More details emerge on Md. governor’s paid gap year plan

Public service was a talking point when he was a candidate — now Maryland governor Wes Moore’s plan to create a service year program for high school graduates is starting to take shape in Annapolis.

The day after Moore’s first State of the State speech, House Bill 546 was introduced — it’s called the Serving Every Region Through Vocational Exploration Act of 2023. The bill was introduced by House Speaker Adrienne Jones on behalf of Moore’s administration.

Moore’s bill is intended to give recent graduates an alternative to going to college or beginning a career.

On his first day in office, Moore issued an executive order establishing a Maryland Department of Civic and Service Innovation, which would oversee the administration of the program. Moore said he has set aside $18 million in the budget for the initiative.

To participate in the program, a young person would be required to have received a high school diploma or GED within two years of applying for a service placement.

People in the program would get paid $15 an hour by their employer, for at least 30 hours a week. A participant would be expected to work with an on-site mentor, who would provide job training, career and postsecondary education counseling, and financial literacy skills.

In considering employers to participate in the program, the Department of Civic and Service Innovation would be required to “develop program focus areas to address priority issues, including climate, education, and health.”

In addition to the hourly wages paid by the employer, participants who complete a year of service would be eligible for a stipend of up to $3,000 from the department.

The bill would establish a continuing, non-lapsing Service Year Option Program Fund to provide the stipends to participants who complete the program and pay the costs to administer the program.

The bill lists a goal of 200 participants in the first year of the program, and 2,000 by its fourth year.

The bill will be heard in the House Appropriations Committee on Feb. 21.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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