By Marc H. Morial (To Be Equal #33) – Despite all the attention paid in recent months to spending cuts, there are some Members of Congress who agree with the National Urban League that the nation’s number one priority must be job creation and putting America back to work. Months ago, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and New York Representative Edolphus Towns introduced the Urban Jobs Act that would provide much-needed federal funding to non-profit engaged in preparing at-risk youth, ages 18-24, for the world of work.
On Tuesday of this week, Gillibrand, Towns and I participated in a press conference at the New York Urban League in Harlem to generate greater Congressional and public support for this important legislation. We were joined by New York Congressman Charles Rangel, NY Assemblyman Keith Wright, and New York Urban League President, Arva Rice. 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 non-profit 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:
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.
The Act would increase the capacity of organizations like the Urban League of New York which operates two city employment centers and has helped prepare many young adults for full-time employment.
Our message to Congress is clear: The time for debate and delay is over. Pass the Urban Jobs Bill now.
Click here to sign a letter of support: http://iamempowered.com/article/2011/05/26/urban-jobs-act-2011-s-922-letter-support.