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  • Steven Saum posted an article
    A bipartisan show of support for the most comprehensive Peace Corps legislation in a generation see more

    In a bipartisan show of support, ten former Peace Corps Directors who have served under Republican and Democratic administrations alike call on the Senate to pass the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act. The most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in a generation, it would bring important reforms and support for Volunteers as the agency seeks to meet the needs of a changed world.


    Press Release


    Today, 10 former Peace Corps Directors who served in both Republican and Democratic administrations sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), calling on them to pass the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (S. 4466). 

    These bipartisan former Peace Corps Directors specifically asked the Senate to move the legislation, co-authored by Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Ranking Member James Risch (R-ID), either as an amendment to the pending National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 (NDAA) or independently. 

    The letter was also shared with key senators who have a decision-making role in this process. They are Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chair, Foreign Relations Committee; Senator James Risch (D-ID), Ranking Member, Foreign Relations Committee; Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee; Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Ranking Member, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee; Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Chair, Armed Services Committee; Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member, Armed Services Committee; Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chair, Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee; and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member, Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. 

    The legislation has already unanimously passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Its House of Representatives companion legislation (H.R. 1456), authored by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA), passed the full House on September 19 with a strong bipartisan vote of 290–115. The Senate legislation currently has 15 co-sponsors, including six Republicans, and if the legislation becomes law, it will be the first full reauthorization of the Peace Corps since 1999. 

    The former Directors wrote this letter now, as amendments to be considered for the FY23 NDAA are currently being vetted, with floor votes likely to occur after the midterm elections.

    This is the time for this critical legislation to become law, so that the Peace Corps can remain a strong force for U.S. global leadership and strengthen connections with the world. The former directors unanimously called on the Senate to meet the moment and pass this legislation during this Congress.

    The legislation will provide multiple reforms and improvements to the Peace Corps, including: 

    • Authorizing agency funding through 2027.
    • Increasing readjustment allowance to $375 minimum/month.
    • Suspending federal student loan interest during the duration of service.
    • Extending transitory health care coverage for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to two months.
    • Providing greater whistleblower protections.
    • Codifying two years of non-competitive eligibility (NCE) for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.
    • Strengthening DEIA efforts at the Peace Corps.
    • Expanding Peace Corps eligibility to include U.S. citizens who are American Samoan.
    • Increasing Peace Corps Volunteers’ level of workers compensation.
    • Strengthening and extending the Peace Corps’ Sexual Assault Advisory Council.



    Text of the Letter from Ten Former Peace Corps Directors to Senate Leadership

    View a PDF of the letter here.



    October 3, 2022

    The Honorable Chuck Schumer (D-NY)             
    Majority Leader                                                                      
    United States Senate                                              

    The Honorable Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
    Minority Leader
    United States Senate

    Dear Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell: 

    We write to you as a bipartisan, unified group of former Peace Corps Directors to express our full support for the swift passage of the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (S. 4466). We believe that now, with Volunteers returning to the field for the first time in two years, after being withdrawn due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that the Peace Corps return with a renewed sense of purpose. That is what passage of this legislation will do. 

    If passed, this would be the first full reauthorization of the agency since 1999. It has been more than two decades since full reauthorization. Multiple reforms included in this bill are long overdue and urgently needed — both to solidify this core instrument of American soft power, and to ensure that the agency has the tools to meet the needs of a changed world. 

    Fortunately, this Congress is well positioned to pass this legislation and move it to President Biden’s desk for his signature. The companion version in the House, H.R. 1456, passed on September 19 in a strong bipartisan vote under suspension of the Rules. That bill was co-authored by Reps. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA), with the former being the sole Returned Peace Corps Volunteer currently serving in Congress. 

    In the Senate, the bill is jointly authored by the leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and James Risch (R-ID). It has already been unanimously passed out of committee on a voice vote and currently has six Republican and nine Democratic cosponsors. It is a well-crafted bill that reflects strong bipartisan input and ideas. 

