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  • 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
  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    The deadline is May 18 for them to sign on. see more

    U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Susan Collins circulated the annual Peace Corps funding letter, seeking a $20 million increase in agency funding. Thanks to your efforts, a record number of senators signed this year's letter.

     

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have concluded circulating their annual Peace Corps “Dear Colleague” letter, asking other senators to sign on and ensure robust support for the agency as Volunteers return to service overseas. The letter, addressed to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State & Foreign Operations, calls for increasing Peace Corps funding for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY 2023) from $410.5 million to $430.5 million. 43 senators signed this year's letter, breaking the previous record of 42 signatures in 2020.

    This request is in line with President Biden’s budget request for the fiscal year that begins in October 2022. “This funding will be critical as the Peace Corps resumes operations, improves volunteer security, engages in global health efforts, and broadens outreach to attract new talent,” the senators write.

     

    This funding will be critical as the Peace Corps resumes operations, improves volunteer security, engages in global health efforts, and broadens outreach to attract new talent.”

     

    Read the annual Dear Colleague Peace Corps funding letter, or find the text at the bottom of this post.

    In March 2022, Volunteers began returning to service overseas. At this time, Peace Corps programs are again operating in Zambia, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and Namibia, with more headed overseas in the coming weeks and months. As many as 30 other nations are now in the pipeline to have Volunteers return to service this year. The Peace Corps agency has undertaken critical reforms to ensure a better and stronger Peace Corps for a changed world. But the agency needs funding to make all this possible.

    Last month, in the House of Representatives, Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) circulated a Peace Corps funding letter among colleagues. The House letter (which is now closed), requests $450 million for the Peace Corps in FY 2023, drew strong bipartisan support, garnering signatures of 146 lawmakers.
     

     

    Thank Senators Who Signed This Year's Letter. 

    Now that the letter is closed, write to your senators to express your thanks for signing the letter (or your disappointment if they did not).

     

    Take Action Now

     

     


    Who has signed the letter?

    Here are the senators who signed this year's Feinstein-Collins Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter for Fiscal Year 2023. 

     

    DEADLINE to sign on: 12:00 p.m. Wednesday, May 18, 2022 (This letter is now closed)

    SIGNATURES as of Wednesday, May 18, 12:00 p.m. 43 (A new record for this letter!)

     

    Arizona: Kelly, Sinema

    California: Feinstein (co-author), Padilla

    Colorado: Bennet

    Connecticut: Blumenthal, Murphy

    Delaware: Carper

    Georgia: Warnock

    Hawai'i: Hirono, Schatz

    Illinois: Duckworth, Durbin

    Maine: Collins (co-author), King

    Maryland: Cardin, Van Hollen

    Massachusetts: Markey, Warren

    Michigan: Peters, Stabenow

    Minnesota: Klobuchar, Smith

    Nevada: Cortez Masto, Rosen

    New Hampshire: Hassan, Shaheen

    New Jersey: Booker, Menendez

    New Mexico: Lujan

    New York: Gillibrand

    Ohio: Brown

    Oregon: Merkley, Wyden

    Pennsylvania: Casey

    Rhode Island: Reed, Whitehouse

    Vermont: Sanders

    Virginia: Kaine, Warner

    Washington: Cantwell

    West Virginia: Manchin

    Wisconsin: Baldwin

     


     

    Here’s the text of the Senate Peace Corps funding letter.

    Read it below — or download the PDF.


    May 17, 2022

    The Honorable Chris Coons, Chairman
    Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations
    Washington, D.C. 20510

    The Honorable Lindsey Graham, Ranking Member
    Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations
    Washington, D.C. 20510

     

    Dear Chairman Coons and Ranking Member Graham,

    Strong and consistent bipartisan support has built the Peace Corps into the international face of American volunteerism. Continuing that tradition, we request that you support the Fiscal Year 2023 President’s Budget Request of at least $430.5 million for the Peace Corps.

