Category Archives: Moving Forward

What We Won This Budget Season

There is no denying that we can all feel very proud of our work this year. Our budget campaign got huge victories that not only included funding restorations but also policy shifts and NEW investments in critical programs!

But the most successful aspect of the campaign was the way so many different organizations and individuals came together to make it happen. Fair Budget’s active campaign committee included staff from organizations, concerned community members, long-time DC activists and volunteer advocates who are directly impacted by budget cuts. Our members, volunteers and allies were able to mobilize equally diverse crowds for our actions, making a big impression on our Councilmembers. We helped each other to learn new social media tools, to understand the budget process, and to build relationships with reporters. And we figured out what other skills we will have to learn to have an even bigger impact next year.

This is another kind of victory for our campaign. The feeling that we’re building something powerful, that we’re bringing people together to think beyond the budget numbers to what actually makes a budget fair. There are many programs that are still desperately underfunded. There are policies and practices that can undermine what money we do win for services. Political will is too often determined by money or re-election concerns, rather than by human needs and human rights. But as we continue to build power, we will develop the strength, skills and vision to successfully re-imagine the budget process and make Justice a central component.

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Victory! Because of you!

Yesterday we joined advocates and community members in a packed Council Chamber to witness the final vote that passed the FY2013 budget. We’ll have more details coming soon, but we just wanted to offer an initial report that ALL FOUR of the items we were pushing in our most recent email action were included in the budget!! Three of the four were put into the budget ahead of the vote today.

The fourth item we wanted, a one-year delay before cuts to TANF families are implemented, was introduced in an amendment from Jim Graham. It spurred a heated debate on the dais. We had a shaky 8 votes in support and it seemed like we might lose a couple over the course of the debate. But as more Councilmembers weighed in and spoke powerfully about how the government has failed TANF families and shouldn’t punish the families for that failure, sentiments seemed to turn. Jack Evans and Vincent Orange were among those who spoke the most passionately in support of Graham’s amendment. (You should have seen the wide eyes and dangling mouths of the advocates in the room when Evans really got going.) Continue reading

Take Action Today! (Last chance before budget vote!)

Although we are still celebrating our victory restoring $46 million to safety net services (click here to see an inspiring video of our culminating “Day in the Strife” action!), there remain a few programs that did not get addressed in the Council’s budget. Please take action today by emailing the Council asking them to support these critical programs. We have until the final budget vote on Tuesday, June 5th to get money for these programs into the Council’s “Wish List” (funded if there is extra revenue next year).

The priorities we need Council to address are:

1) Delaying benefit cuts to families receiving TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). Families who have been on TANF more than 60 months would have to survive on $257 a month if the cuts go through.

2) Investing in the Project-based component of the Local Rent Supplement Program, which helps create desperately needed affordable housing.

3) Providing assistance to injured DC workers.

We are asking Fair Budget members and supporters to email and call DC Councilmembers today to advocate for our remaining priorities.

Email your Councilmember by clicking here for an easy one-click action!

Call Kwame Brown to ask him to support these priorities at: (202) 724-8032

We’re almost there! Please help us spread the word. Let’s keep up the pressure and get this done!

A Budget Victory! DC Council restores $46M to Safety Net Services!

We are delighted to report that yesterday the Council unanimously passed a revised budget that prioritized affordable housing, healthcare and support for DC’s homeless families! And we have you to thank for it!

In our final push these last couple of weeks you have helped us turn up the pressure. We interrupted a budget hearing with gospel music and 60 family members from the DC General shelter. We inundated Council members with tweets during their Mark-Up sessions. We sent nearly 600 emails to Council talking about the need to fund homeless services and to move families out of shelter and into housing. And we showed up with 200 people at the Wilson Building for our huge “Day In the Strife” action, challenging the Council to support safety net services. Our members and partners have been doing amazing work beyond that as well, and our combined efforts have made the difference.

Chairman Kwame Brown even gave Fair Budget a shout-out in his opening remarks as he introduced the budget yesterday, referencing our “Day in the Strife” action to demonstrate why the Council needed to prioritize affordable housing. (We talked about more than affordable housing during that action, but we’ll take the compliment!)

Please take a moment to thank Councilmembers for their support with this easy one-click action.

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Here’s what we won in the budget:

(See DCFPI for more complete info)

AFFORDABLE HOUSING: $18 MILLION RESTORED TO THE HOUSING PRODUCTION TRUST FUND The Council restored $18 million of the $20 million cut from the trust fund in Gray’s proposed budget by redirecting money from the sale of DC-owned property into the fund.

HOMELESS SERVICES: $4 MILLION ADDED TO LOCAL RENT SUPPLEMENT PROGRAM This will allow between 200 and 300 homeless families to be moved out of shelter into stable housing and given housing subsidies, helping to alleviate the overcrowding at the DC General family shelter and hopefully allowing the shelter to accept new families in need of emergency shelter. It does not restore the $7 million gap in homeless services, but keeps it as number 1 on the Council’s “wish list” for future surplus revenue. The budget also puts as number 5 on the wish list the $1.7 million to add beds for homeless youth.

HEALTHCARE: $23 MILLION FOR THE DC HEALTHCARE ALLIANCE The Council restored $23 million to the DC HealthCare Alliance, the city’s public health insurance program, ensuring that hospital coverage will continue to be available to residents using the program.

VICTIM’S SERVICES: $1.1 MILLION FOR THE OFFICE OF VICTIM’S SERVICES This restoration will help provide shelter, counseling, legal services and support to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes. An additional $2.5M was put as number 8 on the Council’s wish list.

THE WISH LIST: We don’t love the idea of trying to cover budget costs with money that doesn’t exist yet, but we do appreciate how most of the top ten items on the Council’s wish list for how to spend future surplus revenue are safety net priorities: 1) $7M for homeless services; 2) $14.7M for TANF; 3) $9.5M to implement the South Capitol St Memorial Act; 4) $18M for NoMa park (or to prevent park being sold for HPTF money); 5) $1.7M to add beds for homeless youth; 6) $1.6M for various family services; 7) $2.9M for Home Purchase Assistance Program; 8) $2.5M to Ofc of Victim Svcs to offset various cuts; 9) $8.5M for infant/toddler progs; 10) $5M for special ed improvement.

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Our fight is not quite over. There is one more budget vote on June 5th and we think we might be able to get a couple more of our priorities addressed (like delaying the cut to TANF). It’s important in these moments that we make sure the Council knows that we appreciate their support of the safety net. Please remember to take our one-click action to thank the Council for their support and ask them to incorporate our few remaining priorities:

Please click here to thank Councilmembers!

Thank you for all of your support this budget season! We will update you with new developments as budget negotiations continue and as we plan a fun event to celebrate our budget victories!

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