Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

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Norton Introduces Bill to Reduce the Unemployment Rate of Young People and Boost the Economy by Expanding AmeriCorps

Feb 25, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), who has been working on three separate fronts to reduce the unemployment rate, introduced a bill focused on reducing the rate of unemployment among young people, a generation she says “has been too often overlooked in the national focus on unemployment and could become a lost generation if we do not pay greater attention to them.”  The bill would expand AmeriCorps to allow unemployed young people who have completed college or high school to earn a stipend sufficient to support themselves and to gain work experience.  One advantage of the Norton bill is that no new or additional administrative structure or bureaucracy would be required.  The bill would also allow states and localities to get personnel for badly needed services, such as after school programs, and would boost the economy, which is losing $25 billion each year through lost tax revenue and other costs because of the 3.8 million unemployed young people nationwide. 

In her statement for the Congressional Record introducing the bill, Norton said, “What is particularly disappointing is the high unemployment rate for young people who heeded our advice to graduate from high school and college, only to try to enter the workforce in the worst economy in generations…For some time, it has been clear that policies to address today’s unusually stubborn unemployment need to be targeted in order to be effective.  Without significant targeting, young graduates will continue to face their first years as adults without jobs and with no way to acquire work experience.  They deserve better.”

In addition to this bill to relieve the continued high unemployment of young graduates and her fight for the revival of long-term unemployment benefits, Norton introduced a bill in December that would give employers a $5,000 tax credit against their payroll tax liability for each new net person hired who has been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer.  This bill would not only encourage employers to look twice at the long-term unemployed, it, too, would give the economy a badly needed boost, Norton said.

Norton’s full introduction statement follows.

Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton on the Introduction of the Promoting National Service and Reducing Unemployment Act

         Ms. Norton.  Mr. Speaker.  I rise today to introduce the Promoting National Service and Reducing Unemployment Act, to address one of the greatest workforce tragedies resulting from today’s economy—our unemployed young people---and to spur economic growth and alleviate strain on state and local governments.  This tragedy is not only hurting our young people, it is costing our government $25 billion each year through lost tax revenue and other costs.  While over 10.4 million Americans are unemployed, my bill targets the 3.8 million young people who have not had a fair chance to ever use their high school and college education, which this nation has strongly urged them to get.

        What is particularly disappointing is the high unemployment rate for young people who heeded our advice to graduate from high school and college, only to try to enter the workforce in the worst economy in generations.  The total unemployment rate was 7.3 percent compared to 16.3 percent for young adults aged 16 to 24 even during the recent summer.  Hundreds of thousands now compete for unpaid internships wherever they can find them.  By significantly expanding AmeriCorps, my bill, without needing a new administrative structure or bureaucracy, would allow unemployed young people to earn a stipend sufficient to support themselves and to obtain work experience and secure a good work history to help them obtain future employment.  The net cost of the expansion would be low, because these young people would be providing urgently needed local services that are being dropped or curtailed because of federal, state, and local budget cuts, such as after-school programs, tutoring, and assistance for the elderly.

        The bill would significantly expand job opportunities for young people who have played by the rules but find themselves unemployed in this economy.  It would increase the number of participants in the AmeriCorps State and National program from approximately 78,000 to 500,000 full-time participants.  Participants receive a living allowance, which most find sufficient to meet their basic needs, and are also eligible for an education award equal to the value of a Pell grant, for school-loan forbearance, health care benefits and child care assistance.  By expanding the program, we would reduce the number of unemployed young people, provide them with the work skills and experience they would not get while unemployed, and help cash-strapped states and local governments provide services that they would otherwise have to cut.

        For some time, it has been clear that policies to address today’s unusually stubborn unemployment need to be targeted in order to be effective.  Without significant targeting, young graduates will continue to face their first years as adults without jobs and with no way to acquire work experience.  They deserve better.  I ask my colleagues to support this urgently needed targeted assistance for young, unemployed Americans.

Published: February 25, 2014