    The requested amount represents less than a five percent increase over flat funding of approximately $410.5 million for the past seven years. This funding will be critical as the Peace Corps resumes operations, improves volunteer security, engages in global health efforts, and broadens outreach to attract new talent.

    The United States gains immeasurably from the Peace Corps’ mission of international volunteer service. Since the Peace Corps’ inception 61 years ago, more than 241,000 Americans have served in 143 countries and provided more than three billion hours of service to our nation and the world. These ambassadors of goodwill set the conditions for prosperity, self-reliance, and stability in postings around the globe.

    The Peace Corps suspended global operations during the pandemic and evacuated nearly 7,000 volunteers from more than 60 countries. Today, every government that had volunteer programs at the time of the evacuation has asked for volunteers to return.

    The Peace Corps represents a cost-effective way to promote the United States abroad while providing tangible benefit for host communities. It supports the U.S.’s humanitarian mission and shapes the diplomatic and security environment. Peace Corps service also offers international experience to American volunteers, many of whom will become leaders here at home.

    Thank you for considering our request and your enduring support for the Peace Corps.

    Sincerely,

    [Signatures of Senators]

     

     

    Story updated May 18, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern


    Jonathan Pearson is Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. Write him at advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org.

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    Volunteers have begun to return to service. Yet millions in Ukraine are now in harm’s way. see more

    Volunteers have begun to return to service. Yet millions in Ukraine are now in harm’s way.

     

    By Glenn Blumhorst

     

    This is a hopeful time for the Peace Corps: On March 14, a group of Volunteers arrived in Lusaka, Zambia. Just over a week later, on March 23, Volunteers arrived in the Dominican Republic. They are the first to return to service overseas since March 2020, when Volunteers were evacuated from around the globe because of COVID-19. The contributions of Volunteers serving in Zambia will include partnering with communities to focus on food security and education, along with partnering on efforts to disseminate COVID-19 mitigation information and promote access to vaccinations.

    We’re thankful for the Volunteers who are helping lead the way, with the support of the Peace Corps community. And we’re deeply grateful for the work that Peace Corps Zambia staff have continued to do during the pandemic — work emblematic of the commitment Peace Corps staff around the world have shown during this unprecedented time.

     

    Returning to Zambia: Two years after all Peace Corps Volunteers were evacuated from around the world because of COVID-19, in March the first cohort returned to begin service overseas. Photo courtesy U.S. Embassy Lusaka 

     

    Invitations are out for Volunteers to return to some 30 countries in 2022. Among those who will be serving are Volunteers who were evacuated in 2020, trainees who never had the chance to serve, and new Volunteers. Crucially, they are all returning as part of an agency that has listened to — and acted on — ideas and recommendations from the Peace Corps community for how to ensure that we’re shaping a Peace Corps that better meets the needs of a changed world. Those recommendations came out of conversations that National Peace Corps Association convened and drew together in the community-driven report “Peace Corps Connect to the Future.” We’re seeing big steps in the Peace Corps being more intentional in fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion; working with a deeper awareness of what makes for ethical storytelling; and better ensuring Volunteer safety and security.

     

    Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, NPCA has shared information and links to other ways you can help. One of the most important: Do not turn away.

     

    At the same time, while we are buoyed by the fact that Volunteers are returning to work around the world building the person-to-person relationships in communities where they serve, we must not diminish the scale of the tragedy we are witnessing in Ukraine. More than 10 million people have fled their homes in the face of an invasion and war  they did not provoke and did not want. Across this country and in Europe, thousands of returned Volunteers are working to help Ukrainians in harm’s way.

    Thank you to all of you who are doing what you can in this moment of crisis: from the Friends of Moldova working to provide food, shelter, and transportation to refugees — to the RPCV Alliance for Ukraine putting together first-aid kits, leading advocacy efforts to support Ukraine, and so much more. Since the beginning of the war, NPCA has shared information and links to other ways you can help. One of the most important: Do not turn away.

     

    Donate to the Friends of Moldova Ukraine Refugee Effort.

