Chapter 3 Program Startup
Successful recruitment strategy is the foundation for a thriving AmeriCorps program. AmeriCorps programs live and die by how well they network. The individuals you select and place within the community represent your program every day; their interactions either enhance or detract from your organization’s reputation.
As an AmeriCorps program, you must actively seek to recruit program Members from the community in which the project is conducted. Members of diverse races and ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, education levels, all genders, and individuals with disabilities, unless and to the extent that the approved program design requires emphasizing the recruitment of staff and Members who share a specific characteristic or background. However, in no case may you violate the nondiscrimination and non-displacement rules governing participant selection.
The AmeriCorps Recruitment and Placement System has been retired and replaced by the new My AmeriCorps system. All programs will be required to have their program on this system by the beginning of their program year.
Creating a Service Opportunity Listing in My AmeriCorps
What you will need to have
❑ An eGrants user account (for more information read the Creating an Account in eGrants resource)
❑ Details about your organization and the AmeriCorps Member position to complete the Service Opportunity Listing
❑ A short, two-line description or “teaser” for the Member position
❑ A concise program description
1. Gather details about your organization and Member position(s) by reviewing the Service Opportunity Listing Step-by-Step instructions below. This document mirrors the Service Opportunity Listing form in My AmeriCorps including all fields and drop-down menu options. Use this document as a worksheet to gather information. Collecting this information in advance of logging into the system ensures you have all the details needed to complete your listing the first time.
2. Draft content in advance. Review the Marketing for Recruitment resource on the AmeriCorps website for ideas and suggestions for crafting a compelling two-line teaser and program description.
A. The two-line teaser is limited to 200 characters. The more complete and enticing your listing is, the more applicants you will attract.
B. The program description is limited to 2,000 characters.
3. Enter the Service Opportunity Listing into My AmeriCorps. My AmeriCorps is the member portal for eGrants. Applicants will view and apply for Member positions through the portal.
Required Staff Training
How to Access the AmeriCorps online course site:
Please use these instructions to create an account.
1. Visit this page in any web browser: https://americorpsonlinecourses.litmos.com/self-signup/
2. Enter the required information.
3. In the Code field, enter: CNCS-Litmos
4. Click “Register.”
5. You're in! You can come back at any time to explore more and take any courses that interest you by visiting the Course Library.
The AmeriCorps Litmos system will send a follow up email with LITMOS login information.
Per AMERICORPS NATIONAL compliance requirements, each awardee is required to complete two trainings annually.
• National Service Criminal History Check (NSCHC) e-course .
• Key Concepts of Financial and Grants Management e-course
A certificate of completion for each course will be reviewed during your monitoring visit.
Member Position Descriptions
Service assignments must be meaningful to the AmeriCorps Member (a function of the placement and recruit matching system) and the community in which the service is performed. The goals of each position must be achievable. Members must relate to people in the local community so ownership of the experience will be shared, ultimately assumed by the local community, and consequently, long lasting. Everyone must have true involvement (input and control) in the work. Projects must be possible within the time available (project duration, resources, terms of service, etc.).
Position descriptions should include all professional elements necessary, including expectations, qualifications, and duties to define the service assignment and the qualifications necessary to achieve it. Typically, position descriptions are too short, non-existent, unfamiliar to the AmeriCorps Member, or filed away and never used once a project is begun. These documents should be revisited regularly to encourage Member feedback, measure success, and find areas that need enhancement. They should be modified to reflect changing needs as they develop and are useful in evaluating Members' performance.
The position description should be able to distinguish between the Member’s position and an employee position description at the organization to ensure non-displacement procedures are abided by.
Screening and Interviewing
After receiving applications, screening and placement of Members is the next most critical step an AmeriCorps supervisor or director faces. After screening out clearly unqualified applicants, it’s important to involve host agencies who will work directly with new Members. This allows for a “second look” at the applications by an involved party, creates buy-in with the host agency staff, and adds another level of assessment for specific talents or skills that a director or supervisor may not be looking for during the initial screening.
Once the potential candidates are agreed on, the next step is to decide how to conduct the interviews. We generate a list of potential questions to ask each candidate, agree on which ones to use, and then commit them to writing so that each applicant is asked the same questions. This ensures all prospective Members are treated equally and fairly, allowing for an “apples to apples” comparison when evaluating multiple candidates after the interviews. It is definitely worth considering including host agency staff in the interview process; this creates buy-in from the host agency and adds another level of insight for those candidates with similar qualifications. During the interviews good notetaking is crucial, especially if you interview many candidates. Don’t rely on your memory to supply the details.
For more details, visit: https://www.nationalservice.gov/resources/criminal-history-check
All programs must conduct background checks on all AmeriCorps Members as well as on all employees and others who receive a salary, an education award, living allowance or stipend through a program receiving assistance under national service laws, regardless of their level of contact with a vulnerable population. This also includes individuals paid for with match.
