As Mayor Bowser develops her Fiscal Year 2020 budget recommendations, I’ve asked her to make several critical investments to fund what I believe to be some of our shared priorities. I’ve requested funding that supports families, reduces displacement, and drives equity.
February 28, 2019
The Honorable Muriel Bowser
Mayor of the District of Columbia
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Dear Mayor Bowser:
As you prepare to submit the proposed fiscal year 2020 budget to the Council, I request that you make several critical investments in priorities that I believe we share. Over the last two decades, the city has increased in employment and population and has achieved a level of economic health and prosperity that we could not have imagined twenty years ago. However, as we know, not all residents or businesses are benefitting from that prosperity.
We must ensure that our budget demonstrates the District of Columbia’s commitment to supporting families, reducing displacement, and driving equity. Our budget must reflect investments in people and businesses that are here now—not just those we want to attract in the future. Last fiscal year, we made some important investments in our residents, and I hope this fiscal year we will work together to do the same.
United States Census Bureau data indicate a staggering divide between the wealthy and the low-income in our city.
Our low-income residents are getting poorer as the cost of living rises. We also are seeing home-grown businesses fold under the strain of increasing rents and utility bills.
If we do not act quickly and strategically, this trend will continue.
In order to help stabilize residents and businesses, I request that you provide the following funding in the fiscal year 2020 budget proposal you submit to the Council:
· $30 million to raise compensation for early childhood educators, expand home visiting programs, and increase access to DC’s Healthy Futures and HealthySteps programs. This is an initial investment in the
Birth-to-Three for All DC Act
, which strengthens pre- and post-natal supports for mothers and substantially expands early childhood education in the District. To achieve universal early childhood education, we must ensure that early childhood educators earn livable wages. Early childhood educators are among the lowest paid professionals in the country, making an average of $26,000 per year, with few employee benefits. Low wages result in significant employee turnover and make it difficult to attract and train a skilled and motivated workforce;
· $200,000 for Early Childhood Development Coordinator positions created in the
Birth-to-Three for All DC
. These coordinators will streamline the facility licensing process and provide regulatory guidance to child development providers, making it easier for educators to open and maintain child development facilities around the District;
· $1,779,717 to fund the
Economic Development Return on Investment Accountability Amendment Act
which creates transparency and accountability for the money DC spends on economic development projects. This bill gives residents more robust reporting on affordable housing, jobs, and new revenue to the city;
· $25 million of additional funding in the Housing Production Trust Fund to create and preserve more affordable housing;
· $20 million for the District’s Local Rent Supplement Program to support the housing needs of extremely low-income residents. There are approximately 27,000 extremely low-income households that face severe housing hardship, but the District has only funded about 3,000 new rental units for these residents since 2015;
· $12 million for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which provides emergency financial assistance to low-income individuals and families facing eviction, or pays the security deposit or first month’s rent to help families with financial barriers move to stable housing;
· $10 million to restore full funding for the Department of Housing and Community Development’s Neighborhood-Based Activities program, which funds community-based organizations to provide housing counseling services for programs including the Home Purchase Assistance Program and the
Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act
· $375,000 to fund the
Performing Arts Promotion Amendment Act
, which creates more economic opportunities for local artists to live and perform in the District by giving small, local businesses the financial means to hire them for live performances;
· $276,000 in permanent funding for the
Returning Citizens Opportunity to Succeed Act
, which eases the road home for residents returning from incarceration and helps them become productive residents. Last fiscal year, the Council funded this program with non-recurring funds. However, the needs of our population of returning citizens are significant and ongoing;
· $250,000 for additional case management staff at the Office on Returning Citizen Affairs to support residents released from federal prisons under the
Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act
(IRAA). IRAA gives our residents a second chance by allowing eligible incarcerated residents an opportunity for early release after serving a substantial portion of their sentences. These residents’ success depends on our dedicated financial support;
· $250,000 for peer navigators at the Office on Returning Citizen Affairs to connect residents who are recently released from prison to returning citizens who support their transition after incarceration, answer everyday questions, and help resolve issues that newly released residents may have; and
· $30,000 for American Sign Language interpretation at Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) meetings. The Washington Metropolitan area has one of the largest communities of people who are deaf or hard of hearing in the United States, and they deserve to have the opportunity to fully participate in local issues. Additionally, at least two Single Member Districts are represented by Commissioners who are deaf or hard of hearing. Additional resources for sign language interpreters will increase residents’ access to ANC meetings and allow more residents to actively participate in the political process.
In addition, I hope you will increase funding to the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula to ensure that individual schools have enough resources to make technology improvements and that school budgets can fully fund core functions. Money designated for students who are identified as at-risk should be used to enhance school budgets, as intended under the
Fair Student Funding and School-Based Budgeting Amendment Act of 2013
. Finally, I applaud your commitment to invest an additional $6 million for violence interruption and job training programs, including the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement and the Cure the Streets pilot. Investing sufficiently in violence prevention will reduce crime and stabilize communities.
I appreciate your consideration of these recommendations. I hope you see me as a partner on the Council as we work together to improve our city.
Robert C. White, Jr.
Chair, Committee on Facilities and Procurement
Council of the District of Columbia
“The distribution of income in the District differs from that of the nation as a whole, with larger portions of District residents being in the higher and lower income brackets and a significantly smaller portion being within the middle income levels…The Census Bureau estimates that 16.60% of the District’s population was below the poverty line in 2017 as compared to 12.30% for all of the U.S.” 2018 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (page 7).
Popville, “Whoa, BicycleSpace Closing in Adams Morgan; Hearing this could be the future home to that rumored WaWa,” November 1, 2018.