Newsletter: First Budget Vote on Tuesday!
On Tuesday, the D.C. Council will take the first of two votes on the Fiscal Year 2020 budget, which will begin this October. This will determine much of the direction for our government resources next year. As a reminder, both the specific money allocations and any enabling legislation supporting that funding require second votes, which will happen in late May and early June.
I have heard from many of you this budget season. Thank you for your emails, your calls, and visits to the Wilson Building. It’s no surprise that your top concerns were equitable funding for our public schools, additional money to preserve and build affordable housing, resources toward preventing homelessness, and continued support for innovative approaches to public safety. Transportation-related advocacy, including support for Vision Zero efforts, has picked up in these last several weeks. Budget season is a good reminder of the breadth of programs and services our government funds, from health care to business corridor grants to parks and recreation.
A FEW WORDS ON MY COMMITTEE
I am most responsible for leading the Council’s oversight efforts of workforce development and labor law enforcement. The agencies under my Committee on Labor and Workforce Development’s purview, particularly the Department of Employment Services (DOES), offer programs and services for some of our most vulnerable residents. Frankly, my Committee’s agencies don’t get the volume of email and advocacy others do, but I think they are a critical part of closing our income inequality gap. The difference between the median income of black and white households in our city is unconscionable. The District has seen significant economic growth in the last decade, but many residents have not benefited from the prosperity. We have to do much more to address the opportunity gap in this city and remove barriers to well-paying jobs, particularly for residents of color and returning citizens. It’s my opinion that we haven’t built needed career pipelines into our biggest private sector employers and industries—IT, healthcare, infrastructure and construction, for example—that would leverage our economic growth to benefit our own residents.
We need a great partnership between government, businesses and nonprofits to do this, and we need to work together with urgency.
That’s why this budget season my guiding principle was to make strategic investments in programs that have proven results or shown much promise toward getting residents on paths to living wage careers. For the two years I have chaired this Committee, information on how programs were working has been incomplete, unavailable, or hard to interpret. I found that in some cases, we don’t actually measure the outcome we desire most: whether someone gets and keeps a job. Some residents have testified to the efficacy of various programs, and others have recounted experiences that did not lead to any employment. Some of the latter cases were absolutely heartbreaking.
Given the urgency, I decided to take a different budget approach. I felt we couldn’t keep doing the same thing year after year, just hoping for better outcomes. The status quo of spending a lot of money on programs that do not help our residents cannot continue.
That’s why my Committee decided to recommend a one-year-only extension for workforce programs that have not provided reliable data showing D.C. residents graduating with skills certifications and securing jobs. These programs are the Local Adult Training Program, D.C. Infrastructure Academy, Project Empowerment, and D.C. Career Connections. Most of the time, when the Council reviews the Mayor’s budget, a program’s funding is assumed to continue from year to year, and it is even budgeted ahead four years out. But being able to measure success in taxpayer investments is important for knowing that residents are being put on successful paths to employment—and that our promises to help residents secure long-term, living wage jobs are being delivered.
I am committed to making sure that my Committee does everything in its power to close the opportunity gap in this city. I know that DOES Director Unique Morris-Hughes shares that goal. DOES is a crucial part of building strong career pipelines, and I look forward to working with Director Morris-Hughes to get the information and outcomes needed to restore full funding to these vital programs. In addition to the one-year-only extensions for certain programs, below are some of the ways my Committee is investing in new and already results-proven programs next year to move us closer toward a more equitable city.
