Have you worked with or been a national service member? Have you experienced any impact because of the budget cuts? Your stories can help convince congress to restore and expand this high impact program. You can email stories (stats and quotes are helpful), or learn more at the Service Nation website. There are also resources available through the Serve Washington website, and we encourage you to contact them if you want to explore options for national service placements with your organization.
Cuts to national service
Cuts to the national service budget are hitting home across our state, leaving many organizations and communities scrambling or at a complete loss. Did you know that since 1994, more than 46 million hours of service have been given by 32,000 Washingtonians via national service? During the 2011-2012 program year, the Washington Commission for National and Community Service funded AmeriCorps programs that supported 1,585 AmeriCorps members. Additional members served in national AmeriCorps projects. Despite the proven impact for participants and communities, these programs are at serious risk.
Recently, Washington Service Corps (WSC), the state-sponsored AmeriCorps program that historically offered 105 VISTA positions statewide, downsized to just 30 positions in 11 counties. Several counties (Snohomish, Ferry, and Walla Walla) have been left with no options for filling the unmet need in their communities because there were no organizations to serve as a site sponsor. Venerable programs, including Reading Corps and Earth Corps have been eliminated. Nationally the Corporation for National and Community Service has sustained a 5% cut due to sequestration. Overall, the AmeriCorps programs in Washington State, including AmeriCorps VISTA, have been cut much more significantly, and the cuts are compounding for some programs. Senior Corps experienced a 5% cut this year, despite having been cut 20% just 3 years ago. Despite an effort to absorb costs by cutting internal support and a drive to rebalance placements, the overall effect of reallocation and sweeping budget cuts has resulted in disappearing programs and unequal distribution of AmeriCorps positions around the state.
501 Commons Story
Consider 501 Commons as a case study. Five AmeriCorps VISTA members work with the 475 members of the Executive Service Corps on programs that help nonprofits boost specific program impacts, whether that’s improving their fundraising, volunteer programs, or meeting other high impact goals. Two of these positions, previously available through WSC, have been cut, but we were able to fill one VISTA position through another sponsor.
The ripple effect of a loss in one position is easily apparent in our model. Each VISTA member engages our skilled volunteer consultants, who are paired with organizations to plan and implement changes that strengthen the organization’s impact. As an example, volunteers recruited and placed by our AmeriCorps member with the United Way of King County VIP 360 program helped one organization provide food to 1,000 more clients each month as a result of improvements in their volunteer program. Read more about the successes of this program. The visual below demonstrates the impact of 501 Commons VISTA positions:
Share your story about the impact of VISTA or AmeriCorps on the community. Let you congressional representatives know how you have benefited and the results AmeriCorps members have created in your community.