Congress: We Must Not Leave Young People Behind in Our Crisis Response

Dear Members of Congress,

The undersigned organizations and individuals urge Congress to ensure that Opportunity Youth (those ages 16-24 who are not employed or in school), youth of color, youth experiencing poverty, and the programs that serve them have the funding and tools to handle this once-in-a-lifetime crisis.

We applaud Congress on the immediate passage of the bipartisan CARES Act. However, the emergency provisions and funding were not enough to ensure that young people — especially those experiencing poverty and Opportunity Youth — are not disproportionately impacted by this pandemic.

The COVID pandemic may be a rare event, but its consequences are all too familiar: People of color, young workers, and those with disabilities are disproportionately experiencing economic instability. For example, 9.2 million workers aged 16 to 24 were employed in the service sector before the pandemic. Youth and young adults account for nearly half of all workers paid the federal minimum wage or less. Many of these young people are supporting families. At the same time, they are less likely to have access to health insurance, paid sick leave, or savings to endure a recession.

Congress’ response to COVID-19 must address the immediate needs of young people as well as longer-term needs to stabilize families, neighborhoods and communities. In doing so, we must involve young people in designing the solutions; center race and gender equity; and prepare the nation’s next generation of leaders.

Even before the pandemic, 4.5 million young people ages 16 to 24 were disconnected from school and the workforce. Youth disconnection impacts cities, suburbs, and rural and tribal communities, but Native American and Black young adults have the highest rates of youth disconnection. Research shows that every dollar invested in programs to reconnect young people yields $5 in government savings and increased tax revenues. But the real impact of supporting young people is far greater: youth make up a significant portion of our “essential workforce” charged with maintaining food, sanitation, and material supply chains. Their work is critical to navigate us through and beyond this pandemic.

On May 1, Representative Bobby Scott, Chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, introduced the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act (RAWA), an important first step that addresses many of our recommendations below. Other Congressional leaders must now step up to build on RAWA to ensure that young workers and Opportunity Youth benefit from the economic stimulus.

Specifically, in the next legislative package, we call on Congress to:

  • Scale up and strengthen existing programs to address the immediate economic needs of youth and young adults and provide the following investments (at minimum):
    • Pass and fully fund the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act.
    • Provide $500 million for Corporation for National and Community Service.
    • Invest in an additional $5.5 billion for the Opening Doors for Youth Act to fund summer and year-round youth employment and community transformation grants.
  • Establish new COVID-specific interventions tailored to Opportunity Youth, youth of color and young people with low-incomes:
    • $44 billion to create a National Transitional Jobs Program to enable more people, including young adults, to enter the workforce as industry transitions out of the pandemic.
    • $10 billion for Postsecondary Bridging for All to boost college readiness, providing funding to community leads to strengthen postsecondary pathways.
  • Direct Funds to Meet Urgent Mental Health needs of young people navigating the crisis:
    • $1 billion for mental health supports jointly administered through the Department of Labor and Department of Health and Human Services, to infuse trauma-informed, healing-centered approaches into youth programs.
  • Ensure Opportunity Youth receive direct stimulus payments through the use of navigators and increased interagency collaboration;
  • Ensure Unemployment Insurance benefits are available to new workers, seeking to enter the workforce in a declining economy;
  • Expand SNAP benefits to displaced college students;
  • Include strong equity provisions including prioritizing services to communities with historic barriers to employment (opportunity youth, people of color, immigrants and individuals impacted by the justice system); requiring service delivery models that incorporate cultural and linguistic competency, delivered through community-based organizations; and using metrics that prioritize long-term labor-market outcomes and job quality.

In the longer term, we will need innovative ways to get our communities and economy back on track. We must not overlook young people and their potential to lead us into the future. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted urgent needs and deep inequities. We call on you to ensure that funding and policies enacted now will support young workers with low incomes and Opportunity Youth.



National Network for Youth 

The Corps Network

Center for Latino Progress – CPRF

California Indian Manpower Consortium, Inc.

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

Public Advocacy for Kids (PAK)

Our Piece of the Pie, Inc.

Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces

Story For All

We All Rise 

California Opportunity Youth Network


First Focus Campaign for Children


Forge City Works

Heartland Alliance

Elm City Communities/Housing Authority of the City of New Haven

OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates

National Indian Education Association


National Coalition for the Homeless

Bread for the World

Advocates for Children and Youth

Equality North Carolina

Pubic Advocacy for Kids (PAK)

Youth Villages

Momentum Advisory Collective

Think of Us

Child Welfare League of America

First Focus Campaign for Children

YouthBuild USA

Human Resources Agency



First Focus Campaign for Children

The Moriah Group

Michigan’s Children

Swipe Out Hunger

Living On Purpose ATL

Youth Transitions Task Force

Juvenile Justice Coalition

Georgia Shift

Ability Connection Colorado


Worcester Community Action Council

Children’s Advocacy Institute

Generation New England

National Council of Churches


Emerging Workforce Initiative


Our Piece of the Pie – OPP

Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces

Foster Care Alumni of America

JVS Boston

Grind Smart Foundation

Young Invincibles

National Compadres Network

College Bound Dorchester

Apprentice Learning

National Partnership for Women & Families

Muslim Caucus Education Collective

National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund

National Association of Counsel for Children

Future Chefs

Urban League of Greater Hartford

Public Allies


California Family Life Center

City of Albany Department of Youth & Workforce Services

Opportunity Youth United

YouthBuild Boston

Famcios Foundation

Reaching At-Promise Students Association

Open Buffalo

Community Matters


ASU Opportunities for Youth


Opportunities for Youth

Grad Solutions LLC

Pro-Serv Commercial Cleaning Inc.

