04/04/2011 12:29 pm ET Updated Jun 04, 2011

Stopping Cuts That "Knock the Legs Out" From Our Communities

Economists and policy analysts have already shown clearly that the drastic budget cuts proposed in the House will cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs and endanger the faltering economic recovery.

Beyond that, though, these myopic cuts threaten to knock the legs out from beneath many critical nonprofits and charities -- efforts that have long enjoyed enthusiastic bipartisan support.

Many of the cuts proposed so far target a wide array of programs that empower low-income people to climb out of poverty and serve their communities.

The House-passed budget eliminates the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the YouthBuild program. These are prime examples of precious entities that have created widespread opportunities for people who need them.

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) sponsors AmeriCorps, VISTA, Service Learning, and Experience Corps. AmeriCorps members volunteer in such national treasures as City Year, Teach for America, Habitat for Humanity, Service and Conservation Corps and hundreds of other community-serving innovative programs that provide solutions for many of America's key problems.

The YouthBuild program -- sponsored by community-based organizations in nearly 300 of America's most disadvantaged urban and rural communities -- helps low-income young people rebuild their communities and their lives. While these young men and women study for their GED or high school diploma, they also are building affordable housing for their neighbors or retrofitting energy-inefficient buildings.

Since 1993, more than 100,000 YouthBuild students have produced over 20,000 affordable homes. More than nine of every 10 YouthBuild students had previously left high school without a diploma, so this experience offered them a rare and critical chance to get their lives back on track.

Together, all these programs -- from Americorps to Conservation Corps to YouthBuild -- cost taxpayers $1.1 billion, a paltry sum when you compare it to the lives helped and the communities improved.

But if you want numbers, we've got numbers.

Researchers have shown that every dollar spent on a YouthBuild student results in a return on investment of at least $7.80; and every dollar spent on a court-involved YouthBuild student results in a return of at least $10.90 (and up to $43.80) in taxes paid, crimes not committed, dependency overcome. The program's long-term savings are being ignored in favor of politically motivated cuts.

Eliminating these crucial service programs is the very definition of short-sighted. It would be a radical step backward, decimating community-based infrastructure that gives hope and opportunity to hundreds of thousands.

President Obama knows how important these programs are. In his budget, they get a boost.

Want to help? Call 855-US-SERVE to tell your senators to save YouthBuild, Americorps, Conservation Corps and the other crucial service programs. They form the foundation on which we build strong communities.