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  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    With your help we can get a record number of signatures on this annual letter. see more

    A bipartisan letter from two members of Congress calls on colleagues to sign on to strong support for Peace Corps during this critical time. To ensure support, your Representative needs to hear from you this week.

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA), Co-Chairs of the House Peace Corps Caucus, have issued a letter to colleagues in the House of Representative calling for robust funding for Peace Corps. They are asking the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State/Foreign Operations for some long-needed support — and to bolster funding as the agency undertakes to send Volunteers back into the field. (For details, see the letter at the end of this post.)

    The goal: Increase Peace Corps funding for Fiscal Year 2022 from $410 million to $450 million.

    The task for the Peace Corps community: Reach out to members of the House and get them to sign on — before this week's deadline of Friday, April 23.

    Our show of support is critical to ensure robust funding for the Peace Corps. We have only two weeks to deliver. 

     

    Take Action

    This is an action only for the House of Representatives. A similar action in the Senate is expected later. We’ll share that news as soon as we have it. 

    Here’s what you can do today: Contact your Representative and urge them to sign on to the Garamendi-Graves Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter.

    Share this news post with others you know who support the Peace Corps and urge them to take action, too. Peace Corps Volunteers can help tackle problems in communities around the world — and they’re being enlisted to help across the United States during the pandemic. Let’s make sure they have the support they need to get the job done.

     

    Take Action Now

     

     

    Who Has Signed the Letter?

    Here are the lawmakers who signed the Garamendi-Graves Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter for Fiscal Year 2022. 

     

    DEADLINE to sign on: Friday, April 23, 2021

    SIGNATURES as of Tuesday, April 20, 9:00 AM: 104 (three new signers on April 20th listed in red)

    ADDITIONAL SIGNATURES NEEDED to surpass 2019 record: 78

     

    Alabama: Sewell

    Alaska: Young

    American Samoa: Radewagan

    Arizona: Gallego, Grijalva

    California: Bass, Bera, Carbajal, Cardenas, Chu, Costa, DeSaulniers, Eshoo, Garamendi (co-author), Khanna, Mike Levin, Lieu, Lowenthal, Matsui, McNerney, Panetta, Swalwell, Takano, Vargas

    Colorado: Neguse

    Connecticut: Courtney, Hayes, Himes, Larson

    Delaware: Blunt Rochester

    District of Columbia: Norton

    Florida: Deutch

    Georgia: Hank Johnson, McBath, David Scott

    Hawai'i: Kahele

    Illinois: Bustos, Danny Davis, Foster, Chuy Garcia, Kelly, Schakowsky

    Indiana: Carson

    Iowa: Axne

    Kansas: Davids

    Kentucky: Yarmuth

    Louisiana: Graves (co-author)

    Maine: Golden, Pingree

    Maryland: Brown, Sarbanes

    Massachusetts: Keating, Lynch, McGovern, Moulton, Neal, Trahan

    Minnesota: Craig, Phillips

    Missouri: Cleaver

    Nevada: Horsford, Titus

    New Jersey: Kim, Malinowski, Norcross, Pallone, Pascrell, Payne, Sires, Van Drew

     New Mexico: Leger Fernandez

    New York: Delgado, Jones, Katko, Carolyn Maloney, Sean Patrick Maloney, Rice, Suozzi, Tonko, Torres

    Northern Marianas: Sablan

    Ohio: Beatty

    Oregon: Bonamici, DeFazio

    Pennsylvania: Fitzpatrick

    Puerto Rico: Gonzalez-Colon

    Rhode Island: Langevin

    Tennessee: Cohen

    Texas: Allred, Castro, Escobar, Vicente Gonzalez, Green, Jackson-Lee

    Vermont: Welch

    Virginia: Beyer, Connolly, Luria, Spanberger

    Washington: DelBene, Larsen, Schrier

    Wisconsin: Kind, Moore

     

    Don’t see your Representative listed yet? Then they need to hear from you! Thanks for rallying others to join you in supporting Peace Corps at this critical time.


    Here’s the Text from the Letter

    Read it below — or download the PDF.

     

    April 28, 2021

     

    The Honorable Barbara Lee, Chairwoman
    Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs
    Committee on Appropriations
    U.S. House of Representatives

    The Honorable Hal Rogers, Ranking Member
    Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs
    Committee on Appropriations
    U.S. House of Representatives

     

    Dear Chairwoman Lee and Ranking Member Rogers:

    Thank you for your commitment to the Peace Corps. Because of your efforts, the agency is poised for even greater impact at a time when the unique role of the Peace Corps is urgently needed. To ensure the Peace Corps has the resources needed to further its mission, we respectfully ask that you appropriate $450 million for fiscal year 2022.

    Public support for Peace Corps remains strong, and its programs continue to renew and expand, but the agency’s potential is severely limited by its essentially flat funding levels in the past six years. The agency’s budget allocation has not increased beyond $410.5 million since fiscal year 2016. Providing $450 million for fiscal year 2022 would allow the Peace Corps to resume in-country Volunteer activities once safe and prudent to do so, and support the longstanding goal of deploying of 10,000 volunteers worldwide.

    More Americans want to serve than the Peace Corps has the funding to absorb. The ratio of annual applications to available Volunteer positions currently stands at over 4:1. Retired General Stanley McChrystal has called this gap between applicants and service opportunities “democratic energy wasted and a generation of patriotism needlessly squandered.” Additionally, six years of essentially flat funding has compelled the agency to cut both pre-service and in-service training days to meet budget restrictions, meaning Volunteers get less time for language, technical, and cross-cultural training.

    The Peace Corps works to accomplish its legislative mandate within the context of unique security challenges, and the agency has taken steps to improve the health and safety of its Volunteers as it implements provisions within the Sam Farr Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-256). However, there remain residual health care policy issues within the agency that require increased budgetary support. In particular, we need increased funding and compensation levels for Volunteers temporarily or permanently disabled as a result of their service abroad.

    Similar to members of our military and diplomatic corps, Peace Corps Volunteers take an oath to serve our country, and do so often in remote, challenging environments. Increased funding is necessary to ensure that Peace Corps can fulfill its commitment to the health and safety of American citizens who choose to serve.

    We thank you for your efforts to provide Peace Corps with the resources it needs to fuel the next generation of American leadership, and we respectfully ask that you make this $450 million investment in the agency for fiscal year 2022.

     

    Sincerely,

     

    John Garamendi
    Member of Congress

     

    Garret Graves
    Member of Congress

     

     

    Story updated April 7, 2021 at 2:30 p.m. 


    Jonathan Pearson is Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. Write him at advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    What will Peace Corps’ future hold? It’s up to us. And work is underway. see more

    On March 1 we kicked off a season of advocacy in support of the Peace Corps. And we’re working to transform it for a changed world. On March 1, Rep. John Garamendi introduced comprehensive Peace Corps legislation.

     

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    For 17 years, one of National Peace Corps Association’s key contributions to Peace Corps Week is our National Days of Advocacy. This Peace Corps 60th anniversary year is marked by a global pandemic and social distancing, as well as national crisis that includes a U.S. Capitol closed to visitors. In spite of these unprecedented challenges, our advocacy mobilization carries on. And during the months of March and April, your involvement is needed like never before.

     

    Our March 1 Kickoff

    Our Days of Advocacy kickoff began on March 1 (Peace Corps Day). More than 250 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) former Peace Corps staff and other supporters joined a meeting which featured remarks by Peace Corps champions in Congress including RPCV Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA). Several advocacy leaders shared their planned activities in the coming weeks and many joined individual state/regional breakout meetings to discuss further plans for mobilization.

    It's not too late to get involved in our National Days of Advocacy. In fact, we are just getting started!

     

    Take Individual Action Right Now

    Follow this link to write to your members of Congress. Share this link with others. We need every citizen who believes in the importance of the Peace Corps to contact Congress at this consequential moment in Peace Corps history!

