Potential Increase from $17k to $22k for Service

April 10, 2023

Michael Smith, the CEO of the federal AmeriCorps agency, is considering hiking the living allowance paid to those who give a year of service through programs like the GO Fellowship. Smith reached out to a group of non-profit leaders from across the country during a Zoom call on Friday afternoon that I was a part of.

Smith posed the question in clear terms to those on the call: Would we support an increase in the annual living allowance paid to AmeriCorps members from approximately $17,000 to $22,000 even if that meant that the total number of AmeriCorps positions nationwide would decrease as a result?

I told Smith that I emphatically believe the answer is yes. Here’s why:

  • Fairness – AmeriCorps members are tackling some of the hardest problems in the country and deserve to receive more, particularly with the soaring cost of living in the US; even though the GO Foundation provides housing to its members at a nominal cost, it is still difficult for many to make ends meet;
  • Diversity – a low living allowance means that those young people who don’t have a family who can subsidize them, find it especially difficult to serve; given the racial wealth gap in this country, that shuts out a lot of Black and Hispanic applicants who look like the students that GO Fellows mentor and tutor;
  • Economics – figures reported by the Labor Department last week continue to show one of the lowest unemployment rates of the last 50 years; as a result, recruitment for AmeriCorps positions is down nationwide, including at GO; we need to raise the living allowance to attract the talent we need;

Michael Smith, who was appointed by President Biden and confirmed by the Senate in 2021, has proven himself to be a thoughtful and inspiring leader. In a meeting with Smith last year, I told him about one GO Fellow who earned additional money by working the overnight shift stocking shelves at Whole Foods and then came to school in the morning to tutor and mentor our kids.

I could see that story register with Smith and was heartened to hear him say on Friday that his eventual goal is to raise the living allowance to $25,000 by 2025. He has to make a decision on this matter by April 15; if you want to let him know what you think or share your own experience as an AmeriCorps member, you can email Michael Smith at MDS@CNS.gov. Any increase would go into effect in the Fall of 2024.

For those observing this holiday season, Happy Easter, Chag Pesach Sameach and Ramadan Mubarak!

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