Many Americans are anticipating the new stimulus package that Congress is negotiating this week. Whether the government will extend unemployment benefits or issue another $1,200 check is on most people’s minds, but more support for national service is also on the table — and it could have a big impact on how the United States continues to tackle COVID-19.
A bipartisan group of 16 US senators is hoping to get a new bill passed to strengthen and expand government-run programs that promote community service amid the coronavirus outbreak and its effects.
Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) introduced the Cultivating Opportunity and Response to the Pandemic through Service, or CORPS Act, on June 16. The act aims to strengthen and expand national service through funding and additional jobs for AmeriCorps and Senior Corps. Each national network plugs members into community organizations and public agencies that work in education, public safety, and environmental protection.
“Thousands of young people across the country are calling for greater opportunity and for new and meaningful engagement to address persistent inequities that have only been exacerbated by COVID-19,” Coons said in a press release.
“Now is the time to mobilize that energy to make our communities stronger and healthier for everyone.”
The bill would double the number of AmeriCorps jobs to 150,000 in 2020 and create 600,000 service opportunities for unemployed young people and others to improve their communities. These new positions would respond to local needs such as scaling up food pantries, finding innovative ways to provide children with education, and expanding COVID-19 testing.
“Helping our nation respond to and recover from the coronavirus outbreak will require an all-hands approach,” Wicker said in the release. “Boosting the ranks of our service corps is a cost-efficient way to get communities the help they need.”
Service has the power to strengthen our communities in times of need. That’s why Global Citizen is proud to take a #Stand4Service by joining more than 160+ non-profit organizations in support of @AmeriCorps, @SeniorCorps and the #CORPSAct.— Global Citizen (@GlblCtzn) July 23, 2020
Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Jack Reed (D-RI), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Angus King (I-Maine), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) joined Wicker and Coons in co-sponsoring the bill.
The CORPS Act also received support from more than 150 organizations, including Global Citizen, Habitat for Humanity International, Hunger Free America, and more.
The CORPS Act specifically prioritizes expanding programs in rural and high-poverty areas and could provide new opportunities as high unemployment rates, which peaked at 14.7% in April, remain a concern.
National service might be especially appealing during the pandemic’s economic downturn as it offers valuable skills and education opportunities, Coons said. AmeriCorps members are eligible for benefits like student-loan deferment and forgiveness, and higher education tuition awards.
AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members have already supported several initiatives to address the immediate challenges presented by the pandemic by delivering millions of meals, providing virtual education resources for students, and performing hundreds of thousands of wellness checks. Senators supporting the CORPS Act want to see members make an even larger impact.
Global Citizens can take action now and urge senators to pledge critical support for the CORPS Act. Learn more here.