FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, February 2, 1998
President Proposes 21 Percent Increase in Peace Corps Budget ; Boost Would Put Agency on Path to 10,000 Volunteers by Year 2000
Washington, D.C., Monday, February 2, 1998—In his fiscal 1999 budget proposed today, President Clinton asked for an increase in the Peace Corps budget that would put the agency on the path to having 10,000 Peace Corps volunteers overseas by the year 2000, a 50 percent increase over the current number of volunteers.
The President\'s proposal would increase the Peace Corps budget by $48 million, boosting the agency\'s budget from $222 million in fiscal year 1998 to $270 million in fiscal 1999. The 21 percent increase represents the largest funding increase requested for the Peace Corps since the 1960s.
"The President\'s strong support is an affirmation of the work that nearly 6,500 volunteers are currently doing in 84 countries, as well as the legacy of the 150,000 volunteers who have joined the Peace Corps since 1961," said Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan.
Gearan said that with thousands more volunteers serving overseas, the Peace Corps can increasingly help communities around the world gain access to clean water; grow more food; help prevent the spread of AIDS; teach English, math and science; help entrepreneurs start new businesses; and work with non-governmental organizations to protect the environment.
Gearan expressed confidence that the Peace Corps can meet the ambitious goal of recruiting, training, and supporting 10,000 volunteers by the year 2000.
"In recent years, we have seen a significant resurgence of interest in Peace Corps service," Gearan said. "Last year, more than 150,000 Americans contacted the Peace Corps expressing interest in serving as volunteers. This is an increase of more than 40 percent since 1994."
The Peace Corps has received strong bipartisan support in Congress, Gearan said, adding that he looks forward to working with lawmakers in both parties to secure funding for the President\'s proposal, the first balanced budget proposal in nearly 30 years.
"There are three Democrats and three Republicans in Congress who served in the Peace Corps, and Senator Paul Coverdell is a former Peace Corps Director," Gearan said. "We are grateful for the support that members of Congress have provided to the Peace Corps and the work of our volunteers."
Gearan said support for the Peace Corps is quite strong, citing a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released late last month, in which 79 percent of Americans said they approve of recent proposals by the President on such issues as expanding child care, Medicare the Peace Corps. Gearan said the poll is consistent with a Washington Post/ABC News poll taken last April, in which 77 percent of Americans said they support government funding of volunteer programs such as Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America.
"The popularity and success of the Peace Corps as an institution is a testament to the power of an idea that transcends both politics and partisanship," Gearan said.
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