Affordable Housing and Health Care: Top Issues for DC residents and Top Issues in Yesterday’s Budget Vote!
Yesterday, DC Council Chairman Kwame Brown and his colleagues affirmed the top priorities for DC residents by restoring money in next year’s budget for affordable housing, healthcare and shelter for our most vulnerable residents. In one of the quickest deliberations in recent memory, the Council voted unanimously to approve the fiscal year 2013 Budget Request Act and Budget Support Act, making some significant and important changes to Mayor Gray’s initial proposals. A second vote on the Budget Support Act is scheduled for June 5th.
DCFPI wants to take a moment to thank Chairman Brown, Council budget director Jennifer Budoff and her staff, and the Council members and their staffs for working hard to craft a budget that truly moves our city forward. The decisions the Council made these past few weeks will keep our residents healthier, safer, and more productive.
So what happened yesterday? Here’s a rundown:
AFFORDABLE HOUSING: $18 MILLION RESTORED TO THE HOUSING PRODUCTION TRUST FUND
The Council restored $18 million of the $20 million cut from the trust fund in Gray’s proposed budget by redirecting money from the sale of DC-owned property in the NOMA neighborhood. DC’s supply of affordable housing is vanishing, and the trust is one of our best mechanisms to maintain and create affordable units down the road. Mayor Gray had proposed using funds from the sale of the property to create needed greenspace and parks in the surrounding NOMA neighborhood. The Council decided that parks for NOMA should be prioritized for any additional revenue and placed the $18 million as number 4 on the contingency revenue list.
HEALTH CARE: HOSPITAL SERVICES FOR DC HEALTHCARE ALLIANCE FULLY RESTORED
Committee on Health chairman David Catania and his staff worked very hard to keep hospital-based services for the DC HealthCare Alliance. Mayor Gray had proposed cutting hospital coverage for the Alliance, which provides health insurance for low-income DC residents who do not qualify for federal Medicaid. The Committee developed a proposal and then modified it in collaboration with the office of the Mayor. Here’s how they agreed to fund these important services:
- $5.3 million from additional Medicaid funds made available this year from activities at District nursing homes
- $3 million in unanticipated savings from managed care drug rebates
- $2.6 million by moving effective date of the hospital Diagnostic Related Groups (DRG) rate changes to Oct.1, 2012, instead of Jan. 1, 2013
- $1.8 million by reducing Department of Healthcare Finance cost settlements budget for FY 2013
- $1.4 million by revising provider fees for nursing homes, a portion of which is dedicated to the Nursing Home Quality of Care Fund
- $252,000 in personnel vacancy savings within the Department of Health Care Finance
- $103,000 in personnel savings within the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services
HOMELESS SERVICES: $4 MILLION ADDED TO LOCAL RENT SUPPLEMENT PROGRAM
The Council’s actions yesterday take a big step toward a better approach to sheltering our homeless residents. Starting in June, between 200 and 300 families will be moved from shelters and motels into homes through the rapid re-housing program. Then, in October, these families will be able to stay in stable housing due to the $4 million in additional funding to the local rent supplement program. This action is significant for two reasons: It will help families move from emergency shelter into long-term housing and allow more families in desperate need of shelter to take advantage of DC General’s emergency shelter, which has been filled to capacity.
The Council’s budget does not restore the $7 million cut from homeless services due to a loss of federal funding, but it keeps the money as number one on the contingency revenue list. The Council also put $1.7 million to add beds for homeless youth on the contingency revenue list.
The Council—through the actions of the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee of the Whole—restored $2.1 million to the Office of Victims Services. This office provides critical emergency shelter and services to victims of crime, including domestic violence.
EDUCATION: $2.6 MILLION FOR COLLEGE PREP AND A DIRECTIVE TO RIGHT-SIZE UDC
The Council voted to put $2.6 million to fully fund the Raising the Expectations for Education Outcomes Omnibus Act. This legislation includes four programs, including a Community Schools Incentive Initiative, a pilot teacher incentive program, plan to ensure all students apply to a college as a requirement for graduation and to assist students with information on applying to college, as well as a pilot early warning and support system to identify students who are off track in grades four through nine.
The budget also mandates several important reports. The fiscal year 2013 budget establishes a charter schools admissions taskforce to study providing a neighborhood preference in charter school admissions for the 2013-2014 school year. As well, the Council asked for a comprehensive food services plan to help reduce the cost of providing food services in DCPS. And by October 1, 2012 the University of the District of Columbia is expected to develop a right-sizing plan that outlines the steps that the university shall take, starting in fiscal year 2013, to bring the university’s costs, staff, and faculty size in line with other comparable public universities.
TAXES: EXTEND ALCOHOL SALES THE NIGHT BEFORE HOLIDAYS AND MAJOR HOLIDAY WEEKENDS
The approved FY 2013 budget scales back the mayor’s proposed expansion of alcohol sales. Instead of making last call an hour later every day, the approved budget allows bars to stay open until 4 a.m. the night before federal and District holidays. As well, for Memorial Day and Labor Day—and if New Year’s and July 4th create a holiday weekend by falling either on a Saturday, Sunday or Monday—extended hours apply to the entire weekend.
By a seven to five vote, the Council placed restoring the tax break for interest earned on out-of-state bonds as last on the contingency revenue list. This means that unless the District sees an uptick of $119 million in revenue next year, the exemption will not be restored and interest earned on out-of-state bonds purchased in 2012 and beyond will be subject to the income tax. DCFPI has noted that limiting the income tax exemption to DC bonds creates an incentive for DC residents to purchase DC bonds, and the city’s recent bond sale suggests this is true.
CONTINGENCY REVENUE LIST: SOME SUBTRACTIONS AND ADDITIONS
The Council altered the Mayor’s proposed contingency revenue list. If the District receives additional revenue in fiscal year 2013, the below programs will be funded in the following order:
- $7 million for homeless services
- $14.7 million for TANF employment program
- $9.5 million to fund South Capitol Street Memorial Amendment Act
- $18 million for NOMA parks and recreation
- $1.7 million for youth homelessness prevention
- $1.6 million for human services, i.e., emergency shelter
- $2.9 million for Home Purchase Assistance Program
- $2.6 million for Office of Victim Services
- $8.6 million for toddler and infant slots
- $5 million to the Office of the State Superintendent for Education for special ed
- $15 million to the Department of Employment Services for adult job training
- $10 million for reduction of commercial property tax rate
- $3 million to the University of the District of Columbia
- $1.5 million for the Ward 8 pilot budget challenge
- $77,000 to Office on Aging
- $500,000 to DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services cadet program
- $320,000 to Capital City Fellow program
- $10 million to Office of Motion Picture and Television Development
- $220,000 to Department of Small and Local Business Development
- $150,000 to Boxing and Wrestling Commission
- $150,000 to Office of Motion Picture and Television Development study
- $1.5 million for Takoma Theater
- $5 million for Douglas Recreation Center
- $1.1 million to restore out of state bond tax break