On April 1 the Mayor will send his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2011 to the Council. With the District facing a budget gap of at least $500 million, we are concerned that the Mayor’s proposal will contain cuts to critical safety-net services as well as programs that are necessary to help people move out of poverty. At a time when the need is the greatest, these cuts will be especially painful. Past experience has taught us that at times like these, the cuts will fall disproportionately on people living in poverty.
The Fair Budget Coalition, which is made up of more than 60 organizations, has developed a set of recommendations to close the budget gap in a fair and equitable fashion. The report, entitled “A Balance Approach for Challenging Times” makes a specific set of recommendations regarding spending, non-monetary program changes and strategies to raise additional revenue. The goal of the proposal is to spread the burden so that those with the least don’t pay the largest price. (In the interest of full disclosure, Legal Aid is an active member of the Fair Budget Coalition and will be honoring the Coalition at our annual Servant of Justice Awards Dinner).
The following is from the summary of recommendations:
Restoring Budget Cuts and Providing Cost-of-Living Adjustments
- Restore $2 million cut from the Local Rent Supplement Program after the FY 2010 budget was adopted.
- Restore all cuts made to homeless services in FY 2010.
- Maintain funding for the Home Purchase Assistance Program, Emergency Rental Assistance Program, and Low-Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program at FY 2010 levels. All programs were funded in 2010 with one-time funds.
- Provide a cost-of-living adjustment to the Department of Mental Health Bridge Housing Program.
- Provide a cost-of-living adjustment for rental subsidies in the Permanent Supportive Housing program.
- Restore $250,000 cut from the campaign to provide free tax preparation assistance and Earned Income Tax Credit outreach.
- Restore automatic cost-of-living adjustments to the income tax standard deduction and personal exemption and the property tax homestead deduction.
Non-Monetary Policy Changes to Improve Programs & Services
- Require the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to track and report the number of Child and Family Services Agency wards on whose behalf OSSE pays tuition to a public school located outside the District.
- Improve monitoring of mental health services provided to children.
- Designate an existing key staff person in the Executive Office of the Mayor to lead and coordinate all anti-hunger and nutrition efforts in the city.
- Support efforts to promote use of electronic health records among all health care providers.
- Require a spending plan for the Department of Mental Health, the Child and Family Services Agency, and the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services for specialty services for children with high mental health needs.
- Set new rules for the Nuisance Abatement Fund to ensure that it is used to address rental housing code violations.
- Ban recipients of D.C. funds from categorical discrimination against ex-offenders in housing and employment.
- Identify best practices used in other communities to expand permanent supportive housing.
- Improve data collection on demand and capacity to provide homeless services.
- Expand the definition of allowable educational activities in the TANF employment program.
- Repeal the law which mandates that TANF applicants attend orientation sessions.
- Restructure TANF employment services to better meet recipients’ needs.
- Adopt the Exemptions and Abatements Information Act of 2009.
- Require legislation to be funded for before it is adopted.
Finding Additional Resources
- Identify ways to increase federal revenues
a) Increase residents’ access to food stamps and benefit levels
b) Seek federal funding for selected Child and Family Services Agency services
c) Use federal stimulus funds for electronic health records
d) Fund Opportunity Accounts at $200,000 to obtain federal matching funds
- Use D.C.’s rainy day fund and work with Congress to change restrictive rules
- Raise new revenues
a) Establish new tax income tax rates for high-income residents
b) Expand the sales tax to cover more services
c) Eliminate the tax exemption for D.C. residents who invest in out-of-state bonds