Support is building for an effort led by Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, and a working group of senators to significantly expand national service programs as the country works to respond and recover from COVID-19.

The Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act was introduced May 5 in the Senate with seven additional cosponsors: Sens. Angus King, I-Maine; Tina Smith, D-Minnesota; Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire; Tom Udall, D-New Mexico; Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii. Reps. David Price, D-North Carolina, and Doris Matsui, D-California, introduced bipartisan companion legislation in the House.

Also May 5, more than 100 national service and public health organizations voiced their support for the legislation, which was first announced last month by Sens. Coons; Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota; Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois; Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico; Ed Markey, D-Massachustts; Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland; Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut; and Dick Durbin, D-Illinois.

“We are grateful for the support of our colleagues and more than 100 organizations across the country who understand what we already know: our national service programs can and should play a transformative role in our response and recovery from COVID-19,” said Coons. “I’m convinced that there are hundreds of thousands of people — especially young people — who are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work to do the hard work of testing, contact tracing, educating and rebuilding our communities. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this legislation in the next relief package.”

In addition to Voices for National Service, the bill has gained the support of more than 100 organizations, including America’s Service Commissions, City Year, the Consortium of Universities for Global Health, FoodCorps, Habitat for Humanity International, Hunger Free America, Jumpstart, National Health Corps, National Senior Corps Association, National Youth Leadership Council, Service Year Alliance, Teach for America, and YouthBuild. For a full list of supportive organizations, please click here.

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.

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.

A one-pager is available at bit.ly/2YDdyY4. The full text of the bill is available at bit.ly/3be3GXL.