WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), today introduced new legislation toreauthorize the Peace Corps for the first time in over two decades with Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio). Authorizing the appropriation of over $410,000,000 per year, the bipartisan Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2022 proposes to increase 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. Senator Cardin is Chair of the Subcommittee On State Department And USAID Management, International Operations, And Bilateral International Development, which has oversight responsibility for the Peace Corp management and international operations.
“The Peace Corps is one of the most impactful volunteer humanitarian forces in the world, transforming lives and forging international understanding. Its volunteers represent the best qualities of American society and reflect the diversity of the American people,” said Senator Cardin. “The Peace Corps invests time and talent in other countries, and it pays dividends back here in the United States as well. I’m proud of our bipartisan effort to continue support for the Peace Corps and will continue to work to ensure that it has the tools needed to carry out its mission safely and efficiently.”
“I am incredibly proud to be joined by my colleagues in introducing this long overdue reauthorization of the Peace Corps. By reauthorizing the agency for the first time in over 20 years, we honor and applaud the countless Volunteers over the last six decades who have dedicated themselves to fostering peace, encouraging cultural exchange, and facilitating friendship worldwide,” Chairman Menendez said. “Today’s efforts demonstrate our bipartisan commitment to ensure the Peace Corps is both reflective of the United States’ rich diversity and talent, and that its volunteers and the broader Peace Corps community are fully supported, including through necessary student loan reforms. I look forward to working with my colleagues to hold the Peace Corps accountable and to making sure it can meet the real-time needs of those currently in the field and beyond.”
“The 2022 Peace Corps Reauthorization bill is a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Peace Corps for the first time in over a decade and to provide necessary reforms to improve the safety and security of volunteers as they re-enter the field,” said Ranking Member Risch. “By reauthorizing the Sexual Assault Advisory Council, mandating security briefings, improving whistleblower protections, and adding a new authority to suspend Peace Corps volunteers without pay in the event of misbehavior, the Peace Corps will be able to better support volunteers at home and abroad.”
“Our Peace Corps volunteers represent American values and serve communities throughout the world in exemplary fashion. This bill helps get them back in the field after the COVID pandemic in a safe and responsible manner,” said Senator Young.
“Peace Corps volunteers are a key part of America’s diplomacy abroad, serving to support local communities and promote our nation’s values and priorities. Countless projects centered on economic development, education and health care have been made possible by volunteers over the last six decades,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m proud to support the Peace Corps program, which has garnered overwhelming bipartisan support, and I’ll continue to push for funding from Congress to help our volunteers grow and flourish abroad.”
“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 to support this bipartisan legislation and I hope that it can rapidly move through committee to the Senate Floor.”
Thebipartisan legislation also serves as the Senate companion to H.R. 1456, which is led by Representatives John Garamendi (Calif.-3) and Garret Graves (La.-6), and was approvedby the House Foreign Affairs Committee in September 2021. 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.
Find a copy of the bill text HERE.