What is “recurring access” and a “vulnerable population?”
Recurring access is defined as the ability on more than one occasion to approach, observe or communicate with an individual through physical proximity or other means. This “other means” can be communication by phone, text, or email. All Members of AmeriCorps Illinois are considered to have recurring access.
Vulnerable populations can be anyone 17 years of age or younger or it can person aged 60 years or older with physical or mental disabilities which substantially limits one or more major life activities.
Why do we have to have background checks?
Background checks are not a check for employment. It is a check to clear someone to perform service or be a part of a program that delivers service, is put in a position of trust and is in contact with vulnerable populations. This policy was put in place by the AmeriCorps Agency in 2009 to protect both the programs and their staff and vulnerable populations being served. The background check ensures that individuals participating in our program have no criminal or other history that would keep them from participating. Although this is no guarantee against criminal acts, it does reduce the likelihood and could reduce liability for the program in the event a crime occurs.
Who must have background checks?
Individuals who are required to have background checks are referred to as being in “covered positions.” A “covered position” refers to any individual serving or employed through a National Service grant. Specifically, this means anyone, program staff or Members who receive salaries, stipends, living allowances or education awards connected to/through National Service funding. Also, direct costs or costs associated with program match are in covered positions. When there is doubt, use the “on the budget” or “expenditure report” tests. Individuals listed in the approved grant budget receiving either a stipend or salary or “are on the budget” are in covered positions. The “expenditure report” test involves the EDF (reimbursement report). If the cost of the payment to an individual is included in the federal/state or matching share of the report, then it is also a covered position.
Who does not have to have background checks?
Program staff whose compensation is only claimed within indirect/fixed grant costs. This also includes community volunteers with no affiliation to the program and no financial remuneration.
What types of background checks are required?
There are four types of background checks. All AmeriCorps State programs are required to complete checks on Members and Staff in covered positions. They include:
• National Sex Offender Public Registry (NSOPR)
• Illinois and State of Residency Police Criminal History Record
• Home State Background Check
• FBI Fingerprint Background Check
Either a name or fingerprint-based search of the statewide criminal history registry in the candidate’s State of residence on his/her application and in the State where the individual will serve or work must be done.
Use of the Criminal History Authorization Form
All programs are required to use the Criminal History Authorization Form. This form provides a quick reference for tracking the dates background checks were submitted and received. It is required to be part of the Member file. The form should be signed and dated by the applicant or potential Member.
When do they have to be done?
Under no circumstances may an individual be hired or enrolled or begin service or employment without first having cleared the NSOPR component of the check. The FBI and Illinois State Police Criminal History check must be initiated before the Member begins service.
If you receive a large number of applicants for either employment or AmeriCorps positions, you need to perform checks on those who are likely to be offered a position. Use your application screening process and your interview process to bring the number of candidates down before starting the checks and/or incurring any costs. The National Sex Offender Public Registry (NSOPR) produces immediate results and therefore no one can log hours or receive a stipend before this check has been completed. Because of the time it takes to receive the results of the FBI, State Police, and DCFS reports, individuals may start before the results, but cannot serve unless they are accompanied at all times by someone who has cleared a criminal history check.
If these remedial steps are not followed, service hours and costs will be disallowed.
Program’s responsibility with staff and potential Members
As the program begins the process of completing the checks, it is imperative that they verify the identity of the individual to be checked, fingerprint the individual for fingerprint-based searches, and complete authorization forms to authorize the search and to later release the information.
It is very important to explain to the individual what the process is for, how it works, and what findings would result in not being selected to be a part of the program.
Verify Identity and Citizenship
To verify their identity, the applicant is required to produce a government –issued photo identification card. This includes Government- issued photo cards, State Driver’s License; non- driver photo IDs issued by the State, federally issued photo IDs, Passports and Citizenship ID’s. To verify United States Citizenship or United States National the applicant can use passports or government issued birth certificates.
If a prospective Member is not a US Citizen, they must then be a Lawful Permanent Resident Alien of the US (LPR) to be eligible. There are several ways an individual can prove they are eligible: (1) a Permanent Resident Card, INS Form I-551; (2) an Alien Registration Receipt Card, INS Form I-551, (3) a passport indicating that the INS has approved it as temporary evidence of lawful admission for permanent residence; or (4) an I-94 indicating that the INS has approved it as temporary evidence of lawful admission for permanent residence. NOTE: A student visa does not confer eligibility to enroll in an AmeriCorps program. Just having a "Form I94 Departure Record" is not sufficient unless it is annotated to indicate the Member was a LPR.
For more information, please consult the AmeriCorps Regulations 252nd 2.200 Subpart B.
