New York City has announced its plan to cancel its 2020 Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) in response to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. The SYEP has been an institution since 1963 and is the nation’s largest summer youth employment program. It allows low-income youths between the ages of 14 and 24 the opportunity to explore different career paths and obtain paid work experience. Summer jobs vary across industries, including government agencies, hospitals, summer camps, law firms, small businesses, non-profits, and museums. The result of the program’s cancellation is the elimination of approximately 75,000 city-funded summer jobs to New York City minors and young adults. While continuing to monitor the situation, NYC Department of Youth and Community Development Commissioner, Bill Chong, made the decision to suspend the program now so that families would have more time to make new summer plans and to seek other employment opportunities. Acknowledging that the program may be an economic safety net for many families, the city has prioritized the safety of all citizens and has stated its commitment to provide new and creative experiences in the future for youth.
Also in response to the pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced $1.3 billion in budget cuts to preserve the ability to provide basic operations and fund life-saving measures in light of the current health situation. The 3K program, an expansion of education to three-year-olds, will receive a $43 million cut. In total, education will see cuts up to $273 million. Cutting the youth employment program, addressed above, will save $124 million, and more than $250 million will also be cut from health and human service programs. The plan also has reductions in spending for transportation and parks as well as suspending its organics collection, which environmental advocates say is critical for decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Many budget cuts will anger lawmakers who must sign off on the budget before its finalization.
As Randon addressed in his article last week, the Department of Labor issued guidance about gig workers’ eligibility for unemployment benefits under the CARES Act. However, there are still a variety of obstacles that ridesharing drivers have to overcome before they are able to obtain such benefits. One of these barriers is that claims representatives may be unacquainted with the status of gig workers and have no experience accommodating them. Some states are still finalizing how to process such applications from gig workers and are telling workers not to apply at this time. In an email to its drivers, Uber has admitted that it would be weeks before states begin processing claims and even longer before drivers received benefits. Further, some have criticized that the guidance issued is not comprehensive enough. It may not include drivers who have the choice to work but are deciding not to based on the low demand from passengers. It may also exclude workers who choose not to work because they are a high-risk population.
In the midst of this pandemic, the Army is providing a safety net for soldiers scheduled to transition out of service in the recent future. With high unemployment rates across the nation and the acknowledgment that certain career opportunities are no longer available at the moment, the Army is granting approximately 9,000 soldiers an opportunity to stay enlisted in the Army for short-term reenlistments of three to 11 months. Previously, the service did not offer reenlistments for any period of time less than a year. The Army is also modifying its physical fitness tests and weapon qualifications to meet social distancing requirements. Certain military education requirements have been stayed, while other requirements are being completely remotely. Reenlistment ceremonies and promotions are also being conducted virtually.
In non-related covid-19 news, a United States District Court judge, Judge Dennis Saylor IV, has entered a judgment for the EECO on behalf of six individuals, all Muslim women, claiming that their employer refused to grant them religious accommodation to its uniform policy. Instead, the employer, Aviation Port Services (APS), terminated their employment. The plaintiffs allege that as followers of Islam, they wear long skirts and hijabs. APS has a policy that required female workers to wear pants or knee-length skirts. The plaintiffs asked for a religious accommodation to wear long skirts instead. APS claims that its reasoning for its dress code was a safety concern that long skirts could be caught in moving conveyor belts. The Court found that APS discharged the workers because of their religion and did not demonstrate undue hardship in reasonably accommodating the workers’ request to wear long skirts. The Court awarded back pay with prejudgment interest and compensatory damages.