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Establishing the USA Freedom Corps
The USA Freedom Corps is the Presidents tool for enlisting Americans in public service at home and abroad. It will have a Coordinating Council and a White House Office to carry out its specific functions. Initially, the USA Freedom Corps will support the work of, and recognize participants in, three service efforts -- the newly created Citizen Corps, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, and the Peace Corps. The Citizen Corps will be coordinated by FEMA; AmeriCorps and Senior Corps will be run by the Corporation for National and Community Service; and the Peace Corps will be run by its Director.
Each of these service components will benefit from a serious, focused effort to recruit and mobilize volunteers into various service efforts, track and measure progress in meeting service goals (e.g., doubling Neighborhood Watch programs and adding 100,000 Senior Corps participants), and work together to make policy recommendations to enhance service. The USA Freedom Corps will support the Presidents call for all Americans to serve their country for at least 2 years (4,000 hours) and help design ways to measure civic participation.
Americans serving in any of the three service efforts will be recognized appropriately as members of the USA Freedom Corps.
The mission of the USA Freedom Corps is to enlist Americans in service to their country at the national, state, or community level at home or abroad.
USA Freedom Corps Council
The USA Freedom Corps Council will be created by executive order. The President will chair the Council. The Council will include the following as members:
The heads of each of the participating agencies are accountable for their specific programs and responsibilities within this integrated citizens service initiative.
Office of the USA Freedom Corps
An Office of the USA Freedom Corps will be created by executive order and funded by the Executive Office of the President. The Office will support the functions of the USA Freedom Corps. The Director will have authority to manage this effort and will report directly to the President.
The Administration is requesting $2.6 million for FY 2003 to support the offices and staff of the USA Freedom Corps.
Initial Volunteer Recruitment
Volunteer recruitment by the USA Freedom Corps will initially include:
The Citizen Corps will harness the power of citizens to help prepare their local communities for the threats of terrorism. The Citizen Corps will be a locally-driven initiative managed by the newly created Citizen Corps Councils (Councils), supported at the state level by Governors, and coordinated nationally by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA will coordinate with Governors and Mayors and their Emergency Management Offices to spur the creation of the Councils and distribute matching funds. The Citizen Corps builds on existing crime prevention, natural disaster preparedness, and public health response networks.
The Citizen Corps will initially consist of members of the Councils and participants in the local programs, including: the Volunteers in Police Service Program; an expanded Neighborhood Watch Program; the Medical Reserve Corps; and Community Emergency Response Teams. Additional programs created by the local Citizen Corps Councils will be considered by FEMA for recognition as components of the Citizen Corps. FEMA will recognize citizens in these programs as Citizen Corps members.
FEMA will coordinate with the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Corporation for National and Community Service, and other Federal departments and agencies to provide additional support, including special training programs and materials.
At the local level, the Citizen Corps will be organized by pursuing the following actions:
Establish Citizen Corps Councils
Citizen Corps Councils (Councils) will be created at the local level throughout the country. Councils will have flexibility to determine the jurisdictions they cover, and FEMA will coordinate with the Governors and their state Emergency Management Offices and, where applicable, state homeland security offices, to ensure councils represent citizens throughout the state. Mayors, Members of Congress, County Administrators, or other officials working at the local level would help lead the Councils. In areas where similar efforts are already underway, the Councils would build on these existing local homeland security efforts.
Other members of the Councils would include leaders from law enforcement, state, and local fire and emergency offices, businesses (especially security firms), school officials, faith-based groups, public health organizations, mental health and educational groups, veterans groups, and neighborhood watch organizations. Other participants may include representatives from non-profit organizations, community foundations, and other institutions with local presence and the ability to build capacity. The Citizen Corps Councils are intended to reach all segments of American society and should represent the diversity of each local community. Federal representatives from key agencies with local and regional offices, especially FEMA, DOJ, HHS, VA, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), and the U.S. Postal Service will also be involved as appropriate and work with their state and local counterparts to help support the work of the Councils.
The Councils will be responsible for developing a community action plan, including a local assessment of infrastructure vulnerabilities and possible threats, available local resources, and how to best organize and expand local efforts. The community action plan will coordinate the community-based prevention and preparedness efforts, such as Volunteers in Police Service, Neighborhood Watch (with a new terrorism prevention focus), Medical Reserve Corps, and Community Emergency Response Teams.
