<< back to Youth Employment
The Need for Summer Jobs
The summer jobs program is crucial in New York State and City for a number of reasons. First, these jobs give teens real on-the-job experience by helping to prepare them for their future careers. In New York City, close to 40,000 teens have been employed through the summer jobs program every year. With New York City's teen unemployment rate at nearly 25% (the highest in nearly 40 years), a diminished summer jobs program will make it harder for youth to find work.* And for 14 and 15 year-olds without prior job experience, it is particularly important, since they comprise 50% of the program. Second, the jobs they perform are essential to their communities. Thousands of teens across the state work as counselors and aides in day camps without them working through the summer jobs program, many day camps would have to greatly reduce the number of children they served, raise their fees, or shut down all together. This would leave working families with limited options for safe, structured summer care for their children. Lastly, the wages earned by these teens also helps pay for clothes, school supplies and other family expenses. Because this money is usually reinvested in local businesses, communities throughout the State benefit from having teens work in summer jobs.
*Note: Taken from New York City Office of the Comptroller, Economic Notes, Vol. IX, No. 2, March 2001.
Quick Facts About the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP)
- SYEP runs for seven weeks during the summer, usally beginning the first week
of July and ending in mid-August.
- Youth are paid minimum wage ($6.75/hr) and work 20 hours a week.
- While many young people do work at summer day camps, others perform a
variety of jobs at other community-based organizations and government
agencies. Some examples include assisting with clerical duties in local
hospitals and libraries; serving lunches at a senior center; and helping
with clean-up at local parks and beaches.
Timeline of the Campaign's Activities
1999: In December 1999, the Campaign for Summer Jobs was co-founded by Neighborhood Family Services Coalition and United Neighborhood Houses.
2000: In March 2000, the Campaign for Summer Jobs took almost 500 teens to Albany for its first advocacy day to ask the State Legislature to allocate funds for the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). In May, their efforts were rewarded when the State passed its budget, in which $35 million was allocated for the program and $22 million went to NYC.
In May 2000, the Campaign for Summer Jobs held a rally on Wall Street to ensure that the City would step up its efforts to ensure that the lack of federal funding didn't cause a gap in 50,000 jobs for teens. Close to a thousand teens and staff from youth programs across the City gathered on Wall Street to let people know how important this program was to them. It was widely covered in the media and helped draw attention to this important issue.
2001: Over the course of the year, Campaign staff and representatives of the Campaign's steering committee acted quickly to inform New York State And City officials, community organizations, and potential youth summer job applicants and their families of the impending impact of not having a summer jobs program in the City.
Following an advocacy day in Albany by several advocates and providers in February, the Governor issued his 30-day amendments to the State budget, in which $25 million in TANF funds were appropriated for summer youth employment. In March, the State Assembly's Committees on Social Services, Children and Families, Labor, and the Legislative Skills Commission announced a public hearing to discuss the impending loss of summer jobs that was facing New York. Later that month, the Campaign organized and sponsored Youth Action Day in Albany. On this day, hundreds of young people from across the City traveled to Albany to spend the day meeting with State Legislators, asking them to add state funds for summer youth jobs. Youth Action Day was a huge success: state legislators repeatedly cited the hundreds of youth that went to as a primary reason that the Assembly subsequently allocated $40 million in its one-house budget bill for a "Summer Jobs Program". The final State budget passed in August included $25 million for summer jobs.
Additionally, in late May, a strong grass roots push was started for Albany legislators in the Assembly and the Senate to pass their respective bills (A.8372 and S.5254) that would officially establish "a stand-alone Summer Jobs Program" for New York teens. By early June, the Assembly had officially passed its version of the bill and the Senate was still pressing forward to do this, but no progress had been made.
In April, Mayor Giuliani released his executive budget proposal, which did not include any additional City tax levy funds for summer youth employment. During the weeks leading up to budget adoption, representatives of the Campaign met with city officials, testified at City Council budget hearings, and - in the final days of the budget process - maintained a presence (known as the 'Youth Vigil') at City Hall urging that funds be made available in the City budget to ensure that there would be no loss of summer jobs in 2001. An agreement was reached by the Council and the Mayor, and funding for 50,000 summer jobs was allocated in the FY '02 budget.
2002: The Campaign for Summer Jobs faced daunting challenges after the events of September 11th. With New York State and New York City confronting such bleak fiscal situations for the coming year, the likelihood of securing funding for 50,000 summer jobs seemed slim. Fortunately, however, the Campaign managed to stay vocal and maintained high visibility throughout the fall and spring.
In the fall of 2001, the Campaign surveyed the City's summer jobs program contractors and asked them to evaluate the Youth Employment Program. The goals of this survey were twofold: to analyze current processes and see if they could be updated, as well as to improve the efficiency of the program so that it might serve more youth. The survey responses were then summarized into a three page report that documented the findings and distributed to the new Commissioner of the Department of Employment, Betty Wu, as well as members of the City Council, their staff, and other key stakeholders in the program.