     

    Get Involved

    Check out our 2021 Days of Advocacy map to see if any activities — virtual meetings with congressional offices, virtual letter writing, advocacy workshops, and more — are already in the works. If there’s no activity already scheduled in your area, fill out this form and help lead one!

     

    Virtual Workshop Recording

    If you are new to advocacy, follow this link for details on how to plan and carry out effective virtual advocacy meetings. And, here is a video recording of our March 9th Virtual Advocacy 101 Workshop.

     

     

    More Resources:

    Visit our State Resources page for a one-page document about Peace Corps activity in your state (which you can download and use as a leave behind document for congressional office meetings), and to see profiles of every member of Congress.

    Follow this link for our generic, two page leave behind document that you can share with congressional offices.

     

    Issues: Funding, Peace Corps Legislation, COVID Relief, Jobs

    Our Days of Advocacy Agenda is still taking shape. We’ll update this page as more information becomes available. During March and April 2021, here are some of our key Peace Corps–related advocacy issues:
     

    Peace Corps Funding

    Our advocacy to support strong Peace Corps funding begins now, as Congress begins to work on federal appropriations for Fiscal Year 2022 (which begins October 1, 2021). In the weeks to come, we anticipate intensive mobilization to urge members to sign annual Senate and House Peace Corps Funding “Dear Colleague” letters. Right now, our specific request is that you ask senators and representatives include strong funding for the Peace Corps when they submit their individual requests to their respective Appropriations Committee. The Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (see below) recommends a roughly 10 percent increase in FY 22 funding for Peace Corps — from $410 Million to $450 Million — to support redeployment and key reforms.

    Click here to read our Peace Corps Funding issue brief and talking points.

    Click here to read the House Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague letter.

    Click here for a letter writing action to support the House Dear Colleague letter.
     

    Comprehensive Peace Corps Legislation

    On March 1, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer John Garamendi (D-CA) and Representative Garret Graves (R-LA) introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1456) in the House of Representatives. Read Congressman Garamendi's press release, which includes a link to the legislation and an outline of the many provisions to support, improve, and honor the work of Peace Corps Volunteers and those who have returned.

    At this time there is no companion legislation in the Senate.

    Click here to read our Peace Corps Reauthorization Act issue brief and talking points.

    Click here for a one–page document you can give to your representatives during House meetings. 
     

    COVID Relief and Jobs Legislation

    In both the Senate and the House, identical legislation has been introduced to mobilize resources, confront the COVID-19 pandemic, and prioritize the hiring of RPCVs (among others) in the response. The Health Force, Resilience Force and Jobs To Fight COVID-19 Act of 2021 (Senate Bill 32; House Bill 460) is starting to gain co-sponsors. Thank your members if they are already a co-sponsor. If they are not, ask them to co-sponsor this legislation. Click here to read our issue brief and talking points.

     

    Story updated April 7, 2021 at 5:00 PM Eastern Time. 


     Jonathan Pearson is the Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Let's make this the largest mobilization of the Peace Corps community see more

    Last spring National Peace Corps Association delivered advocacy materials to every member of Congress. This year that work goes virtual. We kick things off March 1.

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    Starting in March 2021, and for the 17th consecutive year, National Peace Corps Association is planning National Days of Advocacy in Support of the Peace Corps.

    But this year we’re going virtual.

    March 1, 2021, will mark the 60th anniversary of President Kennedy’s executive order establishing the Peace Corps. Last year, Volunteers were evacuated from around the world because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The redeployment of Volunteers is expected in the coming months. And, with a new president and Congress — which will have nearly 70 new members — there is tremendous work to be done to ensure a strong future for the agency and its next generation of Volunteers. So we need a mobilization like never before.

     

    Congress has nearly 70 new members. There is tremendous work to be done to ensure a strong future for the agency and its next generation of Volunteers. 

     

    Step up, sign up!

    After a successful series of virtual district office meetings with lawmakers this past fall, we will be gearing up for nationwide activities during the months of March and April.

    Follow this link and sign up to be among the first to step forward to lead Days of Advocacy activities in your region. Take the lead organizing a virtual district meeting with your elected representatives. Organize a virtual letter writing night. Plan a statewide training on how to be an effective advocate for the Peace Corps. A stronger, better and redeployed Peace Corps begins with you! You won’t need to come to Washington, DC. You can be a leader from the comfort of your home.

     

     

    Join us March 1 for the kickoff

    We will kick off Days of Advocacy with a virtual gathering on March 1, 8:30–9:30 PM EST. 

    What’s in store:
     

    • Hear from several strong congressional supporters of Peace Corps including RPCV Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA), Congressman Garret Graves (R-LA) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). 
       
    • Get an update on key pending Peace Corps legislation. 
       
    • Hear about Days of Advocacy activities being planned for the months of March and April. 

    At this critical, 60th anniversary moment for the Peace Corps, please join us! 

    Sign Up for March 1 Kickoff

     

    Questions? Contact us at advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org.


    Jonathan Pearson is the Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association.

     

    Story updated February 15, 2021

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Health Force, Resilience Force and Jobs to Fight COVID-19 Act is presented in both houses. see more

    Health Force, Resilience Force and Jobs to Fight COVID-19 Act is presented in both houses. And a Peace Corps Reauthorization Act is in the works.

     

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    As a new Congress settles in to begin its work, already in January new Peace Corps legislation is starting to emerge. And while new pieces of legislation are being developed, it is also likely that legislative initiatives introduced in the previous (116th) Congress will be reintroduced. 

    At National Peace Corps Association we are gearing up for our 17th annual National Days of Advocacy in Support of the Peace Corps. Some of the legislation shown below will be a key part of our citizen lobbying efforts. Sign up to lead a Days of Advocacy virtual activity in your state/region.

    We will update this story with news on emerging Peace Corps–related legislation.

     

    Senate:

    Health Force, Resilience Force and Jobs to Fight COVID-19 Act

    • Lead Sponsor(s): Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and nine others

    • Bill Number: S. 32

    • Copy of Bill/Press Release: Read Senator Gillibrand’s press release here.

    • Bill Summary: Legislation that would invest billions in the nation’s public health jobs and infrastructure and aid the country’s vaccine distribution campaign, and would invest billions in local public health infrastructure to recruit, train, and employ hundreds of thousands of Americans to build public health capacity in underserved communities. Additionally, the Resilience Force would complement the Health Force by bolstering the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) workforce in the whole-of-government effort to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.

    • Peace Corps Connection: Unemployed individuals who served in the Peace Corps would be among those prioritized for hiring under this legislation.

    • Quote From Senator Gillibrand: “Enacting a Health Force as part of robust federal plan would enable us to train hundreds of thousands of public health workers, create jobs in struggling communities, and ensure that every community has the resources to reach every American in need of the vaccine.”

     

     

    House of Representatives:

    Health Force, Resilience Force and Jobs to Fight COVID-19 Act

    • Lead Sponsor(s): Dean Phillips (D-MN), Jason Crow (D-CO), Lauren Underwood (D-IL), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA)

    • Bill Number: TBD

    • Copy of Bill/Press Release: Read the release from Representative Phillips.

    • Bill Summary: Legislation that would invest billions in the nation’s public health jobs and infrastructure and aid the country’s vaccine distribution campaign, and would invest billions in local public health infrastructure to recruit, train, and employ hundreds of thousands of Americans to build public health capacity in underserved communities. Additionally, the Resilience Force would complement the Health Force by bolstering the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) workforce in the whole-of-government effort to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.

    • Peace Corps Connection: Unemployed individuals who served in the Peace Corps would be among those prioritized for hiring under this legislation.

    • Quote from Representative Phillips: “These are unprecedented times that demand thoughtful but expedient action to save lives. Americans deserve a coordinated, fully-funded government response. National service is a time-honored American tradition that is needed as we respond to the coronavirus pandemic.”

