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Bill Proposes Debt Relief in Exchange for National Service Participation

On Tuesday, five Representatives introduced legislation that would offer student debt relief to people who participate in national service opportunities like AmeriCorps.

The ACTION for National Service bill would 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.

The bill renews President John F. Kennedy’s historic call to service, and was introduced by Reps. John B. Larson (CT-01), Joe Kennedy III (MA-04), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Donna Shalala (FL-27) and Katie Hill (CA-25). Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced a companion bill in the Senate as well.

“Paying for higher education is something that many people struggle with, and this legislation will allow students to help their communities, and in turn receive either student loan relief or an educational credit,” Congressman Larson said in a statement. “For every year of service, students will receive the equivalent of two-years in-state tuition. The saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats, and this legislation will achieve that.”

Currently, most individuals who apply to AmeriCorps and want to make a difference in their communities have their applications rejected. In 2012, nearly 80 percent out of total 600,000 applications were turned away.

The bill proposes increasing access to national service opportunities by raising AmeriCorps living stipend amounts and advancing national and community service as a civic and national priority by elevating the Corporation of National & Community Service (CNCS) to a new Cabinet-level agency.

The bill also seeks to create a 21st Century American Service Outreach Program to notify eligible individuals about opportunities to serve, and support at least one million full-time federal service positions a year to provide opportunities to those who wish to serve their communities.

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