both their own lives and the lives of others across this country,” Obama said in a statement.
With the nation plunging deeper into a recession, Obama and backers of the effort see it as a way to channel a rising desire among Americans to help their neighbors.
“History has … shown that in time of crisis, Americans turn to service and volunteering for healing, for rebuilding and for hope. The spirit of generosity in the American people is one of the greatest assets of our nation,” Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said during debate on the bill.
VIDEO – Rep. George Miller (D-CA) discussing this legislation: