With Pittsburgh Public School students now out for the summer, the possibility of idleness leading to risky or criminal behavior again rears its head. Traditionally, both the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County governments have rolled out youth job programs to address the problem.
But this year the problem may be greater as the city’s program has slots for only half the number it served last year, and the county after providing funding for more than 1,000 positions last year, is not funding any summer youth jobs at all.
For the previous two years, Allegheny County had used federal Stimulus money to fund its program, but as the Department of Human Services website noted those funds are gone.
That means the number of youth employed in July and August will drop from more than 1,500 throughout the county to about 250 just in Pittsburgh. That’s roughly an 83-percent reduction.
During a recent seminar on youth gun violence at the University of Pittsburgh, city police Chief Nate Harper noted that summer youth jobs were a critical factor in reducing neighborhood crime.
And as Courier staff writer Rebecca Nuttall reported last week, both the National Urban League and its affiliates are campaigning for job creation. The Urban League of Pittsburgh President and CEO Esther Bush called for increased funding for summer youth jobs, noting the unemployment rate for Black youth is more than 41 percent.
“These summer jobs are how we learn to hold a job,” she said.
County Department of Human Services Director Marc Cherna said the federal job funding cycle changed during the Bush administration from summertime to year-round funding in an effort to reach the drop-out population with job training programs, which are still in place.
“So the stimulus money was a Godsend. We didn’t really have a program before that,” he said. “But now the funds are gone. So a lot of kids won’t have much to do this summer. Everyone wants the program, but no one wants to pay for it.”
In contrast, though the city’s program is greatly reduced, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s office sent out reminders for youth to sign up for the city’s program before school let out. Applications for the program were due June 1, and spokesperson Joanna Doven said all the slots are filled.
“The program is made possible through a generous donation from the Pittsburgh Foundation and the Mayor’s allocation of (Community Development Block Grants).” She said.
The program is open to residents age 14 to 21 and runs from July 5 through Aug. 12. Participants are paid $7.25 per hour for up to 30 hours per week and can be assigned to perform outdoor work, including restoration and conservation of City parks, public property and vacant lots. They may also take on internships, including general office work in a variety of local businesses.
“This is a terrific program that keeps our young people on the right track by connecting them with positive wage-earning activities that will help them gain life-long employment skills,” Ravenstahl said.
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