Yesterday, over 100 DC residents gathered at the Wilson Building for the Fair Budget Coalition’s “One City Needs” Action. Dozens of residents living in poverty, service providers, and advocates stood together outside the closed-door budget negotiations being held by the DC Council to deliver one clear message to city leaders: “Prioritize funding for programs that address human needs!”
Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmember Jim Graham (who also co-sponsored the event), and Councilmember Muriel Bowser all left the budget meeting to address the crowd. They affirmed the urgent need for affordable housing, financial assistance for needy families and people with disabilities, and other critically underfunded programs. Speaking on affordable housing programs, Councilmember Bowser told the crowd, “If we want to maintain diversity in our city, we have to protect that.”
Fair Budget members didn’t show up empty handed. Councilmembers were presented with bowls of granola bars, bananas, and apples that sported stickers with phrases like, “Invest in ‘Core’ Needs,” (on the apples) and “Final Ap‘peel.’ Invest in Human Needs.” (on the bananas). Chan Sinclair, a mother currently staying in the DC General shelter, hand-delivered Mother’s Day cards that children at the shelter had made for each of their city leaders, along with letters from some of the older children asking Councilmembers to help them get housing. Councilmembers were also given small hand-painted houses that were decorated by the kids at the shelter, a reminder to city leaders that many DC children are desperately in need of homes. (Click here to send Councilmembers a message if you agree!)
The purpose of the action was to highlight the needs of DC residents who are still struggling to recover from the recession, even as the District finds itself flush with money. Members of the Coalition also visited Councilmember offices to educate staff members on the issues facing impoverished residents and to ask for their bosses’ support in helping to remove the barriers that led DC to have the widest income gap in the nation.
Among the needs highlighted were investments in housing programs to serve families, youth, seniors, and residents with HIV/AIDS; investments in adult education programs that would lead to livable wages; increases to TANF to implement reasonable and customary exemptions from time limits for families facing hardships; money for childcare subsidies that would allow parents the opportunity to get back to work; increases in funding to the Interim Disability Assistance Program to provide income for hundreds of disabled residents; and increases to emergency rental assistance to prevent homelessness for hundreds of more households.
The fight’s not over yet, but we’re hopeful that Councilmembers heard their constituents loud and clear and that they will invest in the programs that offer residents a chance at stabilizing and sharing in the District’s growing wealth.
The first vote on the FY2014 Budget will take place on May 22nd. For more information on ways you can get involved, please contact Janelle Treibitz at Janelle@fairbudget.org or 202-328-5513.
*Cross-posted from the Fair Budget Coalition’s blog