Steven Saum posted an articleNow is the Time to Double the Peace Corps! A Letter to the President of the United States from Eleven Former Directors of the AgencyNow is the time to build back the Peace Corps better than before. see more
All former living directors of the Peace Corps have joined together to send a ringing message to President Biden: Now is the time. Build Peace Corps back better than before — and over the next five years, put 10,000 Volunteers in the field.
Below is the full text of the letter. Download a PDF of the letter here.
April 26, 2021
President Joseph R. Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Biden,
We write to you today as a bipartisan, unified group of former directors of the Peace Corps to express our full support for a revitalized Peace Corps, one that advances our nation’s critical foreign policy goal of world peace through international cooperation and service. We believe that now is the right time for the Peace Corps to build back better than it ever was before.
We therefore call on you and your administration to commit to raising the number of Peace Corps Volunteers in the field to a sustained level of 15,000 over the next decade, beginning by increasing the agency’s annual budget to $600 million by FY 2025. This funding level would support our five-year goal of 10,000 volunteers, consistent with bipartisan reauthorization legislation currently advancing in both chambers of Congress. Your support for this long overdue goal would galvanize the American peoples’ spirit of service and international engagement that the Peace Corps represents. Previous presidents, both Democrats and Republicans, have endorsed doubling the size of the Peace Corps. Now is the time to fulfill that promise.
As you are aware, more than 240,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps over the past 60 years, cumulatively serving in 142 countries and providing well over three billion hours of service to our nation and the world. Yet due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, there are currently no Peace Corps Volunteers serving abroad today. Such a situation does untold damage to our strong community-based worldwide presence and the United States’ image abroad. We must send our volunteers back to the field as soon as possible, and we believe you will have strong backing to do so. There is overwhelming support from all host countries for the return of volunteers. They see the history of volunteers joining in public health campaigns to eradicate smallpox, polio, and measles as evidence that the Peace Corps can play a vital role in confronting today’s pandemic as well as the long-lasting consequences of COVID-19 in our partner nations.
There is overwhelming support from all host countries for the return of volunteers. They see the history of volunteers joining in public health campaigns to eradicate smallpox, polio, and measles as evidence that the Peace Corps can play a vital role in confronting today’s pandemic as well as the long-lasting consequences of COVID-19 in our partner nations.
Throughout our decades of bipartisan leadership of the Peace Corps, we benefitted from deep bipartisan congressional support for the agency. We served both Republican and Democratic presidents and understood, as you do, that the Peace Corps is an American innovation, not a partisan one. When Americans volunteer abroad, they are not seen as Democrats or Republicans; they are seen as Americans.
That is why we are encouraged by renewed bipartisan leadership in Congress to maintain that bipartisan tradition for the Peace Corps. New legislation, the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021 (H.R. 1456), which has been introduced by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA), will advance the policy goals we seek. We call on you to fully support this legislation, as well as the anticipated Senate companion legislation, so that it can be quickly sent to your desk for your signature into law.
This bill is visionary. It creates a clear blueprint for the agency’s future, one that we all share, to ramp up volunteer numbers to meet the tremendous challenges faced by our international partners while facilitating the American peoples’ reengagement with the world.
This bill is visionary. It creates a clear blueprint for the agency’s future, one that we all share, to ramp up volunteer numbers to meet the tremendous challenges faced by our international partners while facilitating the American peoples’ reengagement with the world. Critical reforms are included in the bill that reflect the longstanding requests of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer community. These include enhancements to the provision of health care, with special attention to women’s health and safety; mental health care; readjustment allowance; volunteer security; whistleblower protections; and post-service hiring opportunities.
The bill’s provisions demonstrate that Congress is listening to the Peace Corps community, which provided significant input into the bill, ensuring a better experience for the volunteer, agency, and host country. Your support for the bill’s vision and policy prescriptions will show the Peace Corps community that you, too, understand their needs and support their hopes for a renewed Peace Corps.
In closing: Now is the time, under your leadership, to take a bold stroke to renew the original promise of the Peace Corps expressed in 1960 by President John F. Kennedy when he called upon young Americans to dedicate themselves to the cause of peace and friendship. We honor that vision and the vigorous support that all his successors have provided. We hope that in the days ahead, you, given your longstanding support for the Peace Corps, will join them in advocating for a reimagined, reshaped, and retooled Peace Corps for a changed world.
