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8,000 youth jobs in boro rescued from budget cuts

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Among the handful of human service programs that were spared from harsh cuts in this year’s city budget was the Youth Employment Program, which will enable about 8,000 Queens teenagers to get summer jobs in their neighborhoods this year.

In fact, the program was given more money this year than in previous years, said City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans). The program received $15 million from city funds, up from last year’s $10 million, and $25 million in state funds, the same amount as last year, he said.

“We did more from the city end,” Comrie said. “However, I wish and I know that we would be able to service more children if we had gotten more money from the budget.”

The money, which will allow the program to provide jobs for 40,000 teenagers across the city, is divided equally among the boroughs.

“As a child of the summer youth employment program, I’m happy for the opportunity for over 40,000 children in New York City to have jobs for the summer,” Comrie said.

The program is designed to give teenagers work experience while allowing them to make some money and stay off the street, said state Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans).

“It’s short-sighted,” Scarborough said of the cuts that were first proposed. “Cutting a program like this has the potential consequence of having a deleterious effect on the young people and the neighborhoods they live in as well as the city and state.”

The program was federally funded by the Job Partnership Training Act, which allocated $72 million to fund summer jobs nationwide, according to a release from Scarborough’s office. In 1999 that changed, and summer jobs were funded by the Workforce Investment Act.

The WIA not only cut the funding to $68 million but also required year-round training and counseling. In New York City this change meant that the budget for summer jobs was reduced by half from 1999 to 2000, the release said.

To make up for the loss, the state and the city agreed to pitch in, but funds have been lowered since then, Scarborough said. In the summer of 2000, $22 million went to New York City, and this year Gov. George Pataki proposed a budget of $15 million for the program, Scarborough said.

During this year’s budget process, the state Legislature and the governor negotiated before agreeing to leave the funding at last year’s level of $25 million.

“The program deserves as much money as we can give it,” Scarborough said. “However, given the fiscal realities in the city and the state, I am pleased that we were able to do what we did.”

Both Scarborough and Comrie led the fight in their legislative bodies to not only keep the funding but to increase it.

“I had to consistently make the point to the City Council of the need for it, especially in minority communities,” Comrie said. “We don’t have the depth of commerce that they have in Manhattan for our youth to get jobs on their own.”

The $40 million laid out by the city and the state should mean a good summer for those 8,000 Queens teenagers, Scarborough said.

“I think we put together enough funding to give these teenagers something to do this summer,” he said. “I think the state and the city will be the better for that.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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