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Prince George's County doubles size of youth summer jobs program

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Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly,Prince Georges County

Prince George's officials just want their county's teens to get a job.

The county's fiscal 2014 budget, approved by the County Council, more than doubles funding for the summer youth employment program, to $900,000. A bill under consideration in the council would expand the program even more.

"It's hot and folks don't have anything to do," said Councilman Derrick Leon Davis, D-Mitchellville, a co-sponsor of the bill. "You keep your brain working and you keep your crime down."

Davis said the youth program serves several hundred Prince George's residents but that twice as many could apply for jobs next year.

Councilman Mel Franklin, D-Upper Marlboro, another co-sponsor, added that the new proposal would see the county match paychecks dollar for dollar with local businesses that agree to hire teenagers as part of the program. Currently, enrolled youth spend six weeks working in county government.

"Our goal is to partner with the private sector," said Franklin. "You're able to hire more youth and spend less money."

Council members are working out how best to get businesses to sign onto the program, said Davis. Officials also must decide whether to keep the maximum age at 19 or extend eligibility up to 21-year-olds.

The initiative is partially modeled after D.C.'s multimillion-dollar summer job program, which became notorious for overspending and lack of oversight. An audit found that the District had paid thousands of youth who were ineligible or did not show up for work in the summer of 2008.

Last year, 305 students signed up for the D.C. program were paid to attend summer school instead of work. The Summer Bridge program, which targets students deemed less likely to graduate in four years, was partially geared toward teaching workplace situations, according to a DC Public Schools spokeswoman.

Davis said the Prince George's program's smaller scope and local business partnerships would help the county avoid D.C.'s mistakes.

"We're not trying to be D.C. We are definitely trying to structure an efficient and effective program," he said. "We don't want to replicate those kinds of things. We want to make sure that we learn from things like that."

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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