Mad River Union
HUMBOLDt – Last week was National Americorps Week, a time for the nation to celebrate a program that emphasizes community service – and one that will lose its funding if an anticipated federal budget proposal is approved.
U.S. President Donald Trump is reportedly cutting domestic programs in an effort to open up funding for a $54 billion increase in military spending and other aspects of his political platform. At the March 7 Humboldt County Board of Supervisors meeting, the likelihood of a funding cut was noted during a presentation on Americorps Week.
Americorps members are young adults who engage in various aspects of community service. “It is really clear how important Americorps and national service is to our country,” said Lynn Kerman, the Americorps program manager for Redwood Community Action Agency.
But the future of its funding is in doubt. “We’ve gotten word that the current administration’s new budget has cut all of Americorps funding,” Kerman said. “The budget hasn’t come out yet but that’s something to pay attention to, if it’s something you care about.”
Eliminating Americorps’ federal funding may be a hard sell. Kerman noted that since Americorps began during the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson, “It has had strong bipartisan support from both the executive branch and the legislative branch.”
Read aloud by Supervisor Rex Bohn, a county proclamation describes Americorps as a program addressing “the most pressing challenges facing our communities, from mentoring vulnerable students to supporting and advocating for veterans and families to providing services for homeless citizens and helping communities recover from natural disasters.”
The proclamation also states that Americorps “represents a unique public-private partnership that invests in community solutions and leverages non-federal resources to strengthen community impact and increase the return on taxpayer dollars.”
Kerman described how the local program’s participants work at family resource centers to help prevent child abuse and become mentors for homeless youths. A newly-launched Americorps program provides long term case management for people who are transitioning from homelessness to housing.
Other Americorps efforts include the Watershed Stewards salmon habitat restoration program and the CivicSpark program, which helps governments address climate change impacts and water management issues.
Supervisor Mike Wilson related his firsthand experience with Americorps in the development of the Potawot Health Village in Arcata.
Wilson’s engineering firm managed the project’s restoration and community-supported agriculture farm. He said the Americorps members came from across the U.S. and their work was impressive.
“What came out of that was a permanent value to our community,” Wilson continued. “And those folks who were part of that are in this community still, today.”
They include an Arcata High School teacher, a farm owner in Fieldbrook and an interpreter for the State Parks system, he said.
“We will fight for your funding,” Wilson added.
So will federal officials from Trump’s own political party. A group of former and current Republican leaders have sent a letter to the president urging continued funding for Americorps.