FEMA will provide $144 million in matching funds in Fiscal Year 2003 to help create and maintain the efforts of the Councils. Funds can be used for staff, training, and equipment, program materials and other costs. The funds will be drawn down by the Governors to use for the creation of the Citizen Corps and the Councils and programs that support it.
Each Council will appoint a coordinator who will serve as executive director of the Council or design other ways to ensure Council efforts are strongly supported over time. FEMA, in coordination with the U.S. Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services, will provide materials and training to the Councils on how to organize such efforts, to recruit and train volunteers, and to create the following programs.
Develop a Volunteers In Police Service Program (VIPS)
Since September 11, the demands on state and local law enforcement have immeasurably increased. Resources are being stretched further than ever at a time when the country needs every available officer out on the beat. Some local police departments are turning to civilian volunteers to supplement their forces. These programs draw on the time and considerable talents of civilian volunteers and allow law enforcement professionals to better perform their front-line duties.
For example, Anne Arundel County, Maryland has a local initiative in which volunteers serve in the following capacities appropriate for non-sworn officers: taking police reports; making follow-up phone calls to victims; doing finger printing; helping with neighborhood watch; engaging in crowd/parking control at special events; acting as crossing guards; and performing other administrative tasks that free officers to do front line work.
In Henderson County, North Carolina, the sheriffs office actively recruits volunteers (particularly senior citizens) who serve subpoenas, serve in courthouses in uniform as volunteers to run metal detectors and give tours of the Police Academy, perform search and rescue missions, do mounted patrols in parking lots at high school football games, and work with local communities on crime prevention measures.
The VIPS Program will include a tool kit developed to assist local law enforcement in incorporating community volunteers into the activities of the law enforcement agency. This tool kit would outline a series of "best practices" to help state and local law enforcement design strategies to recruit, train, and deploy citizen volunteers in their departments. The U.S. Department of Justice will provide $3 million in Fiscal Year 2003 to support the VIPS program.
Double the Number of Neighborhood Watch Programs and Add a Terrorism Prevention Component
The Neighborhood Watch Program (NWP) will incorporate terrorism prevention into its routine mission and operate as a distribution mechanism for anti-terrorism information circulated by the Councils and other agencies. The goal is to double the number of NWPs over the next two years. In existence for 30 years, the NWP is a highly successful program that has played an important role in preventing crime. The National Sheriffs Association estimates that approximately 7,500 communities representing nearly 30 million people around the country participate in grassroots crime prevention under Neighborhood Watch. As the "eyes and ears" of local communities, the NWP is a unique infrastructure that brings together local law enforcement and citizens for the protection of communities.
The Citizen Corps Councils will encourage the creation of NWPs in communities that do not have them and enhance the capacity and relevance of NWPs for those that do. The NWPs would receive materials from the Department of Justice, working in conjunction with the National Sheriffs Association, on how to incorporate the new focus. To ensure that existing NWPs are incorporated into these new efforts, Neighborhood Watch Program Coordinators or their designees will organize the efforts of the local NWPs and would be appointed to sit on the Citizen Corps Councils.
DOJ will provide $6 million in Fiscal Year 2003 for the expanded Neighborhood Watch Program.
Create a Medical Reserve Corps
A Community-based volunteer Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) will be created as part of local Council efforts throughout the United States and supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The objective of the community-based Medical Reserve Corps will be to harness the strength of retired healthcare professionals to augment local health care capacity during an emergency. At present, no structured, coordinated system exists at the national level to incorporate the talent and knowledge of inactive physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals who are eager to volunteer during emergency situations. HHS will work with state and local jurisdictions to address issues of licensing and liability.
The MRC will provide state and local public health officials with a corps of volunteers to help expand capacity for the delivery of care and remove some of the burdens placed upon physicians, nurses, and others responding to a large-scale emergency affecting local communities. The MRC will assist communities in the delivery of necessary public health services during a crisis. The Department of Health and Human Services will provide guidance on how to create the MRC at the local level, and Veterans Affairs Hospitals in local communities will provide additional support, such as training, for the MRC. HHS will provide $10 million in Fiscal Year 2003 to support the initiative.
MRC members could assist emergency response teams in triaging patients -- sending the most seriously affected to hospitals and emergency rooms and providing care directly to those with less serious injuries. The MRC could also become another resource that could be deployed to other areas within states or regions in cases of extreme emergencies.
