Collapse to view only § 4951. Congressional statement of purpose

§ 4951.
Congressional statement of purpose

This part provides for the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program of full-time volunteer service, together with appropriate powers and responsibilities designed to assist in the development and coordination of such program. The purpose of this part is to strengthen and supplement efforts to eliminate and alleviate poverty and poverty-related problems in the United States by encouraging and enabling persons from all walks of life, all geographical areas, and all age groups, including low-income individuals, elderly and retired Americans, to perform meaningful and constructive volunteer service in agencies, institutions, and situations where the application of human talent and dedication may assist in the solution of poverty and poverty-related problems and secure and increase opportunities for self-advancement by persons affected by such problems. In addition, the objectives of this part are to generate the commitment of private sector resources, to encourage volunteer service at the local level, to support efforts by local agencies and community organizations to achieve long-term sustainability of projects, and to strengthen local agencies and community organizations to carry out the objectives of this part.

(Pub. L. 93–113, title I, § 101, Oct. 1, 1973, 87 Stat. 396; Pub. L. 98–288, § 2, May 21, 1984, 98 Stat. 189; Pub. L. 103–82, title III, § 321, Sept. 21, 1993, 107 Stat. 899; Pub. L. 111–13, title II, § 2101, Apr. 21, 2009, 123 Stat. 1581.)
§ 4952.
Authority to operate VISTA program

This part shall be administered by one of the Assistant Directors appointed pursuant to section 12651e(d)(1)(A) of this title. Such Director may recruit, select, and train persons to serve in full-time volunteer programs consistent with the provisions and to carry out the purpose of this part.