Once enrolled, the My AmeriCorps Portal will note that the Member’s citizenship has been verified. Print out that confirmation and place it in the Member’s file.
Understanding of the process and findings
It is very important that the applicants understand the process of the three background checks, what each is looking for, how each search is conducted, and how starting in the program is impacted by the completion and the findings of these checks.
Individuals will grant authorization for each of the checks by completing and signing release/permission forms. Some of these forms come from the entities where checks are requested. In the absence of forms, forms need to be developed by the programs. Copies of these completed forms should be placed in the Members file for documentation of the date the check was initiated. These forms must remain in the file.
What is the process for each of the four types of background checks?
National Sex Offender Public Registry
There is no formal authorization form. Programs must develop their own authorization forms to be used. There is no cost for this check and results are immediate. Please see www.nsopw.gov Print the results off for your records and place in file. Ensure the footer of the printed record has the date the results were generated on. No Member can start service before this check has been completed.
Illinois State Police Criminal History Record
There are two ways to get the information (Fingerprint and Non-Fingerprint.) The Non- Fingerprint uses Alpha –Numeric Subject Identifiers (Name, Sex, Race and Date of Birth.) The Fingerprint method is more accurate as individuals may have other names but only one set of fingerprints. All requests for information from the Illinois State Police must be submitted on a Conviction Information Request Forms. The Non-Fingerprint Request Form is ISP6-405B and the Fingerprint Request Form is ISP6-404B. Forms may be ordered by calling the Bureau of Identification at (815) 740-5160 or by going to https://isp.illinois.gov/BureauOfIdentification/BackgroundChecks
Non-Fingerprint Reports are approximately $16, and Fingerprint Reports are $20.
Home State Background Check
If an applicant is or has been a resident of another state, it may be necessary to have a criminal background check run on that individual from that state. This is determined by checking the Member’s permanent address on their Application Form. This will also allow you to start the check prior to the Member's start date. A background check must be initiated with the home state unless the Member is a full-time college student residing at an Illinois campus.
FBI Fingerprint Background Check
It is also referred to as the Criminal History Record or “Rap Sheet.” It utilizes Fingerprint match to gain information from all states and US territories. This information includes name of agency with matching fingerprints, date of arrest, arrest charge and disposition of the arrest or in the case of no matches a report of “No Record.”
Individuals being checked must submit request for information using Form OMB 1110-0052 1- 783 (Rev.5-5-2011) Applicant Information Form. Completed and signed application must be accompanied a completed fingerprint card. These completed fingerprint card includes, Name, Date of Birth, Descriptive Data (Gender, Race), all 10 rolled fingerprint impressions, plain impressions including thumb of both hands and the card must not be older than 18 months.
In Illinois, electronic responses from the FBI come through the Illinois State Police. Once received, ISP forwards notification to the program. Reports are encrypted.
There is a cost of approximately $25 per copy for the report.
Use of Third-Party Vendors
Third Party Vendors are private businesses that have contracted with the FBI and/ or obtained certification with State Criminal Data Base Agencies across the country. These businesses are channeling agencies that can conduct fingerprinting, prepare the necessary paperwork for submission, and receive results electronically. They can also conduct non-Fingerprint inquiries. There is a fee for their service in addition to the costs associated with the type of check being conducted. Fees vary by business and by services performed.
For the names of vendors in your area contact the Illinois State Police, Bureau of Identification at (815) 740-5160.
Electronic Responses are a quicker way for you to get results. Electronic Responses avoid problems with the mail or items getting lost, forgotten, or misplaced when sent directly to the individual.
Electronic Responses from the FBI and States are federally mandated to be encrypted and require software to decrypt the reports. This software and instructions for downloading and using are available either through the Illinois State Police or the third-party vendor.
Who pays for the checks?
The costs associated for conducting checks are the burden of the program. However, these costs are an allowable operating cost and should be included in the budget. These costs would include, fingerprinting fees, State and FBI fees, third party fees, mailing costs and notary costs.
Participant’s opportunity to review findings
It is important that the program provide an opportunity to review the findings with the individual. Individuals should be given copies of all findings. If there is a finding that would/could prohibit them from serving this should be addressed and the next steps in the process discussed. All programs must have a decision tree/memo regarding their background check policy that should be utilized in the event of a finding. If there is some finding the individual wishes to contest, it is their responsibility to pursue this.
Documenting Your Checks
You are required to retain the results. Your records must be stored and secured in the Member’s file or the applicant’s file. Secured means in a locked area. Electronic records must be printed off and placed in the files. Copies of requests for checks should also be kept in the Member file with the date requested. The decision tree/memo that details any findings and the determination related to those findings must also be in the file. Access to the Member files should be permitted only to individuals who have an official need to review the information. Member files and their contents are to be retained for seven years.
