22-23 Volunteer Iowa FAQs - updated 11.19.21

Date: 
09/20/2021
Document File: 
Document Text Version

AMERICORPS STATE RFA- VOLUNTEER IOWA FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
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IOWA COMMISSION ON VOLUNTEER SERVICE (VOLUNTEER IOWA)
VOLUNTEER IOWA FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
To submit a question, use the “ASK A QUESTION” feature in IowaGrants. This feature is viewable once you have logged into IowaGrants. New questions and answers are posted in the Funding Opportunities Details within the IowaGrants posting. Check regularly for updates.
FAQ 1. GENERAL INFORMATION
What is the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service (ICVS or Volunteer Iowa)? Volunteer Iowa is a state government agency whose mission is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering. Volunteer Iowa works to fulfill this mission through a number of programs, projects and activities focused on service and volunteerism. Volunteer Iowa has a three-year State Service Plan that outlines the strategies and goals. Visit here to view the summary or full plan (new plan to be posted soon): http://www.volunteeriowa.org/media/publications.aspx. Volunteer Iowa is the administrative agent of Iowa AmeriCorps State programs. In recent years, Volunteer Iowa has funded approximately 20-25 AmeriCorps State grants in Iowa fulfilling a variety of needs in communities across the state.
a) What is the proper way to spell “AmeriCorps” and how is it pronounced?
Always spell AmeriCorps with a capitalized “C” and no space between the “i” and the “C”. When speaking about the AmeriCorps program, the “p” and the “s” are silent (i.e. sounds like “AmeriCore”).
b) What is AmeriCorps and who is an AmeriCorps Member?
AmeriCorps is a National Service program, often described as a domestic Peace Corps, that involves individuals (members) in “getting things done” in their community. An AmeriCorps member is an individual enrolled in and serving with an AmeriCorps program who commits to engage in intensive community service for a specified period of time. In exchange for their service, members may receive a living allowance and other benefits. AmeriCorps members are qualified to earn an education award to pay for post-secondary education or vocational training and/or to repay student loans, upon successful completion of their term. The AMERICORPS agency (previously known as the Corporation for National & Community Service or CNCS) is the federal agency responsible for establishing AmeriCorps program and funding requirements.
c) Who is a community volunteer?
In AmeriCorps grants, a community volunteer is an individual who donates his or her service to organizations funded by the AMERICORPS agency, but who is not an AmeriCorps member. Community volunteers may be recruited by staff or by AmeriCorps members to assist with the program, but do not earn an education award or other member benefits. Volunteers and AmeriCorps members might serve side-by-side. In answering questions for the application, do not confuse “community volunteers” with “AmeriCorps members”.
d) What does “MSY” mean? MSY stands for “Member Service Year,” and it is comparable to the acronym FTE, meaning “full-time equivalent.” Because the terminology “FTE” is familiar to most organizations in referring to employees, AMERICORPS uses the term MSY to distinguish that AmeriCorps State members are NOT employees. In concept, however, FTE and MSY are the same.
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e) What about AmeriCorps VISTA and AmeriCorps NCCC? How do I apply for those programs?
AmeriCorps VISTA and AmeriCorps NCCC are two other branches of AmeriCorps programming, with different types of AmeriCorps member placements and different eligibility requirements for host agencies as compared to the AmeriCorps State program. Volunteer Iowa does not manage the AmeriCorps VISTA and AmeriCorps NCCC programs in Iowa, but we do work closely with the offices in charge of these two other branches of AmeriCorps. For more details about these programs and their requirements, including how to apply and who to contact with more questions, visit our website at http://www.volunteeriowa.org/americorps/start-ac.aspx. When determining which branch of AmeriCorps would be a best fit for your agency, consult the “How to Partner with AmeriCorps Programs” document that can be linked to from this page
f) Is this announcement of the AmeriCorps State Program opportunity related to applying for a VISTA? If not, when is the open period for applying for an AmeriCorps VISTA and who would be the contact on that?
No, this request for grant applications is for AmeriCorps State programming, not AmeriCorps VISTA programming. The contact for AmeriCorps VISTA is the AMERICORPS agency. You can find out about how to apply for an AmeriCorps VISTA project on the AMERICORPS website at https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/americorps-programs/americorps-vista/sponsor-vista-member.
If AmeriCorps VISTA is a better fit for your organization you are also encouraged to consider partnering with Volunteer Iowa to host an AmeriCorps VISTA member through our project. For more details see our website at https://www.volunteeriowa.org/vista.
g) I just found out about this opportunity and the deadline to apply is soon—do I really have time to write a good enough application?
Our application process intentionally has a pre-application built in, which allows staff to review your program design and provide technical assistance before the final application is submitted and reviewed for funding decision purposes. Volunteer Iowa is very supportive of new program development and we will work with promising applicants to develop the best possible grant and program.
FAQ 2. APPLICATION & GRANT INFORMATION
a) What types of grants are available on an annual basis? Volunteer Iowa funds Iowa AmeriCorps State operational grants for development and expansion of programs that meet community needs in the areas of education, healthy futures, environmental stewardship, veterans, economic opportunity, and disaster preparedness/response. Grant awards cover a budget period of one year (with an overall three-year program period for competitive awards) and may be renewed for additional years, subject to the grant review process and the availability of federal appropriations.
Planning grants are also available to increase capacity for organizations to develop AmeriCorps State programs for unserved or underserved areas of the state or to meet unaddressed community needs. In some years, federal-level planning grants available. Volunteer Iowa will consider formula applicants for planning grants if staff and reviewers believe that planning funding would contribute to a more successful, sustainable future program. Sometimes Volunteer Iowa also issues special requests for planning grant applications.
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Special competitions are announced as funds are available and can fund operational or planning grants in targeted priority areas.
b) What is the grant timeframe?
The grant period is three years for competitively-funded programs; however, the grant period is composed of three one-year budget periods and an abbreviated application must be submitted in years two and three of the grant period. The grant period for formula-funded programs may be one to two years and the budget periods for formula-funded programs are one year. Formula-funded programs may also be invited, at Volunteer Iowa discretion, to apply for an additional year of continuation funding.
c) Who is eligible to apply? We suggest that applicant organizations should have been in existence for several years prior to applying, so that they have had time to build the organizational capacity needed to manage a federal grant. Non-profit organizations, state agencies and local governments, elementary and secondary schools, Indian tribes, colleges and universities, community and faith-based organizations, labor organizations, partnerships and consortia, or an intermediary organization representing a combination of these or similar groups, working together eligible to apply for funding. Consortia or partnerships wishing to submit will need to identify a qualified member of the group to serve as the legal applicant and fiscal agent, if the consortia/partnership itself does not have the structure in place to do so. Applicants using this RFA must intend to operate their program wholly within the state of Iowa.
Any of the organizations listed above may also apply as an intermediary with an intent to subgrant the funds or AmeriCorps member positions to partner sites within Iowa. Multi-focus intermediaries have often been a funding priority of AMERICORPS and Volunteer Iowa. Please carefully review the application instructions to determine if your organization meets the AMERICORPS requirements and, if so, address the relevant questions in the application materials.
d) What are the standard AmeriCorps grant application and funding timelines?
Volunteer Iowa typically releases its Request for Grant Applications (RFA) in late summer or early fall. Depending upon if you are a new or returning program, your pre-application may be due as early as mid fall through spring of the following year. Pre-applications are reviewed by staff and Volunteer Iowa notifies applicants of their status for the final application (competitive or formula) within several weeks of the pre-application deadline. Final applications from competitive applicants are due in late fall to early winter and from formula applicants in the late winter to early spring. Final applications are reviewed and scored by a grant review committee at either the federal (for competitive) or state (for formula) level. Formula applicants appear before the Volunteer Iowa grant review committee in person. Funding decisions are announced by late spring, and programs start in the fall or winter.
e) How does the grant review and selection process work?
The grant review process involves responsibilities for staff, multiple committees, and the full commission. The full grant review policy is outlined in the Volunteer Iowa administrative policies and is available upon request. Staff review pre-applications and final applications for adequacy and completeness, including submission of any required attachments or supporting documents, as well as compliance with federal and/or state requirements. For competitions with a competitive national funding option, staff will also review for quality and suitability for being submitted to the national competition.
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Applications meeting requirements and received by the deadline are eligible for review and consideration by the Grant Review Committee. (Continuation applicants undergo a thorough staff review but are not included in the Grant Review Committee process). In advance of the Grant Review Committee meeting, staff may work with applicants to provide feedback and to allow time for applicants to make changes before the final application is submitted to the Grant Review Committee. Staff may share feedback from the grant review process and any federal or state-level grant review with the applicants as part of the continuous improvement process.
The Grant Review Committee, and staff or outside experts as needed, will read applications and, based on the criteria provided, score the applications and provide comments and feedback. Typically, Grant Review Committee reviewers do not score all components of the application; instead they score only certain components in a way that mirrors the national competition or fits with their training and expertise. In addition, the Grant Review Committee may invite applicants to provide presentations or respond to questions from the committee. The Grant Review Committee will determine a consensus rank order for the applications based on the information received during the grant review process. The rank order will be provided to the Programs Committee of the Commission.
The Programs Committee will consider the information from the Grant Review Committee, as well as staff feedback and recommendations based on program performance demonstrated through site visits; program, financial and member monitoring; and other factors that affect quality program management and outcomes. In addition, staff will provide feedback to the Programs Committee pertaining to the grant application in areas such as budget, evidence-based performance measures and overall program development. Staff will also review financial reports from new programs and provide feedback to the committee on funding. The Programs Committee will also consider other factors as appropriate for funding depending on the grant program, such as state and federal funding priorities, program distribution across the state, diversity of program models, diversity of issue areas, planning grant opportunities, cost effectiveness and cost per Member Service Year (MSY). In addition, funding recommendations of the Programs Committee will consider the amount of funding available, sustainability for programs that have lost their competitive funding status, potential supplemental funding opportunities, and other relevant data.
The Programs Committee will use the information from the Grant Review Committee, applicant presentations, considerations noted above, and staff feedback to make a recommendation on funding of applications to the Commission. The timing of the Programs Committee recommendation may be impacted by AMERICORPS national-level competitive funding decisions. Commissioners will consider the recommendations of the Grant Review and Programs Committees and take action on applications received. Commission action may include: advancing applications to state or national competition; continuing funding to applicants within a multi-year funding cycle; funding applications from Iowa’s federal funds; funding applications from other state sources; electing to not fund applications; or, directing staff to take further action prior to funding applications. Other actions may also be taken at the Commission level at the discretion of the Commission and in accordance with state and federal law.
Staff are ultimately responsible for submitting any required prime grant applications, encompassing individual sub-applications, to the AMERICORPS agency, based on Commission recommendations and in accordance with AMERICORPS application materials.
f) Why are applicants required to request a minimum of 8 MSYs?
Programs must be large enough to achieve a demonstrable impact on the community served and to merit the administrative work. While the actual size of each program will vary depending
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on the community, the design of the program, and other factors, applicants are required to apply for at least eight (8) full-time equivalent AmeriCorps members (8 MSYs) to meet the formula funding threshold. (In previous years AMERICORPS had a threshold of twenty (20) members for competitive funding but that threshold is not currently in place.)
Volunteer Iowa has established the 8 MSY minimum because of the administrative requirements of the program (both on the local sponsor and the commission) and because of the team-building and member development elements of the program. This minimum balances the administrative burden with the benefits to the members, the community and the program. However, in compelling situations, the commission may grant approval for smaller programs. Applicants wishing to submit a proposal for a program with less than 8 MSYs must make a written request for an exception to this requirement using the waiver form provided.
