Campaign Sign-On Letter: Congress, Invest in Opportunity Youth
Across the country, youth and young adults disconnected from education and employment are in search of opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty and into career pathways. Young people ages 16 to 24 who are neither in school nor work are known as Opportunity Youth (OY), because they are seeking opportunities for themselves and because they represent an untapped potential to their communities and to our nation’s economy. In every Congressional district in the nation, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the numbers of young people who are disconnected from school and the workforce. A 2022 report from Measure of America estimates that there are now approximately 4.8 million Opportunity Youth in the United States. That is one in eight youth and young adults between ages 16 and 24.
Opportunity Youth are eager to work and take responsibility for their own future. The good news is that community-based organizations around the country help Opportunity Youth reconnect with school, access training, internalize the ethic of service and responsibility, and get jobs. These service providers ensure access to education, employability skills development, essential supports, training, community service, job and college placement, and follow-up once employed. Their approaches adapt depending on the young people they serve, and the needs of their community. The bad news: These programs are only able to serve about 300,000 young people each year, less than 8 percent of the need.
We urge you to provide robust funding for programs that serve Opportunity Youth – at least a 20 percent overall increase in funding over fiscal year 2022 – as you consider appropriations for fiscal year 2023. These programs include WIOA Youth Activities, YouthBuild, and Reentry Employment Opportunities, administered by the Department of Labor; National Guard Youth ChalleNGe administered by the Department of Defense; Adult Basic and Literacy Education State Grants administered by the Department of Education; and targeted funding for Opportunity Youth through AmeriCorps State/National and AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Major increases in these federally-funded programs will strengthen the reach and impact of valuable organizations working within local communities to support Opportunity Youth and improve outcomes. It will be a step towards the scale our country needs.
We appreciate your consideration of our request. Thank you for your leadership and attention to these important matters.