Councilmember Silverman Secures Pay Increase for 22-24 Year Old SYEP Particpants

Strong workforce programs are critical not only for the District's young people to lead healthy, productive lives but also for the health and welfare of our city. Today I introduced the SYEP Wages Amendment to make sure that participants who are in the new 22-24 year old group of the Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program are paid at least D.C.’s minimum wage, which is $10.50 right now but will rise to $11.50 during this year’s SYEP program on July 1, 2016.

I was surprised to learn that this wasn’t already the case and that the D.C. government was paying only $9.25 an hour, which is less for these young adults than what we require of private sector employers. I think that participants aged 22 or older are clearly adults and shouldn’t be paid $1.25 or $2.25 less than D.C.’s minimum wage. They need to be able to earn at least the same minimum wage that every other adult employed in the District earns.

Thank you to Committee Chairman Vincent Orange and my committee colleagues, Councilmembers Charles Allen, Brianne Nadeau, and Brandon Todd for voting unanimously in favor of adopting my amendment.

Of young adults aged 18 to 24 in the District, approximately 7,100–1 in 12–are neither in school nor working. Many lack even a high school degree, which means that unemployment in their youth will lead to lifelong struggles with poverty. We need to start talking about youth employment and workforce development as life and death. Because it is.

A lot of the discussion in the last few months has been about the relationship between employment and public safety, with a focus on young people being the committers of crime, but they are the victims as well. Just look at the 16 homicides in D.C. in the month of July–half were 24 years old or younger. Kevin, 24; Dwayne, 23; John, 24; William, 24; Bryan, 18; Antoine, 22, Antonio, 23; Derrick, 24.

These are all young men whose lives, whose potential, was never reached–and almost, if not all, are African-American. This is simply unacceptable and unconscionable.

It is my desire that we use every lever, every tool in our District government toolkit to get D.C. young adults into rigorous educational programs; work readiness, apprenticeship, and job training programs; and full-time work that will lead to living-wage careers.

I hope you will join me in this effort.