Apr 03 2020
Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Friday to announce bipartisan legislation helping Peace Corps volunteers who have been suddenly evacuated from abroad due to the coronavirus pandemic. The legislation will ensure Peace Corps volunteers can access unemployment insurance or procure employment through AmeriCorps or similar service programs in support of coronavirus relief and return to the field quickly once coronavirus subsides.
“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.
"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.”
Specifically, the legislation:
- Instructs the United States Department of Labor that notwithstanding other regulations, Peace Corps Volunteers evacuated due to COVID-19 outbreak qualify for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits described in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act enacted on March 27, 2020.
- 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 departments and agencies facing special hiring needs during the coronavirus outbreak to establish a process to expedite hiring through the non-competitive eligibility that Returned Peace Corps Volunteers possess.
- Instructs the CEO of the Corporation of National and Community Service (CNCS) and the Peace Corps Director to coordinate and establish an expedited process by which evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers can support AmeriCorps, the Federal Emergency Management Agency Corps, or other CNCS programs to help address the coronavirus crisis at home.