Time for action on summer jobs for youths

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(NNPA)—After months of pressure from the National Urban League, the Congressional Black Caucus and other members of the civil rights community, the White House has endorsed a key provision of the National Urban League’s six-point Plan for Putting Americans Back to Work— summer jobs for chronically unemployed urban youths. In a recent conference call between CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee and White House officials, the administration urged Senate passage of H.R. 4899, a bill that would allocate $600 million to create 300,000 summer youth jobs which passed in the House March 24.

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This renewed interest in job creation that leaves no one behind comes in the wake of a March jobs report showing that while 162,000 jobs were created last month and overall unemployment appears to be leveling off at 9.7 percent, African-American unemployment has now risen to 16.5 percent and Hispanic joblessness stands at 12.6 percent. Even more troubling as the summer approaches is that over 40 percent of Black teenagers are unemployed—a recipe for disaster for the young people, their families and our economy. We know that summer jobs not only put needed money into the budgets of struggling families, but also provide valuable work experience that can start young people on the path to productive adulthood, and help jump-start local economies. Summer jobs also take idle kids off the hot summer streets where they are more likely to get into trouble.

In recent months, the National Urban League has waged a relentless campaign for job creation in communities of greatest need. Last November we presented our six-point plan to the White House and congressional leaders. In February, we met with President Obama in the Oval Office to reiterate the need for a more targeted approach to job creation. And we carried that message directly to Capitol Hill during last month’s annual Legislative Policy Conference. The jobs crisis was also the cover story of this year’s State of Black America Report.

A summer jobs bill is sorely needed, but as Congresswoman Barbara Lee has said, it would merely be a down-payment on job creation. A much bolder and more comprehensive plan is called for. In fact, Congresswoman Barbara Lee recently teamed up with California Congressman George Miller to structure a $100 billion jobs bill, “The Local Jobs for America Act,” which would create or save a million public and private sector jobs. The bill contains many of the elements of the National Urban League’s six-point plan, including direct job creation, job training, and targeted help for communities most in need.

CBC member, Bobby Rush, has also introduced the “Employing Youth for the American Dream Act,” which tracks many of the National Urban League’s recommendations.

I am pleased that the White House and the Congress are finally responding to the recommendations of the National Urban League, the CBC and others. We must increase efforts to create jobs for the chronically unemployed, especially in communities of color. But we don’t have months to debate this issue. Summer is fast approaching. Our young people need jobs now.

(Marc H. Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.)

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