Skip to Main Content

House of Representatives

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    The Peace Corps Reauthorization Act now moves forward. see more

    The Peace Corps Reauthorization Act now moves forward. It would bring critical reforms to better protect Volunteers and put Peace Corps on the path toward a budget to bolster the number of Volunteers around the world. Though when it comes to health insurance and the Volunteer readjustment allowance, today’s changes provide a little less support.

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    The Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1456), bipartisan legislation introduced by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Representative John Garamendi (D-CA) and fellow Representative Garret Graves (R-LA), cleared its first significant hurdle on September 30th, when the House Foreign Affairs Committee moved the bill out of committee with a favorable vote.

    The committee advanced the bill with a strong bipartisan showing in a vote of 44 to 4. Eighteen Republicans joined all committee Democrats in supporting the legislation, which will next go to the House Education and Labor Committee for review and then to the House floor for further consideration.

    In bringing the legislation to the committee today, Garamendi noted that in communities across the globe, Volunteers have served in education, agriculture, and public health programs. “Peace Corps Volunteers are the face of America in these communities, building trust and goodwill,” he said. And the legislation would provide additional federal funding and resources “to advance the Peace Corps’ mission around the world and better support current, returning, and former Peace Corps Volunteers.”

     

     

    Committee Approves Amended Version of Legislation

    While the  Garamendi-Graves legislation was approved, it came in the form of a substitute amendment presented by Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-NY), which contained significant additions and other substantive changes in the bill’s original language. ( Read the original legislation here. And see the full amendment here.)

     

    “This bill helps realize President John F. Kennedy’s vision of Americans ready to serve their nation in new and innovative ways.”
    — Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY)

     

    In opening debate on the measure, Chairman Meeks said, “This bill helps realize President John F. Kennedy’s vision of Americans ready to serve their nation in new and innovative ways.” Meeks also spoke to the effort by the committee to engage various stakeholders in crafting the legislation, including National Peace Corps Association.

    The lead Republican filling in for Ranking Member Michael McCaul (who represents Texas and was attending to a family health matter) was Ann Wagner (R-MO), who also expressed support for the legislation. “Many members of this committee represent Peace Corps Volunteers,” Wagner said. “We are grateful for their service and we honor the many sacrifices they make in leaving behind their friends and their families to make the world a better place.”

     

    “H.R. 1456 makes long overdue changes and updates to one of America’s best diplomatic and humanitarian programs.”
    — Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY)

     

    Wagner was joined by fellow committee member Andy Barr (R-KY) in expressing support for the bill. “H.R. 1456 makes long overdue changes and updates to one of America’s best diplomatic and humanitarian programs,” Barr said. Barr also praised the robust work of the leaders of the Kentucky Peace Corps Association, an NPCA affiliate group of returned Volunteers. Barr singled out the impact of Jack and Angene Wilson, who both served in Liberia in the 1960s, and Will and Amy Glasscock, who both served in Indonesia within the past decade. “I am personally very much indebted to the Glasscocks and the Wilsons in particular for their engagement with my office and their advocacy for the Peace Corps,” Barr said. “They are really terrific ambassadors for our United States as they promote the Peace Corps and its mission.”

    In a  press release issued October 4, Rep. Garamendi thanked Chairman Meeks and members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee for passing this critically important legislation with strong bipartisan support — and he noted the powerful impact that serving as a Volunteer in Ethiopia had for him and his wife, Patti Garamendi, who also served in the Peace Corps.

     

    “Congress has not reauthorized the Peace Corps in over 20 years. It is vital for the ‘Peace Corps Reauthorization Act’ to become law so the Peace Corps can redeploy Volunteers worldwide once safe and prudent to do so and realize President Kennedy’s vision of generations of young Americans ready to serve their nation and make the world a better place.”
    —Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA)

     

    “Congress has not reauthorized the Peace Corps in over 20 years,” Garamendi noted. “It is vital for the ‘Peace Corps Reauthorization Act’ to become law so the Peace Corps can redeploy Volunteers worldwide once safe and prudent to do so and realize President Kennedy’s vision of generations of young Americans ready to serve their nation and make the world a better place … I will continue to work tirelessly until the ‘Peace Corps Reauthorization Act’ is on President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.”

