Here we go again – budget season!
Every year, our government has to lay out a plan for how much money it will take to meet our residents’ diverse needs—and keep the city running. It’s not just how much money, but where the money should go. Everything under the sun is in the budget, from street repairs to the police force to school lunches.
I say budget season because the whole process will go on for a number of months. Don’t be intimidated! It’s going to be fun!
Here are some of the important parts of the process:
Agency oversight hearings. Yesterday marked the start of agency oversight hearings. Between February and March, City Council committees will get to ask D.C. government agencies questions about their programs and how they use their funds. These hearings are one tool Councilmembers use to make decisions about what funding streams are effective and whether they are serving their purpose.
The Mayor’s budget proposal. While the council is holding oversight hearings, the Mayor will be preparing her own budget proposal, which she will release on April 2. Every year the Mayor sends the City Council a budget proposal outlining how she’d like to see all the services and programs the city provides funded. Mayor Bowser has indicated she is committed to putting resources behind fighting homelessness, and her budget proposal will send a clear message on whether she intends to stand by that commitment. One way to keep reminding her that it matters to us is by attending one or more of her three budget engagement forums this month.
Public hearings. Members of the City Council have another way of gathering information—public hearings. Through April and May, public hearings will be an opportunity for the citizens of D.C. to weigh in on the budget. By testifying, organizations and individuals can illustrate how budget decisions have a real impact on Washingtonians’ lives. As just one example, Hyacinth’s Place testified before the Committee on Housing and Economic Development last year about the Housing Production Trust Fund, one funding stream that makes permanent supportive housing programs like ours possible.
Mark-ups. Now that the committees have gathered information from government agencies, reviewed Mayor’s budget priorities, and heard input from real Washingtonians, they hold mark-ups, where they will craft the actual budget and vote to approve it. These mark-ups also take a number of weeks! But once the council has agreed on and passed a full budget in the form of a bill, they send it to the Mayor, who also has to approve it.
Hyacinth’s Place has hit the ground running, and we’ll be active throughout budget season. Like last year, we’ll advocate for the Housing Production Trust Fund and the Local Rent Supplement Program. We’ll also lend our support to our diverse partners who advocate for the many other programs that fight poverty in the District.
Here are some ways you can be involved.
– Check out the Fair Budget Coalition’s (FBC) budget priorities. We worked with FBC to craft this comprehensive list of funding recommendations. It’s a great primer for all the important programs we’ll be fighting for this budget season.
– Tweet using the FBC’s hashtag #WeAreALLdc. You can also retweet us!
– Like us on Facebook for an easy way to get updates and see our latest blog posts.
– Come to the Mayor’s budget engagement forums over the next month. Email Vanessa@hyacinths.org if you’d like to attend.
– Attend council hearings or, if you can’t be there in person, stream them online.
– Testify at the public hearings! We’ll let you know when the time to sign up comes closer.
– Check out these other great resources: the Fair Budget Coalition, the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute
It’s going to be a long haul, but we’re excited to be a part of the effort to make D.C. a safe and healthy place for all its residents to thrive!
Government Relations and Advocacy