    It is this demonstration of strong bipartisan support that gives us hope that the bill can be passed this Congressional session. Doing so would be a testament to America’s enduring bipartisan commitment to those who serve abroad on behalf of our country. As you both know, the Peace Corps was founded in 1961 with a vision of promoting American values and expertise around the world — and to then bringing back home to our communities deeper global understanding through lessons learned by our Volunteers. 

    More than 240,000 of our fellow citizens have answered the call to serve as Peace Corps Volunteers, advancing our nation’s security during turbulent times overseas. We therefore ask that you do all that you can to ensure that the Senate version of the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act moves forward, either as part of an existing legislative vehicle, such as the National Defense Authorization Act, or independently. With this act’s passage, we can move one step closer to having the type of Peace Corps that the American people deserve and that will ensure we work together effectively with partner nations around the world. 




    Carol Bellamy (1993–95) Clinton Administration 

    Richard Celeste (1979–81) Carter Administration 

    Nicholas Craw (1973–74) Nixon Administration 

    Mark Gearan (1995–99) Clinton Administration 

    Carrie Hessler-Radelet (2014–17) Obama Administration 

    Josephine (Jody) Olsen (2018–21) Trump Administration 

    Mark Schneider (1999–2001) Clinton Administration 

    Ronald Tschetter (2006–09) George W. Bush Administration 

    Gaddi Vasquez (2002–06) George W. Bush Administration 

    Aaron Williams (2009–12) Obama Administration 



    View a PDF of the the letter from former Peace Corps Directors to Senate Leadership.

    Read a summary and analysis of the Senate and House legislation.


    For more information, contact:


    Joel Rubin, Vice President for Global Policy and Public Affairs


    Steven Boyd Saum, Director of Strategic Communications

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    The House has just passed the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in a generation see more

    The House of Representatives has just passed the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in a generation.


    Press Release

    Washington, D.C. — National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) strongly applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1456). This bill is crucial for the future of the Peace Corps as a new generation of Volunteers returns to service. If it ultimately becomes law, it will be the first full reauthorization of the Peace Corps since 1999. More than 240,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.

    The bill’s lead author is Representative John Garamendi (D-CA), the sole Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) in Congress; his co-author is Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), a longtime Peace Corps champion. Their bipartisan leadership in support of the Peace Corps is a powerful testament to the enduring backing of the American people for volunteer service abroad. The strong bipartisan vote today only affirms this backing.

    NPCA Board of Directors Chair John Lee Evans said upon the passage of the legislation: “This legislation does what many in the Peace Corps community have been demanding for years. It authorizes critical agency funding; increases readjustment allowance for RPCVs; extends transitory health care coverage for RPCVs; provides greater whistleblower protections for RPCVs; increases Non-Competitive Eligibility (NCE) for RPCVs; strengthens DEIA efforts at the Peace Corps; expands Peace Corps eligibility to include U.S. citizens who are American Samoan; provides a modest increase for Peace Corps Volunteers’ level of workers compensation; strengthens and extends the work of the Peace Corps’ Sexual Assault Advisory Council; and authorizes Virtual Service. These are the kinds of visionary reforms that will ensure a strong Peace Corps, one that advances American goals abroad and strengthens our peoples’ connections to the world.”


    “These are the kinds of visionary reforms that will ensure a strong Peace Corps, one that advances American goals abroad and strengthens our peoples’ connections to the world.”

         — John Lee Evans, NPCA Board Chair


    NPCA Interim President Dan Baker also said: “Today the RPCV community stands united in gratitude for the leadership shown by the Congress in getting this bill one step closer to the President’s desk. Our longtime House champions Rep. John Garamendi and Garret Graves deserve deep applause for their vision in moving this bill forward. I’d also like to thank the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX) for their unwavering support, as well as Vice Chairs Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) for their strong commitment to a reformed and revitalized Peace Corps. This bill, which has companion legislation in the Senate moving forward, will strengthen Americans’ ability to serve around the world and the impact of Peace Corps’ efforts overall.”


