Today marks the much-anticipated inauguration of our next President. And to a country in the middle of two wars and a deepening recession, it is a moment of hope. There is much speculation about what this new President will do for our country. Particularly in the nonprofit sector, which always bears the brunt of any economic downturn, there is much anticipation about what tomorrow will bring for the sector. As we watch the ceremony and festivities today, here are some thoughts about what the new administration might mean for the social sector.
Obama made many plans and promises about national service and social innovation during his campaign. I wrote about that here. Basically his ideas were:
- Growth of current national service programs like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps
- $4,000 tax credits to college students in exchange for 100 hours of community service
- Expanded programs for engaging retirees in community service
- 50 hours of required community service from middle and high school students each year
- Expansion of YouthBuild
- Allocation of 25% of college work study funds to community service projects
And, indeed, many of these ideas are contained in the economic stimulus package currently in front of Congress. The Chronicle of Philanthropy gives a great summary of the implications of that plan on the nonprofit sector. But in essence, the plan includes:
- $200 million to expand AmeriCorps by 16,000 members
- $50 million to the National Endowment for the Arts for grants to arts groups
- $50 million to Youth Build USA, a social entrepreneurial organization putting low-income young people to work building affordable housing. You can see a video clip about this organization here.
- $87 billion to temporarily increase the federal portion of Medicaid
- $2.1 billion to Head Start to serve 110,000 additional children and create 50,000 jobs
- $1 billion for Community Services Block Grants, and $1 billion for Community Development Block Grants which help states provide social services and housing to low-income residents
- $1 billion for Child Care and Development Block Grants
- $1 billion to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program
- $1 billion to help community health centers renovate their facilities, and $500-million to help them provide care to uninsured and underinsured patients
- $120 million to the Community Service Employment for Older Americans program, which would allow charities and other groups to add 24,000 participants
- $100 million to the Compassion Capital Fund, which provides grants to religious and other charities to provide social services
However, these changes don’t go as far as many in the sector would like. A coalition of several social entreprenurial groups, including America Forward, America’s Promise Alliance, Be the Change, and Citizen Schools, are urging Obama to create a “nonprofit stimulus package.” The package would include a Social Investment Fund Network, a government and private venture philanthropy fund that invests growth capital in social entrepreneurs.
But before Obama has even been inaugurated, he has made a grand gesture towards the sector. Yesterday Colin Powell, founder of America’s Promise Alliance, lead Obama’s Renew America Together Initiative where unprecedented numbers of Americans spent MLK Day doing volunteer service. Obama has pledged to make service a key part of his plan for getting America back on track.
This is an historic, exciting time.
Photo courtesy of CNN.