Ms. VELAZQUEZ. Mr. Chairman, my amendment will increase funding for the YouthBuild program by $10 million. We are in the midst of an affordable housing crisis in this country. One of our most basic needs is to increase access to safe, affordable housing. That is why I am so concerned about the significant underfunding of so many of our most vital housing programs. Not only do many of our communities face a shortage of housing stock, but much of what is currently available is in disrepair
and cannot be lived in.
That is where YouthBuild comes in. This program involves young people in meaningful work in their communities, constructing or rehabilitating much-needed homes for homeless and low-income people. Projects range from rehabilitating 10-unit buildings to constructing new single-family homes.
Finished buildings are rented as affordable housing. Sometimes they represent opportunities for low-income community residents to buy their first homes. As a result, housing that is substandard is transformed into attractive homes in communities where there is a critical need for housing.
As my colleagues are aware, the YouthBuild program provides grants on a competitive basis to nonprofit organizations to assist high-risk youth between the ages of 16 to 24 to learn housing construction job skills and to complete their high school education. What is more, program participants enhance their skills as they construct or rehabilitate affordable housing for low- and moderate-income persons. In fact, to date, more than 7,000 units of housing have been produced by YouthBuild participants.
As they develop these marketable skills which will allow them to secure future employment, they are contributing to the revitalization of their community, and they are doing it in conjunction with the many community-based organizations, local small businesses and international corporations who have provided matching funds for these programs.
YouthBuild is currently training 6,500 people at 145 sites in 43 States. While this is certainly commendable, we could and should be reaching so many more people and places. In fiscal year 2000, HUD received 273 YouthBuild applications but could only fund 78 of them. And while we should be increasing funding for this important program to allow every applicant to receive funding, it is instead funded well below the need.
What do we say to an 18-year-old kid who wants to get into the construction trade but cannot get training? ``I am sorry, the funding is not there. You will have to find another way.''
Although YouthBuild deserves a significant increase, given the current budget restraints, I am merely asking that this vital program receive an additional $10 million in fiscal year 2002. With this increase, we will provide aid to over 100 communities nationwide.
My amendment offsets this increase by taking an equivalent amount from HUD's Salaries and Expenses account, which receives a $25 million increase. It stands to reason that if we can afford the money to implement a program that requires our neediest citizens to work for free, then we should provide the funding necessary to give these people access to job training.
This is an amendment that everyone can support. If one supports promoting self-sufficiency and community involvement for at-risk youth, one should support the YouthBuild program. If one agrees that we are in a housing crisis and affordable housing that these programs produce will be valuable to our communities, one should vote for this amendment.
I hope that Members will support this amendment and work with me to begin a dialogue on the productive, successful means of promoting self-sufficiency.
I urge my colleagues to vote for the Velazquez amendment.
Mr. WALSH. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I am reluctant to oppose my good friend and colleague from New York who does such a great job for our State, but its difficulty is that the cut that has been proposed in the HUD Salaries and Expenses account would force HUD to either cut over 100 staff members in order to provide the 17 percent increase in YouthBuild, or find some other accommodation, which I think would dramatically affect HUD's ability to operate and administer its programs.
Last year, the YouthBuild program received a 17 percent increase in the fiscal year 2001 bill, and that increase was maintained in 2002. [Page: H4709]
This is obviously a very difficult choice, but I would ask Members to stay with the subcommittee bill; and, therefore, I would oppose the amendment, which would provide another significant increase to a program that was increased dramatically last year at the expense of HUD's staff.
Therefore, I urge rejection of the amendment.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the amendment.
Mr. Chairman, the Sonoma County People for Economic Opportunity in Santa Rosa, California, my district, operates a successful YouthBuild program, one that could actually be set up as a model across this Nation.
I am absolutely pleased and proud to stand in strong support of this amendment offered by the gentlewoman from New York (Ms. Velazquez) to increase funding for YouthBuild. In fact, if I had my way, we would set a path in this Nation so that every single year we would increase the YouthBuild program by at least 17 percent.
While building and remodeling homes for low-income families, YouthBuild-Santa Rosa participants literally rebuild their own lives. YouthBuild participants, who are unemployed young people between the ages of 16 and 24, learn construction skills that start them down a career path to a lifetime of well-paid jobs, jobs they can actually afford to raise a family on.
If a participant does not have a high school diploma, it is possible, encouraged and mandated that they complete their education, with strong support from mentors, tutors and learning labs.
