Bill would expand volunteer opportunities in homeland defense
"Those are all roles that can be expanded," Scott said. "Those are the kinds of things we are doing now and can do more of." The bill includes a host of other ways to increase civilian volunteerism, such as:
- Lifting the cap on the amount CNS can give in direct funding to national nonprofit organizations, allowing more of them to apply for grants from AmeriCorps.
- Eliminating the tax on education awards given to AmeriCorps participants.
- Allocating $100 million for the Challenge Grants program, which would allow CNS to match money raised by national service programs dollar-for-dollar. Lawmakers have never before appropriated money for the program.
- Raising the amount of college work-study funds that must be used for community service to 25 percent by 2010. Now, only 7 percent of funds must go toward community service.
- Removing the low-income requirement for participating in Senior Service programs and providing low-income seniors with a stipend.
The legislation also expands options for military service by creating a short-term enlistment. Called the "18-18-18 plan," it would commit participants to 18 months of active duty and 18 months of reserve service. At the end of the commitment, participants would receive an $18,000 bonus payment. Among other incentives for military service, the bill would:
- Increase Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits from $7,800 to $15,600 annually for three years and eliminate the expiration date for use of G.I. Bill educational funds.
- Make military recruiters' jobs easier by improving their access to college campuses and high schools.
- Create a commission to be appointed by the Secretaries of Defense and State, that will explore ways to close the civilian-military pay gap and attract more recruits.
The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Harold Ford, D-Tenn., and Tom Osborne, R-Neb.