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Frequently Asked Questions
What is AmeriCorps VISTA?
AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) is one of several programs under the AmeriCorps umbrella. AmeriCorps State/National and AmeriCorps NCCC are also administered as part of the same suite, though they have distinct missions, means, and policies. Click here for a full description of the AmeriCorps programs.
AmeriCorps VISTA differs from AmeriCorps State/National and AmeriCorps NCCC in that it focuses on indirect service and capacity-building initiatives that directly impact low-income communities. According to the CNCS website, “VISTA members generally do not provide direct services, such as tutoring children or building homes. Instead, they focus their efforts on building the organizational, administrative, and financial capacity of organizations that fight illiteracy, improve health services, foster economic development, and otherwise assist low-income communities. VISTAs develop programs to meet a need, write grants, and recruit and train volunteers.” While VISTAs do not interact with clients extensively their service helps create projects that endure for years.
VISTAs spend a year stationed at a single organization, serving full-time for a modest living stipend. This stipend is equivalent to what a single person would make if they were living at 110% of the area’s poverty level. Click here for more information about VISTAs and what they do.
What is the City of Memphis VISTA program?
The City of Memphis AmeriCorps VISTA program is part of a national collaborative to alleviate poverty in America. AmeriCorps VISTA members recruit and manage community volunteers, raise funds, and help coordinate projects. They support programs that improve academic performance, expand job opportunities, develop financial assets, alleviate hunger, reduce homelessness, and improve health services. They also support programs that increase housing access, develop economic opportunities for low-income veterans and military families, and expand access to technology.
Where are City of Memphis AmeriCorps VISTAs placed?
The partnering organizations of the City of Memphis AmeriCorps VISTA Program vary from year to year. Our host organizations are spread throughout Shelby County, with the majority serving in the Memphis area. To see our current partner organizations, click here.
What is the difference between the VISTA Member role and VISTA Leader role?
Just as AmeriCorps VISTA members work to expand and build the capacity of community projects, Leaders work to expand and build the capacity of individual AmeriCorps VISTA members and their respective service sites. VISTA Leaders support the entire VISTA team with the goal of ensuring our VISTAs and their projects have the most meaningful impact possible. To qualify for a VISTA Leader role, candidates must have completed at least one term of service prior to starting the Leader position with AmeriCorps VISTA, AmeriCorps State/National, AmeriCorps NCCC or Peace Corps (VISTA preferred).
The VISTA Leader supports the City of Memphis AmeriCorps VISTA Program by coordinating VISTA member training, mentoring members, coordinating/conducting site visits, supporting outreach/sharing program impact, collecting reports & managing data, and supporting recruitment for new VISTA sites & members. An AmeriCorps VISTA member is not entitled to an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader assignment for simply having completed a previous service assignment. Leaders must have demonstrated leadership skills and qualities during their initial term(s) of service and have accepted a new level of responsibility.
For more on VISTA Leaders Click here
What are the benefits of serving with AmeriCorps?
- VISTA offers several tangible and intangible benefits to serving. As a VISTA with the City of Memphis you receive:
- Living Allowance: The following annual living allowance will be provided to each VISTA Member/Leader:
- $13,399.15 per year for VISTA members in Shelby County
- $14,545.44 per year for VISTA Leaders in Shelby County.
- NOTE: Living allowance is paid via direct deposit in biweekly installments by CNCS (Federal Government). Only Federal taxes are deducted from the stipend in Tennessee.
- End of Service Benefit: Choice of a $1,800 cash stipend (VISTA Member), $3,000 cash stipend (VISTA Leader) or a $6,195 education award upon completion of service. The education award can be used towards future or former educational expenses, including eligible student loans and tuition expenses. Certain universities will match this award with their own scholarships.
- Health Benefits: Members receive a health allowance of up to $7,900 that can be put towards approved out-of-pocket medical expenses (deductible, co-pays, co-insurance), including dental and vision. Please note that this is not health insurance.