     

    At a time like this it’s important to underscore a truth we know: The mission of building peace and friendship is the work of a lifetime.

    That’s a message we need to drive home to Congress right now. With your support, let’s get Congress to pass the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act this year. It’s the most sweeping Peace Corps legislation in 20 years. Along with instituting further necessary reforms, it will ensure that as Volunteers return to the field it is with the support of a better and stronger Peace Corps.

     

     

    President Biden will formally nominate Carol Spahn to lead the Peace Corps at a critical time. 

    It is becoming increasingly clear that we are entering a new era — one that desperately needs those committed to Peace Corps ideals. With that in mind, I am heartened by the news we received in early April that President Biden intends to nominate Carol Spahn to serve as the 21st Director of the Peace Corps. A returned Volunteer herself (Romania 1994–96), she began serving as acting director in January 2021 and has led the agency for the past 14 months, one of the most challenging periods in Peace Corps history.

    We have been honored to work with Carol and her strong leadership team over the past year on collaborative efforts to navigate this difficult period of planning for the Peace Corps’ new future. We have full confidence in her commitment to return Volunteers to the field in a responsible manner and offer the next generation of Volunteers a better, stronger Peace Corps ready to meet the global challenges we confront. The continuity of this work is key. We are calling on the Senate to swiftly bring forth this nomination for consideration and bipartisan confirmation.


    Glenn Blumhorst is president and CEO of National Peace Corps Association. He served as a Volunteer in Guatemala 1988–91. Write him: president@peacecorpsconnect.org

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    And in October, the first Volunteers are expected to arrive in Viet Nam. see more

    Hundreds of Volunteers are now serving alongside communities across the globe. And later this month, the first group of Volunteers ever is expected to arrive in Viet Nam.

     

    By Dan Baker

    Image courtesy Peace Corps

     

    Peace Corps Volunteers are returning to serve alongside communities throughout the world. Hundreds of Volunteers have returned to more than 40 countries around the globe, with more returning in the weeks ahead. In the past couple weeks alone, in South America, Volunteers have returned to serve alongside communities in Guyana. They have arrived in South Africa. And they have returned to Mongolia

    These Volunteers’ work with local partners includes education to advance literacy, collaboration on community development, and efforts to nurture environmental stewardship and foster health and family-life education in local communities. Many are new Volunteers — and some, like Daniel Lindbergh Lang, waited two and a half years to return (in his case, to Mongolia) after being brought back to the U.S. because of COVID-19.

    In the most recent edition of WorldView magazine, we shared news of where Volunteers had returned. Here we’re delighted to share with you a full update showing where Volunteers have returnedand where they have been invited to return.

     

    Map courtesy Peace Corps. Additional editing by Orrin Luc

     

    We’re grateful for all of those in the Peace Corps community who have bolstered NPCA’s efforts to support evacuated Volunteers over the past two years. Working with NPCA, this community also helped lay the groundwork for new agency policies and legislation that will ensure a better, stronger, and more inclusive Peace Corps. You’ve raised your voices and provided critical financial support. 

    If you tuned in to our Annual General Membership Meeting last month, you heard some news that we’ve been eagerly awaiting for years: In October, the first cohort of Volunteers is expected to arrive in Viet Nam!

    Peace Corps CEO Carol Spahn reiterated that point at a recent meeting with returned Volunteers who work in the federal government. You can watch that conversation here. It includes the update on the countries where Volunteers have returned — and where invitations are out for them to serve once more.

    In front of us now is the important task of ensuring that the U.S. Senate passes the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act — to bring home important reforms and better support for Volunteers. With Volunteers returning to service, it’s also important that Carol Spahn is confirmed as Peace Corps Director. To fuel these efforts, I hope you’ll join NPCA as a Mission Partner if you haven’t already. And, if you can, make a gift to ensure that we carry forward our work for a new generation of Volunteers.

