"National Service Can Be a Key Means of Addressing the BIPOC Wealth Gap"

On June 21, 2021, AmeriCorps –the federal agency which provides support through funding and people power to more than 2,000 organizations across America and connects over 70,000 Americans each year to opportunities to engage in volunteer service to meet community needs – announced how it will use its $1 billion allocation in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to address ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ARP funds were provided by Congress as one of several COVID-19 relief packages enacted over the past 18 months.

The AmeriCorps ARP funds will accomplish three critical goals: increasing service member slots; making national service more accessible by offering an increase in living allowances; and providing financial help to existing national service programs that were most severely impacted by the pandemic. The use of these funds will meet two critical goals, meaningfully responding to the BIPOC wealth gap and ensuring that service is more accessible to low-income individuals.

In particular, $644.9 million will be allocated to AmeriCorps State and National to increase the living allowance of Corps members, provide financial assistance to current grantees, and introduce a place-based planning grant opportunity to community-based organizations that are strategically aligned to local government priorities. AmeriCorps VISTA will receive $80 million in funding to increase the number of VISTA members serving, expand the summer associate program and increase the living allowance of VISTA members. AmeriCorps Seniors will receive $30 million in funding to focus on supporting COVID-19 vaccination efforts and provide existing grantees with the opportunity to obtain additional resources to supplement and expand their current services. In addition, $148 million will go towards Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards to help service members who complete their term of service to pay for postsecondary education or repay student loans.

GIA believes national service can be a key means of addressing the BIPOC wealth gap, through increasing college access by providing financial support for postsecondary education, and building the work skills of service members. In fact, positive outcomes associated with serving are even stronger among Black corps members, and corps members from marginalized groups. Furthermore, the increase in living stipend for Corps members will make national service more accessible to low-income individuals and those from underrepresented communities, which can help to provide onramps into the arts and cultural industries.

National service can also provide communities and organizations, including arts and cultural organizations, a powerful force to tackle their biggest challenges at this time of great need amidst recovery from the pandemic. GIA encourages organizations to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the historic ARP investment in AmeriCorps. More information can be found at https://americorps.gov/partner or through contacting AmeriCorps region offices.