Summer Associate benefits differ from those benefits offered to AmeriCorps VISTA members and VISTA Leaders.
- Living allowance
- End-of-service summer award
- Reduction of education costs
- Limited leave
The AmeriCorps VISTA program provides a living allowance that enables you to live very frugally, like the community you are serving. The allowance is based on poverty rates for a single individual in your geographic area. The living allowance is paid biweekly and deposited directly into your bank account.
The living allowance covers basic necessities such as housing, food, and utilities. Federal income tax deductions, if applicable, are withheld from the living allowance. No state, county, or city tax deductions are withheld. You are responsible for paying the appropriate taxes.
Prior to starting VISTA service, you must complete the following forms in your MyAmeriCorps account: Direct Deposit Federal Tax Withholding (W-4 form), and Unpaid Compensation Information (also known as Designation of Beneficiary). Watch this video on how to complete your direct deposit.
While the VISTA program does not encourage you to seek outside employment, and understanding that commitment to your assigned project is your top priority, you are permitted to work part-time with permission from your supervisor
Visit our Managing Your Living Allowance site for tips and resources to help you with everyday savings, budgeting, and building your financial literacy skills.
For more information on the living allowance and suggestions for living on a limited budget, explore these useful resources
- Managing Your Living Allowance
- Resources for Living on the Living Allowance
- Saving Money on Health Care
- Budget Calculator
- Living Allowance Calendar and Sample Statement
- Living on the Living Allowance (Webinar for VISTAs)
- Living Allowance in Chapter 5 of Member Handbook
In successfully completing your VISTA Summer Associate service, you're eligible to receive either the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award (partial education award) or the VISTA end-of-service summer cash stipend. You must make your selection in My AmeriCorps before you are sworn in as a VISTA. Once you make your selection, you do not have the option to change it.
Only VISTA members who are either U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or lawful permanent resident aliens are eligible to receive an AmeriCorps Segal Education Award in lieu of an end-of-service cash stipend. For 2020, the value of the education award is $1,311.11 for Summer Associates. The award is in the form of a voucher (not cash) and can be used for future educational training and related expenses at Title IV schools, and/or to repay existing eligible federal student loans. Be sure to visit the EdAward site to learn which student loans are qualified and which are not.
You may use the education award for up to seven years after completing service. When you use any portion of the award during a particular year, it is considered taxable income in that year.
You can only receive up to the value of two full-time education awards in your lifetime.
AmeriCorps VISTA members cannot transfer the education award to another individual.
End-of-Service Cash Stipend
The end-of-service cash stipend is paid in your last two living allowance payments, and you can use it however you like. Federal income tax and Social Security (FICA) deductions are withheld from the stipend at the time of payment. The daily accrual rate for members is $4.94 (approximately $276 for an 8-week Summer Associate term).
Make a Selection
Consider the following questions before making your decision:
- Do you plan on going to college, a technical or trade school, or attend any other credit or non-credit training program after finishing service?
- Remember, you cannot transfer your Ed Award to another individual.
- Do you have qualified student loans? you'll need to review the Ed Award tutorial and check with your lender to validate.
- If you have federal student loans, you may be able to put your loans into forbearance or deferment, depending on which end-of-service option you choose. See the Reduction of Education Costs section for more detail.
Once you have made your decision, log into your My AmeriCorps account and make your selection under My End-of-Service Option.
For more detailed information on the education award and to get a broader picture of how it works, go to these useful resources:
- "Ed Award" (tutorial)
- Using the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award (Webinar for VISTAs)
- Ed Award in the VISTA Member Handbook
Reduction of Education Costs
VISTA provides several benefits that can help you manage, or even reduce, your federal student loans, and offers others that can lower your overall student debt.
Loan Forbearance and Deferment:
If you have federal student loans (also called 'qualified' student loans), you may be able to put your loans into forbearance or deferment; the specific program will depend upon the end-of-service option you choose.
- Federal student loans + education award = forbearance
Forbearance is a temporary postponement of principal loan payments. The reason for this forbearance is 'national service.' The Corporation's Trust pays interest during service. Since these payments are considered income, however, you will have to pay taxes on the amount of interest paid by the Trust. This is the program available if you select the education award as your end-of-service benefit.
- Federal student loans + stipend = deferment
Deferment is a postponement of monthly loan payment(s). For subsidized loans, accrued interest will automatically be paid by the Department of Education if the loan is deferred. Your lender decides if you can defer your student loans during your year of service. The reason for this deferment is 'economic hardship.' You will need to obtain forms from your lender. You may also be eligible for cancellation of part of your Perkins Loan. Deferment is appropriate route to go if you choose the stipend as your end-of-service benefit.
GRE Fee Reduction:
The Educational Testing service, which administers the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), makes available to colleges and universities a limited supply of GRE Fee Reduction Certificates. To apply for a GRE Fee Reduction Certificate, contact the financial aid office of the educational institution that interests you to see if you qualify. Make sure to tell them about your experience serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. The decision is up to the college or university to which you apply.
College Cost Reduction and Access Act (CCRAA):
This federal regulation includes two programs that can significantly reduce, or even eliminate your student debt.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF)
Under PSLF, the Department of Education forgives any outstanding balance and accrued interest on a borrower's Direct Loan or Direct Consolidation Loan if you work for 10 years full-time at a nonprofit or government agency. You must also make 120 qualifying payments on the loan. Your AmeriCorps VISTA service year counts towards those 10 years, if you make payments towards your loan during service. Submit your PSLF Form to AmeriCorpsForms@cns.gov for completion. For security reasons, please do not include your Social Security Number on the form. Continue reading to learn how you can reduce your loan payments through the Income-Based Loan Repayment Plan.
- Income-Based Loan Repayment Plan (IBR)
Under IBR, your payments will be limited to no more than 15% of your adjusted gross income that exceeds 150% of the poverty guidelines. If you are single and make $11,000 each year in AmeriCorps, your monthly payment could be as low as $0 each month, which still counts towards the required 120 payments for PSLF
Ed Award Match:
Many colleges and universities across the country actively recruit talented AmeriCorps VISTA alumni for their reputation of perseverance, drive, and proven active citizenship. Many also offer incentives such as service scholarships or matching tuition funding to the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award.
You can view a list of educational institutions that offer these incentives here. Be sure to contact the institutions or institutions you're interested in for up-to-date information.
For more detailed information on each of the benefits described, and for help in making the difficult decisions about which benefit(s) is right for you, please explore the following resources:
- Education Award (tutorial)
- The College Cost Reduction and Access Act (PDF)
- Student Loan Deferment or Forbearance for VISTAs (PDF)
- Loan Postponement and Interest Payment in the Member Handbook, Chapter 6
- Using the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award and Managing Student Loans (Webinars for VISTAs)
- GRE Fee Reduction Program in the Member Handbook, Chapter 6
- GRE Fee Reduction Program Educational Testing Service Website
While neither personal nor sick leave is available to Summer Associates, three categories of leave that may be available to Summer Associates.
- Holidays: Summer Associates receive leave on federal holidays observed by their project site.
- Emergency Leave: When an emergency or illness prevents a Summer Associate from serving, CNCS staff may approve make-up time to assist the Summer Associate in meeting the required number of service days.
- Jury Duty: Summer Associates who are summoned for jury duty will continue to receive their living allowance.
Learn about the requirements for each and the process for using them.