STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - November 10, 2005)
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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, today I am introducing legislation that would transfer the YouthBuild program from its current home in the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Department of Labor. Transferring departmental jurisdiction over this program will help ensure that Youthbuild continues to receive the funds it needs to help unemployed and undereducated young people ages 16-24 work toward their GED or high school diploma while learning job skills by building affordable housing for homeless and low-income people. It is supported by the YouthBuild Coalition.
Poverty, neglect, abuse, and deprivation of all kinds can prevent people from reaching their true potential. Many of those who have fallen off track, suffered losses, and made mistakes can recover. If given the opportunity, they can learn to cope with obstacles and care effectively about themselves, their families and their communities. YouthBuild helps young people who have lost their way to turn their lives around.
YouthBuild is a uniquely comprehensive program that offers at-risk youth an immediate productive role rebuilding their communities. While attending basic education classes for 50 percent of program time, students also receive job skills training in the construction field, personal counseling from respected mentors, a supportive peer group with positive values, and experience in civic engagement. They build houses for homeless and low-income people while earning their own GED or high school diploma.
YouthBuild is built on success. The first YouthBuild program was created in 1978. At that time, YouthBuild's future founder, Dorothy Stoneman, formed the Youth Action Program to rebuild homes in New York City. The successful renovation of an East Harlem tenement led to a city-wide coalition and in 1990, led to YouthBuild USA, an organization created to replicate this program around the Nation.
In 1992, I introduced legislation which was enacted into law as part of the Cranston-Gonzalez National Affordable Housing Act, authorizing federal funding for YouthBuild through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In its first 10 years of Federal funding, YouthBuild has demonstrated the ability to bring the most disadvantaged youth into productive employment, higher education, and civic engagement. Since 1994, more than 40,000 YouthBuild students have helped rebuild their communities, creating more than 12,000 units of affordable housing, while transforming their lives at the same time.
YouthBuild has earned majority bipartisan support for Federal funding in the Senate due to its great success in local communities. Today there are 226 YouthBuild programs in 44 States engaging 7,000 young adults.
The number of programs could easily be expanded. Last year alone, 260 communities were denied YouthBuild funding. The programs that exist could easily grow. In 2004, local programs turned away 10,000 applicants solely for lack of funds.
The expansion of YouthBuild would help address critical national problems: the construction industry is short 80,000 workers; over 500,000 youth are dropping out of high school every year with no prospects of becoming gainfully employed; states are spending huge amounts on prisons, housing 365,000 16 to 24 year olds, 65 percent of whom have dropped out of high school.
Consider this story of success: Manny Negron grew up in New Britain, CT. He left school during his Sophomore year after having some personal problems. He started selling drugs and getting into trouble. Then he joined YouthBuild, obtained a GED and learned more about the construction industry. ``Before YouthBuild, I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life.'' Manny said. ``I had no goals, no plans--I had nothing. If it was a weekend when I was partying and in the street, I had no plans. Now it's completely different and YouthBuild did that for me. Now that I'm away from all that, I actually see a future for myself and see what I'm capable of and what I can do with my life.''
Research on 900 YouthBuild graduates several years after program completion showed that 75 percent were employed at an average wage of $10/hour or in college. They were voting and paying taxes. Of those who had committed felonies, the recidivism rate was a strikingly low, 15 percent.
The legislation I am introducing today responds to the Bush administration's attempt to move YouthBuild from HUD to DoL in its FY 2006 budget request. I did not agree with the Administration attempt to transfer YouthBuild in the budget; it was simply the wrong approach. However, my staff has met with Administration officials, with YouthBuild and with YouthBuild's strong supporters. And I believe that we can find a way to do this, and I appreciate that the Administration has shown a willingness to work with us so far. If done properly, I transferring YouthBuild from HUD to DoL could increase YouthBuild's scope, helping it to reach the communities and young people that are currently denied access due to a lack of funds. This legislation not only authorizes the transfer of YouthBuild from HUD to DoL, but also allows unlimited future federal funding, continues centralized management at DoL and continues the historic role of YouthBuild USA as the partner and contractor for quality assurance.
This legislation is an attempt to help move the process of transferring the YouthBuild program forward. I look forward to working with Senators Enzi and Kennedy, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to develop compromise legislation that will ensure that YouthBuild continues to assist young people around the nation. I ask that all my colleagues support this legislation and continue to support the YouthBuild.