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It’s only March, but the city’s Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) is already planning for summer. At a time of high unemployment and shrinking federal budgets, it’s faced with a seemingly daunting task: trying to find summer jobs for thousands of city teens.

Last year, the Summer Youth Employment Program was handled by the Department of Employment. In an effort to streamline services, Mayor Bloomberg eliminated the department, placing the In-School, Out-of-School, and Summer Youth Employment programs under DYCD.

In January, the department issued a newly crafted Request for Proposals (RFP) from youth service providers to rave reviews. “DYCD had done an excellent job,” said Doyin Ola of the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition, a co-sponsor of last year’s Campaign for Summer Jobs. Ola and others said the new RFP was less convoluted than the one the Department of Employment used, and placed more of an emphasis on education.

The new RFP increases summer work hours from 24 per week to 30 per week for 5 days over a seven-week period for a total of 210 hours, and sets aside 21 or 10 percent of those hours for educational components such as college preparation and financial literacy.

But will there be enough funding to provide jobs for all the youths that are eligible? Federal funding for summer youth programs was eliminated in 1998 when Congress last reauthorized the Workforce Investment Act. New York City lost $53 million in funds for summer programs, forcing it to scramble for dollars each year. Last year, the city didn’t have summer job funding in place until June, though it ultimately served 39,000 teens.

The feds still provide roughly $1 billion in federal funding for year-round programs for youths ages 16 to 21. But proposed WIA changes could divert funding from in-school to out-of-school programs, which some fear will siphon opportunities from the in-school youth population.

Given all these unknowns, the overall teen job market is looking pretty grim. A new study by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University found that labor force participation for those 16 to 19 years old is at the lowest nationally since 1948.

But here in New York, DYCD hopes to buck the trend. “It is a challenge,” said Regina Miller, DYCD’s deputy commissioner for administration. “But I think it’s a challenge we’re up to.”

Please note: This article contains a clarification. We first noted that DYCD hoped to find jobs for 39,000 teens. In fact, it has yet to determine the number of available slots.

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