Applicants should evaluate their present infrastructure and capacity when considering program size. In general, organizations that cannot support 8 MSYs on their own are encouraged to think creatively about other agencies with whom they may partner in order to apply jointly. Local, regional and statewide partnerships should be considered. For example, another community program that works with a similar constituency may be interested in utilizing two members, and the applicant agency can utilize six members. A program can also choose to have a mixture of full-time and less than full-time members. For example, the 8 MSY requirement can be met by having four full-time members and eight half-time members, or many other combinations. Again, these are only minimums; provided that other budget requirements are met, there are no maximums.
g) Where can I get additional information about AmeriCorps State grants? Can I get a copy of a funded grant?
Additional information on specific program requirements can be found in the AmeriCorps Provisions, Regulations, and Terms & Conditions. These documents are located on the AmeriCorps website: National and Community Service Act of 1990 as amended by the Serve America Act (42 U.S.C. § 12501 et seq.)
○ CNCS Code of Federal Regulations (45 C.F.R. § 2500.1 et seq.)
○ OMB Code of Federal Regulations (2 C.F.R. § 200 et seq.)
○ CNCS Terms and Conditions for AmeriCorps State and National Grants
■ General: https://americorps.gov/sites/default/files/document/20201202_2021GeneralTandC508.pdf
■ Specific: https://americorps.gov/sites/default/files/document/2021ASNProgram508TC20210603.pdf
AMERICORPS has a list of funded applicants on its website at https://americorps.gov/partner/funding-opportunities/funded-grants.
Additional technical assistance regarding specifics of operating an AmeriCorps program, such as performance measures, member training/supervision, etc. can be found at the AMERICORPS funding opportunity page or through the Volunteer Iowa technical assistance sessions. Furthermore, upon request, Volunteer Iowa will make available copies of additional reference materials, such as the Volunteer Iowa AmeriCorps State grant agreement template. The Volunteer Iowa AmeriCorps State Program Manual and other program management materials are available on our website at https://www.volunteeriowa.org/americorps/current-americorps-grantee-resources.
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FAQ 3. ADMINISTRATION
a) Is there administrative funding available?
Yes, 5% (calculated using 5.26%) is the maximum federal share that can be requested for administrative expenses. Of this, two-fifths (or roughly 2.10%) is required to be set-aside for the Commission’s 2% administrative line item, as noted in the RFA. An amount up to the value of the remaining 3.16% may be retained by the program for administrative costs. These administrative funding calculations do not apply to Fixed Amount applicants; however the commission may still retain or charge a fee of up to 2% of the Fixed-Amount grant award for monitoring and support purposes. Applicants should not calculate a flat 5% administrative fee but should instead follow the specific guidance in the Application Instructions or use the Volunteer Iowa Budget Narrative Worksheet to calculate administrative costs.
b) Can we build in other administrative costs, such as supervisor time and office space?
Yes. Staff, office space, phones, supplies, etc. are allowable costs under the grant but your organization will need to determine which costs can be separated out and which should remain in admin. Many programs also use these areas as sources of matching resources for the grant. Applicants should be aware that administrative costs (like all costs) must be treated consistently across programs.
c) How much staff time is needed to manage the program?
It is recommended that programs utilize a full-time program director and have other support staff available to assist with the grant, as, a significant amount of time will need to be spent on grant & financial management. Many programs use a team approach to managing the grant but there still must be a primary program director.
d) Can a member provide the required staff oversight of other AmeriCorps members?
No, a member may not manage other members.
e) How much time is required by the site supervisors?
Site supervisors provide the day-to-day supervision and support for the AmeriCorps State members. Depending on the individual member, the time requirement will vary; however, it shouldn’t be more burdensome than overseeing another staff member.
f) How would we create member payroll since our payroll system does not accommodate the AmeriCorps payment requirements?
Programs will need to consult with their Human Resources office to determine the best approach to ensure that members receive their living allowance stipend as required by the AmeriCorps Regulations. Volunteer Iowa staff can connect a new applicant’s accounting department with current grantees who have successfully set up member payroll systems.
g) How do we conduct the required background checks on members and staff? Can we use the same process/vendor we use for our employees?
Most new program sponsors will be required to conduct the required checks using AMERICORPS-contracted vendors Truescreen and Fieldprint. Programs may also be able to run the checks through the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. The National Service Criminal History Check (NSCHC) requirements are specific and rigorous, so we have never seen an organization whose existing vendor/procedures comply with the requirements. Your organization may conduct additional organization-specific checks (such as a child abuse registry
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check or a certified driving record) in addition to the NSCHC, if desired. More information on background check requirements is available in FAQ Section 4 below and on the AMERICORPS website at
https://americorps.gov/grantees-sponsors/history-check.
FAQ 4. PROGRAM MANAGEMENT
a) Who recruits the members?
Local programs are responsible for recruiting their own members. However, an on-line national recruiting system provided by AMERICORPS is also used by programs to enhance recruiting.
b) What types of activities can AmeriCorps State members do?
Traditionally, AmeriCorps State members have provided primarily direct service activities. However, AMERICORPS has expanded the role of AmeriCorps State members to include some capacity-building activities, specifically volunteer recruitment and management and some very limited fundraising activities. Under the AmeriCorps regulations, strict restrictions are placed on the amount of time members may spend on fundraising activities and what types of fundraising they may do. There are also limits on how much time members can spend in training.
c) Can AmeriCorps members take the place of current staff or volunteers at my organization?
No. AmeriCorps members may not displace staff or volunteers at your organization, nor may they perform any services or duties that would supplant the hiring of employed workers. Specific language on Nonduplication includes the following: Corporation assistance may not be used to duplicate an activity that is already available in the locality of a program. And, unless the requirements of [nondisplacement] are met, Corporation assistance will not be provided to a private nonprofit entity to conduct activities that are the same or substantially equivalent to activities provided by a State or local government agency in which such entity resides.
