House Foreign Affairs Committee Passes Garamendi’s Peace Corps Reauthorization Act
WASHINGTON, DC—Today, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs marked up and passed Congressman John Garamendi’s (D-CA) bipartisan “Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021” (H.R.1456). A committee markup is the final step before a bill may be considered by the full U.S. House of Representatives.
Congressman Garamendi, returned Peace Corps volunteer (Ethiopia 1966-1968) and co-chair of the Congressional Peace Corps Caucus, reintroduced the “Peace Corps Reauthorization Act” this year to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Peace Corps’ founding by President John F. Kennedy with the signing of the Peace Corps Act (Public Law 87-293) on September 22, 1961.
Congressman Garamendi’s bipartisan legislation 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.
“I applaud the House Foreign Affairs Committee for passing the ‘Peace Corps Reauthorization Act’ today with strong bipartisan support,” Garamendi said. “My wife Patti and I owe so much to our service in the Peace Corps, which 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.”
“Congress has not reauthorized the Peace Corps in over twenty years,” Garamendi continued. “It is vital for the ‘Peace Corps Reauthorization Act’ to become law so the Peace Corps can redeploy volunteers worldwide once safe and prudent to do so and realize President Kennedy’s vision of generations of young Americans ready to serve their nation and make the world a better place.”
“I thank Chairman Gregory Meeks and every member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who supported this critically important legislation. I will continue to work tirelessly until the ‘Peace Corps Reauthorization Act’ is on President Biden’s desk to be signed into law,” Garamendi concluded.
The “Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2021” (H.R.1456):
- 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.