The Districts Dime

What’s In the Final Fiscal Year 2017 Budget? DCFPI’s Updated Toolkit

June 30th, 2016 | by DCFPI Staff

With the DC Council’s approval of the budget for the fiscal year starting October 1, 2017, DCFPI wants to make sure our readers know where to find tools to help you understand what the new spending plan means for schools, housing, homeless services, and other areas important to the District’s economic well-being and quality of life.

Here’s what you’ll find in the DCFPI Budget Toolkit:

  • How the Budget Stacks Up:  Our analysis gives you a detailed look at the approved budgets for education, affordable housing, homeless services, Temporary Assistance for Chartbook-FY-2017Needy Families (TANF), workforce development, health care, Interim Disability Assistance (IDA), and revenues. We highlight a number of important investments, including increased funding for schools, new shelters for homeless families, and an increase to unemployment insurance benefits; and also the very large gaps that remain, including the need to develop a permanent TANF time limit policy and to end chronic homelessness.
  • The Budget Made Simple:  A timeline on the budget process and primers that explain how the city sets its budget, the revenue structure, and how schools are financed.
  • Important Events and Documents:  If you want to find the final Budget Request Act, the Budget Support Act, or any other budget materials, they are all in the Toolkit.
  • Key Budget Trends:  DCFPI’s Chartbook highlights of key budget trends through graphics, ideal for making presentations to community groups.

You can check out DCFPI’s updated Budget Toolkit here!

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What’s the Best Way to Spend $56 Million to Improve the Health of DC Residents? Your Input is Needed!

June 28th, 2016 | by Jodi Kwarciany

Recent actions by the District government open the door to create new initiatives to improve the health of DC residents. The city’s Insurance Commissioner recently announced he will develop a plan to spend $56 million of excess surpluses held by CareFirst, because the nonprofit health insurer failed to come up with a community health reinvestment plan for that money. The District is seeking public input over the next few weeks on the best ways to invest in the community’s health. Residents and organizations who care about health issues should plan to weigh in. (See details below on how to do that.)option for carefirst blog 2

The DC Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking (DISB) determined in 2014 that CareFirst (also known as Group Hospitalization and Medical Services Inc. or GHMSI) had $56 million in excess surplus in 2011 based on its insurance activity in DC. The Commissioner ordered GHMSI to file a plan on how it would reinvest the $56 million within the community. But CareFirst failed to submit a satisfactory plan, and this month DISB rejected CareFirst’s claim that it did not need to make any new community health investments.

As a result, DISB Commissioner Taylor will use his authority to develop and approve a plan for GHMSI’s $56 million excess surplus. DISB will accept public comments on that plan until July 14. This represents not only an important step forward, but an extraordinary opportunity for advocates in the community to provide input on District health needs.

The following investments represent possible uses of CareFirst’s excess surplus.

  • Making the Healthcare Alliance Program more accessible. This program for low-income residents of DC who are not eligible for Medicaid, Medicare, or subsidies on DC Health Link has some the strictest eligibility requirements of any public benefit programs. Beneficiaries must re-enroll in person every six months, a requirement which, on top of prohibitively long lines at service centers, present a barrier to continued coverage that keeps many eligible residents off the program. DC government has shown a willingness to ease these requirements, but cost is a major factor – about $13 million to change the requirements.
  • Helping homeless and newly-housed residents get access to health services and care coordination. The District is combatting chronic homelessness with programs like permanent supportive housing, but is still seeking ways to fund the health and case management services needed to really support residents and keep them housed.
  • Expanding the maternal and child health home visiting program. This evidence-backed program helps families with small children get access to health insurance, immunizations, preventive care, and nutrition and wellness resources that can help children enter school healthy and ready to learn. Right now the program is limited primarily to Wards 5, 7, and 8, and will lose federal funding after 2017.

The Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking should be applauded for holding insurer CareFirst accountable to its community obligations and furthering an opportunity to bring much-needed health care dollars to the District. The public can submit comments by July 14 to the Commissioner at

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DC Should Pass Fair Scheduling for Retail and Food Service Workers

June 27th, 2016 | by Ilana Boivie

The DC Council has the chance this week to help 22,000 DC residents working at low wages improve their ability to earn a decent income and to manage their work and family responsibilities. Legislation before the Council on Tuesday would require large restaurants and retail chains to give worker schedules two weeks in advance, and to offer part-time workers more hours before hiring new staff. DC’s restaurant and retail sectors are among the strongest parts of DC’s economy, and some of the largest chains already have adopted such practices. This suggests that the District can take this step to help workers without hurting our economy.

