On September 20, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1456). The Act would offer whistleblower protections to Peace Corps Volunteers, among other provisions.
The bipartisan Act passed the House 290 – 125. The vote was unanimous among Democrat Representatives and received 79 yea votes and 125 nay votes amongst Republicans. The Act will now move to the Senate for consideration, according to a press release from Representative John Garamendi’s (D-CA) office.
Garamendi, a returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Ethiopia from 1966-1968, is also the co-chair for the Congressional Peace Corps Caucus. In the press release, Garamendi said, “This week, we will celebrate the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s signing of the Peace Corps Act into law on September 22, 1961. Today, to commemorate this occasion, my legislation to re-authorize the Peace Corps for the first time in over two decades has passed the U.S. House of Representatives with a strong bipartisan vote.”
The Peace Corps Reauthorization Act “would provide additional federal funding and resources to advance the Peace Corps’ mission around the world and better support current, returning, and former Peace Corps volunteers,” the press release explains. Specifically, the Act “[e]xtends whistleblower and anti-retaliatory protections to Peace Corps volunteers, including protections against reprisals by any Peace Corps employee, volunteer supervisor, or outside contractor.”
“I applaud Senators Menendez (D-NJ) and Risch (R-ID) for introducing companion legislation in the U.S. Senate,” Garamendi stated. “Now that the legislation has passed the House of Representatives, I will work tirelessly to ensure it passes the Senate and becomes law.” The Senate companion legislation was introduced on June 23 and contains further protections for Peace Corps Volunteers.
Protecting Peace Corps Whistleblowers
At the National Whistleblower Center’s National Whistleblower Day celebration in 2021, Garamendi gave an address in which he highlighted the importance of Peace Corps whistleblowers and thanked them for their contributions. “I know that Congress needs whistleblowers,” Garamendi said in his address. “We can’t do our job unless there’s whistleblowers.”
Whistleblower attorney Stephen Kohn of Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto LLP told WNN, “Congress is doing the right thing by granting whistleblower protections to Peace Corps volunteers. When they work overseas they are particularly vulnerable to retaliation. We hope that the final version of the law provides the strongest possible protection.”