The city is expecting massive economic fallout from the pandemic. Mayor Bill de Blasio asked his departments to find $1.3 billion in savings for the rest of this fiscal year and the next. In addition to education budget cuts, and other major cuts, New York City canceled Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) -- which eliminates about 75,000 city-funded summer jobs to New York City youth ages 14 to 24 -- it is supposed to save the city $124 million over fiscal year 2020-2021.
The Summer Youth Employment Program cost $164 million last year, with $134 million of that funded by the city. Last year it employed nearly 75,000 young people between the ages of 14 to 24 in nonprofit, government, or private sector jobs. It's being called a devastating setback for tens of thousands of young people who rely on the minimum wage jobs for income to help their families and gain professional skills. Young people would have earned minimum wage of $15 an hour in these jobs, and for many families, the extra money is critical. This is especially true as so many people are experiencing job losses and other financial crises because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Organizations that run summer youth employment programs also worry they'll lose city funding this year. The decision to cut the program — which dealt a blow to the city’s already strained nonprofit sector — was made “out of an abundance of caution for our young people, providers and worksites” amid the coronavirus pandemic, NYC Department of Youth and Community Development Commissioner Bill Chong wrote to nonprofits in a statement. “Unfortunately, the uncertainty over how COVID-19 will continue to affect social distancing guidelines, worksite availability, and provider and site staffing as we head into late spring and summer makes it difficult to ensure that [the program] can be operated safely and efficiently,” Chong wrote.
The summer youth employment program is a New York City mainstay: It’s been running since 1963 and is the largest program of its kind in the nation. Some advocates and organizations said the decision was made too hastily and without thought to alternative solutions. Additionally, advocates say the program could have occupied young people during the summer months, when social distancing rules may still be in effect.
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and several council members are expressing support to save the program. They’re asking the Department of Youth and Community Development to consider a modified remote learning program that would still provide a paycheck for students. Manhattan City Councilmember Ben Kallos, had proposed a universal summer program for the city in February. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams urged Mayor de Blasio in a letter to treat the program as an “essential service.” Tweeting out after the decision , “Disappointed to see and without warning, not a cut, but a complete elimination of all @DYCD Summer Youth jobs in the @NYCMayor executive budget. Imploring him to reconsider and for the @NYCCouncil to push back.”
What can you do?
There is a petition you can sign at change.org set up by Teens Take Charge. The petition reads, "If we can shift a 1.1 million student school system to remote learning in a week, we can certainly find a way to offer meaningful summer jobs to a fraction of that number of young people in 3 months, whether those jobs will be remote or in person." Almost 28K people have signed it as of this afternoon. #SaveSYEP For updates, check out @TeensTakeCharge on social media.
Here is how they are asking you to help.
Daily Action #1: Tweet at, email, or Instagram message our ally Debi Rose, Chair of the Youth Services Committee on the City Council.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org IG + Twitter handle: @CMDebiRose || Use #SaveSYEP and feel free to tag @TeensTakeCharge so we can like, retweet, etc.
Encourage her to fight back against this cut to SYEP! Tell her why SYEP is important, especially now. She needs to hear from us!
Daily Action #2: Contact Speaker Corey Johnson to tell him what we want to be heard on this issue, and ask him to meet with young people, community leaders, and SYEP providers. Message him on Instagram @SpeakerCoreyJohnson.
Daily Action #3: Our petition is 1,218 signatures shy of 10,000. Let's reach that milestone by midnight. Share the petition on all social media platforms and tag @TeensTakeCharge! @NYCmayor on Instagram & Twitter and use #SaveSYEP.
Hear from one of Teens Take Charge's leaders Muhammad Deen why Mayor de Blasio must reinstate the Summer Youth Employment Program for 2020. #SaveSYEP