     

    Peace Corps Reauthorization Act

    • Lead Sponsor(s): John Garamendi (D-CA)
    • Bill Number: TBD
    • Copy of Bill/Press Release: TBA
    • Bill Summary: RPCV Congressman Garamendi is in the process of updating and reintroducing comprehensive legislation to support and improve the Peace Corps. The legislation is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks.
    • Peace Corps Connection: This bill will focus exclusively on the Peace Corps and Peace Corps community.

     

    Story updated January 26, 2021 at 2 p.m.


    Jonathan Pearson is Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Congress passed the act with bipartisan support in both houses late last year. see more

    Congress passed the act with unanimous bipartisan support in both houses late last year. On January 5 President Trump signed it into law.

     By Jonathan Pearson and Steven Boyd Saum 

     
    On January 5 the Peace Corps community got some much-hoped-for good news: President Trump signed into law H.R. 7460, the Peace Corps Commemorative Work Extension Act, which extends the authority of the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation to establish a commemorative work on Federal lands in the District of Columbia to commemorate the mission of the Peace Corps and the ideals on which the Peace Corps was founded.

    Here is some background on the legislation.

      

    Congress Passed the Commemorative Time Extension

    Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA) served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Dominican Republic. After he was elected to the House of Representatives in 2012, one of the first pieces of legislation he introduced and passed provided congressional authorization for the creation of a Peace Corps Commemorative in Washington, D.C. On the afternoon of December 17, 2020, in the closing days of his fourth – and final – term in the House of Representatives, one of Congressman Kennedy’s final accomplishments included securing House passage of a time extension that will allow work on the commemorative to move forward without interruption. 

    Late on December 20, 2020, the United Sates Senate followed suit, quickly and unanimously approving the legislation.

    The Senate sponsors of companion legislation, Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) issued a press releaseafter the Senate vote, paying tribute to Peace Corps Volunteers and praising the unanimous bipartisan support for the project. “

    For more than 50 years, the Peace Corps has served as a powerful vehicle for volunteers who wish to use their talents to carry America’s humanitarian values to other parts of the world,” said Senator Portman. “By reauthorizing this project, we can ensure the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation can finish this important project and honor those Americans who have donated their time and talent to serving others. I am pleased my colleagues in the Senate passed this important legislation so that it will now be sent to the president’s desk." 

     

    Watch: “A lasting tribute” — Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA) pay tribute to the service of Peace Corps Volunteers over 60 years and ask for passage of the bill.


    The Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation has made great progress on this project, with design selection, site selection near the National Mall, and unanimous approval by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts in September on the revised design concept.
     

    Rendering of Peace Corps Commemorative at Peace Corps Park. Courtesy of Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation.

     

    “A lasting tribute to the legacy of the Peace Corps”

    Congressman Joe Kennedy’s departure marks the end of an era. Since 1947, a Kennedy has had a seat in Congress with only two brief interruptions. The first, Joe Kennedy’s great uncle John F. Kennedy, created the Peace Corps by executive order in March 1961.   

    Speaking on the House floor, Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA) noted that it is fitting for the Peace Corps Commemorative legislation to be sponsored by President Kennedy’s grand-nephew. Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) said the commemorative will serve as a “lasting tribute to the legacy of the Peace Corps.”

    On December 9, Joe Kennedy delivered his farewell remarks to the House and spoke of how it is the task of each generation to expand the meaning of “we” in the phrase “We the people,” the opening words of the U.S. Constitution. “Our future is big and bright,” Kennedy said, “bit it will take everything — and everyone — to reach it.”

    “Today the House unanimously passed a seven-year Commemorative authorization extension, among Rep. Kennedy’s final bills before ending his House term," said Roger Lewis, President of the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation. “Americans who have served as Volunteers, worked for the Peace Corps or share Peace Corps ideals and values, are profoundly grateful for Rep. Kennedy’s steadfast commitment to and support of the Peace Corps and its historic mission.”

     

    Congress Delivered a Funding Victory for the Peace Corps

    Significantly, Congress delivered a funding victory for Peace Corps in December as well: holding steady on funding as the agency prepares for redeployment of Volunteers in 2021 after an unprecedented global evacuation in 2020. In negotiations for a Fiscal Year 2021 spending package, Congress faced a choice of three very different routes: 

    1. Maintain level funding for the agency at $410.5 million, as it makes plans to begin redeploying Volunteers in 2021; this was the route recommended by the House of Representatives.
    2. Accept cuts of up to $51 million, trimming the budget to $359 million as was proposed by the Senate Appropriations Committee. 
    3. Agreeing to a compromise figure between the House and Senate recommendations.

    As both chambers prepared for votes on the evening of December 21, 2020 release of the agreed-upon spending document revealed that Congress would move forward with the House recommendation of level Peace Corps funding, which is critical for investing in efforts to ensure the health and safety of Volunteers and the communities where they serve.

    “We are extremely grateful to our Capitol Hill Peace Corps champions for their efforts to make sure Peace Corps remains strong with level funding to help it begin the process of redeploying thousands of Volunteers in the field,” said National Peace Corps Association President Glenn Blumhorst. “I also want to thank the thousands of members of the Peace Corps community who wrote a letter, made a phone call, reached out to neighbors and friends, or took action through the media. The fight to sustain funding for Peace Corps is your victory.”

    That’s not the only victory in the closing days of this Congress.

     

    Access for Menstrual Hygiene Products for Volunteers

    After meeting with and speaking to female Peace Corps Volunteers, Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY) introduced legislation in March 2020 to ensure access to menstrual hygiene products for Volunteers. House Bill 6118 called upon Peace Corps to develop a comprehensive policy to ensure Volunteers needing such products have adequate access wherever they are serving. 

    While the legislation did not pass, what it was aiming for will guide Peace Corps’ work going forward: In the Fiscal Year 2021 State/Foreign Operations Appropriations package, language pertaining to this legislation was included in the final agreement. The language instructs Peace Corps to provide a strategy, within 90 days after passage of the legislation, to ensure all Volunteers who need feminine hygiene products have access to them, regardless of country of service. The language further states that the strategy shall take into consideration availability of products in-country, the price of those products, and the local cultural norms surrounding menstruation.

     

    Peace Corps Redeployment and Evacuees: Congress Overrode Presidential Veto January 1

    High on the congressional priority list for passage each year is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Included in the 4,500 page document that has passed both chambers is reporting requirements pertaining to Peace Corps redeployment and Volunteers who were evacuated earlier in 2020.

    Introduced by Congressman Dean Phillips (D-MN), the legislation calls for a report to Congress from Peace Corps three months after bill passage on efforts of the agency to:

    • Provide an update on offering a redeployed Peace Corps assignment to all evacuees who wish to continue service;
    • Obtain approval from countries of service to allow the return of Peace Corps Volunteers;
    • Provide adequate health and safety measures including COVID-19 contingency plans; and
    • Identify any need for additional appropriations or new statutory authorities and the changes in global conditions that would be necessary to achieve the goal of safely enrolling 7,300 Peace Corps Volunteers during the one-year period beginning on the date on which Peace Corps operations resume.

    President Trump vetoed the NDAA on issues not related to Peace Corps. But Congress overrode the veto on January 1, 2021, ensuring the measure becomes law.
     


    Last Updated January 6, 2021 at 1:15 PM.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    A victory for the Peace Corps community. And urgent action needed for funding. see more

    Legislation introduced by Joseph Kennedy III will enable a project years in the making to be seen through to completion. Senators Portman and Shaheen call on their colleagues to pass the bill as well. But funding for the Peace Corps Agency is still at risk for 2021, with the Senate having put forth a $51 million cut.

     By Jonathan Pearson

     

    After Dominican Republic Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA) was elected to the House of Representatives in 2012, one of the first pieces of legislation he introduced and passed provided congressional authorization for the creation of a Peace Corps Commemorative in Washington, D.C.On the afternoon of December 17, 2020 in the closing days of his fourth – and final – term in the House of Representatives, one of Congressman Kennedy’s final accomplishments included securing House passage of a time extension that will allow work on the commemorative to move forward without interruption.

