This week the DC Council approved the District’s FY23 budget, illustrating the District’s priorities for the coming year. DC Action and our coalition partners appreciate the support for many programs that meet essential needs for our children, youth, and families. At the same time, we are far from eliminating the racial inequities that touch every part of our lives, including education, housing, and the economy. These disparities are the direct result of under investments in Black and brown communities, and we will require real resources to reverse these trends. We look forward to continuing to work with our allies and partners to build the will and support for a truly antiracist DC that values all children, youth, and their families.
Here’s our recap of the FY23 budget as it relates to each of our program areas.
Early Childhood Education
DC Action would like to thank the DC Council and its Committees on Health, Human Services and Education (the Whole) for increasing public investments to programs in the Birth-to-Three for all DC law that strengthen the District’s early childhood system. We are grateful for the Council’s commitment to protecting the Child Care Subsidy Program's budget at $139M, which ensures low-income families can access quality child care. In addition, we thank Chairman Mendelson and the Council for protecting $72M in local investments to ensure the newly developed Pay Equity Fund can be used to increase compensation for early childhood teachers working in childcare settings throughout the District. The legislative language Chairman Mendelson codified in the FY23 budget support act establishes the necessary requirements and promotes much needed infrastructure for the District to continue working towards fairly compensating early educators, the majority of whom are Black and brown women who have been woefully undercompensated for far too long.
In addition to this, we thank Councilmembers Gray and Nadeau for finding over $1 million in the DC budget to help families re-engage essential family health programs such as HealthySteps, Healthy Futures, and several home visiting programs administered throughout the District. The programs are each unique in their ability to serve the diverse needs of the early learning community, including services that address the needs of families in pediatric primary care settings, child development programs and the families home. We are grateful for the Council’s commitment to ensuring these programs continue to expand and ensure that more Black and brown families can access the services all families need to thrive and promote more positive health outcomes for DC's youngest residents.
Meeting this moment is significant as the District recovers from more than two years of a pandemic that has stressed and stretched families and the health programs that support them. Many children ages zero to five were removed from school settings for extended periods during the pandemic and experienced significant changes in crucial family health service delivery.
We look forward to continuing our advocacy to see all of our programs fully funded and implemented according to the Birth-to-Three for All DC law. We thank our champions for what we’ve accomplished in the FY23 budget and look forward to continuing conversations about home visiting and other family health programs for the FY24 budget to build on this important work.
The DC Home Visiting Council and Under 3 DC Coalition would like to extend a special thank you to Councilmember Nadeau and the Committee on Human Services for recognizing the value of home visiting and securing a $70,500 recurring increase to the home visiting programs under the Child and Family Services Agency. While we did not receive the $369,000 enhancement to the DC Health home visiting programs, we are pleased to see the DC Council restore the $150,000 one-time funding for First Time Mother’s Home Visiting Program through DC Health.
Next budget season, the DC Home Visiting Council and Under 3 DC Coalition will continue to advocate for greater enhancements to home visiting grant amounts across all funding agencies and will specifically prioritize increasing home visitor compensation to address the rising workforce challenges.
While we are pleased with several early childhood wins this budget season, we are disappointed by the exclusion of the modest investments for the DC Health home visiting programs. Without the necessary public investments, the District will continue to fall short in providing expectant families and families with young children the support they need. We will continue to advocate for adequate program funding and home visitor compensation to ensure all families in the District have full access to the responsive early childhood system they need to flourish in their communities.
DC Action would like to thank the DC Council for providing funding so that residents who are enrolled in the DC Healthcare Alliance only have to recertify once a year, matching the District's other public health insurance programs. We also appreciate DC Health implementing eWIC so families with young children can more easily access nutrition support through WIC, and finally, we are appreciative of the DC Council’s Human Services Committee for holding a hearing on legislation to “Give SNAP a Raise.”
In the coming months, we will look to see if the Department of Human Services will continue to reduce language access barriers for residents trying to recertify in the Alliance. We also look forward to the DC Council passing Give SNAP a Raise and funding it in the FY24 budget.
The District has made many key investments in its residents' health, but we still have room for improvement. We will continue to push to reduce barriers to families getting the support they need, as well as to enhance the level of nutrition support so no children have to go to bed hungry.
The DC OST Coalition would like to thank the DC Council for voting to renew the $5 million local enhancement for the OST Office, along with promising new investments in OST through the Department of Parks and Recreation. We especially appreciate Chairman Mendelson's support in response to members' testimony about budget oversight and accountability of the office's grantmaking, and for providing recommendations for the OST Office to address these issues.
Next budget season, our members will advocate for the $5 million enhancement to the OST Office to be made a recurring, local investment that will provide stability and continuity of programming to families and youth. We also plan to use findings from the upcoming citywide OST needs assessment to determine the cost to create enough affordable, high-quality OST program slots for all youth. We will then call on the mayor and the DC Council to commit and make a plan to fully fund OST.
The District has a long way to go in achieving a thriving and equitable OST sector, despite the abundance of passionate youth advocates and dedicated community-based organizations. In a world-class city like the District, there is no reason that some families should have to spend hours online waiting to snag limited spots in afterschool or summer programs, while their wealthier peers can afford to dole out hundreds or thousands of dollars each year. The OST Coalition will continue working alongside families, community-based organizations, and young people to make sure the District has the funding -- and the strategic vision -- to end this disparity and provide our youth with the opportunities they deserve.
Youth Economic Justice and Homelessness
We would like to send a special thank you to Councilmember Nadeau and the Human Services Committee for prioritizing the needs of youth experiencing homelessness by locating an additional $1.2 million to invest in maintaining the quality of programming for existing youth homelessness direct service providers. We would also like to thank Councilmember Silverman and members of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee for including our policy recommendations urging the Department of Employment Services in partnership with the Department of Human Services to invest in targeted workforce development programming to meet the unique needs of youth experiencing homelessness.
Next budget season, we will continue to urge the DC Council to invest in right-sizing youth homelessness provider contracts in order to continue to provide quality programming to meet the needs of youth experiencing homelessness in the District. Our budget ask will be informed by the current cost analysis being conducted by the DC Policy Center. In addition, we will continue to support the stated needs of youth experiencing homelessness by advocating for investments that will increase access to behavioral health services and targeted workforce development programming which includes wraparound services and connection to employment that results in a livable wage.
Our long term vision continues to be a District of Columbia where youth and family homelessness no longer exists, and when it does that youth and families are provided with the necessary tools and supports to achieve economic stability and housing.