Last week, the D.C. Council passed a $12.1 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2014. The budget addresses the struggles of many District residents by increasing funding for low-income housing, extending extra help to vulnerable families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits, and expanding the Interim Disability Assistance (IDA) program for residents with disabilities. It also provides additional funding to other programs directed toward low-income and moderate-income residents.
To help some of the District’s neediest residents with rising housing costs, the budget will add $1.75 million to the local rent supplement voucher program, which provides rental vouchers to families with very low-incomes. It also directs additional funding for the project-based subsidies available through this program. Moreover, the budget increases funding for emergency rental assistance by $1.5 million. This crucial program helps residents at risk of evictions and homelessness stay in their rental units, or, if necessary, provides financial help to lease a new apartment. As part of this budget, the Council has also committed $500,000 to expand the emergency rental assistance program to childless adults.
Importantly, the budget also recognizes the hardships faced by vulnerable families in the District. The budget gives parents receiving TANF benefits more time to take advantage of the improved services offered through the TANF program. In addition, the budget provides $3.6 million in funding to exempt some families facing hardships from the 60-month lifetime limit on receipt of benefits. With this funding, the Council acknowledges that families caring for a child with a physical or mental disability, survivors of domestic violence, families where the adult is elderly, families in which the parent is a minor, and families in which the parent is enrolled in an approved training or GED program may need extra time before they can focus on finding employment. By taking this step to protect families facing significant barriers to employment, the District becomes the 49th jurisdiction to provide such exemptions.
Finally, the budget increases funding available to IDA by $500,000. Under this program, childless adults who apply for federal disability benefits such as Supplemental Security Income can receive $270 per month while they are waiting for their disability applications to be decided. This additional funding will ensure that a greater number of District residents will have access to limited income to support their basic necessities.
The Council will meet again on June 18 to vote on the laws needed to finalize and implement the budget.