The Answers Issue: Why do youth in the Summer Youth Employment Program only make the federal minimum wage instead of the D.C. minimum wage?

Why do youth in the Summer Youth Employment Program only make the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for their summer job assignments instead of the D.C. minimum wage?

The legislation that founded the Summer Youth Employment Program in 1982, when Marion Barry was mayor, specifically states that young people participating in the program should be “compensated at a rate equal to the federal minimum wage.” D.C. didn’t make its minimum wage the federal wage plus $1 until 10 years later. Although the program is now entirely funded with local money, it was originally funded through a mix of federal and local dollars. Christina Tucker, director of strategic communications at the Department of Employment Services, says the agency often receives inquiries from parents about the discrepancy, but this part of the legislation has never been updated. And it doesn’t look like there are any immediate plans to raise the pay for these workers: The D.C. Council recently approved major funding cuts to the program, even though it also recently raised the city’s minimum wage.

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