Not Enough Summer Jobs for Youths

Marelyn López and her son, Miguel, participated in a City Hall protest to demand more funding for summer job programs. (Photo by Cristina Loboguerrero via El Diario)

Marelyn López and her son, Miguel, participated in a City Hall protest to demand more funding for summer job programs. (Photo by Cristina Loboguerrero via El Diario)

One of Marelyn López’s main concerns is having her children slacking around all summer, tempted into the streets, where they can get in trouble. That is why the Puerto Rican mother joined a demonstration in front of City Hall to demand an increase in funding for summer job programs that would allow an additional 13,000 youths to participate.

“Working is good for the kids because they stay off the street and also earn money,” said López, a resident of Staten Island. A mother of three, López wants her son Miguel Adames, 14, to follow the example of his two older siblings. Now 18 and 16, they both worked during the last two summers.

“My 16-year-old daughter took care of children in a summer camp, while my 18-year-old son cleaned classrooms,” said López. She reiterated that “many minors, because they are innocent and because they have nothing to do during the summer, could get into trouble if they keep bad company.”

Miguel, an 8th grader,  was excited to apply for summer work and follow in his siblings’ footsteps. “I like it because I can make money and buy things for school.”

The City Hall protest was organized by Campaign for Summer Jobs, a coalition of more than 100 community groups. They are asking the City Council specifically to approve additional funding to increase the number of teenagers who will have the chance to work through the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). The goal for this summer is 50,000.

Of the 130,489 applications they received in 2014, only 47,126 young people were able to get a job. Of them, 26.5 percent were Latinos between the ages of 14 and 24.

The coalition is requesting that an additional $21.5 million be added to the program to avoid losing 10,000 jobs. This year’s budget will only allow 37,000 to obtain employment, not 47,126 like last year. The proposed supplementary funds would also create 2,874 new jobs, reaching the goal of 50,000 job posts. The budgetary increase would also cover the recent raise in the minimum wage from $8 to $8.75 per hour.

Council member Mathieu Eugene, in charge of the Committee on Youth Services, said the fact that 130,000 teens apply for summer work every year demonstrates the need to open more positions. “The figure speaks for itself: The kids want to work, and it is important that every year we give a chance to more people,” said the council member.

The types of jobs assigned to the teens range from child care at daycare centers and summer camps, to performing community and social services. The latter were the tasks most frequently assigned last year.

Lucía Gómez, executive director at La Fuente – one of the participating organizations, employing 20 teenagers – said that summer jobs “give youths the chance to get involved in the labor market, earn money, and help them shape their lives in the future.”

Teenagers assigned to La Fuente last year performed general office tasks. “Most of the youths who worked in the organization had never made a photocopy or researched information online. It is interesting to see how much something so simple can help them in the future.”

Gigi Li, director of the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition, pointed out that although the City Council under the Bill de Blasio administration made a $66.2 million investment last year, “more money is needed this summer.”

Council member Julissa Ferreras, chair of the Committee on Finance, said that she fully supports the program. “There should be more [job positions] throughout New York.” As a teenager, Ferreras benefited from the SYEP initiative, working in the Queens Library.

Ferreras said that part of her way of supporting the program is by proposing bills to give MetroCards to participating youths, as well as a list of places where they can get a free lunch while they are working.

Campaign for Summer Jobs aims to raise the number of positions available to youths to 100,000 by 2019.

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