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  • Communications Intern posted an article
    It has been decades since Congress tackled Peace Corps legislation this sweeping. see more

    It has been decades since Congress tackled Peace Corps legislation this sweeping. Along with important reforms, it would lead to 10,000 Volunteers serving in the field — a number not seen in half a century. 

    By Jonathan Pearson

    Illustration by traffic_analyzer

     

    On March 1 of this year, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and California Congressman John Garamendi introduced H.R. 1456, the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021. Co-sponsored by Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), who serves as co-chair of the House Peace Corps Caucus with Garamendi, H.R. 1456 will serve as the foundation for National Peace Corps Association’s 60th anniversary legislative agenda.

    The date it was introduced carries weight; it was on 3/1/61 that President Kennedy issued Executive Order 10924 establishing the Peace Corps.

    What’s significant about this new bill? Over the years, Congress has passed Peace Corps–related legislation on a variety of individual subjects, including bills that strengthened the agency’s response to sexual assault, authorized a commemorative work near the National Mall to recognize Peace Corps service, improved certain health and safety protocols, and provided necessary funding and provisions to safely bring home and support evacuated Volunteers in March 2020. But it has been decades since Congress has come together to pass comprehensive legislation to address a wide range of issues that support and honor Peace Corps service. 

    In a press release, Congressman Garamendi said, “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 provides much-needed resources to Volunteers.” 

     

    In a post-COVID world with a global recession, with healthcare problems around the world, particularly in developing countries, the Peace Corps mission is going to be more critical than ever.

     

    Garamendi spoke to members of the Peace Corps community on March 1, as NPCA kicked off its annual National Days of Advocacy in Support of the Peace Corps. Congressman Graves sent a video message, in which he noted how important Peace Corps’ mission will be moving forward: “In a post-COVID world with a global recession, with healthcare problems around the world, particularly in developing countries, the critical nature of your mission is going to be (greater than ever).”

    As of May 14, 45 members of the House have signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation. Consideration is underway for companion legislation in the Senate. 


    U.S. Capitol and stripes 

     

    Think big, follow through

    Here are some of the provisions included in the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021:

     

    Steady, Sustainable Funding Increases

    Recommends increased funding of approximately 10 percent in each of the next four fiscal years, aiming for $450 million in Fiscal Year 2022 and reaching $600 million in Fiscal Year 2025. This would move toward the stated minimum target of 10,000 Volunteers in the field — a number proposed in the original Peace Corps Act, and a figure not realized in more than 50 years. This would also provide funding for many of the needed and overdue reforms called for in this legislation — as well as reforms that were called for in previous legislation but were never implemented.

     

    Increased Volunteer Benefits

    Would increase Volunteers’ readjustment allowance to $417 for each month of service, raising the total allowance for two years of service from $8,000 to $10,000. Paid post-service health care would be extended to three months upon completion of service.

     

    In-Service Health

    Calls upon the Peace Corps to consult with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concerning recommendations for prescribing malaria prophylaxis. And it requires health personnel in countries where malaria is present to receive adequate training in the side effects of such medication. The legislation also incorporates the language of the Menstrual Equity in the Peace Corps Act (H.R. 1467) introduced by Representative Grace Meng (D-NY). This bill 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.

     

    Workers’ Compensation

    In the long-standing effort to provide more support for returned Volunteers disabled by service-related illness or injury, H.R. 1456 would increase the monthly workers’ compensation rate for these individuals.

     

    Non-Competitive Eligibility (NCE) Protections

    For RPCVs seeking to utilize NCE for federal job opportunities, H.R. 1456 would pause the one-year benefit in times of a federal government shutdown or hiring freeze. It would also delay the start of NCE eligibility for RPCVs unable to work when coming back home due to service-related illness or injury.

     

    Support for Current and Future Evacuated Volunteers

    Codifies that Volunteers who face evacuation and the end of their service through no fault of their own — as happened to Volunteers globally in March 2020 — receive benefits to which they would otherwise be entitled as Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, determined by the Peace Corps director; and that these Volunteers should be given expedited consideration for redeployment if they so choose.

     

    National Advisory Council

    Would reestablish a National Advisory Council to bring more exposure to the agency and its work. The council would also be charged with considering key issues related to the Peace Corps’ future, including agency progress in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion; and it would examine financial barriers that might prevent individuals from applying to the Peace Corps.

     

    Whistleblower Protection

    Extends whistleblower and anti-retaliatory protections that currently apply to Peace Corps contractors to Peace Corps Volunteers, including protections against reprisals by any Peace Corps employee, Volunteer supervisor, or outside contractor.

     

    Honoring Service

    Includes the language of the Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act sponsored by Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ) since 2013. This bill 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.

     

     

    Concrete Steps from a Community-Driven Report

    John Garamendi served as a Volunteer in Ethiopia 1966–68, as did his wife, Patti. Joining him and Garret Graves as original co-sponsors on this legislation are Grace Meng (D-NY), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Ed Case (D-HI), Albio Sires (D-NJ), and Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-AS). Radewagen represents American Samoa today, and she has a Peace Corps connection; she served on Peace Corps staff in the Northern Mariana Islands 1967–68. 

    National Peace Corps Association has been a key player in helping shape this legislation as well. Drawing on actionable recommendations in the community-driven “Peace Corps Connect to the Future” report, NPCA worked with congressional staff to begin to address priorities developed through eight town halls and a Global Ideas Summit in 2020. Some previous calls for reform have not been fully implemented; this would make them law—and provide funds to follow through.

     

    Notably, the legislation is also endorsed by the National Whistleblower Center.

     

    Notably, the legislation is also endorsed by the National Whistleblower Center.

    “Passing this legislation will require every member of the Peace Corps community to take five minutes to write or call their members of Congress urging support for these reforms,” says NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst. “It will require hundreds of advocates to reach beyond our community and speak to the importance of Peace Corps and its mission through traditional and social media.” 

    The landmark legislation is of a scope not seen in many years. To give it momentum in Congress, the Peace Corps community will need to do some heavy lifting.

    “We will need dozens of advocates willing to continue organizing and conducting meetings to bring forth the importance of this legislation directly to members of Congress and their staff,” Blumhorst says. “And we need additional, highly committed individuals willing to volunteer as state and regional advocacy coordinators, joining more than 40 current advocacy leaders who have sparked legislative victories, past, present, and future.”

     

     

    Story updated May 14 at 3 PM: number of members of the House who have signed on as co-sponsors of H.R. 1456  


    Jonathan Pearson is Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. You can be a leader in passing H.R. 1456 and charting the course for Peace Corps’ future. Contact advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org to get started.  

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Support and encouragement for evacuated Volunteers from members of Congress see more

    In addition to legislation to support evacuated Volunteers, members of Congress have also taken time to share encouragement.

     

    Peace Corps Volunteers dedicate two years of their lives to serve their country abroad and are an important component of American foreign policy and international aid efforts. I’ve been a proud supporter of the Peace Corps for many years and hope to see Volunteers return to the field as soon as it’s safe to do so. While the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it’s important we support Volunteers and keep working to make emergency benefits available to them. I’ll keep working to find ways to make sure this program continues.”
    Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

    Senator Feinstein co-authored the 2020 Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter and is a co-sponsor of S. 3700. She is a 2020 recipient of NPCA’s Congressman Sam Farr Congressional Leadership Award.

     
     

    As a 30-year veteran and co-chair of the For Country Caucus, I know firsthand the importance of giving back to our country though national service. The Inspire to Serve Act is just one of many ways to promote public and military service on a national and global level. I commend our Peace Corps and the thousands of Volunteers who have been helping our nation’s communities during this difficult time. Through selflessness, resilience, and love for our country, we will persevere.”
    —Representative Don Bacon (R-NE)

    Representative Bacon is the lead Republican sponsor of H.R. 6415, the Inspire to Serve Act of 2020.

     
     

    I deeply regret the hardship faced 
by 7,300 Peace Corps Volunteers evacuated due to the COVID-19 
pandemic. Senator Van Hollen and I introduced our UNITE Act to ensure that Peace Corps will offer readmission to each Volunteer evacuated due to the COVID-19 outbreak. I am pleased that the Peace Corps had since committed to do so once it is safe. The legislation also calls for prioritizing the hiring of evacuated Volunteers so they can apply the skills they developed abroad here at home — aiding vulnerable communities in their time of need and helping to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
    —Senator Edward Markey (D-MA)

    Senator Markey is the lead sponsor of S. 3642, the UNITE Act.


