Last week the Council cast a unanimous first vote to approve the fiscal year 2022 budget. I am proud to support investments that center equity and champion a recovery that will allow all DC residents an opportunity for success. Building on the foundation the Mayor’s proposed budget established, the Council strengthened our commitment to a full recovery and passed an amendment to increase revenue to grow our investments in housing, expand our local Earned Income Tax Credit, and support our childcare services in the District. More highlights are below.
In addition to my focus on the budget, I am working to increase our vaccination rates and curb the spread of COVID-19 ahead of the return to in-person learning this Fall. You may have seen the updated mask guidance that will go into effect this July 31st. In short, DC will require mask wearing while indoors regardless of vaccination status. While taking this necessary precaution, we must continue to encourage others to get vaccinated.
Vaccination rates specifically among youth ages 12-18 need particular attention. Across the District, school campuses will continue to host immunizations pop-up sites, making it easy for parents and their kids to walk up ahead of returning to school next month. This Saturday, the Ballou High School will also host an all-encompassing immunization event. See their flyer here. I encourage you to share this information with your friends and family.
Below you will find a comprehensive update on the budget process, legislation I’ve introduced in the past month, and the Council’s investments in public safety. At a time when the District is returning to a new normal, public safety will remain our top priority.
Christina Henderson Councilmember, At-Large ChristinaHendersonDC.com
Councilmember Christina Henderson, her husband Nu, daughter Jordan, with Kim Ford and Celine Fejeran of Martha’s Table on Nats field for the Councilmember’s ‘Night at Nats Park’ on July 21, 2021. Thanks to all who joined us!
An Equitable Budget for the District of Columbia
On Tuesday, July 20th, the Council cast a unanimous first vote on the fiscal year 2022 Local Budget Act (LBA) and the Budget Support Act (BSA). This budget reflects my belief that one’s zip code should not determine one’s opportunity for success. I feel an immense obligation as a policymaker to ensure an intentional, equitable recovery because our neighborhoods are only as strong as our most vulnerable residents. When we invest in our most vulnerable communities with priorities including housing, education, maternal health, safe infrastructure, increased paid leave, and the support for pay parity in our childcare industry, we support the needs of thriving residents and a strong workforce.
I was proud to support so many critical investments and you can see my full list of highlights here. Below, I will share two specific investments we were able to include in the budget. The second and final votes on the LBA and BSA will happen on August 3rd and August 10th, respectively.
Building on the foundation of the fiscal year 2022 proposed budget, the Council strengthened its impact on a just recovery and passed a measure to increase revenue. This will mean an increase in taxes for our individual residents who earn above $250,000 per year. As an example, this increase equates to about $31 per month for individuals earning around $300,000 and then will go up from there.
Childcare: As a legislator who has worked on childcare issues for the past decade, I deeply understand how complex, critical, and expensive quality care truly is. Specifically as a mother with a 2-year-old daughter in childcare, I know how much time, effort, and love industry employees put into their jobs and our children.
This historic investment of $53 million will enable DC to transform this sector by ensuring its workforce can earn a living wage commensurate with their experience, credentials, and value.
Housing: In addition to transforming childcare, this revenue will support needed housing investments focused on ending chronic homelessness in the District. Specifically, an unprecedented $65 million investment will support 2,400 new housing vouchers and fund preventative programs for those at risk of homelessness.
These investments come on top of additional housing supports including an increase of $20 million for 775 permanent supportive housing vouchers and a $5 million investment to convert existing rental units into affordable units under the new GAIN Act of 2021.
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): Finally, this would increase our local EITC from 40% to 55%, while establishing a monthly payout rather than the current annual lump sum. The investment will begin deeply supporting families in FY23, with a first-year investment of $24 million. This will be crucial for our low-income families to thrive in all corners of the District.
Unpacking Investment Highlights
Increases overall investment in public education through a 3.6% increase in the UPSFF and targets increased resources to students most in need, such as at-risk students and ELL students in secondary grades.
Invests in School Based Mental Health Programs with $28.6 million for the full implementation of at least one mental health professional in every public school in the District.
Establishes stabilization funds totaling $10.2 million for adult, residential, and early childhood public charter schools facing ongoing enrollment challenges. Additionally, recurring investments beginning in FY24 will support a year over year 3.1% increase in the Charter School facilities allotment.
Provides Office of Out of School Time Grants with $18.5 million to support necessary services that students and the larger school community has repeatedly requested.
Invests a specific and additional $12.3 million for new violence interrupters and an expanded pathways program under the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, which now has a total budget of $28.1 million. In FY21, this office had a total budget of $10.3 million.
Enhances the Office of Unified Communications by $167,000 to fund the new alternative response to 911 calls for mental health crises.
Supports our workers with a $105 million investment to expand the Universal Paid Leave Fund, thus increasing the medical leave available from 2 weeks to up to 6 weeks and adds 2 weeks of pre-natal leave benefits. This creates a path forward to attain 12 weeks of paid leave across the board for new parents and individuals dealing with a serious health condition – or assisting a family member with one.
Establishes a new revenue fund from the 118 new Automated Traffic Enforcement camera revenue to fund and implement the Vision Zero omnibus. These funds are expected to fulfill the $41 million per year necessary to implement all aspects of the Vision Zero legislation.
Provides the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants with $16 million to support survivors of interfamily offenses, sexual abuse, stalking, and victim services grants; support for eviction diversion coordination and legal representation; housing assistance and relocation services; and re-entry services, including community based reentry services for transgender returning citizens.
