Investing in young people should be a priority for cities as we continue on the path to COVID-19 recovery. Summer youth development and employment programs provide young people with educational and mentorship opportunities, prepare them for the workforce, add income to their homes, and are proven to reduce violence.
For the past two years, cities across that country have been grappling with the uncertainty, loss of life, shared and individual trauma, and economic toll of two public health crises: COVID-19 and gun violence. These dual crises have had a disproportionate impact on Black and Latinx communities who are impacted by persistent racial inequities, low financial investment, and under-resourced public health and community-led public safety programs.
At the height of the pandemic in 2020, as cities adapted to the public health and fiscal realities of COVID-19, many cities chose to pause or scale back programming that directly benefited Black and Latinx communities. Among the impacted programs were summer youth engagement and employment initiatives. These programs are especially important because they not only provide economic opportunities for young people and their families, but they are also a demonstrated means of reducing gun violence.
Fortunately, the economic landscape for cities in 2021 looks much different from the landscape in 2020. Cities are developing protocols to safely reopen, and $130 billion in federal relief via American Rescue Plan funding is en route to cities to help local officials counter the economic impact of COVID-19. The Department of Education will be granting an additional $122 billion to states to resource local educational agencies and support youth education, services, and activities. The Department of Treasury and Department of Education released guidance authorizing these funding streams to be used for summer youth programming and community violence intervention programs more broadly.
President Biden further bolstered potential funding for summer youth programming by issuing an executive order directing five federal agencies—including the Department of Education and Department of Labor—to adjust existing grant programs to ensure community-based violence intervention programs, including summer youth employment and engagement programs, are explicitly eligible to apply for funding.
In 2022, as states and localities continue to receive and disburse American Rescue Plan funding and apply for federal grant programs, state and local officials should continue to prioritize funding to gun violence intervention programs, including youth engagement and employment initiatives.
In 2021, cities took action to prioritize funding for summer youth programming in 2021:
- New York City’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), the nation’s largest youth employment program, returned in 2021 after the program was scaled back and conducted virtually in 2020. SYEP 2021 served 70,000 young people, providing them with paid work experience, work readiness training, and leadership skills.
- Columbus, Ohio, announced increased investments in 2021 summer youth programs with the specific purpose of reducing gun violence following canceled programs and limited opportunities for youth engagement in the summer of 2020. The 2021 programs announced by the city included seasonal employment opportunities, work readiness training, and evening community events.
- Washington, DC expanded summer youth employment program provided opportunities for 13,000 youth, up from 10,000 youth in previous years, and DC-area school systems dedicated American Rescue Plan funds to summer education programs.
2022 Investments in Summer Youth Engagement and Employment Programs
This year, cities have already begun announcing increased investments in summer youth and engagement programming:
- New York City announced its largest Summer Youth Employment (SYEP) program in history with an investment of $236 million to create 100,000 jobs as a part of the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program.
- The State of California has allocated $185 million in state and federal funding to the All Youth Jobs Corps program which will issue grants in two phases. Phase one will award $150 million in funding to the 13 largest cities in the state, and phase two will create a competitive grant process with the remaining $35 million for smaller cities and jurisdictions. Los Angeles County will be awarded $53 million to support local youth employment programs.
- New Haven is allocating $10 million to youth engagement and wealth development. The first round of American Rescue funds allowed the city to run a full summer youth employment program and these additional funds will help sustain the progress made.
As cities develop their spending plan for American Rescue Plan funds and other federal and state funding, they should prioritize and plan funding for summer youth engagement and employment programs. Additional information about the importance of summer youth engagement and employment programs to counter gun violence is below. For more information on how to use American Rescue Plan funds to address gun violence in your locality, please contact us at [email protected]
Violent crime tends to increase in the summer.
Crime trends show that cities often experience increases in violent crime during the warm days of summer. For example, from 2017 to 2021, 38 percent of gun homicides and non-fatal shootings in Baltimore occurred between May 1 and August 31..
Youth are at high-risk for becoming victims and participants of gun violence.
American youth ages 15 to 24 are 23 times more likely to be killed with guns than those in other high-income countries. In an average year, nearly 37,000 15- to 24-year-olds are shot and killed or wounded in the US—61 percent of these deaths are by gun homicide, and 46 percent of these injuries are by gun assault.
Violence in cities is often cyclical and the trauma that comes with it can lead youth to engage in violence. The same youth who are victimized by violence are often also perpetrators. In cities during 2019, youth under 25 made up 42 percent of arrests for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, 52 percent of arrests for robbery, 27 percent of arrests for aggravated assault, and 39 percent of arrests for weapons offenses.
Gun violence is costly.
Gun violence costs the US $557 billion each year, of which $12.6 billion is paid by taxpayers. While costs vary depending on the circumstances of the incident, each gun fatality costs taxpayers an average of $273,904 for the initial and long-term repercussions of that incident, and each nonfatal injury costs $25,150. As local governments seek to close budget shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic, investment in gun violence prevention programming can save lives and money.
Youth development and employment programs are proven to reduce violence.
Summer youth employment programs in Boston, New York City, and Chicago have demonstrated that they not only boost employment, but also have longer-term impacts on crime. An evaluation of the Boston Summer Youth Employment Program found that relative to a control group, participants’ violent crime arraignments reduced by 35 percent in the 17 months after program completion. A study of New York City’s program showed it reduces participants’ probability of incarceration by 10 percent (54 percent for those aged 19+), and reduces mortality by 20 percent at least four years post-program completion, relative to baseline. In Chicago, assignment to a summer jobs program decreased violent crime arrests among participants by 43 percent in the 16 months following program completion, compared to the control group.
Everytown Research & Policy is a program of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, an independent, non-partisan organization dedicated to understanding and reducing gun violence. Everytown Research & Policy works to do so by conducting methodologically rigorous research, supporting evidence-based policies, and communicating this knowledge to the American public.