DC Council Holds First Vote on Budget
The DC Council cast its first vote Tuesday on the District’s budget, nearing the final stages of allocating resources for Fiscal Year 2023, which begins October 1, 2022. The second vote, which is needed to approve the budget, is scheduled for May 24. A third vote will be held before the budget is sent to Congress for approval, but there are rarely any changes made between the second and third votes. As always, the budget reflects most of our priorities for children, youth, and families, but in a few ways it misses out on opportunities to break down structural barriers that stand in the way of all kids reaching their full potential. Here’s the rundown of where the budget makes progress, and where work still needs to be done to fulfill the critical requests for which our campaigns have been advocating.
We will continue to advocate for our recommendations ahead of the second vote, and will send out an update once the DC Council has approved the budget with a full update on what they do and do not fund.
Under 3 DC
Since Mayor Bowser protected critical early childhood programs in her budget proposal, the DC Council continued to build on their investments in the Birth-to-Three for All DC law to support infant and toddler developmental and behavioral health, by maintaining $73 million in local funding and updating the legislative language for the District’s Pay Equity Fund, which increases wages for early childhood educators. And, adding $300,000 for DC Health to establish and administer a new Healthy Steps site and $700,000 for the Department of Behavioral Health to expand existing Healthy Futures services.
The addition of a $70,500 recurring investment for CFSA’s home visiting programs is a welcomed victory, as these two programs have recently operated on unstable, one-time dollars. The DC Council also restored $150,000 in one-time funding for one DC Health home visiting program and recurring funding of $310,000 for CFSA home visiting programs that have been unsustainably funded on a one-time basis for years. Unfortunately, the budget does not yet include the $369,150 enhancement to DC Health’s home visiting programs that could make a significant difference for families and home visitors themselves, both of which have been stretched thin during the pandemic. We call on the DC Council to find $369,000 for DC Health home visiting by the second budget vote so that home visitors can continue serving families.
Youth Economic Justice and Housing
We applaud lawmakers’ holding steady the investments in youth homelessness, and the DC Council’s increase of $1.3 million provides further stability, but falls short of the additional $3.15 million the coalition asked for. We are also pleased with new investments for an LGBTQ low-barrier shelter, more beds for pregnant and parenting youth, and new workforce initiatives that support transgender and gender non-conforming youth experiencing homelessness. However, significantly greater investments are needed to enable youth and families to attain stable housing, health, and employment. For example, funding is still needed for targeted workforce development programming and increased access to behavioral health services for youth experiencing homelessness.
This budget extends the $5 million enhancement to the Learn24 Office for another fiscal year with local dollars (bringing the total Learn24 budget to $18.6 million), and allocates $3.9 million in local funds for OST programming through the Department of Parks and Recreation. These combined investments of $22.4 million are an important down payment toward funding affordable, high-quality OST opportunities for all youth, but we know that much more work is needed. We will continue advocating for sufficient funding so every young person in the District can access, afford, feel safe, and enjoy the opportunity to learn, grow, socialize, and prepare for a successful future.
Simplifying requirements for and use of public benefits can go a long way toward ensuring that District residents have access to health care and nutritious food. To that end, this budget eliminates a major barrier in the DC Healthcare Alliance recertification process, ending the twice-a-year requirement that caused gaps in coverage for many District residents. In addition, parents and young children who receive nutrition benefits through WIC will be able to use an electronic benefits card to make purchases, eliminating the hassle and stigma of paper vouchers. Finally, the DC Council held a hearing on ‘Give SNAP a Raise’ legislation that, if passed and funded, would mean families who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) won’t face as brutal a cut in their allotment when the federal pandemic-inspired bump in benefits ends.