Specific AMERICORPS language on Nondisplacement includes the following: (1) An employer may not displace an employee or position, including partial displacement such as reduction in hours, wages, or employment benefits, as a result of the use by such employer of a participant in a program receiving Corporation assistance. (2) An organization may not displace a volunteer by using a participant in a program receiving Corporation assistance. (3) A service opportunity will not be created under this chapter that will infringe in any manner on the promotional opportunity of an employed individual. (4) A participant in a program receiving Corporation assistance may not perform any services or duties or engage in activities that would otherwise be performed by an employee as part of the assigned duties of such employee. (5) A participant in any program receiving assistance under this chapter may not perform any services or duties, or engage in activities, that— (i) Will supplant the hiring of employed workers; or (ii) Are services, duties, or activities with respect to which an individual has recall rights pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement or applicable personnel procedures. (6) A participant in any program receiving assistance under this chapter may not perform services or duties that have been performed by or were assigned to any— (i) Presently employed worker; (ii) Employee who recently resigned or was discharged; (iii) Employee who is subject to a reduction in force or who has recall rights pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement or applicable personnel procedures; (iv) Employee who is on leave (terminal, temporary, vacation, emergency, or sick); or (v) Employee who is on strike or who is being locked out.
Also note that AmeriCorps members “serve” in a “position”, they do not “work” in a “job”, and they are “enrolled” in the program, they are not “hired”.
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d) What activities are AmeriCorps members prohibited from performing as part of their service?
The legislation governing AmeriCorps programs specifically prohibits members from engaging in the following activities while charging time to the AmeriCorps program, accumulating service or training hours, or otherwise performing activities supported by the AmeriCorps program: a) Attempting to influence legislation; b) Organizing or engaging in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes; c) Assisting, promoting or deterring union organizing; d) Impairing existing contracts for services or collective bargaining agreements; e) Engaging in partisan political activities or other activities designed to influence the outcome of an election to any public office; f) Participating in, or endorsing, events or activities that are likely to include advocacy for or against political parties, political platforms, political candidates, proposed legislation, or elected officials; g) Engaging in religious instruction; conducting worship services; providing instruction as part of a program that includes mandatory religious instruction or worship; constructing or operating facilities devoted to religious instruction or worship; maintaining facilities primarily or inherently devoted to religious instruction or worship; or engaging in any form of religious proselytization; h) Providing a direct benefit to: i) A business organized for profit, ii) A labor union, iii) A partisan political organization, iv)A nonprofit organization that fails to comply with the restrictions contained in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 except that nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent participants from engaging in advocacy activities undertaken at their own initiative; and v) An organization engaged in the religious activities described in the preceding sub-clause, unless Corporation assistance is not used to support the religious activities; i) Conducting a voter registration drive or using Corporation funds to conduct a voter registration drive; j) Providing abortion services or referrals for receipt of such services; and k) Such other activities as AMERICORPS or Volunteer Iowa may prohibit. Furthermore, members may not recruit or manage community volunteers for the primary purpose of engaging in the prohibited activities listed here.
The AmeriCorps regulations also include the following specific guidance about prohibited and allowable activities related to fundraising and resource development:
o § 2520.40 Under what circumstances may AmeriCorps members in my program raise resources?
(a) AmeriCorps members may raise resources directly in support of your program's service activities.
(b) Examples of fundraising activities AmeriCorps members may perform include, but are not limited to, the following:
(1) Seeking donations of books from companies and individuals for a program in which volunteers teach children to read;
(2) Writing a grant proposal to a foundation to secure resources to support the training of volunteers;
(3) Securing supplies and equipment from the community to enable volunteers to help build houses for low-income individuals;
(4) Securing financial resources from the community to assist in launching or expanding a program that provides social services to the members of the community and is delivered, in whole or in part, through the members of a community-based organization;
(5) Seeking donations from alumni of the program for specific service projects being performed by current members.
(c) AmeriCorps members may not:
(1) Raise funds for living allowances or for an organization's general (as opposed to project) operating expenses or endowment;
(2) Write a grant application to the Corporation or to any other Federal agency.
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o § 2520.45 How much time may an AmeriCorps member spend fundraising?
An AmeriCorps member may spend no more than ten percent of his or her originally agreed-upon term of service, as reflected in the member enrollment in the National Service Trust, performing fundraising activities, as described in § 2520.40.
[70 FR 39597, July 8, 2005]
e) Can individuals with a criminal record serve as AmeriCorps members? What background checks must be run on members? On program staff?
Individuals with certain specific criminal histories are prohibited from serving in AmeriCorps. This includes those convicted of murder and those listed ore required to be listed on the National Sex Offender Public Registry website (NSOPW). Applicants who refuse to undergo a criminal records check or who lie about their criminal record are also prohibited from serving. All AmeriCorps members and staff members listed on the grant budget must submit to a criminal records check that includes, at a minimum, a check of the NSOPW and either a state-based criminal history check or an FBI fingerprint check. Members and staff who will have recurring access to vulnerable populations must undergo a heightened check covering the NSOPW, state check, AND FBI fingerprint check. Each AmeriCorps program develops its own policy regarding which additional findings, in addition to murder or a listing on the NSOPW, would prohibit an applicant from being accepted to serve. More details on current national service criminal records check policies may be accessed at https://www.nationalservice.gov/resources/criminal-history-check.
f) How can a program support the inclusion of members with disabilities in AmeriCorps?
The inclusion of persons with disabilities in AmeriCorps remains a national priority. Programs that have addressed the principles of inclusion in their day to day activities are able to attract stronger candidates, engage and retain their members through service and enhance the whole service community. As a program design is created, a potential program should consider how any person could perform the essential functions of service with or without an accommodation. As a recipient of federal funds, programs must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Funded programs can receive training and technical assistance from Volunteer Iowa to ensure they are prepared to interview and enroll qualified candidates with disabilities, and conduct their service activities in fully accessible settings. Funded programs should prepare to conduct outreach to the community of persons with disabilities and agencies that serve people with disabilities in order to attract qualified candidates.