    About National Peace Corps Association

    National Peace Corps Association is the nation’s largest organization dedicated to promoting and advancing the goals of the Peace Corps. NPCA is a mission-driven social impact organization that encourages and celebrates lifelong commitment to Peace Corps ideals. NPCA supports a united and vibrant Peace Corps community—including current and returned Peace Corps Volunteers, current and former staff, host country nationals, family, and friends—in our efforts to create a better world. 

    For more information, contact:

    Steven Boyd Saum, Director of Strategic Communications
    Joel Rubin, Vice President for Global Policy and Public Affairs


     September 19, 2022
  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    The deadline for members to sign onto this bipartisan letter is April 22. see more

    In the House of Representatives, today (April 22) is the deadline for a bipartisan letter from the co-chairs of the Peace Corps Caucus seeking a $40 million increase in agency funding. Now is the time to contact your House Rep and ask them to sign this letter. 


    By Jonathan Pearson


    Congressmen John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA), co-chairs of the House Peace Corps Caucus, have begun circulating a Peace Corps funding letter asking other House members to sign on and ensure robust support for the agency as Volunteers return to service overseas. The letter, addressed to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State & Foreign Operations, calls for increasing Peace Corps funding for Fiscal Year 2023 from $410.5 million to $450 million. 

    Read the annual Dear Colleague Peace Corps funding letter, or find the text at the bottom of this post.

    Garamendi served with the Peace Corps in Ethiopia. Together with Graves, in 2021 he introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act — the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in decades. 

    In March 2022, Volunteers began returning to service overseas. They will be returning to dozens of countries in the months ahead. The Peace Corps agency has undertaken critical reforms to ensure a better and stronger Peace Corps for a changed world. But the agency needs funding to make all this possible.


    Deadline is This Friday, April 22 at 12 Noon EST. Take action now.

    Urge your House Representative to sign the Garamendi-Graves Peace Corps funding letter to support strong funding for Peace Corps in a changed world. Last year, a similar letter was signed by 156 members of the House of Representatives. We need your help to reach or surpass this mark! The current deadline to sign this letter is Friday, April 22, 2022.


    Take Action Now



    Who has signed the letter so far?

    Here are the lawmakers who have signed the Garamendi-Graves Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter for Fiscal Year 2023. 


    DEADLINE to sign on: 12 Noon Friday, April 22, 2022

    SIGNATURES as of Friday, April 22, 5:00 PM: 146 (THIS LETTER IS NOW CLOSED)

    SIGNATURES needed to reach our goal: 10


    Alabama: Sewell

    American Samoa: Radewagen

    Arizona: Gallego, Grijalva

    California: Barragan, Bass, Bera, Brownley, Carbajal, Cardenas, Chu, Correa, Costa, DeSaulnier, Eshoo, Garamendi (co-author), Huffman, Khanna, Young Kim, LaMalfa, Mike Levin, Lieu, Lofgren, Lowenthal, Matsui, McNerney, Panetta, Scott Peters, Sanchez, Speier, Swalwell, Takano, Mike Thompson, Vargas

    Colorado: Crow, DeGette

    Connecticut: Courtney, Hayes, Himes, Larson

    District of Columbia: Norton

    Florida: Deutch, Soto

    Georgia: Bishop, McBath, Hank Johnson, David Scott, Williams

    Hawai'i: Kahele

    Illinois: Bustos, Casten, Danny Davis, Rodney Davis, Foster, Chuy Garcia, Kelly, Schakowsky, Schneider

    Indiana: Carson

    Iowa: Axne

    Kansas: Davids

    Kentucky: Barr, Yarmuth

    Louisiana: Graves (co-author)

    Maine: Golden, Pingree

    Maryland: Brown, Raskin, Sarbanes

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

    Michigan: Dingell, Kildee, Levin, Slotkin, Stevens

    Minnesota: Craig, Phillips

    Nevada: Horsford, Titus

    New Hampshire: Kuster

    New Jersey: Andy Kim, Malinowski, Pascrell, Payne, Sherrill, Sires, Van Drew

    New York: Clarke, Delgado, Higgins, Jones, Katko, Carolyn Maloney, Sean Patrick Maloney, Meeks, Morelle, Rice, Suozzi, Tonko, Velazquez

