With the Memorial Day weekend officially kicking off the beginning of summer -- many teenagers are counting down the days till the school year ends. Some will go away, others will lounge at home, but many will go out and join the seasonal workforce.
Unfortunately many teens looking for jobs may find that, this year, the jobs just may not be there.
To prevent that, New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Colleen C. Gardner today surrounded herself with students from the High School for Enterprise Business and Technology to speak about the dire need for federal funding dollars for the Summer Youth Employment Program.
“Right now, we’re at a tipping point in Washington," said Gardner. "At stake are 21,000 summer jobs for our state’s youth, whose unemployment rate teeters around 18 percent. Soon it will be June, summer will be here and these programs need to get up and running as soon as possible. The clock is ticking and the time for Congress to act is now."
Last year, the Summer Youth Employment Program received $61 million in federal funding that allowed the state to hire 24,000 youths statewide. This year the funding like many other aspects of budget in the state is in question.
“Statistics show that early exposure to work is beneficial later on in life,” commented Gardner.
Commissioner Gardner heralded the progress made citywide by programs like the St. Nicks Alliance. Last year St. Nicholas served 500 youths in Brooklyn. But with the budget in question, the program may provide as few as 250 job opportunities.
The St. Nick’s program started five years ago. Half of those who applied for summer jobs were accepted into the program. This summer, St. Nick’s accepted 1,500 applications for a total of 240 summer youth jobs.
“The number of jobs out there are dwindling due to the rough economy,” expressed Gardner, “Unemployment is already high for youths at 17 percent. But those numbers are higher among youth of color at 24 percent, and 32 percent if you are African American.
Lai-Wan Wong, director of youth and education at St. Nick’s wanted all to know that the summer youth program isn’t just about making money.
“It lets students participate in their home life. It lets them chip in with what they can,” said the director.
Federal legislation under discussion in Congress can help St. Nick’s serve hundreds more youth this summer. Lawmakers in the House of Representatives have already approved the legislation, which will distribute $1 billion nationwide. It now falls onto the Senate to decide if the funding will go through. The Senate is slated to vote on June 7th.