- NOTE: Members must secure their own health insurance, most are eligible for Medicaid plans.
- Relocation Assistance: Members can receive financial assistance for relocation costs if moving more than 50 miles to serve, including:
- Reimbursement of $0.40/per mile traveled to move to service site up to $1,000
- Settling in allowance of $750 to cover move-in costs
- Childcare: Members can receive childcare assistance (if eligible).
- Leave: Members receive 10 days (80 hours) of personal leave, 10 days (80 hours) of medical leave, 5 days of Emergency Leave (40 hours), and all major holidays that the City of Memphis observes.
- NOTE: Members cannot take personal leave in the first or last month of service.
- Federal Non-Competitive Eligibility: Upon completion of service, members will receive one year of non-competitive eligibility for employment with the Federal Government.
- Training: Members will receive extensive onboarding assistance, orientation, as well as several in-person training opportunities to prepare and support them in completing their year of service successfully. Training topics will include grant writing; marketing and communication; community outreach; project management; diversity, equity and inclusion; career development; and much more!
- Networking: Members will receive exposure to a wide variety of nonprofits and the opportunity to learn about many industries and careers, including nonprofit, local government, and public service paths. They will also have access to a new network of AmeriCorps VISTAs and alums, both through our program and nationally.
- VISTA Leader Support: Our team includes two VISTA Leaders, who provide individual mentorship and guidance to our VISTA members throughout the duration of their service.
How much is the living allowance?
- Daily Rate: $36.71; Bi-Weekly Rate: $513.94; Monthly Rate: $1,116.59, Yearly Rate: $13,399.15
*NOTE: Living allowance amounts are pre-tax; Federal taxes are withheld in Tennessee. Living allowance is paid to members by direct deposit every 14 days.
- Federal: Withheld
- State: “Tennessee has no state income tax on earned income and therefore has no withholding requirements.”
Do AmeriCorps Members receive health care benefits?
- While AmeriCorps does not provide health insurance to their VISTA members, AmeriCorps does offer two different healthcare benefit options for members. Members may choose one of two options:
- Health Allowance Plan: Members may enroll in this plan to help cover the cost of out-of-pocket health expenses up to $7,900 that the member may incur during their year of service.
- Under the Health Allowance Plan, members are still responsible for securing their own health insurance if not already covered under a family member or spouse and can use the $7,900 to offset co-pays, co-insurance, deductible, or other approved expenses.
- The healthcare allowance cannot be applied to insurance premiums, costs for non-essential health benefits (such as elective or cosmetic services), costs associated with going outside of your PPO (primary network), and costs associated with the care of your spouse and/or dependents.
- Health Benefit Plan: Provided they meet certain provisions and qualify for the appropriate exemptions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), members may receive coverage under a basic health benefit program. NOTE: the
- Health Benefit Plan does not cover for care related to most pre-existing medical conditions and does not cover common routine preventative benefits you may find standard on most ACA compliant health plans.
- Vision and dental are not included in the health benefit program. Yearly physicals are not covered. Women are eligible to receive yearly well woman checkups.
- The Health Benefit Plan is not compliant with the ACA and members who elect to enroll in it must either file a waiver, or enroll in additional compliant coverage, or pay the tax penalty associated with noncompliance.
Applicants are advised to very thoroughly review the materials contained on the official website of the health carrier for these AmeriCorps Health Plans, IMG Global, to determine the best fit. More information on the IMG Global site here.
When and how do I become an AmeriCorps Member with the City of Memphis AmeriCorps VISTA program?
Full term VISTA positions have a start date in June and we begin recruiting for these positions in March.
Please refer to our current open positions for more information about current openings and our interest form.
For more information about applying to VISTA or other policies around VISTA (requirements, the Education Award, student loan deferment, etc.) please see AmeriCorps VISTA FAQ page.
What makes for a competitive applicant?
Compelling applicants come from many different backgrounds and levels of experience.
