Joplin Mayor Gary Shaw is joining 16 other mayors from Missouri cities and towns to urge U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt to protect funding for national service programs, including AmeriCorps and Senior Corps.

The mayors' letter to Blunt, dated May 7, asks him to support maintaining AmeriCorps and Senior Corps as "an investment that will strengthen our communities, our people and our nation."

Blunt serves as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Service, Education and Related Agencies, which is responsible for funding national service programs.

The letter urges Blunt to support funding service programs despite a White House budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 that would eliminate funding for the Corp. for National and Community Service, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps.

"We know the current budgetary climate requires tough decisions regarding federal spending, but if enacted, the administration's recommendation will have a detrimental effect on our Missouri communities," the mayors said. "At a time when cities face many challenges, we urge you and your colleagues to continue your efforts to protect funding for the Corp. for National and Community Service."

Shaw told the Globe that he signed on to the letter after researching some of the projects that national service programs are involved in across the state. He also noted that AmeriCorps members and volunteers were instrumental in helping Joplin recover from the May 2011 tornado.

"It just seemed like there was so many good things that they did," he said. "A lot of our communities are struggling for finances right now, and I'd just hate to see them cut something away from something that's doing so much good for communities."

The letter notes that 4,770 Missourians completed AmeriCorps and Senior Corps service activities between April 4, 2017, and April 13 of this year. Most recently, the mayors said, the AmeriCorps St. Louis Emergency Response Team deployed members and staff to Orlando, Florida, in response to Hurricane Irma; to San Juan, Puerto Rico, in response to Hurricane Maria; and to Malden, Missouri, in response to a tornado that damaged or destroyed 23 homes.

Each year, approximately 1,000 AmeriCorps members and 4,000 Senior Corps volunteers serve nearly 1,000 sites across Missouri, the mayors said.

Earlier this year, Blunt was named a recipient of the 2018 Voices for National Service Congressional Award, which is given to congressional leaders for "remarkable commitment to national service as a strategy to solve local and national issues," according to the Voices for National Service coalition.

"Our national service programs are vital to the strength of our communities in Missouri and across the nation," Blunt said in a statement emailed to the Globe on Friday. "These programs provide leadership and growth opportunities for their participants, and enhance the lives of those they serve. I’ve been proud to support our national service programs, and appreciate the mayors’ advocacy on this issue. I will keep their views in mind as we move forward in the appropriations process."

Letter from mayors

In addition to Joplin Mayor Gary Shaw, the letter to U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt was also signed by the mayors of Columbia, Eldon, Ferguson, Hannibal, Independence, Jefferson City, Kansas City, Kirksville, Malden, Poplar Bluff, Rolla, Springfield, St. Charles, St. Louis, St. Robert and Waynesville.

Emily Younker is the assistant metro editor at the Joplin Globe. Contact: eyounker AT joplinglobe DOT com.