Mayor Marion Barry's highly publicized effort to provide jobs for 30,000 of the city's chronically unemployed youth moved closer to reality yesterday.
On a unanimous voice vote that lifted the program over its first major congressional hurdle, the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended spending $7.3 million to provide 8,564 summer jobs - nearly one-third of all those pledged by the major. Money is availabe for most of the other jobs.
Barry had declared the jobs package the top priority item in his supplemental budget. He said that two teen-agers had applied last year for each summer job available through the city and cited statistics indicating that four of every 10 city teen-agers looking for a job could not find one.
Two weeks ago, Barry said that frustration among youth who are unable to find jobs was growing as summer approached. If the city failed to deliver on its promise, Barry said in a letter to Sen. J. Leahy (D-Vt.) last week, "the result will be thousands of young people on the streets who are unable to fulfill expectations that have been raised during the long decision period for this program."
The House has taken no action yet on the city's spending request. The Senate committee's recommendations still must be approved by the full Senate, which could act within a week. A final version of the spending package then must be agreed upon in a House-Senate conference.
The Senate committee also authorized a federal payment to the city of $250 million for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. That is $50 million less than Barry had requested and $26 million less than the federal payment during the previous fiscal year.
The federal payment is a bread-and-butter issue for District taxpayers. In general, the lower the payment, the more in taxes that city residents must pay to finance local government operations.
The budget news was not all good for the five-month-old Barry administration.
In its haste to rush through the jobs package, the committee failed to consider funding for year-round jobs and a wide range of projects important to the administration, including housing, gay health and Hispanic community development. The mayor previously had said these programs would help put his imprint on the city government.
Barry said through a spokesman that he was pleased that the jobs portion of the budget was approved, but "disappointed that other iniatives were left out . . . We're remaining optimistic."
Other administration officials had harsher reactions to the committee's inactions on Barry's other proposals.
"Wow! That is awful. We've got to do something . . ." said Aida Berio, director designate of the city's Office of Latino Affairs. The committee failed to approve $64,000 requested for Latino programs.
I'm wondering about the sensitivity of the people down there on the Hill. Coming in as a new administrator, you hate to see these kinds of things slapped at you," said Dorothy J. Kenniston, chief administrator of the city's Rental Accommodations Office, which was denied $132,000.
The major architect of the District spending package as approved yesterday was Leahy, chairman of the Committee's subcommittee on District of Columbia spending.
"We tried to put in everything that we thought could be justified in a supplemental budget, keeping in mind that the first priority . . . was to get the jobs program in on time," Leahy said.
Leahy said he was willing to consider reinstating other programs during the House Senate conference session.
How that conference committee will act is unclear because Rep. Charles Wilson (D-Tex.), Leahy's counterpart in the House, has not said how he feels about Barry's requests.
The package approved yesterday totalled $53.1 million for operations. The city had requested $76.5 million. An additional $48.7 million had been asked for capital improvements projects, but that too was left unapproved.
The jobs package was the most highly publicized portion of the spending request. The remaining 22,000 jobs are to be funded through money the city already has or through direct payments by the employers. As of last week, 16,067 positions had been filled. Well over 30,000 teenagers have already applied.
Those employed with the money tentatively approved yesterday would hold a wide variety of positions in city government and in the offices of private, non-profit agencies.
Some would be nursing, dietary and health aides at hospitals. Some would work as lifeguards, groundskeepers and pool aides on city playgrounds. Others would work for the city's public school system, or the National Park Service or various city departments.
Those 14 and 15 years old will be paid $2.65 an hour. Others will earn $2.90 an hour. The jobs will vary from 25 to 40 hours a week.
Leahy who ahd raised questions last week about the city's ability to fill 30,000 jobs, had initially considered approving only $5 million. He later agreed to recommend the full $7.3 million, he said, in order to give the new administration the best chance of making good on its promise.
Only two senators - Lawton M. Chiles (D-Fla.) and James A. McClure (R-Idaho) - raised serious objections to the jobs package during yesterday's committee meeting.
After Leahy said that the city was willing to put some of its own money into the program and that the youth would be properly supervised, McClure said: "The assurances we have really don't mean much to me. I'm very much in favor of the program, but how can you justify continuing it and expanding it until we get some adequate oversight?"
Some job funds requested by Barry were not approved yesterday. They would have provided year-round jobs for adults, out-of-school teen-agers and youth attending school. More than 1,500 persons would have been hired in those three programs, which would have cost nearly $4 million.
The committee also failed to approve $393,000 for the City Council, most of it designed to pay salaries for city council staff aides, and $77,000 for a citizen participation unit in the city's planning department.
The committee also declined to approve $25,000 to subsidize operations of the privately run Whitman-Walker veneral disease clinic for homosexual men.
"Not one cent will be saved by this action," said gay activist Frank Kameny, "because those people not treated by the Whitman Walker clinic will be treated not nearly as well but no more cheaply at the D.C. venereal disease clinics."
The committee approved spending $4.5 million to help the city government improve its accounting system and $9.7 million for police and firemen's pensions. It recommended spending $4 million to improve the city's handling of welfare payments.
The committee also voted to pay the city $2.6 million to cover costs incurred during February's farm protest demonstrations by the American Agriculture Movement.
Among the other monies disallowed were: $198,000 requested to help the city enforce its tax on real estate speculation, $750,000 earmarked to help correct housing code violations in 300 homes where owners refused to do so, and $800,000 asked to help remove hazardous lead and asbestos from city-owned buildings.
The city was granted $3.7 million to pay for the cost of snow and ice control during February's unusually heavy snow-storm.
The committee approved spending $43,000 to provide additional staff to the Woodrow Wilson High School Indoor Swimming Pool. It rejected, however, a request to provide $11,600 to help operate the pool at Shaw Junior High School and a $57,200 proposal to provide additional staff at the Langdon Park Recreation Center in Northeast Washington.
The $48.7 million requested in capital funds would have partly offset the loss of already expended funds for highway construction and helped pay the city's 1979 share of Metrorail construction costs.