Congressman John Garamendi introduces Peace Corps Reauthorization Act
WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA), returned Peace Corps volunteer (Ethiopia 1966-1968) and co-chair of the Congressional Peace Corps Caucus, reintroduced the “Peace Corps Reauthorization Act.” The reintroduction coincides with the 60th anniversary of the Peace Corps’ founding by President John F. Kennedy, and the start of National Peace Corps Week.
The bill’s original cosponsors include Representative Garret Graves (R-LA)—co-chair of the Congressional Peace Corps Caucus with Congressman Garamendi—and Representatives Grace Meng (D-NY), Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-AS), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Ed Case (D-HI), and Albio Sires (D-NJ). The bill is endorsed by the National Peace Corps Association and the National Whistleblower Center.
Representative Garamendi (Ethiopia 1966-1968) is a returned Peace Corps volunteer and Representative Aumua Amata was a former Peace Corps staffer (Northern Mariana Islands 1967-1968).
The “Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021” would provide additional federal funding and resources to advance the Peace Corps’ mission around the world and better support current, returning, and former Peace Corps volunteers.
“My wife Patti and I owe so much to our service in the Peace Corps. It inspired a lifetime of public service that began in Ethiopia during the late 1960s and continued into state government in California, the Clinton Administration, and now the U.S. Congress,” said Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA), co-chair of the Congressional Peace Corps Caucus. “Now more than ever, Congress must support the Peace Corps’ mission and realize President Kennedy’s vision of generations of young Americans ready to serve their nation and make the world a better place.
“Our reauthorization bill does exactly that, and provides much-needed resources to Corps volunteers,” Garamendi continued. “This bipartisan legislation would also provide the resources necessary for the redeployment of Peace Corps volunteers once it is safe to do so after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, with the goal of reaching 10,000 volunteers serving annually around the world.”
The “Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021”:
- Authorizes $600 million in annual funding by fiscal year 2025 for the Peace Corps to support the goal of deploying 10,0000 volunteers worldwide, once safe and prudent to do so following the subsidence of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an increase over the flat $410 million funding level provided by Congress in recent years.
- Expedites re-enrollment of volunteers whose service ended involuntarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic and allows volunteers to resume in-country service, once safe and prudent to do so.
- Directs the Peace Corps to provide benefits (readjustment allowance, health insurance, noncompetitive eligibility status for federal hiring) to volunteers whose service ended involuntarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Guarantees 3 months of health insurance coverage for returned volunteers paid by the Peace Corps, with the option to renew for additional 3 months at individual expense. Currently, the Peace Corps only offers automatic enrollment for 2 months of paid health insurance coverage, with the option to renew for another month at individual expense.
- Requires the Peace Corps to outline various public and private health insurance coverage options to returned volunteers, including for returned volunteers under the age of 25 with coverage on their parent’s health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
- Includes the “Menstrual Equity in the Peace Corps Act” sponsored by Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) since 2020.
- Extends whistleblower and anti-retaliatory protections that currently apply to Peace Corps contractors to Peace Corps volunteers, including protections against reprisals by any Peace Corps employee, volunteer supervisor, or outside contractor.
- Includes the “Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act” sponsored by Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ) since 2013.
- Extends Peace Corps volunteers’ 12-month hiring preference for most federal job openings during any federal hiring freeze, government shutdown, public health emergency (such as COVID-19 pandemic), or while a volunteer receives federal worker’s compensation benefits for any injury during their Peace Corps service.
- Directs the Peace Corps and U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security to update plans and protocols for Peace Corps volunteer security support and protection in foreign countries.
- Increases the federal workers’ compensation rate for all Peace Corps volunteers injured or disabled during their service from a GS-7 to a GS-11 level, the same rate provided for Peace Corps volunteers with dependent children under current law.
Congressman Garamendi’s bipartisan bill builds upon the Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018(Public Law 115-256) and the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 (Public Law 112-57). The bill also builds upon legislation sponsored by former Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA), who served in the Peace Corps in Colombia from 1964-1966.
Congress last reauthorized the Peace Corps in 1999 (Public Law 106-30), which expired at the end of fiscal year 2003. Congressman Garamendi’s “Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021” currently awaits action by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The bill text of the “Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021” is available here.
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It’s about time that the increase in GS level is increased for those who come home sick and injured but please issue language that grandfathers those in who already are living on that low level.
The whistle blower protection is critical, as is oversight of the use of anti-malarials. I still feel that an external oversight of the healthcare of Peace Corps Volunteers is needed.
Nancy, When I saw the change in federal employee compensation rate from that of GS7 to GS!!, I immedialely thought of you and how long you and your team had been fighting for this. You have done good work. It may not yet be totally completed, but thank you for all your hard work.
Coinciding with Rep. Garamendi’s (currently the only RPCV in Congress) reintroduced act, and at this time of our 60th anniversary, we do not yet know what the Biden-Harris administration’s intentions are with regard to the Peace Corps. That makes this also a good time to study this article of several years ago by one of our greatest cheerleaders, the late Sen. Harris Wofford, Sargent Shriver’s first Deputy Director. Seems that JFK had visions of a million volunteers a decade worldwide: “This will be serious when there are 100,000 volunteers a year—one million each decade, who serve in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.”