    The Peace Corps Commemorative Work Extension Act (H.R. 7460) passed unanimously on a voice vote. Final passage of the legislation still needs Senate approval and a presidential signature to become law.

    The Senate sponsors of companion legislation, Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) issued a press release after the House vote paying tribute to Peace Corps Volunteers and calling upon the Senate to pass the bill as well. “For more than 50 years, the Peace Corps has served as a powerful vehicle for volunteers who wish to use their talents to carry America’s humanitarian values to other parts of the world,” said Senator Portman. “I am pleased that this legislation was approved by the House today, and I urge my Senate colleagues to support it so that it can head to the President’s desk for his signature.” 

     

     Watch: “A lasting tribute” — Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA) pay tribute to the service of Peace Corps Volunteers over 60 years and ask for passage of the bill.


    The Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation has made great progress on this project, with design selection, site selection near the National Mall, and unanimous approval by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts in September on the revised design concept.

     

    Rendering of Peace Corps Commemorative at Peace Corps Park. Courtesy of Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation.

     

    “A lasting tribute to the legacy of the Peace Corps”

    Congressman Kennedy’s departure marks the end of an era. Since 1947, a Kennedy has had a seat in Congress with only two brief interruptions. The first, Joe Kennedy’s great uncle John F. Kennedy, created the Peace Corps by executive order in March 1961.   

    Speaking on the House floor, Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA) noted that it is fitting for the Peace Corps Commemorative legislation to be sponsored by President Kennedy’s grand-nephew. Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) said the commemorative will serve as a “lasting tribute to the legacy of the Peace Corps.”

    On December 9, Joe Kennedy delivered his farewell remarks to the House and spoke of how it is the task of each generation to expand the meaning of “we” in the phrase “We the people,” the opening words of the U.S. Constitution. “Our future is big and bright,” Kennedy said, “bit it will take everything — and everyone — to reach it.”

    “Today the House unanimously passed a seven-year Commemorative authorization extension, among Rep. Kennedy’s final bills before ending his House term," said Roger Lewis, President of the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation. “Americans who have served as Volunteers, worked for the Peace Corps or share Peace Corps ideals and values, are profoundly grateful for Rep. Kennedy’s steadfast commitment to and support of the Peace Corps and its historic mission.”

     

     

    Peace Corps Funding Under Threat

    As the 116th Congress races to a close, Peace Corps-related activities in need of congressional action include advocating for full funding for the agency in 2021.

    The current deadline for Congress to complete its work on a Fiscal Year 2021 spending plan is midnight Friday, December 18. There are signs Congress might pass another continuing resolution to extend that deadline into the weekend and possibly early next week. Among the many items at stake is Peace Corps’ budget. While the House recommended level funding of $410.5 million, the Senate put forth a $359 million allocation – a $51 million cut.

    Make your voices heard with your lawmakers to urge them to support level funding for Peace Corps.

    Click Here to Take Action

     

    Peace Corps Redeployment and Evacuees

    High on the congressional priority list for passage each year is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Included in the 4,500 page document that has passed both chambers is reporting requirements pertaining to Peace Corps redeployment and Volunteers who were evacuated earlier in 2020.

    Introduced by Congressman Dean Phillips (D-MN), the legislation calls for a report to Congress from Peace Corps three months after bill passage on efforts of the agency to:

    • Provide an update on offering a redeployed Peace Corps assignment to all evacuees who wish to continue service;
    • Obtain approval from countries of service to allow the return of Peace Corps Volunteers;
    • Provide adequate health and safety measures including COVID-19 contingency plans; and
    • Identify any need for additional appropriations or new statutory authorities and the changes in global conditions that would be necessary to achieve the goal of safely enrolling 7,300 Peace Corps Volunteers during the one-year period beginning on the date on which Peace Corps operations resume.

    President Trump has indicated that he will veto the NDAA on issues not related to Peace Corps. The president has until December 23 to do so. Congress is contemplating strategies to overturn the veto should it be issued.
     


    Last Updated December 18, 2020 at 4 PM. Watch this story for updates.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Your voice can prevent a $51 million cut to Peace Corps funding see more

    As Peace Corps prepares to redeploy Volunteers in early 2021, the work for Peace Corps’ future begins in earnest. And right now we need to make sure there’s funding for the towering task ahead.

    By Jonathan Pearson 

     

    Congress is working toward a December 11, 2020 deadline to agree on a Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 spending bill. And they have a $51 million Peace Corps funding difference to resolve.

    Earlier this year, the House of Representatives approved an FY 2021 appropriations bill that includes level funding of $410.5 million for Peace Corps. But the Senate Appropriations Committee has put forth a spending bill that proposes cutting Peace Corps funding by $51 million — down to $359.5 million.

     

    Take Action

    Urge your Senator & Representative to Support Peace Corps Funding

     

    Six Reasons to Support Level Peace Corps Funding 

    Maybe you’ve heard rumblings along these lines: “Why should we provide the same funding to Peace Corps when there are no Volunteers in the field?” 

    Here are six reasons for starters:
     

    1. Redeployment Opportunities: Peace Corps plans to begin redeploying Volunteers in January 2021 in Cambodia and Saint Lucia. Further announcements could be coming soon. All 60 countries where Volunteers were serving prior to the pandemic have expressed interest in having Volunteers return. And, with positive news emerging about vaccines and other health protections, the prospects for significant redeployment in FY 2021 are on the rise.
       
    2. Flat Funding For Years: Fiscal Year 2021 would mark the sixth consecutive year in which Congress has not provided a funding increase to Peace Corps. This flat funding has limited opportunities and forced the agency to scale back some programming. During this period, adjusting for inflation, Peace Corps’ effective purchasing power has been reduced by up to $40 million.
       
    3. Health and Safety: The health, safety, and security of Volunteers is regularly cited as Peace Corps’ top priority. Rigthly so, it’s a critical concern when it comes to Congressional oversight. Redeploying Volunteers in a world living with COVID will come with additional costs. We owe it to the Volunteers and the communities where they serve to make sure that these heightened needs are met.
       
    4. Moment for Greatness: The current pause in Peace Corps service presents a unique moment to re-imagine, reshape, and retool Peace Corps for a changed world. NPCA has just released a community-driven report, “Peace Corps Connect to the Future,” that lists dozens of recommendations to reform and improve the Peace Corps. Implementing some of these recommendations requires new investment; and other longstanding reforms that have been called for have not been implemented because of funding. Now is the time to for bold change so that Peace Corps can meet the challenges of our new age. And, as we prepare to mark the 60th anniversary of Peace Corps in 2021, we can recommit to a Peace Corps whose impact in the years ahead will be even broader and more profound. 
       
    5. Opportunity for All: Among the critical recommendations in the ”Peace Corps Connect to the Future“ report is a call to break down racial and economic barriers to serving in the Peace Corps. Service as Volunteers should be accessible and welcoming for all qualified individuals who wish to serve their country. Building and sustaining this effort will require an ongoing commitment — and financial resources to make good on the promise.
       
    6. Serve, Serve, Serve! At home and abroad, we recognize the need for people and communities to come together in the spirit of serving together in solidarity. When it comes to Peace Corps Volunteers overseas — and investing the skills and valuable experience of returned Volunteers here at home — this is a time to build. There is bipartisan support for expanding service by Americans. Peace Corps can and should lead the way.

     

  • Ana Victoria Cruz posted an article
    A Volunteer on his first experience organizing meetings with Congress to advocate for Peace Corps see more

    A Volunteer evacuated from Mongolia on work to help members of Congress understand the value of Peace Corps service — and what they can do to help 

    By Daniel Lang

     

    The summer of 2019 I was training to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mongolia. More politically involved peers raised concerns that we should not take for granted that legislators would continue to fund the Peace Corps; more than 100 members of the House voted to defund it. That fall I swore in as a Volunteer and a close friend, Austin Frenes, began service in China. We both received assignments as university English instructors.