     

    Welcoming the first Volunteers to return to South Africa in two years. Photo courtesy Peace Corps South Africa

     

    Where Volunteers Have Returned: Posts with Volunteers or Trainees

    (As of October 21, 2022)

    Albania & Montenegro (Peace Corps post includes both countries)

    Belize

    Benin

    Botswana

    Cambodia

    Colombia

    Costa Rica

    Dominican Republic

    Eastern Caribbean (Peace Corps post includes four countries: Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, and Grenada)

    Ecuador

    Eswatini

    Ghana

    Guatemala

    Guinea

    Guyana

    Jamaica

    Kenya

    Kosovo

    Kyrgyz Republic

    Lesotho

    Madagascar

    Mexico

    Mongolia

    Morocco

    Namibia

    North Macedonia

    Panama

    Paraguay

    Peru

    Rwanda

    Senegal

    Sierra Leone

    South Africa

    Tanzania

    The Gambia

    Togo

    Uganda

    Zambia


    Where Volunteers Have Been Invited to Serve 

    (as of October 21, 2022)

    Armenia

    Cameroon

    Fiji

    Georgia

    Indonesia

    Liberia

    Malawi

    Nepal

    The Philippines

    Samoa

    Thailand

    Timor-Leste

    Viet Nam

     


    DAN BAKER is Interim President & CEO of National Peace Corps Association. He served as a Volunteer in Bolivia (1999–2002) and Timor Leste (2002–03), and has served on Peace Corps staff in Washington, D.C., Costa Rica, and Ethiopia. Write him at  president@peacecorpsconnect.org.
     

  • Communications Intern 2 posted an article
    At last, some good news for the Peace Corps community on Public Service Loan Forgiveness see more

    At last, some good news for the Peace Corps community on Public Service Loan Forgiveness

     

    By Katie McSheffrey

     

    Last October, the U.S. Department of Education announced an overhaul of the troubled Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). But that initial overhaul did not include proposals to help Peace Corps Volunteers. National Peace Corps Association has covered this problem in podcasts and in WorldView magazine. Months later, those of us who have been leading the RPCVs for PSLF Relief Facebook group have some good news.

    First, a bit more background. What the Secretary of Education announced in October 2021 was a limited time waiver, through which borrowers may receive credit for past periods of repayment that would not otherwise qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. This waiver expires October 31, 2022. But this waiver did not help the majority of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, whose loans were in economic hardship deferment status during their Peace Corps service. After months, advocacy efforts to fix the problem have now paid off. 

    On April 19, 2022, the Department of Education announced a one-time addendum to the limited time waiver for borrowers under income-driven repayment plans, including those who are pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Included in the addendum is a clarifying point that will greatly benefit many Returned Peace Corps Volunteers: “Months spent in deferment before 2013 will count under the waiver. Additionally, ED will include Economic Hardship Deferment on or after January 1, 2013. These periods of deferment will also be applied to your account in fall 2022.”

    Unfortunately, periods of in-school deferment still do not count. That may affect Volunteers who participated in the Master’s International Program.

    One important deadline to note: This limited time waiver will end on October 31, 2022. To take advantage of the waiver, borrowers must take steps as outlined on the Department of Education website to sign up for Public Service Loan Forgiveness prior to that date.

     

     

    Working on a Permanent Fix

    While this is positive news for returned Volunteers to be included in the time-limited waiver, NPCA and the RPCVs for PSLF Relief group are still working to advocate for permanent, retroactive change to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to ensure all returned Volunteers qualify. We and NPCA will keep the community up-to-date on the latest changes to the PSLF program as the Department of Education continues to update guidance for borrowers.

    On July 6, 2022, the Department of Education proposed new guidelines to expand and improve targeted relief programs for student loans. These would be very beneficial to the Peace Corps community, and we would encourage advocacy work to ensure these new regulations are implemented.

    For those with student loans, here’s something else important to keep in mind: The PSLF Program forgives the remaining balance on direct loans after a borrower has made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer. Borrowers do not need to have their full 120 payments by the waiver deadline, but they do need to be signed up for the program so the Department of Education can verify Peace Corps service records.