Typically, members have some college experience and have some volunteer or work experience, though in some cases relevant work experience may substitute on a year-by-year basis for a college degree. We look for a combination of personal and professional attributes that indicate maturity, sincerity, and resilience, including regular engagement in volunteerism, work experience, lived experience, and strong recommendations. When considering an application, we place special emphasis on the writing sample: clarity and concision, depth of thinking, and a genuine interest in confronting poverty must all be evident.
The vast majority of successful applicants have extensive volunteer and/or community experience relevant to their positions. We prefer to see sustained engagement with one organization or issue rather than several briefer involvements. Recommenders should know you well, have supervised your work in a professional, volunteer, or academic capacity, and not be related by blood or marriage.
All members must have an earnest commitment to completing 365 days of service from start to finish and be willing to live at the federal poverty level for the duration of that time.
Can I apply for multiple AmeriCorps Member positions with the City of Memphis AmeriCorps VISTA program?
Yes! It does not weaken your standing to apply to multiple positions, so long as you are able to explain your motivation for applying to each role. Applying to multiple positions could demonstrate your dedication to joining our team and also offers more chances to be selected as a finalist, if your application is a match for the positions the host sites we are recruiting for.
What are the citizenship requirements for AmeriCorps VISTA Members?
To be eligible for AmeriCorps service you must be a U.S. Citizen, U.S. National, Lawful Permanent Resident, or person legally residing in a state that have one of the following legal residency classifications: refugee, asylum or asylee, or temporary protected status. All applicants must provide appropriate primary documentation of their residency or citizenship status. Visa sponsorship is not available. As this is a federal policy exceptions cannot be granted.
Can I become an AmeriCorps Member if I don’t have a college degree?
Yes! We do not require a completed college degree for our positions.
If you don’t have a degree and want to serve with us you can substitute relevant work experience for education on a year-for-year basis. So, in most cases this would mean that a position will require four years of higher education, or four years of relevant work experience, or some combination thereof (ex: two years of college and two years of work).
Can I become an AmeriCorps Member if I have a criminal record?
Yes, in some cases. Our agency serves formerly incarcerated individuals, and we believe that their experiences and perspectives can contribute invaluably to our AmeriCorps VISTA program.
However, as per federal regulations that govern AmeriCorps, persons convicted of murder or registered as a sex offender are not eligible for the VISTA program. Provided that the conditions of their probation or parole have been met, persons convicted of other crimes are still eligible and have participated in VISTA in the past. If you are still on parole or probation you may be eligible for VISTA, if circumstances are truly extraordinary and extenuating. As these are federal policies, exceptions cannot be granted.
All applicants, no matter criminal history, undergo a full FBI background check and must disclose any convictions when submitting an application. Failure to disclose a conviction and/or unwillingness to undergo a background check can result in deselection from VISTA.
When reviewing applications, offenses will be weighed based on their severity, the time elapsed since conviction, steps taken towards change or recovery, and a person’s work history and involvement in the community since the conviction. It can be beneficial if a caseworker, reentry navigator/mentor, or parole officer writes you a recommendation for service with AmeriCorps. In some cases, such as those projects that focus on prison re-entry services, we view experience with the justice system as an asset.
If you do have a criminal history of any sort and intend to apply to VISTA be aware that you will be required to present court documentation that indicates your case, verdict, and sentencing, and that all conditions of your sentencing have been satisfied. These documents can take several weeks for the courts to process if they are not on hand. If you are intending to apply and do not have these documents on hand contact the court immediately to secure copies.
What happens after I submit my AmeriCorps application?
The CoM AmeriCorps VISTA Program team reviews every application submitted on a rolling basis (as they come in).
After an application is submitted, the second step of the process is a self-directed screening questionnaire that the applicant is able to complete independently.
Then, there is a first-round interview conducted by the City of Memphis AmeriCorps VISTA Program team.
Following the interview with our team, applicants will take part in a second interview, with the site supervisor of the host organization.
