Letter to Mayor de Blasio from Council Member Debi Rose and colleagues on suspension of SYEP

Council Member Debi Rose, chair, Committee on Youth Services, 49th District and colleagues | 4/16/2020, midnight
We understand that this year’s budget will be like none in recent memory, with painful cuts for many New Yorkers.
Debi Rose

Dear Mayor Bill de Blasio:

We understand that this year’s budget will be like none in recent memory, with painful cuts for many New Yorkers. At the same time, we share a longstanding commitment to protecting the health and well-being of the most vulnerable New Yorkers. A top concern for us are the 75,000 families who participate in the Summer Youth Employment Program. This program has a decades-long history of uplifting impoverished youth who would otherwise struggle to access the labor market, while providing an economic lifeline to their families.

Tuesday’s abrupt announcement that SYEP would be suspended was a devastating blow to these families. Furthermore, the news that April 8 would be the last day of allowable expenses was an additional blow to the nearly 70 nonprofits who administer SYEP programs, many of which had been planning new and creative ways to operate SYEP in today’s environment. The City gave providers 24 hours to shut down a decades-long program. Even in the midst of this crisis, this is unacceptable.

As you have pointed out in your daily briefings, the COVID-19 virus is not just taking a human and economic toll on New York City, it is also exposing and magnifying generations of inequality in our city. Summer youth programs have been instrumental in closing that gap, educating, lifting up and providing opportunities to young people who would not otherwise have them. As you have stated many times, these programs help prepare students for higher education and successful careers. After weeks of staying inside and adapting to remote learning, our young people need SYEP this summer more than ever.

We all know we are entering a summer of uncertainty, but we also know that New Yorkers are adaptable and resilient, and many of our providers are already looking for creative ways to engage youth remotely, should the shutdown of businesses continue into the summer. We have been in conversation with these providers in recent weeks, and we know they stand ready to move forward, even in this uncertain climate. Many of them have spent weeks exploring options for engaging young people in remote learning, skills building, credentialing, or even in community support and recovery.

We are asking that your office and the Department of Youth and Community Development join this conversation and work with providers to explore new and creative ways to engage youth—and provide SYEP participants with some form of a paycheck. During this crisis that is magnifying glaring disparities in our city, it is even more imperative that we provide a safety net for these young people before they fall even farther behind. We also ask that as the administration looks to provide fiscal aid to targeted communities such as seniors and small businesses that the young people who participate in this program be included. Our youth are not expendable.

Alternatively, providers must be given time to off-ramp from this program, so they are not forced to lay staff off with a day’s notice. At minimum, the City should honor their contracts through the end of the year as the City assured providers in the March 18, 2020 letter that we have attached to this communication. The Mayor’s decision is forcing providers to make layoffs this week, making it impossible to implement alternative SYEP options this summer should it be restored in the budget process.

We look forward to working with your administration on a swift solution to these serious issues.

Sincerely,

Council Member Debi Rose, chair, Committee on Youth Services, 49th District

Council Member Ben Kallos, 5th District

Council Member Farah N. Louis, 45th District

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer

Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., 36th District

Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, 16th District

Council Member I. Daneek Miller, 27th District

Council Member Brad Lander, 39th District

Council Member Rory I. Lancman, 24th District

Council Member Barry Grodenchik, 23rd District

Council Member Justin Brannan, 43rd District

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, 10th District

Council Member Carlina Rivera, 2nd District

Council Member Margaret S. Chin, 1st District

Council Member Alan N. Maisel, 46th District

Council Member Peter Koo, 20th District

Council Member Karen Koslowitz, 29th District

Council Member Antonio Reynoso, 34th District

Council Member Carlos Menchaca, 38th District

Council Member Ines Barron, 42nd District