    Illustration by Roman Bailey

     

    Legislation Introduced

    New legislation proposes another permanent solution. On June 1, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the Simplifying and Strengthening PSLF Act, to streamline and improve the troubled federal program to help Americans pursuing careers in public service—including firefighters, teachers, Peace Corps Volunteers, police officers, and those working for nonprofits—have their student loan debt forgiven. An identical version of the bill was introduced by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) in the House Education and Labor Committee on July 12. 

    Crucially, the Senate version of the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (see more on that here) also ensures that Volunteers will receive credit for their Peace Corps service in the PSLF program as well as any other loan forgiveness program. 

     

     

    Presidential Action on Loan Forgiveness

    In an announcement that has made headlines, President Biden on August 24  announced plans to forgive student loans for recipients of Pell Grants (up to $20,000) and other federal student loans (up to $10,000) for recipients earning less than $125,000 a year. These actions are separate from ongoing work to provide PSLF relief and other efforts to support Volunteers.

     

     

    Do you have a student loan story?

    Share it with President Biden and your members of Congress through the NPCA Action Center: bit.ly/npca-action-center

     

     

    This story appears in the Spring-Summer 2022 edition of WorldView magazine. Story updated August 28, 2022 at 1 p.m.


    Katie McSheffrey served as a Volunteer in Azerbaijan 2009–11. She is currently the chief of staff in the Office of Human Capital for the Department of the Interior. She previously served as government affairs officer and public service engagement lead with the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service and with Peace Corps Headquarters.

  • Communications Intern 2 posted an article
    Bipartisanship is a ‘state of being,’ said Senator Johnny Isakson. see more

    Bipartisanship is “a state of being,” said Johnny Isakson 

     

    By Catherine Gardner

     

    Photo courtesy office of Johnny Isakson

     

    “The dedicated men and women of the U.S. Peace Corps work hard to help communities and foster goodwill around the world,” U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson said in 2018. The occasion was important but not exactly celebratory: Isakson was co-sponsoring introduction of the Nick Castle Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act — bipartisan legislation named in honor of a Volunteer from Brentwood, California, who lost his life at age 23 due to inadequate health care while serving in China in 2013.

    Isakson, a Republican from Georgia first elected to the Senate in 2004, had long been a champion for Volunteers. He served as a sponsor for the 2011 Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act, named in honor of a Volunteer who was murdered in Benin; the law instituted reforms that included a comprehensive sexual assault policy with risk-reduction and response training. Isakson’s support of the Peace Corps extended to advocating for robust funding for the agency and serving as Republican lead on the annual Peace Corps funding “Dear Colleague” letter. For his advocacy on behalf of the Peace Corps community, in 2013 National Peace Corps Association presented him with the Peace Corps Congressional Leadership Award.

    As a legislator, Isakson earned a reputation for promoting civility and honesty in the realm of politics. He called bipartisanship “a state of being.” He was a strong force on the education committee, advocating for President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind legislation. 

    He arrived in Washington having served in the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate. He was appointed to the U.S. House of Representatives to fill Newt Gingrich’s seat after Gingrich stepped down. He had served in the Georgia Air National Guard before beginning work for Northside Realty, where he climbed the ranks until he became president of the company and served in that capacity for over 20 years. 

    Several years ago he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease but continued to serve in the Senate. He resigned in 2019, during his third term, citing health concerns. He was born in 1944 and died in December 2021 at age 76. 

     

    This remembrance appears in the Spring-Summer edition of WorldView magazine.

     


    Catherine Gardner is an intern with WorldView. She is a student at Lafayette College.

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    NPCA wholeheartedly supports the nomination of Carol Spahn. see more

    Today National Peace Corps Association sent a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee supporting Carol Spahn’s nomination to serve as the 21st Director of the Peace Corps. Here’s what we said. And here’s how you can help ensure a better and stronger Peace Corps for the future.

