WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (D-Boston), joined by Congressman John Katko (R-NY-24), Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA-04), and Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA-03), introduced H.R. 1442, the Public Service Federal Eligibility Protection Act of 2017. In the wake of President Donald Trump’s government-wide hiring freeze, returning Peace Corps and AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers were left concerned that the non-competitive service eligibility they earned in service to our nation and the international community will be expended during the indefinite freeze. H.R. 1442 would simply extend non-competitive eligibility for these individuals by the amount of days that the hiring freeze is in place.

“From mentoring students in the City of Boston through the Boston Cares AmeriCorps VISTA program to improving medical education in Tanzania and Uganda under the Peace Corps Global Health Service Partnership, we are thankful for the service of Americans who choose to dedicate years of their lives to helping those in need in the United States and around the world. When these volunteers return home and consider their next chapter, continuing their public service by working in the federal government should be one option they can consider,” said Congressman Lynch. “These volunteers earned their hiring status through their public service and we should not let their non-competitive eligibility expire because a federal hiring freeze is in place. H.R. 1442 will fix this problem affecting returning volunteers across the country and I am thankful to have the support of my colleagues on this legislation.”

H.R. 1442 is endorsed by the House Peace Corps Caucus, of which Congressman Kennedy and Congressman Garamendi are co-chairs. Congressman Kennedy served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic and Congressman Garamendi and his wife Patti served as Peace Corps volunteers in Ethiopia. In addition, H.R. 1442 is supported by the National Peace Corps Association.

“Peace Corps Volunteers serve our nation with distinction, and the longstanding one-year allowance of non-competitive eligibility is one of the few benefits they receive for their service,” said National Peace Corps Association President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst. “Through non-competitive eligibility, the federal government is able to prioritize hiring of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers—patriotic, service-oriented Americans who can immediately contribute high-quality skills and policy input to their jobs. We are grateful to Representatives Lynch and Katko for recognizing that the non-competitive eligibility benefit should not be lost during current and future periods when a freeze on federal hiring is implemented.”

In particular, H.R. 1442 cites the Presidential Memorandum issued by President Trump on January 23, 2017, which prevents “a department or agency of the Federal Government from filling vacant Federal civilian employee positions or creating new such positions.” With the hiring freeze in place, returning Peace Corps and AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers are unable to use their non-competitive eligibility due to the lack of jobs in the federal workforce. After fully completing their public service, Peace Corps and AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers are awarded this special hiring status, active for one year beginning on the date of completion of service. H.R. 1442 will ensure that these volunteers are able to use the full 12 months they earned.