     

    For decades, our Peace Corps Volunteers have been answering the call to service, and selflessly making a difference across the world. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of these Volunteers to leave their posts and return to the United States. Faced with a deteriorating economy, these hardworking public servants may require assistance navigating these unprecedented times. Peace Corps Volunteers show the world American values, and I am 
proud to join my colleagues on this legislation to ensure they have access to 
health care, employment opportunities, and a redeployment process.”
    —Representative Don Young (R-AK)

    Representative Young is the lead Republican sponsor of H.R. 6833, the Utilizing and Supporting Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers Act.

     

    Time and again, Peace Corps Volunteers demonstrate the best of America — sharing hope, lifting each other up, and empowering people to live healthy, fulfilling lives. Now is no different, and Peace Corps Volunteers are prepared with the skills and experience to be redeployed to combat the pandemic. I introduced the Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act to expand national service by building on existing infrastructure to respond to the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19. We are facing a period of unprecedented disaster that is taking lives, crippling the economy, and upending daily life. Peace Corps and other National Service volunteers can and should be a critical link in our recovery.”
    –Representative David Price (D-NC)

    Representative Price is the lead sponsor of H.R. 6702. He is co-chair of the National Service Caucus.

     
     

    As we confront a global health 
pandemic and challenges we have never envisioned before, the Peace Corps and thousands of Volunteers spanning every corner of the world will help us rebuild. For decades, Peace Corps Volunteers have served and sacrificed in pursuit of our greater good and that commitment has never been more important. To all those who were evacuated and all those who are considering the Peace Corps, we are deeply grateful for your compassion, your 
empathy, and your drive to build a better world.”

    —RPCV Representative Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA)

    Representative Kennedy, who served in the Dominican Republic, is a co-chair of the House Peace Corps Caucus and co-author of the 2020 House Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter, which was signed by 167 representatives.

     
     

    Our nation’s Peace Corps Volunteers live and 
work around the world,  making a lasting difference in the lives of countless individuals through grassroots development projects that promote healthy living, entrepreneurship, and education. The burden the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on these public servants should not be overlooked during this economically challenging time. I will continue to 
advocate for legislation to support Volunteers, such as a bipartisan bill I sponsored to help ensure that Volunteers who have been evacuated due to COVID-19 are eligible for financial assistance offered through the CARES Act.”
    —Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)

    Senator Collins co-authored the 2020 Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter, signed by 42 Senators; She is the lead Republican of S. 3700, which seeks to address health care and job opportunities for evacuees, and expedite their applications if they wish to redeploy for service.


     

    To be a Peace Corps Volunteer, it takes character, determination, an open mind, and a deep commitment to serve humanity in the furthest corners of the world. Peace Corps Volunteers are some of our best ambassadors of American values, goodwill, diplomacy and development around the globe. That’s why lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have supported the Peace Corps since its founding over a half a century ago. The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented challenge, but the Peace Corps is resilient, and I know the day will come when we can resume operations and Volunteers can safely return to the field. A heartfelt thank you to all who have served and embodied the best of American ideals. We are a better nation for your service.”

    —Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY)

    Staff of Representative Engle, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, have worked closely with NPCA and the Peace Corps community in advancing Peace Corps related legislation.

     
     

    The Peace Corps is, and has always been, one of the best tools we have to spread cooperation and understanding between Americans and the global community. The COVID-19 pandemic has frustrated this critical purpose and forced the evacuation of thousands of Volunteers at a time when the Peace Corps’ mission is more important than ever. I am confident that Volunteers will soon return to building lasting goodwill among the people of the world.”
    –RPCV Representative Donna Shalala (D-FL)

    Representative Shalala, one of the first Peace Corps Volunteers to serve in Iran, is a member of the Peace Corps Caucus and leading voice of support on Peace Corps issues, including her co-sponsorship of H.R. 6702.

     


    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.

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  • 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.