NYC Public Advocate Supports Expanded Summer Rising And Youth Employment Programs, Pushes For Employment Equity, In Council Hearing

October 25th, 2022

Press Release

NEW YORK: Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams, a longtime advocate for the expansion of the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) and other youth services, continued his efforts today at an oversight hearing of the City Council Committee on Youth Services. In a statement, he argued that particularly in recovery from the pandemic, it is vital to ensure that every young person in New York City has access to programming that both enriches their education and prepares them for future employment opportunities.

"In the past few years, New York City’s young people have endured a significant amount of trauma, confusion, and uncertainty. They have experienced isolation, learning loss, and increased housing instability and gun violence," said Public Advocate Williams. "The effects of the pandemic have been particularly hard on those who live in low-income neighborhoods, youth of color, and young people with disabilities. Robust academic and recreational as well as professional development programming have been linked to reductions in violence and crime and positive youth development. That is why city programs like Summer Rising and the Summer Youth Employment Program are absolutely vital, especially considering all that our young people have been through."

The Public Advocate addressed some of the challenges these programs have faced, even with their recent, welcome expansions. He pointed to the demand for Summer Rising seats far outweighing the supply, and pointed out that this rush for access creates disparity, as it "disadvantages those parents who had to work and parents with limited or no access to the internet, such as those living in temporary housing." He also stressed the need for clear communication between the administration, providers, and families.

He commended the recent expansion of the SYEP, and discussed the need to increase not only the number of slots, but duration of programs, noting that "Many organizations would be happy for SYEP participants to join any year-round programs they participate in, but need to know how many year-round slots they will have funding for. As SYEP expands, the city should invest in more year-round programming for young people."

Finally, the Public Advocate pointed to a barrier in the current SYEP model- the requirement to have a Social Security Number in order to experience its benefits. He pushed for the advancement of his legislation, Intro 188, which would require the creation of a universal youth employment program that is open to all young people in New York City, greatly advancing employment equity.

Read the Public Advocate's full statement as prepared below.

STATEMENT OF PUBLIC ADVOCATE JUMAANE D. WILLIAMS

TO THE NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL COMMITTEE ON YOUTH SERVICES

OCTOBER 25, 2022

Good afternoon,

My name is Jumaane D. Williams, and I am the Public Advocate for the City of New York. I would like to thank Chair Stevens and the members of the Committee on Youth Services for holding this important hearing.

In the past few years, New York City’s young people have endured a significant amount of trauma, confusion, and uncertainty. They have experienced isolation, learning loss, and increased housing instability and gun violence. The effects of the pandemic have been particularly hard on those who live in low-income neighborhoods, youth of color, and young people with disabilities. Robust academic and recreational as well as professional development programming have been linked to reductions in violence and crime and positive youth development. That is why city programs like Summer Rising and the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) are absolutely vital, especially considering all that our young people have been through. 

I first want to express appreciation to Mayor Adams for recognizing the importance of these programs, and for his commitment to expanding access to Summer Rising and SYEP. This past summer, over 100,000 young people participated in SYEP, and 110,000 children attended Summer Rising. This is a great achievement, and I hope to see even more slots offered in the years to come.

The rollout of these programs, however, did not come without challenges. While I am happy that so many families sought to participate in Summer Rising, the demand far outweighed the supply, and 82,000 of available seats for the program were filled within a week of the application opening. We can infer that parents who were able to secure a seat were those who had access to the internet and were able to be online when the application opened, which disadvantages those parents who had to work and parents with limited or no access to the internet, such as those living in temporary housing. The DOE did reserve some seats for students experiencing homelessness, students with disabilities who are guaranteed 12 months of support, and those who fail courses and are mandated to take remedial summer classes, but we do not know how many of these seats were set aside.

Even for those for whom seats were set aside, full participation in Summer Rising was not guaranteed. Although programming ran until 6:00 pm, busing service for students with disabilities and students living in temporary housing was not available after 3:00 pm. Students who require busing services should and must be able to participate in the full day just like their peers. 

There is also a clear need for improving communication between the administration, Summer Rising provider sites, and families. Many families were left scrambling for seats at their assigned sites; on the first day of Summer Rising, 30 families in Brooklyn were turned away despite their children being assigned to that site. Some parents and caregivers who were reaching out to sites to see if any spots had opened up received no response. For some children who required busing services, the bus arrived without a paraprofessional on board, preventing the child from boarding the bus, or the site did not have sufficient time to ensure that paraprofessionals would be in the classroom.

The Summer Youth Employment Program was able to match 60 percent of applicants across 17,000 work sites, the largest number the program has ever had—but it had its share of challenges, too. As a result of the pandemic, many organizations across the city are struggling to hire and retain staff, which can present a problem when adding an SYEP participant. The city should allow organizations more time to plan how they will best be able to support an SYEP participant.

The seasonal nature of SYEP means that organizations are losing staff at the conclusion of the program. Many organizations would be happy for SYEP participants to join any year-round programs they participate in, but need to know how many year-round slots they will have funding for. As SYEP expands, the city should invest in more year-round programming for young people. 

Lastly, it is important to note that participation in SYEP requires a Social Security number, effectively excluding undocumented youth from the program. That is why I have introduced Intro 0188-2022, which would require the creation of a universal youth employment program that is open to all young people in New York City. I would like to thank my colleagues in the City Council and the advocates who have been working with my office to move toward employment equity for youth.

I look forward to working with the administration and the City Council to ensure that Summer Rising and SYEP successfully reaches as many youth and young people as possible, as well as ensures a productive and positive work experience for both the young person and the employer, in 2023 and in the years to come.

Thank you.

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