     

     

    Sexual assault is a central concern — as it needs to be.

    Along with high praise and the importance of the Peace Corps, today’s debate also brought renewed focus to the deep concerns about Volunteers who have been victims of sexual assault.

    While lawmakers noted important reforms are included in the legislation, committee members cited recent journalistic investigations and Peace Corps Inspector General reports as far back as 2013 indicating that sexual assault in the agency remains as a serious problem — and that more needs to be done

    Citing the April 22, 2021 in-depth investigative story in USA Today on sexual assault within the Peace Corps, Rep. Wagner said, “Tragically, one out of every three Volunteers who finished service in 2019 reported experiencing a sexual assault; Volunteers have also reported a hesitancy to describe these cases to the Peace Corps due to fear of retaliation or criticism. This is devastating.”

     

    “Tragically, one out of every three Volunteers who finished service in 2019 reported experiencing a sexual assault; Volunteers have also reported a hesitancy to describe these cases to the Peace Corps due to fear of retaliation or criticism. This is devastating.”
    — Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO)

     

    An amendment introduced by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) proposed withholding agency funding outlined in the legislation until the Peace Corps satisfied all recommendations made by the agency Inspector General to further address sexual assault mitigation strategies. Noting that no Volunteers are currently serving overseas, Perry said, “If we are going to do it, now is the time.”

    The Perry amendment was defeated by a vote of 26 to 21 along party lines. In opposing the amendment, Chairman Meeks noted the amendment was issued 10 minutes before the start of the committee meeting. He said staff reached out to the Office of the Inspector General for Peace Corps, which said in part that interruptions in funding could interfere with the agency’s ability to satisfy all IG recommendations. Meeks also cited reforms in the amended bill — such as language to protect Volunteers from reprisals or retaliation, and the extension of the Sexual Assault Advisory Council to continue its work through 2025 — as examples of reforms that further address Volunteer safety and security.

    The committee’s very necessary focus on addressing sexual assault in the Peace Corps comes just days after National Peace Corps Association hosted a global conference for the Peace Corps community that included a panel tackling safety and security for Volunteers 10 years after the passage of the Kate Puzey Volunteer Protection Act. A key takeaway in that panel discussion, too: Peace Corps needs to do better — but there is never a time when the agency can check off a box and say the work is done.

     


    A better and stronger Peace Corps

    Following Thursday’s committee action, National Peace Corps Association released this statement from President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst:

    “This is a very good day for the Peace Corps and its future. While we are continuing to review and consider some of the alterations made to the original version of the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act, all of the foundational elements of this landmark legislation remain. We want to thank Chairman Meeks, Ranking Member McCaul, Representative Wagner, committee staff, and all members of the committee who voted in favor of H.R. 1456 and took this first, critical step toward passing this legislation. From protecting whistleblowers to providing Peace Corps the robust funding it needs to help our country re-engage with the world, these are important reforms. 

     

    “To our community and other friends of the Peace Corps, make no mistake. Today’s action was a significant step, but it is only one step in a lengthy process to pass this legislation in both chambers of Congress and send the bill to the president for his signature. Every individual who believes in a stronger and better and well-resourced Peace Corps needs to help us pass H.R. 1456.”
    —Glenn Blumhorst, NPCA President & CEO

     

    “We are most grateful to our RPCV friend, Representative John Garamendi, his bipartisan counterpart Garret Graves, and their hardworking staff for their months-long dedication and determination in which they consulted, collaborated, and created this comprehensive Peace Corps legislation. Representative Garamendi has often noted that he wants his legislation to be about and for the Peace Corps Volunteer. In so many important ways related to health and safety, Volunteer and RPCV support, strengthened reporting guidelines and professional resources, and respecting and honoring Peace Corps service, this legislation advances those causes. It supports those Volunteers forced home prematurely by the pandemic who want to return to their service as soon as possible, and also supports the next wave of Peace Corps Volunteer recruits who anxiously await word on their opportunity to serve our nation.

