June is budget season on Beacon Hill — and time for the annual tussle over funding for summer jobs for high-school kids. Seemingly every year, the Legislature vows cuts but then, realizing the programs’ relatively low cost and huge importance in the lives of underprivileged teens, turns around and restores the money. This year shouldn’t be different.
Two summer employment programs — one to provide funding to nonprofit groups who hire teens from low-income families, and another for teens to work at hospitals — are facing serious cuts. If the House gets its way in the upcoming House-Senate Conference Committee, the two programs will be cut by just under $5 million. This would be a mistake.
Last year, the larger of the two programs, YouthWorks, was able to provide 4,600 summer jobs, ranging from data entry positions to camp councilors. According to advocates, the proposed $4 million cut to YouthWorks would deprive 2,000 youngsters of their jobs. YouthWorks caters to families who on average make less than $30,000 a year.
Providing these teenagers with jobs generates some income for them and their families. More lastingly, it also gives them experience in the workplace, which helps them when they enter the job market as adults. Even though the Massachusetts economy is performing above the national average, growth is still slow and government funds are tight. That said, smart economic choices are the ones that offer long-term payoffs, and providing summer jobs to teens has the potential to do just that.