On Tuesday, May 26 Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) announced he will introduce the Coronavirus Service Corps Act, which would create a program modeled after the New Deal-Era Citizen Conservation Corps. The program would employ young people for up to a year in jobs related to safely reopening the country, including contact tracers, phlebotomists, and peer counselors. Unemployment is approaching record levels, and studies show that young people are often the hardest hit during economic crises. Rep. Harder also authored a white paper and an op-ed in USA Today about his proposal.
“The time is now for bold ideas – we have record unemployment and young people will be some of the hardest hit,” said Rep. Harder. “We need to get people working in jobs that will help us continue the safe reopening process right away.”
The Coronavirus Pandemic and resulting economic chaos has led to the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression – and history suggests young Americans could take the hardest financial hit. Evidence also indicates that the impact on this cohort will not be temporary. Young people may struggle to achieve financial security for years to come.
At the same time, the Coronavirus Pandemic has created a desperate need for new jobs related to safely reopening the economy. To successfully reopen our economy and ensure greater testing capacity, the United States will need to create potentially hundreds of thousands of new service positions. Some health experts have suggested we will need 300,000 contact tracers alone to safely return to normal economic activity.
The Coronavirus Service Corps would be a massive peacetime mobilization effort rivaling the Citizen Conservation Corps of the New Deal Era. Nicknamed “Roosevelt’s Tree Army,” the CCC employed nine million people over its lifespan. Civilian Conservation Corps workers built Great Smoky Mountain National Park. They laid hundreds of miles of road and dozens more bridges. Many of their projects are still standing – over 80 years later.
The congressman noted that, as during the Great Depression, the government has the capacity and responsibility to employ people who want to work but due to the economic crisis, have no opportunity to do so. The organization would provide employment opportunities for up to a year for Americans at least 18 years of age. Participants will be split up into job tracks based on areas of interest and experience and work towards particular goals related to safely returning to normal.