Yesterday, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, introduced legislation aimed at tackling a crisis few are addressing: youth unemployment.
Alongside Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Sanders appeared at the H.O.P.E. Project in southeast Washington, D.C. – an innovative job training program that focuses on young men and women in impoverished communities – to introduce legislation that would employ a million Americans between the ages of 16 to 24.
The bill, the Employ Young Americans Now Act, would provide $5.5 billion in financing to hire a million young people in both summer jobs an year-round work while at the same time offer job training and skills to hundreds of thousands of people in the same age bracket.
$4 billion of the funds would be provided to states and local governments to directly hire people, while the remaining $1.5 billion would be given out as competitive grants to local areas that demonstrate they have the ability to do effective job training.
During the event, Sanders stressed the link between race and class. “According to the NAACP, from 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled from roughly 500,000 to 2.3 million people,” he noted. “If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime. This is an unspeakable tragedy….We don’t need more people in jail—we need more people getting jobs.”
As Sanders noted during the event, youth unemployment is at 17 percent while black youth unemployment between the crucial ages of 16 and 19 is even higher, at 27 percent. “We cannot continue to ignore the crisis of youth unemployment in America.,” Sanders concluded. “We are talking about the future of an entire generation. We are talking about the future of the United States of America. Let’s start focusing on this issue. We have got to make sure that young people in Washington, DC and all over this country have the opportunity to earn a paycheck and to make it into the middle class.”