Giving Compass' Take:

• As we are unsure about how long COVID-19 will last or the long-term impact on the economy, it necessary for policymakers to start planning a subsidized jobs recovery program to help the unemployed. 

• What have we learned from past economic recessions and job recovery that could help us move forward in the COVID-19 recession? How can donors support unemployed individuals until this program comes to fruition?

• Read why we should invest in upskilling America's unemployed citizens.

We don’t know how long the COVID-19 public health crisis will last nor when the economy will fully recover. We can be pretty sure, though, that not all businesses and jobs will come back right away.

Before the pandemic, when the nation’s February 2020 unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, more than 5 million people were out of work. The March unemployment rate had risen to 4.4 percent, based on the regular monthly survey taken mid-month before the pandemic surge; April will undoubtedly be much higher. We don’t know yet how high the rate will go in coming months, but if it increases to 7 or 10 percent or higher, we could see 10 or 20 million or more people unemployed across most sectors of the economy.

In just the two final weeks of March 2020, more than 10 million people applied for unemployment insurance (PDF). Some may be out of work for a short period of time, and some may be unemployed for many months.

Publicly subsidized jobs and large infrastructure spending have been used during some economic downturns. Congress may again decide to fund a large jobs program in addition to infrastructure investment. If so, now’s the time to carefully plan a program for workers who may have a hard time getting a job after the public health crisis.

But many public, community, and nonprofit organizations that normally provide those services may not have the budget to expand hiring or even recall or replace all their former workers. A federal jobs program could help fill those gaps, as it has during other economic downturns.

If the economy recovers slowly or officially enters recession, a publicly subsidized jobs program could supplement or support important community services, provide income to unemployed workers, and train and retrain people for new or better jobs.

Read the full article about jobs recovery program by Demetra Smith Nightingale, Pamela J. Loprest, and Jessica Shakesprere at Urban Institute.