A Patrick administration official today urged federal lawmakers to approve $1 billion for a summer jobs program for teens, saying Massachusetts will use its share to fight "urban unrest'' by hiring 8,500 teens.
Joanne F. Goldstein, secretary of Labor and Workforce Development, joined her counterpart from New York State to push for US Senate passage of the measure at a press conference in Springfield today.
In a statement released by her office and a later telephone interview Goldstein said that if the $1 billion measure becomes law, Massachusetts would get $20 million to create an estimated 8,500 jobs. Without the infusion of federal cash, she said in the statement, only 916 jobs will be created.
"It is critical that we obtain the funding for the public/private partnership that will provide summer jobs for young people, especially in our cities," Goldstein said in a statement.
Goldstein added, "youth employment helps address the issues of urban unrest, allows young people to engage in productive activity and increases family income in these difficult economic times.''
According to state officials, the measure has already passed the House and is now awaiting action in the Senate.
In a statement, New York Labor Commissioner Colleen C. Gardner said rates of unemployment among teens are at "crisis levels.'' In 2009, New York State estimated the unemployment rate for those between the ages of 16 and 24 to be 17.9 percent, nearly double the national rate of 9.7 percent.
“Weather is getting nice across the country, people are venturing out to public parks, pools, and beaches, and for hundreds of thousands of our nation’s youth, there is little or no hope that they’ll find a job this summer,'' the New York official said in a statement.
She added, ''unemployment among youth, especially in our urban areas, is at crisis levels, which is why the federal government needs to act immediately. I urge them to do so.”
Workforce development officials from governments of Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin also publicly endorsed Senate passage.
In a telephone interview, Goldstein said that a student from Springfield's Commerce High School collected letters from 45 of her fellow students where they described how important the program would be to them, and their families.
She said the students made it clear they wouldn't spend money on junk food or electronic toys for themselves.
"This is a very big deal to Massachusetts as well to mother most other states in the country because of the importance of having young people working this summer,'' Goldstein said. "We run the risk that kids are going to get into trouble when they are idle.''
In a statement, Senator John F. Kerry, a Democrat, said he supports passage of the $1 billion spending plan for summer jobs as well as other financial support for the long term unemployed.
“The road from recession to recovery runs straight through policies to strength the middle class. Two months ago I offered a common-sense amendment that would create hundreds of thousands of summer jobs for young people, including nearly 8,000 in Massachusetts,'' he said in a statement. "We can’t miss another chance to do the right thing.”
But Senator Scott Brown, a Republican, said he cannot currently support the summer jobs program because it is now enmeshed in a larger spending and tax change bill that will add to the national deficit.
"As our national debt soars past the $13 trillion mark, we need to stop the deficit spending that is putting future generations of Americans in a deep financial hole. We are borrowing against our next generation,'' Brown said in the statement.
"Washington must start offsetting the cost of worthy programs by cutting wasteful spending in other places. This requires elected leaders making hard choices, but our country's economic stability requires that we reign in our excessive spending habits and get our fiscal house in order.'' he added.
On the beat
Columnist Shirley Leung says Boston mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh should focus on middle-class housing. Read more