President Obama’s 2014 budget may have agitated many on both ends of the political spectrum, but the inclusion of the Pathways Back to Work Fund deserves more praise and attention. As millions of Americans are at great risk of being left behind as the economy recovers from the Great Recession, this proposal creates opportunities for jobs for the long-term unemployed and youth who’ve been hit hardest by the downturn.
The Fund includes three distinct parts: $8 billion for subsidized employment opportunities low-income and long-term unemployed adults; $2.5 billion for summer and year-round employment opportunities for low-income youth between the ages of 16 and 24; and $2 billion for innovative training and employment strategies such as on-the-job training.
Obama originally included the fund in the American Jobs Act, which Republicans blocked in 2011. Currently 4.7 million workers have been unemployed for at least 6 months, and studies show that workers who have been unemployed for long periods find it increasingly difficult to find jobs again. 16.2% of Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 are unemployed, double the national rate of unemployment. 6.7 million youth are neither employed nor in school, and unless we intentionally connect unemployed youth to jobs, youth and young adults won’t gain skills or earn enough to support their families, to the detriment of the country’s long-term economic growth and competitiveness.
Subsidized and transitional jobs and work-based employment have a proven track record of re-engaging the workforce as well as increasing personal and family income and directly benefiting employers. This fund also builds on the success of the 2009 federal investments in job creation that put more than half a million youth and adults to work in that year alone.
As Washington has become dominated by constant Republican demands for further austerity measures, lawmakers seem to have forgotten that Americans are clamoring for more jobs and training, a need requiring investments not cuts. Congressional approval of the Pathways Back to Work Fund would be the perfect first step in shifting our attention back to work opportunities instead of implementing further obstacles in the way of youth and low-income families.
Organizations can thank the President for supporting pathways back to work here!