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U.S. Senate

  • 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.

     

  • Jonathan Pearson posted an article
    216 members of Congress signed Peace Corps funding letters in 2018. A new record high. see more

    Led by Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the annual Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter secured the signatures of 36 Senators!

    When coupled with the 180 signatures on a similar letter in the House of Representatives, the combined 216 members of Congress who signed Peace Corps funding letters in 2018 represents a new record high!

    As noted in the Senate letter, which requests robust funding for the Peace Corps in the upcoming 2019 fiscal year, "The Peace Corps' return on investment is profound. Host country nationals served by a volunteer are better equipped to meet challenges in the long run, helping to achieve healthier, more stable communities and prevent conflict. The Peace Corps is often one of the most transformative experiences in a volunteer's life, and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers continue their call to service by becoming leaders in their communities."  

    Read the final Senate letter here!

    Our thanks to the thousands of Peace Corps supporters, who reached out to their members of Congress in support of these critical funding letters. We would not be successful without your support!

     

    Say Thank You!

    Thirty-six Senators (below) signed the Peace Corps funding letter and should be thanked!

    California: Feinstein (co-author), Harris

    Colorado: Bennet

    Connecticut: Blumenthal, Murphy

    Delaware: Carper, Coons

    Florida: Nelson

    Georgia: Isakson (co-author)

    Hawaii: Hirono, Schatz

    Illinois: Duckworth

    Maine: Collins, King

    Maryland: Cardin, Van Hollen

    Massachusetts: Markey, Warren

    Michigan: Peters, Stabenow

    Minnesota: Klobuchar, Smith

    New Hampshire: Hassan, Shaheen

    New Jersey: Menendez

    New Mexico: Heinrich

    Ohio: Brown

    Oregon: Merkley, Wyden

    Rhode Island: Reed, Whitehouse

    Vermont: Sanders

    Virginia: Kaine

    Washington: Cantwell

    West Virginia: Manchin

    Wisconsin: Baldwin