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November Update: Important Peace Corps Funding Letter Circulating in the House, Calling for Robust Funding to Make Reforms and Meet the Needs of a Changed World

While the House and the Senate seek to reconcile funding recommendations, Rep. Betty McCollum calls on colleagues to back $430.5 million in Peace Corps funding. This increase is crucial for ensuring that the Peace Corps returns to the field better than before, she says, while also making crucial and long overdue reforms.

 

By Jonathan Pearson

 

On Capitol Hill, Senate and House negotiators are trying to reconcile differences in their recommendations for federal spending for the new fiscal year (FY 2022). Their timeline to reconcile differences was extended when Congress voted keep the government funded at current levels through February 18, 2022. This includes the Peace Corps. The House of Representatives proposes a 5 percent, $20 million increase for the Peace Corps, which would bring the agency’s annual budget to $430.5 million. The Senate is recommending flat funding of $410.5 million, however — which would mark the seventh consecutive year without an increase in Peace Corps funding.

Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN) is seeking to bring her colleagues in the House on board to back the original House recommendation for increased Peace Corps funding. “This increase is crucial for ensuring that the Peace Corps returns to the field better than before while also making crucial and long overdue reforms,” she has written in a “Dear Colleague” letter to other members of the House.

 

“Strong funding for the Peace Corps will demonstrate U.S. leadership and commitment towards rebuilding a more resilient global community, ensuring the agency can continue to modernize to meet current challenges, and re-establish that America’s history of service continues to be a priority.”
    —Rep. Betty McCollum

 

Further, McCollum’s letter notes, “As we continue to combat COVID-19, and as eventual success requires containment of the pandemic around the entire world, strong funding for the Peace Corps will demonstrate U.S. leadership and commitment towards rebuilding a more resilient global community, ensuring the agency can continue to modernize to meet current challenges, and re-establish that America’s history of service continues to be a priority.” 

Download a copy of the letter here or read the full text below.

Signatures on the letter were collected through December 10, 2021. Now that the letter is concluded, what can members of the Peace Corps community do to help now? Write to your members of Congress now and urge them to support the House funding level for the Peace Corps!

 

42 members of Congress signed the House Dear Colleague Letter.

Last year, 34 House members signed a similar letter, helping to avoid proposed cuts in funding for the agency. This year, because of your efforts, the McCollum letter secured 42 signatures.

Thanks to those who asked their member of the House of Representatives to sign the letter! 

 

Who signed the letter?

Here are the members of the House of Representatives who have signed the McCollum Peace Corps Funding Letter (This letter is now closed): 

California: Bass, Brownley, Costa, Eshoo, Garamendi, Khanna, LaMalfa, McNerney, Peters

Colorado: DeGette, Neguse

Connecticut: Larson

Delaware: Blunt Rochester

District of Columbia: Norton

Georgia: Bishop, Johnson, McBath

Illinois: Schakowsky

Kansas: Davids

Kentucky: Yarmuth

Maine: Pingree

Maryland: Raskin

Massachusetts: Keating, McGovern, Moulton, Neal

Michigan: Dingell

Minnesota: McCollum (author), Phillips

Missouri: Cleaver

Nevada: Titus

New Jersey: Kim, Malinowski

New York: Morelle, Suozzi

Rhode Island: Cicilline

Tennessee: Cohen

Vermont: Welch

Virginia: Wexton

Washington: Jayapal

Wisconsin: Kind, Moore

 

Here’s the text of the Dear Colleague letter.

 

December 9, 2021

 

The Honorable Patrick Leahy
Chairman
Senate Committee on Appropriations                       
S-128, The Capitol                                                    

Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Rosa DeLauro
Chairwoman
House Committee on Appropriations
H-307, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Richard Shelby
Vice Chairman
Senate Committee on Appropriations
S-128, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Kay Granger
Ranking Member

House Committee on Appropriations

1026 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515                                 

 

Dear Chairman Leahy, Vice Chairman Shelby, Chairwoman DeLauro, and Ranking Member Granger,

As you work to finalize the Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations bill, we respectfully urge you to support the House-passed funding level of $430,500,000 for the Peace Corps that was included in the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs bill. This funding would represent a modest, five percent funding increase, following six years of flat funding. This increase is crucial for ensuring that the Peace Corps returns to the field better than before while also making crucial and long overdue reforms.

In particular, these reforms align with the new Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1456), which was overwhelmingly approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee with a bipartisan 44–4 vote on September 30th. The bill currently has 110 House cosponsors and reflects the broad consensus view within the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer community on how best to reform the agency. 

These reforms include: enhanced readjustment allowance paid to volunteers; noncompetitive eligibility for returned volunteers for federal civil-service positions; health care benefits, including adequate access to menstrual products, and mental health care during and after service; expedited re-enrollment of involuntarily terminated volunteers; strengthening of volunteer safety; expanded whistleblower protections; increased rate of pay that applies to a volunteer's workers compensation claim, and deeper investment in the leveraging the internet in Peace Corps programs.

To meet the expectations of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer community, these reforms must be funded. Now is the best opportunity to provide such resources to the agency, so that when it returns volunteers to the field, it will do so in a manner that modernizes not just volunteer service in the field, but also how the agency serves its volunteers.

Established in 1961, the Peace Corps has sent more than 240,000 Americans to serve as Volunteers in 142 host countries, carrying out its mission to promote world peace and friendship. The Peace Corps represents a vital component to American diplomacy and engagement abroad. Accounting for less than one percent of the United States’ International Affairs Budget, the Peace Corps is also a cost-effective, high-impact program helping to promote American democratic values in developing countries around the world.

As you know, due to COVID-19, the Peace Corps evacuated its 7,334 Volunteers in March 2020, marking the first time in its history in which no volunteers are serving overseas. Fortunately, the agency plans to start redeploying volunteers during FY22 in a deliberate and responsible manner, in concert with host countries and with the health, wellbeing, and success of future volunteers (and the countries where they will serve) of paramount importance. 

As we continue to combat COVID-19, and as eventual success requires containment of the pandemic around the entire world, strong funding for the Peace Corps will demonstrate U.S. leadership and commitment towards rebuilding a more resilient global community, ensuring the agency can continue to modernize to meet current challenges, and re-establish that America’s history of service continues to be a priority. 

Returning volunteers to the field is costly. So are the long overdue reforms that both Congress and the Peace Corps community are seeking. That is why now is precisely the right moment for a deeper investment in the Peace Corps. We therefore urge you to take advantage of this inflection point to reaffirm the value that the Peace Corps — and each of its Volunteers — has brought to our country and the world by funding the agency at $430,500,000 in FY22.                      

Thank you for your consideration. 

Sincerely,

 

 

Download a copy of the letter here

 

Story and list of signatories last updated Thursday, December 30, at 3:30 PM.


Jonathan Pearson is Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. Write him here.