Iowa in jeopardy of losing millions in community service funding under realignment bill

Gov. Reynolds' push to eliminate and consolidate commissions, could cost the state $32 million in federal funding and 7-thousand volunteers from Americorps.
Published: Sep. 6, 2023 at 6:16 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

DES MOINES, Iowa - Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ push to eliminate and consolidate commissions, could cost the state more than $32 million dollars in federal funding and 7,000 volunteers from AmeriCorps. Whether it’s working with a food bank or helping clean up after the 2020 derecho, AmeriCorps volunteers work in all kinds of community service jobs.

They also give states funding for local nonprofits, but in order to get that funding, AmeriCorps requires states to have a commission in place to direct the money. The Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service is one of dozens of state committees targeted for elimination. It’s part of a law Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds pushed to shrink state government - she argues that will make it more efficient.

Rachel Bruns with America’s Service Commissions says the effects of elimination would be far-reaching.

“Right now, about 90 percent of all AmeriCorps state programs are administered and funded through a state service commission. So, it’s very unlikely that the Federal Goverment would directly fund Iowa nonprofits otherwise,” Bruns said.

Americorps annual reports show they employed nearly 7,000 volunteers and gave out $32.5 million dollars in Iowa in 2021, but Bruns says the value of that work is immeasurable.

“Many AmeriCorps members are serving in after-school settings, they are providing tutoring to improve third-grade reading scores, also many people might recognize AmeriCorps members because they’re often the first on the ground responding to local disasters like tornadoes and floods and the derecho,” Bruns said.

Paul McCormick just finished his third and final year-long term as an Americorps volunteer. McCormick says he doesn’t know how the state would manage community service without the commission.

“The need for a culture of volunteerism in Iowa and throughout the US as well as the infrastructure required to coordinate volunteers’ efforts is more important now than it ever has been. The destructive impacts of eliminating this commission would have widespread effects felt in numerous state agencies, local governments, and school districts and the entire nonprofit community in Iowa,” McCormick said.

That was just one of the complaints about the cuts the commission heard on Wednesday. Another focused on a proposal to eliminate a requirement that boards be gender balanced. The committee has until the end of the month to give its final recommendations to the Governor and lawmakers who will have the final say.