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AAS Establishes Membership Emergency Fund

Friday, February 1, 2019 - 16:02

AAS logoThe AAS Board of Trustees has approved the establishment of the AAS Membership Emergency Fund to offer limited, low-interest, short-term loans to active AAS members and affiliates who may be experiencing financial hardship due to the partial government shutdown. If the fund is sustained through donations and repayments, it will remain in place to support members in future financial emergencies.

The AAS is a federally registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, so your donations to this new fund will be tax-deductible if your tax situation permits. Members of the Board of Trustees have generously launched the fund with their own contributions.

Great! I am happy to help. Where can I contribute?

Donations will be accepted via the Emergency Fund tab on the AAS Donate Now page. You will need your AAS member ID and password to log in and make your payment. If you need help locating your member ID or resetting your password, please contact the AAS membership team by email at membership@aas.org or by phone at 202-328-2010.

Donate to the AAS Membership Emergency Fund

Nonmembers are welcome to contribute too! If you're making your first visit to our membership system, which is hosted on members.aas.org rather than on aas.org, you'll need to register for a username and password that you can then use to log in and use our secure payment system. If you need help, please contact the AAS membership team by email at membership@aas.org or by phone at 202-328-2010.

Why is the AAS offering loans instead of grants or gifts of support?

Distributing grants or gifts of support could put the Society's nonprofit tax-exempt status at risk. Providing loans would not entail such a risk.

Who will be eligible to request support?

Any AAS member or affiliate (as defined on our Classes of Membership and Affiliation page) is eligible to apply, but those who donate to the program will be ineligible to receive a loan for a calendar year after they make their contribution.

Applicants will be asked for contact information for themselves and their employer, the amount they're requesting, and the date by which they expect to repay the loan (which must be done within a year). Applicants will also be asked to describe their financial situation in enough detail to allow the review committee to determine the urgency and severity of their need, and to explain how they would spend the requested funds.

For this initial distribution, there must be a clear connection between the applicant's financial need and the 2018-2019 government shutdown(s).

How can I apply for help from the fund?

To apply for a loan from the AAS Membership Emergency Fund, fill out the application form on our website. You must be signed in as an AAS member or affiliate to view and submit the form. If you need help with your login credentials, contact the AAS membership team at membership@aas.org or 202-328-2010.

Apply for a Loan from the AAS Membership Emergency Fund

Who will decide how the funds are distributed?

A volunteer review board comprising AAS members. The initial review committee will be drawn from the AAS Board of Trustees, but if demand is high, the Board will recruit additional reviewers from the broader AAS membership.

Reviewers will be expected to keep the contents of the review strictly confidential, to work in a fair and responsible manner, and to recuse themselves from reviewing cases where there is any conflict of interest (e.g., personal or family relationships, collaborators, co-workers, same institution, business partners). Conflicts of interest shall be declared and tracked in advance of the reviewing process, in a manner similar to that used by telescope allocation committees.

Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account both financial need and the availability of funds. The AAS Executive Office will then collect the relevant tax-reporting information from recipients in a secure manner, such as via IRS-provided forms, and distribute the loan funds, usually by check.

When will funds be available?

The Board of Trustees intends to act on any requests for funds as quickly as possible, subject to the availability of funds.

How will AAS members know if the program is working?

The AAS will issue a summary of funds received and amounts distributed no later than January 2020. Identities of applicants and recipients will not be disclosed by the Society, though recipients may volunteer to share their stories if so inclined. If it is possible to share general categories of recipients without risking revealing anyone's identity, the AAS may optionally report statistics such as number of applicants, number of recipients, and how much was loaned to various types of employees (e.g., graduate students, postdocs, civil servants, government contractors). A balance between program transparency and the requirement of applicant/recipient confidentiality will be maintained.

Will the AAS be providing any of the funds for this program?

No, the funds will come exclusively from voluntary donations by members. As noted above, members of the Board of Trustees have already pledged to contribute.

What happens to the funds when the loans are paid back?

Repaid loans and interest will accrue to the Membership Emergency Fund for future use.

Megan Donahue, AAS President
Fritz Benedict, AAS Secretary
Kevin B. Marvel, AAS Executive Officer

Megan Donahue
Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Michigan State Univ.
- Grew up on a farm near Inland, Nebraska. Attended a diocesan Catholic school in Hastings, Nebraska. Obtained an S.B. degree in physics from MIT in 1985 and a 1990 PhD in astrophysics from the University of Colorado,...