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AmeriCorps on Chopping Block in Trump Budget

Nina Quaratella serves with the NC Coastal Federation as the Coastal Community Engagement Specialist. (Conservation Trust for North Carolina)
Nina Quaratella serves with the NC Coastal Federation as the Coastal Community Engagement Specialist. (Conservation Trust for North Carolina)
March 20, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Every day, 1,400 AmeriCorps service members assist in environmental cleanup, preservation, health education and other community needs in North Carolina. But that assistance would end if President Trump's budget is passed as is.

The administration wants to eliminate funding for dozens of agencies - including the AmeriCorps program. Nick DiColandrea is the AmeriCorps project director for the Conservation Trust for North Carolina.

"All up and down North Carolina we have AmeriCorps members that are providing services that otherwise wouldn't happen, and that is something that we work with our partners to make sure that communities understand,” DiColandrea said. "Pretty much every time that I do talk to these host sites and ask them what would not happen if AmeriCorps members weren't there, they would tell me that none of the services they're providing would occur."

AmeriCorps was founded in 1965 and was initially called VISTA - Volunteers in Service to America. Nationwide, more than 75,000 people work in service each year - with land trusts, schools, public agencies and community and faith-based groups. It costs the federal government $771 million each year - less than 1 percent of the federal budget.

Kieran Roe, executive director for the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, said the relatively small investment made is stretched further by individual communities that then provide volunteers and support.

"It would be a really devastating problem for our communities if the AmeriCorps program were cut nationally,” Roe said. "Dollar for dollar, AmeriCorps gets so much done for just a very small fraction of the federal budget in our local communities."

DiColandrea said there's no replacement for the service AmeriCorps members provide. The needs would just go unmet.

"All our AmeriCorps members are not there to duplicate services or take somebody's position,” he said. "They're there to provide new services or to expand current services to new populations that the community organization couldn't serve before."

In total, Trump's budget would eliminate hundreds of programs and agencies - including 50 within the Environmental Protection Agency. Also under threat are programs that service the arts and education and public aid such as heating-assistance programs.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC