JULY 6, 2020
DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson’s proposed FY 2021 budget released earlier today is a step in the right direction but still fails to fully meet the urgency of the current moment.
At a time when tens of thousands of Washingtonians are rising up against racist police violence, Chairman Mendelson is allowing an increase to the Metropolitan Police Department budget. With thousands of DC school children needing mental health support now more than ever; more than 6,500 children and families at risk of losing their child care; over 1,600 DC residents facing chronic homelessness, and many more crises facing District residents, Chairman Mendelson put forward a budget that leaves too many behind. And despite 83 percent of local voters calling on DC Council to raise revenue by taxing those with the greatest ability to pay rather than underfunding services, Chairman Mendelson has instead proposed a regressive gas tax that will disproportionately burden lower-income folks who struggle to make ends meet while failing to raise tax rates for DC’s wealthiest individuals and corporations.
Chairman Mendelson’s budget also:
- Restores funding to homeless outreach services and boosts funding to rental assistance and other affordable housing tools;
- Restores $5 million in child care, previously cut by the Bowser administration;
- Partially meets call of excluded workers by allocating $5 million of the $30 million needed to cover all those ineligible for unemployment and federal stimulus. The $5 million also fails cover sex workers and those in the informal cash economy;
- Makes the misguided decision to provide inadequate funding for school-based mental health services and child care despite urgent needs;
- and, advances racial justice by maintaining the funding needed to protect tipped workers’ rights and funding the REACH Act.
“Chairman Mendelson’s budget tinkers around the edges, boosting funding in some vital programs and services while falling short of what these unprecedented times require,” said Tazra Mitchell, Policy Director at DCFPI. “This budget ignores the calls for progressive tax increases on the wealthy and the elimination of ineffective tax breaks from a supermajority of DC voters. We urge Councilmembers to correct these shortcomings by proposing bold amendments that raise the revenue that’s required to truly advance racial justice, meet the spike in human needs, and lay the groundwork for a stronger recovery.”
“We are glad that the DC Council is including funds for residents who have been left behind by the federal government during the COVID economic crisis.” said Elizabeth Falcon of DC Jobs With Justice. “Unfortunately, this budget still leaves behind tens of thousands of families who have nowhere else to turn for public assistance despite having lost up to four months of work, piling debts, and continued uncertainty. These families still need DC Council to commit funds to provide minimal assistance.”
Without further action from the Council, at least 1,350 individuals and 250 families will likely continue to experience chronic homelessness," said Jesse Rabinowitz of Miriam’s Kitchen. “While we appreciate the 50 units of PSH and restoration of funding to homeless street outreach and homeless prevention, this budget does not go far enough to meet our shared goal of ending chronic homelessness. The current public health crisis reminds us that housing is needed for our collective health and the Council must do more to ensure all of our neighbors have the housing they need to thrive. Now is the time for budgets to match the rhetoric of racial justice and that must come with bold investments in housing”
“As members of the DC Council now understand the layered complexities of reopening businesses, I am shocked they aren’t putting an additional $10 million into child care to ensure this essential service is strengthened and fully empowers parents to get back to work and maintain employment throughout the recovery. Hard working owners, operators, and early childhood educators, most of whom are Black and Latinx women, who educate our children and provide an invaluable service to families, deserve more investment” said Kimberly Perry, Executive Director of DC Action for Children. “Every family that has struggled to manage both child care and work these past few months understands this. Our children deserve a healthy learning environment that supports their growth and development. Without committing additional resources, we are putting child care programs at risk and worsening the crisis we were already facing. We need the Council to invest more in a caring economy, one that centers the needs of children and their families, and the professionals who help educate and care for them.”