On June 23, members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act of 2022. The bipartisan bill would, among other things, improve whistleblower protections for Peace Corps Volunteers and employees.
Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jim Risch (R-ID), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee, as well as Ben Cardin (D-MD), Todd Young (R-IN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced the bill. According to the press release, this is the first time the Peace Corps has been reauthorized in over two decades.
The bill authorizes “the appropriation of over $410,000,000 per year” to the agency and proposes several changes such as “increas[ing] Volunteers’ health care coverage” and expanding the Peace Corps’ Sexual Assault Advisory Council. The bill would also improve whistleblower protections for Peace Corps employees.
According to the bill text, a Peace Corps Volunteer “may report a complaint or allegation of reprisal or retaliation” to the agency’s Inspector General or “through other channels provided by the Peace Corps, including through the process for confidential reporting…” The Director of the Peace Corps “may order any relief for an affirmative finding of a proposed or final resolution of a complaint or allegation of reprisal or retaliation in accordance with policies, rules, and procedures of the Peace Corps.” Additionally, the Director “shall ensure that such relief is promptly provided to the volunteer.”
In terms of making appeals, the bill states: “A volunteer may submit an appeal to the Director of the Peace Corps of any proposed or final resolution of a complaint or allegation of reprisal or retaliation.” The agency’s Director must also “ensure that volunteers are informed in writing of the rights and remedies provided under this section.”
In the press release, Ranking Member Risch highlighted the improved whistleblower protections that the Act would implement. “By reauthorizing the Sexual Assault Advisory Council, mandating security briefings, improving whistleblower protections, and adding a new authority to suspend Peace Corps volunteers without pay in the event of misbehavior, the Peace Corps will be able to better support volunteers at home and abroad,” Ranking Member Risch said.
H.R. 1456 is the House of Representatives’ version of the bill, efforts for which are led by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA). On July 30, 2021, Garamendi spoke at the National Whistleblower Center’s (NWC) National Whistleblower Day celebration. He thanked whistleblowers for their contributions and acknowledged their importance in government oversight, stating: “I know that Congress needs whistleblowers. We can’t do our job unless there’s whistleblowers.”