Whatever Happened To The Peace Corps?

Americorps Begins $234M Handout to Community Groups

Published June 07, 2010
Associated Press
WASHINGTON – The government took the first step Monday in expanding the AmeriCorps program, awarding grants to nonprofits and other organizations to put 57,000 AmeriCorps members to work in communities around the country.

The grants, totaling $234 million, are the first to be released under a new law aimed at tripling the national service program by 2017. States and territories will also get an additional $129 million for AmeriCorps slots. Officials expect to have a total of 85,000 people enrolled in the program this year.

AmeriCorps participants mentor children, clean up parks or buildings and weatherize homes for the poor among other activities. Some get a living stipend while they are working for up to a year. Most participants, who are predominantly 18 to 26, get about $11,800.

Teach for America, the program that trains top college students to teach in poor communities, received the largest grant-$11.4 million for 6,621 AmeriCorps members. It’s just one of hundreds of national and local organizations, state service commissions, religious groups and other institutions getting the awards from the federal Corporation for National and Community Service.
 
In April 2009, President Barack Obama signed a law to gradually increase the size of the Clinton-era AmeriCorps to 250,000 enrollees from 75,000. The measure outlines five broad categories where people can direct their service: helping the poor, improving education, encouraging energy efficiency, strengthening access to health care and assisting veterans.

Because of the law’s focus, programs that help veterans were among the newest recipients of AmeriCorps grants. Operation Welcome Home, run by the California Department of Veterans Affairs, will get almost $560,000 for 80 AmeriCorps members who will help returning service members in California with the transition back to civilian life.

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  • It’s hard to figure cost per member/volunteer. These stats throw all of it together, so it might include grants or grants per member/volunteer or additional funding from FEMA(e.g.Corps Network emergency funding take over at CNCS) or Treasury or federal environment, water etc. programs funding directly members, etc. or (e.g. PEPFAR direct funding PCs) or the NGO portion of the member payment or the States portion backed out of the original sustainable funding(like five year budgets), etc.

    Maybe this is the point. Maybe CNCS doesn’t account for what they give out.

    It’s time to put PC under CNCS. They are much better mangers of money. They’re at like the cost of the member is the actual cost less maybe 5% admin. PC is 95% admin at $60,000 per pc per year.

    The PC program can be run for half of what it is or less and there is no reason not to put PC under VISTA or other CNCS/Corps Network groups as they grow and lobby and fund as a ‘PC legacy’ from the ’30s legislation.’

  • Before advocating changes in administration, it’s always a good idea to get the numbers straight, whether that proves difficult or not. Your figures sound very folkloric at best.

  • Peace Corps spends about $60,000 per year per volunteer in the field which is its only “service” delivered. Of that the volunteer gets a stipend of maybe $500 a month, transportation to and from post, medical care and a readjustment allowance. Deducting all these direct payments for each volunteer means that about $50,000, or over 80%, of that $60,000 goes to overhead.

  • To SWV: I am not sure what your background or experience is which prompts your comments. Would you share that? Thank you.

  • As usual, my good friend and fellow Ethiopia/Eritrea PCV, Leo, has his figures wrong. According to my sources, for FY 2010 the Peace Corps appropriation is $400m. Divided by 9000, (the number of PCV’s that will be in the field this FY) the result is $44,444. This provides the PCV with training, living allowance, readjustment allowance, medical care, transportation, technical assistance, on-site support, Getting there and going home, etc., etc

    As for “overhead”, other than “direct” costs associated with Volunteer training, allowances, medical care, etc. the Peace Corps must recruit and process each applicant, provide for future programming, manage and monitor a world-wide operation and bear costs related to being a government agency (overhead) most of which is required by law.

    In terms of actual dollars going to the PCV, the amount varies from country to country – depending upon the cost of living for each the country.

    Compare these numbers with what it costs to maintain a USAID or State Department employee overseas plus post-service costs and you’ll see that Peace Corps is a very good deal! And, the costs for fielding “contractors” for foreign service agencies and programs is not much less than employees except for the lack of post-service costs. We’re talking probably $300k to $400k per employee, depending…

    Finally, the costs per PCV tend to decrease as the numbers of PCVs increase. So, if there’s demand for thousands more PCV’s it makes economic sense to field them.

  • RPCV and expert on the volunteer industry.

    The point is we can’t get the numbers straight and this release solidifies that. Everything mentioned is important. There are resources available on the internet that can research.

    As far as folklore, I learned what I learned in PC. I was in financing. Dividing number of PCs by appropriation is no longer accurate. There are more factors, hence the request for more clarity at CNCS, which is following the PC model for recruit and retain, follow up services, outside agency US government funding, etc. that traditionally fund groups like NPCA and NAS&CC(National Association of Service and Conservation Corps).

    PC costs for safety and security are increasing as we have PCs dying in Morocco from medical errors, PCs murdered by PC staff in country, etc. Why pay for all this admin when it’s a failure and PC is asked to work in areas that traditionally would not be allowed by safety and security? We’re better off following the CNCS model of placing with NGOs. They place 70,000+ a year at small percentage of the cost. Why not place PC under VISTA again, we can still maintain the legislative and funding legacy.

