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Minority legislators challenge Rauner on youth employment defunding decision

minority-youth-emplImmediately following today’s State of the State address, State Senators Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16) and Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago 20) stood with a group of their House and Senate colleagues to highlight the urgent need for youth employment programs stripped of state funding last week. The legislators, members of the House and Senate Black and Latino Caucuses, challenged the governor to square his actions with his rhetoric.

“In today’s speech, we heard about opportunities for disadvantaged communities,” Collins said. “But what we’ve seen so far is those opportunities denied. Let’s move beyond rhetoric to solutions.”

“Youth and after school programs are critically important for keeping young Latinos healthy and safe, and I am committed to ensuring that these programs are funded in the future,” Martinez said. “The governor ran on a platform of making Illinois a more ‘competitive and compassionate’ state, but his administration’s decision to rescind grants for youth programs is troubling and inconsistent with his campaign’s theme.”

More than 30 Chicago-area agencies providing youth employment and afterschool programming were informed last week that they were no longer allowed to spend state funds they were awarded in December as part of the Department of Human Services’ Youth Development Grant program. Their state contracts took effect January 1. The decision froze nearly $8 million in funds that had already been budgeted for afterschool and summer programs, mentoring, job training and job opportunities for young people, particularly in low-income and high-crime neighborhoods.

“You tell us you want Illinois to become the most competitive and compassionate state in the nation,” said Collins, who also invited Rauner to visit her district and view the impact of his decision. “We are asking you – where is the compassion? And without mentoring, job training and a chance to work, how can the next generation of low-income minority youth hope to compete?”

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