Norton Introduces Bill to Expand AmeriCorps, Reduce Youth Unemployment

Jan 15, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) introduced a bill today to help reduce the number of unemployed young Americans by expanding AmeriCorps to allow unemployed young people who have mostly completed college or high school to earn a stipend sufficient to support themselves, as well as an education award, while gaining valuable work experience. Norton’s bill would allow states and localities to boost personnel for badly needed services, such as after school and elderly programs, without requiring new administrative structure or bureaucracy.

“Expanding AmeriCorps would have immediate benefits both for our economy and for young Americans still struggling to find work,” Norton said.  “These young people who have worked hard to get their high school education or college degrees deserve better than competing for unpaid internships.  They deserve the opportunity to earn a living while serving their communities.”

Norton’s full introductory statement is below.

Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton on

the Introduction of the Promoting National Service and Reducing Unemployment Act

January 15, 2020

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 to alleviate strain on state and local governments.  This tragedy is not only harming our young people, but it is also costing our government billions of dollars each year in lost productivity, lost tax revenue and other costs.  Although total unemployment has reached a relative low (3.5 percent), the unemployment rate for young people is eight percent.  These young people have not had a fair chance to use the high school or college education we strongly urged them to obtain.

What is particularly disappointing, particularly in today’s low unemployment economy, is the high unemployment rate for young people who heeded our advice to graduate from high school and college.  The total unemployment rate is currently eight percent for people 16 to 24 years old, 4.5 points higher than the overall employment rate, and hundreds of thousands of them now compete for unpaid internships wherever they can find them.  By significantly expanding AmeriCorps, my bill would need no new administrative structure or bureaucracy but would allow unemployed young people to earn a stipend, obtain work experience and develop a good work history to help secure 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 eliminated or curtailed because of 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 done what they could to enter into the job market, but, despite their best efforts, remain unemployed in this economy.  AmeriCorps participants receive a living allowance and are also eligible for an education award equal to the value of a Pell grant, school-loan forbearance, health care benefits and child care assistance.  By expanding AmeriCorps, we would reduce the number of unemployed young people, provide them with work skills and experience and help cash-strapped state and local governments provide services that they would otherwise have to cut or eliminate altogether.

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