Youth organizers from Teens Take Charge are calling on the city to restore funding for the Summer Youth Employment Program. SYEP employs 75,000 youth workers in NYC every summer, providing valuable first-time work experience, a paycheck, and a bank account. This program has been in operation since 1963, and this would be the first time in NYC history where the program would not commence as otherwise scheduled.
Budget cuts and concerns over the coronavirus, prompted New York City government officials to cancel the Summer Youth Employment Program, which engages thousands of youths in paid pre-professional work. But city advocates, including local community boards, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, hope that the City Council and the mayor will reverse this decision. Public Advocate Williams urged Mayor de Blasio in a letter last month to treat the program as an “essential service.” A community board 9 expressed suggested that the program continue remotely to provide economic benefits for underprivileged youth. In a statement on Facebook, Community Board 9 asked New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the City Council, and the Department of Youth & Community Development to “fully fund SYEP” for the summer and work to conduct SYEP remotely.
Hosted by the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, SYEP is unique in that it is a combination of paid employment and professional development, employing youths between the ages of 14 and 24. The program primarily serves under-resourced communities: In 2019, 81 percent of SYEP participants were Black, Latino, or Asian youths. According to advocates families often rely on the income that their children gain through participation in SYEP, and participants gain financial literacy and leadership skills during the duration of their employment.
As the economy stalled after the statewide stay-at-home orders, New York State unemployment claims skyrocketed by 360 percent. Data suggests New York City’s low-income neighborhoods have been hit the hardest by the coronavirus, and the additional loss of potential revenue comes as a blow to many families.
New York City is projecting a $7.4 billion loss in tax revenue, so city officials have looked for ways to slash the city budget in the face of a severe economic crisis. According to city officials, the elimination of SYEP will save the city $124 million dollars. The counter argument made by Teens Take Charge is that the government “should not balance the budget on the backs” of the marginalized or the kids who benefit from this program.