Melissa Mark-Viverito works to save Summer Youth Employment Program

Photo courtesy of NYC Council

Many elected officials expressed outrage following the announcement that the city would cut 75,000 jobs for kids in the Summer Youth Employment program, which would save $124 million.

Former Council Speaker and 15th Congressional District candidate Melissa Mark-Viverito is quite angry about this decision. Although aware that people are concerned about the safety and health of New Yorkers, with no COVID cure in sight, she feels axing the program isn’t the answer.

24“We all know the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging time for everyone, but this is especially true for our youth and students in New York City who keep getting the short end of the stick,” Mark-Viverito said.

As Speaker, she worked hard to increase funding for SYEP and during her tenure, led the charge to double the number of jobs made available through SYEP. In the last few weeks, Mark-Viverito  wasted no time in vocalizing her opposition to the Mayor’s decision to cut SYEP and even touched on it in her op-ed with Latino Rebels.

The government is not sure how long COVID-19 will last and since there still is no cure, they deemed it unsafe to have these jobs start in a couple of months. There is uncertainty over how COVID-19 will continue to affect social distancing guidelines, worksite availability and provider and site staffing.

The former speaker said she understands these challenges, but suggested that youths could make phone calls to check on seniors, tutor people virtually or even help deliver food to the needy.

She explained that some people have the luxury to work from home, while many in the Bronx are undocumented and struggling financially, including those in the 15th District, which is considered the poorest in the country. Undocumented people were not included in the two stimulus bills.

“The package that congress passed doesn’t take everybody into account,” she said. “I think it’s shortsighted to take the assistance out from under their feet. There were holes in the relief packages.”

Mark-Viverito recognized that people need to stay home in order to flatten the curve but questioned why the city couldn’t wait until May or June to make a final decision.

Ultimately, slashing SYEP makes it harder for people to remain shuttered. They need money and many people rely on these summer jobs.

“The decision was made in a vacuum,” she said. We need to maintain this program because of the economic relief that it provides.”

A few weeks ago, a petition was launched in hopes that the administration would change its tune. So far, more than 27,000 people have signed it.

Since 1963, the Department of Youth and Community Development has sponsored the nation’s largest youth employment program, Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) for people ages 14 to 24 with career exploration opportunities and paid work experience. Each employer gains part-time staff without exhausting any revenue.

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