The Mayor’s Proposed FY18 Budget: What does Inclusive Prosperity mean in the District?
Mayor Bowser’s Proposed FY18 Budget was released last week, and the team at DC Action for Children spent that last few days reviewing and compiling questions. Still inspired by the Mayor’s State of the District rhetoric on March 30th, we read through the Budget with her vision of DC becoming a city of “inclusive prosperity” in mind. There are some exciting funding proposals; however, the proposed FY18 budget also left us with many lingering questions in our core issue areas that we hope to have addressed during the upcoming budget oversight hearings.
We’re happy to see overall increased funding for the Office the State Superintendent for Education (OSSE) and are aware of the one-time funding increase of $15 million for child care initiatives. Despite these increases, we need to better understand how low-income families will gain access to affordable, high quality early care and education (ECE). The Mayor’s expansion of access to market-rate slots will undoubtedly benefit many working families in the city; however, we would like to hear more about plans to increase access to quality ECE for low-income families as the cost of child care in the District remains among the highest in the nation. Finally, we are apprehensive about the proposed $2.4 million cut to the Early Literacy program for third grade reading success and Out-of-School program initiatives. We know that the ability to read proficiently by third grade is one of the best predictors of a student’s later academic success. Students who are not proficient readers by the end of the 3rd grade often struggle to catch up and are four times more likely to drop out of school than those who are proficient. Because of the abundance of research supporting early learning reading and literacy programs, we urge the DC Council to ensure that our youngest students are prepared to succeed by allocating funding to support early literacy supports.
The Department of Behavioral Health’s (DBH) budget provides a view of significant realignment happening within the agency. With the reorganization of the Behavioral Health Services and Supports (BHSS), we note that support for Children and Youth and Early Childhood and School Mental Health Program funding has been shifted to the new Clinical Services Division and Community Services Division. Because DBH is in charge of developing, managing and overseeing city-wide public access to high-quality mental health services, we want to make sure that all of DC’s young children have access to the mental health services they need. We look forward to learning more about DBH’s realignment and funding shifts in the near future.
In the Department of Health’s (DOH) proposed budget, we see a 21% decrease year. While there are some important enhancements in the budget overall, we have a number of questions about programs supporting children and their families. Particularly, we would like additional clarity about funding for school-based health centers and plans for school-based health services moving forward. In addition, we’d like to see an increase in support for care enhancement specifically targeting pregnant women, young children and their families, particularly in the areas of maternal and child mental health and development and parent-child attachment. We know that these areas are closely tied to children’s outcomes and well-being and that the medical home is well-positioned to begin this care coordination. We hope to see an increase in funding for this care enhancement in the final version of the budget.
There is a slight increase to the budget of the Department of Health Care Finance reflecting multiple changes including increases to federal matches and investments in care for older residents. Approximately 250,000 District residents rely on public insurance programs administered by DHCF for their health care, including 70% of the city’s child population. DHCF’s budget is largely determined by changes at the federal level since the vast majority of the $3 billion budget comes from federal dollars. Given threats in recent weeks to Medicaid, we will continue to follow developments throughout the budget season and moving forward under this federal administration.
- Human Services
As we shift our focus to the Child and Family Services Agency’s (CFSA) budget, we are pleased to note increased funding directed towards Permanency and Kinship Support programs. Robustly funding these programs speaks to two of CFSA’s larger articulated objectives: 1) exiting every child in foster care to positive permanency and 2) “narrowing the front door” so that children are removed from their families only when necessary to keep them safe. The budget rests on the assumption of “anticipated reductions in foster care placement costs,” and as such we can see cuts to important programs such as Family Resources ($2.1 million decrease) and Child Placement programs ($3.3 million decrease) as well as to both Adoption and Guardianship subsidies. However, we feel it is crucial that CFSA has sufficient funds in its budget to remain flexible and be able to respond to unanticipated demand to ensure that no child stays in an unsafe environment. The proposed budget also includes significant cuts to Community Partnership Services and Prevention Services. We are looking forward to clarifying how other divisions of CFSA’s budget are working towards CFSA’s charge to support and strengthen families in the District.
Additionally, we join other advocates in celebrating the Mayor’s proposal support the TANF hardship policy and increases to the Department of Human Services FY18 budget. This proposal would protect 10,000 DC children in the TANF program from being cut off from critical resources that support their growth and development.
In this time of uncertainty, we feel it is crucial that the FY2018 budget proactively and robustly protects and supports all DC residents, especially the youngest and those with the fewest resources. We look forward to proactive and solution-focused engagement with our partners, the DC Council and DC agencies in the upcoming budget oversight hearings to achieve a FY2018 budget that ensures that all DC children and their families can benefit from the “inclusive prosperity” that the Mayor has articulated.
 Vance, T. (2016). Trends in third grade reading proficiency: An analysis of DC CAS results (2007 – 2014). DC Action for Children. Retrieved from: https://www.dcactionforchildren.org/sites/default/files/DCACTION_Trendsin3rdgrdReading_FINAL.pdf.
 DC Department of Health Care Finance. (Jan 2016). The Role of Public Programs in Children’s Health Care Coverage in the District of Columbia. Retrieved from: https://dhcf.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/dhcf/publication/attachments/Childrens%20coverage%20snapshot_012916.pdf