The Volunteer Freedom Act

Congressman Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) has introduced H.R.3794, the Volunteer Freedom Act, which would save taxpayers more than $10 billion over the next decade by eliminating the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

Over a year ago, Americans voted online on what programs they think should be cut from the federal budget in order to save money. Based on the massive amount of votes for eliminating the CNCS, Rep. Stutzman responded with this bill.

The CNCS pays people to volunteer. Think about that: your tax dollars are being used to pay someone to do something that, by definition, they should be doing for free. And Congress has trouble cutting that spending. Rep. Stutzman explains in a press release:

“My bill is based on a simple truth: it’s not volunteering if it comes with a paycheck. The Volunteer Freedom Act saves taxpayers billions of dollars by ending programs that cut checks to volunteers. It does nothing to discourage the millions of Americans who work for their communities and not for pay. Like so many projects cooked up by Washington’s bureaucracy, the CNCS is unnecessary and expensive. Last year alone, the program cost taxpayers over a billion dollars. It doesn’t make sense. Americans volunteer because we believe in better communities, stronger families, and personal commitments. Volunteering isn’t something we do for our bottom line.”

It is estimated that continuing to fund the CNCS will cost taxpayers more than $11.5 billion over the next ten years. Only 8% of the millions of Americans who volunteer every year do so through the CNCS. Rep. Stutzman’s bill would allow a one-year grace period for the program before transitioning over to true volunteerism.

Our national debt currently stands at over $15.3 trillion dollars. We’ve had trillion dollar plus deficits every year since President Obama was inaugurated. Yet somehow Congress finds it nearly impossible to find anything in the budget to cut. H.R.3794 is a simple step towards eliminating wasteful spending and getting our budget under control.

Please Share Your Thoughts

14 thoughts on “The Volunteer Freedom Act

  1. Ms. Schow. Please do your research before spreading false statements. CNCS does not pay people to volunteer. CNCS administers national service programs such as AmeriCorps and Senior Corps which engage American’s in full time – year long service to our country for a modest stipend. Comparing national service and traditional volunteering is comparing apples to oranges and your organization should know the difference.

    In these tough economic times, our country needs cost effective strategies to address many of our nations most pressing challenges in education, disaster response and recovery, supporting our veterans and military families, economic opportunity, and much more and national service does just that. For every dollar invested in national service taxpayers receive $2.01. Gov. Haley Barbour, President George H.W. Bush, President George W. Bush, Sen. Orrin Hatch, Sen. John McCain, and many other prominent republicans understand this and are strong supporters of national service.

  2. A very misguided bill and factually incorrect. AmeriCorps and other national service programs don’t pay people to volunteer – they pay them to fill key skill gaps at nonprofits who employ millions of people and play a vital role in every U.S. community. AmeriCorps alumni have better job skills, earn higher wages and hence, pay more in taxes down the road. This program will actually COST our economy billions of dollars. A major mistake.

  3. I love to chuckle at the cognitive dissonance of comments in favor of spending money towards programs our country “needs in these tough economic times” as if the additional debt incurred and interest generate doesn’t completely undercut whatever meager benefits are produced. Also that we somehow get more out of government in value than we put in. If this were true then we’d have no need for a private sector as everything would be provided through government and we’d have an explosion of wealth and slashing of cost (especially with a 2 to 1 multiplier like noted)

    No, we don’t “receive” (at least not directly) $2.01 for ever dollar spent or else these programs would pay for themselves and then some, no we only “receive” $2.01 for every dollar spent under the assumption that we are receiving more initial value than what we paid to organize these volunteers (i.e. getting a bargain) or that the long-term value of that volunteer work (e.g. skills used in AmeriCorps service project will somehow equate to a higher paying job) amounts to $2.01 . The former assumes that the value of the service is properly valued at market-going rates (as opposed to any inflated scale) and the latter assumes that those values couldn’t have been realize in any other way without spending one red cent (e.g. the volunteer could have obtained the same obtain skills from volunteering through a a non-CNCS-related or some private training course) and thus make the value gained moot as we could have spent absolutely nothing publicly still have wound up with the same outcome.

