Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Vermont could lead with Peace Corps

On March 15, the Peace Corps ordered all volunteers to evacuate as soon as they could find a flight back to the U.S. This included 51 PCVs from Vermont along with over 7,000 others. Federal funding provided evacuation costs, two months of healthcare and a readjustment allowance based on months of service. Volunteers were directed to do two weeks of quarantine with the federal government providing lodging if the Peace Corps volunteer would be returning to a place in which those at high risk were housed. 
I applaud the Trump administration and Congress for acting together, but as our national, state and local responses to the pandemic continue, longer term measures will be needed to meet the needs of evacuees. Governor Scott has put out the call for Vermonters to help lift the burden of keeping people fed, sheltered and healthy during this public health crisis. State and local agencies that provide food, shelter and medications all require additional labor and are in greater demand during this crisis. More people power is needed to sort, pack, carry, build, manage, deliver, etc. at such agencies. 
Most of the Volunteers are in their mid-twenties. If arrangements with a host country and the Peace Corps are renewed, many will re-apply, as required by the Peace Corps, and return to the work they were doing when they received the evacuation order. But now let Vermont take the lead nationally in recruiting evacuated Peace Corps volunteers to serve here at home in our time of need. The Volunteers are not eligible for unemployment, so let them keep their service contracts and provide them with health insurance as they fulfill critical positions in public service. This will be a model for the country in coping with the Corona-virus epidemic and in seeking a long-term measure to support our Peace Corps volunteers.
Jill Vickers
Bridport
Editor’s note: The writer was a Peace Corps volunteer in Afghanistan in 1969 and 1970.
 

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