In April 2009, just three months after Barack Obama was sworn in as president, we gave a Promise Kept rating to a campaign promise he made regarding AmeriCorps, the federal agency that promotes national service. Obama had pledged during the 2008 presidential campaign to "expand and fund AmeriCorps from 75,000 slots today to 250,000,” including five new units, a Classroom Corps, a Health Corps, a Clean Energy Corps, a Veterans Corps and a Homeland Security Corps.
We based our Promise Kept on Obama's signing of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act on April 21, 2009. The law promised to pour nearly $6 billion over five years into efforts to expand volunteerism in the United States, establishing a framework to expand AmeriCorps from 75,000 positions to 250,000 by 2017.
At the time, we noted that Congress still needed to appropriate the money for several years running if the program was to meet the expansion goals promised by Obama. That hasn't happened.
According to budget documents from the Corporation for National and Community Service -- the parent agency of AmeriCorps -- there are roughly 77,000 AmeriCorps members. That's almost exactly the same number as Obama cited as the starting point for the promise. So there has been little net growth in the program -- certainly nothing remotely approaching the more than tripling Obama had promised.
As for the creation of five new units, AmeriCorps does currently include programs that address each of the five areas Obama cited -- Teach for America, a National Health Corps, an Energy Corps, new AmeriCorps grants for veterans, and a FEMA Corps. However, what these groups do amounts to a reallocation of personnel resources rather than an expansion of the program overall, as initially promised by Obama.
Neither the Corporation for National and Community Service nor the White House responded to inquiries from PolitiFact.
John M. Palguta, vice president for policy at the Partnership for Public Service, suggested that Obama's failure to find funding for the announced expansion "has less to do with any loss of interest on his part and is more a function of the ability of the loyal opposition to use the budget deficit as an effective tool to ‘starve the beast' (that is, government spending). If the president were to ask for the funds necessary to fund the full 250,000 slots, he would have to find some savings elsewhere, which is a very tough proposition these days and, even then, highly unlikely that Congress would agree.”
PolitiFact's policy is not to distinguish between a promise that is blocked and one that is withdrawn. In this case, Obama gets partial credit for ensuring that all five subject areas were covered under AmeriCorps by the end of his first term, but he falls well short of a Promise Kept because the large increase in personnel did not materialize. We rate it a Compromise.