Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2019 Bill to the House of Representatives on June 25, 2019. Below is a summary of the HR 3456 bill.
To see the actual bill text, follow this link: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/3456
H. R. 3456
To amend the Peace Corps Act to reauthorize the Peace Corps, better support currently-serving and returned Peace Corps Volunteers and for other purposes.
Section 1: Short Bill Title: “Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2019”
Section 2: Reauthorization and Information Age Volunteer Opportunities
- Sets funding levels for the Peace Corps: Sets new Congressionally authorized funding level for Peace Corps at $450 million per fiscal year, for a standard 5-year authorization (FY2019-FY2023). Current authorized level is $365 million (expired in FY2003) but appropriated at $410 million for fiscal years 2018 and 2019.
- Promotes Information Age projects: Directs the Peace Corps to establish new volunteer opportunities to promote Internet technology-adoption projects in developing countries. This language is modified from former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce’s (R-CA) Digital Global Access Policy Act, which the House passed by voice vote in January 2017 and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed in October 2018.
Section 3: Readjustment of Allowances for Peace Corps Volunteers and Volunteer Leaders
- Increases monthly allowances for Peace Corps Volunteers: Increases to $417 per month of service completed, to reflect increases in cost of living and provide $10,000 for a full 2-year term of service. This may have already been implemented at Peace Corps.
Section 4: Peace Corps National Advisory Council (defunct since late 1980s)
- Removes certain Advisory Council functions: Removes functions that duplicate responsibilities of the Peace Corps’ Inspector General, such as on-site examinations, and maintains Inspector General’s autonomy.
- Makes Recommendations on utilization of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers: Allows the Peace Corps’ National Advisory Council to also make recommendations for how best to utilize the expertise of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers in fulfilling the agency’s goals.
- Resets Advisory Council membership size: Reduces Advisory Council’s membership from 15 to 7.
- Sets Advisory Council composition: Maintains Advisory Council’s bipartisan composition and requires that majority (4 out of 7 members) be Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and that no more than four members may be members of the same political party. No member may be an officer or employee of the Peace Corps.
- Changes Advisory Council appointment responsibilities: Changes the responsibility for appointments to the Advisory Council from the President (with the advice and consent of the Senate) to the Director of the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps Director will also appoint Advisory Council members for 2-year terms and names one member as the Chair.
- Clarifies independence to and oversight by the Inspector General: None of the activities or functions of the Advisory Council may undermine the independence of or supersede the duties of the Inspector General of the Peace Corps.
- Clarifies non-applicability of FACA: Specifies that the Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App.) does not apply to the Advisory Council.
- Updates Advisory Council language: Makes noncontroversial amendments deleting dated obsolete language from the law establishing the Peace Corps’ National Advisory Council.
- Authorizes Peace Corps agreements to fundraise for Advisory Council costs: Authorizes the Peace Corps to enter into a multi-year agreement with a qualified nonprofit organization to fundraise to cover all administrative costs for the Advisory Council. Past Peace Corps Directors have cited these costs as prohibitive to re-establishing the Advisory Council, given limited agency budget.
Section 5: Use of the Peace Corps' Official Seal, Emblem, and Name
- Allows use of Peace Corps Seal, Emblem, and Name under certain circumstances: Allows for deceased Peace Corps alumni to inscribe the official Peace Corps logo and agency name on their tombstone or any funeral materials, in recognition of the importance of their Peace Corps service to their lives. Current law does not permit this, as the Peace Corps logo and agency name have trademark and intellectual property protections.
This section is identical to the Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act, sponsored by Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ) since 2013.
Section 6: Codification of Certain Executive Order Relating to Existing Noncompetitive Eligibility (NCE) Federal Hiring Status for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
- Codifies Returned Peace Corps Volunteers NCE duration: Codifies the existing Executive Order (President Kennedy 1963) affording Returned Peace Corps Volunteers a 12-month hiring preference for most federal job openings (nonpolitical appointees, i.e. the civil service). This allows federal agencies to fill vacancies on an expedited basis with qualified, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.
- Extends Returned Peace Corps Volunteers NCE under certain circumstances: Extends Returned Peace Corps Volunteers’ 12-month hiring preference for most federal job openings during any federal hiring freeze or agency shutdown. Also extends hiring preference for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers receiving federal worker’s compensation due to Peace Corps service-related illness or injury until they are able to seek employment.
Section 7: Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Bureau of Diplomatic Security (State Department)
- Requires routine review of the Security MOA: Requires the Peace Corps and U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security to routinely review and update, as needed, their existing MOA for serving Peace Corps Volunteer security, support and protection at least once every five years. In 2012, the Peace Corps finalized the current MOA from Congressional direction in response to past concerns about Peace Corps Volunteers left in dangerous situations or stranded abroad but the current law does not require reviews or updates to this MOA going forward.
- Requires notification window on Security MOA updates: The Director of the Peace Corps and the Assistance Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security must jointly submit to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate any update to the Memorandum of Agreement no later than 30 days before such update takes effect.
Section 8: Clarification Regarding Eligibility of U.S. Nationals
- Clarifies eligibility of U.S. Nationals to serve: Clarifies that U.S. Nationals (namely American Samoans) remain eligible to serve as Peace Corps Volunteers, Peace Corps Volunteer Leaders, or agency staff, be appointed to the Peace Corps’ National Advisory Council, serve as the National Advisory Council’s chair, or be appointed Director of the Peace Corps. U.S. Nationals should be eligible to serve in these capacities within the Peace Corps, but current law is unclear on this point. Peace Corps’ programs in Samoa and elsewhere in the south Pacific are considered model programs for the agency and are historically very popular with volunteers.
Section 9: Workers Compensation for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
- Increases the compensation rate: Increases the federal workers’ compensation rate for all Returned Peace Corps Volunteers injured or disabled during their Peace Corps service from a GS-7 to a GS-11, the same rate provided for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers with dependent children under current law.
- Clarifies compensation rate increase applicability: Applies GS-11 rate increase to only those Returned Peace Corps Volunteers receiving federal workers’ compensation as of the date of enactment of the “Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2019” or in the future.
Section 10: Technical and Conforming Amendments
- Updates verbiage and errors: Makes technical and conforming amendments to correct outstanding errors, typos, and misstatements in the federal law authorizing the Peace Corps and update cross-references and legal citations in the U.S. Code.