AmeriCorps expects funding cuts

Sunday, June 15, 2003

WASHINGTON -- AmeriCorps is planning to cut funding for some of the more than 2,000 nonprofit and other groups that rely on grants from the community service organization, a spokesman said Saturday.

On Monday, the Corporation for National and Community Service -- which oversees AmeriCorps -- will announce its first round of program grants for the coming year, leaving off the list some programs that have received funding in the past, said Sandy Scott, spokesman for the corporation.

He declined to say how many groups would be affected in advance of the announcement.

But Paul Schmitz of Public Allies, one of the many not-for-profit groups affected, said the cuts are "just way worse than any of us had imagined or were prepared for."

Schmitz's group -- headquartered in Milwaukee -- helps recruit and train young volunteers.

"We interviewed 185 young people for 88 positions in the last week," and come Monday, he said, "we have no slots" for them.

Scott blamed the cash shortfall on a dispute between the General Accounting Office and the Office of Management and Budget over how much money AmeriCorps must set aside in a trust, which goes to pay scholarships for volunteers.

Adding to the money problems, AmeriCorps also had its funding from Congress shrink this year.

Still, Scott said he anticipates there will be another round of the so-called "state competitive grants" later in the year, which would restore some of the lost funding. That, however, will all depend on whether, and how, the GAO and OMB resolve their differences.

Created by former President Clinton, AmeriCorps' volunteers work with nonprofits on projects such as mentoring children. In return, they receive stipends during their service and educational awards of $4,725 for college, graduate school or to pay back student loans.

AmeriCorps has been hailed by President Bush -- who requested an increase of more than $150 million for the program next year. That would allow the group to finance about 75,000 members.

The program currently has about 50,000 participants, but depending on how the accounting dispute is worked out, AmeriCorps could see its rolls whittled down to about 35,000 volunteers.

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