D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (Courtesy photo)
**FILE** D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (Courtesy photo)

District residents are contemplating what the new fiscal year 2022-2023 budget passed by the D.C. Council on May 24 means for them as far as its impact on their lives.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who shepherded the budget during the months-long deliberation process, complimented his council colleagues for passing the city’s spending plan with what he viewed as key priorities and said it “changes the game for funding schools.”

“With this budget, we’ll finally start getting funding to schools with the greatest need to support their at-risk students,” he said. “Coupled with Schools First in Budgeting Act – which I plan to move in the coming months – our schools not only will be stabilized but also be able to grow.”

The council voted for the 2023 local budget and took its first vote on the Budget Support Act (BSA) on May 24, which includes statutory changes necessary to implement the city’s financial plan, such as the legal authority for specific revenue changes. The next vote on the BSA takes place June 7. When the BSA gains approval, the budget will go to Mayor Muriel Bowser for her backing. Then, the budget will be transmitted to the president who will submit it to the U.S. Congress. If there are no objections on the federal level, the budget will become effective Oct. 1.

Mendelson Cites Budget Priorities

The chairman said the new budget adds $41.6 million for new funding in the uniform per-student funding formula for schools in the District’s public and charter systems whose populations include more than 40% of at-risk pupils. Additional funds have been earmarked for schools whose at-risk student populations exceed 70%.

Regarding the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), he said it has received more funding by increasing the fundraising match by $500,000. UDC’s Higher Education Incentive Fund Scholarship program received an increase by more than $1.7 million. The university’s budget includes a $51 million increase over the next five years to its Capital Improvement Plan.

Mendelson also noted the substantial allocation of funds to the Access to Justice Initiative with an additional $11.6 million to a program funded at $31.7 million. The Initiative assists low- and moderate-income residents with legal representation. In addition, more than 400 affordable housing vouchers have been added to the budget for families facing eviction from rapid rehousing.

Leaders, Residents Weigh In on Budget

Council member Christina Henderson (I-At Large) lauded the budget for funding the DC Diaper Bank Grant Program with $500,000.

“These funds are the first local government dollars the District will allocate towards diaper access for families,” Henderson said. “A sufficient supply of diapers for one child can cost a family between $75 and $100 a month but 1-in-3 mothers run out of diapers every month.”

Henderson said diapers aren’t covered by federal assistance programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Women, Infants and Children thereby justifying the need for the bank grant. She also extolled the $118,000 funding of the Perinatal Mental Health Task Force that will study the psychological well-being of new mothers and families. 

Other measures she praised included $6.4 million to have a mental health provider in each school, two weeks of paid leave for all District government workers at the cost of $4.4 million and $6 million for a school nurse in every public education building.

Bowser, who has fought with council members over funding the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), appeared to be pleased with the budget permitting the hiring of 347 new officers.

“My commitment to the men and women at MPD and to our community is that I will keep working to make sure we have a fully-staffed and fully-resourced Metropolitan Police Department,” Bowser said. 

The Fair Budget Coalition, an umbrella organization of groups focused on aiding low- and moderate-income Washingtonians, said its “wins” with the city’s new financial plan include 260 permanent supportive housing vouchers for families and 500 vouchers of that kind for individuals.

“Thanks to our collective advocacy, the budget preserves the mayor’s proposed investments to end chronic homelessness for 500 individuals and 260 families,” said the leaders of the coalition in their weekly e-newsletter.

Joseph Leitmann-Santa Cruz, the CEO and executive director of Capital Area Asset Builders, applauded the council for expanding the DC Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to undocumented adult workers in the city.

“This is a major public policy victory for the benefit of low-to-moderate income undocumented individuals and families in Washington, D.C.,” Leitmann-Santa Cruz said. “Now, undocumented D.C. workers and their families can also benefit.”

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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