    Whether the check goes directly to volunteers or to somebody organizing volunteers we are *paying* to have volunteer work done. How does simply organizing volunteer workers cost nearly a *billion* dollars over the course of a year? Also, since CNCS is a public-private partnership (at least according to their site), why not just have them go completely public and cut off the private aspect. Surely there’d still be the demand for volunteers without us subsidizing these groups with our tax dollars. Given the nature of their (non-profit) buisness, I would think it suitable to their operations if they called for donations from private entities rather than being on the public dole. I mean, they’re already relying on people to donate their time and labor, why not ask some benefactors to donate some funds to support their bottom line of organizing the resources needed for all their volunteer projects?

  4. If this resolution passes, the non-profit world will take a huge hit. Not only will the corps members lose their positions, but many people will lose their jobs. The loss of funding will also hurt those with actual employment and drop the volunteer opportunities in this country. No one who is receiving the money from CNCS are there because of the money. Without it though, full time volunteers would not be able to survive without other government help like unemployment benefits and food stamps.

    Yes, maybe the definition of volunteering means that it is supposed to be without payment. Then maybe we should instead create a new word for a full time volunteer who is getting payed below minimum wage and make a new corporation to govern them. That’d be easier right?

  5. Hmm lots of complaining going on… seems to me volunteer work by definition is “without” pay and pay for volunteer should never have started. Fighting to keep this in these times of huge deficits is just fighting to help the federal government choose winners and losers by deciding what charitable groups get funding. I support this Act and all other attempts to make real cuts. People and organizations will support real needs without the government being involved. If we don’t make cuts, not just ‘’reduced increases” we’ll have a total and there won’t be a bigger gov available to bail us out.

    • 1) If you volunteered for the military, you would still get paid. ( I suggest you find a dictionary) 2) CNCS supports national and community service in many ways. Some of them involve volunteering and others don’t.

  6. Americorps volunteers get a stipend of $400/month in many of the programs. Congressmen like Rep. Stutzman make more than that IN A SINGLE DAY. Americorps volunteers fight fires, re-build after tornadoes, and teach our children to read. Rep. Stutzman sits in an office all day.

    You simply cannot get the same type of work from all the wonderful Americans who have other full-time jobs and volunteer somewhere once a month or a few hours a week. Kids who are falling through the cracks cannot be supported with a monthly volunteer. My heart broke for the people of Joplin and Alabama after the tornadoes; for the Katrina victims. But I had a full-time job and could not go help rebuild their homes. This is disengenous of Rep. Stutzman to suggest that we are paying these volunteers to do what any American could do in his/her free time. That is far from true.

    These volunteers work full-time. Do you seriously think that anyone who is as qualified as these volunteers, and as well-trained, would give up an entire year to do this important work without any sort of compensation? How would they eat? The stipend works out to $400 a month. $400. College graduates are volunteering to make what would amount to $4800/year. If that’s unreasonable and they are “profiting” when they are supposed to be serving, I would love to hear Stutzman’s proposal for modifying payments to those “serving” in Congress.

  7. It’s misleading because it has the word ‘volunteer’ in it, and yes the definition of volunteer is working without pay. However, what CNCS actually does is create hundreds of thousands of jobs costing 1 million a year, total. Can you name any other industry that can do that? You would be hurting the economy far worse than you’d be helping it.

    I am a current AmeriCorps member and work for less than minimum wage when I work overtime, which is just about every week. And I will do it again next year, because I care about this country and want to serve. If you would like to know more about what CNCS actually is, you can talk to me about it, instead of repeating a bunch of bullsh*t that isn’t true.

    • How is it just that CNCS can get away with paying you less than the federal minimum wage for your time? The harsh reality is that you are being used for cheap labor (albeit labor towards benevolent causes) and it is only deemed as acceptable it seems because you are labeled as a “volunteer’ rather than a temporary employee.

      At least one other rationalization I’ve heard for this low pay is also that you are being compensated by being able to “develop job skills and get experience” which will then help with your employment prospects …. as opposed to unpaid internships that provide the same skills and experience … or even going so far as taking an entrepreneurial risk and creating an avenue to develop those same skills and experience which could land you a nice position in a company (or lead you to start one of your own even!).

      • Wow, MerlinYoda, I wish I had YOUR insight when I was fresh out of college. How dare I believed that my honors education from a highly-ranked university would land me in a “nice position in a company” on my own. Instead, I ended up serving my country, bettering my community, and, as you said, “being used for cheap labor”.

