Testimony of Kimberly Perry
Executive Director, DC Action
Before the DC Council Committee of the Whole
April 14, 2023
Good morning, Chairman Mendelson and members of the Committee of the Whole. I’m Kim Perry, Executive Director of DC Action. During public hearings over the past several weeks, you heard powerful testimony from members of our coalitions focused on youth homelessness, early childhood, health, and out-of-school time, so today I will focus on the fuller picture and implications of this budget for your consideration.
Mayor Bowser’s proposed FY24 budget and FY23 supplemental is a mixed bag for children, youth, and families. We are pleased to see many base investments in education and health held harmless and some modest expansion of key supports like child care and afterschool programs. But, they pale in comparison to its dramatic cuts and funding omissions that reverse our progress in improving child and youth outcomes. This budget is touted as a comeback plan, but the question we should be asking is “for whom?” While this is a tough budget cycle with conservative revenue projections, the District’s fiscal health is still strong. As you consider marking up this budget, we ask you to tap into your anti-racist values and principles of racial equity and ensure that the priority for the District’s resources are our residents: our children, youth, and working families living in Black and brown communities.
For example, access to safe and affordable housing is foundational to family stability and inextricably linked to all measures of family growth and success. It will be difficult, if not impossible, for us to make progress on other issues if we don’t keep families in their homes and provide housing for those experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. We ask you to restore the cuts made to homelessness prevention programs, add funding to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, and deepen investments in more affordable housing.
Along the same lines, we are shocked to see such egregious cuts to fundamental programs and services, key to family success, and so we ask you to restore these cuts and get the District back on track with key investments in equitable teacher compensation, school-based and community mental health, maternal health and critical home visiting services, domestic violence prevention services, youth workforce development, funds for excluded workers, and baby bonds.
We urge you to reject initiatives that cause harm to Black and brown communities and vulnerable DC residents such as proposals to weaken tenants’ rights and efforts to squash First Source requirements to hire DC residents.
You must take equity seriously and fully fund the Nonprofit Fair Compensation Act. It is the law and all District agencies must come into compliance. Shortchanging nonprofits that work with government agencies to provide critical programs and services only makes it harder for them to do their job, which costs us more down the line.
Our full recommendations are included in my written testimony. Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I’ll remain available for questions.
DC Action uses research, data, and a racial equity lens to break down barriers that stand in the way of all kids reaching their full potential. Our collaborative advocacy campaigns bring the power of young people and all residents to raise their voices to create change. DC Action is the home of DC Kids Count, Under 3 DC, the DC Out-of-School Time Coalition, the Home Visiting Council, and the Youth Economic Justice and Housing Coalition. DC Action is a proud member of the Fair Budget Coalition.
DC Action urges the DC Council to protect and add or restore the following pieces of funding to the Mayor’s proposed budget.
Build Strong Families From the Start
- The budget proposes to expand eligibility for child care assistance to households with income up to 300 percent of poverty ($90,000 for a family of four). This expansion uses current child care subsidy funding and will benefit approximately 2,100 families with children ages 0 – 5. We applaud this expansion and we ALL need to request the DC Council keep this priority in the budget.
- Protect $360,000 for home visiting programs based at Child and Families Services Agency (CFSA)
Add or Restore
- Access to safe and affordable housing is foundational to family stability and inextricably linked to all other measures of family growth and success. We ask the DC Council to significantly increase support for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) to keep families in their homes. Allocate $117 million for ERAP to sufficiently fund rental assistance.
- Add $700,000 for DC Health’s and $300,000 for CFSA’s local home visiting programs to allow home visiting programs to adjust for inflation, raise home visitor salaries, and continue to meet the increased needs of expectant families and families with young children.
- Restore $7,000,000 in cuts made to the TANF child care funding stream. This cut eliminates child care funding that could support many families that need it the most, including those that depend on TANF cash assistance to make ends meet. Agency officials say the program was underutilized, but instead of using it to balance the budget, we would rather Mayor Bowser use the savings to reinvest in other parts of the early education system.
- Restore $5.4 million to the Pay Equity Fund that the Mayor "right-sized." The Mayor claims that these cuts are the result of projections showing there is more funding available in the Pay Equity Fund than what is needed to fully fund the compensation program. Specifically, the Mayor’s proposal undermines our priority and ability to expand the fund to early learning program directors and other staff who are long overdue for salary adjustments.
- Restore $8,000,000 in federal funding for the Back 2 Work child care grants, which provide increased reimbursement rates to serve our most vulnerable children. This cut would hurt our providers that operate in Wards 7 and 8 and providers that have a majority of subsidized slots.
- Restore the sports wagering provision which is supposed to generate funding for early childhood education. For the last three years, Mayor Bowser has used it to balance the budget, and we must make it available for the purpose it was intended–supporting our youngest residents.
Support Students Outside of School Hours
- Preserve the $5 million increase to the OST Office allocated for My Afterschool DC (at least $3 million of which will go toward OST grants to provide programming to about 1,250 more youth).
- Preserve the $6.8 million investment in the Special Education Enhancement Fund (SEEF) earmarked for out-of-school-time slots for children with disabilities and a referral system.
- Preserve $2.95 million investment in the Department of Parks and Recreation for summer recreation activities and accelerated learning opportunities for students recovering from the impacts of the pandemic.
Add or Restore
- Add an additional $5 million in OST grant funding to make progress toward universal access by creating opportunities for more of the tens of thousands of youth who still face barriers to participation, including cost, location, awareness, and accessibility for students with special needs.
Place Youth Experiencing Housing Insecurity On Productive Pathways to Adulthood
Add or Restore
- Restore $667,000 for targeted workforce development for LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness at DHS.
- Restore funding to support outreach for those experiencing homelessness and to support the mobile crisis unit at the Department of Behavioral Health.
- Add $3.5 million for youth homelessness services to account for inflation and to give direct service providers the ability to provide recruitment and retention bonuses. Retention and recruitment bonuses were provided for the adult homelessness sector and it’s now time to make the same adjustment for the youth sector.
- Add $1.7 million to create a traveling mental health unit to provide mental health services to youth in safe and supportive locations where they physically congregate.
- Add $1.1 million for workforce development programming for youth experiencing homelessness that results in long-term employment with a livable wage. Ideally the Department of Employment Services would establish a MOU with the Department of Human Services to provide this service.
Strengthen Access to Health Services
- Continue the extension of postpartum Medicaid coverage so that babies and their parents have access to the care they need in their first year.
Add or Restore
- Add $53 million annually in local funds to fully fund the Give SNAP a Raise Amendment Act of 2022, which would alleviate the immediate burden of food insecurity, help residents recover from the continuing effects of the pandemic, and invest in long-term infrastructure to end intergenerational food insecurity.
- Add $8 million for passage of the Universal Free School Meals Amendment Act of 2023 to ensure that students are receiving the food they need to grow and thrive.
Ensure Equity for the District’s Nonprofit Partners
- Fully fund the Nonprofit Fair Compensation Act, including allocating adequate funds for government agencies such as the Child and Family Services Agency, DC Health, Department of Behavioral Health, Department of Employment Services, Department of Housing and Community Development, Department of Human Services, Learn24, and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to make sure that all indirect costs, as required by District of Columbia law, are equitable and integrated into every contract and grant that DC government agency awards a nonprofit organization.