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Service Coalitions Propose ‘Nonprofit Stimulus Package’

Several coalitions of groups promoting community and national service are urging President-elect Obama and Congress to include a “nonprofit stimulus package” as part of the economic-recovery plan they are drafting.

The package should include money to expand national-service programs and support nonprofit groups that are providing “vital” services in areas like education, youth development, poverty alleviation, and the environment, they say in a letter they are circulating to get more signatures.

“We believe that service and the nonprofit sector have a vital role to play in the nation’s short- and long-term economic recovery and urge you to make significant strategic investments in these two areas as part of the economic stimulus package,” it says.

The proposals were drafted by the coalitions America Forward, ServiceNation, and Voices for National Service. The e-mail seeking additional signatures says representatives of the groups are meeting with the Obama transition team next Monday.

The letter, addressed to President-elect Barack Obama and Congressional leaders, says nonprofit groups are threatened by “debilitating job losses due to shrinking revenue” while also facing increased demand for their services.

It says the economic-recovery plan should include proposals to expand national-service programs like AmeriCorps, and to create new ones, that Mr. Obama has already put forward and that are included in the proposed Serve America Act, S. 3487. Those would create more than 125,000 new full-time and part-time jobs by summer 2009, and an additional 50,000 new jobs the following year, the letter says.

That would “provide a critical, low-cost workforce for the nonprofit sector during challenging economic times, while leveraging hundreds of millions of dollars in private matching funds,” the letter says.

The package should also create a “nonprofit stimulus fund” patterned after Mr. Obama’s campaign pledge to create a Social Investment Fund Network, which would distribute government and private money to innovative charities working on projects that cities have identified as important, it adds.

The letter is signed by executives at a variety of nonprofit groups involved in the service coalitions, including America’s Promise Alliance, Be the Change, Citizen Schools, City Year, Civic Enterprises, and the Points of Light Institute. Joel Fleishman, professor of law and public policy, and Edward Skloot, director of the Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society, both at Duke University, have also signed it.

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