        • Your obvious snide sarcasm aside, serving your country doesn’t necessarily have to entail costing taxpayer dollars to do so. Also “serving your country” doesn’t automatically necessitate that the pursuit is entirely benevolent/wholesome. The world is more complicated than that. A lot of atrocities in history have been committed by people that were “just doing their duty in service of their country”. Not saying that your time “in service” was despicable, but neither does it seem like it was entirely selfless.

          I’m sure you performed several labors that a particular community benefited from, but at what cost? I’m not just talking the cost of any stipend you may or may not have received, I’m talking the cost of having that task being removed as a potential source of income by some other employee of, say, some non-profit group that didn’t have a cozy partnership with the government.

          Besides, the whole point of volunteering is to give of ones own labor unselfishly to the betterment of the community. If you’r getting a stipend (i.e. the “cheap labor” I referred to) then how is that “volunteering”? It sounds more akin to contract labor. At best, it sounds like some sort of government-sanctioned public works program that doesn’t even pay as well as most public work programs have in the past.

          Finally, just because you get a degree to a high-ranking university doesn’t guarantee you success … just like not having one similarly doesn’t doom you to failure (Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg were both Harvard drop-outs and they’ve done alright for themselves). Many students end up with degrees that have little demand in for them in private (or even public) sector employment … and those degrees that are more marketable are going to have competition. A degree may get your foot in the door for an interview, but it is still dependent on your own effort to “seal the deal” and market your skills as the best available … and in lean economic times, it’s that much more important to do so.

  8. While I agree that the term “volunteer” does denote “without pay”, and that real cuts need to be made to our government’s budget, I would like to encourage you, if you have not, to investigate all the opportunities that the Corporation for National and Community Service helps support. Consider the real cost of cutting this program: many thousands of people across the country will lose their jobs (low-paying, full-time, community service jobs). Many youth will lose a valuable opportunity to develop hands on skills. Many nonprofits will have to quit offering services, and subsequently, many of the people who truly need the services provided by these organizations (and these “paid volunteers”) will have to seek primary care in emergency rooms, will have a higher risk of dropping out of high school, and will be less likely to positively contribute to society. I don’t want the government to spend any more money than it has to, but I also don’t want to see the extended ramifications of cutting a billion dollar industry that provides job skills development, community building opportunities, and extended primary support in a variety of social, educational, and occupational areas. The government is an employer, whether we like it or not, and we all have a stake in how it spends our money. I am no expert on the government’s budget, but I know first hand how far such a small stipend goes in helping numerous people access their full potential in order to become contributing community members. How many “billion-dollar corporations” are we going to have to cut before we get to equilibrium, before we get to a point where government has just enough for a measly defense force, a wholly-inadequate educational system, and other weakened national institutions (parks, emergency services, transportation systems, etc.)? Consider this program and the people it employs, then consider all of those nonprofit businesses and their employees, then consider the at-risk, the youth, the elderly, and the in-need whom the service members support. What of that potential burden upon local communities and other government programs? Do we want to support the proverbial hand up, or push many toward the handout line? This distinction and the loss of thousands of hands-on, real world job training opportunities is what is at stake by supporting Congressman Stutzman and H.R. 3794, not the .0065% of our national budget that this program assumes. If we are so offended by the term “volunteer,” let’s replace it with the frequently used, more freedom-loving term, “corps member,” not simply cut the entire gig.

    http://www.nationalservice.gov/about/role_impact/index.asp

  9. I do believe these people need to get their facts straight! The Corporation for National and Community Service does not pay people in the sense that volunteering = paycheck. This small amount of money they receive is so they do not have to collect “welfare” while volunteering their services to communities that so desperately need them! Many of these people go above and beyond what is expected of them to serve in their communities. How do I know this? Because I am one of them! And I resent the fact that people state that I was “paid” to be an AmeriCorps member.Did you know that the Civilian Conservation Corps (which is now the AmeriCorps National Civilian Conservation Corps) was started by President Franklin D. Roosevelt 1933-1942? And did you realize that in 1944 that thing known as the GI Bill was created? It’s official name is the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 and was created, linking service and education and offering Americans an educational opportunity in return for their service to our Country. In 1961, JFK created the Peace Corps (also known as people who get paid to ‘volunteer’ in other countries) and in 1964, as part of the “War on Poverty,” President Lyndon B. Johnson creates VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), a National Teacher Corps, the Job Corps, and University Year of Action! So you want to explain how you feel that you can just eliminate programs that have been around longer than some people have been alive??

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