By Ivan Pereira
State budget cuts have killed opportunities for hundreds of Queens teenagers this summer and it could trickle down to affect other services as well, an administrator for a popular youth program said.
A $20 million reduction from Albany has resulted in LaGuardia Community College’s summer youth employment program only offering 400 positions to teens this summer, said Adjoa Gzifa, the director for the school’s Workforce Center, which runs the program for the borough.
Last year, the state allocated $35 million to youth programs throughout New York and LaGuardia was able to give 1,200 teenage applicants summer jobs, according to the director. Gzifa, who also chairs Community Board 12 in southeast Queens, said she was disappointed that the state’s budget crisis hit the youth hard because the initiative has kept teens off the streets.
“This program is just tremendously important to our young people,” she said.
Students who take part in the summer employment program are paid $7.25 an hour for 25 hours of work a week, Gzifa said. They are placed with various companies and nonprofits, including day-care centers, according to the director.
Many of the past applicants were from working class neighborhoods and the money went a long way not only for them but also their families.
“They would buy their own school supplies and they would be more self-sufficient,” Gzifa said.
Gzifa added that the cuts have a domino effect on everyone in the city.
The companies that work with LaGuardia have grown over the years and will also feel the pinch of the cuts, the director said. The day-care centers, which get a lot of business during the summer season, could see a loss of customers because of the lower staffing, according to Gzifa.
“They might have to close their doors or if they hire more staff raise the prices for the parents who send their kids there,” she said.
The director acknowledged that the state is dealing with a major budget crisis and cuts across the board were inevitable, but she said she hoped elected leaders will think more about the long term when it comes to spending.
“New York City has the highest rate of young people who need employment. We need all the help we can get,” she said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.