By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer
Mayor Muriel Bowser had a busy week. She turned in one of the most important documents that could impact the District. Nope – not the Mueller Report. The two-term mayor presented her fiscal Year 2020 Budget and Financial Plan to D.C. Council this past week after a season of public engagements, town halls and press events to bolster enthusiasm.
“This budget is about ensuring that everyone living and doing business in the District is giving and getting their fair share,” Bowser said in a statement. “This is a budget that advances our D.C. values and addresses our city’s most pressing challenges – a budget that recognizes that these are very good times for Washington, D.C., and asks our commercial property owners to share some of the upside so that we can invest more in keeping D.C. affordable for Washingtonians across the income spectrum.”
“Fair” and “Fair shot” are words the mayor has used for years. The $15.5 billion budget is part of a larger attempt to get at equity for all D.C. residents in key areas like housing, education, families and public safety. And while the District boasts its 24th consecutive balanced budget, it faces a rise in fatal shootings and housing disparities that brought angry protesters during the mayor’s State of the District Address.
Housing has been on many people’s minds and Bowser addressed it several times most recently during her address saying: “We know the number one issue on the minds of Washingtonians is affordable housing.”
“Rising housing costs have created new challenges for homeowners and renters alike, particularly for those on a fixed income and those who are struggling to make ends meet,” the mayor shared.
So how does that commitment toward housing translate in the budget? The mayor’s office highlighted a few areas including:
- Increasing the District’s investment in the Housing Production Trust Fund by 30 percent to $130 million
- Increasing the District’s investment in the Housing Preservation Fund by 50 percent to $15 million, which will yield an additional $45 million in private investment
- The creation of a new $20 million Workforce Housing Fund, which will leverage another $180 million in private sector investment
- $37 million in new funds to continue the implementation of Homeward D.C. to make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring
- $5.2 million to expand and increase Schedule H – DC’s income tax credit to help offset rising property taxes
To make the District safer the Mayor’s office stated they would invest in the following ways.
- $3 million to expand the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) workforce to 4,000 officers by 2021, focusing on bike and on-foot officers
- $3.5 million in new funds to add four ambulance units, including 45 firefighter paramedics or firefighter EMTs
- $3.3 million to bolster the efforts of the Office or Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, including $610,000 to support increased wages for the Pathways program to more participants and grow the reach of the Aspire to Entrepreneurship Program
- $1.6 million to our Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants to open three new offices where residents can get trauma-informed mental health support and where we can train community leaders in strategies for addressing trauma
The D.C. Council still has to hold oversight hearings on the budget through the spring. Voting on the budget won’t happen until sometime in June. To view the full FY2020 budget or selected highlights please visit: https://mayor.dc.gov/2020budget