Young adults across our nation are among the hardest hit by unemployment, with one out of four 16- to 19-year-olds and one out of every seven 20- to 24-year-olds without a job today. The inability of these young adults to find jobs is likely to have long-term effects on their economic prospects, as we noted last year. Young people who initially cannot find a job often suffer consequences that follow them long after a recession ends because their lack of work experience makes them less competitive for future job opportunities, which in turn impairs future U.S. productivity and our global economic competitiveness.
We can address this challenge by placing hundreds of thousands of these young people in national service positions that would fill growing gaps in the services that communities need while equipping young Americans with work skills and experience. No new legislation would be required. Two years ago, Congress passed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act with strong bipartisan support to increase national service to 250,000 positions by 2017, targeting important community priorities.
Sadly, though, this year’s budget deal for fiscal year 2011 ending this September failed to accommodate scheduled growth in the program. Instead, the FY 2011 budget cut thousands of national service positions, leaving many outstanding organizations with fewer resources than they need and other deserving organizations with no AmeriCorps grants at all. AmeriCorps is the main national youth service program, encompassing the AmeriCorps grants program, VISTA, and National Civilian Community Corps, all of which are all funded under the Serve America Act.
Restoring these cuts and putting national service back on track would create 57,000 new youth jobs and enable the more than 14,000 nonprofit groups they would work for to engage 140,000 new national service participants in FY 2012 beginning in October. The additional cost would be approximately $855 million, but the gains would be evident as well in stronger nonprofit groups that will be sorely tested by federal, state, and local cuts, and increasing demand brought on by the still stuttering economic recovery.
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