Reading the Results
In most instances, background check results will come back as no match, no record, and no priors. These and similar types of responses require no additional action. In instances where the check of the individual did not clear or there are “hits” showing some type of record or offense noted but not fully disclosed, additional action will be required. Programs must determine if the offense is one that disqualifies the individual under AMERICORPS NATIONAL regulations or if it is another offense your program considers to be disqualifying. Any hits found on background checks require a Decision tree/memo document to be placed in the Member file, even if the results do not disqualify them from service.
Results that prohibit individuals from serving and how to handle
Anyone listed or required to be listed on a sex offender registry or convicted of murder is ineligible to serve. Additionally, any offense that the program deems to be in violation of their criminal history check policies will result in ineligibility for the individual. Policies must be fair to the individual while at the same time protecting the populations served and guarding the program and host sites from liability.
Applicant refusal or falsifying information
Anyone who refuses to grant permission or undergo any of the checks disqualifies themselves from service. Anyone who gives or makes a false statement in connection with the Criminal Background History check will also be disqualified from service. Programs should clearly explain to an individual the consequences of not consenting to background checks and of providing false or misleading information.
What happens if we have to de-select a Member based on criminal history?
The slot refill policy currently in place applies.
Risks for non-compliance
Programs should comply by assuring that things happen in a timely fashion and that proper records are maintained. Failure to do this will result in the program being out of compliance. Being out of compliance has financial consequences. Service hours, wages, match, and living allowance costs may be disallowed. Additionally, corrective action has to be implemented to correct the problem. Taking corrective action after the fact will not recoup disallowed costs. Background checks are not an area to take shortcuts or any risks.
Good Risk Management Practices
Perform NSOPR checks when applications are reviewed.
Initiate State Criminal and FBI Checks before the Member is enrolled in eGrants and maintain documentation.
Complete Citizenship and SSN verification before Member is enrolled.
Keep records of all checks and requests for checks in the Members file. Records for staff would be kept in a separate file. All files must be kept confidential and secure.
If an individual is ok after the NSOPR check, they must be accompanied by an individual who has cleared all the checks for any service hours performed for vulnerable populations while waiting on the results of both the FBI and State check(s). The person who performed the accompaniment must incrementally sign off attesting to the accuracy of the documentation on the Member’s timesheet(s).
Key points to remember when performing National Service Criminal History Checks
• Verify the identity of the individual against a government issued photo.
• Obtain written authorization from the individual to perform the checks BEFORE the checks are initiated.
• Document understanding that selection is subject to the checks.
• Determine the types of checks required and from where they are to be obtained and associated fees.
• Complete the NSOPR check before service/work begins.
• Initiate State and FBI Criminal Checks before the Member is enrolled into eGrants.
• Once results are available provide opportunity for review of the findings.
• Decision tree/memo is completed for any Member who has any hits on their background checks, even if the hits do not disqualify them from service.
• Keep the information secure and confidential.
• Accompany all Members with pending checks and ensure the accompaniment is with a Staff or other Member who has cleared all checks and documented on their timesheet
• Document that the checks were part of the selection process by having requests for checks and results in the Member file.
Questions? Contact your Serve Illinois Program Officer.
All programs must comply with all applicable provisions of state and federal laws and Regulations pertaining to nondiscrimination, sexual harassment, and equal employment opportunity including, but not limited to, the following law and regulations and all the subsequent amendments thereto:
1. The Illinois Human Rights Act (775 ILCS 5)
2. Public Works Employment Discrimination Act (775 ILCS 10)
3. The United States Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000a-2000h-6) (as amended)
4. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. 794)
5. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C 12101 et seq.)
6. Executive Orders 11246 and 11375 (Equal Employment Opportunity)
Grant funds may be used to pay for a standard Service Gear package (AmeriCorps T-shirt, sweatshirt, hat, pin, decals, and buttons) for Members. The Commission urges programs to provide this package to Members. If the standard Service Gear package is not purchased, Programs must provide Members with a comparable package.
Members must wear service gear while providing direct service. You should direct Members to wear their service gear at officially designated AmeriCorps and Commission events such as National Days of Service, National AmeriCorps Week activities, and National Service Recognition Day (Opening Day) and the National Service Summit. Programs may allow Members to wear their service gear at other times consistent with AmeriCorps Agency Guidelines. In addition, Member service sites should also display the AmeriCorps logo at all times.
All Member service gear purchased with federal funds is required to include the AmeriCorps logo. National Service Gear provides an array of Member service gear. http://www.nationalservicegear.org
Here is a guideline for communication resources, including logos, image assets, videos, brand guidelines, and more to help promote service: https://americorps.gov/newsroom/communication- resources
Grant funds may be used to purchase informational material (brochures, application packets, posters, publications, etc.). On occasion, select items are free of charge.
Items can be ordered online at http://www.nationalservicegear.org.
The allowable slot types and associated FTEs or MSYs are listed in the table below.
