AUDIO: Heinrich Introduces Legislation To Dramatically Expand National Service Programs To Respond To Pandemic

“We will be a stronger country if we both ask Americans to serve and give them meaningful opportunities to do so”

WASHINGTON (May 5, 2020) – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), the first AmeriCorps alum to serve in the Senate, introduced the Pandemic Response and Opportunity Through National Service Act, legislation to significantly expand national service programs to respond to COVID-19. Senator Heinrich participated in a press teleconference to unveil the bill today. Listen to a recording of the call by clicking HERE.

“In times of crisis, Americans have always embraced service to their nation. In this crisis and our recovery from it, we will be a stronger country if we both ask Americans to serve and give them meaningful opportunities to do so,” said Heinrich.

The bicameral legislation would ramp up programs like AmeriCorps to help meet the need for as many as 300,000 new workers to help with contact tracing, testing, and more in the coming months and beyond. 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. The bill utilizes existing funding and administration infrastructure available at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). This will help expedite the allocation of funds and put people to work quickly. Senator Heinrich is actively working to include the bill in the next COVID-19 relief package.

The legislation introduced in the House and Senate today is led by U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) and U.S. Representative David Price (D-N.C.).

For a one-pager on the bill, click HERE. For the bill text, click HERE.

Senator Heinrich's remarks as prepared for delivery on the teleconference today are below:

I’d like to start by thanking Senator Coons and Representative Price for their leadership in making national service a major part of our national recovery.

In times of crisis, Americans have always embraced service to their nation.

In this crisis and our recovery from it, we will be a stronger country if we both ask Americans to serve and give them meaningful opportunities to do so.

This is very personal for me.

I am the first United States Senator to serve in this body who is an alum of the AmeriCorps program.

I served as a natural resources AmeriCorps Member assigned to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Mexican Wolf Recovery Project.

My work helped lay the groundwork for the recovery of one of the world’s most endangered species.

Because I grew up on a farm, my skills were often applied to the program’s infrastructure needs. I was asked to run a backhoe laying water lines for the breeding enclosures that brought these creatures back from the brink of extinction.

President Roosevelt understood the value of this kind of work when he created the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps.

He understood that a generation of out of work Americans were not without worth, but rather that they could leave an indelible mark on our country.

I see that mark in New Mexico all the time. I see it at Bandelier National Monument, at White Sands National Park (our Nation’s newest), and on backcountry trails throughout our public lands.

I met many of the Civilian Conservation Corps participants, or “CCC boys,” as they called themselves. Many of them have passed away by now.

And yet their works will outlive all of them and will continue to serve this nation for decades to come.

That’s an important lesson.

While, I want to echo what others have said about how national service can be a key ingredient in addressing our immediate public health challenges, I also want to emphasize why we need to expand national service opportunities that will build our long-term recovery.

This includes critical Corps, like the Conservation Corps and Indian Youth Service Corps.

That’s a critical point. Indian Country has borne a disproportionate brunt from the pandemic.

More opportunities in the Indian Youth Service Corps will mean real help for tribal nations in the recovery from this tragic time.

In addition, putting today’s national service corps to work conserving our public lands and creating resilient landscapes will have a long-term economic impact on our country.

The outdoor recreation industry was fueling some of the fastest job growth in New Mexico, particularly in our rural and tribal communities, before the pandemic hit.

Expanding our conservation corps will create jobs in the short-term and create new infrastructure and opportunities for our outdoor recreation economy for years to come.

Improving infrastructure and opportunities in our public lands can help us restore and keep growing that key part of my state’s economy—and rural economies across the country.

I want to once thank everyone who is partnering on this important legislation.

I’m proud to be a part of this effort to empower a new generation of Americans to serve our great nation.