     

    By Jonathan Pearson

    Photo courtesy Peace Corps

     

    In April President Biden officially nominated Carol Spahn to serve as Director of the Peace Corps. She began serving as acting director in January 2021 and has led the agency through one of the most challenging periods in Peace Corps history. In the weeks ahead, Spahn is expected to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for a confirmation hearing. While we’re waiting for the date of the hearing to be announced, NPCA sent a letter to the committee supporting Spahn’s nomination.

     

    “NPCA has been honored to work with CEO Spahn and her strong leadership team during the past 18 months,” we write. “We have full confidence in her commitment to the continued redeployment of Volunteers to the field in a responsible manner, and are confident that the next generation of Volunteers will experience a better, stronger Peace Corps prepared to meet new global challenges.”

     

    “NPCA has been honored to work with CEO Spahn and her strong leadership team during the past 18 months,” we write. “We have full confidence in her commitment to the continued redeployment of Volunteers to the field in a responsible manner, and are confident that the next generation of Volunteers will experience a better, stronger Peace Corps prepared to meet new global challenges.” 

    Read NPCA’s letter below. Then, write to your Senators and ask them to confirm Carol Spahn to lead the Peace Corps.

     


    June 23, 2022

     

    The Honorable Robert Menendez (D-NJ) 
    Chairman

    Senate Foreign Relations Committee

    423 Dirksen Senate Office Building

    Washington, D.C. 20510-6225

     

    The Honorable James Risch (R-ID)
    Ranking Member

    Senate Foreign Relations Committee

    423 Dirksen Senate Office Building

    Washington, D.C. 20510-6225

     

    Dear Chairman Menendez and Ranking Member Risch,

    We write to express National Peace Corps Association’s (NPCA) wholehearted support of the nomination of Carol Spahn to become the twenty-first Director of the Peace Corps. We urge the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to move swiftly to support this nomination and work for full Senate confirmation of Chief Executive Officer Spahn as soon as possible.

    NPCA has been honored to work with CEO Spahn and her strong leadership team during the past 18 months. This has been an incredibly challenging time of planning for the Peace Corps’ future in the face of a global pandemic. During this time, we have been deeply impressed by CEO Spahn’s leadership and collaboration with the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) community. We have full confidence in her commitment to the continued redeployment of Volunteers to the field (which began this past March) in a responsible manner. We are confident that her leadership, coupled with passage of significant Peace Corps reauthorization legislation before Congress, will ensure that the next generation of Volunteers will experience a better, stronger Peace Corps prepared to meet new global challenges.

    Because of her leadership during arguably the most difficult period in the Peace Corps’ history, we believe President Biden was wise in putting forth this nomination. While our nation — and particularly the world — are not fully free of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is hope that the number of Peace Corps Volunteers returning to service will steadily grow through 2022 and 2023.

    As CEO Spahn noted last fall during a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), the work of these redeployed volunteers will include addressing the pandemic. “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.”

    CEO Spahn has also demonstrated robust leadership on key policy and management issues that are as necessary as they are challenging. Her request last fall to the Sexual Assault Advisory Council to review and update recommendations of the past five years, the public posting of that report, and her outreach to the Peace Corps community to share its concerns and proposals proves her strong commitment to the issue. It is this type of transparency, which she is guiding, that will help support survivors and lower the risks of sexual violence.

    Similarly, the Peace Corps is receiving praise for its efforts to advance intercultural competence, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility within its ranks. During that same HFAC hearing, Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks praised recent agency work in this regard, saying “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”.

    The issues outlined above and many more critical to the Peace Corps community were included in NPCA’s Peace Corps Connect to the Future report (November 2020), which reflected a series of community conversations and town hall meetings with more than 1,000 RPCVs about the future of the Peace Corps. We have been very pleased with the way CEO Spahn has embraced the report and its recommendations, many of which have been implemented over the past year.

