Adrienne L. Fernandes-Alcantara
Specialist in Social Policy
For decades, the federal government has played a role in helping vulnerable young people secure employment and achieve academic success through job training and employment programs, including summer youth employment opportunities. The enactment of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA, P.L. 105-220) in 1998 marked the first time since 1964 that states and localities did not receive funding specifically designated for summer employment programs for vulnerable youth. Although WIA does not authorize a stand-alone summer program, the law requires that local areas funded under its Youth Activities (Youth) program provide summer employment opportunities as one of 10 elements available to eligible low-income youth with barriers to employment. Together, these elements are intended to provide a comprehensive year-round job training and employment program for youth. Approximately one-quarter of youth in the program participate in summer employment activities, which are required to be directly linked to academic and occupational learning. Funding authorization for WIA expired in FY2003, but Congress has continued to appropriate funds for WIA, including the Youth program.
The economic recession that began in December 2007 increased focus on the role of the summer employment element, particularly given recent evidence that summer youth employment is at record lows. On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5, ARRA, or Recovery Act). One of the stated purposes of ARRA is to preserve existing jobs and create new jobs. To this end, the law appropriated $1.2 billion for grants for the WIA Youth program. In the accompanying conference report, Congress specified that funds should be used for both summer youth employment and year-round employment opportunities, particularly for youth up to age 24. ARRA additionally established a role for the Inspectors General of various federal agencies and the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in overseeing use of ARRA funding.
Under ARRA, a total of 374,489 youth participated in summer employment opportunities, and approximately 40% of ARRA dollars for the Youth Activities program was used for employment during the summer months. In its guidance on funding provided for the Youth Activities program, the Department of Labor (DOL) emphasized that local areas had flexibility in carrying out certain aspects of the summer employment component as funded under ARRA. For example, local areas could determine whether follow-up was required for youth served with ARRA funds during the summer months only. This is compared to WIA’s normal requirement that all youth receive follow-up services. As part of its ARRA oversight efforts, GAO conducted reviews on the use of funds for select federal programs by selected states, including the WIA Youth program. According to GAO, localities in these states used Youth Activities funds to expand summer employment opportunities for youth, both in the public sector and private sector, and in nonprofit organizations.
This report provides an overview of current efforts to secure job training and employment for youth during the summer months, and addresses issues related to these efforts. For example, some of DOL guidance on ARRA is distinct from previous guidance provided under WIA, in that it is tailored to the requirements of the Recovery Act. Further, with increased focus on the summer jobs component, policymakers may consider, as part of any efforts to reauthorize WIA, whether the law should place greater emphasis on summer employment. Past evaluations of federally funded programs have shown mixed results in the achievement of goals, although these programs are not necessarily comparable to the summer youth opportunities currently offered by states and localities.
Date of Report: September 23, 2011
Number of Pages: 39
Order Number: R40830
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