Citing the lingering, widespread joblessness among Black youth, members of the Congressional Black Caucus gathered during the week of May 3 on Capitol Hill to urge the Senate to pass a bill aimed at putting more of those youth to work this summer.
The 42-member caucus had been in line to receive $1.5 billion for the creation of 500,000 summer jobs, as outlined in the Youth Jobs Act of 2010. But after nearly six months, that measure has stalled and currently sits in the Senate along with more than 300 other bills that passed the House.
Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) blamed Senate procedures for the delay, procedures he said make it difficult to come up with new programs aimed at youth unemployment and other pressing issues.
“This is an emergency,” Burris said during a May 6 press conference. “I will be working very hard with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle of the United States Senate to say that it is crucial .”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, joblessness among young Black males constitutes the fastest climbing demographic, with more than half of Black males ages 16 to 19 unemployed. In the nation’s capital, overall joblessness hovers at about 10 percent.
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) called for advocacy groups such as the NAACP to step forward and demand action on the bill.
Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) said failure to quickly address the matter could cause serious societal problems.
“If we don’t, we’ll suffer the consequences,” Kilpatrick said. “We can’t afford another catastrophic situation in this country…and putting as well as their parents back to work ought to be at the top of the list.”