    Northern Marianas: Sablan

    North Carolina: Adams, Butterfield, Manning

    Ohio: Beatty, Shontel Brown

    Oregon: Blumenauer, Bonamici, DeFazio

    Pennsylvania: Boyle, Doyle, Evans, Wild

    Puerto Rico: Gonzalez-Colon

    Rhode Island: Cicilline, Langevin

    Tennessee: Cohen

    Texas: Allred, Castro, Doggett, Escobar, Vicente Gonzalez, E.B. Johnson, Jackson Lee, Veasey

    Vermont: Welch

    Virginia: Beyer, Connolly, Luria, McEachin, Wexton

    Virgin Islands: Plaskett

    Washington: DelBene, Jayapal, Larsen, Schrier, Strickland

    Wisconsin: Kind, Moore



    Here’s the text of the House Peace Corps funding letter.

    Read it below — or download the PDF.

    April 28, 2022


    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:

    We respectfully request that you provide $450 million for the Peace Corps in the forthcoming “Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act” for fiscal year 2023. This funding level 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 10,000 volunteers worldwide. It is also consistent with the authorized funding level in the bipartisan “Peace Corps Reauthorization Act” (H.R.1456) reported favorably by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on September 30, 2021.

    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. In 2013, retired General Stanley McChrystal called this gap between applicants and national service opportunities like the Peace Corps “democratic energy wasted and a generation of patriotism needlessly squandered.”

    Peace Corps Volunteers serve our country in remote, challenging environments. In recent years, the Peace Corps has taken steps to improve the health and safety of its Volunteers. We believe the Peace Corps needs to do more, including fully implementing the Sam Farr Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-256). Increased funding is necessary to ensure that the Peace Corps can fulfill its commitment to the health and safety of American citizens who choose to serve. In addition, Congress must increase the federal workers’ compensation levels for Volunteers temporarily or permanently disabled because of their service abroad.

    Thank you for your leadership and past efforts to provide the Peace Corps with the resources needed to support the next generation of American leaders who volunteer abroad.




    John Garamendi
    Member of Congress


    Garret Graves
    Member of Congress



    Story updated April 25, 2022 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern

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

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    Top priority is passing the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act see more

    On March 3 we kicked off our 18th season of advocacy in support of the Peace Corps. Our key priority: passing the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act. Congressional meetings are being organized, and op-eds are being published. Now is the time to get involved.

    By Jonathan Pearson


    National Peace Corps Association kicked off National Days of Advocacy in Support of the Peace Corps on March 3. For 18 years, this grassroots effort by the Peace Corps community to work with members of Congress has been one of NPCA’s key contributions to Peace Corps Week (which concluded on March 5, 2022). Moving forward, our key legislative priority this year is passing the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act, which will help ensure a better and stronger Peace Corps to meet the needs of a changed world.

    Last year, as Peace Corps celebrated the 60th anniversary of its founding, it was amid a global pandemic and social distancing. A national crisis saw the U.S. Capitol closed to most visitors. This year, the dangers of COVID-19 are far from over, and our nation remains deeply polarized. After an invasion by Vladimir Putin, Ukraine is fighting a war it did not want and did not start.

    Yet, as Peace Corps posts around the world have increasingly met robust new protocols for health and safety, Volunteers are also soon going to begin returning to service in communities overseas. It is a time of unprecedented challenges and renewed opportunities. And it is a time when the mission of building peace and friendship is more important than ever before. In March and April, your involvement is key.


    March 3 Kickoff

    Our Days of Advocacy began with a virtual kickoff on Thursday, March 3. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, former Peace Corps staff, invited Volunteers, and other supporters came together to hear remarks by Peace Corps champions in Congress including RPCV Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Advocacy leaders discussed the crucial work for improvements and reforms that will ensure that Volunteers are returning to a stronger, better, and well-resourced Peace Corps. Our highest legislative priority is to pass the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act, the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in decades.

