As candidates for DC Council, we believe DC’s legislative body has an obligation to improve on the Mayor’s budget to support a full and just recovery from this health and economic crisis and do more to help residents suffering in the pandemic.
We noted two weeks ago that the pandemic should not be an excuse for an austerity budget that cuts education, housing, and health services, which would only add to the devastating impacts of the pandemic on Black and Brown communities. And we pointed out that responsible use of reserves, closing tax loopholes, and other steps could build a better budget. We are pleased that Mayor Bowser’s budget moved in that direction and avoided deep cuts.
But that is not enough. This budget proposal does not rise to address the urgency felt by residents hurting the most right now. There’s no funding to help immigrants who’ve lost jobs and are getting no federal help. This budget proposal includes only minimal investments to help residents experiencing homelessness find stable and affordable housing. The Mayor’s proposal even cuts back funding for the Housing Production Trust Fund at a time when it is abundantly clear that housing saves lives.
Mayor Bower’s budget proposal also fails to make progress on priorities that have become even more pressing as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. The budget doesn’t include meaningful strategies to address food deserts in Ward 7 or 8, yet has millions for non-essential amenities. There is not enough funding to address the need for child care when the economy reopens, the K-12 inequities made even starker by distance learning, the crushing costs of housing as residents struggle to make rent or mortgage payments, or the devastating health disparities that have resulted in Black residents suffering the vast majority of deaths in the pandemic.
The DC Council has the tools and the responsibility to shape a more equitable budget, especially given the scale and urgency of our city’s challenges. We should reform reserve repayment requirements, tighten up our tax code by eliminating wasteful or ineffective tax loopholes, and focus on long-neglected communities.
The Mayor’s budget is a starting point, but it isn’t the final word. The DC Council can and should take action to build a stronger budget that puts responding to this pandemic with caring, equity, and a more resilient DC economy front and center.