    “To our community and other friends of the Peace Corps, make no mistake. Today’s action was a significant step, but it is only one step in a lengthy process to pass this legislation in both chambers of Congress and send the bill to the president for his signature. Every individual who believes in a stronger and better and well-resourced Peace Corps needs to help us pass H.R. 1456.”

     

     

    What has changed in the bill?

    The Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021 was originally introduced in March. Today, items from the original bill that were altered include the following:

    Recommended Peace Corps Appropriations: While the amendment retains language supporting regular, annual calls for increased funding for the Peace Corps reaching $550 million through Fiscal Year 2024, the new language drops the recommended target of $600 million in funding by Fiscal Year 2025.

    Volunteer Readjustment Allowance: The amendment would set the current Volunteer readjustment allowance ($375/month) as the statutory minimum allowance for Volunteers going forward. It removes the proposal to mandate raising that minimum to $417, retaining the agency’s authority to determine when the allowance should be increased.

    Post-Service Health Coverage for Returned Volunteers: The traditional period in which the Peace Corps pays for post-service health insurance for returning Volunteers would be increased from 30 days to 60 days under the amendment. That’s one month less than the 90 days proposed in the original Garamendi-Graves bill.

    Protection of Peace Corps Volunteers Against Reprisals or Retaliation: Language in the Garamendi-Graves legislation pertaining to whistleblower protection has been amended so that it now outlines recommended procedures and policies to protect Volunteers from acts of reprisal or retaliation.

     

     

    What has not changed in the bill?

    Items from the original bill that were unchanged include the following:

    Workers Compensation Increase: The Meeks amendment retains language calling for an increase in the rate of compensation for RPCVs who come home and are unable to work due to service related illness or injury. This provision is a primary reason why the legislation will next be considered by the House Education and Labor Committee.

    GAO Reporting on Mental Health: The amendment retains language requesting a report by the Government Accountability Office on the status and possible improvements related to mental health services provided to RPCVs upon coming home from service. Better mental health support is one of the community-driven recommendations NPCA provides in the report “Peace Corps Connect to the Future.”

    Menstrual Equity Act: The amendment continues to include text of H.R. 1467, the Menstrual Equity in the Peace Corps Act, legislation introduced by Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY). This legislation requires the Peace Corps to ensure access to menstrual products for Volunteers who require them, either by increasing stipends or providing the products for affected Volunteers.

    Anti-Malarial Drugs: The amendment retains language stating that the Peace Corps shall consult with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on recommendations in prescribing malaria prophylaxis, and that the agency shall address training of medical personnel in malaria countries on side effects of such medications.

    Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act: The amendment continues to include text of H.R. 4188, the Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act, legislation introduced by Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA). This would confirm that an allowable use of the Peace Corps name, official seal, and emblem would include its use at gravesites or in death notices.

     


    What’s been added to the bill?

    Items that were added to the original bill include the following:

    Increased Duration for Non-Competitive Eligibility (NCE): The amendment retains language in the Garamendi-Graves bill that would protect the full NCE benefit for new Volunteers should they be unable to work due to illness or injury upon returning home, or if there is a federal government shutdown or hiring freeze. The amendment would also extend the general length of NCE from one year to two years.

    Extension of Sexual Assault Advisory Council: The Kate Puzey Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 created  the Peace Corps’ Sexual Assault Advisory Council. In 2018, the Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act extended the work of of the council through 2023. The Meeks amendment would extend the work of the council through 2025.

    Peace Corps Service Deployments in the U.S.: Given the emergency deployment of Peace Corps Volunteers in response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the service by Volunteers to assist the Federal Emergency Management Agency with COVID relief in 2021, the Meeks amendment would codify into law the allowance of future Volunteer deployment in the U.S. at the request of another federal agency.

    Expanded Language on Virtual Service Opportunities: The amendment expands language regarding virtual volunteer opportunities and incorporates it into the Peace Corps Act. It notes that this expands opportunities to recruit individuals who face barriers to serving physically in a country outside the U.S.

