Updates

July 13, 2020 | Update

Fiscal Year 2021 Budget: What's Happened So Far?

 

Last week, the Council took its first round of votes on the next fiscal year’s budget. In my previous emails to you, I reaffirmed my commitment to push for a budget that prioritizes deeper investments in our community and residents. Let’s catch up on what’s happened so far. 

The ongoing public health emergency has significantly impacted our budget, and while the Mayor’s proposed budget made some adjustments to consider the effects of COVID-19 on residents, it did not go far enough. Moving into the next fiscal year with the same funding levels as the current fiscal year, would be ignoring the needs that have significantly increased due to the pandemic’s effects. I and many of my Council colleagues, felt strongly that we needed to find ways to increase revenue in order to provide additional support to our most vulnerable residents and address underlying inequities that continue to plague our city. The Council was able to find revenue generators in the total amount of $63 million by passing several amendments.

I introduced an amendment to eliminate the Qualified High-Tech Tax Credit, a tax credit that was primarily helping large companies, and reported to be ineffective by our Chief Financial Officer in a 2018 audit. The amendment generated $17 million in new funds and redirected the funds to critical human services programs to adequately assist residents.

  • Ends homelessness for 180 families or individuals
  • Funds Alliance, a medical assistance program for the immigrant community; for many this program is the only source of health care access
  • Allocates assistance for excluded worker who were shut out of federal COVID-19 assistance programs
  • Creates grants for early childhood providers; many are at risk of closing due to the pandemic
  • Invests in school based mental health services

See chart below for details on the investments:

 

  • Councilmember Charles Allen introduced an amendment, which I fully supported, to delay a tax break for corporations, generating an additional $7 million, which will be used for emergency rental assistance, housing, excluded workers, violence prevention, and school based mental health.
  • Councilmember Trayon White introduced an amendment to reduce the exemption level for the DC Estate Tax from $5.6 million to $4 million. The reduction is estimated to generate $1.78 million to invest in services for youth impacted by violence. I voted in favor of the amendment, which passed unanimously.

I will also note that there were two amendments introduced that were intended to redirect funds to people most in need that did not pass. I voted ‘Yes’ on both amendments, however, the proposals did not receive enough support from the full Council to pass.

  • Councilmember Charles Allen introduced an amendment to raise taxes on residents making $250,000 or over. Councilmember Allen presented an example that a person making over $1.5 million would pay an extra $1,800. The amendment would’ve raised an additional $12 million but it failed (8-5) to pass. 
  • Councilmember Robert White introduced an amendment to redirect funds allocated for the Streetcar to invest in public housing repairs. However, the amendment failed (8-5). The budget will still allocate $50 million in funds for public housing repairs in FY21, which is double the amount of the current fiscal year.

 

Strengthening Rent Control

I also moved an oral amendment to strike language in the Budget Support Act (BSA) that reauthorized the current rent control policy for an additional 10 years. While I most certainly support reauthorizing rent control, the Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization has this legislation before it, and has held a hearing. I feel strongly that the legislation should have moved through the regular process with a committee vote, amendments to strengthen rent control and a full legislative record. Instead, by including it in the BSA, we have short-circulated the legislative process. While my amendment to allow the bill to go back to committee did not have the support of enough members to pass, and was withdrawn, many colleagues gave verbal commitments to work on strengthening the policy over the next year. 

 

Committee on Human Services

In addition to the amendment I moved last week, as chairperson of the Committee on Human Services, I had the opportunity to increase funding for the emergency rental assistance program ($1.26 million), restore funds to the homeless outreach program ($1.63 million), fund 50 additional units of Permanent Supportive Housing for individuals, preserve funding for robust programming within our child welfare system, and maintain our investments in disability services.

Thank you to Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Robert White, Brandon Todd, Charles Allen, Vincent Gray, and Trayon White for working with me to help address these critical funding needs.

 

Public Safety

One of the items that the Council received the most advocacy around was the Metropolitan Police Department’s budget. In the previous years, although we have made major investments in proven community-based programs that prevent and stop crime, we have also increased the department’s budget and the number of officers. This year, we heard the loud call from DC residents to re-invest funding in the MPD budget for social programs that prevent crime. I remain firm in my stance that an increase in policing does not result in the reduction of crime. Our police respond to crime, they do not prevent it from occurring. It is long over-due for us to make deep investments in the root causes of inequities that lead to crime. I support the recommendations brought to the full Council by the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety to reallocate funds from MPD’s budget and reinvest into our community. The reductions in MPD’s budget will still be allocated toward public safety initiatives. The committee’s budget:

  • Restores funds to the violence interruption programs under the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement and the Office of the Attorney General 
  • Funds stipends for the Pathways Program, a wrap-around employment and anti-violence program, as well as capital dollars to build out more space to host the program
  • Funds a public information campaign around the “red flag” law that I introduced in 2018. The law allows a family member, domestic partner, mental health professional, or police officer to remove a firearm and/or ammunition from someone who poses danger to themselves or others
  • Adds new staff to the Office of the Attorney General’s ATTEND truancy mediation program, which helps parents and students work through underlying issues that may be causing the student to miss school
  • Transferred funds to a reentry housing program to help 
  • Makes the Criminal Code Reform Commission permanent, establishing an independent agency that will pursue criminal code reform and best practices in criminal law
  • Restores funds to the justice grants program at the Office of Victim Services & Justice Grants
  • Invests funds to complete plans to build a new shelter for domestic violence victims and survivors

The Council also voted to transfer the DC Public Schools (DCPS) security contract to DCPS from the Metropolitan Police Department. The contract amount was also reduced to reflect the lower operating costs brought on by the closure of schools and requested that DCPS invest the savings into the school budgets.

I have heard from those who disagree with the cuts we made to MPD and would rather that we enhance their budget again. I have also heard from some who think we did not go far enough. I believe this year’s budget is another step in the right direction for real public safety solutions, but that we need to do more. My vision for public safety for all is one where we are not reliant on the police for the myriad things we ask them to do today; that when we call 9-1-1 to assist someone in need, that the default is not to send armed police, but that we have numerous other options, such as mental health professionals, human services professionals, mediators and other government employees. This budget does not do all of that. But through my work I’ve tried to contribute funding to programs that will put us on that path.

 

Additional Support

As we reimagine public safety, we do need to ensure investments for alternative resources are in place, so the Council’s budget also made large investments into housing and behavioral health programs. The Council:

  • Reversed $9.5 million in cuts from the Mayor’s proposed budget to the Behavior Health program at the Department of Behavioral Health
  • Added over $7 million in funds to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program to prevent eviction
  • Added funding to leverage District resources that will unlock $88 million to create over 600 new units of affordable housing and an additional $9 million in funds to the Housing Production Trust Fund to also create new units of affordable housing

Also, important to many in our community, the budget included $2.5 million for the Immigrant Justice Legal Services grant program.

The second budget vote will be on July 21, 2020. You can watch along online by visiting the Council’s website or tune in on Channel 13.

 

This Week: Ward 1 Community Safety Forum

Each year, I host an annual public safety town hall. Residents typically get a chance to hear from government officials and have the opportunity to discuss in small groups new ways that we can work together to improve safety. Due to the restrictions on mass gatherings, this year we broke the event up into two parts in order to still allow for residents to have these important conversations. On June 17th, I hosted a telephone town hall so that constituents could hear updates from government officials. Click here to listen.

The next part of the conversation will be on Wednesday July 15th, 2020 at 6:30pm. I’ll be joined by community leaders in a more interactive format to discuss actionable steps that we can take together to improve safety in Ward 1. Register here.