Please contact your Program Officer for slot corrections.
BVCS may approve occasional changes of currently enrolled Members to lesser-term slots. The program must submit a written request to the Commission for a slot conversion. BCVS and the program must take into account the impact on the program quality. The AmeriCorps Agency for National and Community Service (AMERICORPS NATIONAL) will not cover health care or childcare costs for less than full-time Members.
Programs may not request a transfer of currently enrolled Members to a lesser-term status simply to provide a pro-rated education award if the Member would otherwise be released for cause. It is also not allowed to request to convert a slot to a lesser-term slot at the end of a Member’s term of service in order to award a pro-rated education award when the Member has not completed the hours required by their original term. Slot conversion requests will not be considered if submitted three months before the program end date. Any slot conversion request made less than three months before the program end date, requires submission by the authorized signatory on the IDHS contract with the program provider in question. No slot conversion, no matter when it was submitted is guaranteed.
Changing less than full-time Members to a greater slot type is discouraged because it is very difficult to manage, unless done very early in the Member’s term of service. BCVS may approve such changes only in extenuating circumstances as long as the program’s current budget can accommodate such changes. The program must request the slot conversion in writing. Keep in mind that a Member’s required hours as per their contract term must be completed by the end of the AmeriCorps grant year, unless the member has been suspended.
Unfilled Slot Conversions
Programs must request an unfilled slot conversion request in writing to the Commission. For example, one full-time position can be converted to up to three quarter-time positions. All conversions must be Trust neutral, are subject to availability of funds in the Trust, and must comply with all assumptions on which Trust prudence and continued solvency are predicated. The total number of MSYs and education award amounts in the grant may not increase as a result of the slot conversion.
For example: 1 full-time Member position (1 MSY) may be converted into 2 half-time slots (2 x0.5 Members = 1 MSY) or 1 full-time Member position may not be converted into 4 quarter-time positions as the education awards would total more than the original (4 X 0.26455027); in this example, the maximum number of allowable quarter-time positions would be 3.
Awardees may also combine and convert less than full-time positions to full-time positions as long as such changes do not increase the total MSYs, or total education award amounts awarded in the grant.
Eligible AmeriCorps State and National programs that have fully enrolled their awarded Member slots are allowed to replace any Member who terminates service before completing 30 percent of his/her term (effective May 17, 2007) provided that the Member who terminates is not eligible for and does not receive a pro-rated education award. Programs may not refill the same slot more than once.
To ensure that the AmeriCorps Agency for National and Community Service (AMERICORPS NATIONAL) resources are available in the national service trust to finance any Member’s education award, AMERICORPS NATIONAL will suspend refilling if either: the total AmeriCorps enrollment reaches 97 percent of awarded slots, or the number of refills reaches five percent of awarded slots.
A Member who is put into a refill slot must complete all hours as if the slot were new regardless of how many hours the previous Member served. They will receive a normal stipend and education award amount.
A tutor is defined as someone whose primary goal is to increase academic achievement in reading or other core subjects through planned, consistent, one-to-one, or small-group sessions and activities that build on the academic strengths of students in kindergarten through 12th grade and target their academic needs. A tutor does not include someone engaged in other academic support activities, such as mentoring and after-school program support, whose primary goal is something other than increasing academic achievement. For example, providing a safe place for children is not tutoring, even if some of the program activities focus on homework help.
$2522.940 What are the requirements for a program in which AmeriCorps Members serve as tutors?
A program in which Members engage in tutoring for children must:
(a) Articulate appropriate criteria for selecting and qualifying tutors, including the requirements in §2522.910 of this subpart.
(b) Identify the strategies or tools it will use to assess student progress and measure student outcomes;
(c) Certify that the tutoring curriculum and pre-service and in-service training content are high- quality and research based, consistent with the instructional program of the local educational agency or with State academic content standards;
(d) Include appropriate Member supervision by individuals with expertise in tutoring;
(e) Provide specialized high-quality and research-based, Member pre-service and in-service training consistent with the activities the Member will perform;
(f) Curriculum must be consistent with both state academic standards and the instruction program of the local educational agency.
(g) Certify that Members serving as tutors possess a minimum of a high school diploma. Serve America tutor
Are there any exceptions to the qualifications requirements?
The qualifications requirements in $2522.910 of this subpart do not apply to a Member who is a K–12 student tutoring younger children in the school or after school as part of a structured, school-managed cross-grade tutoring program.
Full-time Members, unless in a EAP or Professional Corps program must receive a living allowance/stipend at the minimum amount for the current grant year.
