Despite all the attention paid in recent months to spending cuts, there are some members of Congress who agree that the nation’s number one priority must be job creation and putting America back to work.
Months ago, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY) introduced the Urban Jobs Act that would provide much-needed federal funding to nonprofit organizations engaged in preparing at-risk youth, ages 18-24, for the world of work.
All of us agree: The nation’s recovery cannot be complete until we bring jobs and hope back to hard pressed urban communities.
More than one-third of the nation’s minority youth are unemployed. But, even with 14 million Americans out of work, at least 2 million jobs remain unfilled because employers can’t find workers with the needed skills.
The Urban Jobs Act would help close that gap by targeting federal funding to assist urban youth, many of whom have dropped out of school or are in need of a second chance, in obtaining the education and skills necessary for success in the labor market. This would help reduce youth unemployment, provide workers for open jobs and strengthen the economy.
The average unemployment rate for minority youths in urban communities in July was approximately 39 percent for African Americans and 36 percent for Latinos. In New York, these minority youth are twice as likely to drop out of school and make up 80 percent of the city’s detention centers.
Clearly, we must make targeted, effective investments now to spur urban job growth and prevent the loss of an entire generation. That is the real potential of the Urban Jobs Act.
The Act would create an Urban Jobs Program that would award competitive grants to national nonprofit organizations, in partnership with local affiliates, to prepare youth ages 18 through 24 for entry into the job market. A national organization that received a grant would provide a comprehensive set of services that includes:
• Case management services to help participants effectively utilize the services offered by the program;
• Educational programming, including skills assessment, reading and math remediation, educational enrichment, GED preparation and post-secondary education;
• Employment and job readiness activities, including mentoring, placement in community service opportunities, internships, on-the-job training, occupational skills training, job placement in unsubsidized jobs and personal development; and
• Support services, including health and nutrition referral, housing assistance, training in interpersonal and basic living skills, transportation, child care, clothing and other assistance as needed.
Our message to Congress is clear: The time for debate and delay is over. Pass the Urban Jobs Bill now.
Marc H. Morial
President and CEO
National Urban League