At a time when over 5.3 million young people in America do not have jobs, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) announced Wednesday at the Sasha Bruce Youthwork center in Washington, D.C., that they will introduce legislation to help young people find work.
Sanders, Conyers and Holmes-Norton spoke with Deborah Shore, Sasha Bruce Youthwork executive director; Kisha Bird, director of youth policy and project director for the Campaign for Youth; and young people at the center about solutions to the crisis of youth unemployment.
The youth unemployment rate in America today is over 9 percent, and the African American youth unemployment rate is over 16 percent. The real unemployment rate for recent high school graduates between the ages of 17 to 20 is over 28 percent for whites, nearly 30 percent for Hispanics, and more than 42 percent for African Americans.
Congressman Conyers has sought to keep the focus on youth unemployment, as Detroit faces particularly serious challenges. According to some estimates, Detroit has the highest youth unemployment rate — 30 percent — amongst the 25 largest U.S. metro areas. Congressman Conyers has been in touch with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan about the issue and plans to host events in Detroit to confront the problem.
“It is no great secret that without work, without education, people lose hope – and when people lose hope bad things happen. The time is long overdue for us to start investing in our young people, to help them get the jobs they need, to help them get the education they need and to help them get the job training they need so that they can be part of the middle class,” Sanders said.
“It is time for our country to honor our duty to those young people who are struggling to find work. The Greatest Generation had the New Deal. The Baby Boomers had the Great Society. The Millennials have, so far, had nothing but the Great Recession,” said Rep. Conyers. “Tackling youth unemployment isn’t just good ethics. It’s good economics. Putting our youth to work will not only avoid anxiety, poverty, and broken dreams for young people, but will also provide needed tax revenue and reduce the need for social services.”
The Employ Young Americans Now Act would provide $5.5 billion in immediate funding to employ 1 million young Americans in summer and year-round jobs and will provide hundreds of thousands of young Americans with the job training and skills they need for the jobs of the future.
Grants totaling $4 billion would go to state and local governments to provide summer and year-round job opportunities for low-income youth, and to fund important services such as transportation or child care to help young Americans work.
Another $1.5 billion in competitive grants would go to states and local communities to provide on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs for low-income youth and disadvantaged young adults. Grant recipients would be encouraged to develop partnerships with employers, community colleges, community organizations and joint labor-management committees.
The funding would target areas of high youth unemployment and poverty, but the legislation includes a state minimum to ensure that every state in the country can create jobs and provide job training to young Americans.