On Wednesday, March 18, 2009 Congressmen John Lewis (D-GA) and Charles Boustany (R-LA) introduced H.R. 1596, a bill that seeks to eliminate federal taxation of the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, and in turn save AmeriCorps alums hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. This bill was introduced and referred, but never passed on to be reported by the committee. With a new congress, it is contingent that we reintroduce this bill right now, to engage in a grassroots campaign to get our Congresspeople to co-sponsor H.R. 1596.
It is our time to reclaim this bill into action to prevent federal taxation on the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. AmeriCorps members give up years of their life to serve this country, and the least the government can do is to eliminate the taxation of this education award.
AmeriCorps was created in 1993 as a way to unite local, state and national programs into a network that addresses critical community needs. AmeriCorps members who successfully complete their terms of service receive Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards worth a maximum of $5,350 a year to help defray the costs of tuition and student loans. Participants can receive no more than two Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards and have up to 7 years after their term of service to claim the award.
This education award has only increased once since the program was created 18 years ago in 1993. During this time, the cost of higher education has more than doubled, outpacing the rate of inflation, increases in family income, and increases in state and federal financial aid. The award has been viewed differently than most other forms of scholarships and fellowships and is subject to federal taxation. The Segal AmeriCorps Education Award Tax Relief Act excludes the award from gross income so those who serve can apply the full value of the award toward higher education. Because of this, however, AmeriCorps Alums are facing a dilemma in which to pay their mortgages and other education expenses and their taxes they face because of this taxation on the Education Award.
Currently, AmeriCorps members can use their Education Award to:
-Pay educational expenses at qualified institutions of higher education
-Finance educational and vocational training
-Repay qualified student loans
Since its inception, AmeriCorps has encouraged more than 637,000 citizens to volunteer, serve, and address the unmet needs of our Nation. These citizens have given over 774 million hours toward improving the lives of all Americans by strengthening education, responding to disasters, protecting the environment, and supporting public health and safety.
The Segal AmeriCorps Education Award should continue to be a valuable and compelling incentive for young people to serve. Now is the time for Congress to act and make this award tax-free. I urge you to co-sponsor H.R. 1596, the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award Tax Relief Act. Thank you for your time and your service.