With a quarter of 16 to 19 year olds out of work, Congress has yet to agree on a proposed $1 billion to continue the federal summer jobs program. Lawmakers left town last week for the Fourth of July recess without approving the money, which is bound up in a much larger bill stuck in the Senate that includes multiple tax provisions and extended unemployment compensation.
By the time the Senate breaks the log jam later this month, the summer jobs money may be moot, if it’s not already, according to some experts.
This is the time of year when teens and young 20-somethings are usually scooping ice cream and delivering pizza. But those jobs increasingly are being taken by adult workers, in a bad economy, according to Joe McLaughlan, senior research associate in the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston.
The 2009 Recovery Act included $1.2 billion for nearly 320,000 young summer workers to landscape state parks, maintain schools, and do administrative work in government offices, among other things. That program was labeled a complete success, according to the Labor Department. About two thirds of those funds were spent, and without more federal funding, most states will be unlikely to reestablish the training program and subsidized jobs.
McLaughlan said that even with a renewed summer jobs program, this summer is a “particularly difficult one, on a par with or a little worse than the summer of 2009. “The kids that really benefit are the low-income teens. This could help economically disadvantaged teens a lot,” he said.
Massachusetts and some other states have used state funds to keep the summer jobs programs going, but most state budgets are too strapped to handle it, leaving countless teens on the streets, according to Stateline.org, a website that tracks state governments.
Congressional aides said that parts of the stalled bill, including the summer jobs money, could be revived, perhaps as part of a different piece of legislation. But when Congress returns from the recess, there will be only a few weeks until the traditional August recess and there is a crowded legislative calendar to accomplish in that time.
Senate Democrats sought to blame Republicans for the delay in the summer jobs money as well as other parts of the bill, but Republicans countered that the items in the bill that were not objectionable, like the summer jobs money, should be offset with other budget cuts, rather than adding their cost to the deficit.
In an indication that the piecemeal approach may get some traction, Republican Sen. Olympia Snow of Maine called for a stand-alone bill on unemployment benefits that would not include the summer jobs funding.