The COVID-19 pandemic is doing unprecedented economic damage, causing a spike in unemployment that is even more sudden and acute than was experienced during the Great Depression. Bold, immediate action is required to address mass unemployment and mitigate economic suffering. Large-scale subsidized employment initiatives have been used effectively in prior economic crises, including the Great Recession and the Great Depression, to quickly and effectively get large numbers of unemployed individuals back to work,[iii] support the health of businesses, and build necessary infrastructure.
Subsidized employment may be part of a future federal stimulus package in response to COVID-19, but cities and states have the opportunity to act sooner to implement subsidized employment initiatives and begin addressing unemployment and economic hardship among their residents. In addition, should a federal subsidized employment initiative be enacted, states and localities will likely have a great deal of flexibility in implementation and should have a plan in place to ensure effectiveness, equity, and efficiency.