WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Sherrod Brown (D-Oh.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), along with Representatives Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), David Price (D-N.C.), and Tom Cole (R-Ok.), introduced new legislation during 2020 AmeriCorps Week to strengthen the Segal AmeriCorps Award that helps make service a financial possibility for many Americans. The Educational Award Parity Act ensures that all AmeriCorps members over the age of 55 who earn an education award are able to transfer it to a family member regardless of the program through which they served.
The Segal AmeriCorps Education Award is a post-service benefit earned by individuals who complete approved service terms in AmeriCorps programs and may be used to pay qualified educational expenses or to repay student loans for oneself or on behalf of a family member. Today, members of AmeriCorps State & National programs over the age of 55 have the right to transfer their awards to certain family members. This flexibility provides them an opportunity to use the awards to cover their own educational expenses or those of certain family members, like a child of the member, thereby making it possible for older Americans with financial obligations to their families to participant in national service. In doing so, it helps reduce the barrier that financial obligations pose to participation in national service. The bill is endorsed by Voices for National Service, Habitat for Humanity, and Teach For America.
“As someone who worked with AmeriCorps from its inception in 1994, I’ve witnessed the incredible impact AmeriCorps members bring to their communities,” said Senator Coons. “I’m proud that we have brought together so many leaders of Congress to recognize their contributions and ensure they receive their well-earned benefits.”
“As Co-Chair of the Congressional National Service Caucus, I join in recognizing AmeriCorps Week and celebrating the positive impact AmeriCorps members create across the country,” said Congressman Price. “From helping communities recover from natural disasters, to alleviating poverty, mentoring students, and so much more -- AmeriCorps helps solve some of our most pressing problems. We’re stronger as a nation because of their service.”
“National service programs embody the best of what unites us. The thousands of AmeriCorps members show us that by serving others – by making an effort to bridge divides and overcome challenges, that everyone can start a wave of positivity in their communities that echoes far and wide,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “This is why we must both recognize the service of volunteers and make sure that eligible volunteers can rightfully transfer their hard-earned Segal Education Awards to members of their family.”
"Voices for National Service is grateful for the support of Senators Cassidy and Coons, the chairs of the National Service Congressional Caucus. They have been vocal advocates for expanding national service opportunities so more Americans of all ages and backgrounds can serve,” said AnnMaura Connolly, President of Voices for National Service. “The Educational Award Parity Act will help to ensure the education benefit remains a valuable and compelling incentive to serve and a tool for making college more affordable."
“The AmeriCorps Education Award is a critical benefit that makes college more affordable for those who commit to serve their communities and our country,” said Elisa Villanueva Beard, CEO of Teach For America. “Ensuring that more AmeriCorps members over the age of 55 have the opportunity to transfer their education award to eligible family members is common sense and good policy. Teach For America looks forward to working with Senators Coons and Cassidy to ensure this legislation becomes law.”
Additionally, Senators Coons and Cassidy celebrate this week’s passage of an annual resolution honoring the contributions of AmeriCorps members and alumni to the lives of Americans in honor of 2020 AmeriCorps Week. Over 75,000 Americans serve communities across the country through AmeriCorps programs each year, totaling more than one million AmeriCorps alumni since the program's founding in 1994.
Senators Coons and Cassidy and Representatives Price and Matsui are co-chairs of the National Service Congressional Caucus. The resolution, which passed the Senate Wednesday, was also cosponsored by Senators Angus King (I-Maine), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jack Reed (D-R.I), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).