Skip to Main Content

Peace Corps Budget

  • 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
  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Write your representative before December 3 and help support robust Peace Corps funding see more

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

     

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

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

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

     

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

     

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

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

    What can members of the Peace Corps community do to help now? Write to your members of Congress now and urge them to support the House funding level for the Peace Corps!

     

    Let’s get members of Congress to sign the House Dear Colleague Letter. The deadline is December 3.

    When reaching out to your member of the House of Representatives, you can make a more specific request. Urge them to sign the Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter being circulated by Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN). 

    Last year, 34 House members signed a similar letter, helping to avoid proposed cuts in funding for the agency. This year, let’s make sure we secure a modest but meaningful investment in Peace Corps’ future!

    Signatures are being collected through 12:00 Noon (Eastern Time) on Friday, December 3, 2021. Lawmakers should contact Libby Foley in Representative McCollum’s office to sign the letter.

     

    Who has signed the letter already?

    Here are the members of the House of Representatives who have so far signed the McCollum Peace Corps Funding Letter: 

    California: Bass, Garamendi

    Massachusetts: McGovern, Moulton

    Minnesota: McCollum (author)

    New Jersey: Malinowski

     

    Here’s the text of the Dear Colleague letter.

     

    December 3, 2021

     

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

    Washington, DC 20510

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

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

    The Honorable Kay Granger
    Ranking Member

    House Committee on Appropriations

    1026 Longworth House Office Building

    Washington, DC 20515                                 

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thank you for your consideration. 

    Sincerely,

     

     

    Download a copy of the letter here

     

    Story and list of signatories last updated Wednesday, November 24, at 3:00 PM.


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

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Takeaways from the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on October 27, 2021. see more

    Takeaways from the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on October 27, 2021

    Words by Jonathan Pearson

    Transcript editing by Rachel Edwards

    Video editing by Orrin Luc

     

    Acting Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on October 27, 2021, for a hearing on Peace Corps’ operations. Spahn fielded a range of questions, including diversity initiatives, recruitment strategies, decolonizing U.S. foreign assistance, and — not surprising — the status of redeployment of Volunteers internationally.
    Along with the Peace Corps, the three hour hearing also included representatives of the Millenium Challenge Corporation and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation.

    Below are excerpts from the hearing. 

    Watch a playlist of clips from the hearing focusing on the Peace Corps.

    Watch the entire hearing.

     

    Bipartisan Praise From the Top

    In their opening remarks, Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX) praised the work of the Peace Corps and its Volunteers. Chairman Meeks noted the strong, bipartisan passage of “much needed” Peace Corps reauthorization legislation, the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1456) introduced by RPCV Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA). “With a $400 million-plus budget, the Peace Corps has been able to reach the most remote parts of our world,” Meeks said, “spreading American values and working with local communities to promote and create sustainable development.”

     

     

    While noting the agency still has much work to do to improve its operations — including addressing sexual assault of Volunteers — Ranking Member McCaul praised the Peace Corps on its 60th anniversary. “Congratulations, Ms. Spahn and to the Peace Corps, and all of your officers on this milestone event,” McCaul said. “I want to thank the incredible Peace Corps Volunteers, especially those from my home state of Texas who have selflessly given their time to do good work for other human beings across the world.”

     

     

    Spahn on the historical Role of the Peace Corps — and meeting current needs

    “As the Peace Corps celebrates its 60th anniversary, we are building on a solid foundation to meet this historic moment, and to set the stage for the next 60 years,” Carol Spahn said. “Our primary focus is to safely return Volunteers to service and to apply our resources in combating the impacts of COVID-19, which are disproportionately affecting countries where Volunteers serve.” 

    Historically, Spahn said, Peace Corps Volunteers “have been and will be at the last mile reaching some of the most isolated and underserved populations … The pandemic has set back years of development progress and produced unprecedented challenges. It has also underscored our world’s profound interdependence and shared future. Recovery will require international cooperation not only at the government level, but also at the community level. And that is where the Peace Corps as a trusted community partner will return to service in new and time-tested ways.” 

     


    When will Volunteers begin to redeploy? 

    A question on everyone’s mind was raised during an exchange with Rep. Dean Phillips (D–MN) and Acting Director Carol Spahn: What are the plans for Volunteer redeployment and how long will it take for Peace Corps to fully return to the field?

     

    “We will gradually build up.”
    —Acting Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn

     

    Spahn did not provide a specific date when redeployment will begin, but she noted the process will be gradual. “We are returning on a country by country basis, based on the conditions in that country — so the initial ramp up will be slow, so that we can test our systems,” she said. “And we will gradually build up after we’ve learned from some of those initial inputs.”
    Spahn cited several factors that are being taken into consideration in making decisions on redeployment, including the ability to adapt programming to maximize health and safety; having emergency action plans in place should health conditions in a country deteriorate; and access to stable medical hubs, as well as backup hubs.

    “We know that we will be living with COVID for some time,” Spahn said. “There are urgent needs out there, and we believe that we can return Volunteers safely to some countries. And we’ve begun that process.” 