Triple the Capacity of Community Emergency Respose Teams (CERT)
The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) provides training in emergency preparedness and in disaster response techniques. The training prepares members of neighborhoods, workplaces and schools to take a more active part in the emergency management planning for their areas and to prepare themselves and others for disasters. The CERT course is taught in the community by a trained team of first responders who have completed a CERT Train-the-Trainer (TTT) course conducted by their State Training Office for Emergency Management or FEMAs Emergency Management Institute. CERT training includes: disaster preparedness; disaster fire suppression; disaster medical operations; and light search and rescue operations.
Responding to terrorism will be incorporated into the training for the CERT Teams, and the number of participants will be tripled over next two years, representing an additional 400,000 trained individuals across the country. Nationwide, approximately 200,000 individuals have completed the 18-plus hours of training. Communities in 28 States have initiated CERT training. FEMA will provide $61 million in Fiscal Year 2003 to support this CERT initiative.
Create Community Designation Program
Although no community can protect against all threats, we can provide incentives for local communities to take comprehensive steps and to maintain those efforts over time. The "USA Freedom Communities" program will be a voluntary initiative that will give a special designation to communities meeting certain criteria related to preventing and responding to terrorist threats. The criteria can include, among other things, the following measures: creation of a Citizen Corps Council; operation of VIPS, Neighborhood Watch, Medical Reserve Corps, and CERT training; strengthening all-hazard community planning; improving public awareness and education; and persuading citizens to support local first responders. Governors, working in cooperation with Mayors, other local officials, and FEMA, will determine whether or not a community has met the criteria for designation.
FEMA, DOJ, and HHS will jointly create criteria for this voluntary recognition within six months. The criteria will be adjusted based on coordination with organizations such as the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislators, the National Association of Counties, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, the International City Managers Association, and the Council of State Governments.
Create Operation TIPS: Terrorist Information and Prevention System
As part of the Citizen Corps, Operation TIPS -- the Terrorist Information and Prevention System -- will be a nationwide mechanism for reporting suspicious terrorist activity -- enlisting millions of American transportation workers, truckers, letter carriers, train conductors, ship captains and utility employees. Operation TIPS, a project of the U.S. Department of Justice, will start first as a pilot program in ten cities in America, affecting more than 1 million workers. Applications from cities will be accepted in Fall 2002 for inclusion as one of the pilot programs.
Operation TIPS will establish a national reporting system that would allow these workers, who have routines and are well positioned to recognize unusual events, to report suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities. Every participant in this new program will be given a Citizen Corps: Operation TIPS information sticker that could be affixed to the cab of the vehicle or placed in some other public location so that the toll free reporting number would be readily available to report any suspicious activity.
Everywhere in America a concerned worker will be able to call the 1-800 Hotline that can route calls immediately to law enforcement or a responder organization when appropriate. Importantly, this number will not supplant the existing 911 emergency system. Instead, it will take the stress off already burdened local systems needed for emergencies. The U.S. Department of Justice will provide $2 million in Fiscal Year 2003 to establish the hotline and assist with training and $6 million for the pilot programs and outreach materials.
Operation TIPS builds on the success of programs such as Highway Watch, which is a crime prevention partnership among the American Trucking Association and six states, and security training at the Global Maritime and Transportation School, which includes enhancing the ability of mariners aboard American vessels in island waterways and the Great Lakes to track and record potential threats.
Develop a "Citizens Preparedness Guidebook" and PSA Campaign
Preparing People in their Homes, Neighborhoods, Schools, Workplaces, Places of Worship, on Airlines, in Public Places
A national information campaign will carry the Presidents message of citizen preparedness and public education. One of the resources of the Citizen Corps will be a Guidebook with tips on how to prepare for potential terrorism and a PSA campaign to encourage Americans to implement the suggestions in the Guidebook. The Guidebook and PSAs merge what is effective in crime prevention and in responding to natural disasters with the latest information on terrorism to give Americans guidance on how to prepare at home, in the community, at work, at the airport, in places of worship, and in public places.
The Citizens Preparedness Guidebook will be released by the Attorney General, and the related PSA campaign will run on the weeks following the release of this Guidebook.
Enhancing Service Opportunities through an Improved AmeriCorps
The Corporation for National and Community Service will revise and strengthen its AmeriCorps programs, starting with an increase of 25,000 members in 2003. CNCS will be asked to leverage government funds to produce more volunteerism, which will allow more people to contribute even more to their communities in a meaningful way.
The Administration will submit legislation -- the Citizen Service Act of 2002 -- that will enable AmeriCorps to be more responsive to community needs, focus the activities of AmeriCorps members to organize and support part-time volunteers, and revise post-service benefits to make national service more attractive.