Enhancements of the Office of the Attorney General totaling $3.2 million including doubling the Restorative Justice Program and Cure the Streets, both targeting violence reduction.
Bolsters the budget for the DC Public Library system with a $3.3 million investment to increase operating hours, enhance the collections budget, and invests over $146 million in new library facilities and maintenance through FY26.
Fully funds the newly established Office of Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing with $836,000.
Enhances support for excluded workers by $20 million for a total of $35 million in FY22.
Prioritizes economic recovery through $40 million to help small businesses recover from pandemic-related economic losses; and an additional $40 million to assist hotels who experienced significant occupancy reductions due to COVID-19.
Invests $25 million in a new Kenilworth Pedestrian Bridge to replace the bridge spanning 295 that recently collapsed.
Expands opportunities by investing $4.8 million in the Department of Employment Services to begin targeted workforce development programs for youth in Wards 7 and 8; ensures the School Year Internship Program remains permanent; establishes a Commission on Poverty, among other workforce investments.
Invests $28.6 million to permanently exempt unemployment insurance benefits from income taxes.
The VOICE Amendment Act
This month, I introduced a bill that would bring ranked choice voting to the District of Columbia. Ranked choice voting is a system that will allow voters to rank up to five candidates in order of their preference. If a candidate receives more than half of the first-choice votes, that candidate wins – just like any other election. However, if there is no majority winner after counting first choices, the race is decided by an instant runoff.
Data shows RCV better supports women, people of color, and first-time candidates when running for office. Candidates are incentivized to campaign positively to appeal to the supporters of other candidates as a backup preference. Further, data increasingly shows that in all jurisdictions that use RCV – including New York City, Minneapolis, and San Francisco – voter turnout is modestly increasing, and races are more dynamic and collegial with genuine policy debates supplanting negative campaign tactics.
The VOICE Act would also establish a voter education campaign to be conducted by the Board of Elections. The Board of Elections will need to prioritize outreach to seniors and low-turnout precincts as part of its public education efforts. We look forward to a robust discussion of how a new model for our elections can elevate diverse candidates, increase voter buy-in to outcomes, and improve candidate discourse.
Sense of the Council: Medicare for All
Just before recess, I introduced a Sense of the Council Resolution supporting Medicare for All. This resolution urges the United States Congress to provide universal, comprehensive health coverage with zero cost-sharing for patients and endorses the Medicare for All Act and the State-Based Universal Health Care Act. If passed, these bills would provide affordable, accessible, and exceptional health care for every resident in the District, and across the Untied States.
This pandemic has shown us how fragile the relationship is between employment and health care. More than 24,500 people in the District of Columbia are uninsured, and many more are underinsured. The large number of people that lost insurance because of their jobs proves the importance for a public option of health care.
Councilmember Christina Henderson on the mobile dental unit bus! Children’s National held a pop-up event at Dunbar High School where routine immunizations, medical and dental check-ups, and COVID-19 vaccines were available for their children. Keep reading for the next pop-up opportunity.
Public Safety in the District
Public Safety remains one of my top priorities across the District. We know that recently, crime and violent crime has increased in many neighborhoods. Yesterday, the Council hosted a public roundtable on the District’s gun violence prevention and intervention efforts. I will continue to work towards local and federal partnerships that will support safety in the District. This is an emergency that requires an equally urgent response.
To share some specific investments from the fiscal year 2022 budget, the Council has allocated the below to support public safety prevention and mitigation programs:
Invests in Building Blocks violence intervention programs with $1.57 million for the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE). This will result in 52 additional violence interrupters, 11 additional case managers, and an increase in trauma-informed mental health services.
A total $28.2 million budget for the ONSE to support the expansion of the above programs.
Increases person-based violence prevention services through $2.6 million for the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants including 20 additional family support workers and 5 additional supervisors.
Targeted investments in the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services totaling $750,000 which will establish grants for community-based organizations to support action plans in Building Blocks DC neighborhoods.
A robust, 50% expansion of the MPD cadet program to 150 cadets, which will recruit future police officers from current District residents.
Constituent Services Corner
STAY DC walk-in support events
STAY DC support teams across the District are hosting pop-up events where residents can bring their documents and receive support when submitting a strong application.
There are opportunities posted for the next 2 weeks and support is available in English and Spanish. Please see the full list of events here.
Back to School immunizations
I had the pleasure of joining Dunbar High School’s immunization event held in partnership with Children’s National. This event featured Children’s National mobile pop-up units for routine immunizations, dental screenings, routine check-ups, and the COIVD-19 vaccine.
If you missed this event, you can get everything done at the upcoming event with Ballou High School happening this Saturday, July 31st from 11 AM - 3 PM. You can register by calling (202) 476-5464, option 1. Walk-up services are also available.
Beginning Monday, August 2, students and families will be able to schedule appointments to receive their required immunizations through vaccinate.dc.gov. Appointments will be at participating DCPS and public charter school locations, and families can make an appointment regardless of a student’s school of enrollment. There will 2,000 appointments available each week.
Councilmember Christina Henderson joins Ward 7 neighbors to walk the new path required by those who must cross 295 for access to the Deanwood metro and other daily necessities. Pictured are (from left) Ward 7 member of the State Board of Education Eboni-Rose Thompson, Councilmember Mary Cheh, DCPS Community Action Team member Sharona Robinson, myself, and ANC 7D Commissioner Dorothy Douglas.