    Spahn added that some of the 60 countries where Volunteers were serving remain locked down. “Those will be the ones that we will need to push back a little bit further.” 

     


    China, South Asia, and the Pacific Region

    In response to general questions or statements from committee members regarding growing regional and global influence from China, Spahn outlined parts of agency planning for the South Asia Pacific region. “We are currently looking to get back into countries that we left: Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu,” she said. “We have also opened new country programs in Sri Lanka, and expect to welcome volunteers to Vietnam for the first time. We’re also negotiating a country agreement with Solomon Islands.”

     

     
    Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Recruiting Volunteers and working with the wider Peace Corps community

    Chairman Meeks noted that a key priority for him is that the foreign affairs committee examine diversity, equity, and inclusion programs across our nation’s international assistance programs. He praised Spahn and the Peace Corps for its efforts. “I understand also that the Peace Corps has instituted this robust program that you’ve talked about in your opening statement — intercultural competence, diversity, equity, and inclusion — and that you’ve been leading these efforts. You know, and you probably, from my examination, are ahead of a lot of other agencies.”

     

    “Intercultural competence, diversity, equity, inclusion is really at the core of who we are as an agency.”
    —Acting Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn

     

    Spahn told the committee that the Peace Corps has redoubled its commitment during the suspension of operations to address intercultural competence, diversity, equality, inclusion (ICDEI), and accessibility. This work, she said, “is at the core of who we are and what we do. Our approach encourages deep humility and builds transferable skills as our staff and volunteers partner at a grassroots level with people from 64 different countries.” 

     

     

    Spahn testified that in the past ten years the percentage of volunteers who identified as people of color increased from 16 percent to 34 percent. She said the agency is expanding outreach to minority-serving institutions of higher education and removing significant financial barriers to service through efforts such as increasing the reimbursements for the cost of medical clearance. She said all worldwide staff have received unconscious bias training, while 80 percent of posts have received five day intensive ICDEI training. Representative Karen Bass (D-CA) asked Spahn to drill down on what the percentages mean — and she asked how the agency is working with the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer community to recruit Volunteers who are people of color.

    Spahn pointed to collaboration with groups of returned Volunteers — in particular National Peace Corps Association — that play a critical role in supporting returned Volunteers.

     

     

    Representative Kathy Manning (D-NC) asked about support for Volunteers who are women, people of color, or identify as LGBTQ. Representative Brad Schneider (D-IL) asked about the focus of Peace Corps on recruiting college graduates — and if that was the best way to meet the needs of communities around the world. Likewise, he asked Spahn to address how Peace Corps Volunteers were playing a role to tackle climate change. Spahn noted that is a priority in environment and agricultural programs as well as education, and that Volunteers frequently serve in communities that are disproportionately affected by climate change.

     


    Decolonizing Foreign Assistance

    Citing Peace Corps’ history of being founded at the height of the Cold War, Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-CA) asked Spahn how the agency is addressing this issue. Spahn replied by saying this is an ongoing process, and something “we all need to wrestle with.”

     

     

    “We’ve just gone through an extensive process to revise each and every one of our project frameworks, developing that logical project framework,” said Spahn. “And in that, in developing those frameworks, we have representatives from the government, we have representatives from NGOs, from counterparts from communities that are impacted, as well as from Volunteers, helping to design where our niche is, and … where we can be most helpful.” 

     

    “It has never been about Volunteers going in to make a difference on their own. It is about that partnership, about that deep respect and humility.”
    —Carol Spahn

     

    Spahn added that central to Peace Corps service is the spirit of understanding and collaboration. “It has never been about Volunteers going in to make a difference on their own,” she said. “It is about that partnership, about that deep respect and humility. And that is why our Volunteers learn local languages. It is why they live and work at the level of the communities that they serve, but this is a time to ask those important questions.”

     


    ‘Development, Democracy, Diplomacy, and Diversity’

    In concluding the hearing, Chairman Meeks noted that his priority in taking on the chairmanship of the committee, “I said that my priorities can be categorized into four D’s: development, democracy, diplomacy, and diversity.” Meeks underscored that this work actually saves U.S. taxpayers money; it is far more expensive when the U.S. sends in the military instead of the Peace Corps.

     

     

    Support and guidance of the Peace Corps and its work “is something where I believe that we can really work in a bipartisan way,” Meeks said. “Because the issues and what your charge is not a partisan issue at all, as often on this committee when we're dealing with foreign affairs. We should not have a partisan divide. And so it is my hope, as the chairman of this committee, that we continue to work with you and you continue to follow up with all of our members, so that we can come in one accord, and focus on the goodness of the people of the United States of America, and continue to lead in that vein. And I think what your agencies do is what demonstrates who we are and why democracy, development, and diplomacy is what should take the lead.”

     


    Jonathan Pearson is Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. Rachel Edwards is an Advocacy Intern with NPCA. Orrin Luc serves as Digital Content Manager with NPCA. 

  • 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