San Jose’s mayor hopes to create a jobs program to help bounce back from the economic devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The “Resilience Corps” would hire up to 500 residents, mostly young adults, to focus on five specific areas of need, Mayor Sam Liccardo said, including pandemic response, environmental issues, education support, disaster preparedness and economic recovery focused on providing aid to small businesses.
“We know what the divide is like between those that have prospered and those who have struggled,” Liccardo said. “A new normal will not suffice. We need a better one.”
Liccardo said the program would be built on the framework of the city’s Climate Corps, announced in September. That program helps recruit both volunteers and potential workers to address climate-specific issues.
Jobs would include tutoring positions in schools hard hit by the pandemic and even small business support staff to help mom and pop shops use internet resources and find funding to keep their doors open. Others will continue work in low-income communities advocating for continued COVID-19 testing and providing information on vaccinations.
Funding for the corps will include a Federal Emergency Management Agency with 100% reimbursement for pandemic-related jobs. It could potentially use up to $20 million in federal relief dollars from the American Rescue Plan. Members of the new job corps would receive a bit more than $23 per hour and health insurance.
San Jose parent Patricia Medina says her children will continue to need support even once they return to school. The program, she said, would help provide the help so many parents need.
“Our community will benefit so much from this new resiliency corps as … our leaders are looking to bring high-quality tutoring services to all children who need it in our region,” Medina said. “We need all hands on deck, from schools, cities and nonprofits to help our children to get back on track with their education and learning.”
Medina says many fellow parents are concerned they haven’t been able to provide their kids the learning support they need, and as a result, many might fall behind academically.
“I know there are thousands of children in San Jose like mine that need extra support and attention,” Medina said. “This is exactly what we need.”
The city plans to partner with local organizations, including Hunger At Home, Mexican Heritage Plaza, Gardner Family Health Network, Innovate Public Schools and San Jose Conservation Corps. The program would last for at least one year.
San Jose Vice Mayor Chappie Jones, councilmembers Magdalena Carrasco and Matt Mahan said they would support the program. The proposal will come before San Jose City Council on March 16, as part of Liccardo’s budget proposal.
“If we don’t have young people that are engaged and have an opportunity to make money and contribute to our community, there’s a potential they’ll be lost,” Jones said.
Raymundo Espinoza, CEO of Gardner Family Health Network, said the jobs are desperately needed in communities left disheartened and disenfranchised by the pandemic.
“This funding will take us to the next step, in terms of providing funding and assistance to individuals that don’t have that job right now,” Espinoza said. “All of us want to have dignity in our lives and a job provides that.”