    It's not too late to get involved in our National Days of Advocacy. A stronger and better Peace Corps begins with you!


    Take Individual Action Right Now

    Visit our NPCA Action Center 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 2022 Days of Advocacy map to see if any activities are already in the works, including virtual meetings with congressional offices, virtual letter writingadvocacy workshops, and more.

    If there’s no activity already scheduled in your area, fill out this form and help lead one.


    Meetings With Congress

    A key component of our 2022 Days of Advocacy will be district office or virtual meetings with congressional offices. This is particularly the case with your senators, where much work remains to advance and pass the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act.

    Here are details on how to plan and carry out effective advocacy meetings. No previous experience is necessary. NPCA advocacy staff and community leaders around the country are ready to assist you.

    We also put together the video below to give you an introduction to advocacy.




    More Resources for Your Meetings with Congress

    Visit our State Resources page for a one-page document about Peace Corps activity in your state and to see profiles of every member of Congress. The document is designed for you to download and share with congressional staff at the end of your office meetings.

    We are currently updating a more in-depth document with a more complete overview of legislative priorities. For right now, you can use the 2021 Fact Sheet.


    Priorities: Peace Corps Legislation, Funding, and More

    Our Days of Advocacy Agenda will continue taking shape as developments occur in the weeks and months ahead. We’ll update this page as more information becomes available. 

    Comprehensive Peace Corps Legislation in both the Senate and House of Representatives

    Passage of the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act is NPCA’s top legislative priority in 2022.

    In the House of Representatives, returned Volunteer Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1456) in 2021. Last fall, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed this amended version of the legislation by an overwhelming, bipartisan vote of 44 to 4. 

    In the Senate, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez (D-NJ), is expected to introduce similar legislation in March 2022.

    Here is our Peace Corps Reauthorization Act issue brief and talking points.

    Here is a one-page document you can give to your representatives during House meetings.

    Here is a one-page document you can give to your senators during Senate meetings.


    Peace Corps Funding in the Senate and House of Representatives

    Unfortunately, and for a seventh consecutive year, Congress approved a Fiscal Year 2022 spending plan that will include flat funding of $410.5 million for the Peace Corps. 

    There is better news as work begins on the Fiscal Year 2023 budget. On March 28th, President Biden submitted his FY 2023 budget to Congress. Included in his budget is a request of $430.5 million for the Peace Corps, a nearly five percent increase in funding.

    As with years past, we anticipate mobilizing our community in the coming weeks to urge lawmakers to sign House and Senate “Dear Colleague” letters supporting robust funding for the Peace Corps in FY 2023. Stay connected to NPCA advocacy for action related to these letters.

    Here is our Peace Corps Funding issue brief and talking points.


    Peace Corps Director Nomination | Senate Action Only

    On April 6, 2022, President Biden announced his intent to nominate Acting Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn to become the 21st Peace Corps Director. Once officially nominated, Acting Director Spahn will face a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. If she passes a vote in the committee, her confirmation would go to the full Senate for a final vote.

          Read more here about this nomination, including a supporting statement from NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst.

    If you have upcoming meetings with Senate offices (especially members of the Foreign Relations Committee), please urge swift, strong, and bipartisan confirmation of Carol Spahn as the next Peace Corps Director.



    Diversity and Inclusion Within the State Department | House of Representatives Action Only

    The Diversity and Inclusion at the Department of State Act (H.R. 4589) was introduced last July by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX). The legislation would create a senior level position of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer to advocate for diversity within the State Department. A Leadership Council would be established and accountable for implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives. H.R. 4589 also changes promotion practices to improve retention and fairness, and creates a mentoring program within the agency.

    Here is our State Department Diversity Act issue brief and talking points.

    Here is a one-page document you can give to your representatives during House meetings.


    Story updated April 7, 2022 at 7:00 AM Eastern.

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

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    In June, legislation was introduced to enlist the Peace Corps U.S. assistance against Covid-19. see more

    The Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021 is the biggest, most sweeping piece of legislation affecting the Peace Corps in years. Here are some individual pieces of legislation that you should also know about.


