Our May advocacy agenda includes thank you messages, targeted legislative advocacy and media work! see more
Now is a good time to thank representatives who signed on to the House Dear Colleague Letter. And there’s work ahead on bolstering support for the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act — and ensuring a robust budget to provide critical support for Volunteers — particularly when it comes to health and safety.
By Jonathan Pearson
Our National Days of Advocacy in Support of the Peace Corps included more than 90 events and activities in March and April, with more scheduled for May — and more still being planned. Now is a good time to say thank you to Representatives who signed the House Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter.
We still have important work ahead on bolstering support for the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (House Bill 1456), with the possibility of similar legislation being introduced in the Senate this month.
And when President Biden releases a proposed budget for Peace Corps, we’ll need your help to ensure that Peace Corps has the funds to provide critical support for Volunteers — particularly when it comes to health and safety.
So, what’s next? Here’s our May agenda:
Say thank you!
Over the last few weeks we received an outpouring of support from representatives who signed the annual House Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter. If your member signed the letter, join us in thanking them for their support, and encouraging them to continue to champion Peace Corps–related legislation in order to improve and strengthen the Peace Corps. We are awaiting the release of a similar Senate Dear Colleague letter and will need your mobilization when the letter is issued.
More House co-sponsors and Senate legislation?
We still have some very important work to do with the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (House Bill 1456). With 45 confirmed co-sponsors (only three fewer than in the previous Congress), we must continue to encourage our representatives to co-sponsor this bill strengthening Peace Corps funding, programming, and Volunteer support. The proposed funding increases over four years would allow for us to build back a better Peace Corps that is capable of enacting many of the crucial changes that the Peace Corps community has raised as priorities.
May could also be the month when a similar reauthorization bill is introduced in the Senate. We hope that more information will be available soon. Keep an eye out for this anticipated legislation — and join us in supporting it!
Biden budget and media mobilization
President Biden has already provided an overview of his much anticipated Fiscal Year 2022 budget, including a recommended 12 percent increase in our nation's international affairs programs. In the next two weeks, the White House is expected to send a fully detailed budget to Congress, including recommended funding for the Peace Corps.
As the president's budget release will likely garner significant media attention, we want to be prepared to respond to news stories with letters-to-the-editor highlighting the Peace Corps portion of the budget. Can you plan to help us? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to express your willingness to help. Include the city and state where you reside.
Our action center continues to promote other issues through which you can raise your voice with your elected officials. Members of our community who have significant student loan debt can share your experiences with Congress as it debates this issue. You can also raise your Peace Corps community voice to your Senators, who have the House-passed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act before them now.
Jonathan Pearson is Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. Write him.
Join events around the country in March to support the Peace Corps! see more
National Peace Corps Association's (NPCA) March 1st Capitol Hill Day of Action to support a stronger and better Peace Corps is booked to capacity!
But that's not all that is happening. Not even close.
Our National Days of Action (that's right, days) is designed for all Peace Corps supporters to come together at a key moment on the calendar to:
- Make sure Peace Corps gets strong funding in the current (FY 2018) budget, as we also kick-off critical mobilization for FY 2019 Peace Corps and international affairs funding.
- Make sure the best possible Peace Corps health and safety legislation passes in this 115th Congress by year's end.
Get Ready to Take Action!
If you don't do anything else for the rest of the year, now is the time to show your support for the Peace Corps. There are many ways to join the mobilization.
- Right Now: Plan to Attend/Organize a Local Days of Action Event: Letter writing in Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Antonio and Honolulu. Meetings with lawmakers at their district offices in Buffalo, Jacksonville, Tuscaloosa and Kansas City. Visit our events page today to connect with a Days of Action activity in your area. Contact us if you want to organize an event in your area, or participate in Days of Action prep webinars in the coming days.
- March 1st: As nearly 200 advocates and other supporters converge on Capitol Hill, back them up! Plan to visit our website to email or call your lawmakers urging positive action on the Peace Corps.
- Ongoing: Our success requires your support! Make a donation of any amount to support NPCA's advocacy program.
And, Updated State Resources!
Has your Senator signed past Peace Corps funding letters? Is your Congressman/woman a co-sponsor of Peace Corps health/safety legislation? And, how many Peace Corps volunteers have served from your state since 1961? All of that information - and much, much more - can be found in our updated state resources!
Both chambers of Congress now have Peace Corps health legislation see more
On the day in which fallen Peace Corps volunteer Nick Castle would have celebrated his 28th birthday, legislation has been introduced in the United States Senate to address a series of issues related to the health and safety of Volunteers.
The Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018 (S. 2286) was introduced Wednesday, January 10th by Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Other lead sponsors include Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Chris Coons (D-DE).
Nick Castle died while serving in China in 2013. A November 2014 report on the death by the Peace Corps Office of Inspector General cited poor judgement and misdiagnosis by the Peace Corps Medical Officer, as well as "cascading failures and delays in treatment."
About the Legislation
Provisions in the Corker legislation would ensure that "the Peace Corps maintains well-qualified and capable medical officers and support staff for overseas Peace Corps posts and that the Director reviews and evaluates the performance of such staff and implements outstanding recommendations by the Inspector General to improve associated systems and programs."
Another key provision would allow Peace Corps to be fully involved in the diagnosis, treatment and support of returning Volunteers with service related illness or injuries for a four-month period following their completion of service. Currently, volunteers who come home with service-related health issues are swiftly referred to the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) for benefits provided under the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA).
Along with requiring public disclosure of volunteer satisfaction surveys and other reporting requirements, the legislation would also promote further reforms and extend key initiatives pertaining to sexual assault and other acts of violence against volunteers. This includes a re-authorization of the Peace Corps Office of Victim Advocacy and the agency's Sexual Assault Advisory Council.
Click here for a copy of the legislation.
Click here for Senator Corker's press release.
Meanwhile, Peace Corps health legislation in the House of Representatives (H.R. 2259) introduced last May by Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) and returned Peace Corps Volunteer Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA) has a bi-partisan list of nearly 50 co-sponsors.
Along with the most provisions outlined above, the House legislation also includes an important proposal for volunteers who served their country but came home with service-related injuries or illness that rendered them temporarily or permanently disabled. The legislation proposes raising the worker's compensation payments for these individuals. This has been a priority issue of the affiliate group Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers, which has led efforts and worked tirelessly for years on efforts to provide relief for those in our community who struggle most in the aftermath of their service. However, questions have arisen about the ability to sustain this provision in accordance with House rules on entitlement spending.
"While the content and presentation of the Senate and House Peace Corps health bills have significant differences, we are grateful that Senator Corker, Congressman Poe and other lead sponsors have introduced legislation to keep us moving forward," said NPCA President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst. "Taken together, both bills contain improvements, reforms and re-authorizations that are important to various members of our community. We look forward to continued progress with Senate and House sponsors, and urge them to work collaboratively so we can come away with the best possible legislation to support our Volunteers and respect their sacrifices in serving our country."
Call your Senators and ask them to support and advance S. 2286, Peace Corps health legislation introduced by Senator Corker.
If your Congressman/woman has not yet co-sponsored H.R. 2259, take action here.