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U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    A bipartisan show of support for the most comprehensive Peace Corps legislation in a generation see more

    In a bipartisan show of support, ten former Peace Corps Directors who have served under Republican and Democratic administrations alike call on the Senate to pass the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act. The most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in a generation, it would bring important reforms and support for Volunteers as the agency seeks to meet the needs of a changed world.

     

    Press Release

     

    Today, 10 former Peace Corps Directors who served in both Republican and Democratic administrations sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), calling on them to pass the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (S. 4466). 

    These bipartisan former Peace Corps Directors specifically asked the Senate to move the legislation, co-authored by Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Ranking Member James Risch (R-ID), either as an amendment to the pending National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 (NDAA) or independently. 

    The letter was also shared with key senators who have a decision-making role in this process. They are Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chair, Foreign Relations Committee; Senator James Risch (D-ID), Ranking Member, Foreign Relations Committee; Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee; Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Ranking Member, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee; Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Chair, Armed Services Committee; Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member, Armed Services Committee; Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chair, Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee; and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member, Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. 

    The legislation has already unanimously passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Its House of Representatives companion legislation (H.R. 1456), authored by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA), passed the full House on September 19 with a strong bipartisan vote of 290–115. The Senate legislation currently has 15 co-sponsors, including six Republicans, and if the legislation becomes law, it will be the first full reauthorization of the Peace Corps since 1999. 

    The former Directors wrote this letter now, as amendments to be considered for the FY23 NDAA are currently being vetted, with floor votes likely to occur after the midterm elections.

    This is the time for this critical legislation to become law, so that the Peace Corps can remain a strong force for U.S. global leadership and strengthen connections with the world. The former directors unanimously called on the Senate to meet the moment and pass this legislation during this Congress.

    The legislation will provide multiple reforms and improvements to the Peace Corps, including: 

    • Authorizing agency funding through 2027.
    • Increasing readjustment allowance to $375 minimum/month.
    • Suspending federal student loan interest during the duration of service.
    • Extending transitory health care coverage for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to two months.
    • Providing greater whistleblower protections.
    • Codifying two years of non-competitive eligibility (NCE) for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.
    • Strengthening DEIA efforts at the Peace Corps.
    • Expanding Peace Corps eligibility to include U.S. citizens who are American Samoan.
    • Increasing Peace Corps Volunteers’ level of workers compensation.
    • Strengthening and extending the Peace Corps’ Sexual Assault Advisory Council.

     

     


    Text of the Letter from Ten Former Peace Corps Directors to Senate Leadership

    View a PDF of the letter here.

     

     

    October 3, 2022


    The Honorable Chuck Schumer (D-NY)             
    Majority Leader                                                                      
    United States Senate                                              
     

    The Honorable Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
    Minority Leader
    United States Senate
     

    Dear Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell: 

    We write to you as a bipartisan, unified group of former Peace Corps Directors to express our full support for the swift passage of the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (S. 4466). We believe that now, with Volunteers returning to the field for the first time in two years, after being withdrawn due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that the Peace Corps return with a renewed sense of purpose. That is what passage of this legislation will do. 

    If passed, this would be the first full reauthorization of the agency since 1999. It has been more than two decades since full reauthorization. Multiple reforms included in this bill are long overdue and urgently needed — both to solidify this core instrument of American soft power, and to ensure that the agency has the tools to meet the needs of a changed world. 

    Fortunately, this Congress is well positioned to pass this legislation and move it to President Biden’s desk for his signature. The companion version in the House, H.R. 1456, passed on September 19 in a strong bipartisan vote under suspension of the Rules. That bill was co-authored by Reps. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA), with the former being the sole Returned Peace Corps Volunteer currently serving in Congress. 

    In the Senate, the bill is jointly authored by the leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and James Risch (R-ID). It has already been unanimously passed out of committee on a voice vote and currently has six Republican and nine Democratic cosponsors. It is a well-crafted bill that reflects strong bipartisan input and ideas. 

