The $825 billion economic stimulus package unveiled by Congress this week would give a major boost to youth employment initiatives. But for there to be a sustained change in youth employment, the funding increases would have to continue through regular budgets, according to a youth employment advocate.
“I would say it’s a good beginning,” Jonathan Larsen, policy associate with the National Youth Employment Coalition, said of the stimulus package, formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Among other things, the act provides $1.2 billion for youth activities, including the creation of one million summer jobs for youths. The bill also extends from age 21 to age 24 the age of eligibility for youth services to allow local programs to reach young adults who are unemployed and not in school.
“This level of funding is not just necessary as a one-time thing,” Larsen said. “It needs to continue through the regular appropriations process year after year.”
Other youth advocates cautioned that it remains to be seen precisely how the money would be spent, and that it’s still too early to bank on the proposed legislation anyway.
The initial stimulus package from the House included significant investments for other youth employment, education and higher education initiatives.
In addition to the money for summer jobs and unemployed youths, according to a summary of the package provided by the U.S. House’s Committee on Appropriations, the package includes:
* $50 million to YouthBuild, a community development program that addresses housing, education and employment in low-income communities. The YouthBuild portion of the legislation also states that “supplemental awards to existing programs and an expansion of a current competition will allow an additional 3,200 young people to gain education and occupational credentials while constructing or rehabilitating affordable housing.”
* $300 million to upgrade Job Corps training facilities, including projects designed to address the energy efficiency of existing Job Corps facilities.
* $41 billion to local school districts to improve the academic achievement of low-income students, help students with disabilities, modernize and repair schools, and fit schools with modern technology.
* $79 billion in state fiscal relief to prevent cutbacks to key services, including $39 billion to local school districts and public colleges and universities distributed through existing state and federal formulas, $15 billion to states as bonus grants as a reward for meeting key performance measures, and $25 billion to states for other high priority needs such as public safety and other critical services, which may include education.
* $15.6 billion to increase the maximum Pell Grant from $4,850 to $5,350.
* $490 million for college work-study to support undergraduate and graduate students who work.
* An increase of limits on unsubsidized Stafford loans by $2,000.
* $200 million to put approximately 16,000 more AmeriCorps members to work doing national service, meeting needs of vulnerable populations and communities during the recession.
* $726 million to increase the number of states that provide free dinners to children and to encourage participation by new institutions by increasing snack reimbursement rates.
* $100 million for grants to faith- and community-based organizations to provide “safety net” services to low-income persons and families.
* $87 billion to states, increasing through the end of fiscal year 2010 the share of Medicaid costs the federal government reimburses states. Additional relief would be tied to rates of unemployment to prevent cuts to health benefits for increased low-income patient loads amid declining state revenues.
* $2.5 billion for block grants to help states deal with the surge in families needing help through Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, and to prevent states from cutting work programs and services for abused and neglected children.