St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson held a press conference Tuesday, May 23 to discuss a recent grant received to expand the STL Youth Jobs program, currently in its fourth year, along with topics such as changes in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the recent increase in the city minimum wage, and how jobs for young people relate to decreasing gun violence.
The grant of $297,000 to STL Youth Jobs, from Citi, is to be used to provide financial literacy education for young people, ages 16-24, in the program. STL Youth Jobs will also be funded with $300,000 allocated from the city budget. About 700 young people will be enrolled in the program this summer, working for over 200 employers, though there is still a waiting list of about 1,000 for whom there was no room in the program.
“We’re closing in on being able to provide more than 700 jobs for young adults in our city this summer. There are very few things that a good job won’t cure, and young people in our city want to work, they want to make money.” said Krewson.
She hopes to expand the program, and said, “If your company can contribute, and/or hire a young person, please contact us. It costs $2,500 to fund a young person in a job, including salary and financial literacy training, but any amount helps.”
Michael Holmes, with SLATE (the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment), said that there are over 10,000 young people in the St. Louis area that need jobs.
“In St. Louis Public Schools, if you look at the high school alone, that’s maybe 10,000 kids.” St. Louis Public Schools get out for the summer this Thursday, May 25. “We could offer those kids employment, if we had the money,” Holmes said.
Though STL Youth Jobs is growing, SLATE is currently only able to offer about 150 jobs, as opposed to the 1,000 summer youth jobs they offered last year, due to budget cuts, according to Jared Boyd, chief of staff and counsel at the Treasurer’s Office.
“These kinds of issues get pieced together a little bit at a time. This is one piece,” said Krewson.
The jobs will pay $10/hour, but the mayor said that wages for STL Youth Jobs workers could shift back to $7.70/hour on August 29 if the state measure that recently reversed the St. Louis city minimum wage increase to $10/hour is signed by the governor.
Krewson said she does not believe the higher minimum wage will mean less jobs available for St. Louisans.
“I think that when you have well-paid both youth and adult jobs, that money goes right back into the economy,” she said.
She said that the city has not run into any major problems with minimum wage enforcement so far, and added that there is a phone number available on the mayor’s website with a phone number people can call if they believe someone is failing to enforce the new minimum wage.
“$7.70 an hour is not enough,” she said.
Krewson also discussed the recent surge in gun violence over the past weekend (four were killed and five injured in different shootings on Sunday, May 21), and how that relates to the job program.
“I think all St. Louisans are sad and outraged by the tragedy, by the gun violence that exists in our community,” Krewson said. “The more young people that have the opportunity to develop their skills in other areas, the fewer young people will make decisions that are not good for them.”
She also responded to questions about the ongoing nationwide search for a new city police chief, which she said will go forward, despite the fact that some have suggested that city laws require the police chief to come from within the department. Along similar lines, she discussed the discrepancies between city and county police officer pay. She said that the gap between city and county officer pay has only increased after Proposition P, which created a sales tax to fund county officers, was passed in the county.
Krewson expressed her support for Treasurer Tishaura O. Jones’ attempt to crowd-fund to pay for the removal of the Confederate Monument in Forest Park.
“I said, I think last week, that within 30 days I’d have a definitive plan for how to go forward with this, and I think I have about 25 days of that left,” she said.
She applauded Jones’ efforts to provide funding for the removal of the statue, and said, “We’re working on that every day. I’m making phone calls.”
Contact the City's Minimum Wage Compliance Section at email@example.com or (314) 589-6735.
Sophie Hurwitz is a St. Louis American editorial intern from John Burroughs School.