Presently, the US Armed Forces offer an educational program called the GI Bill. The soldier invests $100.00 per month for a period of 3 years in conjunction with a three year military commitment. After these conditions have been met, the government matches the amount, invests it in a group investment fund and then makes these funds available for general educational use by all qualifying participants in the program.
The key to this program is that the military benefits from the soldier's service and the group body benefits from the mass investments of it's participants. This is what makes the program viable and provides profit for both agencies involved. In order to provide a civilian bill of equal value, these two elements must be the primary focus in order to attract political support. It must be a win/win scenario or it would just wind up in the bottom of some politician's waste bin.
With this in mind I propose the following:
A. Applicants to the program should meet the following criteria:
- Applicants should pass a physical screening that finds them capable of performing basic manual labor.
- Applicants should pass a mental health screening that finds them psychologically fit for community service.
- Applicants should pass a back ground investigation that proves their moral commitment to their community. Any applicant who is a felon, violent criminal, or sexual offender, would be deemed ineligible. This is subject to adjustment as I believe this area needs to be expanded to cover all contingencies. Moral fiber is essential in community activity.
- Applicants should fall below a set income level, to be determined at a later date. This program is designed to provide for those who can not afford to provide for themselves, through education and employment.
- Relocate to a designated work site as determined by the needs of the program.
- Sign a three to five year contract, committing them to the program. Failure to meet their contractual obligation would nullify all benefits.
- Prepare themselves for strenuous work in the form of menial labor, training in counseling of victims, and the rigors of experiencing areas deemed to be effected by disaster.
- To provide emergency relief personnel to areas effected by disaster: eg ... flood, famine, fire, acts of god, etc.
- To work towards the improvement of the community through area beatification, maintenance and repair: eg....road cleanup, park restoration, rural road and bridge repair in conjunction with the DOH (department of highways), general building maintenance and repair of community buildings essential to the moral, spiritual, emotional and physical well being of the citizenry (churches, community centers, crisis support centers such as rape counseling and domestic violence, food kitchens, half way houses, etc).
- To provide support and counseling for disaster and trauma survivors: eg....suicide prevention hot lines, walk in support counseling for disaster victims, initial rape counseling support groups, temporary domestic violence safe housing (temporary in that the victim could seek shelter there in until the staff can obtain permanent accommodations through other support organizations; it should be added that the CSO must be prepared for extensive communication with other organizations at all times. Networking with others is one of the highest of all valued skills in community service), establishment of food kitchens, emergency shelter, temporary educational facilities for under age school age children to maintain continuity in the face of adversity, and basic medical and sanitary services.
- To teach at all times and on all levels. To instruct it's staff in the areas of counseling, empathetic response to victimization, and how to direct customers to other agencies that can further assist them in their time of loss and/or trauma.
- An initial loan from the state level (amount to determined at a later date) would be issued to establish the agency, to be repaid at an acceptable interest rate over the first 4 to 10 years of the programs operation (actual time frame also to be determined at a later date in reference to the actual amount of the loan).
- As one of the missions of the CSO would be community beatification and maintenance (see paragraph C, article 2), the CSO would seek out and obtain contracts throughout the state to do labor work replacing rural bridges, repairing churches, and other forms of menial construction and repair.
- A department within the CSO would be established to perform telemarketing campaigns to raise funding. The CSO
- The CSO would sub contract it's services to state and national parks for restoration and improvement of the those facilities in replacement of the expensive and time consuming process of the "open contractors bidding system".
YEARS OF SERVICE MONTHLY SALARY HAZARDOUS DUTY ASSIGNMENT BONUS
1st year of service $800.00 $400.00
2 to 3 years $1000.00
4 years plus $1200.00
Those with long terms of service would be provided a slightly elevated pay scale to be determined at a later date.
F. The CSO would provide all accepted applicants with adequate housing and three well balanced meals a day, as well uniforms and equipment deemed necessary for their job performance. I would suggest a dormitory style environment with a cafeteria. To minimize costs the applicants would rotate duties within the kitchen and be required to perform their own household maintenance.
G. Membership within the job corp would not require the participants to enroll in the educational bill itself, this would be an option available to them. If they desire to participate, they would be required to invest $100.00 per month for a term of no less than three years and no more than six. The funds invested would be placed in a high yield 401k style account. At the completion of their service, the applicants would have available to them, their initial investment of $3,600.00 to $7,200.00, plus an accrued interest roughly in the neighborhood of $1,800.00 to $3,600.00, giving them and available amount of $5,400.00 to $10,800.00 towards their college or trade school educational fees. This equates to two to four years of tuition fees, depending on their investment. They of course would need additional financial aid, but the Pel Grant and student work programs would more than cover the needs of food, housing, books and school supplies.
To summarize, the CSO, would be a non-profit group devoted to not only bettering the community, but also providing for it's participants both a wage, education, and pride in their state and country, and providing the state/federal government, a much needed series of services and in the process turning a profit that partially assists in lowering the national and state debts.
The pilot program would be established on a small scale within one of the rural communities in WVa. It would be a one building operation, consisting of housing and a kitchen for the staff, and offices for the various departments run by the CSO. The primary focus of the first few years would be to build the programs themselves, and to establish a base revenue for the CSO. Once these conditions have been met, the CSO can expand upon itself, concentrating on repaying its loans and working towards federal acceptance and assistance in a nation wide program of expansion.
One item of note; enrollment and completion of service commitment within the CSO would be considered the equivalent of completion of military service. The service member would be considered exempt from involuntary state and federal service, eg... the draft.