In an otherwise thrifty budget plan announced today, New York City Mayor Eric Adams pledged to invest millions of dollars in foster youth transitioning to adulthood and summer job opportunities for young people ages 14 to 24.
Adams said his $98.5 billion budget proposal for the coming fiscal year focuses on equity, safety and justice for all New Yorkers, particularly the city’s youth. Although he proposed cuts to city agencies and a gradual reduction in the local workforce, the mayor proposes a 50% increase in the Summer Youth Employment Program — an increase from $157 to $236 million. The increased investment would expand the program to offer 100,000 jobs.
“Young people in this city should have the opportunity to work or learn this summer, and this historic investment will help secure a better future for tens of thousands while helping to make our city safer,” Adams said in a press conference Tuesday, in advance of his budget unveiling today. “We owe it to our children to give them every opportunity to thrive, and this expansion will do just that.”
The mayor’s budget plan next goes to the City Council for public hearings, negotiations and approval June 30.
Adams also said he wants to invest in the success of young people who have spent time away from their parents in foster care. He called for a $13.5 million investment in the Fair Futures initiative, a program that now provides life coaches to roughly 3,000 foster youth through age 21. The stepped-up funding would maintain the program and Fair Futures supports for youth 11 to 21.
Danielle Davis, 28, a former foster youth who entered the system at age 5, said at a recent rally in support of Fair Futures that ending up on her own as a young adult her transition into adulthood was extremely difficult.
“When I aged out of foster care I didn’t have any support,” she said. “I didn’t have a pot to piss in.”
Once she left foster care, Davis said there were a lot of things she had to figure out on her own. There was no assistance when she applied for housing, looked for employment and tried to get financial assistance. “When you age out of the system, you get pushed to the side,” she said.
Former foster youth such as Davis are more likely than their peers to experience homelessness, incarceration and economic hardship. But with the help of her Fair Futures Coach, Alesha Barton, Davis said she was able to get her own apartment in Brooklyn and a well-paying job as a passenger service agent at John F. Kennedy International Airport. She learned how to stand on her own. “It’s a genuine connection thing,” she said of Barton’s support.
Elected officials, advocates and foster youth rallied on Jan. 25, calling on the city to approve a $15 million increase over the current year’s funding, but Adams has proposed an investment shy of that amount. Advocates hoped for this increase to expand eligibility through age 26, and serve an additional 3,000 young people, while ensuring each young person is assigned to a housing specialist. His current budget plan proposes $4 billion less spending than the 2022 budget under former Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The Summer Youth Employment Program serves vulnerable youth, connecting them with paid job opportunities and helping them with career development. The program offers participants up to six weeks of project-based learning, work-readiness and financial literacy training. Youth also are connected with small businesses, corporations, nonprofits and other organizations.
If approved by the City Council in June, Adams’ budget proposal would be the largest investment in the program’s 60-year history. According to a 2021 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, young people who participated in the summer employment program have a 23% lower chance of being arrested for a felony during the program.
“Summer jobs equip youth with opportunity — to earn a wage to support the expenses they have today and to gain critical life and workforce skills that will pay dividends over the course of their lives,” said Michelle Yanche, executive director of Good Shepherd Services — one of New York City’s largest youth services organizations. In her press statement released Tuesday, Yanche called the mayor’s budget plan a historic investment in the city’s youth.
“We must expand opportunities for young people who are preparing for their futures. That means jobs, teaching, and training,” Adams said. “Young New Yorkers must have meaningful opportunities and be given a platform for success.”
This story has been corrected to note that the mayor’s proposed budget would maintain Fair Futures supports for young people ages 11 to 21.