Popular Summer Jobs Program May Lose 8,000 Slots

State's minimum wage increase inflated costs
March 10, 2014 Updated: March 11, 2014

NEW YORK—Some 8,000 young people may not be getting a summer job this year due to an increase in the state’s minimum wage and the loss of private and federal funding.

The cost of running the Summer Youth Employment Program inflated when the state’s minimum wage increased from $7.25 to $8 per hour this year. Since the city’s funding for the program remained the same as last year, thousands of slots will be dropped from the program unless additional funding is provided.

For decades, the summer job program has been providing New York City youth between the ages of 14 and 24 with up to six weeks of paid summer employment. The program pays the youth’s wages in most cases, with the employers contributing none of the cost.

Last year, more than 100,000 youth were turned away after applying for summer jobs through the program. The selection is made through a lottery. The number of youth turned away from the program has increased from 40 percent in 2007 to 73 percent last summer. With the number of slots shrinking, an even larger portion may be turned away this summer.

The program is funded mostly by the city, with the state, federal, and private contributions covering roughly one-fifth of the costs.

The summer job program will require an additional $13 million to maintain the same number of slots in the program this summer, according to Bill Chong, the commissioner of the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), which administers the program. Chong said that the department is lobbying the state Legislature to increase statewide funding for the program and prevent the loss of job slots.

“We’re hoping Albany steps up to the plate,” Chong said.

The financial strain on the program is compounded further since the level of federal support for the program is still unclear. Support is also uncertain from the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, which has helped DYCD raise more than $2 million in private contributions each year since 2011.

Chong said that the department plans to start a conversation with the mayor’s fund to determine if assistance can be expected this year. The mayor appointed his wife, Chirlane McCray, to manage the fund.

“The Mayor’s Fund hopes to support SYEP at similar levels as in previous years,” Ishanee Parikh, a representative from the mayor’s office wrote in an email to Epoch Times Monday. “The Mayor’s Fund is healthy financially and hopes to have a robust agenda and fundraising response.

Parikh confirmed that the Mayor’s Fund and DYCD have begun introductory conversations. McCray is not directly involved. Gabrielle Fialkoff, the director of the office of strategic partnerships, is leading the talks instead.

Calls for Expansion

At-risk youth who participate in the summer job program attend school more often and are more likely to take and pass math and English Regents exams, according to a study by the Institute for Education and Social Policy. Young people who work summer jobs through the program also spend a large portion of their earnings in their local community.

Emboldened by these and other less quantifiable benefits, the Campaign for Summer Jobs, a coalition of nearly 100 community organizations, called on the city to increase the funding for the program so it can grow to support 100,000 summer youth jobs in five years.

“Given the high rates of youth unemployment especially among minority, low-income youth, New York City has an obligation to help end this ‘tale of two cities,’” Kevin Douglas, a policy analyst for United Neighborhood Houses, said during a City Council budget hearing Monday.

The Campaign for Summer Jobs estimates that if the city starts incremental increases this year, it would cost the city $133 million to fund 100,000 job slots in 2019.

Chong said that funding the expansion of the program is currently “fiscally irresponsible,” since the city’s preliminary budget has the uncertainty of unsettled contracts. All 152 municipal labor unions have gone without a contract for years and are demanding retroactive raises.

Applications for the program opened on March 3. The six-week program begins on July 7.

Correction: the increase in the state minimum wage is only responsible for the loss of 4,000 job slots, while the loss of private and federal funds account for the other 4,000 slots. Epoch Times regrets the error. 

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