White House funding summer jobs for refugees instead of unemployed Americans

Never let it be said that the White House didn’t do anything to promote job growth, but I’m not sure this is what we had in mind. A new set of grants are being put in place in eleven cities to help younger people obtain summer jobs and gain some experience so they can move into steady career advancement. That’s a great idea because youth unemployment is still too high in many urban areas and a summer job is a great opportunity to get your foot in the door. The only problem here is that the program in question is aimed at our new wave of refugees. (Syracuse.com)

Utica is among 11 communities nationwide that will share $21 million in grants for summer jobs programs aimed at helping disadvantaged youth, the White House and U.S. Department of Labor said Monday.

Utica will receive almost $2 million to help 400 students in the city’s refugee population receive summer work experience and part-time jobs the rest of the year, White House officials said.

The Utica students also will receive tutoring in English and math as part of the New Americans Career Pathways Project.

The federal money is part of the Summer Opportunity Project launched by the White House in February.

The full list of cities qualifying for this generous boon is available at the link, but we’re focusing on Utica, New York in the article. I have a bit of experience in this case because I grew up in the rural region ten miles to the east of there. The city has been in a sad state of decline for many years, and it directly affected our family. My dad worked at the General Electric plant on French Road in Utica for years before losing his job when the company began sending a lot of their work overseas.

The unemployment situation in Utica has been improving in the last year or two, but still remains problematic. Sustained periods of depressed economic activity have led to the usual problems, including a ridiculously high crime rate for a city of that size. The residents could clearly use some help, so why is this grant money being targeted exclusively to refugees?

That question becomes even more pertinent when you look at where the funds are coming from. Barack Obama’s Summer Opportunity Project did not seem to be geared toward refugees when it was announced. In fact, it was billed as quite the opposite.

The Summer Opportunity Project is a multi-agency effort in partnership with the National Summer Learning Association and other collaborators to provide support to communities. The Project aims to significantly increase the percentage of youth in evidence-based summer opportunity programs, decrease the percentage of youth experiencing violence over the summer, and—more broadly—make sure that young Americans have the support they need to get their first job.

Research shows that Black and Hispanic teenage boys lag behind their peers in summer employment and year-round jobs. This employment gap broadens as young men get older, making them the highest percentage of the nearly seven million youth 16-24 disconnected from school and work. That’s why the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force recommended to the President in May of 2014 strengthening the case for summer youth employment and launching a cross-sector campaign to reduce summer learning loss and increase the number of job and internship opportunities for all young people.

Did you catch the emphasized section? To make sure that young Americans have the support they need to get their first job. What happened to that idea between February and now? I eagerly await comment from the White House on this question.