A living allowance is not required for less than full-time Members. If you choose to provide less than full-time Members with a living allowance, you may use the following chart as a guide. Three Quarter-time 1,200 n/a $23,103 Half-time 900 n/a $16,502 Reduced Half-time 675 n/a $12,542 Quarter-time 450 n/a $8,581 Minimum-time 300 n/a $6,931 Abbreviated-time 100 n/a $1,980
Programs occasionally request the ability to deduct amounts from living allowances for absences or other purposes. Programs may make deductions to the non-federal portion of living allowances or other payments made to AmeriCorps Members. Programs may not deduct any federal portion of the living allowance paid by AmeriCorps Agency funds.
Before making any deductions, programs are advised to consider implications related to the treatment of employment laws. Further, programs making deductions in this fashion, it may be required to increase their matching funds. Please contact your Program Officer for more information.
Segal AmeriCorps Education Award
Amount of the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award
The amount of the AmeriCorps Education Award depends on the length of a Member’s term of service. The current amount of the Education Award for each term of service is as follows:
Payments made from AmeriCorps Education Awards are considered taxable income in the year that the AmeriCorps Agency makes the payment to the school or loan holder. A Member serving in a full-time term of service is required to complete service within 12 months.
Learn more about the Education Award amount, eligibility, limitations, and tax implications here: https://americorps.gov/members-volunteers/segal-americorps-education-award/find-out-more
Members are eligible for a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award if they successfully complete their term of service in accordance with the Member service agreement with one of the following approved AmeriCorps programs:
AmeriCorps*State and National
As the Member uses the AmeriCorps Education Award, they must have received a high school diploma, or the equivalent of such diploma.
Currently, the maximum numbers of terms that you can serve in each AmeriCorps program are:
• four for AmeriCorps State and National
• two for VISTAs
• two for NCCC
Full-time, half-time, reduced half-time, quarter time, and minimum time terms of service each count as one term of service.
• Generally, if you are released for cause before completing your term of service and do not receive an education award, that term of service counts as one of your terms.
• The Trust does not make payments to anyone other than qualified schools and loan holders. See your financial aid counselor for information on how they handle disbursements and reimbursements.
• If you withdraw from the school at which you have used the education award, the school may be required to refund the Trust. If any refund is owed, it is credited to your education award "account," and is subject to the award’s original expiration date (seven years from the date the award was earned). For general information on how withdrawing from school may affect your student financial aid, ask your financial aid counselor, or refer to the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid Handbook.
• Under certain circumstances, you can use the education award to study outside the U.S. Contact the National Service Hotline at 1-800-942-2677 for further information.
• You have seven years to use the education award from the date of your completion of service. You can divide up your award and use portions of it at different times, as long as it is for authorized expenditures within the specified time period. You could, for example, apply a portion of it to existing qualified student loans, and save the remainder to pay for authorized college costs a few years down the road.
Transfer of the Education Award
The Serve America Act allows for the transfer of AmeriCorps State and National and Silver Service education awards under certain conditions. Basically, the person who earned the award has to have been at least 55 years old when they began the term of service and the person to whom the award is transferred has to be the transferring individual’s child, grandchild, or foster child.
To transfer an award, an individual must:
• have earned an education award in an AmeriCorps State and National or a Silver Scholar term of service;
• have been at least 55 year of age before beginning the term of service for which the award is attached;
• have begun this term of service on or after October 1, 2009;
• transfer the award before the original expiration date;
• designate all or a portion of the unused award for the transfer; and
• complete the on-line forms authorizing the transfer, which includes providing information and certifying eligibility to make the transfer.
Remember, the IRS has determined that payments made from an education award are considered to be included in a Member's taxable income in the year the payment is made to the school or loan holder. Interest payments are also considered taxable. This increase in a Member’s income could affect their tax liability for that year. Members should be made aware of this.
Frequently Asked Questions
Understanding and learning how to use and transfer Education awards can be very challenging as every award winner's situation and intended use can be different and unique. The AmeriCorps Agency has developed a comprehensive FAQ to provide direction and clarification on Term Limitations, Award Amounts and Values, Transfers, Extensions, Allowable Use, and Using My AmeriCorps Portal to access Awards. Go to: https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/alumni/segal- americorps-education-award/education-award-faqs
Colleges and Universities that Provide Scholarships and Resources to AmeriCorps Alumni
Colleges and Universities across the country actively recruit talented AmeriCorps alumni for their reputation and perseverance, drive and proven active citizenship. Because of these qualities in AmeriCorps Alumni, many of these institutions seek Alumni and offer them a variety of incentives such as service scholarships or matching tuition funding to the amount of their Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. Currently, there are 112 colleges and universities that match the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award for their students. The complete list may be found by going to https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/segal-americorps-education-award/matching-institutions.
For more details relating to the Education Award Amount, Eligibility, and Limitations, please go to https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/segal-americorps-education-award.
