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by: Global News Staff

EDMONTON - As we head into the summer months, cities, towns, and dozens of non-profit organizations will be feeling the impact of government cuts to a small but significant program: the Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP), which was eliminated in March.

The Edmonton Social Planning Council recently helped conduct a survey about the loss of STEP. Of the 27 municipal governments, and 207 non-profits across Alberta that responded, 56 per cent of respondents indicated they will not be able to maintain programs and services. Furthermore, 49 per cent said they will hire fewer students, and 36 per cent will not hire any students at all this year.

"Over 89,000 people within Alberta - families and children - impacted, per year; and you know over 500 students hired, again, per year. And again, you know, this is just a very small sample. I think it's much bigger than what we've been able to sort of portray in the sample that we've done," said the Council's Susan Morrissey.

The Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues was one group which relied on STEP, and it wasn't just all about Green Shack drop-in programs.

"Many leagues, including our organization," said the league's Allan Bolstad, "was planning to hire a student this summer if we got a STEP grant to do some research work on our anniversary project; and leagues are writing history books…so I think quite a number of projects are going by the wayside because of it."

"(STEP) has really built up over the years to be a way for a lot of no- profit groups, in partnership with the provincial government to be able to augment their programming and be able to provide things in summer that just probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise," explained Councillor Ben Henderson, who is chair of the Inter-city Forum on Social Policy, the other group behind the survey.

"These were not 100 per cent funded programs by the province. The province put in x amount of dollars and everyone else was expected to come in and significantly top up the wages, and often, significantly top up the number of weeks that students were employed."

Henderson said it's not just the provincial piece of the pie that's being lost.

"We end up losing that ability to leverage that other kind of effort to get significantly more than the sum of its parts."

The results of the survey have been forwarded to the Human Services Ministry, with the hope that the province will listen.

"Our hope is that we will be able to work with government to look at what we might be able to do in terms of developing some other program that might better suit the needs," said Morrissey.

According to the Federation of Community Leagues, $150,000 dollars in one-time funding has been secured from the province to cover the Green Shack program in 15 high-needs areas of Edmonton.

With files from Vinesh Pratap, Global News