The Citizen Service Act of 2002
In support of the challenge to every American to serve, the Administration will submit proposed legislation, the Citizen Service Act of 2002, with the following objectives:
The principal mechanism for achieving those objectives is re-authorizing the Corporation for National and Community Service and updating its programs and procedures. Changes to other legislation, including the Higher Education Act, are also proposed.
Created in 1993, but incorporating programs that date back to the 1960s, the Corporation for National and Community Service oversees three major programs that engage 1.5 million Americans in meeting community needs each year -- AmeriCorps, National Senior Service Corps, and Learn and Serve America. In every corner of the country, Americans are engaged in service supported through these programs.
AmeriCorps, its members, and the programs in which they serve provide a solid foundation upon which to build an expanded system of Federal support for service. By incorporating the program within the USA Freedom Corps, and by making the improvements identified below, there will be greater opportunities for Americans to serve.
AmeriCorps engages Americans in intensive, results-driven service each year. AmeriCorps members mobilize, manage, and train volunteers. The members, and the volunteers they help organize, teach children to read, make neighborhoods safer, mentor children, and help build affordable homes for low-income families.
Most AmeriCorps members are selected by and serve with projects such as Habitat for Humanity, Neighborhood Watch organizations, the American Red Cross, Boys and Girls Clubs, local faith-based organizations, and many more local community organizations. State service commissions, appointed by the Nation's governors, allocate resources to these organizations within their respective states. After their term of service, AmeriCorps members receive education awards to help finance college or pay back student loans.
There are three main components to AmeriCorps: 1) AmeriCorps*State and National, which provides grants to states and national organizations to support members in local nonprofit organizations across the country; 2) AmeriCorps*VISTA, in which members focus their activities on supporting community and faith-based organizations in meeting the needs of low-income communities; and 3) AmeriCorps*National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), which is a ten-month, full-time residential service program for men and women that combines the best practices of civilian service with the best aspects of military service, including leadership and team building. Slightly more than 50 percent of AmeriCorps members serve full-time and receive a small stipend, generally at the poverty level, in order to be able to serve. The other one-half serve part-time; they generally do not receive any living allowance but do receive an education award at the end of service.
In 2002, 50,000 AmeriCorps members will serve their country, including providing support for homeland security in programs that promote public safety, public health, and emergency preparedness. Current activities in support of homeland security include:
The New AmeriCorps
The strengthened AmeriCorps will be one key component of the USA Freedom Corps. The President proposes to provide community-based service opportunities through the AmeriCorps program, which has a current enrollment of 50,000, by an additional 25,000 members (+50 percent) in FY 2003. In turn, these members will leverage an additional 75,000 volunteers by using the AmeriCorps members to help recruit and manage volunteers for nonprofit organizations.
The new AmeriCorps will support:
Legislative Changes That Will Strengthen AmeriCorps
In addition to expanding the number of service opportunities, the Administration will propose legislation to strengthen national service. The bill makes a number of changes that are intended to strengthen the roles of states and communities and achieve greater accountability in the use of public funds, including:
The bill will also propose:
Supporting Senior Corps
The Corporation for National and Community Service will expand senior service opportunities by an additional 100,000 members in 2003 so that more seniors will have more opportunities to participate in volunteer activities within their communities.
As part of the Citizen Service Act of 2002, the Administration will propose to revise and strengthen the senior service programs administered by the Federal Government so that older Americans will have expanded opportunities to serve in their communities, including supporting the efforts of public organizations charged with public safety, health, and emergency preparedness.
Expanding Senior Service by 100,000 Members
The Corporation for National and Community Service administers the National Senior Service Corps, which provides opportunities today for approximately 500,000 older Americans to serve their communities. The Senior Corps is comprised of three major programs: the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP); the Foster Grandparent Program (FGP); and the Senior Companion Program (SCP). The Corporation makes grants to nonprofit organizations and public entities to support these programs.
In both the Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion programs, members are low-income, serve 20 hours per week, and receive a modest stipend of $2.65 per hour.
In addition, if we create new roles, opportunities, and institutions built on the best from our past experience and incorporating emerging knowledge about the preferences of coming waves of retirees, we will enable communities to meet some of their most pressing needs.
The approach being proposed includes engaging seniors in high-impact service activities, an emphasis on the use of teams, opportunities for combining learning and service, development of leadership among the participants, flexible options for involvement, and low unit cost.