COMMITTEE BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS
Highlights of the Committee’s investments:
- $1.7 million to restore and expand the Career Pathways Innovation Fund grant program, a successful, data-driven workforce training program that combines literacy and occupational training for the District’s adult jobseekers
- $600,000 to fund the Pathways to Government Careers Act, establishing an apprenticeship initiative within D.C. government for District residents and students to increase long-term, middle-class employment opportunities
- $176,000 to fund work-based learning coordinator positions within D.C. Public Schools and to support career and technical education programs in District public charter schools
- $140,000 to protect low-wage earners from overly burdensome wage garnishments with implementation of the Wage Garnishment Fairness Amendment Act, which will also require advance notification to workers subject to wage garnishment
- $70,000 to help workers understand their legal rights through an expanded Wage and Hour Education Grants Program
Highlights of the Committee’s legislative recommendations:
- Enhancing the Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) by allowing youth not in school or currently working to participate for up to 12 weeks and placing at least 100 participants with host employers that have apprenticeship programs
- Increasing work opportunities for youth living and/or attending school in Ward 7 and 8 by directing two-thirds of local funding to serve these youth year-round
- Setting high-wage training standards at the D.C. Infrastructure Academy and establishing performance-based payments and incentives for training providers
- Increasing the transportation subsidy for adult learners and SYEP participants
- Ensuring that upcoming workers' rights educational campaigns and publications are timely and clear
- Setting minimum standards for grants issued by DOES, including timelines, advertising, and transparency requirements
The Committee also invested $1 million to fund the School Safety Act to combat sexual abuse and student-on-student harassment within District public schools, as well as establish clear policies to address allegations.
You can watch a short clip here of my opening remarks about what I believe this budget represents for residents, jobseekers, and District workers. You can also read my press release here. I welcome your input and feedback as the budget process continues.
MORE LEGISLATIVE UPDATES
Earlier this week, my Ward 1 colleague, Brianne Nadeau, and I sent a letter asking D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine to give his legal opinion on a $46 million tax abatement for the Line Hotel in Adams Morgan after an audit found that the hotel didn't meet its requirements for hiring D.C. residents. You might have seen the Washington City Paper article about the DOES audit and why this case is especially concerning for District workers, especially in Ward 1.
You can read our letter here to the D.C. Attorney General.
Supporting District Small Businesses: As we end both National Small Business Week and the District’s own D.C. Small Business Week, what better time to check out some of the small businesses in your neighborhood that play an essential role in helping our economy grow and thrive. As Chair of the Labor Committee, I can tell you that small businesses are some of our city’s greatest assets: They often hire some of our hardest-to-employ residents and help anchor neighborhoods that are under-resourced with limited access to goods and services.
See how you can support small businesses this weekend with this quick guide and discount card from the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing & Economic Development.
May is National Bike Month: The spring weather has broken in time to pick up a bike for the first time or join other regular cyclists for a number of biking activities across the city this month. There has been much discussion about street safety for pedestrians and cyclists over the past few weeks, and as I wrote in my last newsletter, I am making a concerted effort to ride my bike more and be more involved in strengthening accountability and oversight on this issue. I hope you will consider joining me at some of these events if you're able:
- Bike-to-Work Day on Friday, May 17, at locations across the District
- 10th Annual Tour de DCPL on Sunday, May 19, starting at 12:30pm at Tenley-Friendship Library (4450 Wisconsin Ave. NW). The ride will visit Washingtoniana, the Fab Test Lab, and more. The ride will also explore the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum’s must-see exhibit, “A Right to the City,” which has satellite installations at five D.C. public libraries throughout 2019.
DPR Survey for New Community Programs: The Department of Parks and Recreation is looking to residents for new ideas and feedback on programs that are most interesting and best fit residents’ and families’ needs. Let them know what types of activities and programs best work for you by completing their online survey here.
- MANNA Housing Fair & Town Hall: Saturday, May 11, from 12:00-3:00pm at Ron Brown High School (4800 Meade St. NE)
- Funk Parade & Festival: Saturday, May 11, from 1:00-7:00pm along the U Street NW corridor
- Marshall Heights Day: Saturday, May 18, at JC Nalle Community School (219 50th St. SE)
- Paid Family Leave Employer Webinar: Wednesday, May 22, at 1:30pm
- Paid Family Leave Employer Webinar: Friday, May 31, at 1:30pm
Thanks so much for reading, and have a great weekend.