In early March, the newly appointed Youth Services Committee of the New York City Council held its first oversight hearing on the status of the Summer Youth Employment Program. The Campaign for Summer Jobs outreached to its network and many providers and advocates testified about the impact of the program in their lives.
Soon after the hearing, the Campaign for Summer Jobs headed to Albany for its biggest advocacy day yet: 11 buses carrying nearly 600 teens arrived on a snowy morning to rally on the steps of the Capitol building, and then went to meet with 100 State Senators and State Assembly members. Prior to the event, many of the youth participated in training sessions to prepare them for their legislative visits. Two months later, the State Legislature passed the budget, which included an additional $10 million for summer youth jobs, bringing the total state funding to $25 million.
In May, the Campaign for Summer Jobs organized Youth Action Day at City Hall in order to maintain pressure on the City to fully fund a summer jobs program for 50,000 teens. Two dozen community groups sent their youth and staff to meet with their City Council members in the morning and discuss the importance of the program. The day culminated with a late afternoon "Summer Jobs Speak-Out" in City Hall Park where 300 people gathered as youth, parents, providers, and elected officials spoke about how critical this program is to their communities. After several weeks of negotiations, the City Council and the Mayor finally agreed on a budget proposal in late June, which included funding for 40,000 summer jobs. This included a $10 million increase of City tax levy funding for the program, bringing the total amount of City dollars up to $17.9 million in the budget.
In early July, the Campaign for Summer Jobs developed a survey that assessed the impact of reduced funding on this year's program, which was distributed to all the SYEP contractors and worksites in the city. Initial findings indicated that several day camp programs reduced the slots available or charged fees because there were fewer (or no) SYEP youth to assist full-time staff. The Campaign also arranged SYEP site visits in Harlem for staff members from the City Council's Finance Division so that they were able to see where young people in the City were employed and how important their work is to their communities.
2003: Because of the severe budget cuts on both the State and City level, it was critical for the Campaign to draw attention to the summer jobs issue.
Our first event of the year, the 4th annual Youth Action Day in Albany on February 11th, was a HUGE success! Over 600 high school students from 30 different organizations across the city came to Albany to show legislators how important summer jobs are to them. They assembled in Hearing Room C of the Legislative Office Building for a Summer Jobs Speak-Out. Their energy and enthusiasm drew the attention of the press and local legislators as they cheered and chanted. Guest speaker Ed De Jesus from the Source Youth Foundation spoke of the importance of the young people being in Albany advocating for themselves and for something that they strongly believed in. Various State and City legislators also spoke to the young people including Assemblywoman Susan John, Assemblyman William Scarborough, and the Speaker of the City Council, Gifford Miller. Many of the young people were so inspired and "pumped up" that they too lined up to speak to the rest of their peers about why summer jobs was so important not only to them individually but also to their communities. After the Speak-Out was over, the young people met with 150 legislators and completed a legislative scavenger hunt. All in all, it was a great day!
To check out some pictures from the day, click here.
Youth Action Day at City Hall on April 30th was a tremendous success. With generous support from the New York Foundation and Con Edison, the Campaign partnered with the Source Youth Foundation to organize our largest citywide event to date. In the morning, a group of advocates met with some Council members to discuss the proposed budget cuts to summer jobs and youth services. In the afternoon, nearly 700 young people from across the City rallied along the west side of City Hall Park. They were joined by Speaker of the City Council, Gifford Miller; Councilman Lewis Fidler, Chair of the Youth Services Committee; artist Rah Digga, female rapper with Busta Rhymes' Flipmode Squad; and Dr. Ben Muhammad, President of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network. During the course of the rally, several youth shared their personal stories and kept the crowd alive with their energy.
To see pictures from the rally, click here.
2004: In preparation for the upcoming budget season, Campaign staff and members spent December '03 and January '04 sending information packets to every state legislator, re-enlisting the support of key allies in the Senate and Assembly, and developing the Campaign for Summer Jobs brochure. (For a copy of this brochure contact us at 212.965.8505)
On January 20th, Governor Pataki released the executive budget in which $15 million was allocated for a statewide summer jobs program. Although this is $10 million shy of last year's level of $25 million, it provided a good foundation to build on. The Campaign decided to focus its efforts on mobilizing the State Legislature to restore the remaining $10 million, without which about 10,000 summer jobs will be lost.
On February 10th, over 700 young people traveled to Albany to once again urge State lawmakers to fully fund the summer jobs program at last year's level of $25 million. During the Speak-Out portion of Youth Action Day, several legislators addressed the hundreds of youth activists gathered in Hearing Room C. Included among the slew of speakers were Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver, Assemblywoman Susan John, and Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat. Numerous young people felt inspired enough to address their peers and express, through creative forms such as spoken word, the need for this program in their communities. After the Speak-Out, youth reiterated their message at over 140 meetings with legislators.