    It is this demonstration of strong bipartisan support that gives us hope that the bill can be passed this Congressional session. Doing so would be a testament to America’s enduring bipartisan commitment to those who serve abroad on behalf of our country. As you both know, the Peace Corps was founded in 1961 with a vision of promoting American values and expertise around the world — and to then bringing back home to our communities deeper global understanding through lessons learned by our Volunteers. 

    More than 240,000 of our fellow citizens have answered the call to serve as Peace Corps Volunteers, advancing our nation’s security during turbulent times overseas. We therefore ask that you do all that you can to ensure that the Senate version of the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act moves forward, either as part of an existing legislative vehicle, such as the National Defense Authorization Act, or independently. With this act’s passage, we can move one step closer to having the type of Peace Corps that the American people deserve and that will ensure we work together effectively with partner nations around the world. 

     

    Sincerely, 

     

    Carol Bellamy (1993–95) Clinton Administration 

    Richard Celeste (1979–81) Carter Administration 

    Nicholas Craw (1973–74) Nixon Administration 

    Mark Gearan (1995–99) Clinton Administration 

    Carrie Hessler-Radelet (2014–17) Obama Administration 

    Josephine (Jody) Olsen (2018–21) Trump Administration 

    Mark Schneider (1999–2001) Clinton Administration 

    Ronald Tschetter (2006–09) George W. Bush Administration 

    Gaddi Vasquez (2002–06) George W. Bush Administration 

    Aaron Williams (2009–12) Obama Administration 

      


    READ MORE

    View a PDF of the the letter from former Peace Corps Directors to Senate Leadership.

    Read a summary and analysis of the Senate and House legislation.

     


    For more information, contact:

     

    Joel Rubin, Vice President for Global Policy and Public Affairs

      or

    Steven Boyd Saum, Director of Strategic Communications
     
    202-934-1532

    news@peacecorpsconnect.org
    www.PeaceCorpsConnect.org

  • Communications Intern 2 posted an article
    Let’s ensure that Congress passes the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in a generation. see more

    Following on big news from the Senate, let’s ensure that Congress passes the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in a generation.
     

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    In these times when division and discord define politics across the nation, recent months tell a different story when it comes to support for the Peace Corps. Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate have come together to bring forth meaningful bipartisan legislation.

    On June 23, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2022 (S. 4466). Led by Chair Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Ranking Member James Risch (R-ID), the bill had six bipartisan co-sponsors out of the gate.

    Additional co-sponsors joined the bill in July and August, and at time of publication they include Ben Cardin (D-MD), Todd Young (R-IN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Rob Portman (R-OH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Chris Coons (D-DE), Gary Peters (D-MI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Susan Collins (R-ME). On July 19, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the bill on a voice vote. It now awaits being taken up by the full Senate. 

     

    “This once-in-a-generation bill implements necessary reforms to make certain the Peace Corps has what is required to meet the needs of its Volunteers around the world.”
    —Senator Robert Menendez, Chair, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

     

    “This once-in-a-generation bill implements necessary reforms to make certain the Peace Corps has what is required to meet the needs of its Volunteers around the world,” said Sen. Menendez in July. “From including necessary student loan reforms to affirming a path to federal government employment for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, this legislation also ensures that the agency better reflects the United States’ rich diversity and talent.”

    As Sen. Risch noted in a release introducing the legislation, “The 2022 Peace Corps Reauthorization bill is a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Peace Corps for the first time in over a decade and to provide necessary reforms to improve the safety and security of Volunteers as they re-enter the field. By reauthorizing the Sexual Assault Advisory Council, mandating security briefings, improving whistleblower protections, and adding a new authority to suspend Peace Corps Volunteers without pay in the event of misbehavior, the Peace Corps will be able to better support Volunteers at home and abroad.”

