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Minimum wage hike could pose problem for summer jobs program

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver speaking before the Campaign for Summer Jobs' 14th Annual Youth Action Day.
January 29, 2013
Hundreds of New York City students traveled to Albany Tuesday to raise awareness for the Summer Youth Employment Program and warn against potential consequences of a pending minimum wage increase.

The event featured guest speakers such as Sen. Adriano Espaillat, D-Manhattan, Sen. Daniel Squadron, D-Carroll Gardens and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan. Students from across New York City came to Albany to spend the day speaking to nearly 150 state legislators with the hopes of acquiring an additional $10 million for the youth employment program in the enacted state budget.

The Summer Youth Employment Program places young adults in positions at hospitals, camps, nonprofits, small businesses, law firms, museums and retail stores and their wages are subsidized by state funds.

Though the employment program was awarded $25 million in Cuomo's proposed budget the same as the current fiscal year a proposed minimum wage hike from $7.25 an hour to $8.75 an hour could reduce the number of available positions that can be funded by the state.

"While an increase in the state minimum wage represents welcome progress for the millions of low-wage workers across the state, we want to be certain that the value of the state's investment in [SYEP] is not diminished," said Kevin Douglas, a co-chair of the Campaign for Summer Jobs. "Since the vast majority of SYEP funding goes directly to participant wages, any increase in the minimum wage must be met with a commensurate increase in funding for the program, or ultimately we will be able to serve fewer youth."

The youth employment program annually receives close to 130,000 applications to participate in the program, however due to funding restrictions, the program has had to limit its participants to 30,000. Without the additional funding from the Executive Budget, the program will have to cut 4,300 jobs from the program, this summer alone.

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