This article appeared in the May 13, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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To beat a pandemic, enlist an ‘army’ of citizen workers?

Jessica Griffin/The Philadelphia Inquirer/AP/File
Doug Getty (left) and Leon Hsi install flooring with Rebuilding Together Philadelphia, in a home on Cambridge Street in the Parkside neighborhood of Philadelphia, April 5, 2019.

Welcome to your Monitor Daily, with stories on new challenges facing the world’s refugees, the search for a virus’s origins, reflections on freedom, one state’s winning response to the coronavirus, and a charitable movement around federal relief checks.

As followers of the Monitor Daily already know, the current crisis has repeatedly called forth the best in the human spirit as people strive to respond with compassion and creativity.

Here’s perhaps another example. In recent days, faced with twin challenges of a pandemic and a record spike in unemployment, some U.S. senators are offering a “let’s solve both” proposal. They urge an expansion of federally funded national service programs, citing big benefits to society as well as to the individuals employed.  

“Right now, the American people are eager to get back to work and looking for ways to help our country in its time of need,” write Sens. Chris Coons and Bill Cassidy, a Delaware Democrat and a Louisiana Republican, respectively, in a joint opinion column published Monday.

Senators Coons and Cassidy say as many as 300,000 new health care “contact tracers” are needed, to help combat the spread of coronavirus infections while also allowing the economy to reopen. Equal numbers could be deployed to meet needs in fields like education and conservation, and addressing hunger. 

Some longtime advocates of national service say the benefits could go beyond the most obvious ones for communities and the individuals who gain pay or skills. Economist Isabel Sawhill notes that, at a time of deep political and social divisions, national service is a proven way to lessen those chasms – by bringing people from different backgrounds onto the same team.

We’re also working on a project highlighting personal stories for Memorial Day. Tell us about your loved one who served in the armed forces by filling out our form or emailing us at We’d love to hear from you.

This article appeared in the May 13, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 05/13 edition
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