     

    “The 2022 Peace Corps Reauthorization bill is a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Peace Corps for the first time in over a decade and to provide necessary reforms to improve the safety and security of Volunteers as they re-enter the field. By reauthorizing the Sexual Assault Advisory Council, mandating security briefings, improving whistleblower protections, and adding a new authority to suspend Peace Corps Volunteers without pay in the event of misbehavior, the Peace Corps will be able to better support Volunteers at home and abroad.”
    —Senator James Risch, Ranking Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

     

    The bipartisan legislation also serves as the Senate companion to H.R. 1456, introduced in March 2021 by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA); it was approved overwhelmingly by the House Foreign Affairs Committee in September 2021. Senate and House leaders will be discussing and strategizing on how to best bring this legislation before their respective chambers for a vote.

     

     

    About the Legislation 

    The House and Senate bills contain a broad range of improvements and reforms for the agency; for current and returned Volunteers; and for the communities where they serve. Both bills further efforts to address the health, safety, security, and well-being of Volunteers. They bolster efforts to strengthen diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. And several long-sought improvements to support RPCVs and honor their service are included. While the bills have many similarities, there are significant differences which will eventually need to be reconciled. 

     

    Key elements that both bills have in common

    Non-Competitive Eligibility: Traditionally, returning Volunteers receive one year of non-competitive eligibility (NCE) for federal employment. Both the House and Senate bills increase this to two years of NCE. 

    Paid Health Insurance: Returning Volunteers currently receive one month of paid health insurance. Both bills would extend that to two months. The Senate bill also ensures Volunteers receive adequate health exams in preparing for service; care during service, including access to mental health professionals; and a path to obtain insurance through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act after service.

    Protecting Volunteers Against Reprisal or Retaliation: Whistleblower protections currently extend to staff. Both bills would provide Volunteers with protections against reprisal or retaliation.

    Medical Education, Guidance, and Menstrual Hygiene: Both bills provide further medical staff education and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control on malaria prophylaxis. They also strengthen access and affordability for menstrual/hygiene products for Volunteers wherever they are serving.

    Returning to Service after Evacuation: Both bills seek to ensure that future Volunteers facing evacuation are afforded expedited opportunities to return to service. 
    Elements found in each bill — but with key differences

    Peace Corps Funding: H.R. 1456 proposes increased funding for the Peace Corps in the coming years, while S. 4466 continues to propose flat funding of $410.5 million for each of the next five years. 

    Disability Pay Rates for RPCVs: Both bills propose a long needed increase in the workers compensation rates for RPCVs who are disabled due to service related injuries or illness. The House bill recommends a compensation increase of roughly $1,000/month, while the Senate bill recommends a roughly $300/month increase.

    Extend the Work of the Sexual Assault Advisory Council: Both bills extend the work of the congressionally mandated Sexual Assault Advisory Council, currently scheduled to expire at the end of 2023. The House bill extends the work through 2025; the Senate bill extends the work through 2027.
     

     

    Provisions found only in House legislation

    Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act: This long-sought House legislation would formally allow the use of the Peace Corps symbol at gravesites and in death notices. 

    Virtual Service Programs: The House bill would formally authorize the agency’s current Virtual Service Pilot program.

    Domestic Service During Emergencies: The House bill would codify circumstances allowing other federal agencies to seek use of Peace Corps Volunteers during domestic emergencies, such as the partnership with FEMA community vaccination centers in 2021 to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic.


    Provisions found only in Senate legislation

    Student Loan Relief: The Senate bill would provide certain student loan relief for RPCVs, including suspension of interest during service and public service credit for Volunteers as part of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program run by the Department of Education. 

    Suspend Agency Employees Without Pay for Misconduct: In response to the tragic killing of Rabia Issa, a mother of three in Tanzania who was struck by a vehicle driven by a Peace Corps employee in 2018, the Senate legislation gives the agency the authority to suspend an employee without pay if they are engaged in serious misconduct which could lead to removal for cause. 

