Tomorrow, Wednesday, June 30, 2010, at 4 PM in H-140 of the Capitol Building in the United States Congress, Rep. Nita Lowey (NY-18) will make one of the most important decisions of her career. On that day, the appropriations subcommittee which she chairs, will decide whether or not to include a $65 million increase in appropriations for the Peace Corps, which would enable the agency to break 10,000 volunteers for the first time in 42 years.
Today, the cost of the Peace Corps is less than what America spends in one day prosecuting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Until very recently, the budget for the army marching band was more than that of the Peace Corps. Starved for resources, the Peace Corps is a remnant of its once vibrant presence across the world. But on the eve of the 50th anniversary, there is a special opportunity tomorrow to revive and strengthen it.
Demand has exploded and funding has not kept pace. Last year alone, 15,386 Americans vied for fewer than 4,000 positions, a 34% increase over 2008. Twenty new countries including Vietnam, a nation of 86 million people, have requested new programs. Existing programs in China, Rwanda, Indonesia, and many other countries need more resources but there is no budget and ministries are being told to wait.
Peace Corps is national service and if the demand is there from qualified applicants and interested countries, it is incumbent on Congress to provide the necessary funding.
The synchronicity in the timing of the historic vote tomorrow is telling. On the very day that Rep. Lowey decides whether or not to support the funding for 10,000 Peace Corps volunteers, over 6,000 volunteer leaders and public officials including Mayor Bloomberg will conclude the National Conference on Service and Volunteerism, in New York City, in which doubling of the of the Peace Corps will be a key platform presented before Congress.
Peace Corps enjoys remarkable bipartisan support because it is cost-effective and possesses ancillary language acquisition, diplomacy, and national security benefits. In fact, this year 124 bipartisan House Members signed a Dear Colleague Letter introduced by Democratic Congressman Sam Farr (Colombia 64-66) and Republican Congressman Tom Petri (Somalia 66-67) urging Rep. Lowey to support the $65 million increase.
Rep. Lowey and the 13 other subcommittee members must support the funding for 10,000 volunteers tomorrow to renew America's diplomacy and launch an exciting new beginning for the next fifty years of Peace Corps.
The PushforPeaceCorps.org campaign is asking all former Peace Corps volunteers to call Rep. Lowey's office at 202-225-6506 before 4 PM EST on June 30th to ask her to include the $65 million increase needed to break 10,000 volunteers on this historic anniversary.
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