Nicholas Craw (1973–74)
Richard Celeste (1979–81)
Elaine Chao (1991–92)
Carol Bellamy (1993–95)
Mark Gearan (1995–99)
Mark Schneider (1999–2001)
Gaddi Vasquez (2002–06)
Ronald Tschetter (2006–09)
Aaron Williams (2009–12)
Carrie Hessler-Radelet (2014–17)
Josephine (Jody) Olsen (2018–21)
Download a PDF of the letter from Peace Corps Directors to President Biden here.
Jonathan Pearson posted an articleOur 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.
Jonathan Pearson posted an articleBreaking News July 1: House Appropriations Committee Takes Action on Fiscal Year 2022 Peace Corps FundingIt's the first step in congressional consideration of Peace Corps funding. And the news is good. see more
On July 1 the House Appropriations approved a $430.5 million budget for 2022 — an increase of 5 percent. It points to the first meaningful increase in funding in six years.
By Jonathan Pearson
(UPDATE – July 1, 2021, 2:00 PM Eastern): The full House Appropriations Committee today approved a $62.2 billion State/Foreign Operations spending package for Fiscal Year 2022 that includes a recommended $20 million funding increase for the Peace Corps — nearly 5 percent.
The package was approved on a 32–25 party line vote. It will next head to the full House of Representatives — at a date yet to be determined — for further debate and voting.
No similar action has been taken yet by the Senate Appropriations Committee in advancing its version of the State/Foreign Operations spending plan for the fiscal year that begins October 1, 2021.
(UPDATE – June 28, 2021, 8:30 PM Eastern): On a voice vote, the House Appropriations Subcommittee for State/Foreign Operations approved a $62.2 billion international affairs budget for Fiscal Year 2022. This represents a 12 percent, $6.7 billion increase over the current fiscal year. Included in this budget is $430.5 million for the Peace Corps, a $20 million increase over current funding. In brief remarks, Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) referenced the Peace Corps as one of several programs that will provide “needed humanitarian assistance” around the world. No amendments to the bill were made, but that could possibly change when the full Appropriations Committee considers this funding package on Thursday morning.
The House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee for State/Foreign Operations had recommended a Fiscal Year 2022 funding package that includes $430.5 million for the Peace Corps.
This recommendation represents a $20 million increase — nearly 5 percent — in funding for the agency for the fiscal year that begins October 1. A subcommittee vote on this recommendation is expected on Monday evening. Should this figure be eventually approved, it would mark the first meaningful funding increase for the agency in six years. That’s good news for the Peace Corps.
“The Peace Corps is on the way back,” says Glenn Blumhorst, President and CEO of National Peace Corps Association, upon learning the news.
“The Peace Corps is on the way back,” said National Peace Corps Association President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst, upon learning the news. “This recommendation by the State/Foreign Operations Subcommittee reinforces congressional support — not only for the robust redeployment of Peace Corps Volunteers — but the importance of providing the agency with funding that will allow for many improvements and reforms that will build a stronger program for the next generation of volunteers. Our community needs to stay engaged to make sure this strong commitment by the subcommittee is advanced.”
Read the subcommittee’s press release on its entire $62 billion spending package for U.S. international affairs programs.
Today’s action was bolstered by the annual Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter, a bipartisan action issued earlier this year by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA).
Updated July 1, 2021 at 2 p.m. Return to this post for updates this week on actions and reactions on FY 2022 Peace Corps Funding in the House of Representatives.
Jonathan Pearson is the Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association
Steven Saum posted an articleThis proposal comes up short, if we’re serious about building a better and stronger Peace Corps. see more
The budget proposed today by the White House comes up $40 million short of where it needs to be to implement critical reforms staked out in the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021.
By Jonathan Pearson
President Joe Biden has sent his Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) budget request to Congress. Included in his budget is a request of $ 410.5 million for the Peace Corps. By all measures, to build a better and stronger Peace Corps that can help the United States reengage with the world, this comes up short.
The President’s request represents flat funding — and a maintenance of the same level of support that the Peace Corps has received for the past six years. It stands in stark contrast to bipartisan House legislation introduced in March that would provide $450 million in funding to ensure the implementation of critical reforms.
“We are grateful to the Peace Corps’ congressional champions for setting out a vision of a Peace Corps that is renewed, revitalized, and reformed, buttressed by a budget that meets the goals of the Peace Corps community,” said National Peace Corps Association President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst. “But proposed level funding will not enable us to build a better, stronger, and more inclusive Peace Corps for a changed world.”
Indeed, as the Peace Corps community has underscored time and again, long-needed reforms have not been adequately addressed in part because of a lack of funding.
Congress has shown: This is where we need to be.
