Last week, the Council passed on first vote the $16 billion budget for the District of Columbia's FY21 (Oct 1 - Sept 30). We will take a second and final vote next Tuesday, July 21, followed by a final vote on the Budget Support Act on July 28.
The budget manages to preserve a lot of important services and programs even as the District had to absorb a $800 million shortfall from pandemic restrictions - and we still face uncertainty as we wait for an update from the CFO's office this Fall.
As the pandemic drags on, we're reaching a crisis point as federal unemployment benefits are set to expire and funding from the Paycheck Protection Program is almost out. We’ve been working with a lot of neighbors to navigate unemployment insurance as so many jobs have been lost or put on hold. This is going to remain a priority in the weeks and months ahead.
Also, for all of our school parents, we’re expecting the Mayor and Chancellor to make announcements about the upcoming academic year and what reopening might look like. Once they share their plans, I know it’s likely to prompt even more questions - for myself as well. I’ll work to get more information and details out, but please feel free to let me know your thoughts and concerns as well.
Long Newsletter, Shortcuts: FY21 Budget | Ward 6 Budget Wins | Local Biz Need You | Artist Opportunity | Vision Zero Bill Rolls On | Water Neighborhood Trees | DC Best for Solar | Future of DC Parks | Testing is Too Slow | Student Meals | SNAP Benefits | More Rental Assistance | Union Station and NoMa Metro Station Closures | Volunteer Grocery Delivery Needed | How to Help | Free Diapers | Free Groceries | Upcoming Events Calendar
Council Passes FY21 Budget On First Vote: As mentioned above, the Council took a first vote on the budget for the District. Here's what you need to know about what it funds in big issue areas:
Schools: This budget increases the Universal Student Per Pupil Funding Formula by 3%, which is the main way our schools are funded. While I would have liked to see this increased even more, this is still a good increase given the challenges our teachers and students face from COVID-19. That increase includes more at-risk funding, which is the way we try to target additional funding to schools that serve students needing extra support. I introduced a bill at the start of 2019 that would allow school leadership rather than DCPS Central Office to decide the best way to spend those at-risk dollars, but only some parts of my bill advanced out of the Education Committee.
- Affordable Housing: Places $109 million into the Housing Production Trust Fund to finance new affordable housing, adds millions to the District's Housing Preservation Fund which repairs affordable housing units to bring back onto the market, and fully funds the program providing attorneys to unrepresented tenants at no cost during evictions.
Investing in Community Safety: Reinvested funding from Metropolitan Police Department to increase funding for violence interruption work, school-based mental health, affordable housing, housing for returning citizens, job training for transgender/non-gendered/non-binary youth, and emergency rental funds to prevent evictions. Here's a helpful story from WAMU breaking down our budget decisions around public safety and reinvesting in ways to prevent violent crime from taking place in the first place. Here's a long and detailed tweet thread on what we funded.
Public Housing Repairs: Puts $50 million into repairing public housing units throughout the District. Last year I fought to move $22 million into this repair fund. This year, thankfully, we were able to double that amount without much of a fight to get these important deeply affordable homes repaired. As you'll see below, I also secured funding to install high-speed broadband at two of our Ward 6 public housing communities (Pictured: Ward 6's Greenleaf Gardens in Southwest).
- Read more budget coverage from the Washington Post, WAMU, Washington Business Journal.
A Note on Increasing Revenue: The loss of revenue, especially in a severe drop in sales tax brought on by necessary shutdowns, meant the District is heading into next year with $750-800 million fewer tax dollars than planned. To close that gap, the budget taps into our rainy day fund and freezes pay raises across most of the government. The Council also found a few pockets of additional revenue by increasing the tax on advertising, closing out a tax break for large tech companies, and I successfully moved an amendment delaying a tax break for multi-state corporations that we used instead to fund social services for vulnerable neighbors. I also proposed a very modest increase in income tax on high-earning individuals to help pay for affordable housing construction, but the amendment failed 8-5. And before we worry about raising taxes too much, I'd like to share this very thorough 2018 report from the Chief Financial Officer that compares regional tax burdens and finds DC is on the low end.
Finally, a heads-up: it is likely the Council will need to revisit our budget in just a few months if the Chief Financial Officer reports revenue has been lower than anticipated since we craft the budget based on forecasts and we're living in unprecedented times. Stay tuned.
Ward 6 Neighborhood-Specific Budget Updates: Here are some of the key projects I helped fund coming to a Ward 6 neighborhood near you soon:
- Seaton Elementary School was added to the DCPS Modernization Plan. The newly renovated field and playground at Seaton were funded last year.
- Construction is fully funded and underway for a new home in Shaw for Banneker Academic High School.
- $1 million funded for improvements and repairs to Kennedy Recreation Center.
