On March 24th, the House passed the Disaster Relief and Summer Jobs Act (HR 4899) by a vote of 239-175. While we begin to recover from the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression, the bill invests in America's youth and small businesses - the engine of our economy.
The bill expands summer youth jobs opportunities supporting an additional 300,000 summer jobs. We must make every effort to create new job opportunities for America's young people as youth unemployment is high (18.5 percent for those age 16-24), even higher for teenagers (25 percent for those age 16-19) and much higher among African American teens (42 percent) and Latino teens (over 30 percent).
The bill also extends key Recovery Act provisions to make small business loans more affordable and available. Small businesses have always been a major engine of our economy - creating 65 percent of all new jobs over the past decade and a half; they must have access to capital to be at the forefront of our recovery.
Lastly, the bill contains $5.1 billion in aid to help disaster-stricken communities rebuild their homes, infrastructure and local economies and protect them from future disasters -- with our nation facing record snowfalls and major floods this year and continuing to recover from last year's natural disasters.
- Disaster Relief Fund: $5.1 billion, to ensure that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can continue its work helping communities recover from recent disasters and to ensure that they have resources to respond to future disasters. Due to lack of funds, FEMA has about $2 billion in projects on hold. Meanwhile, the National Weather Service and the Army Corps of Engineers estimate that one-third of the United States will be faced with the possibility of flooding this spring.
- Summer Youth Jobs: $600 million, fully offset, to support over 300,000 jobs for youth ages 16 to 21 through summer employment programs. This funding will allow local Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) to expand successful summer jobs programs that were funded in the Recovery Act.
- Small Business Administration: $60 million, fully offset, to extend the Recovery Act small business lending program for another month. That program eliminated the fees normally charged for loans through the Small Business Administration 7(a) and 504 loan programs and increased the government guarantees on 7(a) loans from 75% to 90%. Since its creation, the program has supported nearly $23 billion in small business lending, which helped to create or retain over 560,000 jobs.