“Funding is obviously essential to keep the Peace Corps operating, but to truly support the current, future, and returned volunteers we need to advocate for policies to improve the agency.
Kendra LeSar, RPCV Honduras, Advocacy Coordinator, Louisiana Peace Corps Association
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Protect | Improve | Enhance
Though enjoying strong bipartisan support in Congress and across American society, the Peace Corps faces several issues where greater progress remains needed. For more and better-equipped Volunteers in more countries, the agency's budget will need to grow—consistently. To ensure that currently-serving and returned Volunteers receive the healthcare they're deserved, reforms will need to be enacted. And to recruit, incentivize and honor generations of future Volunteers, benefits will need to be enhanced (or protected), and key legislation will need to become law. Though unanticipated challenges and opportunities do occur, here are key priorities for 2018.
Peace Corps' Budget
The Peace Corps' budget—$410 million—amounts to less than 1% of America's International Affairs Budget, itself less than 1% of the Federal budget. Though the recipient of budget increases from time-to-time, the agency has suffered from not receiving consistent, incremental increases, resulting in difficulty in executing longterm strategy.
Status | The Administration's Fiscal Year 2018 budget request was $398.2 million, a nearly-$12 million or 2.7% cut—the largest cut requested from the White House in over 40 years. The House met the president's request, but the Senate provided level funding. However, the Peace Corps, like almost all Federal agencies, is currently operating on its Fiscal Year 2017 budget—$410 million—as Congress has failed to pass a budget for Fiscal Year 2018. The next few weeks are critical: Congress continues to negotiate a budget deal, and the president's Fiscal Year 2019 budget is expected to be released in February, with more cuts anticipated.
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Health, Safety & Security
Though the agency and Congress have made progress in improving the health, safety and security of Volunteers, much is left to be done. Several reforms are needed in the field, including greater crime risk reduction and access to well-qualified medical personnel. Back home, RPCVs with service-related illness and injury could benefit from having full agency involvement in diagnosis and treatment upon their immediate return, while those who face short or long-term disability deserve a higher level of worker’s compensation.
Status | Peace Corps health and safety legislation is now introduced in both chambers of Congress. While similar in many ways, the bills are not identical and differ on some key provisions. We are urging support of both the House legislation, H.R.2259, the Sam Farr Peace Corps Enhancement Act, and in the Senate, S. 2286 the Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018.
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Efforts in the past to enhance non-competitive eligibility (NCE) status for Federal employment have fallen short, though continue. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program has recently become the target of budget hawks. And the common-sense Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act, which would allow RPCVs and former Peace Corps staff to use the Peace Corps logo on death notices and tombstones, has yet to pass.
Status | The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program was eliminated in the House's Higher Ed reauthorization bill, but the Senate has yet to bring it up. H.R.1295, Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act, has been introduced in the House but not the Senate.