The Massachusetts State Legislature this week approved both a new budget for the fiscal year that began Monday and a supplemental budget for the just concluded fiscal year. The action saved a summer jobs program geared toward helping inner-city youth all across the state. It also assured that an anti-crime program in one city that has received national attention will continue.
The $114 million supplemental state budget for the just concluded fiscal year in Massachusetts includes $10 million for a summer youth jobs program. The program will fund close to 5,000 jobs for eligible teenagers this summer primarily with non-profit organizations and government agencies.
State Representative Cheryl Coakley-Rivera of Springfield, assistant vice chairperson of the House Ways and Means Committee, pushed to level fund the program after the initial House budget cut the money for the YouthWorks program in half.
The money will be divided among roughly two dozen cities that have the highest caseloads with the Department of Youth Services. Springfield, Holyoke, and Pittsfield are among the communities that will get a share.
Coakley-Rivera expects the program will subsidize jobs for about 500 at-risk youth in the greater Springfield area.
Experts predicted young people would face the toughest summer job market in 40 years. William Ward, head of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County explained there has been a structural change in the labor market as a result of upheaval in the global economy.
A study last spring by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University found the teenage employment rate in Massachusetts is the lowest is has been since World War I I .
A key amendment to the $34 billion state budget for fiscal year 2014 supports a law enforcement program designed to combat youth street gangs in the North End section of Springfield.
Rep. Coakley-Rivera worked with Massachusetts State Police to initiate what is known as “C3 Policing.” The program, which has received national attention, uses military counterinsurgency tactics to dismantle criminal gangs. It is credited with producing a 68 percent drop in crime.
Coakley-Rivera pushed to secure $200,000 to fund the program’s continued operation and perhaps its expansion to other high crime neighborhoods.
Ted Cupac, who has lived in Springfield’s North End for 30 years can attest to the program’s success.
A shortage of local police officers and state troopers as a result of years of budget cuts is often cited as the reason the “C3 Policing” model has not expanded to other high crime areas in Massachusetts. But, Coakley-Rivera said it also takes an unwavering commitment by neighborhood residents and business owners for the anti-crime program to succeed.