- The Washington Times - Monday, March 22, 2021

It’s that time of year again, when mayors tout their summer jobs programs — and how things will turn out during the second summer of the COVID-19 pandemic is as uncertain as the first and as questionable as school openings.

Odd, for sure, since some school districts are still wrestling over the chief bone of contention: reopening in-person learning for teenagers and adults. In fact, Chicago, where union leaders for months have wanted to tar and feather Mayor Lori Lightfoot, reportedly have agreed to an April 19 reopening date.

The D.C. government, where the deadline for summer job applications has come and gone, allows adults up to 24 years old to apply for summer jobs. Not bad gigs and paychecks, if you can get them.

The question is whether they are actually “employed.”

See, a lot of what goes on is job training and job preparation. You know: How to Fill Out Your Resume 101.

Sometimes it’s bridging education for dropouts.

As D.C. Auditor Kathy Patterson said a couple of years ago after putting the summer jobs under the microscope for the D.C. Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser, the program doesn’t provide “employment per se.”

Hmm. Then why are the programs so popular?

Well, for one, they generate support among voters, particularly Democratic voters.

Marion Barry understood as much. To this day, adults who “won” summer jobs not only earned paychecks. Some, who retired years ago, still brag that their children were weaned on Barry’s job programs, including those that had youths cleaning their neighborhoods.

The council and the mayor, however, haven’t done their due diligence. Why? They are more interested in generating political support by keeping the poor on the government teat. Ms. Lightfoot, for example, is handing out $450 checks to Chicago Public Schools families — whether or not they need the money.

And not to be outdone, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has his eyes on gubernatorial and national aspirations, announced Monday that the Big Apple’s Summer Youth Employment Program is set to dole out 70,000 jobs — paychecks included.

As I said, some of these jobs are honest-to-goodness gigs, just nothing like the job opportunities of yesteryear. Like the one that led Peter Cancro from a part-time gig at a Jersey sub joint to open the popular Jersey Mike’s franchise. Mr. Cancro started at age 14.

Sure, some youths work in parks and recreation programs, become summer camp aides and spend the summer as workers on their family farms.

But job preparedness with no measurable employable skills?

Somebody’s not doing their job.

Mrs. Patterson should revisit the issue to ensure the mayor and the council do theirs and not pulling a, ahem, Barry on taxpayers.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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