In an era of partisan gridlock two senators from opposing parties have come together with legislation aimed at putting Americans back to work. It becomes more noteworthy that the two senators are the only African-Americans in the United States Senate. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC) have introduced the Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs (LEAP) Act. Through the bill they hope to fill nearly four million jobs in the United States through apprenticeship programs. Both senators cite lagging statistics in the nation’s apprenticeship programs as compared to other industrialized nations and the youth jobless rate as a motivation for this bill.
The legislation is a private sector driven initiative that aims to address unemployment among 16-24 year-olds. Businesses that hire employees under the age of 25 will receive a $1,500 federal tax credit. Those businesses with who bring on new employees over the age 25 will only receive $1,000 in tax considerations. To qualify the new hire must register with the Department of Labor or with state apprenticeship agencies. The unemployment rate for black youth (16-24) is double that of white youth with rates reaching as high as 22%. Both senators acknowledge the disparity and feel this bill will address it.
Senator Booker told Politic365 in an email “The LEAP Act will address gaps in opportunity especially for youth in communities of color. Young people with just a high school diploma face unemployment rates of nearly 30%. Sadly for African-Americans the jobless rate is 40%. I am excited to work with my colleague Senator Scott to introduce legislation that identifies ways we can start to address this disparity.” For his part Sean Conner press secretary to Senator Scott also said in an email“conservatively, the bill could help create 400,000 apprenticeships. In addition to the individuals that will gain new skills through these apprenticeship programs, we can’t underestimate the multiplier effects on communities.”
Much of the program at the federal level is modeled around the Apprenticeship Carolina, A South Carolina based program that has drawn praise from Vice-President Joe Biden and the Center for American Progress. The Congressional Black Caucus, of which Sen. Booker is a member but Senator Scott is not, has not issued a comment on the proposal and said they would not until their members have had an opportunity to read and discuss the bill.