New bills in Congress ‘‘Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act’’ (H.R. 6702 and S. 3624) invoke the 1930s recovery programs as precedents:
More than 80 years ago, the Nation rose to the challenge of the Great Depression with the creation of citizen service programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
Millions of participants benefitted from paid employment and opportunities to develop their skills while constructing national parks and public lands infrastructure and producing cultural works still enjoyed today.
The current National Service Act is designed to promote recovery from the massive disruption and unemployment created by the coronavirus, but it seeks to do more than returning to the status quo. One aim is to supply personnel for testing the infected, but furthermore:
To recover, the Nation also needs meaningful employment opportunities, as well as a significant expansion of the human capital working to address community needs around public health, behavioral health, hunger, education, and conservation.
Can we learn from the history of the old New Deal and green it? Nancy Rose’s informative and concise book on the 1930s WPA, Put to Work: Relief Programs in the Great Depression, reports:
More than 650,000 miles of roads were constructed or repaired, along with bridges and viaducts, drainage ditches, culverts, sidewalks, curbs, gutters, traffic lighting and signs, and roadside landscaping. More than 125,000 buildings were built or repaired.