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NY program to fund jobs for unemployed youth

Daniel Robison
Flanked by members of western New York's legislative delegation, the Labor Department's Rachel Demarest Gold announces NY Youth Works, a program incentivizing businesses to hire "at risk" 16 to 24 year olds.

While summer is still a few months away, the gears are already turning for a new program that aims to make it easier for “inner city” youth in New York State to find a job.

Under the initiative dubbed “NY Youth Works,” businesses can receive a $500 tax break for each month an employee is retained. The program is capped at $4,000 for a full year of employment.

The goal is to reduce the number of unemployed urban youth. According to the New York Department of Labor, 48 percent of 16 to 24 year olds in cities didn’t have have a job last summer.

In total, the state will forgive up to $25 million in the form of tax credits.  

The goal of the program is to teach “at risk” youngsters how to function in the workplace, like:

“Life skills, basic stuff: Get up, show up, be polite and be a member of the team,” says Rachel Demarest Gold, special council with the Labor Department.

Qualifying as “at risk” isn’t easy - youth will have to prove that they’ve experienced one or more of the following situations:

  • Homelessness
  • Criminal record
  • Military service
  • Pregnancy or parenting duties
  • Receiving government benefits, including Social Security payments

“They do want to work”

With hundreds of thousands of New York youth eligible for NY Youth Works, the program has the potential to strike at the heart of the urban poverty cycle, says Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Democratic Buffalo assemblywoman.

“The assumption is that most of these young people who are not working and unemployed don’t want to work. I think that’s the furthest thing from the truth. They do want to work. They want an opportunity to have a job,” Peoples-Stokes says.

The Buffalo operations of GEICO and Ingram Micro have already agreed to participate. Others are being scouted at present.

To prepare young workers to enter the workplace, the state’s also committing $62 million for job training before summer.

Ultimate hiring decisions will be made by participating companies, who will ensure that hires are up to the standards of the jobs they’re tasked with, says Peoples-Stokes.

“They are not going to select one of these young people who do not have the qualifications to do the job just because they have a tax credit. That’s contrary to their business operating properly,” Peoples-Stokes says.

The program has been funded for one year, but could be renewed if the legislature finds it successful in dropping the urban youth unemployment rate.

WBFO/Western New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.