Thursday, December 18, 2008
Ed Lazere, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, 202-408-1095 ext 315
Melissa Bondi, Coalition for Smarter Growth, 202-244-4408, ext 123
Chuck Bean, Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington, 202-955-6187
(Reporters may also community members affected by recent DC program cuts: Deborah Davis, TANF Recipient – (202)290-5624 (c), and Melissa Frazier, HPAP Applicant – (202)587-0522 (w). Other client contacts available upon request.)
Diverse Coalition Rallies Around Fiscal Crisis
As the District prepares for another possible revenue shortfall announcement, a broad-based coalition of DC businesses, faith-based groups, nonprofits, labor, and advocacy groups released a joint “Statement of Principles,” calling on the Mayor and DC Council to “partner with concerned citizens to identify a prudent and balanced approach to managing the city’s fiscal crisis.”
The Coalition for Community Investment is a diverse group representing more than 100 organizations and individuals. It came together in recognition that “the health and prosperity of our city depend on public investments that expand economic opportunity in our neighborhoods and support families.”
The statement notes that declining revenues have already resulted in painful budget cuts that affect a wide range of programs and that these cuts have fallen disproportionately on programs for low-income families. The statement highlights four principles that should guide future decision-making on the District budget during the current economic downturn.
Stimulate local economic recovery. In the midst of a recession, public investment can support the economy and prevent economic problems from getting worse.
“Services that strengthen neighborhoods and residents, such as homeownership programs, are critical to helping small neighborhood businesses survive,” said Manny Hidalgo, executive director of the Latino Economic Development Corporation.
Avoid cutbacks that unintentionally increase costs. Cuts to safety net programs can be “penny wise and pound foolish” if they increase hardship and reduce residents’ buying power.
“More and more families are in need of help to make ends meet,” said George Jones, executive director of Bread for the City. “So budget cuts in housing assistance, health care, and basic assistance will only make matters worse. This is a time when the safety net is needed more than ever.”
Include sensible revenue expansions. Responsible revenue enhancements and use of the District’s “rainy day” fund should be considered.
Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth, pointed out that “Maintaining support for a healthy environment in DC will create jobs and help keep DC an attractive place to live and visit.”
Operate collaboratively, transparently and inclusively. District officials should address budget shortfalls in a timely manner, but not at the expense of open, informed decision-making. All proposed options should be made available to interested community members with sufficient time for a response.