FAQ 5. BUDGET
a) How much funding should our agency anticipate for an AmeriCorps State grant in Iowa?
AmeriCorps State grant awards in Iowa in recent years range from $20,000 for education award programming to more than $500,000 for competitive programs. The recent average (mean) amount of program funding in Iowa is $175,000 for formula programs and $330,000 for competitive programs. Programs should be aware that the Iowa Commission receives approximately $1.6 million in formula resources to provide to applicants whose grants are not selected for competitive funding. Therefore, there is a limit to the amount of funding and number of projects that can be awarded on an annual basis.
b) What are the matching requirements for the AmeriCorps grant?
Education Award Program (Fixed-amount) and Full-time Fixed-amount Grant
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There is no match requirement for fixed-amount grants. However the fixed-amount grant does not cover all costs. Fixed-amount grantees provide the additional resources needed to operate the program, but are not required to track or report on them. However, fixed-amount applicants are expected to identify the total amount budgeted and describe how additional resources will be generated to manage and operate the AmeriCorps program.
State Formula or State Competitive Cost Reimbursement Grant (non-fixed-amount)
A successful applicant is required to match at 24% for the first three-year funding period. Starting with year four, the match requirement gradually increases every year to 50 percent by year ten, according to the minimum overall share chart found in 45 CFR 2521.60. Match may be cash or in-kind. Section 121(e)(5) of the National Community Service Act requires that programs that use other federal funds as match for an AmeriCorps grant report the amount and source of these funds on the Federal Financial Report. Use of federal funds as match requires approval from the other federal agency to use their funds for match on an AmeriCorps grant.
Match Waiver
AMERICORPS has established an Alternative Match Schedule for programs from certain rural or economically distressed areas. If your program meets the criteria and wants to request such a waiver, you are strongly encouraged to provide this information with the pre-application in order to be considered. AMERICORPS also may provide a match waiver to programs who meet criteria established by the agency. Blanket match waivers were provided in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
c) Can the program costs match be in-kind?
Yes, federal matching requirements allow all matching resources for the AmeriCorps State grants to be in-kind, with acceptable documentation. However, given the expenses involved in operating an AmeriCorps State program and the limits on how much funding AMERICORPS will provide, it is unlikely that an organization could successfully host a program using only in-kind match. Programs should also note that 24% is the minimum match for new applicants – higher levels of match are often necessary to support the program are required beginning in the fourth year of program funding.
d) Are there other budgetary restrictions?
Yes. Each year, AMERICORPS establishes a maximum cost per MSY for individual programs. The AMERICORPS maximum cost per MSY for differs by program type (cost reimbursement programs, full-time fixed amount programs, or education award only fixed amount programs) and funding source (competitive or formula). These limits are published in the Request for Applications each year. Cost efficiency is considered when grants are reviewed, so programs should strive to make good use of the available resources
Additional guidance on preparing the budget, including specific budget line item requirements, can be found in the Final Application Instructions. An Excel spreadsheet budget template that can be used to develop your budget for the final application is provided as the Budget Narrative Worksheet.
e) What is “cost per MSY”?
Cost per MSY stands for Cost per Member Service Year and represents the cost of your AmeriCorps program to the AMERICORPS agency. One MSY is the equivalent of one full-time term of service (1700 member service hours). The cost per MSY is calculated by dividing the total amount of Corporation funds requested by the total number of MSYs requested. For example, if your application requests $200,000 in CNCS share and 10 MSYs, then your cost per
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MSY is $20,000. The cost per MSY does not include grantee match, child care or the cost of the Education Award a member may earn.
f) What is the cost of a full-time AmeriCorps State member to the agency?
According to the grant requirements, new programs are required to provide a 24% overall match to the grant (with the exception of fixed amount grants) and the average AMERICORPS award per full-time member is approximately $13,000. Using the calculation of 24% of $13,000, grantees are expected to contribute a minimum $3,120 per full-time member in matching resources. Please note that higher matching levels are encouraged for new applicants and that matching requirements for continuing applicants increase beginning in year four of the grant.
g) How much should I budget for member Living Allowances?
If the program design will include members receiving a living allowance, the amount must fall within the minimum and maximum amounts established by AMERICORPS each year and is included within the Volunteer Iowa Request for Applications. Most programs in Iowa provide members with living allowances near the low end of the allowable range.
h) How much should I budget for member health care?
Programs are required to provide health care coverage for their full-time members and they may elect to provide coverage for less-than full-time members serving in a full-time capacity. Programs may choose any health care plan that meets minimum AmeriCorps requirements, which mirrors the Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) requirements of the Affordable Care Act (see the Regulations/Provisions for details). In Iowa, we are aware of programs using a plan provided by The Corps Network (Volunteer Iowa is an affiliate member of The Corps Network). We are not aware of any other provider with a specific AmeriCorps plan that meets the federal requirements; however, programs are welcome to contact local vendors to develop a plan that meets the requirements. Please note that Volunteer Iowa is not endorsing any healthcare provider. You should contact vendors to obtain estimates of costs for health care coverage for members.
i) Should my organization budget for health insurance for all members if we know that not all members will opt in to health insurance?
In the most recent application period, programs were allowed to budget for health insurance for only a portion of their full-time members if they indicated why and that any other eligible members would be covered from other funds. Please refer to the Final Application Instructions for guidance on this question in the current application period.
j) Does the program provide a portion of the Education Award?
No, the entire cost of the Education Award is provided by federal funds and no local funds are required to support the Education Awards. The education award amounts are not reflected in the budget for the AmeriCorps grant application, as they are paid directly by AMERICORPS from a separate funding source.
k) Does the program cover the costs of member Childcare Assistance?
No, the entire cost of the childcare assistance is provided by federal funds and no local funds are required to support the childcare assistance. Childcare assistance amounts are not reflected in the budget for the AmeriCorps grant application, as they are paid directly by AMERICORPS from a separate funding source.
l) What other member support costs should be included in the budget?