    Lastly, as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Romania 1994–96), former Country Director, and Chief of Operations for Peace Corps’ Southern and Eastern Africa region, we at NPCA believe that Carol Spahn possesses the background, dedication, and proven track record to move the Peace Corps forward. We respectfully request that your committee move her nomination swiftly to the full Senate for its consideration and ultimate confirmation.

     

    Sincerely,

    Kim Herman
    Interim President & CEO
    National Peace Corps Association

     

    Jed Meline
    Interim Chair – Board of Directors
    National Peace Corps Association
                                                           

     


    MORE: Read the letter as a PDF here. 

     

    Write Your Senators to Support the Nomination

     

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

  • 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
    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
  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Take action to urge an increase in Peace Corps funding! see more

    As Congress begins to turn its attention to Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations bills, is the Peace Corps poised for a funding increase?

     

    By Jonathan Pearson

     

    There’s a long way to go in the annual appropriations process. But the possibility of a meaningful Peace Corps funding increase — which would be its first in six years — got a boost recently through the annual Senate Peace Corps funding letter.

    Led by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D–CA) and Susan Collins (R–ME), the letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee for State/Foreign Operations requests “appropriate robust funding in Fiscal Year 2022 of at least $430 million.”  Here’s a release with more about the letter. And here’s the full text of the letter itself.

    Earlier this year, 156 members of the House of Representatives signed a similar letter, requesting $450 million for Peace Corps in the fiscal year that begins October 1, 2021. However, earlier this month, President Biden requested continued flat funding for the Peace Corps — which would not provide the kind of robust support needed as Peace Corps prepares to return Volunteers to the field and enact needed reforms. 

     

    Take Action: Contact members of the Senate and the House

    We urge you to write to your members of Congress and ask them to provide the Peace Corps with a long overdue raise in Fiscal Year 2022. It is especially important to write to lawmakers who serve on the Senate/House Appropriations Committees.

     

    Who Signed the Senate Letter?

    Here's the state-by-state list of signers of this year’s Senate letter:

    Arizona: Sinema

    California: Feinstein, Padilla

    Colorado: Bennet

    Connecticut: Blumenthal, Murphy

    Delaware: Carper

    Georgia: Warnock

    Hawaii: Hirono, Schatz

    Illinois: Duckworth, Durbin

    Maine: Collins, King

    Maryland: Cardin, Van Hollen

    Massachusetts: Markey, Warren

    Michigan: Stabenow

    Minnesota: Klobuchar, Smith

    Nevada: Rosen

    New Hampshire: Hassan, Shaheen

    New Jersey: Booker, Menendez

    New Mexico: Heinrich, Lujan

    New York: Gillibrand

    Oregon: Merkley, Wyden

    Rhode Island: Reed, Whitehouse

    Vermont: Sanders

    Virginia: Kaine, Warner

    Washington: Cantwell

    West Virginia: Manchin

    Wisconsin: Baldwin

     


    Jonathan Pearson is the Director of Advocacy for National Peace Corps Association. Contact advocacy@peacecorpsconnect.org to find out how you can help.

  • Communications Intern posted an article
    Peace Corps Commemorative continues to pay tribute to the Peace Corps legacy. see more

    A concluding moment to the service of Joe Kennedy III in the House: legislation to enable work on the Peace Corps Commemorative to carry forward

    By Jonathan Pearson and Steven Boyd Saum

    Illustration by Edward Rooks

     

    Joseph Kennedy III served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. After he was elected to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012, one of the first pieces of legislation he introduced and passed focused on Peace Corps: It provided congressional authorization for the creation of a Peace Corps Commemorative in Washington, D.C.

    In September 2020 the design was unanimously approved by the Commission on Fine Arts. But authorization for completing the project was set to expire before ground would be broken. On December 17, 2020, in the closing days of Kennedy’s tenure in the House, he and others secured passage of a time extension that will allow work on the commemorative to continue. Colleague Rob Wittman (R-VA) noted that it is fitting for the legislation to be sponsored by President Kennedy’s grandnephew.

