It is hard to believe that December is here. Even though the year is winding down, our legislative work continues full steam ahead. I want to provide a brief update on two developments related to public safety and our public benefits enrollment system.
There is not a singular action or event that has led to the rise in crime and gun violence we have seen in the District, so I’ve been working to address the issues through a variety of different approaches -- funding, legislation, and oversight of agencies charged with implementing our public safety laws. Last week, I co-introduced and worked with colleagues to pass emergency legislation to extend the Mayor’s existing public emergencies on youth crime and opioids, as the Mayor can only declare a public emergency in 15-day increments. This gives the Mayor the flexibility to waive procurement laws procure goods and services needed to address certain issues. The Mayor declared a public emergency on opioids after a resolution I authored was unanimously approved by Councilmembers.
On Wednesday, the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety, of which I’m a member, had a hearing on B25-479, the Addressing Crime Trends (ACT) Now Amendment Act. The legislation proposes a variety of changes around anti-loitering laws, organized retail theft, regulations on body-worn camera footage, and a host of things. A couple of weeks earlier, on November 8, we had a hearing on B25-479, the Addressing Crime through Targeted Interventions and Violence Enforcement (ACTIVE) Amendment Act, which proposes a variety of changes as it relates to guns and carjackings. I attended both hearings and there are elements of both bills that I support. The record is still open for the ACT Now Amendment Act, so if you would like to submit testimony for the record you can do so here. Like you, I’m frustrated that we are not seeing the decrease in criminal activity that other cities are seeing and I’m committed to working on solutions to reverse the trends we have seen this year.
On the issue of the District’s public benefits enrollment system, I want to highlight a press release I sent out earlier this week on an upcoming joint hearing of the Committee on Health, which I chair, and the Committee on Housing. I do not often send press releases about hearings but I want to draw attention to our discussion of why thousands of District residents’ public benefits applications are not being processed in a timely manner. The District has faced significant challenges when determining residents’ eligibility for health and human services benefits, despite spending more than $622 million on the DC Access System (DCAS) that was supposed to streamline the enrollment process. The District ranked last nationally for timely processing of SNAP applications in Fiscal Year 2022 with a rate of just 42.86%. (The second worst performer was Guam at 65.93%). The US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has warned that if the District did not improve timely application processing, FNS may issue a formal warning that federal funds for SNAP could be suspended. At the same time, there are 18,599 Medicaid renewal applications pending review as of November 20. DCAS was intended to create a streamlined, efficient system to connect District residents with health and human services benefits. However, cumbersome applications, lengthy application processing times, and high rates of user error persist. The oversight roundtable is scheduled for Monday, December 4 at 10am. This will be the Committee’s third hearing on Medicaid renewals this year.
Health Committee Updates
Public Roundtable on Food Policy Council Nominees and Oversight of the Food Policy Council
On Wednesday, November 29, the Health Committee held a Public Roundtable on the nominations of Jose Funk McDonald Morales to be a member of the Food Policy Council and Caroline Howe to serve as the Food Policy Director. We also touched on the general FY23 activities of the Food Policy Council. The District government alone is responsible for serving about 45 million meals a year. The Committees wide-ranging discussions with both nominees covered everything from the significance of integrating technology in fresh produce delivery services, to the benefits of investing in micro-markets in the District, to the forthcoming Centralized Kitchen Study, to maximizing federal funds for future investments.
Upcoming Health Committee Hearings
The Committee on Health has a jammed packed calendar for the month of December. See below for the upcoming hearings:
The Council has a NEW centralized system for signing up for hearings. Check it out here: https://lims.dccouncil.gov/hearings/
Working on Various Education Issues
Committee of the Whole
On Thursday, November 30, the Committee of the Whole held a Public Roundtable on four pieces of legislation introduced by Councilmember Henderson:
In her opening statement, Councilmember Henderson expressed excitement to discuss her four pieces of legislation aimed at removing impediments to student success across all levels of education and gave a brief breakdown of each bill.
When discussing her Universal Free Application for Federal Student Aid Graduation Requirement Act of 2023, Councilmember Henderson discussed with OSSE officials the correlation between graduation rates and the bill’s proposed FASFA requirements and whether OSSE has the capacity to develop a waiver for the proposed FASFA requirement.
When discussing her Institution of Higher Education Sexual Misconduct Reporting and Resource Accessibility Act of 2023, Councilmember Henderson asked about university standards for sexual misconduct prevention trainings, amnesty provisions for parties involved in sexual misconduct, campus climate survey accessibility, and sexual misconduct trainings for Title IX officers, Confidential Resource Advisers, and institution safety personnel in her conversation with government witnesses. Councilmember Henderson also highlighted the need for trauma-informed training for parties handling sexual misconduct cases. Information and testimony from the hearing can be found here, and a recording of the hearing can be found here.
Over the past two weeks, Councilmember Henderson has attended multiple Committee of the Whole public hearings to discuss educator retention, obstacles to student success, and her four pieces of education legislation.
This week Councilmember Henderson introduced a bill to support and strengthen the District’s first-responder efforts:
Christina in the Community
DC Hospital Association Panel on Maternal Health and Respectful Care
On Tuesday, November 14, Councilmember Henderson spoke at the DC Hospital Association’s educational conference which covered maternal health, diversity, equity and inclusion, and technology and artificial intelligence and the healthcare workforce. During the panel, Councilmember Henderson emphasized the significance of stigma-free, patient-centered maternal care and underscored the importance of healthcare leaders taking proactive measures to engage with and build trust among patients and birthing individuals within the community.
Volunteering at Food & Friends
On Wednesday, November 15, Councilmember Henderson and her staff volunteered at Food & Friends. After meeting with Food & Friends Chief Development Officer Carolyn Schmidt, Councilmember Henderson and her team packaged more than 500 nutritious, medically tailored Thanksgiving meals for residents with cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other serious illnesses.
AKA Xi Omega Way Unveiling
Later on Wednesday, November 15, Councilmember Henderson joined her sorors for the unveiling of the AKA Xi Omega street sign at 4411 Xi Omega Way NW. Councilmember Henderson and Councilmember Lewis George felt the happiness in the air from their fellow sorors as they honored the history and accomplishments of Xi Omega, the first Alpha Kappa Alpha graduate chapter in Washington, D.C.
Safeway Feast of Sharing
On Wednesday, November 22, Councilmember Henderson joined the Mayor, city officials, and volunteers at the 24th Anniversary of the Safeway Feast of Sharing community event and thanked volunteers for their selfless work. Although this was the first fully in-person meal since 2019, turnout was great and volunteers distributed over 5,000 boxed nutritious meals and gift bags containing winter clothing accessories, face masks, hand sanitizers, and toiletry kits. The Safeway Pharmacy team was also on site to offer attendees flu, COVID, and pneumonia vaccinations.
Ascend at the Aspen Institute
On Wednesday, November 29, Councilmember Henderson delivered welcoming remarks at the Ascend at Aspen Institute’s gathering of community-based organizations, policymakers, public sector and parent leaders from across the District and discussed how she shares their vision for two-generation approaches to supporting families.
Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee
On Friday, December 1, Councilmember Henderson met with the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee and market vendors to discuss operational challenges, public safety, and necessary updates to HVAC systems.
In Case You Missed It: Councilmember Henderson in the News
Constituent Service Corner