THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
A bill is curently working its way through Congress which, if enacted, would offer additional support to American Citizen Services at US Embassies around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic and future global emergencies.
The bill, known as the "Expanding Vital American Citizen Services Overseas (EVACS) Act of 2020", was introduced by Representative Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20) in April, with the same bill introduced in the Senate by Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) in June. Both bills are currently with each chamber's representative Foreign Affairs/Relations Committee.
If enacted, the bill would aim to give Embassies and Consulates more authority and resources to support overseas Americans in the event of border or airspace closures. The bill would also see the "Secretary of State waive any travel expenses paid by the Department of State on or after December 31, 2019, for any covered individual who is evacuated from a foreign country and repatriated to the United States due to travel restrictions implemented in response to COVID-19 or any future pandemic or international crisis, as determined by the Secretary."
As well as offering extra provisions for diplomatic missions to protect US citizens overseas who are caught up in border-related difficulties due to pandemics and similar world events, the bill would also increase staffing levels at consular departments in Washington DC to offer additional assistance in times of need. The bill would also create an ongoing mechanism to allow extra support to be provided to consular departments around the world in the event of future incidents.
At present, both bills are being reviewed by the Foreign Affairs and Foreign Relations committees in the House and Senate respectively. According to Skopos Lab, the bill has a 2% chance of being enacted through the House of Representatives, but given the ongoing difficulties for Americans worldwide, and given the hard work of embassy and consular staff globally, this bill would offer much needed backup and assistance to help Americans living/traveling overseas, and empower embassy staff to assist them.
Full details on the bill can be found at www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/4026/text.