Today, Reps. Dean Phillips (MN) and Don Young (R-AK) announced the introduction of the Utilizing and Supporting Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers Act to help returned Peace Corps volunteers get back on their feet. Recently announced in the Senate by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the Utilizing and Supporting Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers Act would support Peace Corps volunteers evacuated due to the coronavirus public health emergency by expanding health insurance coverage, creating an expedited reenrollment process, and developing additional domestic employment opportunities. Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) were instrumental in development of the legislation, along with Reps. John Garamendi (D-CA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Jared Huffman (D-CA), and Jennifer Wexton (D-VA).
Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN):
“The sudden dismissal of Peace Corps volunteers has left these vital American ambassadors with nowhere to turn in an economy in turmoil. We must come together and support them in their time of need. I am thankful for the leadership of Congressman Young, Senator Murphy and our core group of supporting legislators. The Peace Corps represents the very best in American leadership on a global stage, with volunteers serving alongside communities in their fight against sickness, hunger, and economic insecurity. We must honor their commitment by protecting these public servants now and charting a path toward redeployment in the future.”
Rep. Don Young (R-AK):
“For decades, our Peace Corps volunteers have been answering the call to service, and selflessly making a difference across the world. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of these volunteers to leave their posts and return to the United States. Faced with a deteriorating economy, these hardworking public servants may require assistance navigating these unprecedented times. Peace Corps volunteers show the world American values, and I am proud to join my colleagues on this legislation to ensure they have access to health care, employment opportunities, and a redeployment process.”
Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT):
“The Peace Corps is integral to U.S. foreign policy, and it’s unfortunate that volunteer deployments were cut short due to COVID-19. I’m glad the federal government has told Congress that evacuated Peace Corps volunteers will qualify for unemployment assistance, but we should go further and turn their loss into opportunity. That’s why we should allow Peace Corps volunteers to serve at home during the COVID-19, and promptly redeploy them abroad once the pandemic passes. Congress should pass our legislation to get this done as soon as possible.”
Glenn Blumhorst, President and CEO of National Peace Corps Association:
“As our nation works to confront and overcome this pandemic on so many fronts, we are very grateful to the leadership of Reps. Phillips and Young to bring forward this important legislation to support the more than 7,000 Peace Corps Volunteers who saw their service cut short by this disease. At the heart of this legislation are initiatives to engage these volunteers in what they do best - opportunities to continue serving others, both here at home to contain and overcome the pandemic, and overseas as soon as conditions permit Peace Corps to redeploy.”
This is bill is part of a larger effort led by Phillips to incorporate the Peace Corps into COVID-19 recovery efforts. Another bill, the UNITE Act, expands opportunities for the Corporation for National Community Service (CNCS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to aid frontline workers and communities most impacted by the coronavirus public health emergency, such as using AmeriCorps and Peace Corps Volunteers to assist in national testing and tracing efforts. Phillips and Van Hollen also led a bipartisan, bicameral letter to the U.S. Department of Labor asking for unemployment support for dismissed Peace Corps Volunteers. On Monday, the Labor Department clarified that Peace Corps Volunteers would be eligible for benefits.
To support evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers, the Utilizing and Supporting Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers Act would:
- Allow evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers to continue to purchase health insurance through the Peace Corps for more than three months, should they choose;
- Instruct the CEO of (and the Peace Corps Director to coordinate and establish an expedited process by which evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers can get reassigned to AmeriCorps, FEMA Corps, or other CNCS programs to help address the coronavirus crisis here at home; and
- Instruct the Peace Corps to restart its programs once it is safe to do so as well as establish an expedited process for former Peace Corps Volunteers who had their service terminated early as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak to return to their posts.