    Computing cost of living as income is usually how PC does a raise and this time it was done as an out of country CoLA, not a raise. This is a nice change, but doesn’t address the raise needed for the value of the employee. The cost is $60,000+. Why not pay the PC this value? Staying poor makes sense to most poor people and we can pay the adjusted income when they get home and keep in country poor. You’ll probably find most PCs staying in country and starting businesses like NGOs after the mandatory trip home.

    The thinking that that admin for a PC is the same as USAID or the military is ridiculous. $60,000+ per PC per year as the budget increases; the number of PCs don’t, can’t be justified. We could hire doctors and nurses for this. We could hire 3 or 4 locals to do what PCs do. PCs can’t be justified at this level. Getting funding from US government programs like PEPFAR to directly pay for PCs is ridiculous. PEPFAR was originally treatment and has tripled into everything like building buildings for admin in country. Maybe PC demanding a piece of the PEPFAR budget had something to do with this.

    We can hire hundreds of locals for this money and they can perform the same jobs the same or better than a PC there for the ‘experience.’ Contractors can handle most of this. We could hire a service to do all this work at half the cost. The PC admin isn’t needed. NGOs do this fine.

    There is no demand for PCs. It is created like Hillary and Obama’s need to open up Indonesia because he went to school there. Like other countries there are promises of USAID funds and loan forgiveness if they take PC. The safety and security issues are passed over for politics, in country funding, Congressional funding and the demand created for PC by orgs like NPCA, politicians and RPCVs.

    Changes in admin should be made. This should be obvious after the Director’s trip to Jordan, all politics and USAID history. Why is this Director different from any other? Could it be his Obama connection, his work at USAID and RPCV jobs at USAID? RPCVs histories at USAID? The Director usually has these problems, but few have gone out seeking them and putting the bill on PC.

    The payments to NGOs for taking on members has changed. There has been more of shift to grants not related to number of members hired. This trend has to stop as CNCS job is to place members and NGOs and States’ jobs are to pay a percentage, something States haven’t been willing to do as the transfer of payments for the member go from federal to State as sustainable. CNCS could take on the PC with their model of placing with NGOs as PC does this already with NGOs and government orgs in country, like States in the US. We need to see the numbers to make sure CNCS isn’t following the PC model of increasing admin for workers payed below minimum wage are valued at this cost and others, but not paid that value by Congressional laws that keep the poor poor.

  • Thank you for the information. Please note: Peace Corps was never under Vista. Both agencies were part of an umbrella organization called ACTION during the 70s. Question: If volunteers were to be sent overseas using the brand “Peace Corps,” but totally a part of NGOs, how would they be protected from being part of “intelligence-gathering?”

  • I know one number: in California it costs $65,000 per year to incraerate someone. Another interesting number would be the number of U.S. troops divided by the total amount appropriated. It must astronomical. This is the same logic you are using. There is such a thing as “support” which is not the same as “overhead.” You’re right: you know what you know.

  • VISTA/ACTION

    Nothing would change. PC already sends PCs to NGOs. Insurance, etc. might change and training might be done in the US like the past, but there would still be a non gathering clause for the service and five years after. It would just be administered under CNCS. CNCS are already following similar patterns with FOIAs as PC that is being handled as in the past. Bringing the PC under CNCS is easy. They do the same jobs.

    Some interesting numbers are how many PCs are under DHHS because they live under poverty? PC was considered a ‘keep them out of trouble’ program like some Corps Network programs funding…’…..young African-American men;Arrest rates drop by one third among all..Pregnancy rates drop among female corps members.’ http://bit.ly/cW7Shh

    I don’t want to have to explain that, although I don’t fly planes, I am an expert SCUBA diver.

    Some changes at CNCS are you can now go to school and do CNCS if your part of the Corps Network/VISTA/PC lobby. You still can’t work even though your not working and living in poverty under minimum wage.
    http://scr.bi/d3Ibxj
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/32083197/CNCS-VISTA-Education-Policy-AV-2010-02

  • lorenzo: I had asked SWV what his experience was because I didn’t know where he was coming from. Now I know. He is a RPCV and an “expert in the Volunteer industry.”

    I likw your credentials better, but I hadn’t requested them. Perhaps someone else did.

  • John Coyne is right, my numbers come from 2008, the last time I looked at the Peace Corps budget and number of volunteers in the field. I am glad to see that in 2010 the Peace Corps is using its funds more efficiently. But my point still remains, the cost of placing a volunteer in the field is due more to a bloated overhead than the payments going directly to the volunteer who sees about $500 a month in stipend, a ticket to and from post, health care, and yes, training. Add those elements and you come up with about $10,000 a year. That still leaves $34,000 for the PC operation in Washington. A similar calculatin for a Foreign Service Officer, and I was one, would show a much higher ratio of funds going to the employee. Looking further afield, we would be very upset to find a charity spending more than two thirds of what it receives on overhead.

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