Budget Vote Tomorrow: All Eyes on Funding for Housing, TANF

Tomorrow, the DC Council’s Committee of the Whole will convene to vote on the FY14 Budget.Thanks to all of you who reached out to your Councilmembers, the Human Services Committee last Monday voted unanimously to pull the Homeless Services Reform Act amendments from the Budget Support Act! Councilmember Jim Graham introduced the amendments as a separate bill on May 7th and a hearing on the amendments has been scheduled for early June. While this is certainly a victory for DC residents, the fight’s not over yet. Please continue to check this blog for updates regarding the amendments.

It remains to be seen if the other priorities highlighted by advocates and community members will get much needed funding in FY14.

During committee mark-ups, Councilmember Cheh identified money in her Committee on Transportation and the Environment to transfer to Human Services, specifically $500,000 to expand the caseload of the Interim Disability Assistance Program, $486,000 to the Permanent Supportive Housing program to help fund housing assistance for chronically homeless seniors, and $486,000 to assist LGBTQ homeless youth.

We commend Councilmember Cheh for identifying these funds! Unfortunately, they fall far short of the current need. With the healthiest budget it has had in years, the District is in a prime position to make much needed investments in housing programs like the tenant-based Local Rent Supplement program and the Permanent Supportive Housing program, in order to end homelessness for seniors, for people with HIV/AIDS, and for a significant number of youth and homeless families. This would enable the Department of Human Services to serve homeless families year-round rather than just on hypothermic nights as is currently the policy.

We also look to the Council to find modest additional funding to create time limit exemptions for certain families who receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (“TANF”).

We want to thank Councilmember Jim Graham and the Committee on Human Services for identifying $4.09 million to fund the three largest categories of exemptions from TANF time limits for families facing particular hardships. The exemptions the Committee funded include the following categories of families who have special challenges to finding and maintaining employment: 1) domestic violence survivors; 2) grandparents caring for grandchildren; and 3) parents caring for a child under 12 months.

However, several hardship exemptions that passed the Council last year but were not funded in FY 13 still require funding. Just $1.5 is needed to fund crucial hardship exemptions for: 1) parents caring for a child or other family member with a disability; 2) teen parents enrolled in high school or a GED program; and 2) parents enrolled in postsecondary education or DOES-approved job training program.

Now is the time to do the right thing and protect vulnerable families by funding all of the TANF exemptions the Council passed last year. The enactment of hardship exemptions from time limits would align DC with the vast majority of other states and will better match DC’s work requirement exemptions with our time limit policy. By having the clock run only when a parent is expected to be in training or looking for work, the District can give families the time they need to successfully address personal hardships and transition into self-sufficiency. We all support families moving from welfare to work – let’s ensure that when they do so, they are able to support themselves and their children.

We encourage the Council to identify the $1.5 million necessary to give all DC families a fighting chance.

Please join us at the Budget Vote tomorrow morning at 10am in the Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW). Let’s pack the room and show our city leaders we’re invested in their decisions.

Update, 10:30 pm: The Council’s budget office released the latest budget draft earlier this evening, which includes, in addition to the funds for housing mentioned above: $1.75 million for the Permanent Supportive Housing Program, $1.75 million for the tenant-based Local Rent Supplement Program, $500,000 for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program to serve individuals, and $400, 000 to the Rapid-Rehousing program to serve homeless individuals.

The draft budget also includes funding for six of the seven TANF exemptions.

About Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless

The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless envisions a just and inclusive community for all residents of the District of Columbia, where housing is a human right and where every individual and family has equal access to the resources they need to thrive. Our mission is to use the law to make justice a reality for our neighbors who struggle with homelessness and poverty. Combining community lawyering and advocacy to achieve our clients’ goals, our expert staff and network of volunteer attorneys provide low barrier, comprehensive legal services at intake sites throughout the District of Columbia, helping our clients to access housing, shelter, and life-saving services. Rooted in the experiences of this client work, we effectively blend system reform efforts, policy advocacy, community education and client engagement to advocate for long term improvements in local and federal programs that serve the low- and no-income community.
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