Virginia lawmaker wants unemployment benefits extended to Peace Corps volunteers

A prominent Virginia Democratic congresswoman is urging labor officials to make Americorp and Peace Corps volunteers eligible for unemployment benefits under the latest coronavirus relief package.

In a letter to Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, Virginia 10th district representative Jennifer Wexton noted the recent recall of Peace Corps volunteers from the more than 100 countries where it runs programs.

While volunteers have received some help with readjustment and evacuation, Wexton pointed out that they don’t qualify for unemployment.

“The Department of Labor has previously determined that this service does not constitute an employer-employee relationship,” she said.

But Wexton is asking for unemployment benefits under the pandemic relief package to be extended to both groups in the same way they will be to gig workers and contractors.

“These individuals selflessly volunteered to help others abroad but were forced to cut short their plans and travel back home under much duress, and now face great uncertainty about their immediate futures and economic security,” Wexton wrote.

She went on to praise their work, saying Peace Corps and AmeriCorps participants strive to “improve the health, education, governance, and economic security of families and communities” in the nations and cities they work in.

The $2.2 trillion relief package was approved by Congress late last month and includes $260 billion in emergency unemployment insurance.


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