This month’s update is all about how the midterms will influence our policy goals, including the farm bill and the movement to eliminate taxation on the AmeriCorps Education Award. If you’re an AmeriCorps Alum, check out the Op-Ed from Voices for National service that we link to. There you can share your own story and the power of your national service experience.
Post-election wrap up
Last Tuesday was Election Day across the country. All members of the U.S. House of Representatives and one-third of the US Senate were up for re-election, and many state and local races took place—from Governors and state legislators to city council and school boards, and many more. In the coming days and weeks, FoodCorps will continue our analysis of the election outcomes and how they might impact our policy work. In fact, as of this posting, some races are still too close to call or are facing recounts and runoffs. What we do know is that the U.S. House of Representatives has changed from Republican to Democratic control while the U.S. Senate has expanded its Republican majority. At the state level, a number of new governors have been elected, many of a new political party, and many state legislators have turned over. With these changes come new opportunities, and we will do our part to survey this new landscape and identify how to adapt our policy strategy accordingly. Regardless of the political situation, FoodCorps remains committed to policy work with an evidence-based, non-partisan approach.
Immediate implications: As Congress returns to post-election business—commonly referred to as the “lame duck” session—two major policy issues for FoodCorps remain unresolved: agriculture spending for the 2019 federal fiscal year and the Farm Bill. Congress will act on both of these before the end of the year and before the newly elected representatives and senators enter the congressional chambers in 2019. Here’s a reminder about why these two issues are important to us at FoodCorps:
Federal funds for food education: Congress validated the importance of hands-on learning in schools on a national scale when it appropriated $1 million in funds for the Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program (FASLP) for the 2018 federal fiscal year. FASLP is a competitive funding program for organizations that deliver hands-on food and agriculture education—programs like FoodCorps. Congress needs to pass an agriculture spending bill for fiscal year 2019, and we’re actively advocating to protect this much-needed resource for the coming year.
Healthy and equitable Farm Bill: Despite what the name might suggest, this bill isn’t just about farms. This critical federal legislation governs how our nation’s food is produced and represents a tremendous opportunity to shape a healthier, more equitable food system. The current bill expired in September 2018, which makes advocating for a farm bill that ensures equitable access to healthy food by protecting SNAP and builds stronger local food economies a top priority for FoodCorps.While progress on the Farm Bill stalled leading up to the midterm elections, now that elections are over there may be movement in the coming weeks. This article dives into some post-election analysis on the prospects for the Farm Bill.
In other news, check out this article for a roundup of some interesting, under-the-radar food- and agriculture-related issues in the aftermath of Election Day.
When AmeriCorps was founded in 1993, the program intended to provide a pathway to economic and educational opportunity for those who serve the nation and their communities. One such economic opportunity is the education award that AmeriCorps members receive when they complete their terms of service. AmeriCorps alumni can apply these funds to pursue further education or pay off student loans.
However, the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award is subject to federal income tax. Many AmeriCorps members are not aware of—and therefore do not anticipate or prepare for having to pay—this tax bill, which can range from a couple hundred dollars to nearly two thousand dollars. This financial hardship discourages alumni from using the AmeriCorps Education Award and delays educational plans for those who have answered the call of service—a situation that is only exacerbated for less affluent AmeriCorps alumni.
FoodCorps has been working with our friends at Voices for National Service to rally support for bipartisan legislation introduced in Congress that would exclude the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award from federal income tax. Check out the op-ed featured in USA Today about this issue. If you’re an AmeriCorps alumni, consider filling out the form at the bottom of this Voices for National Service page to share your AmeriCorps Education Award story. Follow the #NoTaxOnService hashtag on social media to stay up-to-date on efforts to eliminate this barrier to economic and educational opportunity for our nation’s devoted service members.