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SUMMER JOBS: Murray Introduces Amendment to Put Young People to Back to Work This Summer, Stimulate Local Economies

Mar 03 2010

Legislation would build on successful 2009 program, create 500,000 temporary youth jobs

Listen to Senator Murray's speech

Listen to Senator Murray's speech introducing the amendment here

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced an amendment that would create 500,000 temporary jobs and training opportunities for young people across the country. Murray’s amendment would provide $1.5 billion through the Workforce Investment Act to stimulate local economies by building on and expanding the highly successful Recovery Act youth employment program.

This amendment will expand and extend the extremely successful summer jobs program that has created hundreds of thousands of jobs, provided a boost to the economy, and changed the lives of so many young people around the country,” said Senator Patty Murray. “Summer jobs programs help families, communities, and businesses by providing jobs and training to the young people who need it most.

In her speech on the Senate floor introducing the amendment, Murray talked about the successful King County Summer Jobs program, and told the story of a young man from Seattle whose life was changed after participating- See the full text of Senator Murray’s speech below.

Senator Murray fought to include $1.2 billion for summer jobs programs in the Recovery Act. This successful program put over 300,000 young people to work across the country stimulated local economies, and provided at-risk youth with skills and training to succeed in the workforce.

Murray is a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and Chairman of the HELP Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, as well as a senior member of the Appropriations Committee.

The full text of Senator Murray’s speech today follows:

Mr. President, I am offering the Youth Summer Jobs Amendment to build on and extend the extremely successful summer jobs program that we included in last year’s Recovery Act.

Last summer’s program put over 313,000 young people to work—providing a much-needed shot in the arm to them, their families, and businesses and communities across the country.

I have personally heard stories from young men and women who participated in the program and who told me how it changed their lives and gave them the skills and experience they know they need to succeed in school and in the workforce.

That is why while we are focusing on legislation that will support unemployed Americans and help workers get back on the job, I think we should also continue investing in a successful program that helps our young people get to work.

Mr. President, the amendment I am introducing today will provide$1.5 billion through the Workforce Investment Act to create 500,000 temporary jobs for young people across the country.

It will invest in critically needed employment and learning program that will help stimulate local economies, while providing meaningful short-term work and learning experiences for the young people who need it most.

In addition to summer programs, this amendment also supports year-round employment and longer-term efforts to help young people obtain a post-secondary degree or credential.

Mr. President, growing up I had every different kind of summer job you can imagine.

I started out working in my father’s Five and Ten Cent store and along with my brothers and sisters I would do everything from stocking shelves, to working the cash register, to sweeping the floor.

Later I worked for a summer at Sacajwea State Park in Pasco where I would weed, keep the park clean, and even clean the bathrooms.

I also answered phones at a Glass Company in my hometown of Bothell and worked at the psychiatric ward at the VA in Seattle during a summer in college.

And looking back, I can tell you that each one of those jobs helped me in a unique way.

And that each taught me skills and lessons that I have used all throughout my life.

Those jobs taught me everything from the value of hard work, to the daily challenges of running a small business, to how to dress and act in professional work settings.

And most of all they helped expose me to new experiences, new people and new challenges.

For example, my time working in the Seattle VA that summer gave me an appreciation of our veterans and health care workers that has driven me to fight for them every day in the U.S. Senate.

And Mr. President, it’s not just me—summer jobs have been proven to teach skills and life-lessons for everyone.

Studies have shown that people who get early work experience as teens make more money as adults.

In fact, early work experience has been shown to raise earnings over a lifetime by 10 to 20 percent.

But today, teens are finding it especially difficult to find a job.

Over the past two years the number of employed teens in the United States has declined by nearly 25%.

And their overall employment rate fell to a new post-World War II low of 25% by the end of last year-more than 18 percentage points below the rate in 2000.

In fact, the total proportion of young people who were employed last July—the traditional peak for youth jobs—was only 51.4%, the lowest July rate on record.

And with families cutting their spending so they can pay their bills – businesses have had to freeze hiring so they can pay theirs. Meaning even fewer jobs for young people.

And Mr. President, we should also not forget that teen jobs will also help stimulate our local economies. 

Because as anyone who has had a teenager will tell you, young people are a lot more likely to spend their paychecks in their communities than pocket them. 

And when a young person does save their wages, often times they are saving for college or making a critical contribution to their families in this very difficult economy.

Mr. President, sometimes I hear people talk about these big national programs—and too often they forget that there are real people being impacted—Real families being helped, and real young people being offered a much-needed helping hand. 

So let me take a moment to tell you what last year’s funding meant for one program in King County, Washington last year—and for one young man who had the opportunity to participate.    

In 2007, King County was able to provide 200 local youth jobs for the year.

They were able to provide just about the same number in 2008.

Then last summer, with the funding we secured for them in the Recovery Act—and under the leadership of their great CEO Marlena Sessions—they were able to provide 900 young people with summer work experiences.

900 young people in King County alone who had the opportunity to productively engage in their communities, avoid high-risk and criminal activity, and learn the 21st century skills that employers value – critical thinking, team work, problem solving, and communication.

One of these participants was a young man named Ryan, who spent his summer working at a maritime supply company in Seattle called Washington Chain.

Ryan had gotten into some trouble in the past.

He was on work release from prison.

And he didn’t have many of the skills that employers look for in employees.

So he applied to job after job, fast food restaurant after fast food restaurant—200 applications in total-without a single one willing to take a chance on him once they found out about his record.

But then he heard about the Seattle-King County Summer Jobs program. And it changed his life.

Ryan was accepted into a program that was a partnership between a youth-services provider and a community college.

He spent three weeks in class, followed by three weeks in the paid internship at Washington Chain.

The company was not planning on hiring any new full-time employees.

But at the end of the summer they were so impressed with Ryan’s work that they found a full time job for him at the company.

A real job—with a decent salary, good benefits, and a future.

For the first time in his life, Ryan was able to take pride in his work—and finally support himself and his young children.

After the program was over Ryan said that the program was “one of the best things that ever happened to me”

His boss at Washington Chain said that the company was lucky to find Ryan. He said that Ryan has been “willing to do just about everything we’ve asked him.”

The summer jobs programs that we passed last year gave Ryan an opportunity that he may not have otherwise had.

A new lease on life—and doors open to him that had always been closed.

And Ryan is far from alone.

There are hundreds of thousands of young people around the country whose lives were changed by the experiences they had last summer.

And if this amendment passes, there will be 500,000 more by this time next year.

500,000 young people providing much-needed services in hospitals, day care centers, senior centers, parks, and public and private organizations.

Staying off the streets—helping their communities.

Gaining the skills and experience they need to put them on the path to success in school and in life.

And yes—spending those paychecks and contributing to our recovery.

So Mr. President, I urge my colleague to support this amendment.

The underlying bill we are considering today is going to help millions of families across the country who need some help getting back on their feet.

And this amendment will help young people across the country start their professional lives firmly planted on theirs—and moving forward toward a successful, productive, and fulfilling career.

Thank you, I yield the floor.