Update from The Corps Network’s Government Relations Team – May 13, 2021

What’s the latest news about Corps from Washington?
Read this update from The Corps Network’s Government Relations Team. By Danielle Owen, Director of Government Relations, and Josh Tuohy, Government Relations Manager.
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Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad

  • What does it say? – Signed by President Biden on January 27, 2021, this Executive Order focuses on how our country can take action against climate change. Of interest to us is Section 215, which calls for the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture, along with the heads of other relevant agencies, to submit a strategy for a Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) Initiative within 90 days of this Executive Order. Section 215 requires that this strategy operate through existing appropriations. As stated in the order, the goal of the Civilian Climate Corps is to “mobilize the next generation of conservation and resilience workers and maximize the creation of accessible training opportunities and good jobs.”
  • What does it mean? – There is little detail in Section 215, but it means the Biden Administration could look at existing partnerships that are funded through existing appropriations. In essence, they could look to build off the current model of public-private partnerships between Service and Conservation Corps and land management agencies.
  • What are the next steps? – The strategy was expected to be submitted to the White House Climate Taskforce by April 27, 2021. As of the writing of this post, we understand that the final strategy has not been submitted to the Taskforce. The Corps Network has been working vigorously with the Biden Administration and the U.S. Congress on developing the CCC Initiative. We are advocating for the CCC to be built off the existing network of Service and Conservation Corps. We expect the strategy to be written at a high level, but we are confident that it has been informed by documents that The Corps Network shared with the Department of Interior and the White House.



The American Jobs Plan

  • What does it say? – On March 31, 2021, President Biden released his American Jobs Plan. This eight-year plan would invest $2 trillion, largely in repairing and upgrading our nation’s infrastructure. Within this plan, President Biden calls for $10 billion to “put a new, diverse generation of Americans to work conserving our public lands and waters, bolstering community resilience, and advancing environmental justice through a new Civilian Climate Corps, all while placing good-paying union jobs within reach for more Americans.”
  • What does it mean? – The Biden Administration sees a role for a CCC-style effort in our country’s response to climate change and has elevated the idea as a priority worthy of dedicated funding. The January 27 Executive Order called for the creation of a strategy for a CCC Initiative; the American Jobs Plan now calls for funding of a CCC.
  • What are the next steps? – The Corps Network continues its outreach with the Biden Administration and the U.S. Congress to develop legislation and proposals on how to build this new CCC. We will continue to advocate for the existing network of Corps to be used as the basis of the new CCC. In establishing a new CCC, The Corps Network proposes a model in which projects will be completed through public-private partnerships between various agencies and existing and new community-based Corps, many of which receive support from AmeriCorps. Also, existing Corps can provide expertise to assist with establishing new Corps.The Corps Network emphasizes that investments in expanding Corps should be equitable, with a focus on intentionally enrolling and supporting women, young people of color, urban and rural youth, and others from historically disenfranchised communities. The Corps Network also emphasizes the importance of not only investing in projects for Corps to complete, but investing in workforce development and career pathways, such that service in Corps can lead to well-paying jobs.



President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 Discretionary Funding Budget

  • What does it say? This is essentially the first look at President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget. It is $1.52 trillion in discretionary spending. The President’s full budget is expected in late spring. The Presidential budget informs the U.S. Congress of the President’s priorities; it is normally submitted to Congress before they begin the yearly appropriations process. Of note to us, the CCC is called out in two sections.
      • Partners with Rural America to Grow Rural Economies and Tackle Rural Poverty. The discretionary request includes a number of proposals to invest in rural communities. This includes more than $300 million in new investments in the next generation of agriculture and conservation, including support for private lands conservation, renewable energy grants and loans, and the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps to create a new pathway to good-paying jobs in rural America. The discretionary request also supports $6.5 billion in lending to support additional clean energy, energy storage, and transmission projects in rural communities, including communities of color.
      • Supports Bold, Locally Supported Conservation Actions, including Creation of a Civilian Climate Corps. The discretionary request provides an additional $200 million for science-driven conservation to align management of the nation’s natural resources with our climate, biodiversity, and clean energy needs. This investment would support the Administration’s “30 by 30” goal of conserving 30 percent of land and water by 2030, including through voluntary actions and incentives that support the stewardship efforts of farmers, ranchers and other private landowners. This discretionary request would also support the Civilian Climate Corps to develop the next generation of conservation workers and create a new pathway to good-paying jobs.
  • What does it mean? – The inclusion of the CCC in the President’s budget for discretionary funding is excellent news. Congress will take note of this when they develop their budget for Fiscal Year 2022. The Corps Network met recently with the House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee staff and were told that if we could get the CCC in the President’s budget, we would be “75 percent there” in getting actual funding for it in Fiscal Year 2022.
  • What are the next steps? – We need to continue to advocate with Congress on the inclusion of funding for the CCC in the Fiscal Year 2022 budget and try to learn more about how the requested funding will be allocated/dedicated to the CCC.