(Pub. L. 93–113, title I, § 102, Oct. 1, 1973, 87 Stat. 396; Pub. L. 98–288, § 3, May 21, 1984, 98 Stat. 189; Pub. L. 101–204, title I, § 101(d)(1), Dec. 7, 1989, 103 Stat. 1811; Pub. L. 103–82, title III, § 322(a), Sept. 21, 1993, 107 Stat. 899.)
§ 4953.
Selection and assignment of volunteers
(a)
Covered projects and programs
The Director, on the receipt of applications by public or nonprofit private organizations to receive volunteers under this part, may assign volunteers selected under subsection (b) to work in appropriate projects and programs sponsored by such organizations, including work—
(1) in meeting the health, education, welfare, or related needs of Indians living on reservations or Federal trust lands, of migratory and seasonal farmworkers and their families, and of residents of the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or the Virgin Islands;
(2) in the care and rehabilitation of mentally ill, developmentally disabled, and other individuals with disabilities, especially individuals with severe disabilities;
(3) in addressing the problems of the homeless, unemployed individuals, and low-income youths;
(4) in addressing the special needs connected with alcohol and drug abuse through prevention, education, rehabilitation, treatment, and related activities, consistent with the purpose of this part;
(5) in addressing significant health care problems, including mental illness, chronic and life-threatening illnesses, and health care for homeless individuals (especially homeless children) through prevention, treatment, and community-based care activities;
(6) in connection with programs or activities authorized, supported, or of a character eligible for assistance under this chapter or the Community Service Block Grant Act [42 U.S.C. 9901 et seq.], titles VIII and X of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 [42 U.S.C. 2991 et seq., 2996 et seq.], the Head Start Act [42 U.S.C. 9831 et seq.], the Community Economic Development Act of 1981 [42 U.S.C. 9801 et seq.], or other similar Acts, in furtherance of the purpose of this subchapter;
(7) in strengthening, supplementing, and expanding efforts to address the problem of illiteracy throughout the United States;
(8) in assisting with the reentry and reintegration of formerly incarcerated youth and adults into society, including providing training and counseling in education, employment, and life skills;
(9) in developing and carrying out financial literacy, financial planning, budgeting, saving, and reputable credit accessibility programs in low-income communities, including those programs that educate individuals about financing home ownership and higher education;
(10) in initiating and supporting before-school and after-school programs, serving children in low-income communities, that may engage participants in mentoring, tutoring, life skills and study skills programs, service-learning, physical, nutrition, and health education programs, and other activities addressing the needs of the children;
(11) in establishing and supporting community economic development initiatives, with a priority on work on such initiatives in rural areas and the other areas where such initiatives are needed most;
(12) in assisting veterans and their family members through establishing or augmenting programs that assist such persons with access to legal assistance, health care (including mental health care), employment counseling or training, education counseling or training, affordable housing, and other support services; and
(13) in addressing the health and wellness of individuals in low-income communities and individuals in underserved communities, including programs to increase access to preventive services, insurance, and health services.
(b)
Recruitment and placement procedures for local and national placement of volunteers; establishment, requirements, etc.
(1) The Director shall establish placement procedures that involve sponsoring organizations and that offer opportunities for both local and national placement of volunteers for service under this part.
(2)
(A) The Director shall establish and maintain within the national headquarters of the Corporation (or any successor entity of such agency) a volunteer placement office which shall be responsible for all functions related to the recruitment and placement of volunteers under this part. Such functions and activities shall be carried out in coordination or in conjunction with recruitment and placement activities carried out under the National and Community Service Act of 1990 [42 U.S.C. 12501 et seq.].
(B)
Such volunteer placement office shall develop, operate, and maintain a current and comprehensive database that provides information—
(i) to individuals, with respect to specific opportunities for service as a volunteer with approved projects or programs to which no volunteer has been assigned; and
(ii) to approved projects or programs, with respect to the availability of individuals whose applications for service as a volunteer have been approved and who are awaiting an assignment with a specific project or program.
(C) The Director shall assign or hire as necessary, such additional national, regional, and State personnel to carry out the functions described in this subsection and subsection (c) as may be necessary to ensure that such functions are carried out in a timely and effective manner. The Director shall give priority in the hiring of such additional personnel to individuals who have formerly served as volunteers under this part and to individuals who have specialized experience in the recruitment and management of volunteers.
(3) Volunteers shall be selected from among qualified individuals submitting an application for such service at such time, in such form, and containing such information as may be necessary to evaluate the suitability of each individual for such service and to determine, in accordance with paragraph (7),1
1 So in original. Probably should be paragraph “(5)”.
the most appropriate assignment for each such volunteer. The Director shall approve the application of each individual who applies in conformance with this subsection and who, on the basis of the information provided in the application, is determined by the Director to be qualified to serve as a volunteer under this part.
(4) The Director shall ensure that applications for service as a volunteer under this part are available to the public on request to the Corporation (including any State or regional offices of the Agency) 2
2 So in original. Probably should be “the Corporation)”.
and that an individual making such request is informed of the manner in which such application is required to be submitted. A completed application may be submitted by any interested individual to, and shall be accepted by, any office of the Corporation.
(5)
(A) The Director shall provide for the assignment of each applicant approved as a volunteer under this part to a project or program that is, to the maximum extent practicable, consistent with the abilities, experiences, and preferences of such applicant that are set forth in the application described in paragraph (4) and the needs and preferences of projects or programs approved for the assignment of such volunteers.
(B) In carrying out subparagraph (A), the Director shall utilize the database established under paragraph (2)(B).
(C) A sponsoring organization of VISTA may recruit volunteers for service under this part. The Director shall give a locally recruited volunteer priority for placement in the sponsoring organization of VISTA that recruited such volunteer.
(D) A volunteer under this part shall not be assigned to any project or program without the express approval and consent of such project or program.
(E) If an applicant under this part who is recruited locally becomes unavailable for service prior to the commencement of service, the recipient of the project grant or contract that was designated to receive the services of such applicant may replace such applicant with another qualified applicant approved by the Director.
(F) If feasible and appropriate, low-income community volunteers shall be given the option of serving in the home communities of such volunteers in teams with nationally recruited specialist volunteers. The Director shall attempt to assign such volunteers to serve in the home or nearby communities of such volunteers and shall make national efforts to attract other individuals to serve in the VISTA program. The Director shall also, in the assignment of volunteers under this subparagraph, recognize that community-identified needs that cannot be met in the local area and the individual desires of VISTA volunteers in regard to the service in various geographical areas of the United States should be taken into consideration.
(c)
Public awareness and recruit activities; dissemination of information; reimbursement of costs; coordination; obligation of funds
(1)
The Director, in conjunction with the personnel described in subsection (b)(2)(C), shall engage in public awareness and recruitment activities. Such activities may include—
(A) public service announcements through the Internet and related technologies, radio, television, and the print media;
(B) advertising through the Internet and related technologies, print media, direct mail, and other means;
(C) disseminating information about opportunities for service as a volunteer under this part to relevant entities including institutions of higher education and other educational institutions (including libraries), professional associations, community-based agencies, youth service and volunteer organizations, business organizations, labor unions, senior citizens organizations, State or local offices of economic development, State employment security agencies, employment offices, and other institutions and organizations from or through which potential volunteers may be recruited;
(D) disseminating such information through presentations made personally by employees of the Corporation or other designees of the Director, to students and faculty at institutions of higher education and to other entities described in subparagraph (C), including presentations made at the facilities, conventions, or other meetings of such entities;
(E) publicizing the student loan deferment and forgiveness opportunities available to VISTA volunteers under parts B and E of title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 [20 U.S.C. 1071 et seq., 1087aa et seq.] and including such information in all applications and recruitment materials;
(F) publicizing national service educational awards available under the National and Community Service Act of 1990 [42 U.S.C. 12501 et seq.];
(G) providing, on request, technical assistance with the recruitment of volunteers under this part to programs and projects receiving assistance under this part; and
(H) maintaining and publicizing a national toll-free telephone number through which individuals may obtain information about opportunities for service as a volunteer under this part and request and receive an application for such service.
(2) In designing and implementing the activities authorized under this section, the Director shall seek to involve individuals who have formerly served as volunteers under this part to assist in the dissemination of information concerning the program established under this part. The Director may reimburse the costs incurred by such former volunteers for such participation, including expenses incurred for travel.
(3) The Director shall consult with the Director of the Peace Corps to coordinate the recruitment and public awareness activities carried out under this subsection with those of the Peace Corps and to develop joint procedures and activities for the recruitment of volunteers to serve under this part.
(d)
Provision of plans to volunteers for job advancement; coordination with private industry councils or local workforce investment boards

The Director shall provide each low-income community volunteer with an individual plan for job advancement or for transition to a situation leading to gainful employment. Whenever feasible, such efforts shall be coordinated with an appropriate local workforce development board established under section 3122 of title 29.

(e)
Educational and vocational counseling for volunteers; Director to provide

The Director may provide or arrange for educational and vocational counseling of volunteers and recent former volunteers under this part to (1) encourage them to use, in the national interest, the skills and experience which they have derived from their training and service, particularly working in combating poverty as members of the helping professions, and (2) promote the development of appropriate opportunities for the use of such skills and experience, and the placement therein of such volunteers.

(f)
Terms and conditions; restrictions on political activities; place of service

Except as provided in subsection (e), the assignment of volunteers under this section shall be on such terms and conditions (including restrictions on political activities that appropriately recognize the special status of volunteers living among the persons or groups served by programs to which they have been assigned) as the Director may determine, including work assignments in their own or nearby communities.

(g)
Program or project submittal to Governor; commencement and termination of service

Volunteers under this part shall not be assigned to work in a program or project in any community unless the application for such program or project contains evidence of local support and has been submitted to the Governor or other chief executive officer of the State concerned. In the event of a timely request in writing, supported by a statement of reasons, by the Governor or other chief executive officer of the State concerned, the Director shall terminate a program or proj­ect or the assignment of a volunteer to a program or project not later than 30 days after the date such request is received by the Director, or at such later date as is agreed upon by the Director and such Governor or other chief executive officer.

(h)
Interagency agreements

The Director is encouraged to enter into agreements with other Federal agencies to use VISTA volunteers in furtherance of program objectives that are consistent with the purposes described in section 4951 of this title.

(i)
Agreements with nonprofit organizations

The Director may enter into agreements under which public and private nonprofit organizations, with sufficient financial capacity and size, pay for all or a portion of the costs of supporting the service of volunteers under this part.

(Pub. L. 93–113, title I, § 103, Oct. 1, 1973, 87 Stat. 396; Pub. L. 96–143, § 2, Dec. 13, 1979, 93 Stat. 1074; Pub. L. 98–288, § 4(a)–(c)(1), (d), May 21, 1984, 98 Stat. 189, 190; Pub. L. 99–551, § 3(a), Oct. 27, 1986, 100 Stat. 3071; Pub. L. 101–204, title I, § 101(a), (b), (d)(2), title VII, § 701, Dec. 7, 1989, 103 Stat. 1807, 1809, 1811, 1820; Pub. L. 103–82, title III, § 323, title IV, § 405(a)(2)–(4), Sept. 21, 1993, 107 Stat. 899, 920; Pub. L. 103–304, § 3(b)(7), (8), Aug. 23, 1994, 108 Stat. 1568; Pub. L. 105–277, div. A, § 101(f) [title VIII, § 405(d)(36)(A), (f)(28)(A)], Oct. 21, 1998, 112 Stat. 2681–337, 2681–427, 2681–434; Pub. L. 111–13, title II, § 2102, Apr. 21, 2009, 123 Stat. 1582; Pub. L. 113–128, title V, § 512(h), July 22, 2014, 128 Stat. 1708.)
§ 4954.
Terms and periods of service
(a)
Personal commitment; scope of commitment

Volunteers serving under this part shall be required to make a full-time personal commitment to combating poverty and poverty-related problems. To the maximum extent practicable, the requirement for full-time commitment shall include a commitment to live among and at the economic level of the people served, and to remain available for service without regard to regular working hours, at all times during their periods of service, except for authorized periods of leave.

(b)
Minimum period of service; critical scarce-skill needs exception; reenrollment; limitation
(1) Volunteers serving under this part may be enrolled initially for periods of service of not less than 1 year, nor more than 2 years, except as provided in paragraph (2) or subsection (e).
(2) Volunteers serving under this part may be enrolled for periods of service of less than 1 year if the Director determines, on an individual basis, that a period of service of less than 1 year is necessary to meet a critical scarce skill need.
(3) Volunteers serving under this part may be reenrolled for periods of service in a manner to be determined by the Director. No volunteer shall serve for more than a total of 5 years under this part.
(c)
Oath or affirmation

Volunteers under this part shall, upon enrollment, take the oath of office as prescribed for persons appointed to any office of honor or profit by section 3331 of title 5, and shall swear (or affirm) that the volunteer does not advocate the overthrow of the constitutional form of government of the United States and that the volunteer is not a member of an organization that advocates the overthrow of the constitutional form of government of the United States, knowing that such organization so advocates, except that persons legally residing within a State but who are not citizens or nationals of the United States, may serve under this part without taking or subscribing to such oath, if the Director determines that the service of such persons will further the interests of the United States. Such persons shall take such alternative oath or affirmation as the Director shall deem appropriate.

(d)
Grievance and personal view presentation procedure; notice and hearing; information

The Director shall establish a procedure, including notice and opportunity to be heard, for volunteers under this part to present and obtain resolution of grievances and to present their views in connection with the terms and conditions of their service. The Director shall promptly provide to each volunteer in service on October 1, 1973, and to each such volunteer beginning service thereafter, information regarding such procedure and the terms and conditions of their service.