- A feasibility study is underway for a new mid-city by-right neighborhood middle school.
H Street / NoMa
- JO Wilson ES modernization is fully funded with $63.8 million starting in 2024.
- Planning is underway to fully modernize School-Within-School at Goding Elementary School.
- Construction is ongoing to modernize Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan. The project is fully funded and will be complete next year.
- The Mayor's proposed cuts and delays to the H Street Bridge Project, part of the massive undertaking to rethink Union Station and the surrounding neighborhood, were reversed and restored, with special thanks to Chairman Phil Mendelson for his partnership
- Long-awaited HVAC repairs at Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School were funded.
Capitol Hill / Hill East:
- Construction is wrapping up on the modernization of Eliot-Hine Middle School. This budget adds $6 million needed to finalize the project this fall.
- $1 million funded to install high-speed public broadband service at DCHA's Potomac Gardens and Hopkins Apartments.
- $6.8 million to expand and renovate the Rosedale Pool in 2023-2024.
- Tyler Elementary School was added to the DCPS Modernization Plan, starting in 2026.
- $130,000 to launch a new Eastern Market Main Street Clean Team program.
- $1.5 million for repairs and renovation of the Watkins Elementary field, courts, and playground.
- $500,000 for repairs and improvements at Garfield Park.
- The proposed delay to the renovation of Spielberg Park at 17th and Massachusetts Avenue SE for $1.5 million was reversed, accelerating the project from 2021 to 2020. Special thanks to Chairman Phil Mendelson for his partnership.
- Modernization of the Southeast Neighborhood Library and Eastern Market Metro Park are fully funded and underway.
Southwest / Capitol Riverfront:
- Amidon-Bowen Elementary School funded for an addition, including new space for childcare!
- $1.5 million to renovate the Jefferson MS field in 2022.
- $1 million for repairs and improvements to King-Greenleaf Rec Center
- $1.25 million to design a replacement for Fireboat 1 to protect the growing waterfront community
- $538,000 to restore service cuts to the crucial 74 WMATA bus line. Special thanks to Chairman Phil Mendelson for his partnership.
- $1 million to support DC Central Kitchen’s relocation to a new home at Buzzard Point . Special thanks to Chairman Phil Mendelson for his partnership.
- $125,000 to expand the Southwest BID service area south of M Street. This will allow the Clean Teams to assist with the Audi Field area and neighborhoods not currently receiving Clean Team services. Special thanks to Chairman Phil Mendelson for his partnership.
- Maintains full funding for the new Southwest Library and playground
- $1.2 million for maintenance, operation, programming of Yards & Canal Parks. Special thanks to Chairman Phil Mendelson for his partnership.
Vision Zero Legislation Advances Out of Committee: On Friday, the Committee on Transportation and the Environment unanimously moved my Vision Zero legislation forward. While the pandemic slowed down the progress, I am grateful to Councilmember Cheh for her leadership bringing the bill forward out of committee. This legislation, introduced last year, promises to push our community forward in prioritizing safety, design, and funding for pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure. The goal is to make our streets safer, and to put that urgency into law. If you need a reminder, here's what the bill originally proposed. Not everything made it through, but the bill is in great shape and has a lot of potential to overhaul the way District residents can get around. (Photo from last year's Safe Streets rally)
Related: The Transportation Planning Board, which is (*takes a deep breath*) part of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and focuses on bringing local leaders together to solve problems, will fund a number of projects with DDOT to help bring more streateries and open streets programming to the District! This is great. I believe we should be opening back up our streets for residents in every part of the city as a way to safely foster community, togetherness, and activating spaces for the people who live there first and foremost.
Eat Local. Shop Local. Right Now: If you are fortunate enough that your income has stayed stable during this pandemic, I just want to put a plug in to keep shopping local. Support local stores. Eat at local restaurants (take-out counts). We are fast approaching a tipping point for many businesses and I don't see the federal government leading. I’ve co-authored a new Business Interruption Grant program that could use federal CARES Act funding to support our local businesses, but still more is needed! We're doing what we can locally, but it's an enormous problem. These are the businesses that define neighborhoods, that pour themselves into our community, and are someone's dream being lived out. If you have the choice between local or Amazon, big box chain store or local, I'd urge you to choose local. I know not everyone can make this distinction and that's okay. If you are someone who can, let's do what we can together. Thanks.
Paid Opportunity for Ward 6 Artists: Sharing an opportunity for Ward 6 artists to apply to work with the 11th Street Bridge Park team on a large-scale visual art project at the farm at Hopkins Apartments in Capitol Hill. Learn more and apply here.
