Alicia Sasser Modestino
The COVID19 pandemic initially resulted in budget cuts to social programs at a time when they were needed the most. For example, some cities cut their summer youth employment programs during summer 2020 when youth unemployment had skyrocketed to over 30 percent. Yet our ongoing evaluation provided rigorous research evidence that canceling Boston’s program would deprive youth of important developmental activities that improve long-term criminal justice, academic, and employment outcomes as well as income that youth and their families depend on during the summer months. A key question was how the City could quickly design an alternative to the traditional in-person summer job that would yield the same impacts as in past years and at a scale that would employ the same number of youth and at the same rate of pay. Building on our exiting research-practice partnership with the City of Boston, we developed a virtual internship model to help employers take their youth summer jobs online with a set of ready-made projects and an online platform to track team communications, deliverables, and feedback from supervisors. Our virtual internship model, along with our prior research evidence, was used by then Mayor, now Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh, to justify an additional $4 million in CARES Act funding for the program which prevented the loss of 10,000 youth jobs that summer. Moreover, President Biden cited our research this past summer and highlighted Boston’s program as an example of how cities could combat youth violence by using American Rescue Plan funding to expand their summer jobs programs.