Climate Corps Task Force

Attendance: Will Sedlack, Kristen Grant, Rep. Morgan Rielly, Stacie Haines, Ivan Fernandez, Kirsten Brewer (Staff)

Funding update: 
NOAA Climate Resilience Challenge.
GOPIF is applying for a large NOAA grant focused on climate resilience. A small piece of the larger grant is proposed to fund Maine Climate Corps. Two tracks are proposed. Application is due in February and awards will be made over the summer. Work could start as early as October, 24. For Maine Service Fellows, looking at January 25 placements. 

  • Shore Corps to be managed by Maine Conservation Corps. This track would place members in host site agencies such as BPL, state park units like Popham, or community-based organizations focused on conservation/environmental stewardship. Members would be trained by DEP to conduct assessments and then provide assessments for public and private property owners with a goal to increase the implementation of nature-based solutions. Members would also lead projects with volunteers such as dune grass restoration, tree planting, etc. 
  • Maine Service Fellows is the second track. Maine Service Fellows would be placed with small, rural, under resourced communities participating in the Community Resilience Partnership and would help them to implement their resilience project, with an emphasis on engaging underserved communities and recruiting volunteers to participate in the project. 

NOAA Climate Workforce grant: Volunteer Maine submitted a letter of support to the lead applicant for this grant proposal. The grant would fund a partnership focused on recruiting, training and then placing individuals in climate resilience jobs. There is potential for climate corps programs to serve as the “training” opportunity that prepares individuals for jobs. Volunteer Maine will be part of the partnership which will include dedicated recruitment support and connections to employers to help members find jobs. 

EPA Environmental and Climate Justice Plan:  Opportunity for funding for community-based organizations to fund pollution (emissions) reduction projects, resilience projects, workforce, etc. Notable that it mentions in the NOFO that applicants can propose a project that would be part of the American Climate Corps. 

Program Development Update
Enthusiasm for a “Green Schools” program that would place members in schools to deliver sustainability education and create and implement sustainability plans. Looking for an entity to be the lead applicant to the AmeriCorps formula competition. 

Legislative Update from Rep. Rielly
LD 142 (funding for Maine Climate Corps) is on the Appropriations table. It does have a sizeable fiscal note. Considering reducing the ask and focusing on funding for youth climate corps programming during summer; currently no other funding for youth service (AmeriCorps members must be 17 with a HS diploma or GED). 

Request for Maine Service Fellows funding to the Governor to be in the supplemental budget. 

American Climate Corps Update: 
Rep. Rielly working on an op-ed regarding the American Climate Corps with Cole Cochran from Maine Youth Action. The American Climate Corps is an opportunity for States to collaborate with the Biden Administration. Rep. Rielly gave remarks at the listening sessions. 

There are assumptions that the American Climate Corps will fund positions in Maine, but at this time, American Climate Corps is an executive order, and no new funding was allocated. 

Proposal to Release Maine Climate Corps grants in 2024:
$80,000 available to release and commit (contracts executed) before July 1, 2024. Proposed priorities for this funding are: summer/school-year youth service—youth aged 14-18. Target grants up to $10,000 for summer activities. Grantees may propose to pay: youth stipends, staff salaries, other support to youth. 

Currently, there are two Youth Conservation Corps programs in the Maine Climate Corps Network. There are about 10 Youth Conservation Corps programs in total across the state, spanning lake associations and cities. 

Goal is to help replicate these models in communities that are not served currently, or provide funding to existing programs so they can add more positions, increase the stipend, etc. Challenge may be that this somewhat late to release funding for summer programs. 

Question about how many members would be supported by a $10k grant; and this varies a lot depending on if a program is running a volunteer program with a modest stipend, or is paying equivalent of minimum wage or more. 

Affirmative support from the Task Force to launch this RFA. 

Potential Evaluation Questions for this Grant Program: 
Recap and action items from Amanda Dwelley’s presentation on equity reporting. Amanda posed some key questions for us to consider in how to evaluate our programs and reduce the administrative burdens. We talked about key audiences for any report including: community, future grantees, other funders, policymakers at multiple levels. 

What is the story we would want to share a year from now when we are sharing the Commission Annual Report regarding the Youth Climate Corps program? 
-Demonstrate that the project was useful work in terms of climate response. 
-Members demonstrated knowledge of how their work fits into larger outcomes. 
-For example, MCSIE (Maine Climate Science Information Exchange) interns are good ambassadors for the overall initiative.  They are evaluated on how they can articulate how their activities are related to Maine Won’t Wait. They speak to how the project is moving the needle. Use members as storytellers. 
-$10k for a small town program could be transformative. Demonstrate lower resourced communities getting support from state, youth getting experiences that they wouldn’t otherwise have. 
-Meaningful that the members are doing this work in communities with no narrative/conservation about climate change. 
-What continues to happen because the initial investment of the service work? Also, the impact on the member themselves?
-What was the highlight? What was a challenge? What was expected and what were the surprises in what you learned from doing the project?
-Forum for the partner orgs, focus group with the pilot programs? 
-Did this funding solve a problem? What was only solved because of the existence of this program? Supervisor more likely to answer this with their institutional memory. A member is shorter-term and doesn’t have the context. Member does bring a fresh perspective.