September 2020


William Darity, Jr. Samuel DuBois Cook Distinguished Professor of Public Policy,Duke Sanford School of Public Policy

Dawn Milam Senior Advisor, The Justice Collaborative Institute

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the
country to the brink of economic collapse. While
the CARES Act provided some temporary relief,
sustained economic recovery requires a plan
to give unemployed workers an opportunity
to support themselves and their families with
dignity. New Deal-style federal jobs programs
can help eliminate working poverty and create a
more stable, inclusive economy. Congress should
establish a program that provides a true public
option for employment and gives existing workers,
particularly those confined to the low end of the
labor market, jobs in projects that will serve the
public welfare.
A federal job guarantee program would:
? Provide a permanent public option for
workers to receive training, living wages,
benefits, better working conditions, and full
worker rights, as a true alternative to the
private job market.

? Invest in projects that benefit the public,
such as caregiving (especially child and elder
care); the conservation of natural resources;
the creation of emergency relief programs;
investments in education, health, and culture;
and the building of critical infrastructure.
It would also make these services affordable
for all.
? Offer a better response to economic crises
like the pandemic by eliminating the need for
poorly paid and unsafe employment.
Polling by Data for Progress and The Justice
Collaborative Institute shows strong bipartisan
support for a federal job guarantee program.
Sixty-four percent of likely voters, including 78%
of Democrats and 53% of Republicans, said they
would support a federal job guarantee program
as part of the government’s response to the
economic crisis.

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