The Case for a Federal Job Guarantee Program

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Executive Summary

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.