Mayor Garcetti: ‘So for a few billion dollars, we could unleash a trillion dollars of economic activity sooner’ with national service expansion

Mayors around the country have called for an expansion to national service to aid COVID-19 recovery with food assistance, contact tracing, and more

WASHINGTON — Today, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) joined MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports to discuss Sen. Coons’ legislation to expand national service to respond to COVID-19.

“We have got millions of people out of work and hundreds of thousands of jobs we need filled. The quicker we can get them doing contact tracing, helping individuals and businesses with benefits from the federal government, maybe even doing things like cleaning up cities and investing in infrastructure, the quicker we can get this economy back going. So for a few billion dollars, we could unleash a trillion dollars of economic activity sooner,” said Mayor Garcetti.

“This would be locally led and driven by commissions that already exist all over our country, appointed by governors, that include nonprofit leaders, state and local government leaders, civic leaders and they would approve specifically targeted programs,” said Senator Coons. “In some states and cities they might do contact tracing or testing. In others they might help with combating hunger by supporting food banks. In others they might work to support education, to provide needed enrichment and connectivity over the summer and into the fall. There are lots of different ways that a new generation of Americans can step forward and serve our nation.”

The Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act would fund 750,000 national service positions over a three-year response and recovery period to meet the need for hundreds of thousands of people to help with public health efforts like screening and testing, as well as food assistance, education support, and more. 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.

Full audio and video available here. A transcript is provided below.

Q: With states reopening despite warnings of a possible second wave of COVID-19 infections, there's still no unified federal plan to test, contact trace and ensure vital services are not interrupted. But now there is growing support for planning and funding programs like AmeriCorps to do exactly that. Joining me now are Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Delaware Democratic Senator Chris Coons, who are both supporting these initiatives. Senator Coons, we have talked to you before about the legislation which is bipartisan. How would this work? 
Sen. Coons: Well, Andrea, thanks for a chance to be on, and great to be on with my friend Mayor Garcetti, who's helped lead this initiative in Los Angeles and cities across the country. We have more than 80 co-sponsors in the House and the Senate of a bipartisan bill that would expand the existing national service program best known as AmeriCorps. It would increase the pay modestly. It would increase the education award earned by members, but it would double this year the number of opportunity slots. So that would make it possible for 150,000 Americans who are currently unemployed or who are looking for an opportunity to serve to be engaged in response. This would be locally led and driven by commissions that already exist all over our country, appointed by governors, that include nonprofit leaders, state and local government leaders, civic leaders…and they would approve specifically targeted programs. In some states and cities they might do contact tracing or testing. In others they might help with combating hunger by supporting food banks. In others they might work to support education, to provide needed enrichment and connectivity over the summer and into the fall. There are lots of different ways that a new generation of Americans can step forward and serve our nation. I'm grateful Mayor Garcetti has led a letter that has more than 50 bipartisan mayors supporting this bill around the country. 

Q: And Mayor Garcetti, you've been a leader out in California. You've already started expanding contact tracing. How would this work in cities such as yours, as you have one of the largest cities in the country, obviously? 

Mayor Garcetti: Well I want to thank Senator Coons for his extraordinary leadership. I'm proud to be alongside him and all of my fellow brother and sister mayors from both parties and across this country. Look. Simply put, we have got millions of people out of work and hundreds of thousands of jobs we need filled. The quicker we can get them doing contact tracing, helping individuals and businesses with benefits from the federal government, maybe even doing things like cleaning up cities and investing in infrastructure, the quicker we can get this economy back going. So for a few billion dollars, we could unleash a trillion dollars of economic activity sooner. Our state says we need a certain number of contact tracers. We're quickly trying to get that, but we have got out-of-work people and we’ve got this need, and this is a beautiful way of coming together just as we did during the depression with the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Cold War with the Peace Corps, during the war on poverty with the Teacher Corps. It’s time for this generation to have its C.A.R.E.S. Corps that can step up, stand up and do this for America. 

Q: Let me ask you both of you also; the president is now leaving for Michigan. He's going into a state that requires wearing a face covering. He hasn't said yet, as far as I know, whether or not he is going to wear a mask. He has not been seen wearing one and he's also, as you know, done things that go against CDC guidelines and against FDA warnings in taking a risky medication. Mayor Garcetti, what should the president do in terms of the way he models behavior for the rest of the country? 

Mayor Garcetti: Simply put, he's our Commander in Chief. I say real men wear face masks. When they're going to be with other people in public, it's our gateway to increasing freedom and more economic activity and greater opening up. I think modeling that is something so important for all of our leaders, and any men who don't want to wear face masks, we’ve got to get over ourselves and just do it. 

Q: Senator Coons, your view on all of this?

Sen. Coons: Andrea, I just took my mask off for the beginning of this interview and will be putting it back on as soon as I'm off camera. Scientific studies have shown if folks simply wear face masks regularly, we can cut transmission by 80%. Our president is a role model for many in our country. As we heard on your last segment, when he started talking about hydroxychloroquine as a possible preventive, the numbers of folks trying to get on this medication, taking this medication went up dramatically in the United States. I was once decades ago on hydroxychloroquine but for an appropriate prescribed purpose, preventing malaria when I was a student in Africa decades ago. There is no demonstrated positive benefit from this. So when President Trump refuses to take simple steps to follow science, to follow our public health leaders like Dr. Fauci and the recommendations that we've heard from organizations and entities around the country that are responsible for leadership on this, he is not just setting a bad example but in some ways actively misleading the American people in a way that has prolonged this tragedy. Sometime in the next few days we will pass the mark of 100,000 Americans who will have died from this pandemic in every state, in every territory. We need leadership that helps us show the way forward out of this. 

Q: Senator Coons, thank you so very much. Mayor Garcetti, as always, it's great to have you with us as well. Thanks and be safe.