With nearly 5 million youth between the ages of 16 to 24 being unemployed, today, Congressman Bobby L. Rush (D-IL01) took a significant step toward eradicating youth unemployment by introducing a $8 billion bill that aims to alleviate chronic unemployment, reduce the national drop-out rate, decrease youth violence, and provide a pathways of opportunity for young people and at-risk youth.
H.R. 4920 the "Employing Youth for the American Dream Act" (EYADA) is a combination of training dollars, apprenticeship programs, employer grants for on-the-job-training, tax incentives, and preferences for youth hiring and opportunities for at-risk teenagers. The bill also creates a federally funded public service employment program that focuses on year-round jobs in parks, education, and infrastructure for young people.
"We all know the unemployment rate for adults is staggering but rarely do we discuss just how bad it is for our most vulnerable citizens--young people," Rep. Rush said. "More than 60 percent of our eligible youth workers cannot find employment and nearly half of all African American youth are unemployed. Our youth need work and opportunity now, otherwise we condemn an entire generation to the pitfalls of poverty and despair."
"We neglect these young people, especially those who are no longer in school, unable to find jobs, and are not being trained to be productive citizens," Rep. Rush continued, "but then we're left to wonder and pontificate on why a large percentage of unemployed and troubled youth resort to antisocial or violent behavior. There are few after-school programs and no jobs. EYADA seeks to address that."
From April to July 2009, the number of employed youth 16 to 24 years old increased by 1.6 million to 19.3 million, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported in August. The youth unemployment rate is the highest rate on record since 1948.
Highlights of H.R. 4920 Employing Youth Jobs for the American Dream Act of 2010
1. Infrastructure Training Set-Asides & Apprenticeship Priority - Authorizes a priority set aside program for all infrastructure, transportation or green energy job creation projects created in fiscal year 2011 to be targeted to support training and placement for disconnected youth. Provide preference with these job creation funds to contractors that create apprenticeships targeting youth from communities with "high unemployment," as determined by the Secretary of Labor.
2. Summer Youth Jobs Initiatives - Authorizes $2 billion to the Workforce Investment Act for the expansion of the Summer Jobs for Youth enrolled in the WIA system through age 24.
3. On-the-Job Training Tax Incentives - Increase the WIA funding available to $750 million for OJT for businesses to train and hire disconnected youth (out-of-school, out of work youth through age 24). Each contract under OJT can now receive subsidy for up to $4000 upon youth employment. Allows providers to include faith based and public sector organizations, in addition to private employers.
4. Public Service Employment - Creates a federal public service employment program, authorized at $5 billion to support a national public service initiative that puts people to work in local parks, roads, schools and after school programs. Establishes priority for jobs to the long-term unemployed, low-income individuals, and disconnected youth (out-of-school, out of work youth through age 24).
WHY H.R. 4920 MATTERS
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the youth labor force, those between the ages of 16 - 24 working or actively looking for work, grows sharply between April and July each year. During these months, large numbers of high school and college students take or search for summer jobs, and many graduates enter the labor market to look for or begin permanent employment.
"This bill is just as important as health care as far as I'm concerned," said 19-year-old Anthony Rucker, a 2008 graduate from Las Casa High School in Chicago's South Side. "When I don't work that just gives me more time to be outside, hanging on the block and get in trouble. I need some type of work experience under my belt so I can step forward in the real world."
"Working helps you get the experience you'll need as an adult," said Darielle Coleman, 16, a sophomore at Robeson High School, who finds seasonal work with local social service agencies. "Some of my friends don't do anything but hang out and smoke weed and drink and get in trouble all the time. If they had jobs they'd be more focused on the future. I think what Congressman Rush is doing is important, even though people might not care right now. They will care when this pays off in the future."
Twenty-one year old Robbins, IL, resident Eric Goudeau has been unemployed for the past two years, despite graduating from high school and earning a reputation as a neighborhood auto mechanic. In the past he has worked at car washes, grocery stores and factories. "This will get a lot of young kids off the street and give them something positive to do. I thank Congressman Rush for giving us the opportunity to stand up for ourselves," he said.
Lucia Gonzalez, 18, student at University of Illinois at Chicago, said "College tuition is rising. Next year it is expected to go up twenty percent and it is impossible for us to help our parents and also pay for books if we are not insured jobs?"
Cordaro Johnson, 21 , student at Chicago State University, said "Everyone, no matter what their age is, should be given an opportunity to work. Many jobs require energetic, hard working individuals and often times; those qualities are within many young people. Many young people are eager to work, and the opportunity shouldn't be taken away but ameliorated for those that qualify."
Rep. Rush commended youth job advocates across the country and the New York State Department of Labor for their diligence and assistance in working with him to address the issue of youth unemployment.}