     


    This Is the Moment

    Advocacy efforts by members of the Peace Corps community, including those led by National Peace Corps Association, have been instrumental in making this legislation possible. In the months following the global evacuation of Volunteers in 2020 because of COVID-19, NPCA convened a series of town halls and a global ideas summit to consider how to reimagine, reshape, and retool the Peace Corps for a changed world.

    The resulting community-driven report, “Peace Corps Connect to the Future,” contains scores of recommendations for the agency and executive branch, Congress, and the wider Peace Corps community. Those recommendations range from recruitment and selection to effective programming and placement; from the health and safety of serving Volunteers to the benefits and support for returned Volunteers. The recommendations have shaped new agency initiatives and policies, and they have shaped the House and Senate legislation. In concrete terms, more than 20 recommendations contained in the report would be advanced — directly or indirectly — if a final, strong version of the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act is signed into law. 

    On student loans, a group of returned Volunteers has been instrumental in providing expertise and advice to legislators and their staff. And whistleblower and workers comp issues have long had leadership among RPCVs.

     

    Now is the time for us as a community to make our voices heard. If we do, then we can be confident that just as the Peace Corps is returning to the field, so too will there be a renewed, revitalized, and reshaped Peace Corps for the next generation of Volunteers. 

     

    The past six months have seen the steady, growing, and responsible return of Volunteers to service in communities overseas. By October 2022, the agency projects Volunteers will be serving in 30 countries. By October 2023, Volunteers are expected to be back in most of the 60 pre-pandemic countries of service. 

    The very best way we can say “thank you for your service” to the newest generation of Peace Corps Volunteers is to come together and make sure the strongest possible Peace Corps Reauthorization Act is signed into law this year. And there is reason to be hopeful, as there’s strong bipartisan backing in both chambers of Congress. 

    However, with congressional elections looming, the window for final passage of the legislation is narrowing. Now is the time for us as a community to make our voices heard. If we do, then we can be confident that just as the Peace Corps is returning to the field, so too will there be a renewed, revitalized, and reshaped Peace Corps for the next generation of Volunteers. 

     

    This story appears in the Spring-Summer 2022 print edition of WorldView magazine. 



    Jonathan Pearson is director of advocacy for National Peace Corps Association.

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Legislation reauthorizes Peace Corps agency for the first time in over 20 years see more

    Senators Robert Menendez, Jim Risch, and colleagues have introduced Senate Bill 4466, the bipartisan Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2022. If passed, this legislation would reauthorize the Peace Corps agency for the first time in over 20 years. Here’s the June 23 release from the U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Read about the bill, and then ask your senator to co-sponsor this crucial legislation.

     

     

    WASHINGTON –  U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today were joined by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.)Todd Young (R-Ind.)Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) in unveiling new legislation to reauthorize the Peace Corps for the first time in over two decades. Authorizing the appropriation of over $410,000,000 per year, the bipartisan Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2022 (S. 4466) proposes to increase Volunteers’ health care coverage, statutorily raise Volunteers’ readjustment allowance, expedite return-to-service opportunities for those impacted by COVID-19 and future comparable emergencies, and expand the agency’s Sexual Assault Advisory Council.

    “I am incredibly proud to be joined by my colleagues in introducing this long overdue reauthorization of the Peace Corps. By reauthorizing the agency for the first time in over 20 years, we honor and applaud the countless Volunteers over the last six decades who have dedicated themselves to fostering peace, encouraging cultural exchange, and facilitating friendship worldwide,” Chairman Menendez said. “Today’s efforts demonstrate our bipartisan commitment to ensure the Peace Corps is both reflective of the United States’ rich diversity and talent, and that its volunteers and the broader Peace Corps community are fully supported, including through necessary student loan reforms. I look forward to working with my colleagues to hold the Peace Corps accountable and to making sure it can meet the real-time needs of those currently in the field and beyond.”