    By NPCA Staff



    A Sign of Respect

    Though they may not realize it, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to display the Peace Corps emblem on a grave marker or in an obituary. And unauthorized use of the Peace Corps logo, even for memorial purposes, carries the risk of a $500 fine or jail time. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ) has again presented legislation to change that. On June 25, he and Garret Graves (R-LA) introduced the bipartisan Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act (H.R. 4188), along with five co-sponsors. The bill would amend the Peace Corps Act to allow use of the name and logo of the Peace Corps on grave markers and in obituaries alike.

    “The service and commitment shown by these Volunteers displays the best of our country and has earned them the right to proudly display their insignia,” Sires notes in a release. From Graves: “Our Peace Corps Volunteers make incredible commitments to help developing countries around the globe. Their mission is a powerful demonstration of America’s values. Providing them this honor is justified based on their service to our country.”

    Sires originally introduced the legislation in 2013. The provisions it stakes out are also incorporated into the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021 (H.R. 1456), introduced in March by Rep. John Garamendi, who served as a Volunteer in Ethiopia 1966–68. 


    NOVID Against COVID

    In June, legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate that would enlist the Peace Corps as part of an effort to expand U.S. assistance to other countries battling COVID-19. The Nullifying Opportunities for Variants to Infect and Decimate (NOVID) Act is sponsored by Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) in the House and by Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in the Senate. In principle, the legislation takes a cue from the Lend-Lease Act in the Second World War; in approach, it’s modeled on a program introduced in 2003, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has helped save 20 million lives. 

    Peace Corps Volunteers have long been involved with PEPFAR-related efforts to combat AIDS. The new program would establish the Pandemic Preparedness and Response Program (PanPReP) to coordinate U.S. efforts involving the Peace Corps and other agencies, including the State Department, USAID, and the CDC, along with international NGOs and foreign governments. It calls for investments to increase production, procurement, and end-to-end distribution of vaccines in nations eligible to receive vaccines through the COVAX program. 

    “So long as COVID-19 continues to thrive anywhere, it’s a threat to everyone everywhere,” Krishnamoorthi said in a statement. “That means we need the global response the NOVID Act would provide.”


    Absent from the Budget Bill: Helms Amendment

    When the House of Representatives passed the State Department and foreign assistance spending bill at the end of July, notably missing from the text was the Helms Amendment, a half-century-old provision that blocks U.S. funding for women’s health services related to abortions. Per a ruling in 1978, that amendment has prohibited funding for abortions for Peace Corps Volunteers; the amendment was updated in 2015 to allow abortions for Volunteers when the life of a woman is endangered by a pregnancy, or in cases of rape or incest. 

    The legislation passed by the House this summer also included a permanent repeal of what’s known as the Global Gag Rule, a measure that since 1984 has prohibited U.S. funding for organizations that provide access to or information about abortions, even if U.S. funds are not used for those services. 

    The Senate has yet to introduce a State/foreign assistance bill — so it remains to be seen whether these measures will carry forward.


  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Two returned Volunteers in the Midwest reach out to Congress for the first time. see more

    This year, for the first time, two returned Volunteers in the Midwest reached out to their members of Congress to talk about Peace Corps. That effort made a difference at a critical moment.


    By Jonathan Pearson


    From her home in central Illinois, Nikki Overcash had written to her elected representatives in the past, but she had never asked for a meeting or directly engaged with them. She heads up academic services at Illinois College, not far from the state capital, Springfield. This past spring, when National Peace Corps Association put out a call for returned Volunteers to seek meetings with their members of Congress during the National Days of Advocacy, she decided now was the moment.

    She reached out to Rep. Rodney Davis, the Republican who represents Illinois’ 13th district, which stretches from the city of Champaign west to the Mississippi River. 

    “A significant part of who I am today can be attributed to my Peace Corps experience,” Overcash says. Peace Corps service took her to China 2007–09 as an education Volunteer. She forged deep friendships. And more broadly, she says, “Serving allowed me to better understand myself, America, China, and global connections with much more nuance.”


