Last April, Mayor Bill De Blasio’s proposed suspension of the $124 million Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) and the closure of city pools because of the COVID-19 crisis angered city officials and youth advocates.
Now a year later the city is seeking to reinvest in SYEP, said de Blasio, and pivot from the all-virtual SYEP Summer Bridge 2020 program that was created to deal with COVID restrictions.
De Blasio announced that young people between the ages of 14 and 21 can now apply through April 23 for the 2021 Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). At post time, the de Blasio administration did not respond to inquires as to where the money would come from.
“The Summer Youth Employment Program has been a rite of passage for young New Yorkers for nearly 60 years,” said Department of Youth & Community Development (DYCD) Commissioner Bill Chong in a statement. “This summer, SYEP takes on the added role of bringing back a semblance of normalcy to the lives of tens of thousands of youth whose lives were upended by COVID-19. The opportunities offered by SYEP will go a long way toward helping teens and young adults learn critical skills and map out their futures—and become important contributors to New York City’s recovery from the pandemic.”
Newly appointed Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter said that SYEP is a critical component working with community-based organizations to provide students with a holistic summer experience.
“Now more than ever, we must meet New York City’s young people where they are and open doors for our most vulnerable students who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. I’m confident that this year’s participants will have meaningful work experiences while they learn work skills and earn a salary, restoring a sense of normalcy to their lives and putting them on the path to success in their future careers,” said Porter.
Among the loudest voices for keeping the SYEP program in the budget in 2020 was Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
“We have seen the significant emotional toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on young people over this past year, especially those living in underserved communities. By giving them an opportunity to explore various interests, build career skills, and earn some money, we can begin the process of making them whole again and overcoming the trauma of this past year,” said Adams in a statement.
Since Adams is in the middle of the race for mayor, his spokesperson added that SYEP would also be a part of his campaign platform. His proposal calls for making summer youth employment year-round so that struggling families have a dependable source of income and so that young people can develop the skills and create the connections that will help them once they’re out of school and in the working world, said his spokesperson.
Williams said he was glad to see the number of available slots double from the reduced program last year. “They must ultimately not only be restored to pre-pandemic levels, but expanded to universal youth employment for anyone who wants it. This investment in an opportunity for our young people is crucial to our city’s recovery and a Renewed Deal for New York,” said Williams in a statement.
City Councilmember Mathieu Eugene (D-Brooklyn), and former Chair of the Committee on Youth Services, said he’s spent a lifetime advocating for the expansion of youth services and is also glad to see SYEP come back.
“I have been a vocal advocate for its success and expansion, and despite the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am delighted that we are still able to provide this very important foundation for job training. This program demonstrates what is possible when we work together to help our students engage in activities that benefit the community, and I encourage them to enroll and take the first steps towards career success,“ said Eugene.