Emergency Energy Assistance for Seniors and Income-Qualifying Folks: The Department of Energy and the Environment offers free or sharply discounted assistance with weatherization and air conditioning repair for senior residents and low-income neighbors. As 2020 is on-pace to be one of the hottest years in recorded history, take small steps to safe money on your electric bill while cooling off your home. This can be lifesaving during high heat days and nights! Learn more here and share this one with qualifying neighbors who might not check their email as often.
The Future of DC Parks: All this week, DPR has been hosting virtual meetings to discuss with residents the future of DPR parks and shared spaces as it embarks on a new 20-year master plan. These spaces are vital to the health and growth of our community and they deserve your input! More than ever, neighbors are realizing how important our parks are. I’ve used the budget process to direct new funds into our Ward 6 parks - whether renovating spaces like Kingsman Field in NE, Eastern Market Metro Plaza in SE, planning for Cobb Park in NW, Lansburgh Park in SW, and much more. There are still conversations you can join in happening tonight (6-8 pm) and tomorrow (12-1 pm). RSVP here.
Testing Results for COVID Too Slow: As I've shared in this newsletter before, the District now offers a number of daily testing sites where anyone can receive a test, regardless of symptoms and without needing a referral. However, I've heard from many residents that the time it takes to receive results can be anywhere from just a day or two to more than eight days. When I got my test, it took six days until I heard back. Anything over a week becomes pretty useless for helping reassure folks they don't have COVID. I spoke with the Mayor's team on this and it's an issue they're working on with private labs to get that response time down. Many thanks to all of the neighbors who reached out and flagged this as an issue.
Here are a few sites in or near Ward 6 where residents can get a test without a referral:
Daily testing downtown on F Street, NW between 4th and 5th Streets, NW offers testing Monday - Friday, from 10 am to 2 pm.
Ongoing daily testing at different firehouses around the city. Here's the schedule (these locations are subject to weather-related closure, check DC Health Twitter before you go if the forecast is dicey):
Thursday and Friday: 4-8 pm, Saturday: 12-4 pm
- Engine 8 (1520 C St. SE)
- Engine 10 (1342 Florida Ave. NE)
On https://coronavirus.dc.gov/testing, there are a number of testing locations throughout the District. The majority of them are prioritizing testing for specific groups, however the District is steadily expanding testing for anyone.
Water Your Neighborhood Trees, Please! We are in the middle of the second-longest stretch of days that hit 90 degrees in a row (hello, climate change). Casey Trees has put the call out for neighbors to water the new trees planted in the last year or two on your block to ensure they survive. Maintaining and growing our tree canopy is critical to managing a host of issues, including air quality and limiting the creation of urban heat islands.
In 2020, DC is #1 Place in US to Go Solar: Did you know there is no jurisdiction in the country with better financial incentives for installing solar panels than right here in the District of Columbia? Thanks to the Clean Energy Omnibus Act of 2018, the District created the most valuable Solar Renewable Energy Credits in the country, among many other very important milestones. These credits are valuable because the District's largest utility company, Pepco, must purchase enough renewable energy as an off-set on our way to 100% renewable by 2032. I just want to be sure you know this is available to you. Many companies will do installations or figure out a deal involving these credits -- it might be more practical than you realize to install solar panels you own that cover a large portion of your home's energy costs. And don't worry, adding solar panels won't add to your home's taxable value - the Council passed a law exempting solar panels from increasing tax assessments.
And for low-income households, you can get solar panels for free and lower your monthly electric bill big time. Learn more about DC's Solar For All Initiative.
Free Student/Kid Meal Sites As Of June 1: Click here to see the updated list of school meals being provided over the summer here. As the city transitioned to the summer meal program, many new Rec Center feeding sites have been added. Use this handy mapping tool to find the site nearest you.
If Your Child Receives a Free School Meal, There's Extra Help For You: During the pandemic, families with one or more children receiving free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program, you can sign-up here for extra support with food during the pandemic. Learn more and enroll with DC's Department of Human Services, and share this information in your neighborhood.
Extra Rental Assistance Available: If you are behind in your rent, there might be support available. Additional funding from the federal government will be available to assist District residents. More information here.
