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Update from The Corps Network’s Government Relations Team – June 2020

The Corps Network is excited to share about progress in the U.S. House and Senate on several bills that could benefit the Service and Conservation Corps Community. Read below to learn more about the bills, where they stand, and what they could mean for Corps.

Photo in banner: June at the Capitol, credit: Architect of the Capitol

 


21st Century Conservation Corps for Our Health and Our Jobs Act (21CCC Act)

 

Status

 

Highlights: What would it do to help Corps & young people?  
    • Click for a fact sheet from the office of Sen. Wyden.
    • Click for a fact sheet from the office of Rep. Neguse.
    • Scale up existing Service and Conservation Corps: The bill would appropriate $9 billion in supplemental funding to the Department of Labor appropriations to be granted to qualified Conservation Corps, to increase job training and hiring for resources management jobs. The funding will help restore public lands and address this rise in unemployment due to COVID-19.
    • Increase funding for public lands maintenance and wildfire management: The bill includes a $10 billion increase to the National Forest System and $6.9 billion in additional funds for the Department of the Interior. Much of this funding would go towards hazardous fuels management and maintenance projects, which could be completed in partnership with Corps.

 

What’s Next?

There are broader conversations underway to establish a 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps including the possibility of a “Restoration Jobs” initiative to meet employment and environmental needs. Our hope is to successfully incorporate elements of the aforementioned legislation into such an effort.

 


Cultivating Opportunity and Response to the Pandemic through Service (CORPS) Act

 

Status
  • Introduced in the Senate on June 16 by U.S. Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE.), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Jack Reed (D-RI), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), John Cornyn (R-TX), Angus King (I-ME), and Susan Collins (R-ME)

 

Highlights: What would it do to help Corps & young people?  

The CORPS Act is based on the Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act, introduced by Sen. Coons in May. Specifically, the CORPS Act would:

    • Expand national service positions for a three-year response and recovery period. The number of positions could grow from 75,000 to 150,000 the first year and then steadily to 250,000 by year three.
    • Provide flexibilities for national service programs to grow and respond quickly to dynamic local recovery needs.
    • Prioritize funding for activities directly related to response and recovery, such as:
      • Public health services
      • Programs that support economic opportunity
      • Education support (including for adult learners)
      • Services that combat nutrition insecurity
    • Prioritize expanding programs and services in rural and high poverty communities.
    • Help organizations that have not previously hosted AmeriCorps members access the program.
    • Ensure that individuals’ financial resources do not limit participation by temporarily increasing the AmeriCorps living allowance to 175 percent of the federal poverty line and tying the value of the Segal Education Award to twice the value of the maximum Pell grant, harmonizing the treatment of both with other programs by making them nontaxable.
    • Fund new online tools for Senior Corps to safely move to a teleservice model.
    • Encourage participation by members of low-income and underrepresented communities and extend priority enrollment to Peace Corps, U.S. Fulbright, and AmeriCorps participants whose service or grants was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Invite participation by a diverse range of Americans by launching an awareness and outreach campaign on response service opportunities and supporting the Volunteer Generation Fund.

 

What’s Next?

The strategy and path forward for the CORPS Act is to try and get supplemental funding and provisions from legislation into the next COVID relief package which may move mid to late July. It all depends on Congressional action and whether they have an appetite for another stimulus bill.

 


Great American Outdoors Act

 

Status
    • Introduced in the Senate on March 3 (S.3422) by U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner (D-CO) and Joe Manchin (D-WV)
    • Passed in the Senate on June 17 with a bipartisan vote of 73-25. Now moves to the House for a vote.

 

Highlights: What would it do to help Corps & young people?  
    • Fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF): The bill would permanently dedicate $900 million per year into the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Created by Congress in 1964, the LWCF uses revenues from resource extraction to fund the conservation of natural and cultural heritage sites and expand recreation access across the U.S. Fully funding LWCF could mean more project opportunities for Corps in rural and urban communities alike.
    • Address the ~$20 billion maintenance backlog: The bill includes the Restore Our Parks Act, which would invest $1.9 billion annually for the next five years in addressing deferred maintenance on lands managed by the National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Education. This could also create new project opportunities for Corps.

 

What’s Next?

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced on Monday, June 22, that the House will consider the Great American Outdoors Act under a rule on the Floor during the work period at the end of July. Efforts are underway to shore up cosponsors of the legislation as well as to support a clean bill (no amendments) to expedite the process and limit the chances of the bill failing.

The legislation is expected to pass (although it is Congress and anything could happen) and if/when it does, The Corps Network will be working with agency partners and our champions on Capitol Hill to ensure every effort is made to engage Corps on relevant projects to the maximum extent practicable. We’re also pursuing report language (specific instructions from Congress on how they view the bill being implemented) to that effect.