    In January 2020, Austin learned his cohort would be China’s last; the program would, in Peace Corps terms, graduate. Mongolia began to restrict travel amid a preemptive quarantine. Peace Corps China consolidated in Thailand — then ended. In February, Peace Corps Mongolia evacuated; we were put on administrative hold. A week later, home in Nevada, I got word that our service was closing. I’m waiting to hear when we might reinstate. 

    I wasn’t looking for a leadership role in organizing meetings with members of Congress. I had no experience as a citizen lobbyist. But in August I saw a call to action email from National Peace Corps Association asking me to do exactly that, as part of a “virtual district office initiative.” I attended a webinar and learned NPCA had no documented meetings of returned Volunteers with Nevada’s congresspeople. I knew our legislators could do more to support Peace Corps.

     

    The possibility of making important contributions  like this are why, we said, it was important for Peace Corps to both become better and to redeploy.

     

    NPCA’s Advocacy Director Jonathan Pearson helped me to decide which lawmakers to meet with. He put me in touch with other Nevada RPCVs whose service spanned continents and decades. They were strangers to me personally, but we had that common bond as Volunteers. They also echoed advice I had heard in training: We might not know the greatest impact of our service for years to come.

    Earlier in the summer I had shared a story of my Peace Corps service with a high school classmate. Through her, we were able to arrange a Zoom call with the staff of my congressman, Steven Horsford (D-NV) in September. On the call were fellow Volunteers Alexis Zickafoose (Georgia, 2018-20), Alan Klawitter (Liberia, 1975-77), Taj Ainlay (Malaysia, 1973-75) and Kathleen DeVleming (Ethiopia, 1972-74). Alexis was just finishing her second year of service when she was evacuated. Alan and Taj shared stories of their service and the impacts of Peace Corps over the years — reasons why we were asking our representative to support H.R. 3456, the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act introduced by RPCV Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), and H.R. 6833, the Utilizing and Supporting Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers Act introduced by Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN).

     

    RPCVs in the Show Me State: A district meeting with staff from U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) included Kirsty Morgan (Kazakhstan 1998–2000), Erin Robinson (South Africa 2005–07), Don Spiers (Venezuela 1973–75), Joseph O’Sullivan (Brazil 1973–75), Amy Morros (Mali 1996–98), and Mia Richardson (North Macedonia 2018–20), founder of RPCVs Serving at Home. Photo by Amy Morros

     

    Kathleen raised points about the skill sets of many Volunteers, and the importance of legislation aimed at putting RPCVs to work to help combat the pandemic here at home. She spoke about the work that her husband, John DeVleming, had done to eradicate smallpox in Ethiopia while serving as a Volunteer and working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The possibility of making important contributions like this are why, we said, it was important for Peace Corps to both become better and to redeploy.

    I realized a few things from this experience. This work is all in our Third Goal — helping Americans, including our representatives and senators in Congress, better understand the world. It’s also part of showing openness, adaptability, and flexibility. And serving as a citizen lobbyist at home is much like engaging in citizen diplomacy abroad.

    Ultimately, all U.S. citizens can contact our leaders — or, should I say, our public servants. I know we’re all called to act in different hours. I felt this as my hour. I hope you consider this, too. Let’s help make sure that Peace Corps endures as something even better than it has been.

     

    As of press time, RPCV advocates have organized 30 virtual district office meetings across 16 states, with dozens of additional meetings being sought. Make plans to participate in our next round of district meetings, coming in March 2021 during our annual National Days of Action.

     


    This story was first published in WorldView magazine’s Fall 2020 issue. Read the entire magazine for free now in the WorldView app. Here’s how:

    STEP 1 - Create an account: Click here and create a login name and password. Use the code DIGITAL2020 to get it free.

    STEP 2 - Get the app: For viewing the magazine on a phone or tablet, go to the App Store/Google Play and search for “WorldView magazine” and download the app. Or view the magazine on a laptop/desktop here.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Urge your Senators to pass legislation on voting rights and police reform. see more

    As we celebrate an anniversary, renew a commitment to building peace and friendship here are home by taking a stand for equity and justice under the law.

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    We are just days away from the 60th anniversary of a moment that jump-started the establishment of the Peace Corps. At 2 a.m. on October 14, 1960, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy gave an impromptu speech outside the University of Michigan’s student union. After a day of campaigning, he didn’t expect a crowd of thousands to be waitinig, but there they were. 

    Those familiar with the speech recall these words:

    "How many of you who are going to be doctors, are willing to spend your days in Ghana? Technicians or engineers, how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world?”

    Not as well known are the words that followed:

    “On your willingness to do that, not merely to serve one year or two years in the service, but on your willingness to contribute part of your life to this country, I think will depend the answer whether a free society can compete. I think it can! And I think Americans are willing to contribute. But the effort must be far greater than we have ever made in the past.”

     

    “I think Americans are willing to contribute. But the effort must be far greater than we have ever made in the past.”

     

    In the months ahead, the enthusiastic answer to Kennedy’s question led to the creation of the Peace Corps — and began a journey that nearly a quarter million Volunteers have undertaken. Sixty years after this foundational moment for the Peace Corps, we invite you to contribute a small “part of your life to this country” — through an advocacy action that seeks to help our nation fulfill its promise of justice and equality for all. 

    We invite you to write to your U.S. senators and urge action on two pieces of legislation before that body:

    • Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has introduced the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (S. 4263), named after the iconic Congressman and civil rights leader whose beloved wife Lillian Miles Lewis, earlier served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nigeria.
       
    • Meanwhile, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) has introduced the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 (S. 3912), similar to legislation passed in the House named in remembrance of George Floyd.

    By following this link, you can send personalized messages as a member of the Peace Corps community, urging your Senators to take action.


    Take Action

     

  • Ana Victoria Cruz posted an article
    Welcome a number of new Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to the NPCA team see more

    Meet the newest members of our team.

    By Glenn Blumhorst

    Photo of schoolgirl in Panamá by Eli Wittum

     

    Next week we mark two days that resonate deeply with the Peace Corps community. On Monday, September 21, we celebrate the International Day of Peace. And on Tuesday, September 22, we commemorate the 59th anniversary of the passage and signing of the Peace Corps Act — the legislation that created the Peace Corps. One of its advocates in the House of Representatives was Illinois Republican Marguerite S. Church, who valued the aspiration to nurture “human dignity and confidence” around the world.

    But that world has changed. And here on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the agency, we have both the opportunity and responsibility to help reimagine and reshape the Peace Corps — and our community — to be better and stronger. So I’m delighted to welcome a number of new Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to the NPCA team to help do that work — from consultant and Council on Foreign Relations Member Jalina Porter to full-time team member Marieme Foote, who was evacuated from Benin in March and is taking on responsibilities supporting advocacy and outreach. We’ve also brought on board database expert Robertino Bogart and consultant Kim Dixon to work with part-time team members Caitlin Nemeth and Molly O’Brien as they spearhead efforts to connect, inform, and engage community members. 

    And we have three more opportunities to join our team: We’re looking for a Director of DevelopmentFinance and Administration Associate, and Associate Editor, Global Stories. Together we can foster a diverse, vibrant, and united Peace Corps community that has the energy and commitment to tackle the big challenges in front of us.

     

     

    Jalina Porter | Strategy Consultant

    Jalina Porter will be contributing to several key areas of our work, including partnerships; advocacy; strategic communications; and our diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies. She has been an active collaborator with NPCA advocacy programs for many years, and she introduced Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick at our July 18 Peace Corps Connect to the Future ideas summit.

    A term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Jalina is a strategic communications advisor who specializes in Congress, peace and security, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Throughout her career, she has advised and trained over 3,000 public and foreign policy professionals, veterans, artists, athletes, politicians, and leading corporate executives. She served in Peace Corps Cambodia 2009–11 and later served on the board of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, D.C. as development director. She was named a 2018 top 35 Black American National Security and Foreign Policy Next Generation Leader by New America and a 2019 Foreign Policy Influencer by the Women’s Foreign Policy Group. She is also a member of the inaugural cohort of the NPCA 40 Under 40 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. She is a proud graduate of Howard University, where she received her bachelor’s degree, and Georgetown University, where she earned her master’s. A former professional dancer, Jalina is passionate about the arts, living with intention, and unique storytelling through movement and writing.

