CHICAGO – Three days after announcing his Community Investment Works program to curb violence and create more opportunities for youth, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich sent a letter today to Congressional leaders urging them to approve legislation that would fund summer jobs for youth nationwide. In April, Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) and Rep. James Clyburn (D – South Carolina) introduced companion bills in the US Senate and House that would provide as much as $1 billion for communities across the country to implement a summer jobs program. The Governor calls for federal action as Chicago nears the end of one of the most violent school years in recent history.
“Our communities are in crisis. Our economy is struggling. We know that providing summer jobs to youth is a proven and worthwhile tool for reducing youth violence, stimulating the economy and rebuilding our communities,” the Governor wrote. “We in Illinois are working to invest in our youth and their future. I ask that you work to provide federal funding to support that investment.”
Earlier this week, in response to an ongoing violence on Chicago streets, Governor Blagojevich announced a comprehensive plan to reduce violence and save young lives. Called Community Investment Works, it will address a range of factors contributing to youth violence, including the lack of employment opportunities, lack of safe social and recreational opportunities, and disengagement from their communities.
This school year, twenty-four Chicago Public Schools students have been killed school by gun violence, with still over a month to go before the school year concludes. Since Sunday, there have been more than a ten reported shootings in Chicago, including one Monday night in which 3-year-old Marshawn Williams was hit by a bullet while playing outside his family’s apartment in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood.
The Governor is proposing $150 million in targeted investment in areas that can have the most immediate impact on young people’s choices and after school options. The Community Investment Works plan will invest:
$30 million for the Governor’s Summer Youth Employment Program to provide up to 20,000 job opportunities for kids statewide. The majority of positions will be in 39 “high need” communities.
$20 million in grants to community providers for after-school and unattended youth programs that make sure kids have safe and productive options during non-school hours, including evenings.
$100 million to rebuild deteriorating neighborhoods, support local businesses and stimulate job growth in at-risk communities, and equip law enforcement with advanced field technology to boost public safety.
Funding for the new plan would be provided in concert with the Governor’s proposed $25 billion Illinois Works capital plan.
"Investing in summer jobs would be a great opportunity for the federal government to provide kids a chance to bolster their confidence, increase their educational skills, build their resume and strengthen the economy. These jobs are the first these kids will ever have. It gives them the confidence to enter the work force, and has a positive impact on their lives,” said Jack Wuest, Executive Director of Alternative Schools Network.
Text of the Governor’s letter follows:
Dear Congressional Leaders:
We are nearing the end of one of the most violent school years for Illinois youth in recent history. In Chicago alone, 24 Chicago Public Schools students have been killed by gunfire this school year. As we enter the summer months, we will see more young people on the streets, unless we stand up and offer them alternatives.
We need to engage our youth – with jobs, activities and enrichment – and give them a purpose beyond violence. Senator Patty Murray and Rep. James Clyburn have introduced bills that would invest up to $1 billion for summer jobs for youth. I encourage you to work to include funding for summer jobs in the Supplemental Appropriations bill, or in a second economic stimulus plan. I urge you to include funding for summer jobs programs in any of these vehicles. We still have time to put our youth to work this summer.
Investing in youth and our communities is essential. I recently announced the Community Investment Works proposal, a historic and immediate plan to stem the tide of youth violence in Chicago and around Illinois. Community Investment Works will provide up to 20,000 jobs for youth ages 13 to 22 around the state. The jobs will be community development and beautification jobs, such as working with the elderly, cleaning up a dirty lot, or planting a community garden. The youth will be able to earn a decent wage or stipend while they improve their own communities and learn valuable job skills.
I want to thank those members of the Illinois Delegation who have supported these bills and their efforts to ensure that there are opportunities for young Illinoisans. We must continue to fight for opportunity for our youth.
Our communities are in crisis. Our economy is struggling. We know that providing summer jobs to youth is a proven and worthwhile tool for reducing youth violence, stimulating the economy and rebuilding our communities.
We in Illinois are working to invest in our youth and their future. I ask that you work to provide federal funding to support that investment.
Governor, State of Illinois