Opportunity Youth Advocacy Community – January 2022 Monthly Meeting Summary

Updates from a national coalition of individuals and organizations who come together to build comprehensive supports for and investment in pathways for Opportunity Youth – young people ages 16 to 24 who are not in school or the workforce.

If you’re interested in joining this cross-issue coalition of advocates and researchers focused on Opportunity Youth, please contact Gerod Blue at gerod[@]forumfyi.org. Advocates of all ages and issue areas welcome!

In this post (click to jump to a section):

Status Update: Build Back Better & Federal Policies to Invest in Opportunity Youth

In November, the US House of Representatives passed a $1.75 trillion social spending package known as Build Back Better (BBB). It advanced to the Senate, where it has stalled. Passing BBB through the process known as reconciliation requires that all 50 Senate Democrats vote for it. With Sen. Manchin (D-WV) unwilling to vote for it, and Sen. Sinema (D-AZ) also raising concerns about the bill, it cannot advance in the Senate. Thus, the next step is likely to be breaking it up into smaller proposals so that some of the administration’s key priorities can advance through Congress before the mid-term elections, which may change the majority.

Advocates have been working hard to ensure that this historic funding does not leave Opportunity Youth and young adults out. Our coalition has focused on workforce development, subsidized jobs for young people, access to higher education and training, and a Climate Conservation Corps that engages Opportunity Youth among our priorities.

What’s in and what’s out? In broad strokes, here’s what we know right now:

  • $550 billion for climate, Pre-K/child care likely in
  • Child tax credit, free community college likely out

Actions Needed: Please take a moment to let your Members of Congress know that you want to see action to invest in Opportunity Youth, and that any bill that invests in our critical social programs must not leave Opportunity Youth out. You can use the Reconnecting Youth Campaign’s action center to find and message your Representatives and Senators: reconnectingyouthcampaign.org/take-action/


What’s Working: Examples from Across the Country

A Citywide Call to Invest in Economic Reconnection, from Jobs First NYC

Roman Jackson, VP of Jobs First NYC, shared the organization’s latest policy brief: Equitable Recovery for Young Adults: An Agenda for Young Adult Workforce Development in New York City.

This report provides city-wide policy recommendations grounded in the needs and insights of young people and program providers, and outlines what’s needed to quickly connect young adults to employment not and effectively prepare them for the future of work in a rapidly shifting, increasingly virtual economy. Specifically, Jobs First NYC calls on New York City to increase funding by $770 million annually, for:

  1. Collaboration: Encourage and reward collaboration across young adult workforce programs and providers.
  2. Focus on Equity: Prioritize economic mobility and pathways to prosperity for historically under-resourced and disproportionately harmed communities.
  3. Employer Partnerships: Significantly expand partnerships with employers and industry groups to create employment and career pathway opportunities.
  4. Continuum of Services: Create a seamless continuum of integrated services across education and youth workforce development institutions.
  5. Youth-Centered Strategies: Design youth-informed solutions that center young adults, their experiences, and goals.
  6. Capacity Building: Build the capacity of workforce providers to deliver high-quality, culturally competent, market-aligned services to young adults.

Young Leaders Address the Nation: March 1

Marlén Mendoza, Huma Kazi, and Dillon Bernard shared the March 1 youth-led Young People Address the Nation, developed by Youth Action Hour. In addition to a livestream, there will be large-scale social media activation via #YoungPeopleAddress on TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram as young leaders share their messages and solutions to ensure America can rise to meet the demands of this moment in our history.

Action Needed: RSVP, tune in, and share the March 1 national activation using the resources at YoungPeopleAddress.org.

Tapping the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for Opportunity Youth

Opportunities for States & Localities to Use ARPA

Elizabeth Gaines, founder of the Children’s Funding Project (CFP) shared their interactive tool for states and localities to access the American Rescue Plan funds for local priorities. On page 6 of the tool, you’ll find examples of what states and localities are doing that is focused on children, youth, and young adults.

Elizabeth noted that city leaders report receiving more requests than county leaders, and recommends finding and reaching out to county leaders to propose innovative use of the funds for Opportunity Youth at the county level.

Action Needed: Many of the decisions about how to allocate ARPA funds are being made by April 2022, so now is the time to advocate.

Check out the tool and a fantastic webinar about ARPA in CFP’s ARPA Resources microsite.

If you are using ARPA to invest in Opportunity Youth or priorities, please let us know by emailing Caitlin Johnson at aitlin@forumfyi.org or Jo Ann Paanio at joann@forumfyi.org.

In Iowa City, Investing Locally through a SSMID

Marlén Mendoza, consultant to CLASP, the Forum for Youth Investment, and the Aspen Institute, shared an update from an Iowa City effort to spur economic development in areas that are “economic deserts.” In Iowa City, there is significant under-utilized commercial space. City leaders came together to tackle this issue, and landed on an innovative funding approach: a Self-Supporting Municipal Improvement District (SSMID), a tool for property owners in a geographic area to fund improvements and services beyond basic municipal services. Through a tax on property owners, the SSMID raises additional funds to invest locally. The goal is to let local entrepreneurs—and, importantly, young people—identify priorities for investment to build skills and access to opportunities. Plans include support to local businesses, and training programs for local young people connected to these businesses.

Importantly, the Iowa City SSMID is accessing ARPA funds to hold focus groups with business owners and entrepreneurs who are immigrants, to understand their range of needs. They are also looking into using ARPA funding for the youth trainings.

To learn more, check out SouthDistrictNeighborhood.org’s SSMID information and the January 2022 Iowa Gazette article, Iowa City Council approves business revitalization tool in South District.