Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) announced a bill called the Urban Jobs Act of 2011 that would “provide federal grants to non-profits for job training and educational services to at-risk youths looking for employment."
The bill would allocate $20 million this year to non-profit groups that help young people without high school degrees or who have had brushes with the law. The amount would increase annually by $10 million so that, by 2016, $200 million will have been spent on the program.
Gillibrand was joined by Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey and a host of other local politicians lending bipartisan support to the proposed legislation, including State Assemblyman Robert Castelli (R-Goldens Bridge), State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale), White Plains Mayor Tom Roach and others.
They were joined by members of the , which could benefit from the legislation.
We are living in the “worst economic downturn since the depression,” Gillibrand noted. She said that while youth in general are experiencing 20 percent unemployment, up to one-third of urban youth are unemployed, which Gillibrand called “unacceptable."
“Young people want to work,” Lowey said. “They just need training.”
“Just having a job teaches you a lot of life lessons,” Roach said. “It also increases the money in your pockets, which is why most of us work.”
Funds would be distributed as grants to non-proft organizations in the Lower Hudson Valley and Westchester. The organizations would help at-risk youth with GEDs, occupational education, on-the-job training, or aid with peripheral issues that contribute to joblessness, such as nutrition, health care and upgrading personal skills like balancing a checkbook.
The White Plains Youth Bureau provides programs that address all of these. A new program, the Culinary Training Program, provides both occupational training and on-the-job training through internships.
Camila Osses, who teaches art in the White Plains Youth Bureau Summer Excel program, was a failing White Plains high school student when she joined the youth bureau program, which she credited with saving her academically and putting her on solid footing toward her career as an art teacher, while continuing to pursue a college degree. She said the Youth Bureau gave her a job, made her keep up her grades in high school, then prepped her for the SATs.
“Without them I couldn’t get there,” Osses said.