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Reps. Garamendi and Phillips Push for National COVID-19 Contact Tracing and Testing Program in Letter to Congressional Leadership

May 26, 2020
Press Release

Washington, DC—Today, Congressmen John Garamendi (D-CA) and Dean Phillips (D-MN) wrote to House and Senate leadership requesting that their legislation to provide for a national contact tracing and testing program for COVID-19 be included in any subsequent bicameral legislation.

Reps. Garamendi and Phillips introduced the UNITE Act and the Utilizing and Supporting Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers Act, which would utilize our national service programs to bolster contact tracing and testing for COVID-19.

“The coronavirus pandemic has put an unprecedented strain on our society, and our nation requires a significant scaling of testing and contact tracing in order to flatten the curve and lift stay-at-home orders. Our legislation empowers America’s service organizations to perform testing and contact tracing across the country and deliver the aid and support our communities require during the pandemic. As Co-Chair of the Congressional Peace Corps Caucus, and as a returned Peace Corps volunteer, I understand how capable America’s service organizations are to expand our nation’s testing and contact tracing to meet the needs of our country’s pandemic response. I thank Senators Markey and Van Hollen for cosponsoring the companion bill to the UNITE Act in the Senate, and I thank Congressman Phillips for introducing the Utilizing and Supporting Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers Act in the House as well. I strongly urge House and Senate leadership to include these critical pieces of legislation in any additional bicameral legislation,” said Congressman Garamendi.

“The United States must have a whole-of-government response to the COVID-19 pandemic that delivers relief to understaffed frontline workers. Our legislation enables national service organizations to provide Americans the opportunity to give back to their communities by supporting critical work such as contact tracing and supply chain management. The American spirit of activism and hard work is alive and well especially during this challenging time, and I call on my colleagues in the House and the Senate to take up these important pieces of legislation immediately. I am thankful to Senators Markey and Van Hollen and Congressman Garamendi for their leadership, and look forward to continuing to work them in the coming days.” said Congressman Phillips.

Public health experts estimate our nation will need a workforce of 300,000 or more contact tracers. We can meet that need by utilizing flexible hiring mechanisms that federal agencies currently have and by adding new authorities to build the health capacity of state, territorial, local, and tribal governments to combat COVID-19. The legislation Garamendi and Phillips have introduced will achieve that goal by utilizing service organizations such as the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps.

You can read Garamendi and Phillips’ letter here.

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