White House budget ax hangs over youth job programs

The Reagan administration plans massive additional cuts in youth employment, the Monitor has learned. These cuts, to be announced with a variety of other budget reductions March 10, would virtually decimate the federal government's past commitment to provide employment and training help for the nation's disadvantaged youths, according to Robert Taggert, former administrator of the Office of Youth Programs in the Carter administration.

Specifically, the administration will propose eliminating the Youth Employment Training Program (YETP) and the Youth Conservation and Community Improvement Program (YCCIP). For fiscal year 1980, YETP was budgeted at $566 million and YCCIP at $115 million. In the current fiscal year, both are operating on 90 percent of their 1980 budgets based on Congress's continuing resolution. President Carter had proposed for his fiscal 1981 budget that YEPT be raised to $746 million and YCCIP get $115 million.

Reagan proposals for the youth budget will lead to a loss of approximately $ 725 million, eliminating some 200,000 youth jobs, Mr. Taggert and other youth employment sources say. The White House refused comment on the exact nature of the cuts.

Taggert and others point out that the cuts amount to the Reagan administration's "second round" of youth employment budget constrictions.

The first round came with the administration's proposal to cut full or partial federal funding for 300,000 public sector jobs from the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). Estimates of the proportion of those jobs held by people under 22 years of age range from 21 to 45 percent.

"The administration plans to eliminate youth programs that employ 200,000 youths on a year-round basis -- programs that are clearly an investment in the future of our country," Taggert says. "And the cuts would seem to contradict what the President has said that youth employment is one of his 'top priorities.'"

Aside from the obvious effect on employment, Taggert, other youth job experts , and civil rights group spokesmen forecast a vast increase in juvenile crime if the cuts are approved by Congress.

However, to partially offset the additional cuts, the Reagan administration will ask for an additional $329 million for CETA Titles IIB and C. These provide for adult job-training programs and job-search assistance. Forty-five percent of this increase, roughly $148 million, will be retargeted for youth job training, according to Taggert and Mary DeGinoa, a policy analyst for the National Youth Work Alliance.

But many youth employment experts say this consolidation effort is misdirected. Peter Kleinbard, who heads the National Committee on Resources for Youth, maintains that "traditionally when CETA programs have been consolidated, they have favored adults."

Taggert, now executive director of the private Youth Knowledge Development Project, which studies the effectiveness of all types of public and private youth employment and training programs, says it is paramount "to keep youth employment programs separate from adult programs because the different programs have different solutions."

Calling the additional budget proposals cuts that "dig deepest into the pockets of the poor," Taggert expects bipartisan opposition to the proposals.

In recent years, youth jobs programs have received strong support from Republicans and Democrats. In the last session, only 61 representatives in the House voted against the Youth Employment Act of 1980, which didn't pass the full Congress before adjournment.

US Rep. James M. Jeffords (R) of Vermont, one of the prime sponsors of last year's youth employment bill, says he will not only reintroduce the bill this year, but he also will vigorously fight Reagan's proposed cuts.

"Unemployment is so high among the nation's youth that youth jobs has to be one of our highest priorities," says Congressman Jeffords. "If youth jobs are cut, the you're forcing a lot of young people into the welfare cycle and not helping them get productive jobs."

While none of the President's proposed cuts affect this summer's federally funded youth jobs, their level also will drop significantly because they are being funded at the same level as last summer. With the increase in inflation, that means fewer jobs. In New York City, for instance, there will be an estimated 5,000-7,000 fewer jobs this summer than last.

One of the major byproducts of these programs is a reduction in the crime rate. Says Taggert, "We have documented proof that the summer j ob projects cut arrest rates in half."

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