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Charities waiting to learn fate of STEP program

Charities and businesses that rely on provincial funding to hire summer students are waiting to find out what is happening with the program this year.

Jennifer Vanderschaeghe, executive director for Central Alberta AIDS Network Society, said the deadline to apply for funding to the Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP) is usually the end of February.

This year, the province has yet to fund the program.

“This is unusual. We’ve never had to wait to apply for the funding,” Vanderschaeghe said on Wednesday.

“I would suspect every charity would be wondering. It’s pretty standard for charities to budget around getting summer students.”

The recorded telephone message for the STEP program office says there is no decision on the Summer Temporary Employment Program at this time and if more information becomes available, it will be posted online.

Kathy Telfer, Human Services spokesperson, said no decision has been made because the provincial budget doesn’t come out until March 7.

“This is a budget item so we have to wait until the budget is tabled,” Telfer said.

In 2012, STEP had a budget of $7.1 million and created more than 3,000 jobs with about 2,500 organizations across Alberta. In 2011, STEP also had a $7.1-million budget.

Last year the provincial budget came out on Feb. 9.

Vanderschaeghe said she is concerned that STEP won’t continue with the province projecting a budget deficit of $3.5 billion to $4 billion.

Without STEP, which covers half to a third of the cost of employing a student, it will be harder for CAANS to do its work. And without those jobs, students may not have the money to return to school in the fall, she said.

Last year, the federal government announced an additional $50 million for its Youth Employment Strategy (YES) over the next two years.

YES receives annual funding of $300 million and works to help youth, particularly those facing employment barriers, obtain career information, develop work skills and find jobs.



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