Sanders: Ferguson shows need for black unemployment bill

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Wednesday that he would introduce legislation after the August recess that aims to reduce the unemployment rate among black youths.

“If we are going to address the issue of crime in low-income areas and in African-American communities, it might be a good idea that instead of putting military style equipment into police departments in those areas, we start investing in jobs for the young people there who desperately need them,” Sanders said.

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His comments came after an unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. Sanders said, in the St. Louis area, almost half of young black men are unemployed. 

“Not only do we have to take a stand to end the violence that is being committed against young Americans, we also must recognize that there is an economic crisis facing our nation’s youth, particularly young African-Americans,” Sanders wrote in a letter to colleagues asking for co-sponsors of his new bill, the Employ Young Americans Now Act.

Sanders’s bill would authorize the Department of Labor to immediately give $4 billion to states and localities to employ 1 million young Americans between the ages of 16 and 24. The youth unemployment rate is currently more than 20 percent and nearly 35 percent for young African Americans.

The bill would also award $1.5 billion in competitive grants to provide work-based training to low- and moderate-income youth and disadvantaged young adults.

“If we are going to reduce youth violence and instill hope and a bright future for the young people in this country, we have got to provide them with the jobs and the skills they need to move up the economic ladder,” Sanders wrote.