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Cities, State Preps for Summer Youth Employment Return

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Many young people in New Haven were disappointed last year when COVID-19 canceled most summer work programs.

But this year, there’s $6 million in federal CARES Act funding to help keep local teens busy.

“I just want to get out the house,” said Troy Wylie. “I’ve been in there since like quarantine and stuff.”

The New Haven teen is one of dozens of young people who came to the city’s career fair Thursday afternoon. There are open positions with the Summer Fun camp.

“We’re going to hire more than 200 young people to help support the almost 3,000 young people that are going to participate in this camp,” said Mayor Justin Elicker.

The camp is a partnership with New Haven Public Schools and will combine educational enrichment and recreation for students. It is part of the city’s Summer Reset Plan that’s using $6 million in CARES Act funding to run programs and jobs for young people.

The city also has 500 youth applicants for the Youth at Work program.

“It is our goal this year we are trying to place between 90 to 95% of the applicants in a work-based learning experience,” said Gwendolyn Busch Williams, the director of the city’s Youth and Recreation Department. She says the city’s CARES Act investment is funding more jobs this year, which she calls “a blessing.”

Getting young people back into summer jobs is a goal on the state level as well. The governor’s office announced Thursday that the state will invest an additional $2 million in CARES Act funds for Connecticut’s Youth Employment Program. It brings the total funding to $7 million.

“We’ll come close this summer to providing a job for every kid who seeks one, every kid who asks for one,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.

He spoke during the news conference on the Youth Employment Program Expansion, adding that the city will also invest local CARES Act money in Hartford on the expansion.

“Over the next three years, each year we’ll put $2.5 million more to youth serving organizations and an additional million dollars each year for youth employment specifically,” Bronin said.

Back in New Haven, Dior Hobson is excited and hopeful for a job at Summer Fun Camp.

“I think it is a very good idea so they can see what it’s like to work and make all that money,” Hobson said.

The camp is free for parents and will provide a chance for teens to work, many in their first jobs. Elicker says it’s an answer to what many residents want: opportunities for young people.

“It’s really exciting to see this room full of young people that are interested in getting out, being mentors and working this summer,” Elicker said.

Between Summer Fun Camp and Youth at Work, the city will hire nearly 800 young people at different camps and community organizations across the city this summer.

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