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16 Dec 2012

What is at stake for communities of color in the fiscal showdown debate? ( Part two)

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December 16, 2012 Category: Week In Review Posted by:

By Vanessa Cárdenas


As Congress continues to negotiate to resolve the fiscal showdown that threatens to unravel our fragile economic recovery, much is at stake for Americans of every race and income level—particularly those who are trying to regain their economic foothold after the Great Recession of 2007–2009. This week is Part Two of what is at stake for communities of color in this fiscal showdown debate…


Job-training programs


Job-training programs across the board will be deeply affected by the cuts triggered by sequestration. Among them, the Workforce Investment Act, Job Corps, and the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service will see their funding significantly cut.


According to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis:


In terms of job-training programs, we are looking at a hit of about $500 million to our workforce system, and also the inability … of being able to reach 1.7 additional participants. And, of course, you and I know … in a time of high unemployment, that is not a good sign. With respect to veterans, which I know this subcommittee is very focused on as well, we are looking at a reduction of about $13 million overall in the efforts to try to find employment services and provide that for veterans.


The Workforce Investment Act state grants provide employment and training services to underemployed adults as well as youth who have dropped out of high school and want to go back to school or enter the labor market. According to a report by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA),413,500 fewer people would receive services across the country if the sequestered cuts would take effect. Job Corps is an education and training program that helps young people learn a career, earn a high school diploma or GED, and find and keep a good job. Similarly, more than 4,300 fewer youth would receive training from the program under the proposed cuts.


Unemployment rates among youth of color (ages 16 to 24) are staggering. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of July 2012, 28.6 percent of black youth and 18.5 percent of Hispanic youth were unemployed, compared to 14.9 percent of their white peers. The youth participants in these programs are the nation’s future workforce and it’s crucial that we invest in these growing communities now, instead of gutting the programs that are preparing them to be contributing members of the workforce.


The Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, or VETS, offers employment and training services to eligible veterans through funds allocated to state workforce agencies to assist veterans seeking employment within their state. According to a March 2012 Census report, the unemployment rate in 2011 for veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001 was 12.1 percent. Yet, and most troubling, young male veterans (ages 18 to 24) who served during the Gulf War II era had an unemployment rate of 29.1 percent in 2011, higher than that of young male nonveterans. Under the sequestration cuts more than 51,400 veterans would lose access to the program. According to the National Center for Veteran Analysis and Statistics, there are 2.5 million black veterans, more than 1.3 million Hispanic veterans, and 298,000 Asian veterans.


Cuts to vital job-training programs like the Workforce Investment Act, Job Corps, and VETS, coupled with the high rates of unemployment in communities of color, will have a damaging long-term effect in these communities.


PHOTO: Three tax credits set to expire at the end of year that are essential for people of color.


Education programs


Based on information from the Congressional Budget Office, the National Education Association has calculated that 9.3 million students would be directly affected by almost $5 billion in sequestration cuts. The cuts include Title I funding aid, special education programs, Head Start, and financial aid programs for higher education, among many others.


Title I funding provides education funding to states and school districts with high concentrations of low-income and disadvantaged students. According to the National Association of Secondary School Principals, Title I funding would be cut by $1.2 billion and would affect almost 1.8 million students and eliminate 16,100 jobs. In addition,special education programs serving 476,000 students would be gutted by nearly $1 billion, and support for rural school districts with 437,000 students would also collapse.


If the sequestration cuts are allowed to take effect, the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that up to 100,000 low-income children will lose access to Head Start and Early Head Start Services. Head Start provides comprehensive education, health, nutrition, and parent-involvement services to low-income children and their families.


The sequestration cuts would also result in an approximate 8 percent cut in federal student aid, which would reduce financial aid for more than 2 million college students, slamming the door of opportunity shut for many. The federal Pell Grant program would be cut by $94 million, in part by reducing the maximum grant for the 2013-14 academic year from $5,635 to the current $5,550. Reducing federal student aid would have a disproportionate impact on students of color since they constitute more than half of all Pell Grant recipients.


All Americans should be deeply concerned about these educational cuts because these kinds of disinvestments ripple across generations and only add to the hurdles K-12 students and young people already face in completing a solid education and earning a college degree, all of which have implications for our future workforce and economic outlook.




Letting tax cuts that benefit only the richest 2 percent expire would save nearly $1 trillion in revenue over the next 10 years. By letting the tax cut expire for millionaires and billionaires, we would be simply asking that they pay their fair share of taxes since they have benefited disproportionately from the tax reductions enacted since 2001. Since 2004 millionaires have gained more than $1 million each on average from these tax cuts. We cannot afford to continue giving tax cuts to those who need them least.


What we need is a balanced approach of cuts and revenue, but when contemplating cuts we must focus on what is needed to protect the middle class and those aspiring to become part of it. We must also continue making needed investments for our collective economic future. Even more importantly, by ensuring that the safety net is not damaged further and that educational and training opportunities continue to be available to those who need them most, we’ll ensure that the ladder of opportunity and the American Dream remain strong for the next generation of Americans.


Vanessa Cárdenas is Director of Progress 2050 at the Center for American Progress. This article was published by the Center for American Progress.

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