These are challenging times, to be sure.   On Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Fenty released his proposal to close a budget gap for the current fiscal year of over $185 million. As feared, his proposal includes cuts to some of our community’s most basic safety net programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Interim Disability Assistance (IDA) and the Local Rent Supplement Program (LRSP).   These are programs that have helped many of our low- and no-income neighbors in the District to meet their families’ basic needs when they are unable to work; to maintain some stability in their lives as they await the processing of federal disability assistance; and to move out of homelessness into stable, affordable permanent housing.  These programs have been vital threads in the social safety net, and they are at risk of significant fraying.

So what’s to be thankful for?

The Legal Clinic gives thanks to be part of an advocacy community that is working towards creative, effective solutions to this budget crisis, that urges taking a “balanced approach” to closing the deficit and that offers “better choices” than making hurtful cuts in programs that serve those who are most vulnerable to the pain.

We also give thanks to know DC residents who enthusiastically believe that “better choices” means that they should be asked to give more, so that their vulnerable neighbors can hang on to what little they have; who say “Tax me at a higher rate, if it means that families won’t be turned away to sleep in cars,” or “I can afford to dig a little deeper, to share the burden of this financial crisis and assure that it doesn’t disproportionately fall on the shoulders of people living in poverty.”  If you want to add your voice to theirs, please let us know.

Finally, we give thanks for our clients and other community members who have little but give much, who teach us how to summon the strength to make it day-to-day, who challenge us to be even more creative in our advocacy, and who inspire us to remain faithful to the fight for justice.

There are many blessings to count this Thanksgiving.  Let’s hope, when the revisions to the FY 2011 budget are finalized next month, that there will be even more.