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ALL AmeriCorps programs throughout the United States and its territories are now being required by federal mandate to provide FBI criminal checks, in addition to the local police and court clearances already required.
This new requirement is to increase “vigilance against predatory behavior,” explained Lagrimas Lujan, member of the Serve Guam! board.
Volunteers provide tutoring and mentoring with young children and vulnerable populations who may be at risk. Although no local cases of abusive behavior have occurred, Lujan reassures that her group supports the stricter regulations 100 percent.
“It's just that it comes with a high price tag,” Lujan said.
Currently, the ServeGuam! commission is made up of about 200 volunteers, all of which must be cleared both locally and federally. The number of volunteers is expected to rise as the commission expands. The cost of all criminal background clearance is estimated to be $8,000.
A public hearing was held yesterday for Bill No. 455-31, which will authorize the Judiciary of Guam to submit requests to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for criminal history checks for all ServeGuam! commission and AmeriCorps program volunteers. The bill will also approve the waiver of local judicial fees associated with obtaining the checks from the FBI.
Before the bill can be passed, Sen. Adolpho Palacios, oversight chair of the Judiciary, voiced concerns that the passage of the bill will be an unfunded mandate and may cause a burden on the Judiciary. The senator requested for financial statements of institutions that benefit from AmeriCorps volunteers in order to determine if the organization provides more benefits than burdens.
Additionally, clarification must be made on whether the amendment is itself necessary, due to the fact that Guam law already allows a fee waiver for nonprofit groups in this category.
The ServeGuam! commission, under the Guam Department of Labor, oversees the various AmeriCorps programs on the island. AmeriCorps is a federally-funded program that mobilizes volunteers to administer to the community through tutoring, mentoring, cultural education, and other service projects.