National Service Programs:

Two AmeriCorps Programs' Funding and Benefits

HEHS-00-33: Published: Feb 15, 2000. Publicly Released: Feb 22, 2000.

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Cynthia Maher Fagnoni
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO: (1) reviewed two major AmeriCorps programs--AmeriCorps State/National and AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC); (2) compared cost data for NCCC with similar data from the Department of Labor's Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers (CCC) and reasons for any major differences; (3) compared AmeriCorps participant benefits with those afforded entry-level military personnel; and (4) described information available on the results of AmeriCorps programs.

GAO noted that: (1) the NCCC program is completely funded by the Corporation for National Service (CNS), whereas the State/National program is funded jointly by CNS, program grantees, and state commissions; (2) for program year 1998-1999, CNS budgeted $23,426 per NCCC participant and $14,857 per State/National participant; (3) program grantees and state commissions added funds estimated at $8,717 per State/National participant for program year 1998-1999; (4) CNS has the goal of reducing its share of the costs of AmeriCorps grantee programs, but CNS data show that while the selected participant funding that GAO reviewed decreased between program years 1994-1995 and 1998-1999 in State/National, AmeriCorps' largest program, CNS' share of those participant costs actually increased from 52 percent to 55 percent; (5) the budgeted participant costs of Job Corps CCC are higher than those of NCCC; (6) for program year 1998-1999, these costs were $28,933 and $23,426; (7) while these are both residential programs for youths, they differ in ways that make Job Corps CCC more costly; (8) AmeriCorps participants receive less in benefits than entry-level military personnel; (9) while both AmeriCorps and the military provide their participants a living allowance, health benefits, child care assistance, and the opportunity to accumulate funds to pay for education, these benefits are higher in the military, reflecting the greater risks and responsibilities of military service; (10) entry-level military service is potentially the first step in a 20-to-30 year career, whereas AmeriCorps is a service period during which some funds for college are earned; (11) most new military recruits are legally obligated to serve at least 4 years, while AmeriCorps' service is voluntary for a 1-year term; (12) military personnel also receive benefits not available to AmeriCorps participants, including enlistment bonuses, leave accrual, and qualifying service toward retirement pay; (13) CNS generally reports program results as the amount of service performed by AmeriCorps participants; (14) CNS data does not measure AmeriCorps programs' progress toward the strategic goals of strengthening communities and improving participants' lives, as required by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993; and (15) a CNS evaluation identified a number of results-oriented program accomplishments, but CNS has not yet used this information to set useful performance measures in its strategic planning documents.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: CNS has responded to the recommendation by including outcome-oriented goals and data on how AmeriCorps programs make a difference to the communities served and improve the lives of participants. These goals and data were included in its fiscal year 1999 performance report.

    Recommendation: The Chief Executive Officer of CNS should improve the usefulness of its performance planning by adding performance indicators that more directly measure how AmeriCorps programs are meeting their goals to make a difference to the communities served and to improve the lives of participants.

    Agency Affected: Corporation for National Service


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