Click here to view pictures from this event
Click here to view press coverage of this event
In his preliminary budget, the Mayor proposed another $10 million cut to SYEP that was restored prior to budget adoption last year. In addition, the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), in a bid to improve the overall quality of SYEP, released a new RFP that required youth spend more work hours learning about such topics as health education, financial literacy, etc. This increased the program hours from 24 per week to 30 per week. The Campaign applauded DYCD's attempt at making the program more enriching for young people. However, with the threat of less funding for a more expensive program, the Campaign worked with DYCD and the City Council in restructuring the program so that the program included new educational components without adding as many hours. With this change, the City was able to fund 33,000 jobs ($11.4 million). While disappointed that SYEP was reduced in size, the Campaign was successful in mitigating a huge cut (19,000) in job slots.
The Future of Summer Jobs
On average, approximately 45,000 New York City teens have had a summer job through the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) every year since 2000. However, we are keenly aware that funding for SYEP is still temporary. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds allocated by the Governor and the New York State Legislature in past summers has provided the financial bedrock of this program. But these funds have only been appropriated on a one-shot basis, and it is never certain that they will be made available in future years. Moreover, TANF itself is not a long-term funding stream. If SYEP is to survive over the long-term, recurring funding must be allocated to sustain it. Clearly, much more work needs to be done to find a systemic solution. Even with the passage of A. 8372 and S. 5254, a dedicated funding stream still needs to be agreed upon for future implementation of SYEP in summers to come so that 60,000 youth will be employed in NYC.
We also urge the Governor and the NYS legislature to allocate $40 million in funding for a permanent summer jobs program, to be entirely separate and free from the requirements of the federal Workforce Investment Act. We have already begun to lay the groundwork for what we anticipate will be needed to start an aggressive effort in 2004 to secure the reestablishment of SYEP as a stand-alone program. We are currently outlining a strategy to build a statewide effort to find a permanent solution that will save this program in New York. The Campaign also intends to focus its efforts on the federal government to reestablish a more stable funding stream for summer youth employment.
With the summer of 2004 drawing to a close, we face the same uncertainty that we did last year at this time - insufficient state commitment to provide funds to sustain the same number of NYC summer jobs. 60,000 NYC teens want to work if subsidized jobs are made available to them. The Campaign for Summer Jobs is committed to making this a reality and will continue the effort to secure federal, state and city funds to keep the summer jobs program in place in New York City for next summer and into the future.
- Pass local/state legislation to create a permanent Summer Youth Jobs program. If New York City's Summer Jobs Program is to survive in the future, a permanent NYC Summer Youth jobs program needs to be created. Together, this would give New York a foundation upon which it can build a solid summer jobs program that would provide teens with the opportunity to work during the summer in the years to come.
- Fund this program with additional dollars. For many years, the City had baselined funding in the City's budget for summer youth employment. With no re-establishment of a federal program in sight, the State and the City should allocate additional money so that the program will be maintained at the level that it has been at in the past-otherwise, this could be devastating to families and communities across the state.
- Build statewide support for a New York Summer Jobs Program. In the past two years, the focus of the Campaign for Summer Jobs legislative advocacy on the state level has been to maintain a summer jobs program because of its enormous impact on New York City. This year, we would like to build support across New York for this program and work to create a statewide coalition that will have broader goals. We would also like to establish stronger relationships with the Governor's office and the Senate so that summer youth employment will not be forgotten in the coming year.
- Regain federal funding for this program. For decades, summer jobs programs operated with funds from the federal government. Changing this arrangement has wreaked havoc on cities across the country, particularly in New York City. Now, we must turn away from the quick fix, band-aid approach to this crisis, where funds are allocated on a year-to-year basis for this program from local and state governments. Instead, there should be a push for money from Washington once again. In the coming year, the Campaign will highlight the significance of summer youth employment in New York to our Congressional delegation and actively seek their support in advocating for a re-establishment of federal funding for the program.
- Improve the quality and the efficiency of the program. Because of the ongoing struggle to get funding for summer jobs in the past few years, there have been numerous reports of problems with contracts and a lack of timeliness with payments on the local level. Thorough examinations of these processes need to be conducted to ensure proper oversight of the program so as to avoid these problems in the future.
Surveys and Reports
Our most recent report was finished in the fall of 2001 and detailed contractor issues with payment and processing. For a copy of this report, please contact the Campaign for Summer Jobs at (212) 619-1687 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
For copies of press coverage of the Campaign's activities, please contact the Campaign for Summer Jobs at (212) 619-1687 or e-mail email@example.com.
To endorse the campaign click here
To donate money to the campaign, click here
To receive a Campaign for Summer Jobs brochure, call