The single biggest change the House made during floor debate of its budget proposal this week would continue a program that aims to help low-income youth enter into the workforce.
St. Louis City Democrat Bruce Franks, Junior, saw that Governor Eric Greitens (R) had proposed cutting all funding to the Summer Jobs League within the Department of Economic Development. Franks proposed taking $6-million from unused funds in two programs within Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to restore it, and the House voted to accept Franks’ proposal.
The Summer Jobs League gives 16- to 24-year-olds from low-income homes in the St. Louis or Kansas City areas the chance to work in a business in a field they’re interested in.
The largest portion of the state’s appropriation to the Summer Jobs League will pay the salaries of the youth participants – up to $8.50 an hour for up to 240 hours. Franks said that is part of the incentive for businesses to participate.
“The jobs and the small businesses really benefit from having extra employees that they don’t have to pay that payroll, or that salary, so it really helps the small businesses when they can get three or four youth, teach them a great program, how to work, how to own their own business,” said Franks.
Participating businesses often hire the Summer Jobs League youths after their League term has expired.
Franks said Summer Jobs works in conjunction with other programs such as Prison to Prosperity, which helps youth in the St. Louis region transition out of prison.
“Now we’ve got youth that are getting out going straight to a job, straight to financial literacy, financial empowerment. Summer Jobs doesn’t just offer summer jobs. It offers 24-hour mentoring, behavior modification, job readiness training; all these different things to get you not only ready for the workforce but to continue on within the workforce,” said Franks.
Franks’ proposal earned praise from Republicans including Versailles Representative David Wood, who called it a better use of TANF dollars, “to catch the youth, get them into summer job programs, and teach them how to work early on.”
House Democrat leader Gail McCann Beatty (Kansas City) said her law firm participated in Summer Jobs, and she worked with several young people through it.
Franks thanked Alferman as well as House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (R), Budget Committee member Representative Crystal Quade (D-Springfield), and others, for helping him find money for the League.
Many of Franks’ fellow lawmakers commended him on being a freshman member of a superminority who secured a large change in the state’s budget, but Franks said that’s not what he felt good about.
“It feels great because I was able to help the underserved. It feels great because I was able to work across party lines and we were able to come together to serve my community,” said Franks. “All too often the community that I serve has felt like they’ve been left out, and to have representatives on both sides truly care, truly vote in the interest of the people, that matters more than anything.”
The House’s budget proposal has been sent to the State Senate, which will propose its own changes. Once the two chambers agree on a spending plan, it will be sent to Governor Greitens.