VISTA FAQs

Alberta Main Street VISTA

Frequently Asked Questions
ARE THERE HEALTH BENEFITS?
WILL I RECEIVE ANY ASSISTANCE IF I MOVE FROM OUTSIDE THE AREA TO SERVE?
WHAT IS AMERICORPS VISTA?
WHAT IS THE NEIGHBORHOOD PROSPERITY INITIATIVE (NPI) AND MAIN STREET NETWORK?
WHAT MAKES FOR A COMPETITIVE APPLICANT?
HOW MUCH IS THE LIVING ALLOWANCE?
CAN I BE EMPLOYED ELSEWHERE WHILE I SERVE AS A VISTA?
IF RECRUITED, WHAT WILL MY SCHEDULE LOOK LIKE?
WHAT ARE THE CITIZENSHIP REQUIREMENTS FOR JOINING AMERICORPS VISTA?
WHAT ELSE SHOULD I KNOW?

ARE THERE HEALTH BENEFITS?

While VISTA does not provide health insurance the program does offer two different healthcare benefit options for members. Members may choose one of two healthcare options:

  1. Members may enroll in a healthcare allowance program of $6,600 that can be used to offset medical expenses.
  2. Provided they meet certain provisions and qualify for the appropriate exemptions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) members may receive coverage under a basic health benefit program.

The majority of members enroll in the healthcare allowance.  Applicants are advised to very thoroughly review the materials contained on the official website of the health carrier, located here.

Members who elect to receive the $6,600 healthcare allowance are responsible for securing their own insurance policy. The healthcare allowance functions much like a Health Savings Account (HSA). VISTA’s health benefit carrier, IMG Global, or a healthcare navigator approved by the State of Oregon can assist in providing healthcare navigation services to potential VISTAs. Due to their limited income many members qualify for Medicaid. The healthcare allowance is often used to cover co-pays or similar necessary costs. The healthcare allowance cannot be applied to insurance premiums, costs for non-essential health benefits (such as elective or cosmetic services, routine dental and vision care), costs associated with going outside of your PPO (primary network), and costs associated with the care of your spouse and/or dependents.

If members qualify as exempt under the ACA and enroll in the health benefit program, they will receive limited coverage through that plan. Vision and dental are not included in the health benefit program. The health benefit plan is not compliant with the ACA and members who elect to enroll in it must either file a waiver, or enroll in additional compliant coverage, or pay the tax penalty associated with noncompliance. Dental and vision are covered for emergencies only. Yearly physicals are not covered. Women are eligible to receive yearly well woman checkups.

Though dental and vision are not covered under either plan, many members take advantage of Oregon’s extensive safety net of free or low cost health clinics that provide basic dental and vision services and have had no problem finding quality care.

The majority of members elect to enroll in the healthcare allowance and secure their own insurance policy with the assistance of a healthcare navigator. VISTAs may receive coverage through COBRA or another health policy if they choose.

More information on the healthcare options can be found here.

WILL I RECEIVE ANY ASSISTANCE IF I MOVE FROM OUTSIDE THE AREA TO SERVE?

If your home of record is more than 50 miles from your service site you will receive relocation assistance. First, you will receive a “settling in allowance” of $550 with your first paycheck (typically 1-2 weeks after your first day of service). Second, you will receive a reimbursement for mileage traveled from your home of record to your service site by the shortest route at a rate set by the Federal Government (usually $0.12 per mile) for a maximum of $1,000. The mileage reimbursement is paid directly by the Federal Government and usually arrives from 6-8 weeks after the start of service. Find out more here.

WHAT IS AMERICORPS VISTA?

AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) is one of several programs under the AmeriCorps umbrella.  AmeriCorps State/National and AmeriCorps NCCC are also administered as part of the same suite, though they have distinct missions, means, and policies. Click here for a full description of the AmeriCorps programs.AmeriCorps VISTA differs from AmeriCorps State/National and AmeriCorps NCCC in that it focuses on indirect service and capacity-building initiatives that directly impact low-income communities. According to the CNCS website, “VISTA members generally do not provide direct services, such as tutoring children or building homes. Instead, they focus their efforts on building the organizational, administrative, and financial capacity of organizations that fight illiteracy, improve health services, foster economic development, and otherwise assist low-income communities. VISTAs develop programs to meet a need, write grants, and recruit and train volunteers.” While VISTAs do not interact with clients extensively their service helps create projects that endure for years.VISTAs spend a year stationed at a single organization, working full-time for a modest living stipend. This stipend is equivalent to what a single person would make if they were living at 110% of the area’s poverty level. For Oregon VISTAs this works out to about $11,645 per year, delivered in biweekly installments. Click here for more information about VISTAs and what they do.<

WHAT IS THE NEIGHBORHOOD PROSPERITY INITIATIVE (NPI) AND MAIN STREET NETWORK?

