Posted on 27 March 2009
By Mark Miller
President Obama is expected to sign legislation next week that dramatically expands national community service programs, including an exciting boost for midlife career changers interested in non-profit work. The legislation cleared the House of Representatives last week, and was approved yesterday by the Senate under the title “Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.” The bill was re-named for ailing Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy, chief sponsor of the legislation and a long-time advocate of community service programs.
The bill includes a broad increase for positions in programs like Americorps and creates new volunteers programs focused on education, clean energy, health care and veterans. But it also funds programs for older Americans who want to work in non-profit organizations. Specifically, the bill:
–Establishes Encore Fellowships for Americans age 55 or older in one-year management or leadership positions in nonprofit organizations. There will be a maximum of 10 per state.
–Increases the number of AmeriCorps positions to 250,000 (from 75,000 currently) and targets10 percent of those slots for people age 55 or older.
–Allows AmeriCorps members over 55 to transfer their education awards — increased to $5,350 — to their children and grandchildren.
–Creates Silver Scholarships that would provide a $1,000 higher education scholarship to people 55 or older who contribute a minimum of 350 volunteer hours a year. The scholarship is transferable to their children, foster children or grandchildren.
For each Encore Fellowship, $11,000 will be provided by the federal government toward overall compensation of a fellow. Non-profits are likely to match these grants at least one-to-one to compensate fellows, with third parties such as foundations contributing.
When will these opportunities become available? Probably not until the beginning of 2010 under the most optimistic scenarios, according to Civic Ventures, the non-profit think tank and advocate for the initiative. If you’re interested, monitor updates on the Corporation for National and Community Service website and at Encore Careers, the Civic Ventures website devoted to midlife career transition. Encore Careers expects to post information on how to apply for fellowships, as it becomes available. I’ll stay on top of it here at RetirementRevised, as well.