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You should include FICA and worker’s compensation or other liability coverage. You should not include unemployment insurance.
m) My agency has limited experience or no experience managing a federal grant. How can I find out more about the requirements?
If your organization does not have experience with federal grants management, we encourage you to review the relevant Office of Management and Budget uniform guidance to familiarize yourself with the requirements and limitations of federal grant funds. (Resources on the uniform guidance for national service grantees is found at https://www.nationalservice.gov/resources/uniform-guidance).
n) What happens to us as a grantee if we meet the minimum match but don’t meet our budgeted match? Should we budget for the highest match amount we can or budget closer to our required match?
Volunteer Iowa generally expects programs to meet the budgeted match because the commission is expected by AMERICORPS to meet the overall budgeted match for AmeriCorps programming (so a shortfall by a single program can be problematic). Programs should budget for match at a level they can realistically meet. It is not necessary to significantly over-match.
FAQ 6. MEMBER EXPERIENCE & BENEFITS
a) How many hours do AmeriCorps State members serve?
Members must complete a minimum number of hours over the course of their term of service, which cannot exceed a 12 month timeframe. Full time members serve a minimum of 1700 hours, three quarter-time members serve at least 1200 hours, half time members serve at least 900 hours, reduced half-time members serve at least 675 hours, quarter time members serve at least 450 hours, minimum time members serve at least 300 hours, and abbreviated time members serve at least 100 hours. The length of the service terms and the number of hours required are described by programs in the application and must be specified in member service agreements. Members may serve more than the minimum number of hours, if they reach the minimum before reaching the end date of their service agreement. If less-than full-time positions to be served over an extended period of time are included for the purpose of attracting members age 55+, members with disabilities, or disadvantaged youth members, this should be explained in the application narrative.
b) What benefits are provided to the AmeriCorps State members?
Members are eligible for a Segal Education Award upon successful completion of their term of service. Full-time AmeriCorps State members receive health care benefits and programs may elect to provide coverage to part-time members serving in a full-time capacity (funded by the program). Members who are income-eligible and have qualified dependents may also receive childcare benefits (funded by AMERICORPS). Programs are responsible for establishing vacation, sick and holiday policies for AmeriCorps State members; however, members do not accrue service hours for vacation, sick days or holidays. Other benefits (such as housing, professional certifications, etc.) vary from program to program, depending on the resources the applicant organization has to make available to members.
c) How do the Education Awards work?
Following successful completion of a term of service, members are eligible to receive an education award equal to the amount of the maximum Pell Grant (or a pro-rated amount for less-than full time members) that can be used to pursue post-secondary education, vocational
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training, Secretary of Veterans Affairs approved training, or to pay off qualified student loans. Members who serve less than full-time or who exit early for compelling personal circumstances are eligible for pro-rated Education Awards. All Education Award funding is managed through an online system and the awards go directly to the educational institution or qualified lender. Members have seven years to use their education award (extensions may be requested in extraordinary circumstances). Members age 55 or older at the time of enrollment may also transfer their award to an eligible child, foster child, or grandchild; the recipient then has ten years to make use of the award. Individuals may only earn/receive the equivalent of two full-time Education Awards. More information is available from AMERICORPS at
https://americorps.gov/members-volunteers/segal-americorps-education-award.
d) Can members use their Education Awards for training/education other than college?
Yes. However, Education Awards must be used at approved institutions, so members should check with the National Service Trust before enrolling in a program. More information about how the Education Awards may be used is available at https://americorps.gov/members-volunteers/education-award-faqs.
e) Can the Education Awards be “cashed out” or transferred to someone else?
AmeriCorps State members who are age 55 or older on the day they begin service may now transfer their education award to a child, grandchild or foster child. A “cash out” option is not available. (The AmeriCorps VISTA program does have the option of an end-of-service stipend rather than an education award, but that is not available to AmeriCorps State members). Prospective members are encouraged to review the final Trust Rule for details on the transfer rules and procedures. More information can be found at https://americorps.gov/members-volunteers/education-award-faqs.
f) Is there other education-related information I should know?
During their term of service, AmeriCorps State members are eligible for loan forbearance on qualified student loans and the National Service Trust will pay all or a portion of the interest accrued during a members’ service for qualified student loans. Or, full-time members may opt to enter into/continue regular repayment of their loans while serving in AmeriCorps, in order to have those qualifying payments count towards the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Members should be encouraged to fully research the best option for their individual circumstances.
g) Does participating in AmeriCorps State affect an individual’s public benefits?
AmeriCorps members may also be eligible to receive certain public benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), Family Assistance Program (FIP), or housing assistance. AmeriCorps benefits are reported, but do not count as income for members who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, making AmeriCorps service a good option for individuals receiving this type of assistance. Some individuals receive a separate benefit called Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). AmeriCorps benefits should not have a great impact on the SSDI benefits for most people. A member or prospective member should speak with their case manager regarding AmeriCorps payments and their benefits. Volunteer Iowa can provide further guidance as needed.
h) What is the HEART Act?
The HEART Act refers to the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax (HEART) Act of 2008. Under the HEART Act, the Social Security Administration is directed to ignore an individual's receipt of AmeriCorps benefits for purposes of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility.
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i) Can members be students?
Yes. However, full time students typically cannot complete the hours/commitments associated with a full time AmeriCorps position. Students may be a better fit for less than full time positions, but programs should be aware that students will be balancing both school and AmeriCorps responsibilities. Applicants should consult with Volunteer Iowa staff with specific questions related to students as AmeriCorps members.
FAQ 7. FOCUS AREAS & PERFORMANCE MEASURES
a) Does our project have to serve in one of the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service or Corporation for National and Community Service’s priority areas?