    Additional Reporting Requirements: Along with the reporting requirements already outlined in the Garamendi-Graves legislation, the amendment includes additional reporting requirements on Peace Corps guidelines and standards used to evaluate the mental health of Peace Corps applicants prior to service. It calls for more detailed information on the number of evacuations due to medical or mental health circumstances, and associated costs. 

     

    READ MORE: Text of the full amended version of H.R. 1456 approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee on September 30, 2021. 

    YOU MIGHT ALSO BE INTERESTED IN: Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings and NPCA President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst: “After the fall of Afghanistan, we need the rise the Peace Corps.” Guest essay in The Hill on September 30, 2021.

     

    Story published Sept. 30, 2021. Updated October 6, 2021 to include press release by John Garamendi.


    Jonathan Pearson is the Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. If you’d like to get involved in advocating for H.R. 1456, email him:  advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org

     September 30, 2021
  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Now’s the time to write Congress and ask for support for robust Peace Corps funding see more

    The House of Representatives proposes robust Peace Corps funding of $430.5 million. But Senate Appropriations proposes flat funding of $410.5 million that lacks support for needed reforms. Now’s the time for the Peace Corps community to take action.

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    As Congress continues to work on federal spending packages for the fiscal year that began October 1, 2021, a disagreement on the spending level for the Peace Corps has emerged between the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

    This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee released its remaining funding bills for FY 2022. Along with a lower recommendation than the House for international affairs programs, the committee is also proposing a seventh consecutive year of flat funding for the Peace Corps. 

    In July the House of Representatives approved robust funding of $430.5 million for the Peace Corps. That’s an increase of $20 million for the agency, or 5 percent. 

    But the $410.5 million Senate recommendation is for flat funding. It does not provide financial backing for needed reforms. With a current deadline of December 3, 2021, the House and Senate will need to reconcile this difference. For Peace Corps to meet the needs of a changed world, funding should align with the House recommendation.

     

    “In order to restore the agency’s purchasing power, begin the important and safe redeployment of Volunteers, and invest in necessary improvements and reforms, we need to support the $20 million funding increase recommended by the House of Representatives.”
       
    —NPCA President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst

     

    “It has been six years since the Peace Corps has received any meaningful increase in funding,” says National Peace Corps Association President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst. “In order to restore the agency’s purchasing power, begin the important and safe redeployment of Volunteers, and invest in necessary improvements and reforms, we need to support the $20 million funding increase recommended by the House of Representatives. We ask all supporters of the Peace Corps to contact Congress and ask them to support $430 million for the agency in the ongoing deliberations on federal spending for the current fiscal year.”

    Join NPCA’s efforts to ensure Peace Corps is the best it can be by writing to your members of Congress. Urge them to support the House recommendation of $430.5 million for the Peace Corps.

     

    Take Action Here

     


    Jonathan Pearson is 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: advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org

     September 10, 2021
  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Peace Corps Funding: The House Says It’s Time to Invest in More see more

    It has been six years since the Peace Corps received a meaningful increase in its baseline funding. Could this be the year that changes?

     

    By Jonathon Pearson

    Illustration by John S. Dykes

     

    In December 2015, President Obama signed an appropriations bill that provided $410 million for the Peace Corps, an increase of about $30 million. Since then, the agency has received a mere $500,000 bump in annual appropriation — one-tenth of 1 percent. Indeed, the Peace Corps community has spent much time in recent years fending off proposed cuts while some needed reforms languished — due, in part, to lack of funding.

    In May, the Biden administration put forth its Fiscal Year 2022 budget recommendation: yet another year of flat funding for the Peace Corps. However, thanks to National Peace Corps Association’s advocacy network and congressional champions, the outlook has brightened. In July, the House of Representatives completed work on the State/Foreign Operations spending package, approving a $20 million jump in Peace Corps funding — about 5 percent. That was half the increase promoted by a bipartisan list of 156 House members who earlier in the year submitted their annual “Dear Colleague” letter to House appropriators.

    The $430.5 million House funding proposal aligns with this year’s Senate Peace Corps funding letter, with 39 senators on board. This news is promising. However, the Senate has yet to take formal action on its State/Foreign Operations appropriations bill. When senators resume work in mid-September, there is no guarantee they will follow the House’s lead. Experience shows that hearing from citizen advocates makes a difference. And an assessment of what’s ahead for the Peace Corps — relaunching Volunteer programs in scores of countries, with safety and security paramount — means a heavy lift.

     

    Write your senator

    Visit NPCA’s Action Center and urge support for no less than $430 million for the Peace Corps as we move toward redeployment of global operations and implementation of key reforms

     September 09, 2021
  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    It's the first step in congressional consideration of Peace Corps funding. And the news is good. see more

    On July 28 the House of Representatives approved a $430.5 million Peace Corps budget for 2022 — an increase of 5 percent. It points to the first meaningful increase in funding in six years.

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    (UPDATE – July 28, 2021, 9:00 PM Eastern): On a mostly party-line vote, the House of Representatives approved a Fiscal Year 2022 spending package for the Department of State and other foreign operations. Included in the $62.2 billion State/Foreign Operations bill is a $20 million funding increase for the Peace Corps — nearly 5 percent. The Senate has not yet taken up its version of a State/Foreign Operations spending bill.

     

    (UPDATE – July 1, 2021, 2:00 PM Eastern): The full House Appropriations Committee today approved a $62.2 billion State/Foreign Operations spending package for Fiscal Year 2022 that includes a recommended $20 million funding increase for the Peace Corps — nearly 5 percent.

    The package was approved on a 32–25 party line vote. It will next head to the full House of Representatives — at a date yet to be determined — for further debate and voting.

    No similar action has been taken yet by the Senate Appropriations Committee in advancing its version of the State/Foreign Operations spending plan for the fiscal year that begins October 1, 2021.

     

    (UPDATE – June 28, 2021, 8:30 PM Eastern): On a voice vote, the House Appropriations Subcommittee for State/Foreign Operations approved a $62.2 billion international affairs budget for Fiscal Year 2022. This represents a 12 percent, $6.7 billion increase over the current fiscal year. Included in this budget is $430.5 million for the Peace Corps, a $20 million increase over current funding. In brief remarks, Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) referenced the Peace Corps as one of several programs that will provide “needed humanitarian assistance” around the world. No amendments to the bill were made, but that could possibly change when the full Appropriations Committee considers this funding package on Thursday morning.

     

    The House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee for State/Foreign Operations had recommended a Fiscal Year 2022 funding package that includes $430.5 million for the Peace Corps.

    This recommendation represents a $20 million increase — nearly 5 percent — in funding for the agency for the fiscal year that begins October 1. A subcommittee vote on this recommendation is expected on Monday evening. Should this figure be eventually approved, it would mark the first meaningful funding increase for the agency in six years. That’s good news for the Peace Corps.

     

    “The Peace Corps is on the way back,” says Glenn Blumhorst, President and CEO of National Peace Corps Association, upon learning the news. 

     

    “The Peace Corps is on the way back,” said National Peace Corps Association President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst, upon learning the news. “This recommendation by the State/Foreign Operations Subcommittee reinforces congressional support — not only for the robust redeployment of Peace Corps Volunteers — but the importance of providing the agency with funding that will allow for many improvements and reforms that will build a stronger program for the next generation of volunteers. Our community needs to stay engaged to make sure this strong commitment by the subcommittee is advanced.”

    Read the subcommittee’s press release on its entire $62 billion spending package for U.S. international affairs programs. 

    Today’s action was bolstered by the annual Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter, a bipartisan action issued earlier this year by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA).

     

    Updated July 1, 2021 at 2 p.m. Return to this post for updates this week on actions and reactions on FY 2022 Peace Corps Funding in the House of Representatives.


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

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    From Peace Corps to the house, senate, and more — at the state level see more

    From Peace Corps to the house, senate, and more — at the state level

    By Jake Arce and Jordana Comiter

    New to the New York State Senate: Samra Brouk, who served as a Volunteer in Guatemala. Photo courtesy Samra Brouk.

     

    John Garamendi (D-CA) is currently the sole Returned Peace Corps Volunteer in the U.S. Congress. What about at the state level? After recent elections, here’s where you’ll find a few in state houses, senates, and assemblies — as well as a secretary of state and governor.

