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EXPERT AVAILABLE: Obama Signs Serve America Act, Energizes National Service Movement, MU Expert Says

April 29, 2009

Story Contact:  Emily Smith, (573) 882-3346,
Eric Greitens, (314) 588-8805,

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Last week, President Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, allocating almost $6 billion to new and existing service programs. Eric Greitens, a University of Missouri public affairs expert, says the bill is a call to service for all Americans.

"Americans of all ages - students, working adults, retirees - will have increased opportunities to engage in service through this act," said Greitens, senior fellow in the MU Truman School of Public Affairs. "Specifically, the legislation will improve opportunities for young people in low-income, high-need communities. The legislation establishes a tax incentive for employers to allow employees to take paid leave for full-time service, and the Encore Fellowship program will help retirees apply their wisdom and skills in service to their communities."

The new law will increase the number of AmeriCorps positions from 75,000 to 250,000 by the year 2017, increase its education subsidies, and create a reserve of AmeriCorps veterans to mobilize in disaster zones. Obama proposed $1.1 billion for AmeriCorps in his budget plan, a 25 percent increase from last year.

"The increase in AmeriCorps funding will enable an additional 175,000 Americans to perform a year of service; it is a robust, responsible increase in the budget of one of the most important programs in America," Greitens said. "The Serve America Act has the potential to help the country expand service opportunities while addressing critical social issues and improving Americans' quality of life."

Greitens, a Navy SEAL officer, is volunteer chairman and chief executive of The Mission Continues. The organization's mission is to provide service opportunities for wounded veterans who still have the desire to serve their country, but whose disabilities prevent them from continuing to serve in the military. The Mission Continues accomplishes this goal by awarding fellowships for volunteer work to veterans who have suffered severe or traumatic injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan.

In October 2008, President George W. Bush presented Greitens with the President's Volunteer Service Award in recognition of his inspiring national leadership working with wounded and disabled veterans. Greitens teaches public service, ethics and leadership at the MU Truman School of Public Affairs. He has a background in academics, athletics, humanitarianism, government, non-profit organizations and the military, which he uses to bring new insight to the students he teaches at MU.