Global Business Coalition for Education

Allied Tool & Die Co., LLC

one n ten

Think Make Live Youth

JFCS-Real World Program

Ombudsman Charter Schools

Bay Area Community Resources

Next Generation Zone

Ones Up

Phipps Neighborhoods

Remember Us Urban Scouts

Urban Underground

The Center for Teen Empowerment

MZ Strategies, LLC

HIGHTS Workforce Development

Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps

Coalition for Responsible Community Development



Child Welfare League of America

WELL ( Wade Edwards Learning Lab)


Voces Unidas for Justice

First Focus Campaign for Children

Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions

Centro Community Hispanic Association Centro CHA Inc.

Cities United

Community Law in Action

The Center for Teen Empowerment

Human Resources Agency of New Britain, INC.

Helping All Women Transform (H.A.W.T Muse)

Urban Alliance

Beyond Ferguson: Bridging the Class and Racial Divides

Emerging Workforce Initiative, Inc.


Tracy B. Butler

Elizabeth McKenna

Pardeice McGoy, Youth Development Institute

Tavon Gatling

Alayna Smith

Jamiel Alexander

Lawrence Pasti

Kisha Bird

Tacia Colon-Martins

Nala Toussaint

Curtis Carmichael III, Inclusion & Diversity Chairman, Hope Hill Elementary Foundation

Tony Shu, Cofounder and Co-Executive Director, Breaktime

Naiya Speight

Rashaun Bennett

Tawanna Jones, Executive Director, We REIGN Inc.

Shanice Turner, Consultant, OYUnited

Edurne Irizarry, Program Officer, Philadelphia Foundation

Luke Lynch, Director, OpportUNITY

Jaquan Mckenzie, Work Inc.

Roberr Zavala, Senior Director of Admissions

Berisha Black, Director, Trinity Opportunity Alliance

Michael W Colbert, Business Engagement Specialist

David Abromowitz

Michelle Chen

Josephine Ybarra

Yordanos Molla

Kimberly Pham

Duy Pham

Kendra Madrid

Monique Robinson

Toyce Newton

Ellen J. Zinkiewicz

Blake Dohrn

Isaac Hammond-Paul

Isha Weerasinghe

Jamison Ahmad Collier
Charise Floyd-Pickering

Brandy Grant

Cyndi Wells

Raomel Morrison

Beth Barefoot

Marie Roker-Jones

Yesenia Jimenez

Dean Jones

Sam Zito

Amanda Colligan

Rev. Anika A Jones

Alan Jones

Ayanna Grady-Hunt

Cierra Vines

Stephen Warren

Keito Van Bird

Victoria Garcia

Cameron Mendes-Moreau

Caitlin Kawaguchi

Elly Belle

Paul Smith

Xiomara Garcia

Cassandra Webb

Isaac Abraham Espinal

Marlen Joanne Mendoza

Lauren Vincent

Papa Samba Diop

Lashon Amado

Erica Robinson

Eric Dwayne Castlow

Ronnie Burnett Jr.

Zakia Redd-Williams

Jameel Jackson-Beasley

Chris Dickinson

Camina Ceasar

Felix Moran

Dr. Robin B. Hollis

Noraitza Ruiz

James Hoyt

Joel Fuentes Alvarez

Ashaki Eva Warren

Teri Broadnax

Michael Dix

Christopher Locke

Roger Oser

Audrey Stubbs

Andrea Searcy

Carolyn Smith

Tara Casey

Zeida Santos

Dorothy Stoneman

Amy Kriz

Perri Leviss

Betty Schoen

Nicole Yohalem

Danielle Otte

Melissa Goemann

Jacqueline Martino Miller

Nicole Green, Associate Executive Director, YMCA Metropolitan Washington

Caryn Graves

Susan Hughes, National Director of Employer Partnerships, 100k Opportunities Initiative

Amber Baack

Cassandra Upchurch

Candice Mack

Daniel O. Ash

Lauren Massey

Keziah Richards

Tolulope Taiwo

Cedric Nixon, Education Outreach Specialist, Arizona State University- Opportunities for Youth Program

Betty Ramirez

C. L Arthur

Judith Ackerman

Gretchen E Peters

C. L Arthur

Clayreesa Barnes

Devon Miner

Melissa Pederson

Noraitza Ruiz

Heather Duverna

Jeffrey Thomas

Kendelle Brown

Mykia Richards

Shawnice Jackson

Hakeem Oseni

Heather Day

Jaquell Sneed

Shar Shorts

Kenwaun Flinn

Darrin Brian Madison Jr.

Inglish Grover

Danna Villafane

Charmeka Wells

Cameron Spann

Arizona Moore

Malachi Moore

Cameron Spann

Maya Feng

Abdul Kargbo

Devina Cunningham

Isabel Torres

Shaquana Boykin, OYUnited Community Leader NYC

Belinda Escalante

Caryn Graves

Perri Leviss

Marcia S Collier

Leigh-Anna Nielsen

Sandra Garcia-Hernandez

Lorena Alvarez

Tameka Mclean

Katalina Garcia, Advocate, Young Invincibles

Antonio Ramirez III

Daniel Archuleta

Duwayne Wright

Benito L Lopez-Sanchez

Lisa Romero

Cena Abramo

LuAnne Blaauboer

Michele A. Knox

Beth Bentley

Justin Truong 

Natalie Stoller

Charlene OConnor

Florence Lefebvre

Nancy J Schieffelin

Amanda Ruud

Patricia Garcia

Kathryn Bonfiglio

Evangeline Alpogianis

Jisoo Kim

Sarah Eicher

Evangeline Alpogianis

Kelly Hilovsky

Evangeline Alpogianis

To sign onto this letter, please fill out this form.