DC Council Can Still Keep its Promises With Second FY24 Budget Vote
District of Columbia residents took to heart the promises of strengthening our early childhood education sector, ending homelessness, and making our afterschool programs the most robust in the nation when Mayor Bowser made them in her most recent campaign. And the DC Council followed suit when sharing its budget priorities. Unfortunately, the not-quite-final FY24 budget–even with amendments from the DC Council–does not reflect these priorities.
DC Action and our partners have advocated for an equitable budget to center the health, well-being, education, and futures of all District residents, especially those whose lives have been most impacted by persistent systemic racism. While the DC Council prepares to hold the second vote on the budget, next Tuesday, May 30, we must emphasize our disappointment that this budget–which many have called the “broken hearts budget” is also a broken promises budget.
We acknowledge that it’s not all bad news. Thanks to the work of advocates and allies on the DC Council, the current preliminary budget includes:
- Expanding the child care assistance program to 2,100 additional families
- Protecting nearly $72 million in the Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund
- $300,000 to increase home visitor salaries for programs under Child and Family Services Agency
- $225,000 transferred from DC Health to Department of Health Care Finance to support the Nurse Family Partnership program
- $667,000 to restore a workforce program for gender-expansive young people whose entire funding had been cut
- $5 million for My Afterschool DC, a pilot program to improve accessibility to out-of-school-time programs
- $1.9 million to integrate farming, cooking, and nutrition education curriculum into DC schools
- $1.6 million for nutrition and health programming in schools, through OSSE
- $500,000 for the Produce Prescriptions Program
- Continuation of the extension of postpartum Medicaid coverage so babies and their parents have access to the care they need in their first year.
At the same time, what’s missing from the budget is significant, and–if it passes in its current form–will have serious harmful consequences for District residents. These include:
- The 2000+ young people experiencing homelessness (a population that has increased 15% since last year) will not have a workforce development program tailored to their needs to help them train for, find, and keep living wage jobs to support themselves and their families. Investment in such a program could ostensibly end youth homelessness in the District.
- Without creation of a traveling mobile mental health unit that serves young people experiencing homelessness, thousands of young people will continue to struggle with mental health needs, a barrier which significantly impedes their ability to achieve stability.
- Without $53 million in funding for Give SNAP a Raise, families who face the double burden of food inflation and the loss of expanded pandemic era benefits will continue to struggle with food insecurity in a city with one of the highest costs of living in the country.
- With only half of the funding requested for out-of-school-time programs, providers will not be able to significantly expand programs and meet the overwhelming need for more seats in afterschool and summer programs.
- Without a $700,000 investment in DC Health home visiting programs, home visitors will continue to leave their jobs due to low pay, disrupting valuable services to expectant families and those with young children seeking support.
- Failure to extend the deed tax on multimillion commercial properties means that the District’s budget will take a $100 million hit over the next two years at a time when that funding could have gone to fulfilling policy makers’ promise to renters facing eviction and excluded workers
- Excluded workers will receive no financial support whatsoever after surviving years of economic hardship brought on by the pandemic, despite the fact that $20 million had already been allocated for them last year. This funding was completely eliminated by the mayor and not restored by the DC Council, leaving our excluded workers with nothing.
- Even $43 million in added funding for Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) is still not even half of the $117 million estimated to meet renters’ needs. Promises to end homelessness in the District are meaningless when individuals and families who depend on support to pay the rent are left out.
- Cuts to the early childhood system such as $11 million in TANF child care funds, $8 million from the Back2Work child care grants, and nearly $3 million in funding from the sports wagering revenue, which limit resources for TANF-eligible families and young parents who need child care, and eliminate funding and assistance for child care providers in wards 7 and 8.
- Failure to fund the Nonprofit Fair Compensation Act, which would ensure that all indirect costs, as required by District of Columbia law, are equitable and integrated into every contract and grant that the DC government awards a nonprofit organization.
We recognize that the FY24 budget is not yet final. It is still possible for councilmembers to work together, get creative, and focus their efforts on amending this budget next week to reflect what District leaders have said are their priorities. There’s still time to mend the broken hearts and fix the broken promises that this current budget leaves in its wake.