     

    Marieme Foote | Advocacy and Administrative Associate / Outreach Specialist

    Marieme Foote served as a Volunteer in Benin from September 2018 until the global evacuation in March 2020. While serving as a Sustainable Agricultural Systems Agent, she worked alongside men and women’s groups to address issues concerning food security and agriculture. After returning to the U.S., she became involved in advocacy work for evacuated Volunteers and worked with Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security (WCAPS) to gather data and create a report to advocate for better support for evacuated Volunteers. She holds a B.A. in political science with a minor in environmental studies from Ithaca College. She identifies as a Senegalese-American, so she has spent time both in the U.S and Senegal, where a part of her family resides. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and knitting.

     

    Robertino Bogart | Database Management Specialist

    As a Volunteer in Ghana 2017–19, Robertino taught the computer class at a junior high school and worked on a number of health, education, and agriculture projects with students and community members. He co-led a team of PCVs, software developers, and farmers that won the 2018 Peace Corps Cashew Hackathon. They created the prototype for a data collection tool that collects data about cashew harvests and provides reliable and accurate pricing and sales data for farmers and cashew buyers. Prior to joining the Peace Corps, Robertino worked as a database developer with the SQL programming language. He is adding python programming language to his repertoire to manage data and create visualizations. He holds a B.A. in mathematics from George Mason University and enjoys swimming and cooking.

     

    Kim Dixon | Team Leader, Peace Corps Community Connect 

    Kim joins NPCA as a part-time consultant after many years of sales, marketing and management consulting with IBM. On the technical sales side she focused on organizational change management when implementing Internet solutions; she later founded a consulting firm in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her true calling appeared when she went to Georgia as a Peace Corps Volunteer 2014–16 and worked with internally displaced persons. When her service concluded, she returned to the States, but her heart remained in Georgia. In 2017 she returned for another 18 months. Among other diversions and hobbies, Kim has danced with the Raleigh Little German Band throughout the East Coast, Germany, Austria, and Belgium. 

     

     

    Caitlin Nemeth | Outreach Specialist, part time

    Caitlin Nemeth is a Coverdell fellow at the University of Colorado-Denver and expects to complete her Master of Public Administration degree in 2021. She served as a Volunteer in The Gambia 2017–19. She has a B.A. in public health policy and English from the College of William and Mary. While studying at W&M, Caitlin worked for the university’s Phonathon, building rapport with alumni and other associates of the College, and raising money for scholarship funds, diversity & inclusivity initiatives, and academic departments. As a shelter advocate at Avalon, A Center for Women and Children located in Williamsburg, she began to build necessary interpersonal skills while deepening her understanding of the complexities of nonprofit public health programs. Her time at the shelter encouraged her to combine her dream of joining the Peace Corps with her career ambition of implementing positive public health change. In Caitlin’s spare time, she enjoys sailing and paddle boarding on the Chesapeake Bay, baking delicious cookies and cakes, and reading speculative fiction novels.

     

    Molly O’Brien | Outreach Specialist, part time

    Molly O’Brien comes to NPCA after completing her M.A. in Public Service/Nonprofit Administration at Marquette University earlier in 2020. She was the recipient the Trinity Fellowship, a competitive program focused on social and economic justice, and she worked at Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity providing programmatic support for homeowners. Molly was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Trang, Thailand 2016–18 and in Karak, Jordan 2014–15. Since her return from the Peace Corps, she has been active in the RPCV community, serving on the board of the Milwaukee Peace Corps Association as their membership coordinator. Prior to Peace Corps she earned a B.A. in history and communications from Loyola University Chicago. She resides in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she enjoys spending as much time outdoors as possible.

     

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Organize and mobilize virtual district meetings over the next seven weeks. see more

    How can you help? Meet with your national legislators now – virtually.

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    We are entering a period where the future of the Peace Corps is on the line. The next 18 to 36 months will be crucial to the survival of the agency. Why? Peace Corps must have the necessary resources to redeploy as soon as practicable, with expedited applications for recent evacuees.

    Returned Peace Corps Volunteers are the most influential voices when it comes to speaking up for Peace Corps. And efforts to ensure Peace Corps’ future are ramping up now. It begins with virtual district office meetings.

    First up: On Tuesday, August 25 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, RPCVs will virtually meet with Republican Congressman and Co-Chair of the House Peace Corps Caucus Garrett Graves. This personal outreach lets legislators know how important Peace Corps is to you — and you can help them understand the impact and value of Peace Corps service to communities back home.

     

    Get on the map!

    Check out our growing map of emerging meetings. If a meeting in your area is in the works, reach out and sign up. If no meeting appears in your area, follow this link to get started — and contact advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org to tell us where you want to organize a meeting. 

     

     

    What if I’ve never participated in an advocacy meeting before? 

    No problem! While past experience helps, passion and preparation can more than make up for that. If you are new to organizing or participating in advocacy meetings with Congressional offices, contact us if you want a review of some of the basics. We have also laid out six easy steps you can follow here

     

    Download Virtual District Office Meetings Materials

      

    Download Toolkit

    Organize a Virtual District Office Meeting

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Here’s how we’ve been advocating for evacuated Volunteers — and a Peace Corps in a changed world. see more

    Here’s how we’ve been advocating for evacuated Volunteers — and a Peace Corps in a changed world.

    By Jonathan Pearson and Steven Boyd Saum

     

    The coronavirus pandemic and temporary suspension of all Peace Corps programs marks the greatest existential threat to the agency in its history. When Volunteers were evacuated, they were ripped from communities with hardly any notice; in March they came back to a pandemic and an economic maelstrom. Regulations typically would not allow them to be eligible for unemployment insurance; their health insurance coverage would expire in a month. In some cases they had no home to come back to. 

    Supporting those Volunteers became top priority. As part of the $2.2 trillion stimulus package signed into law March 27, we lobbied for $88 million in additional funding to support the safe evacuation and immediate readjustment needs of Volunteers. Thanks to help from supporters in Congress, new regulations were issued by the Department of Labor declaring that evacuated Volunteers are eligible for unemployment insurance. Health insurance coverage was extended. We have also sent letters to governors of some states where evacuated Volunteers have had trouble receiving the unemployment assistance they should.

     

    Thanks to help from supporters in Congress, new regulations were issued by the Department of Labor declaring that evacuated Volunteers are eligible for unemployment insurance. Health insurance coverage was extended.

     

    What’s ahead? A concerted, lengthy mobilization is required to ensure the future of Peace Corps. And as nationwide protests against the killing of George Floyd and racial injustice have made profoundly clear since the end of May, we need to uphold Peace Corps values of equity and justice here at home — as well as abroad — as we work to support Peace Corps in a changed world. That’s an essential part of our advocacy work as well.


    On the Hill

    It may seem a lifetime ago, but it was only on March 5, 2020 that 200 members of the Peace Corps community took part in our annual Day of Action on Capitol Hill. Groups of returned Volunteers — including 35 Volunteers from China, evacuated five weeks earlier — met with members of Congress. For the first time ever, we delivered materials to every senator and representative. Returned Volunteers also presented the NPCA Sam Farr Congressional Leadership Award to Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and Congressman Hal Rogers of Kentucky for their leadership on Peace Corps issues.
     

    Ink on paper: some of the bipartisan support for Peace Corps last year.
     

    Community advocacy was essential in getting a record 42 senators to sign the annual “Dear Colleague” letter in support of Peace Corps, co-authored by Susan Collins (R-ME) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). It also bolstered efforts by the Peace Corps Caucus in the House — led by RPCVs John Garamendi (D-CA) and Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA), and Representative Garrett Graves (R-LA) — to secure 167 signatures on a House letter requesting $450 million for Peace Corps in fiscal year 2021.

