Thursday, August 28, 2008

Peace Corps Budget Issues?

There have been rumors for some time that the Peace Corps is facing a bit of a budget crunch, but until recently I couldn't find any official mention of a budget shortfalls by Peace Corps officials. The Washington Post recently ran an article detailing the budget crisis.

See also:

- Peace Corps is closing it's Minneapolis recruiting office. Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) has written a letter to the Director of Peace Corps, Ron Tschetter, asking him to reconsider.

- The Denver recruiting office is also slated to close. The Denver office handles recruiting for five states: Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Utah and Kansas.

- The Peace Corps is closing several smaller posts, including Kiribati.

The consequences of the budget crisis have been felt by PCVs in Honduras. Our living allowances have remained unchanged over the past two years, despite price increases of 20-50% for food and transportation.

Of course, we can manage without getting the extra living allowance. However, Peace Corps is cutting the number of volunteers, closing posts and closing recruiting offices. In order to save costs on training, Peace Corps Volunteers who wish to extend their service are limited to countries where they already speak the language (so Honduras PCVs can no longer extend to Africa, Asia or Eastern Europe). All of these changes result in fewer "boots on the ground." Despite the challenges we face in our communities, I am convinced that Peace Corps Volunteers make a difference at the very least by fomenting understanding and goodwill between the USA and other countries. Fewer volunteers means less goodwill, and the USA doesn't have much of that to sacrifice these days.

Please encourage your senators and congressperson to fully fund Peace Corps.

UPDATE: Erica Burman of the National Peace Corps Association directs us to the MorePeaceCorps campaign, which is advocating for a reinvigorated (and fully funded) Peace Corps.

6 comments:

Erica Burman said...

Thanks for blogging on this, Raphael.

To mobilize support for Peace Corps, the National Peace Corps Association has launched a national outreach and legislative campaign for a re-invigorated Peace Corps. The goal is to double the Peace Corps' size and budget by its 50th anniversary in 2011. To learn more about this campaign, visit its Web site at: www.morepeacecorps.org.

Check it out and tell your friends!

D said...

I think the morepeacecorps is more a lobby for the five year budget Peace Corps is requesting. Like MCC and PEPFAR, PC has moved to a five year doubled budget. The legislation has passed for most programs, but the agencies are waiting until November, probably because of the elections - like the five year budgets are scheduled around the Presidential elections. The agencies are waiting and the programs were passed a few months ago. PC is kind of connected to those budgets as PEPFAR 'hires' hundreds of PCVs. The bill for PC is waiting. It's all signed by RPCVs. The five year budgets like I said passed, but agencies have to wait, so it's kind of confusing that there is another bill for PC and how long the RPCV bill is for - it's not clear if they are passing a five year budget or a one year budget, so the budget may pass in the other bill making the RPCV one irrelevant. There is also a 'raise' in the bill, but it makes more sense to pay PCVs the support level because they re 'farmed out' to programs and NGOs at the support level or a charge.

As far as the offices closing, McCollum is the budget and she apparently has'nt done any research. The field recruiters usually work out of Universities and this is preferred. The offices really aren't needed. The University is the best place for an agency to recruit and PC is allowed, even getting housing there. This is the argument no one talks about and someone should have told her this along with the five year budget lobby.

As far as expense, it's all in the support. PC needs to enforce it's five year 'opportunity law' and there was new legislation giving the Director control over an account at Treasury. He controls pensions, five year waivers and probably too much of the employees jobs. Maybe we can go union!

The Director needs to control costs and enforce the laws already there. Cutting staff salaries should also be done. PC staff employees are paid very well.

The fifty year anniversary started a rumor about PC being taken over by USIP, who is building an office on the mall in DC. Congress usually does this when PC is out of control and wants too much money. The rumor turns out to be a plaque for PC on the mall next to USIPs new office. It wouldn't surprise anyone if the agency where 'run' by someone else as this has been done before.

As far as NPCA and their other programs we need to find out how much they cost. PC pays them. The employees are paid very well. How much do they take out of the PC budget? I 'm guessing it's more that the 9 million we lost in 'foreign currency' accounts that, if they are overseas, aren't part of the federal budget anyway.

Doubling PC size? Clinton tried this too and it failed. Then Bush. Now Obama. We usually fail here because the priorities aren't on the PCVs. So, we'll double our budget and not the PCVs. Congress usually puts the budget at another agency or program when this happens. We'll have to wait for the federal budget to get passed, see it that is the five year budget or the RPCV bill is the five year budget. They had a survey for five year budgets for development people that went to Congress, which is how all this doubling got started, but most will just blame MCC, but that came from the President too. It's all politics.

I did some writing about the stoves they won't allow anymore and explained this is the usual response from PC when the budget is tight. Everything else seems to make more sense when they do that.

I'd write some Congressmen who are RPCVs. McCullum isn't getting enough information and she needs more input on the facts.


Good Luck!


RPCV

ivyangel00 said...

Hi Ralph,
hopefully you read your comments. :)

Can you please contact me via notes2ari@hotmail.com? I searched for your contact info and came up with only an address and an aim screen name which apparently doesn't work with MSN :).

I have a few questions about Trujillo and was hoping for your general perspective also, since I may be taking a job there.

Thank you,
Arianne

ivyangel00 said...

woops. Raph- sorry. :)

Charlener said...

Hi,

Re D's comment above, here's something that's a bit more immediate (though it still probably won't help those out in the field right now)...

http://www.ploofle.com/fund-peace-corps/

Quite a few of us Volunteers have been working on this - hopefully it'll make a difference...

--Charlene (Mongolia)

D said...

Good website. The petition should help allot.