The NPI and Main Street Network are place based community economic development programs.  With grants, training, and support from the Portland Development Commission (PDC), each district is responsible for planning and implementing projects to improve the local commercial district.The NPI and Main Street Network is a key component of the City’s Neighborhood Economic Development Strategy (NED) – a citywide initiative to foster economic opportunity and neighborhood vitality throughout Portland neighborhoods, with a focus on low-income and communities of color.Through the Network, one VISTA member will serve at Alberta Main Street, Division Midway Alliance for Community Improvement, Historic Parkrose, Jade District, Our 42nd Avenue, and the Rosewood Initiative. Learn more here

WHAT MAKES FOR A COMPETITIVE APPLICANT?

Compelling applicants come from many different backgrounds and levels of experience.Typically, members hold a bachelor’s degree or above and have some volunteer or work experience, though in some cases relevant work experience may substitute on a year-by-year basis for a college degree. We look for a combination of personal and professional attributes that indicate maturity, sincerity, and intelligence, including strong academic performance, regular engagement in volunteerism, work experience, and strong recommendations from supervisors.The vast majority of successful applicants have extensive volunteer experience and/or internships relevant to their positions. We prefer to see sustained engagement with one organization or issue rather than several briefer involvements. Recommenders should know you well, have supervised your work in a professional, volunteer, or academic capacity, and not be related by blood or marriage.All members must have an earnest commitment to completing 365 days of service from start to finish and be willing to live at the federal poverty level for the duration of that time.

HOW MUCH IS THE LIVING ALLOWANCE?

The living allowance is based on 110% of the area’s poverty level, so they vary depending where the project site is located. For Portland VISTAs this works out to about $ 11,645 per year, delivered in biweekly installments of roughly $440 before taxes and insurance.

CAN I BE EMPLOYED ELSEWHERE WHILE I SERVE AS A VISTA?

Yes, as of May 4th 2015 VISTAs are allowed to be employed elsewhere during their term so long as the employment is part-time, legal, and does not interfere with VISTA responsibilities, which must come first. The VISTA also must secure the written approval of his or her supervisor and submit a formal request to CNCS. Applicants are advised that outside employment can raise a VISTA’s living wages and may cause him or her to be ineligible for certain public services such as food stamps, Medicaid, or housing assistance. Potential VISTAs are additionally advised that their VISTA duties must come before responsibilities associated with outside employment and will be expected to modify the schedule and expectations of such outside employment to accommodate VISTA schedules and responsibilities.

IF RECRUITED, WHAT WILL MY SCHEDULE LOOK LIKE?

VISTA members serve their nation 24/7 and are expected to be available for service whenever needed. In practice the typical daily VISTA schedule is from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday-Friday. However, VISTAs can be called to serve at any time, including evenings, weekends, and holidays.Alberta Main Street provides ten paid holiday days per calendar year. Alberta Main Street is closed on: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day & the Day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. The other 2 holidays are available for use at the VISTA’s discretion.VISTAs are allotted 10 personal days and 10 sick days during their service year. Personal days cannot be used in the first or last month of service, save in truly exceptional circumstances. It is very rare that exceptions are made.Upon taking the oath of service VISTAs are expected to serve for 365 days. Save for exceptional circumstances detailed in the AmeriCorps VISTA Handbook, members must sacrifice their education award or end of service stipend if they depart or are removed from service early. Admission to graduate school or accepting a job offer are not exceptional circumstances.

WHAT ARE THE CITIZENSHIP REQUIREMENTS FOR JOINING AMERICORPS VISTA?

To be eligible for AmeriCorps service you must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or lawful permanent resident alien. All applicants must provide appropriate primary documentation of their residency or citizenship status. Visa sponsorship is not available. As this is a federal policy exceptions cannot be granted.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD I KNOW?

VISTA is a challenging and life-changing experience that allows you dedicate a year of your life exclusively to helping others. We’re proud of each and every one of our members and enjoy getting to know them throughout the year as they change, learn, and serve. By joining you’ll be part of a 50 year tradition that has improved the lives of countless Americans.