Courtesy of Workforce Alliance
Summer youth employed last summer through Workforce Alliance (Courtesy of Workforce Alliance)

NEW HAVEN, CT — Thousands of youth and five regional workforce boards were told last week that the youth employment program would be canceled this summer because there isn’t a state budget.

The program gives jobs and job training to at-risk young people. The funding for the program mostly goes to pay their wages.

Because there is no budget in place the program has been suspended in many, but not all, of the towns where it is utilized, according to coordinators.

The youth program is a $5 million budget line item — most of it spent on the summer program. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy proposed cutting the funding as part of his original budget proposal even though he appreciates the program and understands the good work it does preparing youth for the workforce.

Malloy said he doesn’t want to see the program cut, but his hands are largely tied.

The executive order Malloy unveiled Monday eliminates all funding for the youth program on July 1.

The alternative “mini-budget,” which failed to pick up steam Tuesday in the House, would keep the summer youth funding. But program officials say the action is likely too little, too late.

The summer youth employment program gives work to economically disadvantaged youth, placing them in work locations in which they have expressed an interest in pursuing careers — such as law offices, technology, or learning academies, according to program organizers.

The jobs created for the youth are primarily in the larger cities, because the cities have alternative sources of funding such as community foundations, banks, or other organizations to help fund the program while the smaller surrounding cities and towns do not.

One of the towns that will not be using any youth workers is East Haven, which normally employs about 35 young people during the summer.

In an email sent to East Haven and other the participating towns in the Greater New Haven area, John Brancato, a manager with Workforce Alliance, said: “Unfortunately, we have been informed that the Summer Program is not being considered for emergency monthly funding in absence of a state budget and because of the timing and uncertainty of budget discussions it is recommended that there be no program implemented for Summer 2017.”

Brancato sent an email to East Haven and the 29 other towns in the South Central Connecticut area he is responsible for, advising officials to “not have anyone begin summer activities July 1st unless other funds are being used.”

“This is a very sad and disappointing turn of events,” Brancato wrote. “I apologize for such late notice. However, conversations have been ongoing for the past week in hopes of averting this outcome.”

Brancato said the conversations were with representatives of the state Department of Labor. A spokesperson for the department couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.

Courtesy of Workforce Alliance
Summer youth employed last summer through Workforce Alliance (Courtesy of Workforce Alliance)

The news wasn’t received well by East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr.

“The Connecticut Youth Summer Employment Program is one of the most important programs that our state provides, as the dollars of this grant program goes directly to our youth in the form of their wages,” Maturo said.

“The income-based program not only provides some monies to families that need it the most, it also teaches these participants the importance of the principles of having a good work ethic and helps to prepare them for the next step in their long career as part of our future workforce,” the mayor said.

Brancato said in the summer of 2016, Workforce Alliance placed 1,271 youth, aged 14-21, into jobs with funding from the state of Connecticut.

He said 360 employers participated last year, placing youth in jobs at Connecticut Orthopedic Specialists, Die Cut Paper, Yale-New Haven Hospital, Shubert Theatre, Eclectic Cafe, Jackson Chevrolet, Pegasus Manufacturing, WPAA-TV in Wallingford, ProMold Plastics, and Porter Financial.

He said jobs included camp counselor, retail sales, clerical duties, copying, filing, scanning, data entry, program assistants, beautification and maintenance, gardening, inventory, set design assistants, marketing, academic enrichment, child care supervision, animal care, community outreach activities, grounds maintenance, audio/video production, and hotel facilities support, among others.
Alex Johnson, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Capital Workforce Partners in Hartford, coordinates the North Central summer youth work program.

His area encompasses Hartford and surrounding municipalities such as Bristol, East Hartford, New Britain, and Vernon.

Johnson said Tuesday that “local community foundation” money will be used to employ about 600 young people in Hartford, but that money the program usually gets from the state to employ another 200 or so workers in the surrounding, smaller communities outside of Hartford cannot be replaced — so those young people will not be getting jobs.

“I wish we could save all the jobs. We just can’t,” Johnson said.

The news is bleaker in the Greater New Haven area, according to William P. Villano, president and chief executive officer of Workforce Alliance, who coordinates the youth work program.

He said the towns that use the summer jobs program in the New Haven area are heavily reliant on state funding, even the larger cities. He said the “majority” of the jobs would be lost because of the state funding cuts.