This program puts people to work serving America. Now it's going to jump in size

An Americorps volunteer assists a senior citizen at the Kedren Community Health Center in Los Angeles

David Gergen has been a White House adviser to four presidents and is a senior political analyst at CNN. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a professor of public service at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he founded the Center for Public Leadership. Caroline Cohen, a recent honors graduate of Harvard College and winner of the Thomas T. Hoopes prize for her senior thesis, is David Gergen's research assistant at the Harvard Kennedy School. The opinions expressed in this commentary are their own. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)Joe Biden is far from the first president to call for national unity -- Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama also sounded that trumpet, and even Donald Trump paid lip service to unity in his inaugural address. What distinguishes Biden and his allies on Capitol Hill and beyond is that they are trying a different approach to unifying the country: they are backing up words with concrete actions. Or, to put it bluntly, they are putting federal money where their mouths are.

David Gergen
As part of the Covid relief package last week, Democrats approved an infusion of $1 billion for AmeriCorps, the umbrella organization for national service helping to support a network of more than 2,000 nonprofits, faith-based and community organizations. That, according to AmeriCorps' press secretary Samantha Jo Warfield, is the biggest single increase in the program's history, nearly doubling the budget of the organization, and is squarely aimed at helping the victims of the pandemic and the nation recover.
    Caroline Cohen
    National service is the rare policy that can both unite Americans in a common call and bring back communities decimated by the cascade of crises we now face. And recent months have shown what good AmeriCorps can do for our country.
      In May 2020, as the pandemic continued to tighten its grip, over 800 AmeriCorps members in Colorado partnered with the state government to help conduct contract tracing. Volunteers provided surge capacity for case investigation, assisted in referring patients to local public health entities and worked with residents to assess symptoms and provide information on quarantine measures. Sarah Tuneberg, a Colorado Covid-19 Innovation Response Team Lead, described AmericaCorps volunteers as "essential to assisting the State of Colorado and the Covid response" during an unprecedented time.
        In Arizona, AmeriCorps members stepped in to assist the Chinle Chapter Government of the Navajo Nation in responding to the pandemic. Native American communities have been hit particularly hard by the virus, both due to the underlying chronic health problems many community members face and because many components of tribal economies -- gambling and tourism among them -- were devastated in the past year. AmeriCorps volunteers, working alongside partnering nonprofits, stepped in to deliver food to families in need and provide essential goods to seniors.
        To recover from Covid-19, let's build on US history of citizen-led service