Last Thursday, the Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs marked up the Hours and Scheduling Stability Act of 2016. This bill would help workers at large chain retailers and restaurants in the District by requiring their employers to:

  • offer available hours to qualified employees before hiring new staff,
  • post employees’ work schedules two weeks in advance,
  • provide one to four extra hours of pay when a worker’s schedule is changed on short notice, and
  • provide equal pay for part-time employees doing the same job with the same qualifications as full-time employees.

The bill only applies to large companies – restaurants and retail stores with at least 40 locations nationwide. Smaller locally owned businesses would be exempt.

Retail and Restaurant Workers Need Fair Schedules

The bill stands to help 22,000 low-wage District residents avoid erratic schedules so that they can better manage their monthly budgets, arrange childcare, continue education, or hold down a second job. (See Table 1.) Workers in DC’s service sector typically earn around $10 an hour, yet most are adults trying to support themselves and their families, according to a study of retail and food service industries released in June 2015 by Georgetown University, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, and DC Jobs with Justice. Nearly half said they receive their work schedules less than a week in advance.[1] For the typical worker, work hours in a given varied from as low as 25 some weeks to 38 in others, creating uneven and unpredictable incomes. Nearly all said it was important to receive more hours at their primary job.

Table 1. Estimated Number of Workers Affected by the Fair Scheduling Bill, by Ward[2]
Area Number of workers
Mostly upper Northwest (Ward 3)            2,138
Mostly Ward 4, some of Ward 1 & 5            7,077
Wards 5 & 6            3,155
Wards 7 & 8            4,001
Downtown Core (Ward 1 & 2, some 6)            5,885
Total           22,256 


DC’s Retail and Restaurant Industries Are Strong Enough to Manage Fairer Scheduling Practices

DC’s retail and restaurant sectors have been booming in recent years in the District. This strength suggests that large retail and restaurant chains can manage requirements to give workers their schedules in advance and help part-time workers get more hours.

  • Over the past three years, retail and food services accounted for more than one-third of  new jobs in DC.[3] Both of these sectors have seen steady employment increases since 2009. See Figures 1 and 2.[4]
  • From April 2015 to April 2016, food service jobs increased by nearly 2,000 — more than any other sector in DC.[5]
  • Retail trade employment grew 6 percent over the last year, a faster rate than any other sector in percentage terms.[6]

fair scheduling_Restaurant fair scheduling_Retail






















Many of DC’s Employers Already Provide These Practices

Many large retail and restaurant chains, including many with stores in DC, are beginning to understand their employees’ need for advance notice of their schedules, and are adopting the practice. The Gap, Marshalls, Target, Walmart, and Whole Foods have moved to provide their employees with advance notice of their schedules, ranging from 10 days to over two weeks, according to the BCRA Committee Report of the bill.

In addition, at the bill’s hearing in January, several small DC employers testified in favor of the bill, saying that they already adopt these practices, as it provides for lower turnover and higher employee morale – despite the fact that they are small enough that they would be exempt from this legislation.

This suggests that other large restaurant chains and retailers in the District have the capacity to provide fair scheduling for their workers, which would dramatically help their workers plan for their lives.

DCFPI hopes that the DC Council will act quickly to pass fair scheduling.



[2] DCFPI analysis of ACS 3 year data for 2011-13, person file. Data covers two different reporting periods so PUMA location is not exact, but very close. The PUMA boundaries shifted slightly during reporting. Retail and restaurant locations with 20 or more employees are used as a proxy for large employers with 40 or more locations nationwide.

[3] DC OCFO. June 2016. “Office of the Chief Financial Officer’s April 2016 Review of District of Columbia Economic and Revenue Trends.”

[4] Bureau of Labor Statistics. Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. Annual averages for the District of Columbia based on NAICS sectors 722 and 44-45, 2009-2015.

[5] DC OCFO. May 2016. “District of Columbia Economic and Revenue Trends: May 2016.”

[6] Based on a 12-month rolling average. DC OCFO. May 2016. “District of Columbia Economic and Revenue Trends: May 2016.”


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Shoring Up Educational Support for DC’s Homeless Students

June 23rd, 2016 | by Soumya Bhat

Children who are homeless need adequate support from their school and community to ensure they are able to stapic for homeless student blog option 2y on track and complete their education. But this can only happen after they are properly identified and offered resources – such as help with food, transportation, or emotional support as they deal with instability at home. Fortunately, every DCPS school and charter school campus has a designated person to help make these connections. Now we need to ensure they have enough resources to do their jobs.

