What Does the Build Back Framework Mean for the Youth Employment Field?

First, What’s Happening with the BBB Bill? 

Yesterday the House Rules Committee took up the Build Back Better Act (BBB), with legislative language that largely looks like a White House summary. The Congressional Progressive Caucus issued an endorsement of the package late Thursday, likely clearing the way for its eventual passage in the House and Senate. All funds are available through Sept. 30, 2026, though some spending may be front-loaded. Overall, this bill contains many of the elements for which NYEC has advocated, and some of the legislative language that we have proposed, albeit at much reduced funding levels. Our major task as a field, if this bill passes, will be accessing funds (especially Civilian Conservation Corps funding) and ensuring that opportunity youth and other marginalized young people benefit from the many line items in the bill. 

Civilian Climate Corps

Key CCC items for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) include:

  • $3.2 billion to increase living allowances (stipends) and benefits for all AmeriCorps State and National slots.
  • $400 million to state service commissions.
  • $80 million to increase stipends and benefits for NCCC participants.
  • $600 million to increase stipends and benefits for AmeriCorps VISTA participants.
  • $6.915 billion for CCC projects.
  • $1 billion for CNCS administrative costs (this is good news, as the agency’s capacity to get CCC dollars out the door is a major concern), including $49 million for “outreach to and recruitment of members from communities traditionally underrepresented in national service programs and members of a community experiencing a significant dislocation of workers” (also good news).

Key CCC items for Department of Labor programs include:

  • $2 billion for apprenticeship programs, including $1 billion for pre-apprenticeship.
  • $1 billion to Reentry Employment Opportunities.
  • $450 million to YouthBuild.
  • $450 million to Job Corps.
  • $350 million for a new Paid Youth Employment Opportunities program for subsidized employment or summer youth employment opportunities.

Workforce Development

The BBB framework also includes some funds for traditional workforce development programming. These funds skew toward new, competitive grants, rather than toward funding formula grants and the workforce system as a whole. Highlights related to young people and those with barriers to employment include:

  • $1.5 billion for WIOA Youth programming, with a call-out for workforce boards to “partner with community-based organizations to support out-of-school youth, including those residing in high-crime or high-poverty areas.”
  • $500 million for Reentry Employment Opportunities, including $125 million for competitive grants directed to “prepare for employment young adults with criminal records, young adults who have been justice system involved, or young adults who have dropped out of school or other educational programs, made with a priority for projects serving high-crime, high-poverty areas.”
  • $1 billion for apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, and youth apprenticeship programs, including $500 million for programs that serve a “high number or high percentage of individuals with barriers to employment…including individuals with disabilities, or nontraditional apprenticeship populations.”
  • $4.6 billion for competitive grants related to creating sector partnerships, plus $400 million to support implementation of the grants and including $150 million for “targeted outreach and support” to areas with “high unemployment rates or high percentages of dislocated workers or individuals with barriers to employment.”
  • $500 million for Job Corps.
  • $50 million for Native American programs.
  • $70 million for Migrant Farmworker programs.
  • $15 million for YouthBuild.
  • $700 million for Adult Education programs.
  • $700 million for Career and Technical education.
  • $300 million to support states and employers to transition away from subminimum wage employment for people with disabilities.

For keeping young people on the table, Chris Fisk on the Senate HELP Committee (chris_fisk@help.senate.gov) deserves a big shout-out and a thanks from all of us! 

How to Continue to Weigh In

While things are coming together, “nothing’s done until everything’s done” is the forever mantra of all federal legislating, so we need to keep pressing on Members of Congress and the Biden Administration…

  1. Sign this Action Alert and this one
  2. If you’re interested in drafting a blog or an op-ed in support of subsidized employment/transitional jobs/social enterprise and would like some help or partnership, let us know
  3. Tweet at key Members of Congress (handles here), and all members of the Progressive Caucus. 
  4. We are also interested in working with these advocates from across labor and other movements. Please contact Melissa Young (melissayoung9791@gmail.com) or Thomas Showalter (thomas.showalter@nyec.org) if you have relationships and are willing to help make introductions:
  1. Continue to reach out to your Congressional delegation (look them up on www.House.gov by entering in your zip code and www.Senate.gov to look up by state if you are not sure) and tell them you support the BBB agenda including robust investments in subsidized employment. Information on how to talk about workforce development investments, subsidized jobs, and jobs for young people are here. Information on how to talk about the Civilian Climate Corps is here

Resources to Use and Share 

  • A powerful webinar on the power of employment programs to change the lives of those impacted by the criminal legal system, organized by CLASP:
  • Graphic explaining how different BBB provisions work together for young people
  • Building Back Better Requires Solutions Rooted in Economic Justice for Black Workers (CLASP and Joint Center)
  • Lessons from New Hope for reducing poverty today: An interview with Kali Grant and Julie Kirksick
  • The New Deal Then and Now: What is the Role of Government in Response to Great Crises? (October 29)

Second, What Does BBB Mean for Our Field?

This framework is not even close to everything we wanted, but it does contain lots of steps forward. The White House’s summary says the “framework will increase the Labor Department’s annual spending on workforce development by 50% for each of the next 5 years,” while the Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) will include “over 300,000 members that look like America.” 

Some quick observations:

  1. This is great, but only a fraction of the need that we know is out there, both in terms of the need for youth jobs (the number of opportunity youth peaked around 10 million during the pandemic), and in terms of providing educational opportunities on the scale needed (approximately one-quarter of community college enrollment is down about one quarter compared to pre-pandemic levels). 
  2. That said, policymakers understand the problem. In all of my meetings with congressional and executive-branch staff, we rarely got any pushback on the idea that young adults are in dire straits, that a reimagining of the transition to adulthood is needed.
  3. Several key staff members were champions for us, but the base of support for young adults is not big enough or strong enough. This begins with the grassroots. We need more young people – in school and out of school, in and out of employment, connected or not to the systems we work on – who understand arcane federal policy fights and have the support (starting with monetary) to engage. It continues to expanding the capacity of advocates at the local, state, and federal levels. Other policy ideas and issue areas – early childhood education (their big wins in BBB were never in question), the child tax credit, home health aides and community-based care, chronic absenteeism and other “early warning indicators” in the K12 space – demonstrate that constituencies can be mobilized and the conventional wisdom changed in Washington, DC. Young adults need such a moment, and a movement.
  4. While only a fraction of what we need, BBB is still a big opportunity for our field. Fortunately, policymakers heard us in terms of the need for dedicated funding to help more kinds of organizations access CCC AmeriCorps funding, and to access the sector partnership funding. Like in the transition to mostly serving out-of-school youth memorialized in WIOA, this is a time for youth-serving organizations to show that they can serve OY effectively, even given the strictures of AmeriCorps funding and even working in infrastructure and “green” sectors that may be new for them. 
  5. NYEC can help you, and we need your help. I hope that NYEC can be at the center of making the implementation of BBB work for our most marginalized young people, and for the providers that serve them best. We will do everything we can to influence how these programs are structured. Since BBB is a reconciliation bill, most of the details will be left for DOL, ED, and other federal agencies to figure out. Whether through convenings, technical assistance, advocacy, just peer connections, NYEC will galvanize our network and keep our rich feedback loop between the field and policymakers going. I envision a day, within even 12 months, where hundreds of thousands of young adults have new opportunities thanks to this law and your work. Please consider joining NYEC if you are not already a member. 

Thomas Showalter is a Senior Advisor for the National Youth Employment Coalition.