H. of R. Committee OK'S Vote on Peace Corps Expansion

On June 12th, the House International Relations Committee (HIRC) voted 31-- 4 to send the Millennium Challenge Account Authorization and Peace Corps Expansion Act (H.R. 2441) to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote.  The legislation authorizes the Millennium Challenge Account, as well as the doubling of the number of Peace Corps volunteers overseas and a $10 million Congressional fund to support global education projects performed by returned Peace Corps volunteers.

The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) expands U.S. economic assistance to approximately 10 high-performing countries in the developing world with a proven track record of accomplishment in economic freedom, democracy, and investments in health and education. The MCA legislation authorizes funding levels of $1.3 billion in FY 2004, $3 billion in FY 2005, and $5 billion in FY 2006.

HIRC Chairman Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) called the bill "revolutionary."  Lantos noted that more than 180,000 volunteers have worked "all over the globe.  It is fitting that we consider the MCA and the Peace Corps expansion jointly because both are critical to offering development assistance."

The current language of the Peace Corps bill now before the House is

based on legislation (H.R. 250) drafted by Congressman and RPCV (Colombia 64-66), Sam Farr (D-CA), in close cooperation with a handful of RPCVs who have actively lobbied on the Hill for more than a year for the growth of Peace Corps.  Similar legislation authored by Senator and RPCV (Dominican Republic 66-68) Chris Dodd (D-CT) is working its way through the Senate.

The House measure authorizes a gradual expansion of the annual budget of the Peace Corps to $366.8 million in FY 2004, $411.8 million in FY 2005 and $455.9 million in FY 2006, and $499.4 million in FY 2007.  The numbers
reflect the President's stated goal of fielding 14,000 volunteers by 2007.

With a current budget of $295 million, the agency currently fields fewer than 7,000 volunteers.

A $10 million program funded by Congress would provide grants to groups of RPCVs to perform community service projects.  This section of the bill authorizes the director of the Peace Corps to award grants on a competitive basis to private non-profit corporations which would offer grants of up to $50,000 to RPCV groups who provide services such as global educa

tion, partnerships with libraries and other community education projects that utilize photographs and materials gathered by volunteers during their Peace Corps service.

In addition, the House bill establishes a director in the agency to expand and coordinate programs addressing HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases and a Peace Corps National Advisory Council to serve the director of the Peace Corps.  The bill also authorizes an increase in the volunteer living allowance.  Further information on the legislation can be located at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d108:h.r.02441:.

It is important to note that H.R. 2441 is an authorization bill and provides the authority for an agency or program to exist.  They establish or continue the program or agency and determine policy. They also recommend spending levels, but these levels are not binding.

Appropriations bills provide funds for authorized programs.  The Peace Corps receives its funding through the annual foreign operations appropriations bill.  There is additional background about the appropriations process in the Spring 2003 NPCA Advocacy Training Guide that can be located at http://www.rpcv.org/pages/sitepage.cfm?id=730 .

Make plans to attend the NPCA Annual General Meeting in Portland, Oregon on August 1st -- 3rd.  Registration is required & all events take place at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Portland.  Visit www.rpcv.org for details.

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