The bipartisan support for Peace Corps in Congress includes the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1456) legislation, introduced by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA), which calls for $450 million to support the Peace Corps in FY 2022. ( Here’s a link you can use to reach out to your lawmaker to ask them co-sponsor this legislation.) Garamendi and Graves also sponsored an annual Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter, signed by a bipartisan group of 156 lawmakers, which also urges at least $450 million for the coming fiscal year.
Strong support for the Peace Corps was also reinforced by every living past Peace Corps director who signed this letter to President Biden. That group includes those who served under Republicans and Democrats alike going back to the Nixon administration. A revitalized Peace Corps, they wrote, “advances our nation’s critical foreign policy goal of world peace through international cooperation and service. We believe that now is the right time for the Peace Corps to build back better than it ever was before.”
Earlier this spring, on the 60th anniversary of the day that President Kennedy created the Peace Corps by executive order, all living directors also convened for a conversation about the past, present, and future of the Peace Corps. One question they tackled: Given three minutes with President Biden to talk about the Peace Corps, what would they say? They spoke about the value of national and public service in uniting a nation, about the role Volunteers can play in public health efforts around the world, about the return on investment for decades to come — and one shared the perspective of the president of Guinea, who spoke of how the presence of Volunteers in communities is worth far more than millions in foreign assistance alone.
“We have an opportunity to build back better and reengage with the world. And when it comes to Peace Corps, we need to put our money where our mouth is.”
While the budget proposal from the White House is disappointing, we’ll take this moment to note that over the past several years the Peace Corps community has worked closely with champions and members of Congress to sustain the Peace Corps through tough times. And Congress has laid out a clear goal of where we need to be for a better and stronger Peace Corps.
“We will work closely with these champions to ensure that the Peace Corps’ budget is robust for the future,” said Glenn Blumhorst. “We have an opportunity to build back better and reengage with the world. And when it comes to Peace Corps, we need to put our money where our mouth is.”
READ MORE: Key reforms — some of which require robust funding to become reality — are staked out in the community-driven report “Peace Corps Connect to the Future.”
Jonathan Pearson is the Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. Contact email@example.com to find out how you can help.
Meisha Robinson posted an articleThe President’s FY2019 budget was released today and proposes a $396 million budget for Peace Corps. see more
Dear NPCA Community,
The President’s budget for fiscal year 2019 was released today and it proposes a budget of $396 million for the Peace Corps. After already requesting a $12 million cut in fiscal 2018—the deepest from a White House in over 40 years—the 2019 request further reduces Peace Corps' budget by another $2 million. This represents a step in the wrong direction. At a time when supply and demand for Peace Corps Volunteers is robust, when American grassroots diplomacy is urgently needed to strengthen relationships with communities around the world, and when more returned Volunteers are needed in leadership positions in America, the White House has instead chosen to place the agency’s resources, mission and values under stress.
Our Peace Corps is being challenged. We can’t let that happen.
And we won’t let it happen, because in an Ugandan village there is an English class without a teacher. In a Philippine barangay, there is a fisherman eager to learn how to protect the marina he depends on. In communities in Senegal, Mexico, and Ukraine, political leaders and everyday citizens alike are questioning who we are as Americans. Somewhere in any country a community has much more to teach us, than we have to teach them. And all over America, our communities need leaders who are motivated to continue to serve and build coalitions that bring us together instead of divide us.
But before we can get to work on 2019, our focus is still needed on 2018.
Congress is deciding funding for fiscal year 2018 at this very moment, and level funding for the Peace Corps is still in jeopardy. The budget deal Congress approved last week includes dangerous cuts to the international affairs account that the Peace Corps and its partners draw from. The deeper that cut, the less likely the Peace Corps receives level funding. Congress will decide the total funding for the international affairs account as early as Tuesday. This means that Capitol Hill needs to hear from us—now.
Please take action in the following ways:
TODAY: Final decisions are being made that will impact Peace Corps funding in the current (2018) fiscal year. Contact Congress and urge them to fully fund the Peace Corps and the International Affairs Budget.
MARCH: Join or organize events across the country to advocate for the Peace Corps' funding in fiscal year 2019.
ONGOING: Donate to our advocacy program to support our efforts to mobilize the community.
We’ve asked a lot of you over the past year, but the simple truth is that the Peace Corps’ resources, mission and values are being threatened at a time when America and the world need the Peace Corps more than ever. No one knows the impact of the Peace Corps better than you, and that’s why we’re asking for your help. We know we can count on you. Thank you.
President & CEO, National Peace Corps Association