Higher wage floor means reduction in youth jobs

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EVERETT, MASS., APRIL 1, 2015…..With the minimum hourly wage set to increase to $10 before next summer, the state’s youth jobs program will cost more and employ fewer people, Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ron Walker told lawmakers Wednesday.

Gov. Charlie Baker proposed an increase in the fiscal 2016 annual budget’s funding of the YouthWorks jobs program for low-income city youth, bringing it to $10.5 million for next summer, up from $9.6 million this summer, according to an aide.

By the time the $10.5 million would be used for providing jobs to young people in the summer of 2016 the minimum wage will have increased to $10-per-hour, limiting the number of youths who will be able to receive work through the program, Walker said.

This year, the state anticipates 4,200 youth will receive jobs through the program, and that number will likely drop to 3,800 to 3,900 next year, Walker predicted.

“Certainly we have some concern about the number of youth who will not be able to receive a summer job moving forward,” Walker told lawmakers at a budget hearing at Everett High School Wednesday. He said, “These kids need jobs. Their families need them to be working.”

Walker said he is seeking to employ more youths through the program and meeting with employers and the Commonwealth Corporation, which administers YouthWorks.

Last session when the Legislature increased the minimum hourly wage from $8 to $11 over three years, some lawmakers proposed a lower minimum wage for youths, arguing teenagers would face greater challenges receiving employment without the discount.

Rep. Angelo D’Emilia, a Bridgewater Republican, told Walker that one of his most important jobs was as a 14-year-old dishwasher at a West Bridgewater restaurant where he made a little over $2 an hour and learned responsibility and how to be part of a team.

“It’s actually the soft skills and the discipline of coming to work,” Walker said, agreeing with D’Emilia on the value of work for young people.

Walker told the News Service he does not have any current plans to propose a new minimum wage for youth. The minimum wage, which is currently $9 per hour, will rise to $11 per hour in 2017.

The governor’s budget lists $19.5 million for the summer jobs program in fiscal 2015, though about $10 million of that was spent in 2014, according to Ann Dufresne, spokeswoman for Labor and Workforce Development.

Copyright 2015 State House News Service

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