Disadvantaged youth in America's inner cities are going to work this week in numbers far greater than in recent summers. Sadly, it took the Los Angeles riots to awaken Congress and President Bush to this desperate need. A portion of the $1.1 billion appropriated under emergency legislation last month will make an additional 414,000 jobs available for youth between the ages of 14 and 21 nationwide.
That would seem like nothing short of good news. But in the wellspring of urban blight, the problems of youth unemployment run far deeper.
In Baltimore, for example, where 3,000 summer jobs were already planned, the new appropriation will give jobs to an additional 2,500 youths. Still, the needs will not be met.
Last year, the city turned away approximately 900 youths ages 14 and 15 who failed to meet the program's income guidelines -- typically, not more than $16,000 annually for a family of four.
This year, the situation is not expected to be much different. Not only will these children of the working poor fail to get a summer job through the city, but their age and lack of work experience sorely hurts their chances of getting work through the private sector.
The city attempts to help through the Baltimore City Foundation, which combines corporate and individual grants to provide additional jobs for youths who show special promise and fail to meet the eligibility requirements of the federal program. Approximately 200 young people of various ages will get jobs this way.
In addition, the state will fund jobs for another 300 city youths whose family income also exceeds the guidelines. All of these efforts will provide jobs for some in the 14-to-15 age range, but most needy kids will go wanting.
These young people are no less at risk than their older counterparts, whose potential idleness this summer prompted President Bush to sign the emergency bill into law. No act of Congress can help them now. Individual companies, however, can do something by relaxing rules against hiring youths under age 16 where possible. That would make this an even better summer for a great many.