WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Friday announced bipartisan legislation to help Peace Corps volunteers who have been suddenly evacuated from abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation will make sure Peace Corp volunteers can qualify for unemployment insurance like everyone else, can get back into the field quickly once the coronavirus subsides, and can continue to serve at home in the United States by allowing them to be quickly channeled into the AmeriCorps or similar service programs.
"It’s an injustice that Peace Corps volunteers who had their service cut short because of this pandemic may not qualify for unemployment benefits. This legislation seeks to right this wrong by making sure the government treats these individuals the same as any other unemployed American during this crisis, while giving them a chance to serve their country here at home in the interim. I hope our colleagues can come together to pass this important bill as soon as we get back into session,” said Murphy. “Peace Corps is more integral to American foreign policy than ever before, and these volunteers will be critical to us rebuilding our image abroad. It’s the right thing to do to take care of them in the midst of this crisis, and promptly redeploying them post-pandemic is the best thing for U.S. foreign policy and national security.”
“Our nation’s Peace Corps volunteers live and work around the world, making a lasting difference in the lives of countless individuals through grassroots development projects that promote healthy living, entrepreneurship, and education,” said Collins. “The burden the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on these public servants should not be overlooked during this economically challenging time. This bipartisan bill would help ensure that Peace Corps volunteers that have been evacuated due to COVID-19 are eligible for financial assistance offered through the CARES Act.”
“Peace Corps volunteers dedicate more than two years of their lives, but that service has been cut short by the coronavirus. Our bill makes sure these volunteers can access unemployment benefits, health insurance and find new jobs and volunteer opportunities in support of coronavirus relief efforts. This is especially important for California, which had more than twice as many volunteers as any other state. We owe it to these volunteers to help them,” said Feinstein.
The legislation specifically:
- Instructs the United States Department of Labor that notwithstanding other regulations, PCVs evacuated due to COVID-19 outbreak qualify for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits described in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed last week;
- Allows evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers to continue to purchase health insurance through the Peace Corps for more than three months, should they choose;
- Instructs the Peace Corps to restart its programs in all countries in which it operated pre-pandemic as soon as practicable once the COVID-19 outbreak subsides;
- Instructs the Peace Corps to 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 being volunteers;
- Requires federal agencies and departments facing special hiring needs during the coronavirus outbreak to establish a process by which their staff with hiring authority receive information from the Office of Personnel Management about how to expedite hiring through the non-competitive eligibility that Returned Peace Corps Volunteers possess; and
- Instructs the CEO of Corporation of National and Community Service (CNCS) and the Peace Corps Director to coordinate and establish an expedited process by which evacuated PCVs can get plugged into AmeriCorps, the Federal Emergency Management Agency Corps, or other CNCS programs to help address the coronavirus crisis here at home.