A youth mental health crisis. Rising housing costs. The end of pandemic benefits.
We work year-round to ensure DC government programs address challenges like these and meet the needs of children and families. A key moment is the DC Council’s approval of the District’s annual budget.
This year was particularly challenging. Some of the most important government-funded supports for children were at risk because they had been funded with pandemic-era federal funds that are no longer available and post-pandemic tax revenue is uncertain. Yesterday, the DC Council voted on the supporting legislation that makes DC’s budget final. Healthy and affordable housing, children’s behavioral health and access to justice were among our top priorities. Although the final budget doesn’t meet the needs of all DC children, we were able to secure important wins.
The final DC budget will:
- Help families access stable and healthy housing: The final budget increased the number of housing code inspectors and enforcement officers whose job is to find and remedy unhealthy housing conditions. It also included an additional $44.7 million for emergency rental assistance and vouchers.
- Expand behavioral health supports in school: The budget addressed the shortage of behavioral health professionals by building a pipeline for DC residents to become social workers and adding staff to help get social workers licensed more quickly. Although we didn’t get all the funding we think is needed, we did get a small increase to help community-based organizations continue to attract and retain quality school clinicians.
- Ensure organizations like ours can provide legal services to thousands of children and families each year to improve their education, health and family supports: We joined our peers to rally for increases to the Access to Justice Initiative budget and secured an additional $18.6 million to supplement the originally proposed $13 million.
Our work does not end when the budget is approved. Year round, we evaluate the effectiveness of funded programs, work to change laws and regulations to better meet the needs of DC children and families and track policies to ensure they are implemented effectively.
And we will continue doing this, year after year, until all DC children and families have a strong foundation of family, health and education – and are free from poverty, trauma, racism and other forms of oppression.
Photo: Policy attorney Makenna Osborn joins advocacy partners and DC Councilmembers to talk about the DC budget at the John A. Wilson building.