Eleanor Holmes Norton

DC Missed Deadline for Millions in Federal Funding for Volunteer Programs

Serve DC missed a deadline to submit applications for about $4 million worth of grants for volunteer groups, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service

Some nonprofits who work with underserved students in D.C. are scrambling after the city missed an application deadline for funding from the federal government.

Serve DC missed a Jan. 30 deadline to submit applications for about $4 million worth of grants, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which administers the country-wide volunteer program Americorps. The mayor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

If applications are submitted late, they are considered noncompliant and they are not reviewed, according to CNCS.

City Year, which supports public schools in poor areas, applied for $2.8 million to support the service of 190 Americorps volunteers, is one organization impacted.

"We are committed to ensuring that we have AmeriCorps members serving students and schools in DC next year, and we are exploring options to address the shortfall," said a statement from the organization.

Reading Partners sought more than $560,000 in funding that would have supported 37 Americorps members.

"We know that Serve DC is working on finding a remedy for this issue, and we are optimistic they will get it fixed," spokesperson Michael Todd said in an email.

A third organization, Literacy Lab, was also impacted but didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Every year, organizations send Serve DC applications for this federal funding and then Serve DC submits those applications to the CNCS.

The funding process is competitive, so submitting an application doesn't guarantee money. But the city didn't submit applications to CNCS before the deadline in 2019, essentially rendering any new applications ineligible.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said in a letter obtained by DCist that the agency faced technical problems and followed CNCS directions to submit the application as soon as possible. A spokesperson for CNCS says the city had no tickets open with their technical support staff at the time of the deadline.

The city also missed a window to explain any issues, technical or otherwise, that prevented applications from being submitted on-time, CNCS says.

A spokesperson for CNCS stressed that Americorps will still operate in D.C. through nationally funded or multi-state organizations that don't work through Serve DC.

Furthermore, many organizations that are mid-way through their 3-year grant will still get their money, even though they do have to reapply annually. Teach for America and Jumpstart were among those that will still get Americorps money, according to CNCS.

D.C. also still receives $750,000 in formula funding, which the city can distribute through a competitive or noncompetitive process.

Serve DC has three main functions, according to their website: Bolstering emergency preparedness, promoting volunteerism and getting funding from CNCS for service programs that address critical community needs.

Norton's letter, dated March 29, said that D.C. made "legitimate attempts to submit its application on time." Norton asked CNCS to consider the grant applications and respond within 30 days.

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