NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Clinton "Volunteers" For Disaster

April 25, 1997

The Presidents' Summit For America's Future, to be convened to praise the tradition of volunteerism in America, would do well to consider the damage Washington, D.C. has done to that tradition since the 1930s and 1940s, analysts note.

They say AmeriCorps is a good case study showing why the government should stay out of the volunteer sector.

Costs of the "volunteer" program are high.

  • AmeriCorps pays its volunteers--which by definition makes them not volunteers --and offers a $4,725 voucher to eligible graduating participants.
  • The agency that oversees AmeriCorps costs the government $400 million and currently is the largest new federal program in recent years.
  • Though Congress was assured when AmeriCorps was created the cost of volunteers would be under $18,000, a July 1995 audit by the General Accounting Office (GAO) revealed the cost is from $26,000 to $32,000.

Designed to promote volunteerism and as a cost-effective way to help families pay for education, AmeriCorps has done little in the way of promoting either, according to a February 24, 1997, GAO audit:

  • Almost 40 percent of program volunteers dropped out.
  • AmeriCorps has generated limited private-sector support, with 83 percent of funding coming directly from taxpayers.
  • Only half of eligible participants used their education funds upon completion of service (in some programs the figure dropped as low as 18 percent).
  • Another independent study found AmeriCorps members created only a 3.5 percent increase in hours volunteered by genuine volunteers.

Given its high costs and dismal record, industry analysts question why President Clinton wants to increase AmeriCorps' funding to $546.5 million next year, equal to the amount of taxes paid by 2.5 million average working families.

Source: Kenneth Weinstein (Government Reform Project), August Stofferahn (Heritage Foundation), Clearing the Way for Genuine Volunteers," Washington Times, April 25, 1997.


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