Inspired by FDR’s New Deal, Policy Effort Focuses on Youth-Led and Youth-Centered Solutions to Address Challenges Exacerbated by the Coronavirus Pandemic
February 4, 2021, WASHINGTON, DC – Today, young adult leaders from across the country called on the Biden Administration, Members of Congress, public and private sectors decisionmakers to support Why We Can’t Wait: A New Deal for Youth, a policy effort to address the urgent economic and social challenges facing young people in America and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. A New Deal for Youth will propose policy recommendations and community solutions developed by and centering the experiences of young adults as the pandemic continues to disproportionately impact their lives. The Why We Can’t Wait: A New Deal for Youth video can be found here.
“Young people do not only exist to represent the future of the country. We are here to effect change so that our country may have a future,” said Connor Kalahiki, Student Activist, Generation Indigenous Ambassador for Center for Native American Youth, and A New Deal for Youth Changemaker. “This past election, we overwhelmingly voted for Joe Biden, cementing our place as a critical voting bloc. Additionally, young people are running for office, organizing within our communities, doing the work we know needs to get done in order to create a more equitable society. Despite our efforts, the issues we face are not prioritized. We face high unemployment rates, mental health crises, and injustice environmentally, socially, and economically-–the pandemic has only exacerbated this reality. We cannot be ignored anymore.”
“A New Deal for Youth is about hope. As a former foster youth, it is important for us to have a seat at the table about these discussions. We are not even at the table when our lives are being discussed. Judges, social workers, legislators all have a say, but we don’t,” said Alexis Obina, Advocate, California Youth Connection/Foster Youth in Action and A New Deal for Youth Changemaker. “Everyone says that youth need to be self-sufficient but even when we have the desire, few are willing to teach us the skills or tell us when and how to step up to be taken seriously. With A New Deal for Youth, we’re not only asking for a seat at the decision-making table, we’re building our own table to decide what should also be on the menu.”
Based on data derived from the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) Youth Data Portrait, and inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs that created new systems, policies, structures to bring prosperity back to Americans during the Great Depression, A New Deal for Youth asks for the same commitment to today’s youth and young adults. The effort also advocates for policies that will positively affect communities not fully included in FDR’s New Deal – Black, Indigenous, Latinx and immigrant communities of color, who continue to be the most impacted by issues of structural racism and economic injustice.
“Far too often our young people have been overlooked as the key architects they are in the movement for transformative change,” said Representative Cori Bush (D-MO), an ally of the A New Deal for Youth effort. “Young people in my hometown of St. Louis and elsewhere are shaping our legislative efforts. They are forcing us to dream big and to fight hard for the future of this country, this global community, and our planet. I am inspired by their bold vision for A New Deal for Youth and look forward to partnering with them to make their demands for justice a reality.”
“For young people, coming of age during the COVID-19 pandemic in the midst of co-occurring economic, climate, and racial justice crises, can have long term, detrimental outcomes — disproportionately impacting the health, career progression, and lifetime earnings for an entire generation,” said Hilary Pennington, Ford Foundation Executive Vice President of Programs. “Given how much the rest of us — including future generations — depend on this generation, how we deal with these challenges affect us all, and it’s critical for the public and private sectors to come together, working in lockstep with our young leaders, so we can build the just future that we all need.”
“Millennial and Gen Z youth and young adults have known little social and economic stability in their lifetimes. Despite an economic recovery for many, poverty and unemployment for young people remained well above the national average. Young people of color have found themselves pushed out of school and under constant threat of law enforcement. The pandemic has intensified an already untenable mental health crisis. This data tells us that young people are not doing okay and we have consistently demonstrated they are not a national priority,” said Kisha Bird, director of Youth Policy at CLASP. “A New Deal For Youth is a recognition of their incredible power and our collective responsibility to listen and partner with them on realizing transformational policies and solutions to the challenges facing their generation and the nation as a whole.”
Since November 2020, young leaders at the helm of A New Deal for Youth have been meeting with organizational partners and allies including Members of Congress, leaders in the philanthropic, public and private sectors, to discuss policy areas and recommendations on which the effort will focus through the Biden Administration’s first year. This includes policies related to democracy and civic engagement, economic justice and opportunity, healing and wellbeing, justice and safe communities, immigration reform, and environmental justice.