21st Century Conservation Corps Act

  • What does it say?In February 2021, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Joe Neguse (D-OR), reintroduced their CCC legislation. They previously introduced this legislation in 2020 and have reintroduced it with minimal changes. The legislation would provide a significant investment in wildfire prevention and resiliency efforts and $9 billion for the Department of Labor to establish a Civilian Conservation Corps program. These funds would be used by “qualified land and conservation corps” to increase job training and hiring for jobs in the woods, helping restore public lands and watersheds, and provide Corpsmembers the workforce development skills needed to thrive in their careers.
  • What happens next? – The legislation has been receiving media attention and The Corps Network is helping the sponsoring offices respond to questions they are receiving. We will continue to advocate for the inclusion of project work and workforce development in the new CCC.



Civilian Climate Corps Act of 2021

  • What does it say? – In April 2021, Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), along with Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), and Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), introduced the Civilian Climate Corps Act of 2021. This legislation would essentially authorize the CCC called for in President Biden’s January 27 Executive Order. The Corps Network worked with Senator Coons’ staff on developing the language in the legislation. It is different from the Executive Order in that it calls for the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture to work in coordination with the Secretaries of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Energy, Commerce, Labor, and Health and Human Services, as well as the CEO of AmeriCorps, the Director of OMB, the Administrator of the EPA, and the heads of other relevant agencies in establishing the CCC. It requires that a Corps service project carried out under this legislation prioritize efforts to assist disproportionately impacted communities or be carried out in partnership with a “qualified youth service or conservation corps.” There is also a matching funds waiver for funds made available under the legislation.
  • What does it mean? – This would legislatively authorize the Executive Order. The inclusion of the other departments and agencies also signals to the Biden Administration that Congress sees a role for these agencies in the CCC.
  • What happens next? – Again, we continue to advocate. We will continue to tell the Biden Administration and Congress that a new CCC needs to include projects, workforce development and national service. If the goal is to have the young adults of our nation on a pathway to a career that will sustain a family, then all of these aspects are needed.



Restore Employment in Natural and Environmental Work Conservation Corps (RENEW) Act

  • What does it say? – Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) previously introduced this legislation during the 116th Congress and reintroduced it on April 26, 2021. This legislation would create a new Conservation Corps run though the U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture and would authorize more than $55 billion over a five-year period to put 1 million Americans to work to address the backlog of deferred conservation projects.
  • What does it mean? – This legislation is different from the others in that it specifically directs funding to the states. Corps are defined as an eligible agency or organization and are given preference for the funding in a state administered grant program.
  • What happens next? – This is further legislation in which The Corps Network is working with the Senator’s office to make it as good as possible for the existing network of Corps. We will continue to advocate for the Civilian Climate Corps to start with the existing network of Corps and for it to include both project work and workforce development.



Rep. Neguse Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations Civilian Climate Corps Line-Item Request

  • What it is? – The office of Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) submitted a letter to the House Committee on Appropriations Interior Subcommittee asking for the establishment of a line-item funding stream for the Civilian Climate Corps in Fiscal Year 2022.
  • What does it mean? – As discussed above, the Executive Order calls for the Civilian Climate Corps to be funded through existing appropriations and it is also called out in President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 discretionary budget. This request for specific funding for the Civilian Climate Corps follows along with the White House’s previous action on the Civilian Climate Corps.
  • What happens next? – We will continue to work with the office of Rep. Neguse on this request and will also begin to seek support for a similar request in the U.S. Senate.



The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations Interior Subcommittee Hearings on Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Requests

  • What is it? – Each appropriations cycle, the various Appropriations Subcommittees hold hearings where witnesses from the Executive Branch testify on their budget requests.
  • What happened? – During both the U.S. Forest Services’ hearing with Chief Vicki Christiansen and the Department of Interior’s hearing with Secretary Deb Haaland, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) asked questions around urban community involvement in the Civilian Climate Corps. Both witnesses responded affirmatively that there will be urban community involvement in the Civilian Climate Corps.
  • What happens next? – Rep. Kaptur has a CCC bill she has previously introduced several times. The Corps Network is in discussion with her office on suggested edits to the latest version of this legislation. We expect her to reintroduce the legislation in the coming weeks.



Banner Photo: Architect of the Capitol