Because the previous Congress funded the federal government only to March 4th, 2011, the current Congress must pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to continue to fund the government from that point through September 30th, 2011, the end of 2011 fiscal year. The House, Senate and President must ultimately agree on these spending levels. Last week, House Republicans proposed a CR that slashes $32 billion in programs over the next 7 months. This week, those cuts may be deepened as the bill is brought to the floor and amendments are allowed. Unfortunately, many of the cuts are seriously misguided and will reduce economic opportunity at a time when young people can least afford it.
Young adult employment levels plummeted to their lowest levels since WWII in the middle of this Recession, and continue to be unbelievably high. Those lucky enough to have a job will see their wages suffer far into the future. Yet the House plan would add another barrier to recovery for a generation that has been thrown off track for years to come.
The most obvious youth-focused attack promises to cut the maximum Pell Grant by $845, putting Pell on the trajectory to lose even more mandatory funding over the coming years. Over 8 million low and middle-income students who rely on this program to pay for college would lose 15% of their funds across the board.
And that is just the beginning. The proposal targets workforce training and employment services for another $1.4 billion in cuts. Programs that teach youth to apply for work, take leadership roles in their community, and train for 21st century employment would lose one of every three dollars in funding.
The Corporation for National Community Service would lose $1 billion, in part by eliminating the popular AmeriCorps program, which provides jobs to tens of thousands of young adults each year who provide valuable community service. Community Health Centers that provide free medical care to low-income and uninsured populations would see their budgets fall by billions more.
These changes would drastically limit the ability of young people to acquire skills, get a job, stay healthy, and give back to their communities. This is not the time to stop investing in the nation’s future. Young people care about the long-term fiscal health of our country, but cuts targeted at programs that help our generation learn, innovate, and work do not restore that health.