Foreign Affairs Senate Committee approves Peace Corps Reauthrization Act of 2022

 

JULY 19, 2022

MENENDEZ, RISCH, COLLEAGUES CELEBRATE SFRC APPROVAL OF PEACE CORPS REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2022

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 releasing the below statements following the Committee’s passage of their legislation to reauthorize the Peace Corps for the first time in over 20 years. Authorizing the appropriation of more than $410,000,000 per year, the bipartisan Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2022 will extend Peace Corps 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.

“Today’s Committee approval of our bipartisan Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2022 is a momentous victory for those of us who appreciate the crucial role that the Peace Corps plays in U.S. public diplomacy,” Chairman Menendez said. “As Volunteers return to service after being forced to evacuate due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 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. 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. I am glad to be joined by my colleagues in expressing our gratitude for the countless Volunteers dedicating themselves to fostering peace, cultural exchange, and friendship worldwide and I look forward to building upon this momentum to secure our legislation’s final passage on the Senate Floor.

“Today’s committee passage of the 2022 Peace Corps Reauthorization Act brings us one step closer to enacting long-overdue reforms that will improve the safety and security of our Peace Corps volunteers,” said Ranking Member Risch. “This legislation will reauthorize the Sexual Assault Advisory Council, mandate security briefings, improve whistleblower protections, and add a new authority to suspend Peace Corps volunteers without pay in the event of misbehavior. I look forward to the full Senate taking up this legislation soon.”

“There are more Peace Corps volunteers per capita in the Suburban Maryland/Washington DC area than any other major metropolitan area, and I am proud to co-sponsor this bill that improves the working conditions of these dedicated volunteers,” said Senator Cardin. “Now the Senate must approve the pending nomination of Carol Spahn to be Director of the Peace Corps, ensuring that the leadership is in place to implement this legislation swiftly and appropriately.”

“Our Peace Corps volunteers represent American values and serve communities throughout the world in exemplary fashion. I’m glad our bill is one step closer to helping our volunteers get back in the field after the COVID pandemic in a safe and responsible manner,” said Senator Young.

“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 this bipartisan legislation has been voted favorably out of committee and I hope that it can come to the Senate Floor quickly for a vote.”

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. 

Representatives John Garamendi (CA-3) and Garret Graves (LA-6) introduced H.R. 1456, to amend the Peace Corps Act to reauthorize the Peace Corps, better support current and returned volunteers, and for other purposes.

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  • Congratulationns to Director Spahn and all the others at Peace Corps, in Congress, congressional staff and the NPCA—that made this happen

  • When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d (first 6 parts) By Walt Whitman (on Lincoln)

    1.

    WHEN lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d,
    And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
    I mourn’d—and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

    O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring;
    Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west, 5
    And thought of him I love.

    2

    O powerful, western, fallen star!
    O shades of night! O moody, tearful night!
    O great star disappear’d! O the black murk that hides the star!
    O cruel hands that hold me powerless! O helpless soul of me! 10
    O harsh surrounding cloud, that will not free my soul!

    3

    In the door-yard fronting an old farm-house, near the white-wash’d palings,
    Stands the lilac bush, tall-growing, with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
    With many a pointed blossom, rising, delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
    With every leaf a miracle……and from this bush in the door-yard, 15
    With delicate-color’d blossoms, and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
    A sprig, with its flower, I break.

    4

    In the swamp, in secluded recesses,
    A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song.

    Solitary, the thrush, 20
    The hermit, withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements,
    Sings by himself a song.

    Song of the bleeding throat!
    Death’s outlet song of life—(for well, dear brother, I know
    If thou wast not gifted to sing, thou would’st surely die.) 25

    5

    Over the breast of the spring, the land, amid cities,
    Amid lanes, and through old woods, (where lately the violets peep’d from the ground, spotting the gray debris;)
    Amid the grass in the fields each side of the lanes—passing the endless grass;
    Passing the yellow-spear’d wheat, every grain from its shroud in the dark-brown fields uprising;
    Passing the apple-tree blows of white and pink in the orchards; 30
    Carrying a corpse to where it shall rest in the grave,
    Night and day journeys a coffin.

    6

    Coffin that passes through lanes and streets,
    Through day and night, with the great cloud darkening the land,
    With the pomp of the inloop’d flags, with the cities draped in black, 35
    With the show of the States themselves, as of crape-veil’d women, standing,
    With processions long and winding, and the flambeaus of the night,
    With the countless torches lit—with the silent sea of faces, and the unbared heads,
    With the waiting depot, the arriving coffin, and the sombre faces,
    With dirges through the night, with the thousand voices rising strong and solemn; 40
    With all the mournful voices of the dirges, pour’d around the coffin,
    The dim-lit churches and the shuddering organs—Where amid these you journey,
    With the tolling, tolling bells’ perpetual clang;
    Here! coffin that slowly passes,
    I give you my sprig of lilac. Walt Whitman

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