By Cheryl Fiandaca

BOSTON (CBS) – The Civilian Conservation Corps was created during the height of The Great Depression, as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. The CCC paid millions of out of work Americans to build bridges, clear trails, and plant trees. Eight-seven years later, America finds itself facing some of those same economic struggles.

More than 30 million people in the U.S. are unemployed due to the coronavirus crisis. Budding artist Jaleel Davis is one of them.

“I am a hard worker,” he said. “I don’t have a job because of COVID and filed for unemployment, but I would love to have something to do right now.”

Alan Khazei, the co-founder of the nonprofit City Year, suggests rather than having young people like Jaleel collect unemployment, the government can put them to work.

Khazei believes it is time for a new New Deal, providing paid national service and work for young people who need it.

Like the Conservation Corps of the 1930s, where workers learned new skills, Khazei said many of today’s jobs would provide the same opportunity.

“You can spend a year in service, paid to go to work fighting the coronavirus, doing contact tracing which is technology based.”

Khaezi said young people know technology better than anyone.

It’s not just contact tracing. Khazei said there are other jobs that need to be done during the pandemic, including helping seniors, supporting health care organizations, tutoring students, and maintaining the parks.

Jaleel, who spent years landscaping, says he’s all in.

“I think it is a really good initiative. I’d love to give back to the community in any way I could.”

A bill that would provide this opportunity through Americorps is winding its way through the Senate. Khazei called it a good start, and says increasing volunteers and adding service year fellowships would benefit everyone.

Cheryl Fiandaca

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