(e)
Summer associates
(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of this part, the Director may enroll full-time VISTA summer associates in a program for the summer months only, under such terms and conditions as the Director shall determine to be appropriate. Such individuals shall be assigned to projects that meet the criteria set forth in section 4953(a) of this title.
(2) In preparing reports relating to programs under this chapter, the Director shall report on participants, costs, and accomplishments under the summer program separately.
(3) The limitation on funds appropriated for grants and contracts, as contained in section 4958 of this title, shall not apply to the summer program.
(Pub. L. 93–113, title I, § 104, Oct. 1, 1973, 87 Stat. 397; Pub. L. 98–288, § 5, May 21, 1984, 98 Stat. 190; Pub. L. 101–204, title VII, § 702, Dec. 7, 1989, 103 Stat. 1821; Pub. L. 103–82, title III, § 324, Sept. 21, 1993,
§ 4955.
Support services
(a)
Stipend; limitation; volunteer leaders; payment upon completion of term; advancement of accrued stipend; beneficiary of deceased volunteer
(1)
(A) The Director may provide a stipend to volunteers, while they are in training and during their assignments, enrolled for periods of service of not less than one year under this part, except that the Director may, on an individual basis, make an exception to provide a stipend to a volunteer enrolled under this part for an extended period of service not totaling one year.
(B) Such stipend shall be set at a rate that is not less than a minimum of $125 per month and not more than a maximum of $150 per month, subject to the availability of funds to provide such a maximum rate. The Director may provide a stipend set at a rate that is not more than a maximum of $250 per month in the case of persons who have served as volunteers under this part for at least 1 year and who, in accordance with standards established in such regulations as the Director shall prescribe, have been designated volunteer leaders on the basis of experience and special skills and a demonstrated leadership among volunteers.
(C) The Director shall not provide a stipend under this subsection to an individual who elects to receive a national service educational award under subtitle D of title I of the National and Community Service Act of 1990 [42 U.S.C. 12601 et seq.].
(2) Stipends shall be payable only upon completion of a period of service, except that under such circumstances as the Director shall determine, in accordance with regulations which the Director shall prescribe, the accrued stipend, or any part of the accrued stipend, may be paid to the volunteer, or, on behalf of the volunteer, to members of the volunteer’s family or others during the period of the volunteer’s service. In the event of the death of a volunteer during service, the amount of any unpaid stipend shall be paid in accordance with the provisions of section 5582 of title 5.
(b)
Description of allowances and support services; determination of allowance; adjustments; methodology
(1) The Director shall also provide volunteers such living, travel (including travel to and from places of training and to and from locations to which volunteers are assigned during periods of service) and leave allowances, and such housing, supplies, equipment, subsistence, clothing, health and dental care, transportation, supervision, pre-service training and where appropriate in-service training, technical assistance, and such other support as the Director deems necessary and appropriate to carry out the purpose and provisions of this part, and shall insure that each such volunteer has available such allowances and support as will enable the volunteer to carry out the purpose and provisions of this part and to effectively perform the work to which such volunteer is assigned.
(2)
The Director shall set the subsistence allowance for volunteers under paragraph (1) for each fiscal year so that—
(A) the minimum allowance is not less than an amount equal to 95 percent of such poverty line (as defined in section 9902(2) of this title) for a single individual as expected for each fiscal year; and
(B) the average subsistence allowance, excluding allowances for Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, and Alaska, is no less than 105 percent of such poverty line.
(3) The Director shall adjust the subsistence allowances for volunteers serving in areas that have a higher cost of living than the national average to reflect such higher cost. The Director shall review such adjustments on an annual basis to ensure that the adjustments are current.
(c)
Child care
(1)
The Director shall—
(A) make child care available for children of each volunteer enrolled under this part who need such child care in order to participate as volunteers; or
(B) provide a child care allowance to each such volunteer who needs such assistance in order to participate as volunteers.
(2) The Corporation shall establish guidelines regarding the circumstances under which child care shall be made available under this subsection and the value of any child care allowance to be provided.
(Pub. L. 93–113, title I, § 105, Oct. 1, 1973, 87 Stat. 398; Pub. L. 94–130, § 5(a), Nov. 14, 1975, 89 Stat. 684; Pub. L. 96–143, § 3, Dec. 13, 1979, 93 Stat. 1074; Pub. L. 98–288, § 6, May 21, 1984, 98 Stat. 191; Pub. L. 99–551, § 10(i)(1), Oct. 27, 1986, 100 Stat. 3078; Pub. L. 101–204, title I, § 102, Dec. 7, 1989, 103 Stat. 1811; Pub. L. 103–82, title III, § 325, Sept. 21, 1993, 107 Stat. 901; Pub. L. 111–13, title II, § 2103, Apr. 21, 2009, 123 Stat. 1583.)
§ 4956.
Participation of program beneficiaries

