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Procedures for Applying for Service Grants Detailed

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Alexandria, Va.

Grants under the new National and Community Service Act, federal officials said last week, will be distributed through two parallel processes: formula grants available to any state submitting an acceptable plan, and competitive grants, which will go to programs that most closely meet federal priorities.

The Corporation for National and Community Service published guidelines for potential local, state, and national grantees in the Jan. 7 Federal Register, and corporation officials last week held here the first of four technical-assistance "road shows'' designed to help potential applicants.

"I came in knowing virtually nothing so I'm coming out of it learning a lot, but I've also got a fair amount of confusion,'' said Karin Cordell, the education associate for frameworks and standards at the Delaware education department.

"The big issue becomes what relationship you have with your state agency,'' said James R. Lindsay, the director of community services for the Urban League in Washington.

Corporation officials expect to brief more than 1,000 representatives of community organizations, schools, higher-education institutions, state and federal agencies, and national groups at the four planned workshops. The others were to be held in Atlanta, Kansas City, Mo., and Los Angeles last week and this week.

The seminars are part of an ambitious agenda of information dissemination intended to spark participation in the new AmeriCorps program, a Clinton Administration priority that was approved by Congress last year in the national-service act.

Although the recent regulations were technically only proposals and a 30-day comment period is in effect, officials said they are unlikely to change substantially. However, corporation officials emphasized that concerns identified by local and state officials would be taken into account in later years.

National Priorities

States will be eligible for $51.8 million in grants to be distributed under a formula based on population counts. An equal amount will be distributed to states on a competitive basis. States will then distribute allotments to local service programs, which states must describe in their applications.

States must inform the corporation of their intent to apply for grants by Feb. 1, and submit their formal applications by June 15. By Feb. 1, each participating state must also establish a service commission to oversee the program.

The competitive grants will be distributed to states with plans that best address national priorities identified by the corporation.

Those priorities are: early-childhood education, improving student achievement, crime control, home- and community-based health care, neighborhood-building efforts, and environmental preservation.

Awards will be announced by Aug. 1, and programs are expected to start no later than January 1995.

In addition, the corporation will make about $48 million in competitive grants to national or regional organizations, state consortia, and federal agencies, with at least $32 million reserved for nonfederal applicants. Applications from these organizations are due April 15, awards will be announced by June 1, and programs are to start as soon as July.

Three kinds of grants will be available to service projects: planning grants of $50,000 to $250,000 for six months to a year, for new programs; operating grants, for as much as $4 million over a period of up to three years, for continuing programs; and grants for existing programs that are applying for participant benefits but not operating funds.

Applicants for planning and operation grants are expected to match 25 percent of their federal grants with other funding, and higher-education institutions must provide a 50 percent match.

The corporation expects to enroll 20,000 volunteers in AmeriCorps and its other service programs by the end of the year. They will each receive a stipend of at least $7,440 and an educational benefit of $4,725 to be held in a trust fund.

Corporation officials also provided details about the "Summer of Safety.'' More than 6,000 service participants are expected to take part in the 10-week program this summer. Projects, which must be designed to improve community safety, will be selected in March.

Information about service grants may be obtained by calling (202) 606-4949, and information about volunteering at (800) 94-ACORPS.

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