Students who are homeless face greater risks for negative health and education outcomes. A lack of educational continuity can be detrimental to a child’s academic path. Homeless students are much more likely to experience anxiety, depression and withdrawal. They are also four times more likely than other children to show developmental delays and twice as likely to have learning disabilities.[i]

A new national survey shows students experiencing homelessness are 87 percent more likely to drop out than their peers with stable housing. Not surprisingly, most students reported feeling uncomfortable talking with people at their school about their housing situation, making it hard for school staff to know when to get involved.

These statistics are troubling, but there are programs operating in the District that help reach these students through the school system. The federal McKinney Vento program requires that each local education agency (LEA) have a homeless liaison to coordinate services for students and families who are homeless. Often, the liaison is the school social worker or guidance counselor. Services required under the McKinney-Vento program include transportation to and from the school of origin or school of choice, immediate enrollment assistance (including immunizations and assistance obtaining records), identification of homeless youth, awareness of services, and ensuring equal opportunity to participate in all programs and services available to non-homeless students at the school. Unfortunately, federal resources for these services are far from adequate. In FY 2014, the program provided only $35 per DC homeless student.[ii] In addition, each DCPS and charter school receives additional funding through the school funding formula to help meet the needs of their students identified as homeless. However, it is unclear how much is going towards funding the liaison role or other supports at the school level.

The recent uptick in the homeless student population prompted the District to add more local resources to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s (OSSE) homeless children and youth program. Here are a few of the investments in action:

  • In FY 2015, a new database was launched to help liaisons report newly identified students and allowing OSSE to better analyze enrollment data.
  • OSSE also offers additional training and professional development workshops to school liaisons, shelters, and community-based organizations that work with homeless families.
  • OSSE is also working on an evaluation of the homeless children and youth program’s efforts against specific measurable goals, expected to be released in summer 2016. The goals include metrics such as ensuring preschool-aged homeless children have the opportunity to enroll and attend preschool programs, increasing the timely provision of special education plans and services across schools, and increasing the graduation rate of homeless students.

DCFPI looks forward to seeing the evaluation results this summer to better understand what more can be done to help schools to ensure educational continuity and support for the District’s homeless students.

[i] The National Center on Family Homelessness.

[ii] DCFPI. “Unlocking Opportunities: Services that Help Poor Children Succeed in the Classroom. Helping Students Who Are Homeless,” 2014.

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As Jobs in DC Continue to Rise, More Should Be Done to Help Workers Share in the Growth

June 20th, 2016 | by Ilana Boivie

DC’s economy is very strong, with the number of jobs growing and the unemployment rate falling every year since the Great Recession. This recent good news of continuing robust growth suggests that DC’s economy can absorb policies to help and protect workers, including the minimum wage increase and proposals now before the Council to establish paid family leave and to improve scheduling practices for retail and restaurant workers. These steps are important to help workers without a college education, who have not benefited fully from DC’s growing economy and still face challenges such as low wages and high rates of part-time work.NonFarm Employment May 2002-2016

On Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly employment and unemployment numbers, and found that the District saw significant improvements all around:

  • Unemployment is down. The District’s overall unemployment rate is down to 6.1 percent. This marks a 0.3 percent decrease in the last month, and a 0.9 percent decrease since May of last year.
  • Employment is up. Employment in the District reached 784,700 jobs, which is an increase of 6,800 jobs since April, and 17,700 jobs in the last year.

Moreover, DC has seen consistent job growth and unemployment declines each year since the Great Recession ended in 2010, including over 7 percent job growth between 2012 and 2016. See Figures 1 and 2.

However, just because employment opportunities are growing in the District, that doesn’t mean that these jobs provide sufficient benefits and protections in an increasingly expensive city. Wages have fallen for DC residents with a high school degree – who typically earned just $13 an hour in 2014 – and nearly one-third were underemployed, meaning they were out of work or working part-time despite wanting more hours. Moreover, the poorest fifth of DC’s households have actually seen their incomes decline since the recession ended.DC-unemployment-rate-May-2010-2016

More needs to be done to ensure that all workers can afford to make ends meet. Three bills currently under consideration at the Council would be hugely beneficial to District workers:

  • The Hours and Scheduling Stability Act of 2015 would require retail and restaurant employers to offer additional hours to current employees first, before they look for a new hire. It also would ensure that employees get advance notice of their schedules.
  • The Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015 would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for workers in DC to care for themselves, a new child, or an ill family member.
  • Proposed changes to the Budget Support Act would ensure a more robust indexing inflation for Unemployment Insurance benefits. Specifically, the provision would require automatic inflation adjustments each year, unless there is evidence that such an increase will cause a near- or long-term solvency problem for the UI Trust Fund. This will ensure that workers who lose their job receive adequate unemployment benefits, both now and in the future.


The Council should act quickly to pass these important bills before the summer recess to ensure that once workers get a job, they have the protections they need to provide for their families.

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