July 22, 2009

Budget crisis: DC's safety net is in danger

DC’s budget crisis is coming to a head. Our elected officials have proposed budget-slashing actions that are far more severe than we had anticipated, and we are alarmed.

Mayor Fenty’s proposal puts massive amounts of funding for the city’s social safety net on the chopping block: some $54 million worth of funding for programs that provide assistance for families with children, affordable housing, services for the disabled, etc. Proportionally, the proposed cuts to the safety net are dramatically larger than cuts to other government services – according to the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, they are at least three times larger! Meanwhile, the Mayor has proposed hardly any measures that would actually raise revenue.

Let it be clear that by raiding the social safety net, the Government will send thousands of our neighbors lives into crisis. These are programs that keep people off the streets, keep children safe, keep the vulnerable secure, and so on. As a result, these are programs that save the city lots of money. Ultimately, cuts to these programs will make this recession more prolonged and painful for the City as a whole.

Bread for the City receives funding from the city to provide some of these critical services – like our Court Based Legal Services Project, which helps prevent evictions and keeps people out of shelters. At a time when people need help more than ever before, and funding for our work is already threatened by the economy, these cuts would force us and our partner organizations to scale back our services. Rather than turn to the safety net as a first resort for freeing up capital, the City should be doing everything in its power to protect these programs.

The City has other options. The DC Fiscal Policy Institute has proposed alternative solutions that would raise revenue, tap special sources of funding for the city, and maintain DC’s safety net. Bread for the City, along with the Coalition for Community Investment, urges our elected officials to consider more humane and responsible strategies for this budget crisis.

It’s not too late. The Mayor and the Council still have time to change course. The Council will vote next Friday the 31st, so this week and next are our only opportunities to weigh in. You can also join us at the Council’s budget hearing this Friday, July 24th, 1350 Pennylsvania Ave, Suite 500, at 10am. You can also email and call city leaders to express your support for an alternative course of action that will protect the safety net - and let us know that you’ve done so.

Bread for the City will keep our community updated about the process from here on out. Please spread the word that this crisis is looming.

In the meantime, here is a list of the proposed cuts:

Enhancements previously secured for the 2010 budget that now face rollbacks include:
$2 million for rent supp
$1.5 for TANF grants
$750k for Housing First
$5.4 million for adult job training
$2 million for literacy
$1.5 million for grandparent caregivers
$500 k for rapid housing (this cuts half of the enhancement)

Cuts to existing programs include:
$6.2 million cut to TANF benefits for poor families with kids
$1.8 million for legal services to poor/poverty loan program,
$3.5 million taken from HPAP special purpose fund (not sure what impact is in 2010)
$340,000 from Office of Victims’ Services
$4 million from libraries
$1.9 million “supported work program” within income maintenance administration
$575,000 from school mental health programs
$5 million from “community health administration” (not sure the impact)
$3 million cut to neighborhood investment fund
Cut to health care contract at DC Jail
$2.5 million cut in grants for the Children Youth Investment Trust Corp
$5 million from the Dept of Disability Services

The only revenue enhancement measure is $7 million from raising a tax applied to phone bills that pays for 911 and 311 services.

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