A One-Time Cure for the Summertime Job Blues

Posted by Nashla Salas, May 21, 2009

It’s become something of a spring ritual: each year teens, advocates, and their legislative supporters seek ways to beef up funding for the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program. Typically, the efforts result in the city or state kicking in some additional dollars. This year offered a new twist as the federal stimulus act provided about $30 million in new funds for the city’s youth. But this one-time windfall may presage an even a bigger hole in next year’s budget for the program.

Last summer, the jobs program had a budget of $54 million, $31 million from the city, $20 million from the state, and the remaining $3 million from the federal government. This funding enabled 43,000 teens, out of more than 100,000 who applied, to have jobs in day camps, senior centers, retail stores, and at other sites around the city.

For this summer, the funding mix is being turned on its head. The budget for the program, which starts July 1 and runs through August 15, is about $67 million. Roughly $33 million of the funds will come from the federal government. At the same time, the city is cutting its funding by more than half to $14 million. The state’s $20 million is basically unchanged.

The increased budget for this summer’s program means more youth can be hired, and for the first time youth up to 24 years old can apply. The additional federal funds will allow the city’s Department of Youth and Community Development, which runs the program, to increase enrollment to 51,000—the highest level since 1999—as officials anticipate a record number of applicants. Applications are due tomorrow.

The one-time federal dollars come from two programmatic sources. One source is the Workforce Investment Act, which provided $3 million last summer but will increase to about $22 million just for this summer. The other federal source is the Community Services Block Grant, from which it’s expected Albany will pass through roughly $12 million to the city for teen summer jobs.

If not for these federal funds, the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program would only have been able to serve about 30,000 teens. That’s where the number of teens able to be employed by the program next summer may fall to since the federal funds are not expected to be available again. Given the large budget shortfalls facing the city and state next year, the annual rite to secure more funding for the program—and provide more teens with job opportunities—could be more challenging than usual.

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