     


    ALABAMA

    Arthur Orr (Nepal 1989–91) was reelected to the State Senate in 2018. He has served since 2006 and chairs the $17 billion Senate Budget Committee for Education. With Peace Corps he served in a Himalayan village and established a college scholarship program for girls.

     

     

     

     


    COLORADO

    Jeni Arndt (Morocco 1990–92) was in her third term in the state’s House of Representatives but departs this spring; in April she was elected mayor of Fort Collins with 63 percent of the vote.

     

     

     

      


    HAWAI‘I

    Gene Ward (Malaysia 1965–67; Country Director, East Timor 2005–06) was reelected in November to represent the 17th district in the state’s House of Representatives. Altogether he has served East Honolulu in the House more than 20 years.

     

     

     

     


     MAINE

    Shenna Bellows (Panama 2000–02) was elected by the Legislature to be Maine’s secretary of state—the first woman elected to serve in the role. Served 2016–20 in the State Senate. At her swearing-in in January, she noted that her grandmother, who celebrated her 101st birthday days prior, was born in the year that saw final ratification of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote.

     

     

     


     MARYLAND

    Robbyn Lewis (Niger 1990–91) serves in the Maryland House of Delegates, representing District 46 in Baltimore. A public health professional who has worked with the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere, she sponsored House Bill 28 to help address health concerns in communities of color.

     

     

     


     MASSACHUSETTS

    Jon Santiago (Dominican Republic 2006–08) was reelected to the state’s House of Representatives in November. With Peace Corps he was a community health specialist. Now he is an ER physician at Boston Medical Center, the city’s safety net hospital; and a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve who has deployed overseas. In February he declared his candidacy for mayor of Boston.

     

     

     


     NEW HAMPSHIRE

    Rebecca Perkins Kwoka (Senegal 2004–06) was elected in November to the State Senate. Former council member for the city of Portsmouth, she is the first openly gay woman in the New Hampshire Senate, and is also a wife and mother.

     

     

     

     

     

    Richard AmesRichard Ames (The Philippines 1968–70) was reelected to the state’s House of Representatives. He is vice chair of the Jaffrey Energy Committee and has served in the House since 2012. 

     

     

     

     


     NEW YORK

    Samra Brouk (Guatemala 2009–11) was elected to the State Senate to represent the 55th District in Rochester. The daughter of immigrants, her father fled Ethiopia during its civil war. As a college student, she volunteered with cleanup efforts after Hurricane Katrina; as a Peace Corps Volunteer she worked in health education.

     

     

     


     PENNSYLVANIA

    Tom Wolf (India 1968–70) has served as governor since 2015; he was reelected in 2018. To recover from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, in February Wolf announced a $3 billion “Back to Work PA” plan.

     

     

     

     


     WASHINGTON

    Mary Dye (Thailand 1984–86) won reelection in November to the House of Representatives for the 9th legislative district in southeastern Washington. She was first appointed to the House in 2015.

     

     

     

     


     WISCONSIN

    Sara Rodriguez (Samoa 1997–99) was elected in November as Wisconsin State Representative for Assembly District 13, which includes Brookfield, Elm Grove, Wauwatosa, West Allis, and Milwaukee. She is a registered nurse and healthcare executive, and she has had various leadership positions with public health departments at the local, state and federal level, serving as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer with the CDC.

     

     

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    John Garamendi, only returned Volunteer in Congress, is introducing Peace Corps legislation see more

    The 2020 congressional elections mark the end of an era for Peace Corps in Congress: Now there’s only one. And he is working on new legislation to support and improve the Peace Corps.

    By Jonathan Pearson

    Photo: John Garamendi

     

    The 2020 congressional elections mark the end of an era for Peace Corps in Congress: Since 1975, at least two returned Volunteers served simultaneously in the halls of Congress. Until now. 

    Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), who served as a Volunteer in Ethiopia 1966–68, was reelected with a relatively comfortable victory, securing 58 percent of the vote in California’s Third District. But he’s the sole RPCV to return.

