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Funding cut for summer youth jobs

Published Feb 15, 2010 9:18 AM

With snow on the city sidewalks the summer still seems a long way away, but for many New York City students the anxiety over where they will find summer employment this year is inescapable. New York Gov. David Paterson’s recently proposed executive budget for fiscal year 2010-11 cuts all state funding for the Summer Youth Employment Program. The proposed $35 million budget cut to a program that last summer provided more than 50,000 jobs in NYC alone will make the already dismal job market for youth even bleaker.

Hundreds of youth rallied outside the offices of lawmakers in the state capital in Albany on Feb. 1 in opposition to the proposed cuts to SYEP and other youth programs. (Associated Press, Feb. 1)

SYEP is administered in NYC by the Department of Youth and Community Development. Many SYEP jobs are in the public and nonprofit sector and at community-based programs such as summer camps and youth centers.

In recent years, applications for SYEP have increased dramatically as the recession has deepened and jobs for youth have become increasingly scarce. Applications for the program in NYC nearly doubled from 71,670 in 2006 to 139,597 in 2009. (nyc.gov)

This increase has occurred despite the fact that SYEP jobs come with a host of bureaucratic stipulations and pay the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which is far from a real “living wage.” It is a reflection of the fact that many of the relatively better-paying jobs in the retail/service sector that have traditionally been staffed by younger workers have been eliminated during the recession. The remaining positions are increasingly being filled by older workers who have lost their better-paying jobs in other industries.

The proposed $35 million budget cut to SYEP is the single largest cut to any human services program in the New York state budget. Other cuts to youth services in the proposed budget include an $11.4 million cut in funding for afterschool programs and a $5 million cut to Supportive Housing for Families and Young Adults. (New York Non Profit Press, Jan. 22)

These budget cuts are part of the massive upward transfer of wealth that is occurring in New York and across the country during the current recession. The money is being taken from youth, students and workers and is being deposited directly into the coffers of the big banks and corporations and into the pockets of the big-business politicians.

The politicians are cutting millions of dollars from youth programs while the Metropolitan Transit Authority pushes to eliminate discount student Metro passes. The MTA funnels the fares it collects to the big banks in the form of debt service payments, while the politicians hand out billions more to the same banks in the form of bailout funds. The net result is increased wealth and opulence for the few, and increased hardship, suffering and misery for the many.

This transfer of wealth is becoming more and more apparent with every new budget cut and banker’s bonus. What is needed is a growing movement united in efforts to reverse it.

Across the U.S., students, workers and their allies are mobilizing for the March 4 National Day of Action to Defend Education. Actions on March 4 will call for an end to school closings, budget cuts, tuition hikes and other attacks. For more information, visit www.defendeducation.org.