Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI)

Guiding Statement

America’s Service Commissions (ASC) will create an equitable and inclusive environment through learning, advocacy, and training in its internal work and with the network of state service commissions, their programs, and other stakeholders in order for national service and volunteering to grow and thrive in a manner that is reflective of the communities in which it serves.

ASC is committed to listening and learning as we move forward on the path to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. ASC will use our position as a national membership organization to work towards the goal that all people have access to service opportunities and are included in the leadership, development, and implementation of those opportunities. We will take action and advocate for policies that will advance equity across race, gender, disability, age, class, and geography. We will do this through continued dialogue, training, coaching, feedback, and empowering voices that are often silenced to speak. We will hold ourselves accountable to operate outwardly and inwardly as a learning organization that strives to be actively anti-racist and inclusive. We will prioritize the professional development and learning of our staff, board, and members to build the knowledge and skills to support our goals for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. We will amplify other voices when it is not our voice that needs to be heard, we will expect growth from each other and our membership, and we will put the learning into action as we advance towards being advocates and allies.

ASC JEDI Plan

ASC created a Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Plan in 2020 that complements our three year strategic plan. Our JEDI Work Group, which reports to our Membership Committee, meets monthly to provide accountability to us in meeting our JEDI goals and input into our related priorities and activities. You can view our JEDI Plan in detail here. This plan is dynamic and will continue to be reviewed to reflect new priorities and learning as we move throughout our work.

Making National Service More Accessible

In early 2021, ASC solicited input from our network on ways the federal agency AmeriCorps and policymakers can make national service more accessible, equitable, and inclusive. The result is a detailed set of recommendations we sent to the federal agency in early 2021. These recommendations are not exhaustive and represent a snapshot in time. Until many of these barriers are addressed, it will continue to be challenging for national service resources to be accessible to all communities (potential grantees) and individuals (potential AmeriCorps members and volunteers).

The following represents the high level recommendations provided to the federal agency (much more detail on each item was provided). These are not necessarily listed in an order of priority.

Short-Term Recommendations:

  1. Hold AmeriCorps members harmless due to enrollment errors including always hold eligible members harmless by avoiding disallowing hours and Education Awards and provide a process to allow commissions, whether directly or through their regional office to correct start dates for eligible members in a swift and timely manner. Read more on these requests in letters sent to the agency in November 2019 and June 2020.
  2. Ensure commissions have maximum flexibility to expend their grant funds to support local communities. The AmeriCorps agency has at times made it challenging for commissions to fully utilize their funds which is problematic for commissions and the federal agency. ASN and the Office of Grant Administrations (OGA) have made improvements related to this in the past year and it is important these improvements continue and additional steps are taken to ensure commissions have the flexibility to get resources to the communities most in need.
  3. Provide a waiver on the four-term limit for AmeriCorps participants (see letter from January 2020 requesting this).
  4. Increase the cost per MSY per statute. While ASN sets a minimum and maximum living allowance, most programs do not have the financial cash match resources to provide a living allowance that is significantly higher than the cost per MSY. Per statute, the federal agency should be raising the cost per MSY to align with annual cost of living adjustments and allow the cost per MSY to be set as high as allowed in statute. While we understand how this may impact the quantity of AmeriCorps members available due to funding limitations, we urge the agency to prioritize equity and quality so we can then prioritize quantity, as new federal resources are secured.
  5. Engage the field in reshaping and improving NSCHC requirements and compliance. In addition to reviewing ASC’s public comment, we invite review of our feedback on the NSCHC Enforcement Guide, a guidance document that has significant financial and time burden on the field.
  6. Provide clarity on roles and responsibilities between departments and staff roles at the agency. 
  7. Make necessary changes to standardized forms to be more inclusive, as detailed in a letter sent to the federal agency regarding ongoing problematic language with the AmeriCorps enrollment and exit forms.
  8. Re-invest in disability inclusion and provide guidance on how the field can access existing reasonable accommodations funding.
  9. Broaden the criteria for demonstrating evidence of program effectiveness. 
  10. Improve clarity throughout the AmeriCorps website on AmeriCorps benefits.
  11. Add a match waiver option back into the AmeriCorps NOFO (post-COVID recovery) and ensure readability and plain language guidelines are met.
  12. Improve the childcare assistance for AmeriCorps State and National.
  13. Work with other federal agencies and commissions to ensure adequate guidance is provided on AmeriCorps grantmaking and member benefits to state agencies.
  14. Become a federal government leader in addressing justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.
  15. Improve training and guidance to the field by providing timely and regular training on topics related to managing an AmeriCorps grant with a focus on the basics for new program grantees.
  16. Work with Tribal AmeriCorps grantees to identify and support their unique and specific needs related to AmeriCorps program management.
  17. Remove grant manual holds that have lasted more than 90 days (statute only allows for suspension of payments for no more than 90 days) and eliminate the practice of arbitrarily placing commissions or grantees on manual hold for corrective action.
  18. Continue to expand access to fixed amount grants.
  19. As formula grants, the agency should reduce or eliminate the application for Commission Support Grant and Commission Investment Fund applications and move to a block grant process per above and ensure equitable increases to CSG and CIF allocations to state service commissions if/when additional resources for these grants are available.

Additional Longer-Term Recommendations

  1. Engage the field in revisiting AmeriCorps branding to create a more inclusive and welcoming brand for all.
  2. Remove the 20% aggregate training cap set in regulations (§ 2520.50).
  3. Change the threshold for an independent evaluation in regulations to at least $2,500,000 from $500,000 to better align resources available for quasi-experimental design evaluations within AmeriCorps budgets.
  4. Advocate to allow DACA recipients and other non-citizens with legal status (i.e., Marshallese) to serve as AmeriCorps members.
  5. Advocate to allow education awards to be transferred to anyone designated and do not count the gift of an education award count towards the individual's limit on earning two full awards.
  6. Advocate for removal of the federal tax on the living allowance and Segal AmeriCorps education award
  7. In lieu of an education award, provide AmeriCorps State and National members with the option for an end of service cash stipend.
  8.  Create a data sharing agreement with ASC and/or individual state service commissions for AmeriCorps alumni data and education award usage by state/programs.
  9. Support passage of the CORPS Act or similar legislation that would expand resources for the cost per MSY, living allowance, and education award benefits for members.
  10. Support commissions in serving as VISTA Intermediaries and as a National Service Hub, along with appropriate resources.
  11. Re-invest in traditional volunteerism and meet the agency’s mission of community service to complement national service.
  12. Update the AmeriCorps Grant Terms and Conditions to ensure they are in alignment with Uniform Grant Guidance and the federal grant system including plain language guidelines and readability.
  13. Work with the field to develop a solution to eGrants while providing training and support on the current system.

With questions on ASC's JEDI priorities and work please contact Rachel Bruns.