Riverside County supervisors Tuesday approved the formation of a 500-strong “Youth Community Corps” that will provide participants with public service and work experience gained from being employed as interns for six to 12 weeks.

“This is a program where the metal meets the road,” said Supervisor Jeff Hewitt, who joined Supervisor Chuck Washington in bringing forward the proposal. “I’m really excited about this.”

Washington described the concept as an “outstanding use of (federal taxpayer) funds to help those struggling in our community.”

“Young people get a stipend while doing something of importance,” he said.

According to county officials, the program is modeled on AmeriCorps, the federally supported civil organization that promotes public service work, mostly among college-age citizens.

The board authorized $2 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act funding for the new program, which is slated to last three months. The county has received about $431 million in CARES Act distributions.

Hewitt and Washington said the aim is to put residents who are 16 to 24 years old in paid internships that are largely involved in relief efforts involving the coronavirus pandemic.

The Youth Community Corps will be combined with existing Youth Opportunity Centers countywide, and up to 100 teens and young adults from each of the five supervisorial districts will be eligible to take part.

The participants will be assigned to work with nonprofits and government agencies, distributing edibles at food banks, helping serve school lunches and engaging in various public outreach campaigns, according to the county Office of Housing, Homeless Prevention & Workforce Solutions, which is administering the program.

The agency noted that youth unemployment nationwide during the public health lockdowns reached 30%.

Interns in the Youth Community Corps will receive a stipend of $2,150 for a six-week obligation, while those who enter 12-week internships will receive $4,550.

Interns will receive job training, be partnered with mentors and acquire “skills they can take with them to future jobs,” according to an HHPWS statement.

“The Corps will act as a mechanism for social support and channel for constructive activity,” the agency said. “The closure of schools, sports programs and other traditional structures have left many youth with few alternatives.”

More information about the new program is available via each supervisorial district office.

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