The Serve America Act has been reintroduced in the Senate this session by Senators Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch (S.277) and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

The New York Times highlighted it in an editorial last Monday, arguing that, at a cost of $5 billion, the bill would be a thrifty, yet apt partner to the $825 billion stimulus package that the Congress is looking to pass. The Times also points out that Serve America matches the call for a “spirit of service” that Obama sounded in his inaugural address.

Kennedy and Hatch want to increase the number of full- and part-time volunteers national service volunteers to 250,000 from its current number of 75,000. The editorial goes on to describe the other contents of the bill.

The new positions would be devoted to meeting challenges in a handful of targeted areas: tackling the dropout crisis, strengthening schools, improving health care and economic opportunity in low-income communities, cleaning up parks, aiding efforts to boost energy efficiency, and responding to disasters and emergencies.

The Serve America Act is structured to invite participation by people of all income levels and ages, including retirees. It would offer tax incentives for employers who allow employees to take paid leave for full-time service, and permit older individuals to transfer their education awards to a child or grandchild. A new Volunteer Generation Fund would help nonprofit groups recruit and manage an expanding pool of volunteers.

This legislation dovetails with Obama’s emphasis on responsibility and shared sacrifice. It would create additional jobs and continually improve our infrastructure and way of life. This is a fantastic opportunity for the government to invest in the citizenry, especially given the rise of the volunteer-heavy Millennial Generation and the popularity of President Obama’s message.

Further reading:

Press release from Senator Kennedy’s office

Summary of the bill