Today, DC Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6) is introducing legislation to extend the same first-time homebuyer incentives currently offered to police, firefighters, paramedics, and correctional officers to call takers and dispatchers staffing the District’s 911 and 311 call center within the Office of Unified Communications (OUC) – including up to a $20,000 zero-interest loan and $25,000 in grant funds toward down payment assistance or closing costs. Specifically, $10,000 of the grant funds that are today only provided to those categories of “first responders” above through the District’s Employer-Assisted Housing Program would now be open to call-takers and dispatchers in return for a five-year service commitment to OUC.
The goal of the Home Purchase Assistance for 911/311 Call-Takers and Dispatchers Amendment Act of 2023 is to provide a new recruitment and retention tool to counteract OUC’s severe staffing shortages. These shortages have contributed to increasing delays in answering and dispatch times, staff burnout, and mishandled calls.
“911 call takers and dispatchers are first responders – they have an incredibly challenging job and are the first ones called in the event of an emergency,” said Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6). “They play a critical role in our public safety and justice system. Right now, OUC is suffering from a major staffing shortage, which leads to low morale and burnout. It can also lead to errors in times of crisis and delayed responses. We need strong incentives, comparable to those offered to other public safety personnel, to attract and retain the best and the brightest. Helping someone start a career and build a life for themselves in the District through home ownership – while committing to stay with us for at least five years - is a great way to do that.”
During his tenure as Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety from Council Periods 22 to 24, Councilmember Allen passed several measures to improve staff recruitment and retention initiatives within the public safety cluster of District government agencies. He created the Employer-Assisted Housing Program’s expanded benefits and service commitment for first responders, which the Council also extended to educators in 2022. He passed legislation to allow MPD to rehire retiring senior police officers, ensuring their expertise would remain with MPD through the retirement bubble the agency was experiencing; approved funding to expand the MPD Cadet program from 15 cadets per year to 150; passed several budgets that included a suite of incentives for new and existing MPD officers, including housing relocation assistance, loan repayment and tuition assistance, and bonuses; and he identified funding in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget specifically for recruitment and retention bonuses for OUC staff.
Media Contact: Casey Simmons | [email protected]