Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has proposed strengthening national service opportunities to encourage Americans to serve their communities.
Buttigieg announced his “New Call to Service” policy proposal on Wednesday, which aims to create a network of 1 million national service members by 2026. The proposal also promised sops like student debt forgiveness, vocational training, and hiring preference for those who take part in service.
The plan proposed increasing paid national service opportunities, and subsequently, additional funding for the Serve America Act to increase the applicant intake of the existing federal and AmeriCorps grantee organizations from the present 75,000 to 250,000.
Service members will focus on key challenges like resilience and sustainability against climate disruption; addiction, mental health, and substance use; and long-term caregiving and intergenerational mentorship.
Buttigieg added that these new Service Year Fellowships will specifically target students in high schools, community colleges, vocational schools, historically black college and universities (HBCUs), and minority serving institutions (MSIs).
The proposal also calls to expand upon existing, as well as create new service corps including a Climate Corps, Community Health Corps, and Intergenerational Service Corps.
The exceptionally important part of @PeteButtigieg‘s push to make national service the norm for every American is that it recognizes that for a pluralistic country to thrive in an increasingly fractionalized society we need a common experience that binds us all together. https://t.co/5VjWtQ8xwQ
— Hari Sevugan (@HariSevugan) July 3, 2019
“This announcement is just the beginning. On the trail, we will continue to meet with local service leaders, and in the coming months we hope you will join us in a National Day of Service, to further root our campaign in an ethos of service,” Buttigieg said.
Earlier in his campaign, Buttigieg promised to ensure zero tuition for middle-income families at public colleges and dedicated support to HBCUs and MSIs. He also proposed largely increasing Pell Grants that help students with basic living expenses and keep up with inflation.
Last month, five Representatives including Reps. John B. Larson (CT-01), Joe Kennedy III (MA-04) introduced the ACTION for National Service bill that would offer student debt relief to people who participate in national service opportunities like AmeriCorps.
The bill proposes to reduce student debt by ensuring that young people who serve two full terms of service are rewarded with educational benefits equal to four years of average in-state tuition where their college is located. It also proposes to keep those educational benefits exempt from federal taxes.