YouthBuild programs help young people to develop personal and family living skills as they develop their life goals and their life plans. We know they do a good job, because 85 percent of the participants who completed their YouthBuild program went on to either attend college or to take good jobs. With the tools and skills they learn at YouthBuild, young people take control over their future. They do not become a burden to their communities. They do become contributors to their communities and
to our country.
YouthBuild programs are great investments. I urge my colleagues to support the Velazquez amendment; and I urge that we increase the funding for YouthBuild, not just this year but every year in the future.
Mr. OWENS. Mr. Chairman, everybody says that they want to do things for young people. They recognize they are a special problem. But when you have a perfect program like YouthBuild, we have a great deal of difficulty getting it continued and expanded.
YouthBuild is the perfect program in terms of maximum participation and use of resources by the people who are being helped and minimum bureaucracy, minimum overhead. I have a YouthBuild program in my district, and it functions in the poorest community in my district, in one of the poorest communities in the United States.
Brownsville is a community that has many indices that run parallel in a negative way. No matter how you look at it, the number of young people who are in juvenile delinquency programs, the number of AIDS cases, the low level of education, the low reading levels, that community has every strike against it, and young people have a rough time.
But the YouthBuild program has a director who came aboard several years ago and said, ``If you want to be in this program, no alcohol, no drugs. You have got to be here on time, and you have got to be here frequently. One or two absences, and you are out.'' Yet the program has a long waiting list.
Young people see the program as having a concrete and immediate consequence. They see themselves being able to get a job. They also are required to get a high school diploma at the same time.
You have some other features in this program which run parallel to some of the kinds of things that are being talked about at great length nowadays, the faith-based initiatives.
The program that runs in my community would not be there if it was not for the Episcopal Diocese working in cooperation with the community. A large investment was made by the Episcopal Diocese. They have helped to keep the program going and develop it, and now the program has been able to get funding from other sources.
YouthBuild on a national level has been able now to attract funding from foundations and from private industry. It is the model of a kind of partnership program that we should all be striving for.
But let us not let the willingness of the private sector to invest or the willingness of foundations to invest be a cop-out for the Federal Government. Why should we bow out of a program that costs very small amounts of money, and I think we are talking about a $10 million increase here? Every year we have asked for very small increases, and the money is definitely directed into the activities and the programs which help the young people.
It has a double impact, of course: the training for the young people, and then they actually do renovation and reconstruction of housing that poor people are able to go into.
So I would like to have us send a message out there, that we are no longer going to continue the present trend of backing away from the sponsorship of meaningful youth programs. In the Department of Labor, we have moved away from the Summer Youth Employment Program. Programs for young people have been relegated to the States to continue. The Summer Youth Employment Program, which was so vital, some States are doing a good job, some are not. But we backed away from that vital program. In general,
the funding for youth programs has gone down in the Department of Labor, job training programs of the type offered by YouthBuild.
At the same time that we are backing away from job training programs, the programs that are meaningful in terms of providing occupational development for young people, shortages of all kinds keep developing. We are being told now that school construction in New York City is costing too much because they have a shortage of skilled craftsmen.
We do not have enough carpenters; we do not have enough sheet metal people in the construction industry. We are having a problem of being overpriced because of the great pressure where the demand is greater than the supply in terms of skilled personnel.
Some years ago, we backed away from vocational education in New York City and the Federal Government. And we also ratcheted up the effort to provide vocational education to a new category we call technical education, and we got so technical until it got away from the education of youngsters who could go into some trades that pay very well and that are in demand. Youth Build brings us back to the reality that there are large numbers of young people who will not stay in school they will not go
to college, but they are serious and they will respond to an effort where they see a concrete benefit at the end. Youth Build offers a concrete benefit at the end. They have a job doing something in the neighborhood, doing something that not only pays well to begin with, but it promises to pay more and more, and they are encouraged to go into the apprenticeship programs of the various trades.
So for $10 million we get $1 billion worth of response in terms of helping young people. I urge a yes vote for this important amendment.
Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
I will not take the 5 minutes. I just wonder how many of my colleagues, particularly the chairman and others on the other side of the aisle, who would restrict this program have visited one. I visited them twice in my district, and it is an inspiration to see young people who have dropped out, who are at risk, whose lives could end up being a total mess, back in school and learning construction skills and building housing for low-income families.
Now, what could be a more efficient and more productive use of Federal dollars for housing? We are taking at-risk kids, diverting them from problems, giving them education, teaching them construction skills and building housing for low-income people. This [Page: H4710]
program could use a 50 percent or a 100 percent increase every year and put tens of thousands of kids back on the right track.
I urge my colleagues to support this very modest amendment to increase this program.