Rep. Castro, Senator Markey Announce Legislation to Expand Protections for American Citizens Overseas during Coronavirus Pandemic
Legislation would enhance the Department of State’s overseas citizen protection efforts as Americans continue to try to return home or obtain information for loved ones overseas
WASHINGTON–As countries close their borders and take action to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, impacting the travel of U.S. citizens and nationals around the world, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) are leading new legislation to enhance the ability of the State Department to protect U.S. citizens and nationals overseas. The Expanding Vital American Citizen Services Overseas (EVACS) Act expedites and expands American Citizen Services at U.S. embassies, consulates, and missions worldwide. American Citizen Services include emergency passports, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, virtual or in-person welfare visits of U.S. citizens who are imprisoned or hospitalized, emergency financial assistance, and repatriation of U.S. citizens. The legislation would ensure systems and procedures adjust to remote workloads and requirements for social distancing, and also calls on the Secretary of State to increasing consular staffing to improve service to constituents.
“We have an obligation to protect Americans around the world, and this bill will reimburse people for COVID19 evacuations by the U.S. State Department and also ensure we are better prepared for future global pandemics,” said Congressman Castro, Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. “The State Department must also ensure diplomatic capabilities are strengthened during this crisis to prepare for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow, starting with onboarding new diplomats and members of the Foreign Service to begin their careers as scheduled. I appreciate Senator Markey’s leadership on this effort to support Americans abroad.”
“Assisting U.S. citizens overseas must be the number one priority of the State Department during the pandemic,” said Senator Markey, Ranking Member of the East Asia Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “During this crisis, my office has assisted hundreds of constituents stranded in more than 30 countries around the globe, and we continue to get requests every day. The brave men and women of the State Department are often risking their own lives in order to help Americans overseas, and we must ensure that they have all the tools and protection they need in order to fulfill their mission. I thank Chairman Castro for his partnership on this legislation to improve protection of U.S. citizens and nationals overseas.”
A copy of the EVACS Act can be found HERE.
The legislation also outlines steps to protect Americans during the coronavirus crisis, including:
- Facilitating movement of U.S. citizens and nationals in countries where they are subject to COVID-19 movement restrictions, so they can come home;
- Requiring the State Department to waive or reimburse COVID-19 repatriation travel expenses incurred on or after December 31, 2019;
- Monitoring the safety of State Department employees by requiring a comprehensive report on the Department’s COVID-19 risk mitigation procedures and PPE availability overseas; and
- Prioritizing regular and continued hiring of Foreign Service officers and specialists.
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