While charging time to the AmeriCorps program, accumulating service or training hours, or otherwise performing activities supported by the AmeriCorps program or AMERICORPS NATIONAL, staff and members may not engage in the following activities (see 45 CFR § 2520.65):
1. Attempting to influence legislation;
2. Organizing or engaging in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes;
3. Assisting, promoting, or deterring union organizing;
4. Impairing existing contracts for services or collective bargaining agreements;
5. Engaging in partisan political activities, or other activities designed to influence the outcome of an election to any public office;
6. Participating in, or endorsing, events or activities that are likely to include advocacy for or against political parties, political platforms, political candidates, proposed legislation, or elected officials;
7. Engaging in religious instruction, conducting worship services, providing instruction as part of a program that includes mandatory religious instruction or worship, constructing or operating facilities devoted to religious instruction or worship, maintaining facilities primarily or inherently devoted to religious instruction or worship, or engaging in any form of religious proselytization;
8. Providing a direct benefit to—
a. A business organized for profit;
b. A labor union;
c. A partisan political organization;
d. A nonprofit organization that fails to comply with the restrictions contained in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 related to engaging in political activities or substantial amount of lobbying except that nothing in these provisions shall be construed to prevent participants from engaging in advocacy activities undertaken at their own initiative; and
e. An organization engaged in the religious activities described in paragraph C. 7. above, unless AMERICORPS NATIONAL assistance is not used to support those religious activities;
9. Conducting a voter registration drive or using AMERICORPS NATIONAL funds to conduct a voter registration drive;
10. Providing abortion services or referrals for receipt of such services; and
11. Such other activities as AMERICORPS NATIONAL may prohibit.
AmeriCorps members may not engage in the above activities directly or indirectly by recruiting, training, or managing others for the primary purpose of engaging in one of the activities listed above. Individuals may exercise their rights as private citizens and may participate in the activities listed above on their initiative, on non-AmeriCorps time, and using non- AMERICORPS NATIONAL funds. Individuals should not wear the AmeriCorps logo while doing so.
Non-Duplication and Non-Displacement
Serve Illinois/AmeriCorps assistance may not be used to duplicate an activity that is already available in the locality of a program. And, unless non-displacement requirements are met, Serve Illinois/AmeriCorps assistance will not be provided to a private nonprofit entity to conduct activities that are the same or substantially equivalent to activities provided by a State or local government agency in which such entity resides.
a. An employer may not displace an employee or position, including partial displacement such as reduction in hours, wages, or employment benefits, as a result of the use by such employer of a participant in a program receiving AmeriCorps Agency assistance.
b. An organization may not displace a volunteer by using a participant in a program receiving AmeriCorps Agency assistance.
c. A service opportunity will not be created under this chapter that will infringe in any manner on the promotional opportunity of an employed individual.
d. A participant in a program receiving AmeriCorps Agency assistance may not perform any services or duties or engage in activities that would otherwise be performed by an employee as part of the assigned duties of such employee.
e. A participant in any program receiving assistance under this chapter may not perform any services or duties, or engage in activities, that –
i. Will supplant the hiring of employed workers; or
ii. Are services, duties, or activities with respect to which an individual has recall rights pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement or applicable personnel procedures.
f. A participant in any program receiving assistance under this chapter may not perform services or duties that have been performed by or were assigned to any –
i. Presently employed worker;
ii. Employee who recently resigned or was discharged;
iii. Employee who is subject to a reduction in force or who has recall rights pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement or applicable personnel procedures;
iv. Employee who is on leave (terminal, temporary, vacation, emergency, or sick); or
v. Employee who is on strike or who is being locked out.
After reading the list of prohibited activities there may still be questions about what kind of service work can be credited to the Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards hours.
The most important piece of information to relay to the Members is that at least 80% of their time must be spent doing direct service and the other 20% can be credited to education and/or training that they receive that relates to their work or to AmeriCorps. No more than 20 percent of the aggregate of all AmeriCorps Member service hours in your program, as reflected in the Member enrollments in the National Service Trust, may be spent in education and training activities.
Direct service is work that addresses human need, the environment, public safety, and/or education in one form or another. It is working directly with people to make change or doing work that is involved in making that direct change. It can be outreach, case management, training, teaching, tutoring, mediating, cleaning, counseling, recruiting volunteers, catching up on paperwork related to clients, preparing for class, coaching, listening, cooking, serving, providing health care, food, clothing, etc. Direct service hours should constitute 80% or more of an AmeriCorps Member’s total hours served. The remainder will be indirect service hours.
Indirect service hours, or education and training, hours are only applicable when they reflect the AmeriCorps service that the Member credits to the education award he or she will receive. Any on-the job training that refers to direct service would be part of this category. All orientations, including the AmeriCorps orientation, would be included, as well as any state or regional trainings, seminars, or workshops pertaining to issues related to direct service. Examples would be conflict resolution seminars, teacher development days, team-building exercises, or a class on training techniques. Only 20% of all Member’s credited service hours can be dedicated to education and training, even if more hours have been spent in this area.
