May 4, 2009

Budget Update! Funding Found for Critical Programs

We are in the home stretch with the City budget! Each Committee has had hearings for the agencies within their purview and, as of the end of last week, all of the Committees have voted on their Mark-Up Reports.

A number of good things came out of the Committee mark-ups -- overall, it was an encouraging process for the sake of critical safety net programs, especially given the scale of the budget crisis. Last week, Beyond Bread posted about the Judiciary Committee's approval of funding for civil legal services to the poor.

Now, we find out that some other things SOME and BFC care about—access to food, housing, homeless services, and income supports—have support for needed funding as well.

Most notably, the Public Works and Transportation Committee, chaired by Councilmember Jim Graham, moved to generate revenue that would prop up quite a few programs that are essential to the health of low-income communities. (Graham has been working hard at this recently: after budget cuts last fall, he fought successfully for increases to parking meter pricing; but those funds were ultimately redirected to general funding, as opposed to specific social service programs.) This time he put forth another proposal that would generate revenue from DC's Street Sweeper Cam Initiative. The initiative calls for mounting cameras on street sweepers and photographing the license plates of illegally parked cars. Tickets would generate an estimated $6.8 million of revenue for Fiscal Year 2010.

A slew of new $40 parking tickets isn't likely to warm the heart, but look at what the generated revenue would go to fund:

The committee also identified $2.9 million in additional revenue through a previously unnoticed accounting error, and recommends using this money to restore the cost of living adjustment to the standard income tax deduction, since the loss of a cost of living adjustment would be in effect a regressive tax measure. This is another smart, just move that was advocated by the Coalition for Community Investment (in which Bread for the City and SOME are both active members).

We extend a big thank-you to Councilmember Graham for truly diligent work in finding this funding, all of which will help the entire District of Columbia to weather the economic crisis and stay poised for a quick recovery.

These increases are crucial, but they barely scratch the surface of need. Homeless families can tell you that – and it’s not hard to find them, since this year has seen a 25% increase of homeless families in DC.

And, of course, the Committee process so far has only offered forth budget recommendations; now, it's up to City Council to act on them. And it's up to us to hold them accountable. The first vote on the budget by the Committee of the Whole is next week, on May 12th. Express your support for these recommendations by emailing City Council at

You can also use SOME’s Action Tool to write to City Councilmembers to tell them that additional funding is needed. And the Fair Budget Coalition will rally outside of City Council (1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW) in support of affordable housing, TANF, and homeless services, this Wednesday at noon 12-1. It's during lunchtime, and a great opportunity to help out your low-income and homeless neighbors.

Stay tuned for more details as things unfold this week. (And for a more detailed description of the budget calendar, see the DCFPI Budget Toolkit.)

Councilmember Jim Graham, stepping up big-time.

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