A looming $1.5 trillion national deficit has America ready to put government under the knife. With a newly Republican held House potential cuts look deep and the House has approved a budget that would slash $61 million in spending. One local loser in this budget battle is the Americorps program, and before we accept its elimination, attention should be paid to what would be lost.

Americorps has roots that trace back to the Lyndon Johnson administration, and has received bipartisan support throughout its more than 50 years of operations. Since the modern Americorps was launched in 1994, more than 4,000 Nebraskans have served more than 7 million hours. As a result members have qualified for $15,800,000 in educational awards. At its core Americorps stresses civic engagement and education.

UNK hosts between 20-25 members to participate in service programs on campus and in the Kearney community. ARC of Buffalo County, the American Red-Cross, Habitat for Humanity, the United Way, and Kearney Public Schools are just a few of the organizations involved with Americorps. Many Americorps staff some of these organizations, and removing this funding would seriously undercut what some groups are able to accomplish.

Based on the budget moves in Congress one might expect Americorps volunteers to be cashing fat paychecks. But when it comes to pay, Americorps is pretty bare bones. The most UNK Americorps members earn is $5,350, but this is in exchange for 1,700 hours of service. That is roughly $3.15 an hour – less than half of minimum wage. The lightest amount of service is 300 hours for $1,000, still just $3.33 an hour. Given that these volunteers work with some of the most disadvantaged members of the community the government is getting great bang for its buck.

Ending this program will harm both those who take advantage of the programs Americorps helps to run, and the community at large. One of the key aims, and results according to Americorps, is continued civic engagement. Experiencing pressing community problems in a hands-on situation helps to inspire greater understanding and increased participation. As the organization wrote, Americorps helps to inspire future community leaders, and public servants.

Eliminating Americorps will hurt those in our community that need the most support. It also robs those willing to help solve those problems of experiences and the continued opportunity to face off with these problems. Based on Americorps impact and aims it seems foolish to think cuts like this will solve the country’s budget problems. If anything this type of cut will only exacerbate current issues and create even newer problems for the community to deal with.

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