     

    Photo by Drew Altizer Photography. Rendering courtesy Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation

     

    And Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) said the commemorative will serve as a “lasting tribute to the legacy of the Peace Corps.”

    Late on December 20, the Senate unanimously approved the legislation. Sponsors Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) issued a release paying tribute to Volunteers. “For more than 50 years, the Peace Corps has served as a powerful vehicle for Volunteers who wish to use their talents to carry America’s humanitarian values to other parts of the world,” said Portman. “We can ensure the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation can finish this important project and honor those Americans who have donated their time and talent to serving others.”

    President Trump signed the bill into law on January 5.

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    Your voice can prevent a $51 million cut to Peace Corps funding see more

    As Peace Corps prepares to redeploy Volunteers in early 2021, the work for Peace Corps’ future begins in earnest. And right now we need to make sure there’s funding for the towering task ahead.

    By Jonathan Pearson 

     

    Congress is working toward a December 11, 2020 deadline to agree on a Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 spending bill. And they have a $51 million Peace Corps funding difference to resolve.

    Earlier this year, the House of Representatives approved an FY 2021 appropriations bill that includes level funding of $410.5 million for Peace Corps. But the Senate Appropriations Committee has put forth a spending bill that proposes cutting Peace Corps funding by $51 million — down to $359.5 million.

     

    Take Action

    Urge your Senator & Representative to Support Peace Corps Funding

     

    Six Reasons to Support Level Peace Corps Funding 

    Maybe you’ve heard rumblings along these lines: “Why should we provide the same funding to Peace Corps when there are no Volunteers in the field?” 

    Here are six reasons for starters:
     

    1. Redeployment Opportunities: Peace Corps plans to begin redeploying Volunteers in January 2021 in Cambodia and Saint Lucia. Further announcements could be coming soon. All 60 countries where Volunteers were serving prior to the pandemic have expressed interest in having Volunteers return. And, with positive news emerging about vaccines and other health protections, the prospects for significant redeployment in FY 2021 are on the rise.
       
    2. Flat Funding For Years: Fiscal Year 2021 would mark the sixth consecutive year in which Congress has not provided a funding increase to Peace Corps. This flat funding has limited opportunities and forced the agency to scale back some programming. During this period, adjusting for inflation, Peace Corps’ effective purchasing power has been reduced by up to $40 million.
       
    3. Health and Safety: The health, safety, and security of Volunteers is regularly cited as Peace Corps’ top priority. Rigthly so, it’s a critical concern when it comes to Congressional oversight. Redeploying Volunteers in a world living with COVID will come with additional costs. We owe it to the Volunteers and the communities where they serve to make sure that these heightened needs are met.
       
    4. Moment for Greatness: The current pause in Peace Corps service presents a unique moment to re-imagine, reshape, and retool Peace Corps for a changed world. NPCA has just released a community-driven report, “Peace Corps Connect to the Future,” that lists dozens of recommendations to reform and improve the Peace Corps. Implementing some of these recommendations requires new investment; and other longstanding reforms that have been called for have not been implemented because of funding. Now is the time to for bold change so that Peace Corps can meet the challenges of our new age. And, as we prepare to mark the 60th anniversary of Peace Corps in 2021, we can recommit to a Peace Corps whose impact in the years ahead will be even broader and more profound. 
       
    5. Opportunity for All: Among the critical recommendations in the ”Peace Corps Connect to the Future“ report is a call to break down racial and economic barriers to serving in the Peace Corps. Service as Volunteers should be accessible and welcoming for all qualified individuals who wish to serve their country. Building and sustaining this effort will require an ongoing commitment — and financial resources to make good on the promise.
       
    6. Serve, Serve, Serve! At home and abroad, we recognize the need for people and communities to come together in the spirit of serving together in solidarity. When it comes to Peace Corps Volunteers overseas — and investing the skills and valuable experience of returned Volunteers here at home — this is a time to build. There is bipartisan support for expanding service by Americans. Peace Corps can and should lead the way.