In the wake of continuing unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, Sen. Bernie Sanders said on Wednesday that he will introduce legislation to address the national crisis of black youth unemployment. In a letter to Senate colleagues, Sanders called for a thorough federal investigation of the Aug. 9 death of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, who was shot by a police officer in the St. Louis suburb. “We also must recognize, however, that there is an economic crisis facing our nation’s youth, particularly young African-Americans,” Sanders said. In the St. Louis metro area, almost half of young African-American men are unemployed, Sanders said. Nationwide, the youth unemployment rate today is more than 20 percent and African-American youth unemployment is nearly 35 percent.
“If we are going to address the issue of crime in low-income areas and in African-American communities, it might be a good idea that instead of putting military style equipment into police departments in those areas, we start investing in jobs for the young people there who desperately need them.”
The legislation would provide $5.5 billion in immediate funding to states and localities to employ 1 million young Americans between the ages of 16 and 24.
Under the bill, the U.S. Department of Labor would provide $4 billion to states and local governments to provide summer and year-round employment opportunities for economically disadvantaged youth. The measure also would award $1.5 billion in competitive grants to provide work-based training to low- and moderate-income youth and disadvantaged young adults.
“If we are going to reduce youth violence and instill hope and a bright future for the young people in this country, we have got to provide them with the jobs and the skills they need to move up the economic ladder,” Sanders said.
To read Sanders’ letter, click here.