    “Serving allowed me to better understand myself, America, China, and global connections with much more nuance.”


    Maria Arnaiz is no novice when it comes to meetings with members of Congress. For her, home is northeast Ohio, near Akron. She serves as a legislative and advocacy chair for the Ohio State PTA and, as a board member of three nonprofit organizations, has participated in annual congressional meetings. Peace Corps service took her to the Democratic Republic of Congo 1984–88; she worked as a fisheries extension Volunteer. 

    When NPCA called on returned Volunteers to arrange meetings with Congress in the spring, she put in a request for a meeting with Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who represents the state’s 18th district and calls Akron home.

    Why this year? Part of Arnaiz’s motivation was another, future member of the Peace Corps community. “My son, Emilio Bloch, has been accepted to serve in Rwanda in the maternal and infant health program,” she says. “He was supposed to have left in August 2020.” 

    But as COVID-19 swept the globe in March 2020, Peace Corps temporarily suspended all programs around the world; Volunteers have yet to return to service overseas. Arnaiz’s son grew up hearing about her experience in the Peace Corps; it’s something he wants to understand firsthand. So, Arnaiz says, “Organizing the congressional meeting and advocating for Peace Corps funding so that Volunteers could return to the field was an obvious way for me to help him get that opportunity.”



    Illustration by John S. Dykes



    See People as People

    What difference could a couple of meetings make? When the annual House of Representatives Peace Corps funding “Dear Colleague” letter was issued in April — a letter requesting $40 million in additional funding for the agency, to ensure financial support for important reforms — a dozen Republicans were among the 156 lawmakers who signed. Representatives Rodney Davis and Anthony Gonzalez were on board. For both, it was a first. 

    In Illinois, Nikki Overcash worked with Rodney Davis’s district office to arrange one of the first in-person meetings the congressman had held since the pandemic began. During their conversation, Overcash learned that Davis had a friendly relationship with fellow Republican Garret Graves of Louisiana, the lead Republican on both the Peace Corps funding letter and the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1456).

    And, as often happens in congressional meetings, mention of the Peace Corps led to a personal connection. One of Davis’s staff members knew another returned Volunteer from Illinois who was now in Washington, D.C., working for the Peace Corps agency.

    Arnaiz used materials and talking points provided by NPCA and put together a personalized introductory document, which she sent to Anthony Gonzalez’s office. Arnaiz is also a member of the Northern Ohio RPCVs, an affiliate group of NPCA; she recruited Ann Jankowski, a fellow Gonzalez constituent and returned Volunteer (Guatemala 1988–91), for the meeting. Naturally, Arnaiz’s son Emilio also took part.


    “He believes national service, like the Peace Corps, is a way to bridge the divide in our society, an opportunity for people with different backgrounds to work together. He’s a big believer in getting people to see others beyond the caricatures; to see people as people.”


    Soon after the meeting began, Representative Gonzalez told us he would support the Peace Corps funding letter because he believes in national service,” Arnaiz says. “He told us a bit of his experience in the Capitol building during January 6th. He was disturbed by the anger and violence. He believes national service, like the Peace Corps, is a way to bridge the divide in our society, an opportunity for people with different backgrounds to work together. He’s a big believer in getting people to see others beyond the caricatures; to see people as people.”

    When it comes to arranging meetings with members of Congress, Overcash says that fellow returned Volunteers shouldn’t let limited experience give them pause. “National Peace Corps Association has your back throughout the process! Even if you only have a little time to give, that time will be used fruitfully thanks to the strong support and resources offered by the wonderful team.”

    Arnaiz says that while it sounds like a cliché, her advice to other RPCVs is: “Just go ahead and do it. Meeting your representative and advocating for things you believe in is an effective way to be the solution to the problem. Representative Gonzalez, like other political actors I have met, said that a personal story that humanizes the numbers really makes an impact.”


    Jonathan Pearson is Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. Get involved in advocacy by dropping him a line:

     September 10, 2021