National Priorities: AMERICORPS has several focus areas for programming (Economic Opportunity, Education, Healthy Futures, etc.) and each year it establishes funding priorities, some that fit within a specific focus area (such as reducing and/or preventing prescription drug and opioid abuse for programs within the Healthy Futures focus area) and across them (such as programs sponsored by faith-based organizations). While most programs will fit under a AMERICORPS focus area, it is not a requirement that projects serve in one of the identified priority areas. At the competitive national review, preference will be given to programs that meet the federal priorities (see RFA for more details). However, overall quality and effectiveness of the proposed program, no matter the service area, is also a very important funding consideration and high-quality programs that do not meet a national priority are regularly funded.
State Priorities: Each state may develop state priority areas or need areas, to add to the AMERICORPS application process within that state. Volunteer Iowa identifies state-level funding priorities that are listed each year in the Request for Applications (RFA). These priorities are often drawn from the goals and objectives outlined in our Iowa State Service Plan, which is published at https://www.volunteeriowa.org/publications. The commission considers state priorities as a factor when making state formula funding decisions.
b) Where can I find out more about the National Performance Measures?
AMERICORPS provides extensive information on the National Performance Measures via the Performance Measures Instructions found for each funding opportunity. The instructions include guidance on definitions of terms used in the measures, evidence-basis for the measures, and sample tracking tools for many measures. There you will find a performance measure chart outlining all objectives and the performance measures which fall under each objective, as well as a step-by-step tutorial for entering required information into the module. The Final Application Instructions also provide detailed guidance on how to enter your selected performance measures into the eGrants application system. Volunteer Iowa suggests that you make use of these resources when choosing whether and which National Performance Measures to utilize in your program.
c) May we broaden our current program scope to address additional issues within our AMERICORPS Focus Area?
Volunteer Iowa does support programming that takes a comprehensive community approach to addressing identified needs. However, a complex program design can be more challenging to manage. Therefore, program expansion should be based on a well-defined community need and undertaken when the program has the internal capacity to manage the expansion.
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AMERICORPS has allowed additional pages for programs proposing a rural intermediary model (check the current Request for Applications for specifics), as it can be difficult to explain multiple interventions within the constraints of the application requirements. Programs proposing this model should ensure that they follow the specific application requirements for Intermediaries as outlined in the application materials.
d) How can we predict specific numbers for the performance measures in the disaster section when it is impossible to predict whether a disaster will happen during the grant period and within the program’s service area?
Our suggestion is that you enter measures as best you can, based on past records of disaster within your service area. Agencies that are awarded grants will submit progress reports in which they can discuss circumstances that contributed to them exceeding, meeting, or failing to meet performance measure goals. This allows an opportunity to explain how the lack of a disaster may cause the program to fail to meet goals in a certain program year.
f) I wanted to confirm that we are only required to choose one national performance measure OR one program identified measure, correct? We want to make sure that we were not required to have BOTH a program identified AND a national performance measure.
Programs must have one set of aligned measures for your program. This could be either a set of aligned national performance measures OR a set of program-identified members. You need not have both types. An aligned set of performance measures means both an output and an outcome measure. Volunteer Iowa encourages programs to submit only one measure, aligned with the primary program activity. Programs can track other performance objectives on their own but then will be required to report on only one measure as part of their regular progress reporting.
g) Within our grant we've had a primary and secondary Focus Area, which covered 100% of our MSYs. We had a performance measure in each focus area, but the performance measures do not account for 100% of member service time. Is this okay, or do we need to enter another measure to account for the remainder of the member time?
No, you do not have to account for 100% of your MSY service activity in the performance measures tab of the performance measures module. You do need to allocate 100% of your MSYs to a focus area and objective (which you have done). If you are a continuation applicant, we recommend maintaining the same performance measures you have used previously unless you have a compelling reason to make the change (which then should also be described in your continuation narratives).
FAQ 8. AWARDED GRANT REPORTING
a) If our proposal is funded, what reporting will be required?
The following chart outlines some of the required AmeriCorps State reporting, as well as other forms/documentation that programs must regularly keep. Full reporting and documentation requirements for funded programs are outlined in the grant agreement and the Volunteer Iowa AmeriCorps program manual.
ITEM
FREQUENCY
NOTES
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Financial Reporting
Claim and Signed GAX form
Monthly (or quarterly as approved)
Final Claim and Signed GAX
Annually
Federal Financial Report (FFR)
Semi-annually
Includes executive compensation as part of the federal transparency act
Unexpended Funds Report
Annually
Budget Modification Request
Annually, as needed
Financial Desk Review
Assigned by risk level
Final FFR
Annually
Annual Audit Form, Second Audit Form, & Management Letters
Semi-annually
Closeout Report
Annually
Performance Measure & Program Progress Reporting
Program Start Forms
Series of forms due annually
Programs detail the management components that will be used to support the grant and ensure compliance.
Program Progress Reports
Three times per year, with a year-end report as needed
Evaluation Reports
Every three years
Applies only to competitively-funded programs.
Member & Other Reporting
Member Enrollment & Exit Forms
Annually
Member Evaluations
Annually or Semi-annually
Frequency depends on member slot and term length
Member Status Change Request Forms
As needed
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National Service Criminal History Check Documentation
As needed for all members and covered staff
FAQ 9. APPLICATION TIPS
a) eGrants Formatting
In the past, many applicants have had problems with strange characters appearing in the pdf versions of the eGrants proposal. There are several factors to remember when making sure your application will meet page limits and will not have formatting errors:
o Word processer text formatting features (bold, underline, tabs and outlines) will not appear in your saved eGrants application. So, do not rely on these features to organize the layout of your application. You may use capital letters as a way to highlight various sections or components of the narrative.
o Bulleted lists, smart quotes, and other formatting styles used in Word have codes associated with them which may appear in your eGrants pdf as strange characters, such as upside down question marks (¿) and other symbols.
o Spacing: the default in eGrants is for double-spacing, therefore, do not attempt to manually (or autoformat) double-space your document, as this will cause problems with the double-spacing that is included in the system.
o AMERICORPS staff advise that you reduce any special formatting where possible AND that you copy your entire application into Text or Notepad (which use very basic formatting similar to that of eGrants) to remove the special characters and auto formatting features.
