AmeriCorps to receive $2.7 million

Sen. Brian Schatz was able to secure $2.7 million to help fund AmeriCorps programs across the state, officials confirmed Wednesday.

“This new funding is great news for Hawaii,” Schatz said. “AmeriCorps members supported by these grants will serve across the state, teaching in high-need schools, improving public parks, and providing legal resources and other services to veterans and their families.”

The funds from the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency for volunteering and service programs, will support three grants.

One will go toward supporting 18 AmeriCorps members who work at the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii. Two of those volunteers work in Lihue at the Kauai office, said Angela Lovitt, Legal Aid AmeriCorps program director.

One of the AmeriCorps members works full time at the Lihue office and walks residents through issues like family law and illegal debt collection. The other member works in the self-help center and works with people in the criminal justice system who don’t have access to an attorney.

“This funding is a great help to our program,” she said. “It’ll allow them to keep doing the services they’re doing for at least another year, which is a tremendous help to us.”

Because additional funding for Legal Aid is a yearly grant, there’s never a guarantee extra monies will come through, Lovitt added.

Statewide, AmeriCorps members have helped more than 1,545 residents, including 145 veterans or veterans’ family members, find the legal information and resources they need, according to a release from the senator’s office.

Data for the number of Kauai residents who received assistance from Legal Aid was not available.

The federal investment will also give grant money to Kupu, an organization that uses their knowledge of environmental stewardship and environmentally-conscious practices to improve Hawaii’s public parks. The grant will support 363 AmeriCorps members serving Hawaii.

Some of the grant money will also go to Teach for America, supporting 150 AmeriCorps members who will serve as full-time teachers in 38 high-need schools on Oahu and the Big Island.

The road to getting funding for the AmeriCorps programs was personal, said Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“This is especially important for me because in a previous life, I was an administrator for a nonprofit organization, and we worked closely with AmeriCorps,” he said. “So it was important to me to help increase funding for the corporation.”

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