    “The 2022 Peace Corps Reauthorization bill is a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Peace Corps for the first time in over a decade and to provide necessary reforms to improve the safety and security of volunteers as they re-enter the field,” said Ranking Member Risch. “By reauthorizing the Sexual Assault Advisory Council, mandating security briefings, improving whistleblower protections, and adding a new authority to suspend Peace Corps Volunteers without pay in the event of misbehavior, the Peace Corps will be able to better support Volunteers at home and abroad.”

    “The Peace Corps is one of the most impactful volunteer humanitarian forces in the world, transforming lives and forging international understanding. Its volunteers represent the best qualities of American society and reflect the diversity of the American people,” said Senator Cardin. “The Peace Corps invests time and talent in other countries, and it pays dividends back here in the United States as well. I’m proud of our bipartisan effort to continue support for the Peace Corps and will continue to work to ensure that it has the tools needed to carry out its mission safely and efficiently.”

    “Our Peace Corps volunteers represent American values and serve communities throughout the world in exemplary fashion. This bill helps get them back in the field after the COVID pandemic in a safe and responsible manner,” said Senator Young.

    “Peace Corps volunteers are a key part of America’s diplomacy abroad, serving to support local communities and promote our nation’s values and priorities. Countless projects centered on economic development, education and health care have been made possible by volunteers over the last six decades,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m proud to support the Peace Corps program, which has garnered overwhelming bipartisan support, and I’ll continue to push for funding from Congress to help our volunteers grow and flourish abroad.”

    “The Peace Corps plays an important role in promoting U.S. interests and international peace by sending Americans to volunteers in some of the most underserved areas around the world,” said Senator Portman. “I am pleased to support this bipartisan legislation and I hope that it can rapidly move through committee to the Senate Floor.”

     

    The bipartisan legislation also serves as the Senate companion to H.R. 1456, which is led by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA), and was approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee in September 2021. Among its key provisions, the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2022:

    • Authorizes $410,500,000 to be appropriated annually for the Peace Corps for fiscal years 2023 through 2027.
    • Sets a statutory minimum of $375 per month for the Peace Corps Volunteer readjustment allowance, which the Peace Corps can exceed.
    • Requires the Peace Corps to establish a safe return to service process for those whose service is interrupted due mandatory evacuations from catastrophic events or global emergencies like COVID-19.
    • Suspends federal student loan interest during the duration of Volunteer service; allows for members of the Peace Corps to receive credit during their time of service under any income based repayment program or the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program run by the Department of Education; ensures the Peace Corps is providing access to mental health professionals for Peace Corps Volunteers.
    • Extends transitory health care coverage for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) from 30 days post-service to 60 days, and provides a path through which RPCVs can obtain healthcare through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; ensures Peace Corps Volunteers receive adequate health care during their service, including health examinations preparatory to their service.
    • Enumerates procedures and policy to protect Volunteers against reprisal and retaliation.
    • Codifies two years of noncompetitive eligibility for RPCVs.
    • Mandates the Council consider and make recommendations to strengthen Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) efforts at the Peace Corps, including through the collection of workforce data; streamlines and diversifies the appointment and selection process for Council members.
    • Expands Peace Corps eligibility to include United States citizens who are nationals of American Samoa.
    • Increases Peace Corps Volunteers’ level of workers compensation from GS 7 step one to GS 7 step five.
    • Extends the Sexual Assault Advisory Council until October 2027 and requires the Council to submit annual reports on their work to Congress. 
       

     

    READ MORE

    Find the text of the bill here.

     

    TAKE ACTION

    Ask your senators to co-sponsor the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2022.

     

    Write your Senators to co-sponsor the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act

    • Joanne Roll The President's budget authorized $430,000, 000 for the Peace Corps fiscal year 2023. That amount was passed by the subcommittee. The Reauthorization Bill described here only recommends a budget... see more The President's budget authorized $430,000, 000 for the Peace Corps fiscal year 2023. That amount was passed by the subcommittee. The Reauthorization Bill described here only recommends a budget of $410,000. Why is the discrepancy and how will it be resolved?
      5 months ago