Metro Announces Summer Rail Stations Shutdowns for Repair Work: Over the summer, while trying to take advantage of low ridership, WMATA announced a series of closures to do capital projects at these stations. Here are the remaining stations, which includes:
- July 19-July 25 – Judiciary Sq to Rhode Island
- Closed Station: Union Station and NoMa
- July 26-August 1 – Ft. Totten to Silver Spring
- Closed Station: Takoma
NEW - Call for Ward 6 Volunteers: Putting out another call for volunteers who can offer to do delivery of groceries to shut-in neighbors on Thursdays and Fridays. Food For All DC could use some extra hands for getting groceries and food to neighbors who can't safely make it out of their homes. Food for All DC is maintaining its own distribution network, but has expanded to meet the overwhelming need during the pandemic. They usually have volunteer drivers come on Saturday mornings to pick up a few bags of food each and deliver them to specific addresses of neighbors in need. But they are close to maxing out on Saturdays. They are hoping to expand and also have drivers come on Thursdays or Fridays as well. The person to contact at Food for All DC to volunteer is Graeme King, firstname.lastname@example.org
Here's Who To Support Financially or By Volunteering During COVID: At this point, we've been living physical distancing for more than 100 days. The initial burn to do something may have faded, but these organizations are still doing great work to help our neighbors and they're worth your support. If you find yourself with a lot of time and you are healthy and able to volunteer, these are groups that can put you to work. I cannot emphasize enough, however, that if you are not feeling well at all, please do not volunteer. And if you are fortunate enough to be in a position to make donations, these are organizations helping put food on the table and meet other needs for your neighbors right here in Ward 6 and across the District:
- Table Church DC (via Ward 6 neighbors): Started by Ward 6 neighbor Allison McGill, this is a great effort pairing volunteers with residents who need help with a range of needs, including just someone to run to the store for them.
- Ward 6 Mutual Aid Network: Started by Ward 6 neighbor Maurice Cook and Serve Your City, this is a group collecting and redistributing food and other essential items for neighbors.
- World Central Kitchen: Chef José Andres' nonprofit kitchen has set up shop at Nationals Park and has been serving up hundreds of meals to Ward 6 seniors. If you can chip in to keep their work going, know it is helping your neighbors.
- DC Medical Reserve Corps: Organized by the DC Government, here's a way to help out as our medical response scales up.
- DC Public Schools: In need of volunteers to help keep running their many meal sites for kids in DC during school closures! Please fill out the linked survey.
- Capital Area Food Bank: In critical need of volunteers to help sort and pack food in their warehouse and assist at their offsite food distributions
- Food and Friends DC: In urgent need of extra volunteers throughout the coming weeks. There are two volunteer opportunities, food preparation and packaging and meal and grocery delivery
- Food Rescue US: Volunteers with vehicles needed to pick up and deliver food from businesses to DC residents in need
- Grace’s Table: Looking for volunteers to help feed the homeless each Saturday
- Martha’s Table: Volunteers needed to help prepare and bag food for their emergency food sites across the city
- We Are Family: Volunteer to deliver groceries to seniors.
- Food for All DC: Volunteer to drive groceries to seniors, immunocompromised, and other DC neighbors who are homebound. Volunteer here.
- Aunt Bertha: Aunt Bertha’s network connects people seeking help and verified social care providers that serve them by zip code. Contact your local shelter to see what help and/or items may be needed
- Greater DC Diaper Bank: Long a staple of the region (and founded by a Ward 6er), the Greater DC Diaper Bank helps low-income families meet the need for diapers. DC Diaper Bank works with partner sites to distribute diapers. You can donate or support their work here: https://greaterdcdiaperbank.org/give-dollars/
Free groceries for residents:
- Ten DC School Sites Distributing Free Groceries Each Week: I mentioned this above, but sharing here as well. Ten DCPS meal locations are now distributing groceries as well as student meals. Every Monday is Eastern High School's day to distribute in Ward.
- Martha's Table: Daily grocery distribution at 2nd and H Street, from 5:15-5:45 pm. Donate here to support their work: https://marthastable.networkforgood.com/projects/95536-martha-s-table-martha-s-table-expanded-programs-covid-19
- Capital Area Food Bank: Behind many good nonprofits is the CAFB, supplying many groceries from bulk purchasing to food pantries across the region. Help them today: https://www.capitalareafoodbank.org/donate/
Father McKenna Center Grocery Pantry Now Open: One of the programs partnering with the Capital Area Food Bank is the Father McKenna Center at 900 North Capitol St., NW. Information on how to support or receive groceries here.
H Street Food Drive for Ward 5-6 Neighbors: Contactless food/groceries available for neighbors who need some extra assistance. They also offer contactless food delivery for anyone in the area that needs it, especially elderly, single parents, those with special needs. Drop off or Send Non-Perishable Food Deliveries To: @maketto1351 | Attention: H ST. NE FOOD DRIVE | 1351 H ST. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002. Send all monetary donations To: PayPal: PayPal.me/CHRiSCARDi | Venmo: @ChrisCardi
Pick up at Maketto: 1351 H Street, NE
Monday – Saturday: 7:30am – 9:30pm
Sunday: 7:30am -5pm
- If in need of delivery assistance text 202-681-3532
- Pick up at Maketto: 1351 H Street, NE
Upcoming Remote Meetings/ Events:
Southwest Library Renovation Update: Thursday, July 23, Webex Link