    As it turns out, our Day of Action was about the last big day of meetings for anyone on Capitol Hill before COVID-19 began to shut down Washington, D.C. The crisis that pandemic created for Volunteers has meant our advocacy work is more important than ever. That work just doesn’t happen in person right now.

    The following section outlines positive legislation for Peace Corps and evacuees. But there’s one instance when we’ve asked the community to raise their voices against legislation: the Working Under Humanity’s Actual Needs (WUHAN) Rescissions Act introduced by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) that would take back the funding used to support evacuated Volunteers


    In the Works

    There’s a great deal of national legislation in the works that our community can get behind — some that we helped shape.
     

     

    Senate

    UNITE Act (S.B. 3642)
    Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) developed legislation with NPCA to mobilize U.S. citizens — especially 
evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers — to combat the COVID-19 pandemic by expanding response programs. Extends opportunities for evacuees to purchase health insurance to six months. Calls for expedited procedures to redeploy evacuees. House Bill 6560 parallels it. Introduced by RPCV John Garamendi.

    Senate Bill 3700

    Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Addresses unemployment and health care benefits for evacuees, expands service opportunities, promotes return of Peace Corps programs.

    Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act 
(S.B. 3624)  
    Chris Coons (D-DE), joined by Chris Van Hollen and others. Has drawn national media attention amid increasing calls for national public service programs. 

    Cultivating Opportunity and Response to the Pandemic through Service (CORPS) Act (S.B. 3964) 
    Senators Chris Coons, Roger Wicker (R-MS), and others. 
Expands national public service programs with priority enrollment for evacuated Volunteers. 

     

    Joint Legislation

    Reauthorize Peace Corps Commemorative Project
    Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Representatives Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) and Garret Graves (R-LA) ask to extend time for work on a commemorative and park near the Capitol, celebrating the mission and ideals of the Peace Corps. 

     

    Letters: Combat COVID-19

    National Health Corps Letter (April 21) to House leadership
    Representatives Ami Bera (D-CA), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Susan Brooks (R-IN), and Bill Foster (D-IL). Calls for a National Health Corps to combat COVID-19, specifically referencing evacuated RPCVs as a resource.

     

    Bi-Cameral Letter (April 2)
    Senator Chris Van Hollen and Representative Dean Phillips state the need for evacuees to have jobless protections and opportunities to use their skills to combat COVID-19. 

     

     

    House

    Inspire to Serve Act of 2020 (H.R. 6415)
    Introduced by Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and joined by Don Bacon (R-NE), Chrissy Houlahan, Michael Waltz (R-FL), and others. 
    Incorporates some recommendations offered by the Commission on Military, National and Public Service in a report issued in March 2020. Extends non-competitive eligibility for Peace Corps service from one to three years; proposes pilot program for Peace Corps Response Volunteers to work remotely; involves Peace Corps leadership in a national Council 
on Service.

    Utilizing and Supporting Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers Act (H.R. 6833)
    Introduced by Representatives Dean Phillips (D-MN) and Don Young (R-AK). 
Extends opportunity for evacuated RPCVs to continue to purchase health insurance through Peace Corps beyond three months. Calls for expedited opportunities for evacuated RPCVs in programs aimed at combating the COVID-19 pandemic here at home. Expedited opportunities to return to Peace Corps service. Also includes language of the no-cost, bi-partisan Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act to allow the Peace Corps logo on grave markers or death notices.

    Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act 
(H.R. 6702)
    Introduced by David Price (D-NC) and joined by more than 15 cosponsors. Funds 750,000 national service positions over three years to support pandemic relief and recovery. Gives placement priority to Peace Corps Volunteers, Fulbright grantees, or AmeriCorps participants whose service or grant was interrupted by COVID-19.


    In the weeks ahead we will be calling on our community to support Peace Corps and its values. We hope you’ll join us and take action: advocacy.peacecorpsconnect.org


    Jonathan Pearson is the Advocacy Director for National Peace Corps Association. Steven Boyd Saum is the editor of WorldView magazine. This story was first published in WorldView magazine’s Summer 2020 issue. Read the entire magazine for free now in the WorldView app. Here’s how:

    STEP 1 - Create an account: Click here and create a login name and password. Use the code DIGITAL2020 to get it free.

    STEP 2 - Get the app: For viewing the magazine on a phone or tablet, go to the App Store/Google Play and search for “WorldView magazine” and download the app. Or view the magazine on a laptop/desktop here.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Peace Corps legislation likely when Congress reconvenes in late April see more

    Last week Congress approved legislation calling for $2.2 trillion in emergency stimulus—legislation that included $88 million for Peace Corps. That was the third law passed by Congress to address the coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences.

    Work is now well underway on a fourth stimulus package, with more Peace Corps related legislation on the way. 

     

    Peace Corps Legislation Announced

    National Peace Corps Association has been working closely with Congressional leaders to enhance benefits for Peace Corps Volunteers. On Friday, April 3, Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation that would address several key concerns of the Peace Corps community. The legislation seeks to:

    • Address the need to provide some form of unemployment compensation for evacuated Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who are jobless several months from now, having exhausted their initial Close of Service financial support (readjustment and evacuation allowance).
    • Further extends health insurance benefits to evacuees.
    • Expedite hiring of RPCVs using their Non-Competitive Eligibility for federal job openings.
    • Prompt redeployment of Peace Corps Volunteers as soon as practicable and an expedited re-enrollment process for evacuated RPCVs.

     

    Read Senator Murphy's Press Release

     

    “We applaud the bipartisan effort of Senators Murphy, Collins, and Feinstein to introduce this important legislation to address some of the longer-term support needs of evacuees, and to reinforce Peace Corps’ stated goal to redeploy Volunteers around the world as soon as possible,” said Glenn Blumhorst, National Peace Corps Association President and CEO. “While we anticipate the agency is already at work to address some of these concerns, we are so grateful that a number of congressional offices have been reaching out to us, asking how they also can best support Peace Corps and its Volunteers. Legislation such as this sends a strong message that Congress is committed to the return of thousands of Volunteers across our interconnected world, ready to address many of the major global challenges we face.”

    This is the first of what are expected to be several legislative initiatives to address concerns and needs of the Peace Corps community.

     

    Senate, House Letters Released

    Also this week, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Representative Dean Phillips issued a bicameral Senate/House letter to the Secretary of Labor asking that evacuated RPCVs and Americorps volunteers be eligible for unemployment benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act (part of the CARES Act, passed last week). A second letter calls upon Peace Corps, Americorps, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide RPCVs with the opportunity to enlist in domestic COVID-19 response efforts. 

    Read this press release to learn more about these letters.

     

    Final Week for Peace Corps Funding Letter

    Finally, we are about to enter the last week of NPCA Action Alert to ask Senators to sign an important Senate letter to support continued strong funding for Peace Corps' annual budget. Twenty-six senators have signed the letter, which has an April 10th deadline. Follow this link to learn more and take action!

     

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    A rundown of various Peace Corps COVID-19 legislation before Congress see more

    Congressional response to the COVID-19 pandemic includes various legislative initiatives that fully or partially seek to support Peace Corps and the 7,300+ evacuated Volunteers. Here’s a summary of the key legislation that is currently under consideration.
     


    Support this Legislation!

    Follow this link to write your members of Congress in support of any/all of the following legislation.


    Senate Legislation
    Senate Bill 3700 (S. 3700)

    NPCA worked closely on drafting this legislation that extends the period through which evacuees could purchase Peace Corps post-service health insurance; instructs Peace Corps to reopen programs as soon as practicable and expedites redeployment of evacuees; and promotes opportunities for evacuees to secure federal employment or assist with federal pandemic response efforts.

