October 9th, 2013 | by Elissa Silverman

Mayor Gray made the right decision to keep DC government working and tap into the contingency reserve fund while our city’s budget, along with the federal budget, remains hostage to Congressional gridlock. Yet this does not mean the District is unaffected and operating like normal. Due to the federal shutdown, the Gray administration is making choices each day about what city bills to pay, and some very important services are not making the essential list.

DCFPI, along with DC Vote, DC Jobs With Justice, and the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO, sent a letter yesterday to Mayor Gray urging him to spend DC’s local tax dollars whether or not he has federal authorization to spend these funds, and we ask our readers to consider signing onto the same letter below.

It’s important to understand how the city is financially operating under the shutdown. Given that the District’s budget is still wrapped up in the federal appropriation and needs Congressional approval—the budget autonomy referendum affirmed by voters last April has not yet taken effect—Mayor Gray is not authorized to spend even our local tax dollars sitting in the city’s general fund. This is unlike any other city or state in the country. That’s why the mayor tapped into our reserves—which can keep the city going for about another week with the mayor and city administrator picking and choosing what to fund.

Payments to medical providers that accept Medicaid, government-funded health insurance for low-income residents, is one of the services NOT being funded as a result of the shutdown. Community health organizations such as Mary’s Center have been impacted, and the consequences of delaying payments could be devastating for both patients and providers. As of October 4, the District stopped reimbursing medical and mental health providers for services provided under Medicaid. This means that organizations that are at the front-lines of giving care to our most vulnerable residents soon could have trouble paying their own bills, including for staff and services.

Even with use of the reserves, the District faces a crisis, and this will get even worse if the contingency funds are exhausted before a shutdown is ended. Given the unfairness of tying the District up in the federal budget shutdown and its dire impact on serving DC residents, DCFPI urges Mayor Gray to fully utilize local funds to maintain services, even without congressional authorization. DCFPI has signed on to a letter to the mayor, and we urge residents to sign on as well.

Here is the letter. Please use the box below to sign on. We will send the letter to the mayor soon.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Suite 316
Washington, DC 20004

October 8, 2013

Dear Mayor Gray:

Thank you for advancing DC self-determination by refusing to allow the federal budget shutdown to suspend District government operations. We commend you and the DC Council for clearly reaffirming that our local tax dollars will not be held hostage by a dysfunctional Congress.

We look forward to 2014 when the budget autonomy law backed by our elected leaders and
83 percent of District voters will assert the District’s authority to spend local tax dollars.

The use of local contingency funds to avert a complete shutdown is a prudent action, but is also an approach that in a way validates an unjust budget arrangement with our federal managers. Indeed, even with use of contingency reserves, your administration has not been able to fully fund DC government  operations and has had to make painful choices over which  services to provide and which ones to deny.  Most notably, the District has been forced to halt all Medicaid payments to providers, not because the District lacks resources but because the lack of federal approval of our budget prevents us from fully using our own tax resources. This puts the health care of hundreds of thousands of DC residents at risk.

We as a city have a duty to keep our local tax dollars flowing – and our local government working – both as a matter  of simple justice and  good  policy. It is simply wrong to have Congress back us into a corner to deny critical services to DC residents when resources are available, only because the federal government has not given us permission to spend our own funds.

We know you will continue to stand with the people of DC – and send the proper signal to the Congress and the nation – but we ask you to expend local funds immediately in order to continue funding   services and keep the government fully operating, even once the contingency funds are exhausted.

The injustice of Congress denying services to DC residents should compel you to set aside the unfair   federal restrictions placed upon the District. Moreover, based on public statements by key members of  Congress, and the lack of public push back  from administration officials, it is clear the practical, real world risks posed by this action are substantially less than the theoretical risks outlined by several officials.

The  District’s  shutdown  strategy  was  forged  from  the  resolve  by  our  leaders  to address injustice head on. Our organizations,  and the thousands of District residents we represent, trust  you will continue to challenge an unjust, illogical and archaic budget arrangement – both during the shutdown and as we move to implement our new budget autonomy law.


Kimberly Perry, Executive Director, DC Vote
Ed Lazere, Executive Director, DC Fiscal Policy Institute
Joslyn Williams, Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO
Nikki Lewis, Executive Director, DC Jobs With Justice

To print a copy of today’s blog, click here.


  1. Jacque Patterson says:

    It’s time Congress releases the District of Columbia residents and budget! Let DC vote in Congress..Budget Autonomy Now!

  2. Angie Stackhouse says:

    All that money in reserve and still you reject the poor. I know you don’t care, but I’m ashamed of you as a Washingtonian.

  3. antonia Herzog says:

    Keep DC running depsite governement shutdown. Don’t let a few right wing rebpulican’s dictate what we can and cannot do in DC.

  4. Tom Johnson says:

    I support the letter to Mayor Gray advancing DC self-determination

  5. Nathaniel Pendleton says:

    Can we learn how many people signed this? And what their first name and last name initial letter is like typical petitions? Petitions without such feed back are flatly counter productive, sucking resources and typically never reaching a tipping point. If there is no such data published in your petition software, can you not pick such poor software?

    • Elissa Silverman says:

      Hi, good feedback. We had 80 individuals and organizations sign, and we passed that information on to our partners at DC Vote and DC Appleseed. We’ll be working toward better systems to do this kind of work. Happy to talk with you further about it.
      Best wishes,