Today is my blog’s second birthday. An occasion for me to thank all of you who’ve been reading what I write. Special thanks to the many of you who’ve contributed — through your comments, your analyses and your generous responses to my many questions.
In some ways, it’s also an occasion for me to celebrate. When I started this blog, I was plunging into the unknown. Had no idea whether I could sustain it, no clear plan beyond the next posting and no knowledge whatever about some of the issues I’ve addressed.
And now I’m writing my 250th posting, with some sense of presence, purpose and place in the interlocking advocacy communities I so admire.
In another way, it’s not an occasion to celebrate. My first posting was about how the DC Council had rebalanced the Fiscal Year 2009 budget with spending cuts that disproportionately affected low-income residents.
And here we are two years later with the Council considering a plan that would achieve nearly 40% of its savings by cuts in programs that serve them.
That first posting focused on a couple of issues — affordable housing and cash benefits for participants in the District’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. The cuts on the table now would be worse.
The Local Rent Supplement Program would lose $3 million. Once again, a small approved increase would be rescinded. No new housing vouchers for any of the 26,000 households on the waiting list. No additional support for new affordable housing development.
Funds in reserve would also be cut. So some who have vouchers might lose them as housing costs rise and/or the incomes of beneficiaries drop.
The first TANF benefits cut I wrote about rescinded a small just-approved increase. This time, maximum benefits, which have remained level ever since, would be reduced by 20% for all families who’ve participated for a total of more than five years.
Perhaps the Council will reject these proposed cuts. But it’s sad that we’re once again fighting the same battles. Sadder that victory would mean significantly less funding, in real terms, for these and other programs that serve low-income people.
Even so, there’s something to celebrate.
Local service and advocacy organizations have risen to the challenge. They’ve expanded their reach, developed new messaging and organizing capacities and perhaps most importantly advanced well beyond a “just say no” defense of the diverse programs that affect them and their clients.
The very fact that they’ve coalesced around a new top income tax bracket and gotten it into the gap-closing dialogue — both within the Council and beyond — indicates how far they’ve come in the last two years. If only we could say the same for our low-income neighbors.