The FY 2003 budget will call for providing senior service opportunities for more than 100,000 volunteers. These individuals will support the following efforts:
Public Health. Seniors will volunteer in hospitals and public health clinics, expanding the capacity of these entities to provide for healthy communities.
Disaster Preparedness and Relief. Veterans and senior volunteers will provide food and shelter and help families and communities rebuild following disasters.
Other Community Needs. An expanded number of senior volunteers will provide a wide range of important services in communities such as tutoring youth, teaching parenting skills to teen parents, mentoring troubled youth, helping other seniors complete income tax forms, conducting groundwater protection surveys, providing in-home respite care with the frail elderly, providing support services to youth ex-offenders, teaching computer classes at elementary schools, reading to hospitalized children, managing grief counseling groups, bringing meals to the terminally ill, testing water for pollutants and tracking down their sources, driving the blind to doctors appointments, and providing a human touch to AIDS babies.
Strengthening Senior Service
In addition to expanding service opportunities, the Bush Administration will propose a series of changes to strengthen opportunities for senior service, including:
Lowering the age for participation from 60 to 55 in the National Senior Service Corps.
Introducing new incentives for participation by seniors in AmeriCorps, including earning scholarships through service that may be transferred to grandchildren or another designated individual, as well as piloting the use of awards for prescription drugs.
Expanding training. The Administration will support additional training for projects and senior volunteers in areas such as homeland security.
Authorizing new research. The Administration will support new research on the best practices for, and benefits of, engaging seniors in service to their community.
Providing greater flexibility to local communities in the use of Federal resources. The Administration will ease requirements that govern the activities of volunteers, such as making more flexible the number of hours per week that individuals must serve in the stipended programs under the National Senior Service Corps.
Reducing the administrative burden placed on projects for carrying out volunteer programs. The Administration will support streamlined grants that eliminate administrative requirements and tie support to outcomes.
Providing Greater Service Opportunities for College Students
The Administration will submit legislation to amend the Higher Education Act to require every college and university to devote 50 percent of its Federal Work Study funds to community service, commonly known as Serve Study. In any given year, at least five percent of the students will be expected to work in the homeland security fields of public safety, public health, and emergency preparedness.
Currently, in addition to allowing students to finance their education through on-campus jobs such as working in college libraries, cafeterias, and administrative offices, the Federal Work Study Program offers opportunities for students to serve in nonprofit and public organizations, and more than 100,000 students do so. They tutor children, work in public health clinics, help staff homeless shelters, and provide valuable assistance to nonprofit organizations.
The Higher Education Act currently mandates that institutions of higher education devote at least 7 percent of their Federal Work Study funds to community service, though the average devoted to community service across the country is approximately 14 percent. Many institutions devote an even higher percentage.
The recommended increase to a minimum of 50 percent of Work Study resources for community service will mean that 250,000 to 300,000 additional students will serve an average of 10 hours a week in nonprofit organizations across the country. A portion of these additional students will help provide homeland security by serving in the areas of public safety, public health, and emergency preparedness.
The proposal will include incentives for institutions of higher education to implement these changes, which will occur over time.
Established in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps has mobilized more than 160,000 volunteers in 135 countries to "promote world peace and friendship." Over the past 40 years, Americans of all ages have given two or more years of service to help meet the need for trained men and women in developing countries and to promote a better understanding between Americans and citizens of other nations. President Kennedys idea captivated the Nation and continues to instill in new generations of Americans the importance of serving citizens throughout the world.
In June of 1966, the Peace Corps had more than 15,000 volunteers working in the field, the largest number in its history. Today, the number of volunteers is less than half that. We have an obligation to carry on this noble mission, to provide more service opportunities, and to inspire a new generation of Americans to serve abroad.
The Peace Corps has also launched innovative new programs to address important needs. One example is the Crisis Corps, which allows returning volunteers to provide short-term assistance during natural disasters and humanitarian crises. Crisis Corps volunteers have worked on reconstruction efforts in the Caribbean and Central American countries devastated by Hurricanes Georges and Mitch, provided assistance to refugees in Guinea, and are working today in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Former volunteers can be rapidly deployed to meet urgent needs because they know the language, culture, and traditions of the areas in which they serve.
In order to strengthen the Peace Corps, continue its Crisis Corps mission of serving urgent needs, and provide new opportunities in other countries, the Administration is proposing the following initiatives as part of the USA Freedom Corps: