Commission Minutes

Public Comment Period (Branham) 
No members of the public requested the opportunity to make comments. 

Present: Celeste Branham, Zakk Maher, Jenni Titon-Flood, Ed Barrett, Pam Proulx-Curry, Nate Rudy, Sue Asselin Hawthorne, Matt L’Italien, Lisa Phelps, John Portela 
Staff: M Ashmore, M Crofton, J McFaul, B. Roche, K. Preecs 
Guests: Kaira Esgate (Executive Director, ASC) and Orion Breen (Maine Volunteer Foundation liaison) 

Commission Chair Branham called the meeting to order at 10:06 am. Commissioners and staff were asked to introduce themselves.

Commissioner Quiz. Barrett and Phelps submitted answers. In section 215 of the presidential Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad signed 1/27/2021, the Civilian Climate Corps was identified as a strategy to tackle the issues. The two federal agencies named as leads on the plan due in 90 days were Dept of Interior and USDA. [Note: a late correct submission was from Proulx-Curry.]

Announcements. Branham reported she made the biennial presentation to the Commission’s legislative oversight committee on February 10. Members of State and Local Government were meeting with each agency. The presentation went well with only a few questions.

The ASC annual convening of Commissioners and Executive Directors will be virtual. It runs from March 3-5. Maine participants will be Branham, Tilton-Flood, and Barczyk along with our Executive Director.

As a point of information, it was announced the Governor’s Awards for Service and Volunteerism will open for nominations in March with the celebration moved to June.

Commissioners were asked to promote the youth service grants, Maine Instigators. The call for applications went out in the last newsletter. If anyone didn’t receive it to forward, please be sure you are signed up to receive the newsletter. The subscription link is on the homepage of

There were no additions or deletions to the agenda and no questions or corrections to items under the consent agenda.

Consent Agenda items approved or accepted: 
A. Minutes of the Commission meeting on December 18, 2020.
B. Executive Committee reports of meetings for January and February 2, 2021.
C. Excellence and Expertise report of February 3, 2021 meeting.

Planning and Future Initiatives 

The Intersection of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and State Service Commissions. (Kaira Esgate, Executive Director, America's Service Commissions) Esgate was invited by Executive Committee to brief this commission on how other state service commissions were approaching DEI in their work. She added the example of how the national association of commissioner (ASC) was acting on this work as well. Her slides with comments are linked HERE.

The Pennsylvania and Washington (state) commissions have been working in this area for several years. Others who started in 2020 are Iowa, Wisconsin, California, South Carolina, and Oregon. The efforts are new during 2020 and were launched at the convening of state service commissions in February 2020. As a result of a poll done at the convening, ASC ramped up the work it was doing internally.

Esgate offered five suggestions for starting points for Volunteer Maine and noted ASC would be happy to help with whatever the Commission decided.
Discussion of next steps in Volunteer Maine's review and reflection. (Branham)

After discussion among the members, it was agreed that the next step should be training for all Commissioners and staff as a way to set a common understanding and set of terms for future work. Branham has some contacts who have worked with boards on these issues over the past few years. She will reach out and see who is available or interested in working with the Commission.

Focus on Mission Responsibilities

Maine Volunteer Foundation. (Breen)  Orion Breen, board member on the foundation, briefed the Commission on recent foundation actions. Two grants to support Maine Service Fellows have been submitted and there are corporate asks underway. None of the funding decisions will be made until fall 2021 or winter 2022. The foundation has set up a liaison system to the Commission. Board members will rotate attendance.

Business Reports

Grant Selection and Performance. (Barrett)  The task force is proposing approval of a new grant policy that will set parameters for certain emergency situations. The pandemic is not the only incident that made the policy necessary but it did highlight the need to address the situation. The language proposed was posted with the agenda and reads:

AmeriCorps State programs may permit members to accrue service hours provided to programs or clients located outside of Maine for no more than 10% of the total service term so long as: (1) the service activities are compatible with the purpose of the grant including the emergency response clause of the Cooperative Agreement; (2) described in a written amendment to the Member agreement; and (3) pre-approved by the Commission Grant Officer. The amount of service time and the activity involved must be documented in the same manner as required when the person is serving the program and clients in Maine. Supervision for the Member must be of the same quality and nature as when the person serves in Maine.

Moved by Barrett to adopt the policy as written. Second by Portela. There were no requests for changes or clarification. Roll call vote on the motion: In favor – unanimous. Motion passed.

National Public Policy Committees of states. Crofton and Portela briefed Commissioners on issues. The American Rescue Act has significant funding for commissions, AmeriCorps State grants, Volunteer Generation Fund, and more. In fact, on certain lines, the funding would result in doubling the appropriations for some programs. The Rescue Act funds are for a period of three years. The final action will be somewhere between March 4 and 8 – driven by the expiration date of enhanced unemployment benefits. It is highly likely Commissions will have to run additional grant competitions because allocations will arrive too late for the current rounds. All expectation is this will be a repeat of the Recovery Act level of work which was significant.

Public Information and Education/Public Policy. (Tilton-Flood) The task force is working on developing a new outreach campaign. In addition, it is organizing education about Rep. Morgan Reilly’s bill to create Maine Service Fellows and fund a pilot group of 10. The bill is in final draft. When it is issued by the revisor’s office, Commissioners will get the language. There is an infographic and talking points for Commissioners to use in educating key legislators. People ready to testify for the need at the hearing are also part of organizing. Please watch for an action request.

Financial Oversight. The task force chair was not able to attend today but the report of Jan-Dec 2020 financial activity was posted with the agenda. The chair asked if there were any questions. None were asked.

Commission Staff. There were no questions about the staff reports posted. Staff reported on some additional items during the meeting. Attempts to fill the office administrator position were unsuccessful for a second round of advertising. The search will reopen in about 10 days. State HR will do some added outreach.

The Climate Action Corps assignment in the state climate action plan is under development. The 3 AmeriCorps programs already active in this space (Maine AmeriCorps Energy Corps, Maine Conservation Corps, AmeriCorps Resiliency Corps) joined a conversation about the work outlined in the plan and the goals of their programs. There is a meeting on Monday with staff from the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation to get their input on a plan that is emerging. The approach would be to have an AmeriCorps Climate Action Plan and programs in the state would identify a strategy for their focus. Any gaps identified would lead to new AmeriCorps program development. Maryalice and Michael are leading this effort.

Commissioners were reminded of March events that would benefit from their participation: AmeriCorps week (3/7-13), virtual National Service Day at Capitol (3/10), AmeriCorps Member Conference (3/31). Bryan has information on all these opportunities.

Business Wrap Up

Reminder: Complete meeting evaluation forms
The next full business meeting will be April 16, 2021 (virtual). There is no meeting in March since one was held in February.

The motion to adjourn was supported unanimously. The meeting adjourned at 11:38 am.