LEWISTON – A local AmeriCorps group may be one of only three Maine chapters running next year.

The Lewiston-based Maine Service Corps has been placed on a standby list for national funding.

“I’m just saying a lot of thankful prayers at this point,” said Sandy Goss, director of the Maine Service Corps.

Only two Maine chapters have been guaranteed funding so far. The Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps, says the Lewiston group will get the money it needs if the federal government boosts national AmeriCorps aid for next year.

AmeriCorps was established in 1993 as a kind of domestic Peace Corps. Volunteers join state AmeriCorps chapters and spend more than 10 months working on projects for nonprofit groups. In Maine, for example, volunteers have overseen service learning projects in schools, monitored water quality on the coast and taught migrant workers about pesticide safety.

In return, AmeriCorps offers health insurance, child care and training. It also gives a $9,300 stipend for living expenses and a $4,725 education award to full-time volunteers.

About 50,000 people serve in AmeriCorps every year. This year, Maine had more than 163 volunteers working in eight chapters across the state.

But in recent years, the Corporation for National and Community Service has dealt with accounting and management problems, including a failure to budget for future education awards.

In November, it told state chapters that it had authorized too many positions and halted the acceptance of new volunteers. That moratorium was lifted in March.

The corporation says it has enough money in its trust to pay education awards for all past and present AmeriCorps volunteers, but has decided to cut its member base from 50,000 to between 3,000 and 7,000 in an effort to correct its management of the trust. The cuts were recently recommended by federal auditors.

Such severe cuts mean that Maine will go from 163 AmeriCorps volunteers to 10.

Those 10 have been guaranteed to a Farmington chapter for emergency response training and to a Portland chapter for work with young community volunteers.

In Lewiston, the seven-year-old Maine Service Corps will get money for volunteers if the federal government increases AmeriCorps funding.

In the past, local volunteers supervised and mentored juvenile offenders who were sentenced to community service. If funded next year, the chapter has agreed to change its name and its focus. It will become the Maine Independence Corps, with volunteers working on ways to keep elderly and disabled residents in their homes.

According to the Maine Commission for Community Service, which oversees state AmeriCorps chapters, it would take another $472,000 in funding to pay for volunteers at three Maine chapters. It would take $200 million to pay for all volunteers nationwide, including all 163 volunteers at Maine’s eight chapters.

AmeriCorps will find out in the next few weeks whether Congress will approve the money.

Until then, Maine AmeriCorps members are holding out hope.

“The next month is critical,” said Maryalice Crofton, director of the Maine Commission for Community Service.



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