PORTLAND (AP) – Local supporters of AmeriCorps say proposed cutbacks would effectively devastate the community-service program in Maine.

Since 1993, the Corporation for National Service, the parent agency of AmeriCorps, has annually funded more than 50,000 positions throughout the country.

Because of past accounting problems, the corporation says it is only expecting to fund between 3,000 and 7,000 positions this fall.

In small states like Maine, the funding cuts would have drastic repercussions. All but 10 of the state’s 163 AmeriCorps members working on service projects in the state would be eliminated.

“The impact is just huge,” said Maryalice Crofton, director of the Maine Commission for Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps in Maine. “This is a huge resource that’s seriously at risk.”

Crofton said funding must be secured by Aug. 1 to ensure that positions can be filled in October.

AmeriCorps served 300 nonprofit organizations across the state last year. Between 1998 and 2002 AmeriCorps recruited more than 28,000 Maine citizens as volunteers and raised more than $13 million in local resources.

AmeriCorps members serve either full- or part-time over a 10- to 12-month period. Their service projects include tutoring and mentoring youth, building affordable housing, cleaning parks and streams, running after-school programs, and helping communities respond to disasters.

AmeriCorps is open to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents or older. There are members of all ages and education grant incentives for college students who join.

Full-time members who serve for 1,700 hours are awarded a $4,725 education grant to pay for college, graduate school, or to pay back student loans. They also receive health insurance, training, and student-loan deferment. About half of the members also receive a modest annual living allowance of about $9,300. Members who serve part-time receive a partial education award.

After completing their service, AmeriCorps members have up to seven years to redeem their education awards.

In recent years, however, the Corporation for National Service has been under scrutiny for complex accounting and management problems, such as not budgeting for looming education awards.

The corporation says there is enough money in the National Service Trust to pay for education awards for all past and currently enrolled AmeriCorps members. But the agency is making significant cutbacks for next year, as recommended recently by federal auditors, to correct its management of the trust.

Sen. Olympia Snowe has called the corporation’s proposed cutbacks “draconian” and says she will work to restore funding.

AP-ES-06-18-03 0844EDT



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