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Youth jobs program cuts leave applicants facing tough odds

Cuts in federal funds have led to sharp reductions in the Summer Youth Employment Program

Young people submitting applications to the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program in time for this Friday’s deadline face higher than usual odds of getting a job. The city Department of Youth and Community Development projects the number of positions offered will drop at least 15 percent over last year. That comes on the heels an almost 20 percent drop the previous year.

The downsizing of the employment program, which pays for more than 30,000 teens to spend seven weeks working for at public and private employers, comes amid high rates of teen and young adult joblessness. New York City residents between ages 16 and 19 have a 28.9 percent unemployment rate, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute, outpacing the already high national teen jobless rate of 24.9 percent. Young people ages 20 to 24 have a 15 percent unemployment rate. Among all New Yorkers in the labor force, 9.8 percent are now unemployed.

Applicants to the seven-week summer program must be between ages 14 and 24. Last year, DYCD received 131,119 applications for 30,628 slots, which it filled via a lottery. This year, the program will offer approximately 26,000 positions, while the number of applicants is expected to remain the same, according to Andre White, program director at SYEP.

The program received $43.5 million in funding from the state, city and federal government in 2011. This year, it’s getting just $38.9 million — $20.6 million from the city, $13.7 million from the state and $4.6 million from the federal Community Services Block Grant.

Sharp rollbacks in federal support have driven the shrinkage of the city youth employment initiative. Like some other city programs, it had received a boost in federal funding in 2010 through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the federal stimulus. That year, the city was able to spend a record $67.5 million putting city teens to work.

DYCD is now looking to fill the gap with private fundraising. Last year, it generated $1.6 million in private contributions.

Jobs program applicants will receive lottery results by the last week of May. Those selected show up at their worksites beginning July 5.

One applicant, 16-year-old Shabely Diaz, from the Bronx, restlessly awaits to hear whether she’ll beat the odds and get a job. “Waiting for the results is difficult,” she said. “I hope I get accepted.”