While last week’s DC Council committee “mark-ups” resulted in notable funding increases for programs that meet the needs of DC residents, the markups are also notable for the gaps that remain. As it stands now, the budget for Fiscal Year 2018 still fails to fully fund the strategic plan to end chronic homelessness, raise school funding by the recommended 3.5 percent, take families off the housing waitlist, or invest in better child care for low-income infants and toddlers.
The committee mark-ups are an important part of the budget process, but not the end. The mark-up results are sent to the Council for consideration at its vote on the full budget on May 30, where further changes will be made.
DCFPI encourages the Council to better fund services that will help ensure that all DC residents benefit from the city’s growth and build a stronger DC future. DCFPI and a number of allies are urging the DC Councilstop cuts to the estate and business income tax, which would free up $40 million, if that is needed to find the resources to fully fund homeless services, schools, and other needs. (In the case of the business tax cut, the District could preserve the tax cut for small businesses, while not giving a tax cut to major corporations like Walmart, and this would still free up substantial funds.)
During mark-ups, each Council committee gets a chance to change the proposed funding for agencies and programs they oversee. Some critical services got partial funding, while other needs received no new funding at all. A handful of services were fully funded or received substantial expansions.
Mark-ups Provided Only Partial Funding for Schools and Homeless Services for Single Adults
- Schools: The Committee on Education added funds to increase per-pupil funding in DC Public Schools and public charter schools. The increase is now 2.38 percent, still well below the 3.5 percent recommended by a working group created by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education
- Homeless Services: The Committee on Human Services added $3.5 million to boost homeless services for single adults and nearly $1 million for services for homeless youth. This is still more than $10 million below the level needed to fully fund DC’s plan to end chronic homelessness. There was no funding increase for families experiencing homelessness.
Mark-Ups Provided No Additional Funding for a Number of Services
The budget-markups failed to address these issues.
- Housing: The budget still provides no new funds for critical affordable housing programs, such as LRSP rent vouchers for families on the housing authority wait list or to make homes built through the Housing Production Trust Fund affordable to the poorest families.
- Family Homelessness: The Council did not find any additional funds to help families experiencing homelessness. At this point, the budget meets just 40 percent of the estimated need.
- Out of School-time: The budget provides flat funding for after-school and summer programming, even though DC ranks among the lowest in the nation in terms of access to afterschool programs for low-income children, and the number of children served by these programs has fallen by three-fourths in recent years.
- Early education: The proposed budget does not devote any new resources to the child care subsidy program for low-income children. Yet there is clear evidence that lower than adequate per-child funding makes it hard to provide high-quality care for low-income infants and toddlers.
- Health: The Healthcare Alliance program requires participants to come into a DC social service center (ESA) every 6 months to maintain their eligibility, a rule that has created a barrier to participation and led to large drop in the number of residents getting health care. The 2018 budget still provides no funding to address this problem.
- Paid Family Leave Start-up Costs: $20 million is still needed to fully support the start-up costs of the Universal Paid Leave Act, including the costs to develop an IT system, adding to $20 million allocated last year. Chairman Mendelson has expressed strong support for finding the money for this.
Mark-ups Provided Expanded Funding for Some Key Services
- TANF: The Committee on Human Services added funds to fully support the recommendations to reform DC’s TANF time limit, made by a 2016 TANF working group established by the Department of Human Services. This means that 80 percent of a family’s benefit will be the child’s portion and will be protected from time limit, and the remaining parent portion can be reduced if parents are not meeting TANF program requirements.
- Adult Education Transportation Subsidies: The Committee on Workforce provided $2 million to provide transportation assistance to participants in adult education classes.
- Mental Health Services: The Committee on Health devoted $3 million to improve payments to mental health providers.
- Legal Assistance to Prevent Eviction: The Judiciary Committee added $4.8 million to the Access to Justice Initiative, most of which will go to fund a new legal services program for residents facing eviction.
- Support for Returning Citizens and Residents Facing Incarceration: The Judiciary Committee added funding to the Office on Returning Citizens’ Affairs for additional case managers and to develop a strategic plan. The Committee also funded the “Ban the Box on housing” law that prohibits landlords from running a criminal background check until after they’ve made a conditional offer to the applicant. And $970,000 was allotted for the Department of Behavioral Health to create an arrest diversion program, meant to reduce the DC Jail population and help treat mental health among this population.
- LIHEAP: The Committee on Transportation and the Environment added funds to the Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program to prevent the program from running out of funds by the end of the year, as it has in recent years.