Several dozen young people from around Chicago rallied for an expanded summer jobs program yesterday morning in the Loop, demanding full funding for legislation Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law about a year ago.
That bill, titled the Community Youth Employment Act, allows nonprofits, educational institutions and governmental entities to apply for a new pool of grants to fund 10-week summer programs centering on a range of education, life skills and "meaningful work experience projects." The grants would target young people ages 14 to 21 and are specifically meant for summer programs of 100 youths or fewer.
But the grants created by the legislation are, as it states in the legislation, "subject to appropriation." Shannon Bennett, an organizer with the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, said state lawmakers have not made those funds available. Two fiscal notes attached to the legislation estimates its costs at more than $11.6 million.
Bennett said his organization and others would continue pressuring Governor Quinn to find the dollars to fund the bill, though a Thompson Center sit-in meant to start today was called off. "Every summer we go through something like this," he said.
Laureano Rivera, 17, came to the rally with the Albany Park Neighborhood Council. Rivera said his job search this summer--he has applied at community centers, restaurants, Walgreens--has so far come up short, placing stress on his family and preventing him from saving for college. Here's more from Rivera:
On July 5, the Quinn administration announced that the Illinois Conservation Corps will allow approximately 2,500 teens and young adults to make $8.50 per hour while working for park districts, state parks and other employers focused on conservation and recreation. One branch of the effort seeks out 16- to 19-year-old workers, while another allows the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to hire 18- to 25-year-olds.
Other speakers at today's rally thanked Quinn for the Illinois Conservation Corps jobs but said more resources are needed for summer programs. The groups also are upset the positions exclude 14- and 15-year-old teenagers.
"Those are some of the young people committing violence right now," Bennett said.
Nationally, the unemployment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds stood at 24.5 percent in June, down from 25.8 percent during the same time in 2010.
© Community Renewal Society 2011