Newsletter: Snow! Budget! Read On...

Dear Resident,

It’s certainly March Madness (or global warming): After enjoying summer-like temperatures last week, the District is poised to experience the biggest snowstorm of the season. District government agencies have been preparing for the nor’easter over the weekend, and we will have people and equipment in place for whatever comes over the next 48 hours. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns, and please check on neighbors who might be less mobile, particularly our seniors or residents with a disability. You can find a list of warming centers here and track the District’s snowplows here.

With various threats to our local community on our minds—not only the storm, but various deleterious policies being implemented or proposed on the federal level such as immigration, health care and budget proposals—I wanted to share with you a moment from last week that gave me immense hope for our city.

After an engaging conversation with Glover Park neighbors and Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 3B last Thursday night, I was approached by a mom and her two children. I had noticed the three listening attentively in the second row of seats. I found out the reason they came that night is that Amar, a second grader at Stoddert Elementary, and her brother, Jakob, a fourth grader at Stoddert, were really upset by the national political dialogue and wanted to do something. Their mom suggested they get involved in their local community, and the three came to the ANC meeting to learn more about what they could do. Amar and Jakob said they were very interested in the issue of childcare, and also how to expand recreation opportunities, including summer camp slots. They said they would advocate for these items in the budget, and I told them to pick a date to visit me at the Wilson Building. It was the highlight of my week.

WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH THE BUDGET?

I hope to see and hear from many of you on the budget as well! As you likely know, budget season is in full swing.Budget.JPG We’re starting to wrap up what’s known as performance oversight season when every District agency comes before the D.C. Council to discuss its accomplishments in the last fiscal year and current year. After Mayor Bowser releases her budget on April 4, the agencies will come before the Council again to discuss the proposed budget for the upcoming year.

Last week, I discussed with Mayor Bowser some of my biggest budget priorities for the coming fiscal year. I also put it in writing; you can read the full letter here. I focused on big-ticket items that I believe will give the District a big return on investment. The list includes:

  • Paid Family Leave: Investment for start-up infrastructure, such as IT, to create the program.
  • Child Care: Allocating $1 million to study demand for childcare for people working non-traditional hours and to create plans to incentivize providers to operate during those hours. Also, increasing the subsidized reimbursement rate by roughly $13 million to ensure that centers are compensated for the actual costs of providing care.
  • Affordable Housing: Full funding for the Housing Production Trust Fund, including a $20 million increase due to declining federal support from the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. Also, allocation of dollars to increase legal services available to tenants and homeowners to protect their rights to safe, affordable housing conditions.
  • Human Services: Maintaining the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) safety net for the District’s highest need families and children.
  • Transportation: Extending “Kids Ride Free” to adults enrolled in public charter schools and other education programs and funding additional bus options for District residents in heavily concentrated areas, such as the 14th Street corridor.
  • Homelessness: Fully funding housing vouchers, including Permanent Supportive Housing, to move residents out of shelter to permanent housing.
  • Housing Preservation: Funding recommendations of the Mayor’s Housing Preservation Strike Force, including creating a new preservation unit.
  • Public Safety: Fully funding community-based public safety priorities to reduce violent crimes, work with high-risk individuals, and encourage public health-focused methods of crime prevention.
  • Recreation: Extending hours for District-run outdoor pools and fitness centers, particularly opening earlier in the morning.

The schedule of remaining agency performance oversight hearings is here. Keep reading for highlights from the most recent performance oversight hearings I’ve attended—and let me know if you have questions for upcoming agencies!

LABOR AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE UPDATES

Workforce Development Oversight: This Wednesday, March 15, the Committee imagejpeg_0.jpgwill hear from three of our most important agencies focused on how to get D.C. residents into jobs: the Department of Employment Services, the Workforce Investment Council, and the Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity. The hearing—weather permitting—is your chance to tell the committee how these agencies have performed, and how we should be we shaping career pathways in our city. It’s not too late to testify! Contact Charnisa Royster at croyster@dccouncil.us or (202) 724-7772. Also feel free to email me with questions!

Holding the D.C. Line Hotel Accountable: Last year, the Line Hotel in Adams Morgan acknowledged it was unlikely to meet hiring requirements outlined in the law to qualify for a tax abatement. This news followed a report from the D.C. Auditor that found the Department of Employment Services (DOES), hasn’t fined a company for failing to meet hiring requirements under District law since at least 1984.  

As chair of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee, I am focused on making sure our District agencies are monitoring and enforcing any hiring agreements we enter into. The reports from last year made me concerned that DOES was not effectively monitoring our employment agreements. As a result, I sent a letter to DOES asking for more information on how it tracks these agreements, and how it works with employers to make sure they meet their hiring requirements. You can read DOES’ responses to my letter here.

Better Understanding Small Business Needs: In addition to addressing big business concerns, I CHAMP_visit.pngrecently met with small business owners in Petworth and Capitol Hill to discuss various issues facing the District’s businesses and how the Council can help them continue to thrive.  Representing a variety of service areas, owners raised challenges of operating a small business in the city, ways city leadership can streamline the District’s current permitting process, and how businesses are working to navigate recently passed legislation like the minimum wage increase and the Universal Paid Leave Act.

I was particularly interested in hearing their thoughts on how we can increase the number of District residents working in the city’s small and local businesses, including improving career pathways opportunities, and I look forward to continuing these types of conversations with other business owners across the District. I want to thank Betsy Poos of the Capitol Hill Association of Merchants and Professionals and Anne Strom of Annie’s Hardware for coordinating the get-togethers, and all the business owners who attended.

COMMUNITY UPDATES

Celebrating Black History in the District: If you weren’t at lastSETLC_BlacksInWax.jpg month’s BlackIMG_0327.JPG History Month program at the Council, you missed out! We had an exciting celebration of Black history and culture, and I am hopeful that this celebration will become an annual tradition at the Wilson Building. Special thank yous to my colleagues At-Large Councilmember Robert White and Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White for working with my office to host the event, Silas Grant for serving as emcee, Chuck Hicks and Cora Masters Barry for their timely remarks, and the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, Anacostia High School, Kramer Middle School, and Malcolm X Elementary School for lending their performance talents. We are excited to make the program even better next year!

Engaging with New and Familiar Residents: Over the past weeks, I’ve Kalorama_Citizens_Association.jpghad an opportunity to meet new residents, greet familiar faces, and hear updates from the community about issues of concern, as well as positive developments, for residents across the city. Thank you to Kalorama Citizens Association, ANC 3F, ANC 1B, and ANC 3B for robust dialogue and engagement. I am making my way around the city and look forward to visiting a neighborhood near you in the near future!

Below are upcoming engagement opportunities in the community to make note of, including my final committee oversight hearing this week if interested:

Thanks so much for reading and stay safe in the storm.

Elissa.