The past month has been one full of budget hearings, reopening milestones, and community engagement. Last week, Council committees completed budget mark-ups on the Mayor’s proposed fiscal year 2022 budget. Included below are many highlights of the Council’s continued investments in our workers, residents, and recovery.
In addition to working towards an equitable budget that works for all District residents, I am focused on making sure our schools are ready for their Fall semester. You may have seen these numbers on vaccination rates of 12 to 15-year-olds across all 8 wards. We have work to do. These 6 school campuses are currently offering walk-up vaccination clinics. I encourage you and your family to take advantage of this option.
Thank you for helping your community members get vaccinated. We must continue to be diligent in our efforts to help others get their shots, to accelerate our return to a new normal.
Christina Henderson Councilmember, At-Large ChristinaHendersonDC.com
Councilmember Christina Henderson and Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan enjoy the rooftop of the MLK Library celebrating DCPL’s 125th birthday.
Investing in an Equitable Budget
Below are just some of the many bold, intentional investments I advocated for and supported on the Committees on which I serve. Throughout this budget season, I attended budget oversight hearings for 35 agencies and 5 Committee mark-ups. My deepest gratitude to all who took time to publicly testify at these hearings. Your words, experiences, and suggestions greatly informed my priorities during this process. I’d also like to thank my colleagues and the Council staff who worked with me and my team on many of the below investments.
Committee of the Whole: Education Agencies
Enhanced the Office of Out of School Time Grants by $2 million for a total of $14.2 million in FY22, which will provide more families access to after-school opportunities that not only prevent learning loss, but ease stress on parents to find quality childcare between school dismal, and parents returning home from work.
Additionally, the Committee expanded the scope of higher education tuition assistance payments at OSSE so students can utilize those scholarships not just for admission to college, but also to pay remaining balances that may prevent students from continuing their higher education.
The Committee also included my recommendation for collaboration between OSSE and OCTO to implement a needed website overhaul and data organization. We hope to create a user-friendly, interactive experience for our school communities.
Both our youngest and eldest learners in the District deserve resources to help them flourish. I am proud to see the inclusion of a $5.6 million down-payment on an effort to stabilize the District’s early childhood and adult charter schools, who were not eligible for large shares of federal education dollars.
Finally, I introduced emergency legislation in early May to ensure that for school year 2021-2022 will receive the same amount of funding as the 2020-2021 school year. While this legislation did not stop all cuts, it is my priority to make all schools whole before our first vote on the full budget later this month.
I am proud that the Committee on Health will include my first piece of legislation introduced, and crucial investment in the District’s Maternal Health, through the inclusion of the Maternal Health Resources and Access Act as a subtitle in the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Support Act.
This means investments will authorize Medicaid reimbursement of doula services, with implementation set to begin in October 2022. The Committee also provided $480,000 to fund D.C. Healthcare Alliance coverage of transportation options like rideshare or public transit for women traveling to medical appointments beginning in October 2021. From fiscal year 2022 to 2025, a total investment of $4.14 million will be included in the budget and financial plan to ensure a competitive rate reimbursement for doulas.
In addition to this historic investment in resources, an immediate investment of $215,923 in fiscal year 2022 will support the implementation of the Certified Midwife Credential Amendment Act of 2021 ensuring all women have comfortable, healthy birthing options. The Committee also funded the Postpartum Coverage Expansion Amendment Act of 2019.
The Committee also took steps to make the reforms of the DC Healthcare Alliance program, including changing the requirement for in-person recertification multiple times a year which was a hassle for many residents.
Labor & Workforce Development
I was proud to champion the crucial strengthening of our Paid Family Leave program. The Committee increased our paid medical leave from 2 to up to 6 weeks. Additionally, we have added the offering of 2 weeks prenatal leave, along with automatic expansion of benefits if certain criteria are met.
Our supports for essential and excluded workers are intentional. The Committee proposed investing $30 million in the form of grants for our impacted businesses and $20 million in an enhancement for excluded worker payments.
We fund year-round internship programs for our high schoolers permanently. This investment will supplement the existing Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program, further supporting our students who want to earn and learn.
Finally, we will invest in a one-time replenishment of our Unemployment Trust Fund. This money was crucial to our residents during the pandemic, and will be crucial for future supports.
Transportation & the Environment
I am proud to have worked with the Committee to prioritize funding for realistic and impactful measures to achieve our Vision Zero goals. The District will utilize funds from new automated traffic enforcement cameras to specifically support provisions of the Vision Zero law, and makes a clear connection between enforcement and safety.
The Committee funded traffic safety improvements along Connecticut Ave NW, Georgia Ave NW, and North Capital St NW.
I applaud the Committee decision to support grants to the Trail Ranger program, which is staffed by WABA and puts in the hard work of maintaining trails and coordinating responses across the various agencies that touch trail property.
We need a massive, large-scale effort to eliminate the 28,000 lead service lines in the District. While those capital funds are not immediately available, the task force established through this year’s investments will develop a plan of action to address the situation by 2030.
Government Operations & Facilities
The Committee will enhance the proposed investments in the Office of Human Rights (OHR). The staggering backlog of cases but be remedied, and these additions are crucial when clearing these cases and ensuring future competence. The committee also proposes quarterly reports from OHR on the status of the backlog ensuring oversight and accountability
Invests in LGBTQ community by providing 20 new housing vouchers for LGBTQ seniors, and funding a study of the LGBTQ economy with recommendations for maintaining vibrant and diverse LGBTQ businesses in the District.
Finally, I look forward to reviewing the quarterly reports from the Office of Administrative Hearings on measures taken to reduce the case backlog. Our residents, businesses, and workers deserve the peace of mind of quick resolution for issues such as unemployment appeals, or DCRA enforcement.
Judiciary and Public Safety
While this is not a Committee I sit on, I wanted to highlight some crucial investments in the public safety of our communities. In line with the recommendations of the Police Reform Commission, The Committee recommended a plan to phase out school resource officers over the next four years.
The Committee also approved over $7.8 million for new violence interrupters to total a historic investment of $13.5 million for the District’s violence intervention contracts.
While there are many more investments I could highlight, I will close with the important funding for a pilot program to expand 9-1-1 call response capacity to dispatch behavioral health teams instead of police officers, as appropriate.
Have you visited our website? Check out the most recent updates and announcements right on the homepage.Constituent Services Corner: STAY DC & Vaccine Information for Kids
Apply for rental assistance today. STAY DC (Stay.dc.gov) is a program that will pay 12 months of past due rent, 3 months of future rent, and past due utilities. This program is one where tenants who have faced financial hardship due to COVID-19 will be able to apply to this program and have their rent paid directly.
As we prepare to return to in-person learning this fall, I encourage all families to make sure their children 12 years and older are vaccinated. In order to fully enjoy the summer months and get ready for in-person instruction, vaccination walk-up sites are available across the District and on select school campuses.