The Step-Up Omaha summer jobs program is going year-round with hopes of connecting 700 young people to jobs and other programs.

Officials from the Empowerment Network and City of Omaha announced the expansion on Tuesday.

“This is a huge day,” said Empowerment Network President Willie Barney.

The community-based initiative that launched more than a decade ago targets people ages 14 to 21.

Younger people get job training and are paid a stipend. Last year, it helped about 500 young people find employment, job training and other resources. Older people who are part of the initiative are paid at least $9 an hour and get training and jobs.

The city increased its funding of the program to $1 million in 2018, up from $500,000. The United Way of the Midlands has also committed $210,000. In all, the program is hoping to raise $2.2 million this year.

Mayor Jean Stothert credited Step-Up with helping to prevent violence.

Program Director Jami Kemp said Step-Up has already received 800 applications from young people this year.

Participants earn at least minimum wage, though many employers pay more, she said.

Stothert and City Council President Ben Gray urged employers to give money to the program or hire young people who are part of it.

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