To the maximum extent practicable, the people of the communities to be served by volunteers under this subchapter shall participate in planning, developing, and implementing programs thereunder, and the Director, after consultation with sponsoring agencies (including volunteers assigned to them) and the people served by such agencies, shall establish in regulations, a continuing mechanism for the meaningful participation of such program beneficiaries.

(Pub. L. 93–113, title I, § 106, Oct. 1, 1973, 87 Stat. 398; Pub. L. 98–288, § 7, May 21, 1984, 98 Stat. 191.)
§ 4957.
Participation of younger and older persons

In carrying out this part and part C, the Director shall take necessary steps, including the development of special projects, where appropriate, to encourage the fullest participation of individuals 18 through 27 years of age, and individuals 55 years of age and older, in the various programs and activities authorized under such parts.

(Pub. L. 93–113, title I, § 107, Oct. 1, 1973, 87 Stat. 399; Pub. L. 103–82, title III, § 326, Sept. 21, 1993, 107 Stat. 901.)
§ 4958.
Limitation on funds appropriated for grants and contracts for direct cost of supporting volunteers in programs or projects
(a) Of funds appropriated for the purpose of this part under section 5081 of this title, not more than 30 percent for the fiscal year ending September 30, 1984, and for each fiscal year thereafter, may be obligated for the direct cost of supporting volunteers in programs or projects carried out pursuant to grants and contracts made under section 5042(12) 1
1 See References in Text note below.
of this title.
(b)
No funds shall be obligated under this part pursuant to grants or contracts made after December 13, 1979, for new projects for the direct cost of supporting volunteers unless the recipient of each such grant or contract has been selected through a competitive process which includes—
(1) public announcements of the availability of funds for such grants or contracts, general criteria for the selection of new recipients, and a description of the application process and the application review process; and
(2) a requirement that each applicant for any such grant or contract identify, with sufficient particularity to assure that the assignments of volunteers under such grants and contracts will carry out the purpose of this part, the particular poverty or poverty-related problems on which the grant or contract will focus, and any such grant or contract shall specifically so identify such problems.
(Pub. L. 93–113, title I, § 108, as added Pub. L. 94–293, § 4(a)(1), May 27, 1976, 90 Stat. 525; amended Pub. L. 96–143, § 4, Dec. 13, 1979, 93 Stat. 1075; Pub. L. 98–288, § 8, May 21, 1984, 98 Stat. 191; Pub. L. 101–204, title VII, § 703, Dec. 7, 1989, 103 Stat. 1821.)
§ 4959.
Repealed. Pub. L. 111–13, title II, § 2104, Apr. 21, 2009, 123 Stat. 1583
§ 4960.
Applications for assistance

In reviewing an application for assistance under this part, the Director shall not deny such assistance to any project or program, or any public or private nonprofit organization, solely on the basis of the duration of the assistance such project, program, or organization has received under this part prior to the date of submission of the application. The Director shall grant assistance under this part on the basis of merit and to accomplish the goals of the VISTA program, and shall consider the needs and requirements of projects in existence on such date as well as potential new projects.

(Pub. L. 93–113, title I, § 109, formerly § 110, as added Pub. L. 101–204, title I, § 103, Dec. 7, 1989, 103 Stat. 1812; amended Pub. L. 103–82, title III, § 328, Sept. 21, 1993, 107 Stat. 902; renumbered § 109, Pub. L. 111–13, title II, § 2105, Apr. 21, 2009, 123 Stat. 1583.)