Washington, DC— For many who serve their communities through AmeriCorps, the member living allowance is not sufficient to cover unanticipated financial hardships that occur during their terms of service. This has led some states to pilot the use of emergency funds, which assist AmeriCorps members who experience financial stress or difficulty in order to help retain members for their full terms of service.
As a result of a $750,000 grant from the Schultz Family Foundation, America’s Service Commissions (ASC) is pleased to announce that it will be able to establish a pool of matching funds for state and territorial service commissions interested in offering emergency assistance to AmeriCorps members experiencing hardship. ASC will also be able to underwrite any fees associated with contracting a vendor to administer the emergency fund application process and distribution of financial support.
The grant builds on a pilot project over the past two years that the Schultz Family Foundation, America’s Service Commissions, and beam (formerly edquity) conducted in partnership with Serve Minnesota and Serve Washington to surface the challenges AmeriCorps members face while serving and to understand how access to emergency aid dollars could expand who serves in AmeriCorps. Since 2020, approximately a quarter of eligible AmeriCorps members in Minnesota and Washington used the beam (formerly edquity) app to detail their emergency and in turn received emergency aid funding up to $500 each. The funding helped AmeriCorps members meet basic needs, like housing and transportation, which otherwise may have prevented them from completing their year of service. Over 96 percent of applicants indicated that the funding could reduce their basic needs challenges, highlighting the value of emergency funds for AmeriCorps members.
“We are committed to making AmeriCorps service more accessible and equitable for all potential members,” said Kaira Esgate, CEO of ASC. “In addition to our focus on advocating for increased living allowances and benefits for AmeriCorps members, we also provide a Member Assistance Program offering mental health services to AmeriCorps members and recently began piloting a home share service to help members find more affordable housing options. We see the establishment of emergency funds for members as a logical extension of this incredibly important work, and we are extremely grateful to the Schultz Family Foundation for their support of this initiative.”
“Making national service a pathway of opportunity for all young people is crucial. We recognize that financial barriers limit who can and does serve in AmeriCorps, and believe that expanding access to emergency aid dollars can play a role in helping diversify who is able to serve. We are hopeful that this grant and the findings of the pilot project will spur our discussion about how best to support AmeriCorps members during their year of service,” said Tyra A. Mariani, President of the Schultz Family Foundation.
As part of this project, ASC will conduct quarterly learning community calls with participating commissions to share emerging best practices regarding fund awareness, fund parameters, fund utilization, and member retention. ASC will also encourage participating commissions to conduct focus groups and surveys of their members to help inform the parameters of their respective funds. Member retention and exit data will be utilized to refine assistance fund efforts in the future.
Here's what AmeriCorps members* are saying…
· “The emergency fund has helped me be on time with different payments, and be able to not stress [about] eating or getting gas. The emergency fund has helped in countless ways. To be able to receive something [like this] is so great!”
· “I thought the fund was extremely valuable in supporting me in completing my service.”
· “I was faced with a lot of bills and car issues that made it extremely difficult to continue, but with the fund and good leadership[from my program], I was gifted the grace of continuing [my service].”
*These quotes have been anonymized to protect AmeriCorps members’ privacy.
About America’s Service Commissions
America’s Service Commissions (ASC) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association representing and promoting the 52 state service commissions across the United States and territories with the mission to lead and elevate the state service network. State service commissions are governor-appointed public agencies or nonprofit organizations made up of more than 1,000 commissioners, private citizens leading the nation’s service movement and administering more than 75 percent of the federal AmeriCorps funds to address pressing community needs. Learn more atstatecommissions.org.