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Officials in several states are expanding existing seasonal job programs to include new opportunities to help with government-led coronavirus response efforts.
State and local officials are attracting new recruits in the fight against Covid-19: teenagers and young adults.
A handful of counties, cities and states across the country have announced plans to expand or revamp existing youth employment programs to include opportunities to assist in government-led coronavirus response initiatives.
Giving teenagers or adults in their early 20s the option to participate in those projects—with tasks ranging from wellness-check phone calls to senior citizens to social media outreach geared toward other young people—can “introduce young people to the important work being done on the ground by our community health partners, and open new career opportunities for them,” Kurt Wesby, Connecticut’s labor commissioner, said in a statement announcing the expansion of the state’s Youth Employment Program to include new job opportunities with community-based agencies.
The expansion, funded with $2 million of the state’s federal coronavirus relief funding, adds new jobs for high school or college students that will primarily support education and outreach efforts to populations, including communities of color, that have been disproportionately affected by the virus. Tasks include acting as “social-distancing ambassadors,” delivering educational materials, providing outreach and assistance to homebound families and conducting “virtual outreach” via social media to promote safer health practices.
“Connecticut has persistent health equity gaps that impact communities of color. This virus and its impact on health and the economy is no different,” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement. “Increasing our investment in youth employment programs not only helps our young people, but will also make a difference for community health.”
Connecticut’s program runs year-round, while other initiatives focus on providing teens with summer employment. Chicago, for example, added a 2,000-member Youth Service Corps to its existing summer program. The positions, all paid, will allow team members to work together remotely to implement coronavirus recovery projects, including their own Covid-19 public information campaign and a program to craft cloth face masks.
Offering new opportunities for seasonal employment is particularly important this year, as ongoing business closures and limited operating hours, coupled with high unemployment rates for adults, have left many young people without their usual summer income, according to officials in Montgomery County, Maryland, which launched a Covid Corps summer jobs program last month.
“Young people in the county, we know, need employment opportunities, and the Covid Corps will help with that, and also help in giving youth an opportunity to develop skills,” County Executive Marc Elrich said in a video announcing the program. “It’s a unique approach to economic recovery, and young people are resources that can help the county address some of these pressing issues.”
The jobs, which pay $14 per hour, are available to county residents between the ages of 16 and 23. Program participants are coached by staff in the county’s recreation department and focus on five different response areas, including food security (packaging, distributing and delivering meals to vulnerable populations), tech connect (teaching senior citizens to use technology to stay connected), and operational recovery (helping county departments conduct inventory, clean, and reconfigure spaces to prepare for employees returning to work).
The program, announced June 17, is no longer accepting applications due to an “overwhelming number of responses,” according to its website.
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.