How Does Peace Corps Handle a Government Shutdown?
The answer to that question is still relatively unknown. Over the past few weeks, a few of us Volunteers here in southern Azerbaijan have been wondering what happens when the Federal government hits the skids. Among concerns for Volunteers, we’ve got various things like monthly rent payments, to either landlords or host families, electricity and gas bills (and internet bills for the lucky few), in addition to the food and transport costs of being a Volunteer. Missing a rent payment could be really awkward: “Hi (insert landlord name). How are you? I’m sorry, but I don’t have the money for this month’s rent because the American politicians have decided that it’s more important to huff and puff and not do their jobs than take care of their Peace Corps Volunteers abroad (among others). So I won’t have the rent yet. And no, I’m not sure when the American government will start working again.”
Yep, that would be awkward. Maybe our comrades in Peace Corps countries would understand that, though, as they are surely no strangers to being let down by their governments Thankfully, we are not in that situation. And also thankfully, my Country Director was able to clear up that, as far as Peace Corps country budgets go, we would be fine for the short term:
I wanted to alert you that overseas operations will NOT be affected, with the caveat that upcoming ISTs could be postponed, but I have no specific guidance on that.
Otherwise, all staff and Volunteer operations will continue in Azerbaijan. (At other posts where upcoming stagings and PSTs are planned, these are funded and will continue as planned.)
ISTs and PSTs are acronyms for training events for Volunteers. So our fretting was generally unnecessary. It would have been nice, however, to know those details well in advance of the Boehner-Reid-Obama showdown. I’m not sure what goes into the contingency plans, and perhaps there are good reasons for keeping such things under wraps, but it was a little disturbing to read this blurb in a USATODAY article:
Dozens of agencies have refused to release their plans to USA TODAY, saying no final plans are in place — even though the government has twice come within 48 hours of a shutdown. However, Selective Service released OMB-provided talking points to agencies about how to discuss their shutdown plans if asked by members of Congress.
Asked why the administration is keeping its shutdown plans secret, OMB provided a statement that echoed those talking points…
…The Peace Corps, for example, said it was withholding 126 pages related to its plan. “The document consists of opinions, recommendations and other reflections of staff thinking integral to the pre-decisional, deliberative process.” Other agencies, including the Justice Department, cited attorney-client privilege.
So, excitement all around, really. Now that there’s a deal struck by our tireless politicians, we can all breathe a sigh of relief right?