Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday proposed legislation that would provide billions of dollars to states, which would be charged with creating “summer and year-round employment opportunities for economically disadvantaged youth.”

Sanders proposed the Employ Young Americans Now Act, which would give $4 billion to states directly, and award another $1.5 billion to provide training to low- and moderate-income youth and disadvantaged adults.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is proposing billions in new government spending on jobs programs for unemployed youth. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Sanders said his bill is aimed at addressing what he said is a “crisis” in black youth unemployment. He also indicated his bill is a reaction to the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, where residents are protesting the shooting death of an 18-year old black student by the police, protests that have escalated tensions further over the last week.

In a letter to Senate colleagues, Sanders said the lack of jobs among America’s youth can lead to “self-destructive behavior.”

“When young people cannot find a job they get demoralized,” he wrote. “They are more likely to do drugs and turn to other forms of destructive and self-destructive behavior. And they are move likely to go to jail.”

He added that helping create jobs is a better way to end the unrest in Ferguson than sending in police with military-grade equipment.

“If we are going to address the issue of crime in low-income areas and in African-American communities, it might be a good idea that instead of putting military style equipment into police departments in those areas, we start investing in jobs for the young people there who desperately need them,” he said.

Sanders said in the St. Louis metro area, nearly half of young black men are unemployed, and nationwide, black youths face a 35 percent unemployment rate, nearly double the 20 percent rate for all young people.

Read Sanders’s letter here: