FAQs About the MNA Civic Engagement AmeriCorps VISTA Program

How many MNA AmeriCorps VISTA members are in the program?

MNA AmeriCorps VISTAs are placed at different host sites across the state of Michigan. In 2013-2014, there are 30 VISTAs in the program, including 2 VISTA Leaders housed in Lansing. We anticipate similar numbers for 2014-2015.

When do MNA AmeriCorps VISTA members serve?

VISTAs serve for one year. MNA AmeriCorps VISTAs must attend pre-service orientation (PSO) before they begin their year of national service. The MNA VISTA year of service begins the day following PSO and extends for 365 days.  In some special cases, VISTA members may be able to begin living and serving at a host site prior to pre-service orientation. For the 2014-2015 cohort, PSO will be August 12-15 in Chicago, with the first day of VISTA service being August 16, 2014.

How do I apply to become an MNA AmeriCorps VISTA member?

To apply, complete the AmeriCorps online application by following the instructions found HERE.

When will MNA AmeriCorps VISTA members be interviewed and placed?

The 2014-2015 recruitment process will run from February - June 2014. Interviews will take place on a rolling basis as MNA receives qualified candidates. The sooner a candidate applies, the sooner he/she will take part in a short telephone interview with MNA. Following this interview, candidates are then forwarded to host sites based on their preferences and qualifications for a follow-up interview. Once a VISTA candidate has been accepted by a host site, that site will no longer receive applications for VISTA candidates.

Do candidates have a choice in where they are placed?

We encourage applicants to keep an open mind about host site location. We cannot guarantee that there will be an available position at a specific host site when someone applies. However, applicant preferences, as well as qualifications, will weigh heavily in our decisions to interview applicants for particular host sites. 

Is an AmeriCorps VISTA opportunity considered employment or volunteerism?

Neither, actually. It is national service - a commitment to serve community and country.

How many hours per week does an MNA AmeriCorps VISTA work?

An MNA AmeriCorps VISTA position is a full-time, twelve-month commitment. AmeriCorps VISTA service is unique in that it involves a full immersion in the project and community. It is not always a 9:00 - 5:00 job. Each host site may require different working hours, which may include evening and weekend responsibilities. VISTA members are expected to be available for the needs of the community and project at all times. Generally, VISTAs serve 35-40 hours a week.

May I have another job while I'm an MNA AmeriCorps VISTA?

AmeriCorps VISTA members may NOT have outside employment.

May I go to school while I'm an MNA AmeriCorps VISTA?

VISTA members are not permitted to attend class(es) if they interfere with the VISTA responsibilities. Supervisors will need to determine whether or not the class(es) will detract from commitment to the project.

Do MNA AmeriCorps VISTA members receive any time off during the year of service?

Time off is negotiated with each host site supervisor. Many vacations may coincide with the calendar of each particular host site. At minimum, VISTA members are entitled to 10 personal and 10 sick days over the course of their year of service.

VISTA members receive a living allowance for their year of service. MNA VISTA members receive a portion of their living allowance on the 15th and 30th of each month.  It will be deposited directly into a bank account for the VISTA.

How is the living allowance calculated?

The living allowance is the amount of money provided to each AmeriCorps VISTA member to cover basic living necessities during the year of service. It is set at approximately the poverty level of a single individual. It varies based on the county of each program.

Do AmeriCorps VISTA members pay taxes?

Federal taxes are withheld from the living allowance. State, local, and Social Security (FICA) taxes are not withheld. AmeriCorps VISTA members are responsible for including their living allowance on their state and local tax returns.

May AmeriCorps VISTA members collect unemployment compensation?

Even though AmeriCorps VISTA service is not considered a "job," Michigan does not allow the collection of unemployment compensation because VISTA members are not available to look for a job.

>How do I use the Segal Education Award?

Upon satisfactory completion of a full year of service, VISTA members are eligible to receive a $5,550 ($5,645 for the 2014-2015 cohort) education award paid in the form of a voucher for education expenses. After the completion of a full year of service, the AmeriCorps Trust Fund is notified to establish an account for the VISTA and to mail an Education Award voucher to the VISTA . The Education Award can be used to 1) repay qualified student loans or 2) pay all of part of the cost of attending a qualified institution of higher education. The Education Award is not transferable to a spouse, child, or other family member and must be used within seven years of the date the VISTA finishes service.

What if I do not want an Education Award?

VISTA members may elect a $1,500 cash stipend instead of the Education Award. VISTA members must choose either the Education Award or the cash stipend during pre-service orientation.

How do I postpone the repayment of my student loans?

If VISTA members elect the Education Award, they may eligible for "forbearance" on student loans based on national service, depending on the lending institution. The AmeriCorps Trust will pay interest on the VISTA's behalf upon completion of service after receipt of an Interest Accrual Form. The interest payment is not deducted from the Education Award. If VISTA members elect the cash stipend, they may be eligible for loan "deferment" based on criteria such as economic hardship at the discretion of the lender. The type of deferment will depend on the type and date of the loan.

What do I need to know about AmeriCorps VISTA health coverage?

The AmeriCorps VISTA Healthcare Benefits Program is a health coverage program and is not considered insurance. The Benefit Program covers expenses for most emergency, medical and surgical costs, hospitalization and prescription drug needs members may have during their service. The Benefit Program does not cover costs associated with pre-existing conditions. Health coverage begins on the first day of AmeriCorps VISTA training and ends at midnight on a VISTA's termination date. Coverage only applies to the VISTA member, not spouses, partners or dependents. A $5.00 co-pay is required for all medical office visits. For more information about coverage, please visit: http://www.americorps.sevencorners.com

The AmeriCorps VISTA Healthcare Benefits Program does not satisfy the individual responsibility requirement of the Affordable Care Act.  If AmeriCorps*VISTA members only have the AmeriCorps VISTA Healthcare Benefits plan and do not have other coverage that meets the individual responsibility requirement, they may be subject to a payment under the individual responsibility provision, depending on the individual circumstances.

Does AmeriCorps VISTA provide childcare?

VISTA members who have dependent children may be eligible for child care support administered through GAP Solutions, Inc. VISTA members must be income eligible to participate. Child care is limited to $300 per month per family regardless of the number of children. Forms and more information will be provided during pre-service orientation.

What do MNA AmeriCorps VISTA members do at their host site?

AmeriCorps VISTA members have proven to be effective in several important areas, including: building relationships with community organizations, developing a permanent position related to service, supplying the human-based resources and skill-based actions necessary for making service happen, connecting host sites to a broader network of service and service-related knowledge, and acting as representatives of a national service model that endorses and legitimizes community service.

More specifically, MNA AmeriCorps VISTA members build the capacity of host site organizations by developing programming and resources, making ties to other organizations and initiatives in the community, and facilitating the implementation of direct and indirect services in the community.

Members serve in one or more of the following five capacities:

  1. Student Engagement: Engage in activities intended to improve learning and success in low-achieving K-12 schools.
  2. Service-Learning: Engage in high quality service and service-learning projects in low-achieving K-12 schools.
  3. College Access & Success: Engage in counseling, academic, enrollment, and retention support activities for economically disadvantaged youth.
  4. Financial Literacy: Engage in activities that provide, support and/or facilitate access to resources and services that improve financial literacy, stability and security.
  5. Employability: Engage in activities that provide, support and/or facilitate access to workforce development resources and services intended to improve employability and, ultimately, lead to employment.

Still have questions? Contact the MNA VISTA Leaders at mnavista@gmail.com