Why AmeriCorps Works

It’s AmeriCorps week, a time for celebration. But with new scrutiny on the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) – the agency that runs the AmeriCorps program – champions for national service are worried. According to a recent New York Times article, CNCS is under consideration for elimination, a cost-saving measure, despite making up less than 0.03% of the total federal budget.

3/16 UPDATE: CNCS is among proposed cuts put forward by the White House. Source

I get it – trimming the budget needs to start somewhere. But here’s why setting our sights on AmeriCorps is misguided:

1. The return on investment. AmeriCorps is estimated to save $4 for every one dollar it spends. To explain: AmeriCorps programs target areas of disadvantage, poor health, and social ills. In doing so it reduces the need for more costly social programs further down the road. Leveraging millions of volunteers and private investment, AmeriCorps boasts a $5.9 billion net gain for the United States.

And that’s just the fiscal benefit. What about the benefit to society?

2. Bridging the gap. AmeriCorps transplants young people to serve in communities unlike their own. What better way to foster understanding and empathy across disparate populations? With so much attention on the deep divisions in our country – racial, political, socioeconomic – AmeriCorps is quietly bridging the gap.

And as AmeriCorps brings our people together, it also lifts our people up…

3. Growing the economy. AmeriCorps is on-the-job training. In addition to valuable skills specific to their service, AmeriCorps members develop the skills of leadership and problem-solving that make them competitive hires in the 21st century economy.

I’m an AmeriCorps alum, along with half the staff here. As a small nonprofit, we’re no stranger to the realities of balancing budgets. But we know value when we see it. We owe to AmeriCorps our success, and our continued positive impact.

Believe me, AmeriCorps works.

Marcus Penny
Digital Engagement Manager, NYLC
2011-2012 AmeriCorps LEAP Initiative