WASHINGTON, DC — DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson’s reckless move to cut $4 million from mental health services during a public health and economic crisis is wildly inappropriate. His backroom deal to axe the ad tax finds another $14 million through other cuts, funding shifts, and borrowing. Under this ad tax deal alone, there will be nearly $32 million in cuts to health and human services over the four-year financial plan.
A supermajority of Councilmembers agreed to these cuts after the Council rejected an extremely modest income tax increase on the wealthy that over 80 percent of DC residents supported, and after they declined to make significant cuts to the MPD’s bloated budget, despite massive public outcry. A moral budget would not have rolled back a small tax increase for businesses in the Council budget ahead of lifesaving aid for people suffering through the worst health crisis this country has faced in a century and an accompanying economic crisis.
A groundswell of opposition, including more than 6,000 emails sent to Councilmembers in less than 36 hours, and multiple vigils and action held outside his home, forced Chairman Mendelson to back off his original threat to make even more devastating cuts. But instead of fighting to expand the modest steps that DC Council has taken toward a just recovery, the public was forced to mobilize to prevent cuts to already underfunded essential programs. In a year when Council has claimed to be responsive to constituent demands to center racial equity in the budget, the decision to instead cut vital programs that support predominantly Black and brown communities is in fact racist.
Though the outcome is not what we wanted, our campaign will continue to push for policy solutions that compel Council to ensure a recovery that is just for every DC resident in the future.
Quotes from #JustRecoveryDC Campaign Leaders:
“It is outrageous that Council pursued a back-room budget deal that undercuts behavioral health and other human services in the middle of a once-in-a-lifetime crisis that’s disproportionately wreaking havoc on Black and Latinx residents,” said Tazra Mitchell, Policy Director at DC Fiscal Policy Institute. “The Council could have avoided this disaster by holding a revenue hearing early in the process and approving bold improvements to the personal income tax to meet the enormity of our challenges, as advocates urged.”
“It is an absolute atrocity for the DC Council to make cuts to our city’s mental health infrastructure,” said Kimberly Perry, Executive Director of DC Action For Children. “Behavioral Health is the cornerstone of critical services for families, especially during these times of record unemployment, uncertainty about children’s education, and future family economic security. Family stressors are high right now, and this is the last investment that should be on the chopping block.”
“By finding $18 million in just two days, the Council reminds us that corporate interests are worthy of resources while people experiencing homelessness must be satisfied with crumbs,” says Jesse Rabinowitz, Advocacy and Campaign Manager of Miriam’s Kitchen. “Instead of using this $18 million to fix a manufactured crisis, the Council could have used these $18 million to end chronic homelessness for more than 650 additional individuals.”
“In a year when the Council has pledged to rebuild public trust, backroom deals on behalf of corporate interests are the height of hypocrisy,” said Joanna Blotner, DC Legislative Director for Family and Economic Security Campaigns, Jews United for Justice. “Facing the COVID-19 crisis, people made their voices heard in unprecedented ways. Yet Chairman Mendelson and Council ignored calls for defunding the police and investing in housing, child care, and aid for excluded workers. Their decision to instead bend to corporate pressure at the 11th hour and repeal the ad tax in the Council budget is another betrayal of public trust.”
“I went to speak to Chairman Mendelson directly at his house and he has now lied to me and betrayed my family and community multiple times. Of course there is ‘enough.’ We are humans, our work has dignity, and we demand to be included and supported in the budget,” said Reyna Sosa, a member of Vendedores Unidos, the DC street vendor union sponsored by Many Languages One Voice. Under the DC Council’s current definition of excluded workers, which only includes undocumented residents, Sosa is still left out of DC’s funding for those excluded from federal COVID-19 aid.