URBANA – A new statewide effort aims to provide vulnerable young people in Illinois with summer jobs.
The COVID-19 Summer Youth Employment Program provides $9.3 million to fund summer jobs for 2,400 young adults with a focus on low-income youth living in high-poverty communities.
State and local officials spoke at a press conference Monday, held at Urbana Neighborhood Connections Center, which will provide some of the 100 jobs being made available to young people throughout Champaign County.
“COVID-19 has completely turned the working world on its head,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. “But young people still deserve a chance to start building their future. In fact, it’s more important than ever to ensure the most vulnerable among us don’t slip through the cracks.”
Democratic State Representative Carol Ammons of Champaign said she believes it’s the responsibility of the government to create jobs and career-making opportunities.
“I believe to build wealth — African-Americans understand this process very well — that if you deny people the opportunity for access, you’ve actually set the course for their future,” Ammons said.
In a news release, state officials said young people make up about a quarter of the overall Illinois workforce employed in industries at highest risk of closure due to the pandemic and that many between ages 16 and 24 face significant challenges to securing employment.
Job opportunities through the program are being coordinated across Illinois by community-based organizations in partnership with the state’s Department of Human Services.
Pritzker said another statewide effort offers tax credits to incentivize employers providing apprenticeship programs. He says the state is on track to support 17,000 apprenticeships in 2020 thanks to the public-private partnership.
Christine Herman is a reporter at Illinois Public Media. Follow her on Twitter: @CTHerman