Spring is finally here, and you know what that means – warmer days, more pollen, Cherry Blossoms in peak form, the joy of March Madness, and the launch of budget season. Earlier this week, Mayor Bowser released her FY24 budget proposal to the public. Now begins the Council’s 70-day window of review, public hearings, meetings, and finally votes.
I think it’s important to view the Mayor’s budget proposal in the context of the financial realities we are facing. Unfortunately, this year, our resources are shrinking. In February, the CFO forecast a revenue drop of more than $390 million largely due to reduction in revenues from falling commercial real estate values, the end to a huge influx of federal funds related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and an overall slowdown in the economy as a result of high inflation. At the same time, our expenditures are increasing due to increased costs on everything from existing capital projects to Medicaid, our need to fully fund DC government retirement accounts, and new collective bargaining agreements. This budget season is going to be tough.
While I was glad to see proposed investments in behavioral health community response, gun violence prevention, out-of-school time initiatives especially for students with special needs, critical cybersecurity upgrades, and capital infrastructure needs, I have concerns that I’ll be working with colleagues to address in the coming weeks. For example, the 134,000 District residents who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to increase their food purchasing power each month are facing higher risk of food insecurity now that the pandemic-era supplemental allotment has ended. Not only does the Mayor’s proposal not address this gap, but there are proposed cuts to DC Health’s food access grant programs and no additional investment to improve access to school meals for kids. Across the government, there is a proposed cut of nearly 750 vacant positions and I worry how that will impact critical government services like food and building inspections and healthcare workforce. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Executive to address some of these concerns in the coming weeks. As chair of the Committee on Health, I encourage residents to weigh in. We’ve made some modifications to our budget oversight hearing schedule to ensure that residents have time to contribute, while minimizing hearings that stretch long into the evenings. You can find that information and sign-up to testify here: https://bit.ly/HealthHearings.
At Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, the full Council and the Mayor met to discuss the FY24 budget proposal. Councilmember Henderson expressed concern about the lack of investments in food access programs and about the revenue analysis from automated ticket enforcement cameras (ATE), since we have struggled with reciprocity with neighboring jurisdictions. Click here to watch the full meeting.
This week, the Committee on Health introduced a new bill to provide life-saving medication to students with diabetes and asthma.
The Access to Emergency Albuterol and Glucagon Amendment Act of 2023 would require schools to have an undesignated supply of albuterol and glucagon and require the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to train and certify school staff to administer the medication to children in the event of an asthma or diabetes emergency. Read the full press release here.
Health Committee Markup
On Monday, March 20, 2023, the Committee on Health unanimously moved the Copay Accumulator Amendment Act of 2023. It will now move to be considered by the whole Council. This important legislation ensures District residents receive the full benefit of their health insurance plans by requiring health insurers count all funds paid toward an individual’s copay or coinsurance, including from coupons and patient assistance programs, be counted toward the individual’s deductible and out-of-pocket maximum. This means DC residents will reach their deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums sooner and will receive more benefit from their health insurance plans. Watch the full hearing here.
Christina in the Community
Opened in 1990 in response to the AIDS crisis in Washington, DC, Joseph’s House offers a welcoming community and comprehensive nursing and support services to homeless men and women with advanced HIV disease and terminal cancer. Councilmember Henderson visited the house last week and was moved by the fact that the staff has been able to transition several of its clients out of hospice care. This means life expectancy for these residents and their ability to live independently increased significantly.
DC Federation of Democratic Women/Women in Blue Conference
Last week, Councilmember Henderson spoke at the DC Federation of Democratic Women’s event focused on lobbying on important issues. The Councilmember spoke about her Health Committee priorities and how she plans to continue to champion infant and maternal wellness and comprehensive healthcare access.
Ward 3 Democrats March Meeting
Councilmember Henderson was invited to this month’s Ward 3 Democrats meeting. Members expressed concern over Congressional interference, housing affordability, and discussed priorities for the Mayor’s FY 24 budget.
MedStar Georgetown University Hospital
Councilmember Henderson continued her hospital tours by visiting MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. She was impressed by the renovations in progress on the new wing and the new technologies being employed to help treat cancer patients.
Community of Hope Birth Center
The state-of-the-art Family Health and Birth Center at Community of Hope provides family care and labor and delivery options for expecting DC families. The center, located at 2120 Bladensburg Rd, NE, is available to low-risk birthing women and provides a host of medical services, resources, and procedures. The staff there is knowledgeable and go the extra mile to ensure mom and baby are supported during and after the birthing process.
Anacostia Business Improvement District (BID) Integrated Safety and Security Council Meeting
Last week, Councilmember Henderson met with members of the Integrated Safety and Security Council from the Anacostia BID to discuss ways that businesses can increase foot traffic, effectively relay concerns about traffic safety, and ways to reduce loitering around store fronts. Members also brainstormed ways to assist each other with beautification efforts, such as planters and other greenery.
Howard University Medical School
Councilmember Henderson visited the Howard University School of Medicine to meet with Dean Andrea Hayes-Dixon. She had an eye-opening discussion about how to create and sustain medical career pipelines in the District. Did you know that approximately 80% of the black doctors in the United States received their degrees from either Howard University or Meharry Medical College in Nashville, TN?
Councilmember Henderson took a tour of Sibley Hospital in upper Northwest. Sibley has made itself the premier location for cancer diagnosis and treatment in our region. They have 35 rooms for patients and plan to expand. Did you know the hospital has the honor of delivering 3,500 babies per year-the most of any hospital in the region?
Launch of Department of Parks and Recreation's Summer Camp Sign-up
Last week, Councilmember Henderson joined Director Hunter and Mayor Bowser at Barry Farms Recreation Center to announce several changes coming to the sign-up process for summer camps and activities. The system will now be based on a lottery that gives families three weeks to sign up, rather than first-come, first-served. There is also a reduced rate for eligible residents that families must apply for by April 1. For more information on all summer programming and to sign up, visit DPR's summer camp website.
ElectEd Meet and Greet
This week, Councilmember Henderson met with parents and community members from Wards 7 and 8. They had a great conversation about the District's budget, education priorities, and her priorities as Chair of the Health Committee.
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