In the Sept. 11 Deseret News was an editorial titled "AmeriCorps: A Waste of Money?"
Realizing that your intent in the article was to present thought-provoking questions concerning AmeriCorps, I was nevertheless dismayed by the lack of correct information evident.Specifically, you state "since local communities or businesses will have to pay the $7,500 in wages and the $2,000-$3,000 program costs per volunteer each year . . . ." This is incorrect. Eighty-five percent of the AmeriCorps member's wage comes from a federal grant issued by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The program costs are shared at a rate of 75 percent grant, 25 percent local. The local share may all come from soft, in-kind sources such as a desk, chair and office space.
The corporation grant picks up 100 percent of any child-care expense and 100 percent of the $4,725 education award. An excellent health-care package is provided for the AmeriCorps member, costing $1,200 per year, of which $180, or 15 percent, is paid for by the sponsoring agency. Our national health-care plan should be so good.
Your stated costs to a community or business of some $10,000 is in fact closer to $1,800. In return, the community gets a hard-working, somewhat idealistically dedicated worker to help solve local problems.
More than 40 local agencies and communities wanted AmeriCorps members. Only five were fortunate enough to receive them.
Your editorial asks many questions such as, "Will the money be wasted? Will there be any significant, enduring demand for the volunteers? How much good will actually be accomplished?" The art of accurately predicting the future is not had at present by mortals. But if AmeriCorps' close cousin and fellow corporation program, VISTA, is any indication, the money will be among the most cost-effective expenditures our country makes. The good that has been accomplished by VISTA workers for the people of Utah - in literacy, health, single parents, people with disabilities, minority concerns and many other areas - is remarkable.
As to the other questions pertaining to a drain on the Treasury and what bureaucracy will be created to run and supervise this program, I would have to say that any time the government spends a dollar there is a "drain" on the Treasury. The corporation's other fine programs such as VISTA, Foster Grandparents, Senior Companions and the Retired and Senior Volunteers have more than shown an amazing ability to generate tons of good for a few pounds of dollars.
The "bureaucracy" is already in place. A state commission made up of 25 volunteer men and women largely determines where the AmeriCorps members will serve. A two-person staff, largely funded from a corporation grant, will provide oversight, training and other help. Our three-person state corporation office, although working with some 27 other grants, is here to lend a hand. This truly is a "bottoms up" federal program, perhaps unique within the national government.
For 30 years, VISTA has been quietly serving the people of Utah. I believe AmeriCorps, if given the opportunity, will prove as successful.
Rick Crawford, Ed.D.
Utah state director
Corporation for National and Community Service