If selected, the final step is formally selecting a candidate as a finalist in the AmeriCorps system and waiting for federal approval. No candidate is officially approved and placed for service as the finalist until they’ve received federal approval.
Once a finalist is selected and approved by the Federal Government, the CoM AmeriCorps VISTA Program team will send onboarding materials and all information the finalist needs to know before starting service.
If I am recruited, when will I start service?
Full term VISTAs, Summer VISTAs, and VISTA Leaders have a start date in June.
If recruited, what would my schedule look like?
VISTA members serve their nation 24/7 and are expected to be available for service whenever needed. In practice, the typical daily VISTA schedule follows the City of Memphis work schedule.
VISTAs are allotted 10 personal days, 10 medical days, 5 emergency days during their service year. Personal days cannot be used in the first or last month of service, save in truly exceptional circumstances. It is very rare that exceptions are made.
Upon taking the oath of service, VISTAs are expected to serve for 365 days. Save for exceptional circumstances detailed in the AmeriCorps VISTA Handbook, members must sacrifice their education award or end of service stipend if they depart or are removed from service early. Admission to graduate school or accepting a job offer are not exceptional circumstances.
Will I receive assistance if I am move from outside the area to serve?
If your home of record is more than 50 miles from your service site, you will receive the following relocation assistance:
- Settling in allowance of $750
- Reimbursement for mileage traveled from your home of record to your service site by the shortest route at a rate set by the Federal Government (currently $.40/mile) for a maximum of $1,000.
- Support from VISTA Leaders with the housing search process. We do our best to connect members moving from other regions to find housing together if at all possible!
The settling in allowance and mileage reimbursement are paid directly by the Federal Government and usually arrives from 6-10 weeks after the start of service. Find out more here.
Can I be employed elsewhere while serving as an AmeriCorps Member?
Yes, as of May 4th, 2015 VISTAs are allowed to be employed elsewhere during their term so long as the employment is part-time, legal, and does not interfere with VISTA responsibilities, which must come first. The VISTA also must secure the written approval of their supervisor and submit a formal request to CNCS. Applicants are advised that outside employment can raise a VISTA’s living wages and may cause them to be ineligible for certain public services such as food stamps, Medicaid, or housing assistance. Potential VISTAs are additionally advised that their VISTA duties must come before responsibilities associated with outside employment and will be expected to modify the schedule and expectations of such outside employment to accommodate VISTA schedules and responsibilities.
Am I guaranteed a job after completing my AmeriCorps service?
No. All members will be able to develop their professional skills and network throughout their term of service, but they are not guaranteed a job with any organization upon completion of their term.
Though professional development is an appropriate goal of participating in VISTA, applicants are strongly discouraged from applying to join VISTA for exclusively professional reasons or with the hope of getting a job with a particular organization. While in recent years, about 20% of our members have been hired on by their sponsoring organization after their term of service, there is no guarantee of this happening.
However, members do receive non-competitive eligibility for federal jobs for one year after the completion of a successful service term. In addition, alumni receive the benefit of the Employers of National Service program, a coalition of organizations that have indicated preference in hiring AmeriCorps alums. Members are provided with assistance in writing resumes, cover letters, interviewing, and job hunting. Within one month of completing service a sizable portion of our members are either employed and/or enrolled in graduate school. VISTA presents the opportunity to hold responsibilities far greater than those of many entry-level roles, and members benefit from the leadership and program management skills they learn in their positions. Potential employers are often impressed by the hard work and dedication of AmeriCorps members.
What else should I know?
VISTA is a challenging and life-changing experience that allows you to dedicate a year of your life exclusively to supporting the community. We’re proud of each and every one of our members and enjoy getting to know them throughout the year as they change, learn, and serve. By joining you’ll be part of a 50-year tradition that has improved the lives of countless Americans.
To get more information, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, stay in touch by following us on social media and signing up for text notifications by texting “VISTA” to 484848.