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Senators Menendez, Risch Lead Colleagues in Reintroducing Peace Corps Reauthorization Act

WASHINGTON U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today were joined by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Todd Young (R-Ind.), in reintroducing the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act, bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Peace Corps for the first time in over two decades. Passed unanimously out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last year, the bipartisan legislation raises Peace Corps Volunteers’ readjustment allowance, expedites return-to-service opportunities for those impacted by COVID-19 and future comparable emergencies, and increases transparency as it relates to the agency’s Sexual Assault Advisory Council, among other provisions.

“The Peace Corps plays an invaluable role in U.S. public diplomacy, and it is critical that we modernize the program to best support the selfless Volunteers who dedicate their time and talents to fostering peace, cultural exchange, and friendship around the world,” Chairman Menendez said. “Reforms in this bill, including providing for Volunteers’ increased compensation, protection against reprisal and retaliation, and the Peace Corps Advisory Council’s advancement of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, are well overdue and help to ensure that Peace Corps Volunteers represent the talent and the full richness of the American people. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this bipartisan legislation, and ultimately secure its passage on the Senate Floor.”

“The Peace Corps is long-overdue for reforms to improve the safety and security of Peace Corps volunteers in the field. Last year, the committee made progress in advancing the first Peace Corps reauthorization in over two decades, but unfortunately it did not make it across the finish line,” said Ranking Member Risch. “Today, we’re reintroducing legislation that will reauthorize the Sexual Assault Advisory Council, mandate security briefings, improve whistleblower protections, and add a new authority to suspend Peace Corps personnel without pay in the event of misbehavior – all important efforts to ensure the Peace Corps can better support volunteers at home and abroad.”

“For over sixty years, the Peace Corps has forged international understanding, promoted shared ideals of democracy and inclusive development, and transformed countless lives,” said Senator Cardin, Chairman of the SFRC Subcommittee on State Department and USAID Management, which is responsible for Peace Corps management and international operations. “Peace Corps volunteers represent some of the most hard-working, dedicated and diverse members of the American workforce—including hundreds of Marylanders who enroll each year. This bill would provide a major boost to volunteers’ standard of living, ensuring they have the resources and support they need to carry out the Peace Corps mission.”

“Serving in the Peace Corps appeals to Idahoans’ sense of duty for volunteerism while promoting democracy abroad,” said Senator Crapo. “Sponsoring this legislation means the Peace Corps can continue their mission and allow others to join the ranks of the 1,432 dedicated Idahoans who have previously served.”

“Our Peace Corps volunteers represent American values and serve communities throughout the world in exemplary fashion,” said Senator Young. “Reauthorizing the Peace Corps will provide better support for our volunteers as they continue to work in the field.”

Among its key provisions, the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2023:

  1. Authorizes $410,500,000 to be appropriated annually for the Peace Corps for fiscal years 2024 through 2028.
  2. Sets a statutory minimum of $375 per month for the Peace Corps Volunteer readjustment allowance, which the Peace Corps can exceed.
  3. 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.
  4. Provides a path through which Return Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) are advised on paths to obtain healthcare after their service concludes. Ensures Peace Corps Volunteers receive adequate health care during their service, including health examinations preparatory to their service.
  5. Enumerates procedures and policy to protect Volunteers against reprisal and retaliation.
  6. Codifies two years of noncompetitive eligibility for RPCVs.
  7. Mandates the National Advisory Council consider and make recommendations to strengthen diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) efforts at the Peace Corps.
  8. Expands Peace Corps eligibility to include United States citizens who are nationals of American Samoa.
  9. Extends the Sexual Assault Advisory Council until October 2028 and requires the Council to submit annual reports on their work to Congress. 

“As a growing number of citizens are returning to service with the Peace Corps, this is exactly the right time to pass the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act. We are grateful to Chairman Menendez, Ranking Member Risch, and the other original co-sponsors of this legislation for their leadership. With stronger health care provisions and whistleblower protections, an extension of the important work of the Sexual Assault Advisory Council, and expanded opportunities for returning volunteers to enter the federal workforce, this legislation contains a number of important and overdue improvements to strengthen the Peace Corps and support volunteers. We urge the Senate to pass this legislation as soon as possible,” said Dan Baker, President and CEO, National Peace Corps Association.

This bipartisan legislation serves as the Senate companion to H.R. 1273, which was introduced in the 118th Congress by Rep. Garamendi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.). Find a copy of the bill text HERE.

"My wife Patti and I owe so much to our service in the Peace Corps. It 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," said Congressman Garamendi, co-chair of the Congressional Peace Corps Caucus. "Now more than ever, Congress must support the Peace Corps' mission and realize President Kennedy's vision of generations of young Americans ready to serve their nation and make the world a better place. Our reauthorization bill does exactly that, and provides much-needed resources to Peace Corps Volunteers. This bipartisan legislation would also provide the resources necessary for the redeployment of Peace Corps Volunteers, with the goal of reaching 10,000 Volunteers serving annually around the world."

“Our Peace Corps volunteers are an incredible representation of the values of our country, and they continue to improve communities worldwide. This legislation will advance that mission and reaffirm our support for their public service,” Rep. Garret Graves said.