YouthBuild programs must wait out another funding cycle to see if a long-hoped-for budget increase will come through in the new fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.
The Department of Labor (DOL) recently awarded $47 million to 96 YouthBuild programs for fiscal 2007, which ended Sept. 30. That includes funding for one-third (75) of the 226 existing programs, a slightly better rate than in fiscal 2006.
Expected changes resulting from the 2006 transfer of the YouthBuild grant program from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Department of Labor (DOL) have turned out to be more along the lines of a "tweak" than an "overhaul."
In fact, the total number of grant winners is higher than last year, said Sharistan Melkonian, legislative director for the Somerville, Mass.-based YouthBuild USA, a nonprofit that supports and coordinates YouthBuild programs.
That was true even though fiscal 2007’s available funding was $49.5 million, down from $50 million in fiscal 2006. YouthBuild’s federal funding has been cut by 24 percent since 2004, when its appropriation was $65 million. YouthBuild USA for years has advocated for an increase, to no avail.
The recent grant announcement was a letdown for existing programs whose funding will run out, but it wasn’t unexpected. The total number of grantees declined last year to 75, and this year’s rebound still doesn’t bring the total back to the previous annual range of 110 to 120 annual grantees, Melkonian said.
Melkonian expressed confidence that DOL was trying to "spread around" the limited amount of funds available to YouthBuild grantees. The maximum grant declined from $700,000 in past years to $550,000, Melkonian said, which "would account for slightly more grantees."
"They just didn’t have enough money to do what we wanted, which would have been to fund more of the existing programs and still fund new programs," she said.
She noted that DOL changed the funding cycle from one to two years – a show of commitment that helps the grantees.
YouthBuild programs help low-income youth ages 16 to 24 earn their GEDs or high school diplomas while gaining on-the-job skills by building affordable housing for low-income people. The programs served about 8,000 youth last year.
The full list of grantees is available at www.doleta.gov/whatsnew/new_releases/YouthBuild%20Grants.pdf.
Contact: YouthBuild USA (617) 623-9900, www.youthbuild.org.