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VISTA Frequently Asked Questions

How much will I get paid?

You will be paid approximately $946 per month ($11,352 for the year). Direct deposits will be made to your account bi-weekly. Federal taxes are taken out of each paycheck. The amount will depend on how much you claim on your federal W-2 statement. Each VISTA is also eligible for food stamps, which can be applied for online at mybenefits.ny.gov.

Can I have a part-time job while doing a year of service?

No. AmeriCorps VISTA does not allow service members to hold an outside job during the service term. The following is a list of reasons why:

  • The AmeriCorps VISTA position is full-time (40 hours per week) and some evening and weekend work may be required (service sites vary).
  • A VISTA Member's service site activities take precedent. Another job may distract or create scheduling conflicts that may prevent the VISTA Member from fulfilling his or her responsibilities.
  • AmeriCorps VISTA calculates the VISTA stipend according to the low-income threshold (poverty line) in the Capital Region area. This fulfills the philosophy of VISTA Member's living in poverty while fighting poverty. If a VISTA has an outside job, then he or she will no longer be living at the poverty line. Therefore, VISTA Members are not allowed to hold an outside job.

What is the End of Service Award?

After a completed one-year term of service, you will receive an education award or an end-of-service stipend, whichever you chose at the start of your year of service. If you have any educational loans, you may be able to put them into forbearance during your service and any interest accrued during your service will be paid at the end of your service year. Representatives at PSO will give you information about the education award, end-of-service stipend, loan forbearance and interest accrual payments. If you have any questions about the awards or forberance, feel free to talk to the ACE Coordinator of VISTA or any of the Siena VISTA Leaders.

What about my VISTA Site Placement, work schedule and work hours?

All of this will be explained during OSOT. VISTA Fellows usually work a 40 hour week; however, a VISTA schedule must be flexible during their year of service to accommodate times where they may have to do evening or weekend program events.

What mass transportation is offered in the area?

Many VISTA Fellows find it most convenient to have a personal vehicle during their service year, however, not all VISTA Fellows are able to have a car or afford utilizing one. VISTA Fellows without a car utilize Albany City's buses as well as regional mass transit options. Below is a list of transit options for VISTA Fellows in the Capital Region area:

Here are some more tips and tricks for transportation during your VISTA year of service:

  • Live near your service site! Living within walking or biking distance of your service site will not only cut down on your need for a vehicle, but save gas if you have one.
  • Use your Siena ID and ride the bus for free! ROUTE 182: Troy-Cohoes-Latham-Albany Schedule stops right in front of Siena.
  • Get a Price Chopper Advantage Card and get gas discounts!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for a carpool! As a team, carpooling among the VISTAs is often an option.

What should I wear to work?

In our program, VISTAs must wear business casual attire at all times while at Siena College and business formal attire at business meetings or at on-campus Siena College events. Depending on a VISTA Fellow's service site, the dress code may vary depending on the level of formality the Site Supervisor would like the VISTA to dress day-to-day. More information will be provided to you about our Dress Code Policy during OSOT.

Am I eligible for paid time off or sick days?

VISTA members are eligible for 10 sick days and 10 vacation days per year. Your service sites are encouraged to practice flex time as well. More information will be provided during OSOT.

Will I get health coverage?

If you are not covered by another plan, health benefits are provided at no cost and starts the day after you are sworn in and extends to your last day of service. More details will be given at PSO and OSOT.

Where can I find a local doctor if I get sick?

AmeriCorps VISTA Fellows in the Northeast Region have health benefits through AmeriCorps VISTA PHCS/Multiplan Network. Detailed information about your health benefits will be covered at your Pre-Service Orientation as well as On-Site Orientation. Meanwhile, we have collected a list of local doctors that our VISTA Fellows have used in the past (this list is not comprehensive).  Please always make sure to ask the doctor's office, "My healthcare coverage utilizes the PHCS PPO Network. Are you a PHCS Provider?" The following list is subject to change, including changes in accepted insurance (so always check to make sure!):

Primary Care Physicians

Urgent Care

 

Hospitals

  • Albany Memorial Hospital
  • Albany Medical Center
  • St. Peter's Hospital

Gynecology

  • Albany Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Dr. Makarachi (Community Care Physicians)
TIP: It is a good idea to find a doctor in the area BEFORE you get sick.


Important Facts about the AmeriCorps Health Coverage:

  • This is emergency health coverage and does not cover yearly physicals or other preventive care (with the exception of an annual OBGYN visit for women).
  • The PHCS Network does cover prescription drugs at little or no cost to you through approved pharmacies in their network.
  • The coverage includes limited emergency vision and dental coverage.
  • If eligible, you may continue under you parents’ coverage at no penalty.

For more information visit americorps.sevencorners.com. Most questions will be discussed at PSO, please bring any remaining concerns to OSOT.

What about SNAP benefits?

Most of our Siena College AmeriCorps VISTA Fellows apply for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (formerly foodstamps). As soon as you know your living situation in the Capital Region of New York, you can apply. You can apply online or go to the Department of Soclal Services. Here are a few tips:

  • VIsit mybenefits.ny.gov to apply for Food Stamps online
  • You apply for food stamps in the county that you live in
  • You will be assigned a caseworker who will need the following items from you (subject to vary depending on county):
    • Proof of identity
    • Proof of residence (usually a copy of an apartment lease)
    • 2 pay stubs (ask you caseworker what to do if you apply before you start receiving your AmeriCorps stipend)
    • Social security card
    • Electric bill/account number

The sooner you secure your living situation, the sooner you can apply for SNAP benefits. During OSOT we will be happy to answer any questions you may have about applying for SNAP.

More Questions?

Feel free to contact our team who will be helping support you as you transition to the New York Capital Region!