BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Baltimore’s summer employment program for city youth will continue this year, officials said.

The YouthWorks program, which gives thousands of city teens and young adults job experience each summer, will now include a virtual work and educational experience, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said at a news conference Wednesday morning.

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Jason Perkins-Cohen, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, said the new virtual program will focus on helping young people explore possible careers and learn new skills.

With COVID-19 impacting countless families in the city, the mayor said offering the program this summer is even more critical.

“Our communities have come to see the YouthWorks experience as a rite of passage for our young people who have earned it,” he said. “We are responding despite the challenges the coronavirus has presented because we understand the importance of helping young Baltimore learn, grow and advance this summer during this crisis.”

More than 11,000 city youth began the registration process, which has since closed. The city plans to initially offer jobs for 4,000 of them, a number that could increase if more funding becomes available.

Young said participants will be offered 100 hours of employment — four hours per day for five weeks — beginning July 13 at a minimum wage of $11 per hour.

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“While 4,000 young people is about half the number of YouthWorks participants (for) each of the past five years, it’s a powerful statement about our commitment to our future workforce,” he said.

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Perkins-Cohen said more than 100 business partners have committed to taking part in the program this year.

Despite that, the impact of dine-in options for restaurants being closed due to the virus has taken a toll.

“The shutdown of businesses, restaurants, hotels, service institutions, all kinds of businesses mean one is that they’re no longer able to support YouthWorks by hiring a young person and that’s just something we all have to deal with,” he said. “It also has impacted our revenue because some are not able to make the contribution they were in previous years.”

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