o Only the section headers of (1). Rationale and Approach, (2). Organizational Capability and (3). Cost Effectiveness and Budget Adequacy are printed in the pdf narratives from eGrants. Adding your own system for subheadings (by using numbering or all caps, for example) is extremely helpful for guiding readers to the information requested.
b) eGrants Page Limits
AMERICORPS has established different page limits depending on the program design, and there are specific page limits for various sections of the application (narratives, logic model, etc). Specific page limits are noted in the Request for Applications and Final Application Instructions. Please note that the page limited are based on the pdf version of the application as it prints from eGrants. Applicants should note that the system will allow them to enter content that will exceed the allowable page limits. So, prior to submission, it is highly recommended that the applicants print a copy of the document to ensure that the formatting, characters and labels appear appropriately and to verify that the document falls within the page limitation. Any content that exceeds the page limits will not be considered in either the AMERICORPS or Volunteer Iowa review.
c) Opening the application in eGrants
If you are a current AmeriCorps grantee but are NOT completing a competitive continuation application, it is very important that you correctly open a new application in eGrants. The system is designed to prevent people from creating a new application when they have a continuation, because if it can be done too easily then many would do so when it was not appropriate. You may need to ignore a warning message or alert, questioning if you truly want to start a new application, and proceed anyway. All applicants should check Part 1- Face Sheet
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of the “Application for Federal Assistance” within eGrants to ensure that they have created the correct application type.
d) AMERICORPS Feedback on Recent Competitions
AMERICORPS has been placing an increased emphasis on seeking applicants who can demonstrate why AmeriCorps members (i.e. human capital) are the best resource to address the identified problem. AMERICORPS indicates they are also looking for a high-quality evidence-basis for the activities and strategies to be undertaken by AmeriCorps members. AMERICORPS has indicated that previous years’ applicants have given strong definitions of the problem to be addressed, but have failed to clearly connect member activities to that problem and provide a strong case for how these member actions will have an impact on the identified problem. AMERICORPS has stated that applicants should be able to describe a logical connection between identified problem and identified interventions within the narrative. Volunteer Iowa staff encourages applicants to note these requests from AMERICORPS and respond accordingly within the application.
e) Writing style
These are only suggestions, but do remember that style can make the difference between two grants.
o Remember that the purpose of a grant is to help fulfill the grantor’s (AMERICORPS) mission, not simply the mission of your agency. Use an approach in your narrative that explains how this proposed program will effectively fulfill the mission of AMERICORPS.
o Acronyms: Minimize the use of acronyms. Grant reviewers are reading from outside your world and very rapidly, at that. It is so easy to forget what the acronym means and most reviewers are not willing to offer the time to go back and figure out what it meant. From there on, they lose clarity and score accordingly. It may often be better to spell out things you might wish to acronym and find other places to edit.
o Style: Avoid colloquial phrases; instead work to maintain a professional tone.
o Voice: Many grant competitions prefer that applicants use the third person voice. Whether you choose to use third person or first person, it is critical that you be consistent and maintain the same style throughout. The first person would be using terms such as “we” and “our”. Third person would say, “the applicant” or “the proposal”.
o Be mindful of using the appropriate AmeriCorps terms, for example “serve” as opposed to “work”, “AmeriCorps member” as opposed to “volunteer” or “employee”, “enrolled” as opposed to “hire”.
f) Double-check your numbers
These types of errors and inconsistencies are easily noticed during review. Please confirm:
o Do the number of members, host sites, etc. mentioned in the narrative agree with the numbers in the performance measures and budget?
o Do other numbers mentioned in the narrative (decrease in cost/MSY from prior years, increases in performance measure targets, etc.) agree with last year’s application?
o Do numbers mentioned in the narrative and available from AMERICORPS agree? For example, did you take your member retention and enrollment rates from the report in eGrants?
o Within the budget, ensure that the calculation by line item is correct and agrees with the total reported in the AMERICORPS and grantee share columns.
j) Our community partner asked to whom should the letter of support/commitment be addressed?
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We have not seen guidance from AMERICORPS indicating that the letters should be addressed to any specific individual and therefore we suggest that letter writers use a general greeting such as “To Whom it May Concern.”
FAQ 10. FUNDING/DEMOGRAPHICS
a) Will I asked to report actual numbers served in these demographic categories?
At this time, AMERICORPS has asked programs to report an actual numbers of volunteers generated by AmeriCorps members.
FAQ 11. 2022-2023 COMPETITION FAQ
a) What are typical salaries for AmeriCorps program staff and living allowance amounts for AmeriCorps members in Iowa? What are the typical fees that programs charge to their host sites?
Using the 21-22 budgets, the Host Site Agreements and the Member Service Agreements, we have pulled together the following information that applicants may use for reference. Note that there is a significant amount of variation so applicants should consider what amounts make sense for the context in which they will operate. 21-22 Program Staff Salary Information includes the salary (no benefits) information for the primary person on the grant. There is additional data for program staff salary for those programs with multiple staff on the grant. 21-22 Host Site fees & Member Living Allowance
o Host Site fees– this is the fee, by slot type, programs are charging other organizations to host a member. This doesn’t include additional support such as supplies or mileage some agreements require. It should be noted that we have several programs that either don’t have host sites or don’t charge host sites a fee.
o Member Living Allowance– these figures are somewhat variable. Some programs have yet to increase living allowance amounts to what they will be after additional American Rescue Plan Act funds have been received; however, some programs have already included those increases. Overall, the increase will be small after the remaining programs make the adjustment.
b) Do programs utilizing the capacity-building national performance outcome measure G3-3.10A. need to measure their impact on organizational effectiveness, efficiency, AND scale/reach? Or can they measure impact in just one of those areas?
The CNCS/AmeriCorps performance measure indicates that programs can measure all or any one of these areas of impact. It is not required to track impact in all three areas.

Printed from the website on October 01, 2022 at 6:51pm.