Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Serve America Act Implementation Update

Dear National Service Colleagues,


It has been a busy summer at the Corporation.  We have been working hard to distribute 2009 grant funds, finish distributing Recovery Act awards, and plan the implementation of the Serve America Act, among other things.  What follows is an update on the Serve America Act implementation – both what has happened since the Bill signing, and what you can expect in the next several months.


Following our public input sessions, our first priority in the implementation of the Serve America Act has been to determine which provisions can automatically go into effect on October 1, 2009, which require only additional guidance or policy, and which cannot take effect without a formal rulemaking process. These determinations have an impact on the FY 2010 application deadlines, and on the timing and content of the Notices of Federal Funding Opportunity (NOFO) and application instructions for our grant competitions.


We have also focused on evaluating the impact of the Act on the Corporation's systems, staffing, and training.  From that, we have developed a tentative timeline for grants (below) that will ultimately provide the framework for next year's operations.  As of now, the timeline includes all programs proposed for funding in the President's Budget or the House passed 2010 budget.  You may notice that we are not proposing major changes to the calendar from previous years.  Any additional programs included through the Senate Appropriation's process and the final Labor-HHS appropriations Act will be added at the appropriate time.  And the final timeline will reflect the funding ultimately passed by Congress. 



Tentative Application Due Dates

National Direct and Indian Tribes Planning

Mid October

Summer of Service

Early December

Social Innovation Fund

Early January

AmeriCorps State and National

Late January

LSA Higher Education and School-based Tribes & Territories

Mid March

Volunteer Generation Fund

Late March

LSA Innovation in Community-Based Service-Learning and Research

Early May

RSVP Projects

Early April


Early April


Rule Making

The first rulemaking will be an interim final rule that simply aligns our regulations with those Serve America Act provisions that immediately affect grantees as of October 1, 2009, when the new law goes into effect.  A second more substantive rulemaking will take place in the fall to implement high-priority provisions in the Act that require a full notice-and-comment process- for example, changes to the National Service Trust.  Subsequent rulemakings to implement new programs and carry out other requirements in the Act will follow.  Note that the notice-and-comment rulemaking process includes plenty of opportunity for your input.

Pilot Projects

For several of the Serve America Act initiatives, we have decided to implement pilot programs in the FY 2010 grant competition. The results of these pilot programs will inform rulemaking, and how we will implement these provisions of the Act going forward. In addition, this process will help us roll out a more robust system in 2011 for all AmeriCorps programs and, potentially Senior Corps and Foster Grandparents.


The following provisions of the Act will be piloted in the 2010 competition:


  1. The Act describes five service corps (Education, Healthy Futures, Clean Energy, Veterans, and Opportunity) and requires us to prioritize at least two each year. Those FY 2010 programs that address indicators in any of the five corps will be given priority for funding in FY 2010.


  1. The Act requires us to develop common performance measures and identify specific indicators. With input from grantees and other stakeholders, we will develop common performance measures for the five priority areas. Applicants proposing programming in the priority areas will be encouraged to adopt the common performance measures and will receive special consideration for doing so.


  1. The Act authorizes fixed amount grants and specifies that in FY 2010 they may only be used for AmeriCorps programs that engage only full-time members (excluding EAP). We anticipate expanding fixed amount grants to part-time AmeriCorps and, potentially Senior Corps and Foster Grandparents, in FY 2011.


  1. In addition, in FY 2010 we will be implementing the merged state competitive and national direct AmeriCorps grant competition.

Trust Policy Updates

First, please continue to remind AmeriCorps State and National members and programs that the increased Education Award will only be available for those positions funded with 2010 appropriated funds.

Second, we have had a lot of input regarding the Serve America Act provision that allows individuals to earn up to the aggregate value of two full-time education awards.  We are in the process of determining how to effectively implement the increased flexibility in the number of terms of service that an individual can serve, and anticipate this issue to be among the first policy issues we address through rulemaking in the fall.  Until we complete the rulemaking process, the current limit of two education awards will remain in effect.

Third, please be sure that VISTAS who are over 55, understand that the VISTA Education Award is not transferrable per the statute, but that they may choose the cash stipend in lieu of the education award.  For more information, please refer to our FAQs section on the Serve America Act Homepage of our website.

Other New Initiatives

Finally, we are beginning to plan the RSVP competition, Social Innovation Fund, Volunteer Generation Fund, Summer of Service, and merged Competitive and National Direct AmeriCorps grants competitions based on the public input that we have received to date.  While everyone will continue to have opportunities to provide input, we will be working over the next several weeks with the Senior Corps Associations, the Association of State Commissions, Voices for National Service, and Service Learning United to gather their input.

We will keep you informed as we continue to move forward.  Thank you for your continued commitment to National Service and to the successful implementation of the Serve America Act.

In Service,

Nicola Goren

Acting CEO

Corporation for National and Community Service


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The CalServe Network posts news and updates of interest to the service-learning field in California. News and updates are drawn from the CalServe List Serve and the National K-12 Service-Learning List Serve and various other sources.