While we at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute spend most of our time advocating for budget and policy choices to reduce income inequality and expand economic opportunity, we feel that this time of year, we should share how thankful we are for many things the District does to help its residents.
Income and racial inequality are enormous and growing challenges in this city, but DC’s leaders have adopted a number of policies aimed at reducing disparities. Here are just some of the recent policies for which we are thankful, and that inspire us to push the city to do even better.
- $15 Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave: The District is one of a small number of jurisdictions to adopt a $15 minimum wage. We’ll reach that by 2020, when the federal minimum wage may still be $7.25. On top of that, everyone who works in the District gets paid sick leave (including time off to deal with domestic violence), which starts accruing the first day on the job. That doesn’t happen in many places around the country.
- Close to Universal Health Care Coverage: 15 years ago, when DC General Hospital was closed, the District created its own health care program, the Healthcare Alliance. It provides insurance to anyone under 200 percent of the poverty line (about $40,000 for a family of three), who doesn’t get insurance from a job and doesn’t qualify for Medicaid or Medicare. For years, DC has had one of the highest health insurance coverage rates in the nation.
- Tax Policies to Help the Working Poor: DC has the largest state-level Earned Income Tax Credit in the nation. The DC EITC targets residents who work but have low earnings, putting up to $2,000 into the pockets of a family with two children each year. It lifts many families out of poverty, improving their stability and giving parents the resources they need to help their children succeed. Thanks to this and other tax policies, the taxes paid by low-income DC residents are second lowest in the nation.
- A Plan to End Homelessness: The District adopted a plan in 2015 to eliminate chronic homelessness and otherwise make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring. We have not fulfilled the plan yet, but substantial progress is being made. This year, for example, the District has new funding to help 380 chronically homeless residents move into a permanent home of their own.
Anyone who follows the DC Fiscal Policy Institute knows that we have a lot to say about policies that are imperfect or incomplete, including some mentioned above. Next week we will return to advocacy, but today we are thankful.