    Donna Shalala (D-FL), who served as a Volunteer in Iran 1962–64, lost her bid for reelection, one of 14 incumbents to do so.

    Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), who served as a Volunteer in Dominican Republic 2004–06 and in the House since 2012, lost a primary bid for U.S. Senate. His departure marks the end of another 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.

     

    Garamendi is Updating the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act

    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. He introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2019 (H.R.3456), with bipartisan support, in the last session of Congress.

    In introducing the bill, Garamendi said, “My wife Patti and I owe so much to our service in the Peace Corps. It inspired a lifetime of service that began in Ethiopia during the late 1960s and continued into state government in California, the Clinton Administration, and now the U.S. Congress. Now more than ever, Congress must support the Peace Corps’ mission and realize President Kennedy’s vision of generations of young Americans ready to serve their nation and make the world a better place. Our reauthorization bill does exactly that, and I thank my fellow Peace Corps Caucus co-chairs and Congressional colleagues for their support as original cosponsors.”

    That bill did not come to a vote. Read more about it here.

    The evacuation of all Volunteers from posts around the world in March 2020 has changed the landscape for Peace Corps. And as the community-driven report Peace Corps Connect to the Future stakes out, this is a time to retool and reshape the agency. The report contains recommendations for Congress, the Executive Branch and the agency, as well as the wider Peace Corps community. Garamendi and others have been briefed on those recommendations.

    Here are more legislative updates regarding the Peace Corps community.

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    Peace Corps Commemorative continues to pay tribute to the Peace Corps legacy. see more

    A concluding moment to the service of Joe Kennedy III in the House: legislation to enable work on the Peace Corps Commemorative to carry forward

    By Jonathan Pearson and Steven Boyd Saum

    Illustration by Edward Rooks

     

    Joseph Kennedy III served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. After he was elected to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012, one of the first pieces of legislation he introduced and passed focused on Peace Corps: It provided congressional authorization for the creation of a Peace Corps Commemorative in Washington, D.C.

    In September 2020 the design was unanimously approved by the Commission on Fine Arts. But authorization for completing the project was set to expire before ground would be broken. On December 17, 2020, in the closing days of Kennedy’s tenure in the House, he and others secured passage of a time extension that will allow work on the commemorative to continue. Colleague Rob Wittman (R-VA) noted that it is fitting for the legislation to be sponsored by President Kennedy’s grandnephew.

     

    Photo by Drew Altizer Photography. Rendering courtesy Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation

     

    And Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) said the commemorative will serve as a “lasting tribute to the legacy of the Peace Corps.”

    Late on December 20, the Senate unanimously approved the legislation. Sponsors Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) issued a release paying tribute to Volunteers. “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 Portman. “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.”

    President Trump signed the bill into law on January 5.

  • 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.

     

  • Meisha Robinson posted an article
    A record-breaking 180 members signed the Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter. see more

    A record-breaking 180 members of the House of Representatives signed the Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter, encouraging their colleagues to support Peace Corps funding! This bipartisan letter additionally hosts a record 13 signatures from House Republicans (versus nine House Republican signatures last year).

     

    Our advocates have played a vital role in the success of the Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter. Over the last few weeks, many proponents have spent hours organizing and contacting legislators to lobby for support. NPCA is grateful for the dedicated efforts by our community that contributed to the submission of the Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter.

     

    The letter, authored by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA), Garrett Graves (R-LA), and Joe Kennedy (D-MA), was dispersed to Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) of the House Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Problems requesting a $410 million appropriation for Peace Corps in FY2019.

     

    With this level of funding the agency should be able to sustain the sending of approximately 3,400 new volunteers a year to serve.  As the letter stated, “Today, approximately 7,000 Volunteers serve in 64 countries to train, elevate, and inspire the next generation of global leaders.” These volunteers are fundamental representatives of our nation around the world. Supporting Peace Corps Volunteers is a cost-effective investment to address international issues. From combating infectious disease outbreaks to helping combat poverty through education, Peace Corps volunteers undertake pressing intersectional issues in innovative ways. Further, these volunteers return to the United States with unique skills that enrich their human capital in a competitive workforce.