Members may raise funds directly in support of service activities that meet local, environmental, educational, public safety, homeland security, or other human needs. This fundraising should not exceed 10% of their service hours. Examples of fundraising activities that Members may perform include, but are not limited to the following:
a. Seeking donations of books from companies and individuals for a program in which volunteers tutor children to read;
b. Writing a grant proposal to a foundation to secure resources to support the training of volunteers;
c. Securing supplies and equipment from the community to enable volunteers to help build houses for low-income individuals;
d. Securing financial resources from the community to assist a faith-based organization in launching or expanding a program that provides social services to the Members of the community and is delivered, in whole or in part, through the Members of the faith-based organization; or
e. Seeking donations from alumni of the program for specific service projects being performed by current Members.
All AmeriCorps service activities will take place within the State of Illinois or Iowa only.
All Member questions should be directed to program directors.
National Days of Service – Two required for PY2023-2024
There are various National Days of Service celebrated each year. They are part of a National Service celebration and awareness across the nation and provide opportunity to bring visibility and recognition to programs. They also provide opportunity to engage Members and volunteers in unique and creative service projects in the community. Lastly, they also provide a great opportunity to promote programs and volunteerism and recruit volunteers and Members. Guidance for participation in the individual days is provided by AmeriCorps and/or the Serve Illinois Commission or the sponsor of the celebration.
Required Participation in National Days of Service in Illinois
The Serve Illinois Commission requires programs to participate in the number of national services days determined by the commission annually. The Commission provides guidance and coordination for these Days of Service. The following are the Service Days under our purview:
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (REQUIRED)
“A day ON…not a day off”, occurs on the day of observance of the federal holiday honoring Dr. King’s birth each year. AmeriCorps is responsible for promoting this day as a day of service to honor the life and teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr. This day is held on the federal holiday during the month of January each year as a required National Day of Service.
For more information, please visit: https://www.americorps.gov/serve/volunteer/mlk-day
You can also provide service for an additional Day of Service from the following list:
- 9/11 Day of Service September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance is the culmination of efforts, originally launched in 2002 that promotes community service on 9/11 as an annual and forward-looking tribute to the 9/11 victims, survivors, and those who rose in service in response to the attacks. Go to https://www.911day.org/ for more information regarding events.
- Veterans Week of Service– Serving Those Who Served Serving Those Who Served is a day of service created to thank service men and women, our veterans, and their families. During the week surrounding November 11, people all over the great state of Illinois will spend the day engaged in volunteer service projects focused on benefiting our heroes! This is not a nationally recognized day of service, but one that the Serve Illinois Commission required in partnership with the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.
- National Volunteer Week Purpose: To recognize and celebrate the efforts of volunteers. To learn more, please visit: National Volunteer Week - Points of Light
- Global Youth Service Day Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) is an annual celebration of young volunteers around the world. It is designed to encourage youth to participate in community service and service learning and to honor those who have contributed to their communities through voluntary commitment. GYSD is usually observed on a weekend in April, beginning on Friday and ending on Sunday. To learn more, please visit: https://ysa.org/campaigns/gysd/
- Memorial Day is the time when we honor those who have died in the nation’s wars. It originated during the American Civil War when citizens placed flowers on the graves of those who had been killed in battle. A large observance, primarily involving African Americans, took place in May 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina. Columbus, Mississippi, held a formal observance of the dead in 1866.
- Juneteenth Commemorates the end of slavery in the United States when Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas to announce the end of the Civil War and all enslaved people were then free.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Serve Illinois requires all programs to register the events they will be holding associated with each day of service, as well as report actual numbers based on those events. Registration and reporting due dates, as well as detailed instructions for each, will be communicated by Serve Illinois staff in advance of the event. Lack of participation and reporting is noted for performance metrics purposes and determination of future funding.
Required Member Recognition Event
National AmeriCorps Week
This week provides the perfect opportunity for AmeriCorps Members, alums, awardees, program partners, and friends to shine a spotlight on the work done by Members—and to motivate more Americans to serve their communities. Many events are scheduled across the country. Individuals and organizations with a special interest in AmeriCorps—especially, Members, programs, and alums—are encouraged to use their creativity to mark the week in any way they see fit. The choice is up to you BUT recognition must be a part of it!
Actual dates each year are determined by AmeriCorps but are typically in March. This is a requirement. For more information, visit https://americorps.gov/newsroom/events/americorps-week
Serve Illinois requires all programs to register the events they will be holding associated with this day of service, as well as report actual numbers based on those events. Registration and reporting due dates, as well as detailed instructions for each, will be communicated by Serve Illinois staff in advance of event dates. Lack of participation and reporting is noted for performance metrics purposes and determination of future funding.