WASHINGTON — More than 50 mayors from across the country have called on Congress to provide federal funding for a comprehensive, locally focused, national service strategy to help communities respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) is leading a bicameral, bipartisan proposal that would double the number of national service positions available this year to help meet the need for hundreds of thousands of new workers to help with contact tracing, testing, virtual learning, and more.
In two letters – one from the mayors of California’s largest cities and the other from more than 40 mayors representing urban and rural localities across the U.S. – they urge the U.S. Senate and House leadership to include the Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act (S.3624 and H.R.6702) in the next COVID-19 relief package.
“As our own cities and the country as a whole, contemplate the future, we know that the challenges to recovery – for our grieving families, shuttered schools and churches, and halted economy – are manifold,” the mayors wrote. “And as you know, the road to normalcy will require more than economic stimulus, even historic levels of it. We should call on Americans across the country to step up and contribute through service.”
“As we face the triple threat of a health, economic, and educational crisis, we should lean into the robust and flexible national service infrastructure offered by AmeriCorps and Senior Corps to meet the acute needs mounting in our communities,” the mayors continued.
The Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act would fund 750,000 national service positions over a three-year response and recovery period, in part to meet the projected need for as many as 300,000 public health workers. Under the bill, the number of AmeriCorps and national service positions could expand from 75,000 to 150,000 the first year and double to 300,000 in years two and three. The bill would also expand partnerships between AmeriCorps and federal health agencies and increase the AmeriCorps living allowance to ensure all Americans can step up to serve regardless of their financial circumstances. The bill is supported by more than one hundred organizations.
This is one of three proposals developed by a working group of senators to address the urgent need to expand the public health and response workforce during and in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The limited federal funding currently available has allowed AmeriCorps to deploy 75,000 national service members to help address core weaknesses in education, the economy and public health exposed by this pandemic,” said AnnMaura Connolly, President of Voices for National Service, which works to ensure Americans of all ages and backgrounds have the opportunity to serve and volunteer in their community. “But by leaning into the robust national service infrastructure that supports AmeriCorps through the Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act, the country could deploy around a quarter of a million civilian national service members annually to help us respond to and recover from this pandemic.”