Philly to continue summer jobs program

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Philadelphia’s youth summer jobs program will go forward this year, even amid budget cuts and coronavirus-related restrictions, officials said Tuesday.

About 7,000 people participated in the program, known as WorkReady, in 2019, and Mayor Jim Kenney said the city aims to serve just as many this year. Of course, for this go-around, the experience will be completely virtual.

“This is part of the education process for these young people,” Kenney said. “Even though they can’t go to a physical work setting, they’ll be getting a work experience that will bode well for them when this is over.”

Other cities have canceled similar programs. New York City cut its initiative, sparking outrage and a petition that has been signed by nearly 30,000 people.

WorkReady provides a six-week paid job for residents between the ages of 12 and 24. So far, 6,894 people have signed up, Kenney said.

This year’s program will focus on exposing young people to various career opportunities and teach participants about financial literacy, officials said. It will also educate them about how to use information online and create a brand.

In addition, there will be virtual career days and shadowing experiences. Participants will still be able to earn money.

“We want to make sure that our young people are included in these recovery efforts,” said Deputy Mayor Cynthia Figueroa, who heads up the city’s Office of Children and Families, in a statement.

Those who manage the program will monitor local guidelines to determine if it’s possible to shift to some in-person activities later this summer.

For more information on the program, visit www.workready.org.

Another city program that benefits students is also heading online.

Most, if not all, schools have transitioned to remote learning, and more than 100 after-school programs are making the leap this week.

Students signed up for the city’s Out-of-School Time programs will be able to participate in lessons, educational games and receive academic support. For more information on the different options available, visit www.phila.gov/ost/program-locator.

In other news, Philadelphia reported 370 additional cases of the coronavirus Tuesday and 17 new COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the city’s toll to 743.

“You can see that trend in daily cases, it’s still in the downward direction,” Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said. “We do see fluctuations day-to-day but the overall trend is where we want it to go.”

Cases seem to have declined in the city’s jail system, as well. Less than 30 inmates are actively battling the infection, the lowest number reported recently. A total of 194 inmates have contracted the virus since the beginning of the epidemic.

Just over 1,800 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in southeastern Pennsylvania, and 26 percent of the region’s intensive care unit beds are empty, Farley said.

Meanwhile, nearly 1 million voters in Pennsylvania have requested mail-in ballots for the June 2 primary, which was originally scheduled for April 28, according to Gov. Tom Wolf’s office.

The election will be the first time Pennsylvanians are allowed to vote by mail for any reason, a result of reforms signed into law well before the pandemic.

Kenney on Tuesday said mail-in ballots are the safest and most effective way for residents to vote.

“We’re still working with the City Commissioners dealing with the actual, physical polling places, which will have to really be reimagined compared to what we’re used to,” the mayor added.

Residents have until May 26 to request a mail-in ballot. Go to www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/OnlineAbsenteeApplication for more information.

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