May 22, 2020

Whitehouse & Schatz Introduce Legislation to Create Massive Jobs Program to Hire, Train Up to 1.5 Million Workers to Fight COVID-19, Help States Safely Reopen

Jobs program will provide newly unemployed with stable incomes and benefits, training for contact tracing, COVID-19 testing, containment efforts

Washington, D.C. – With Rhode Island’s unemployment rate soaring to 17 percent in April, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) has joined U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) to introduce legislation that will create a massive new jobs program to help states across the country hire more than a million workers to stop the spread of the coronavirus.  As states and cities slowly begin to reopen and strengthen COVID-19 mitigation and containment efforts, the Jobs to Fight COVID-19 Act aims to provide newly unemployed Americans with jobs in the growing public health care sector.

“The pandemic has turned our economy upside down, leaving millions out of work.  It has also created urgent needs to be filled if we’re going to safely reopen more of the country,” said Whitehouse.  “We’re calling for a national mobilization that redeploys Americans’ talents to fighting the spread of the coronavirus and serving their communities in this unprecedented moment of need.”

“With nearly 40 million people unemployed, we need solutions that meet the scale of the problem,” said Schatz.  “Our bill will put people back to work and provide the workforce we need to stop the spread of the coronavirus and help us safely reopen.”

The Jobs to Fight COVID-19 Act will:

  • Require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish and implement a national evidence-based system for COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, surveillance, containment, and mitigation;
  • Provide $100 billion in grants to state and local governments to hire, train, and deploy newly unemployed workers to perform pandemic response work in their communities.  Work can include contact tracing, surveillance, containment, mitigation, and cleaning;
  • Ensure workers are paid with the prevailing wage rates and fringe benefits in their state or city as outlined by the Service Contract Act;
  • Ensure that unemployment insurance systems, workforce development boards, and community organizations collaborate to bring awareness to the program and encourage unemployed workers to apply; and
  • Require the CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration to provide guidance and technical assistance on standards and protocols to ensure that workers are properly trained, can perform their work safely, and that the work done through this program will have a robust impact in preventing COVID-19 outbreaks.

The bill is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921