     

    Senate Bill 3642 (S. 3642) — UNITE Act

    This legislation, developed with NPCA, outlines proposals to expand COVID-19 response programs through the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and includes Peace Corps evacuees among those listed for priority hiring; extends opportunities for evacuees to purchase post-service health insurance to six months; calls for expedited procedures to redeploy evacuees, and for Peace Corps to issue a report on its redeployment plans, including plans to redeploy evacuees.

    • Introduced by: Ed Markey (D-MA); joined by Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
    • Co-Sponsors
    • Status: Referred to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
    • Read the Bill Text
    • Press Release

     

    Senate Bill 3624 (S. 3624) — Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act

    This legislation would fund 750,000 national service positions over three years to support pandemic relief and recovery, and would include evacuated Returned Peace Corps Volunteers for priority placement through the program. 

    • Introduced by: Chris Coons (D-DE); joined originally by Jack Reed (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Dick Durbin (D-IL).
    • Co-Sponsors
    • Status: Referred to the Finance Committee.
    • Read the Bill Text
    • Press Release

     


    House of Representatives

    House Bill 6833 (H.R. 6833) — Utilizing and Supporting Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers Act

    This legislation was drafted in close coordination with NPCA and allows evacuees the possibility to purchase post-service health insurance through the agency beyond three months should they choose; instructs the Peace Corps to coordinate expedited processes to assist the placement of evacuees in pandemic response initiatives; and instructs Peace Corps to resume overseas programs as soon as practicable, with an expedited redeployment process for evacuees.

     

    House Bill 6560 (H.R. 6560) — UNITE Act of 2020

    ​​​​​​​Working with NPCA, this legislation outlines proposals to expand COVID-19 response programs through the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and includes Peace Corps evacuees among those listed for priority hiring; extends opportunities for evacuees to purchase post-service health insurance to six months; calls for expedited procedures to redeploy evacuees, and for Peace Corps to issue a report on its redeployment plans, including plans to redeploy evacuees.

    • Introduced by: RPCV John Garamendi (D-CA); joined originally by Bobby Rush (D-IL), Debra Haaland (D-NM), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Sean Casten (D-IL), and Ann Kuster (D-NH).
    • Co-Sponsors
    • Status: Referred to the Education and Labor, Foreign Affairs, and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees.
    • Read the Bill Text
    • Press Release

     

    House Bill 6415 (H.R. 6415) — Inspire to Serve Act of 2020

    ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​This legislation would extend Non-Competitive Eligibility for Peace Corps service to three years; proposes a pilot program through Peace Corps Response in which Response Volunteers could work remotely; involves Peace Corps leadership in a Council on Service; proposes Peace Corps, the Commission for National and Community Service, and the Department of Defense to collaborate on joint marketing and cross-promoting of various forms of service. (This bill incorporates some of the recommendations offered by the Commission on Military, National and Public Service).

    • Introduced by: Jimmy Panetta (D-CA); joined originally by Don Bacon (R-NE), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Michael Waltz (R-FL), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Gil Cisneros (D-CA), Denver Riggleman (R-VA), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), and Jason Crow (D-CO).
    • Co-Sponsors
    • Status: Referred to the Education and Labor, Armed Services, Foreign Affairs and a number of other House committees.
    • Read the Bill Text

     

    House Bill 6702 (H.R. 6702) — Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act

    This bill would fund 750,000 national service positions over three years to support pandemic relief and recovery, and includes evacuated Returned Peace Corps Volunteers for priority placement through the program. 

    • Introduced by: David Price (D-NC). Joined originally by Doris Matsui (D-CA), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Ami Bera (D-CA), Kim Schirer (D-WA) and fifteen other original co-sponsors.
    • Co-Sponsors
    • Status: Referred to the Education and Labor, and Ways and Means Committees.
    • Read the Bill Text
    • Press Release

     


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  • House legislation includes proposals for RPCV evacuees to continue service. see more

    New Peace Corps legislation continues to emerge to help evacuated Volunteers, this time in the House of Representatives. On April 30, Representatives Dean Phillips (D-MN) and Don Young (R-AK) announced the “Utilizing and Supporting Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers Act,” which addresses several issues to support present and future needs of evacuated Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. The legislation is also supported by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), and Jennifer Wexton (D-VA).

    In a press release issued by Representative Phillips, National Peace Corps Association President Glenn Blumhorst notes that “At the heart of this legislation are initiatives to engage these volunteers in what they do best — opportunities to continue serving others, both here at home to contain and overcome the pandemic, and overseas as soon as conditions permit Peace Corps to redeploy.”

    ​​​The Phillips-Young legislation would:

    • Extend the opportunity for evacuated RPCVs to continue to purchase health insurance through Peace Corps beyond the current three months.
    • Instruct the Corporation for National and Community Service to expedite opportunities through which evacuated RPCVs can be assigned to programs aimed at combating the COVID-19 pandemic here at home.
    • Expedite opportunities for evacuated RPCVs to return to Peace Corps service once it is practicable for the agency to begin redeploying volunteers overseas.

    In light of the many lives being lost during the pandemic, the legislation also includes language of the no-cost, bi-partisan “Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act,” legislation that would allow the Peace Corps logo to be included on grave markers or in death notices.

     

    “At the heart of this legislation are initiatives to engage these volunteers in what they do best — opportunities to continue serving others, both here at home to contain and overcome the pandemic, and overseas as soon as conditions permit Peace Corps to redeploy.”
       — Glenn Blumhorst, President & CEO, National Peace Corps Association

     

    2020 Progress: Efforts to Help Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers

    National Peace Corps Association has been working with Congress on a variety of Peace Corps initiatives. The announcement of the Phillips-Young House legislation is the latest in a long string of positive steps to support Peace Corps and recent evacuees.

    • Evacuee Unemployment Compensation Confirmed (April 28): The U.S. Labor Department issued guidelines which confirmed evacuated RPCVs are eligible for unemployment under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act. Read more here.
       
    • National Health Corps Letter (April 21): In a letter to House leadership, Representatives Ami Bera (D-CA), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Bill Foster (D-IL) propose the creation of a National Health Corps to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically referencing evacuated RPCVs as a resource. Read more here.
       
    • Markey Legislation (April 13): Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) announced legislation that seeks to mobilize U.S. citizens — especially evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers — to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more here.
       
    • Record Senate Funding Letter (April 10): A record 42 Senators signed the annual Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter. Led by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the letter requests robust funding for Peace Corps in Fiscal Year 2021, which begins October 1. Read more here.
       
    • Murphy Legislation (April 3): Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) announced legislation to address unemployment and health care benefits for Peace Corps evacuees, expand service opportunities, and promote the return of Peace Corps programs overseas. Read more here.
       
    • Bi-Cameral Letters (April 2): Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Congressman Dean Phillips (D-MN) led joint Senate/House letters on the need for evacuees to have jobless protections and the need for evacuees to have opportunities to utilize their skills to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more here.
       
    • Peace Corps Stimulus (March 27): Congress passed and President Trump signed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package to respond to the pandemic. Included in that package was $88 million to cover the evacuation of 7,300 volunteers and provide initial readjustment support for the evacuees. Read more here.
       
    • House Peace Corps Funding Letter (March 13): A bi-partisan group of 167 lawmakers signed a House Peace Corps funding letter requesting $450 million for Peace Corps in fiscal year 2021. The letter was issued by leaders of the Peace Corps Caucus RPCVs John Garamendi (D-CA) and Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA), and Representative Garrett Graves (R-LA). Read more here.
       
    • Capitol Hill Advocacy Day (March 5): More than 200 members of the Peace Corps community conducted more than 220 meetings on Capitol Hill during NPCA’s 16th annual National Days of Action in Support of the Peace Corps. We were joined by 35 Peace Corps Volunteers from China, evacuated five weeks earlier, to speak to the importance of their work. See photo album here.
       
    • Former Directors Support Independence (January 7): NPCA issued a letter authored and signed by ten former Peace Corps directors opposing Senate legislation to place Peace Corps under the authority of the State Department. Read more here.

     


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    Story Updated 01 May 2020 11 a.m.