Advocates, councilmembers rally against mayor’s proposed budget

Ward 5 Councilmember Zachary Parker speaks on the steps of the John A. Wilson building. Photo by Kaela Roeder

The letters had many demands — more housing vouchers, increased Emergency Rental Assistance Program funding, expanded domestic violence services and more funding for programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Advocates gathered on April 25 at the steps of the John A. Wilson building to demand the D.C. Council reject Mayor Muriel Bowser’s proposed fiscal year 2024 budget.

Between fiscal year 2020 and 2023, the District increased funding for various social programs, largely due to an influx of federal funding intended to help the city recover from the pandemic. With the end of the public health emergency quickly approaching, the federal government has signaled it will not provide the

District with additional funding. Because of this, Bowser has proposed cutting spending on various locally-administered social programs back to pre-pandemic levels. But many advocates say that this level of funding has always been insufficient.

For example, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program funding was cut from $43 million to $8 million, and the proposed budget provides no new housing vouchers for people experiencing homelessness.

“The budget is breaking our hearts,” advocates and attendees said over and again at the rally.

“We will not sit by while this administration decimates, ransacks, plunders, social safety nets at a critical time of need in D.C.,” Niciah Mujahid, the executive director of the Fair Budget Coalition said at the start of the demonstration.

Nikila Smith, an artist and vendor with Street Sense Media, attended the rally and expressed her disappointment with the proposed budget. She specifically wants to see funding for more housing vouchers, she said.

“It’s not right,” Smith said. “I just want to see change.”

“What we’re talking about here are flesh and blood people,” Eric Palmer, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 4, said. “When we talk about the budget, it’s numbers, it’s line items, it’s figures, calculations. But what we’re dealing with at the root are humans, are our fellow neighbors, our people, who we want to live, who we want to thrive.”

Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George and Ward 5 Councilmember Zachary Parker also attended the rally. They promised to fight to include additional funding for housing and social service programs in the next draft.

“We’re here today because the proposed budget by the mayor fails the basic test of any leader of a city as wealthy as ours,” Parker said.

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