Over 80 Faith Leaders have asked the DC City Council to do more for the most vulnerable of the city's poor in this year's budget deliberations. Faith leaders have written and visited with City Council members urging efforts to alleviate poverty in the city.
"It is our moral responsibility to speak out for human dignity and the importance of meeting the needs of the most vulnerable citizens in our community – real needs of real people. We urge the Council to adopt all measures necessary to build a just society, and support individuals and families as they work to live their lives with dignity," Rabbi Batya Steinlauf, director of Social Justice and Interfaith Affairs of the Jewish Community Relations Council, said in a release.
Leaders have identified these programs as critical for the most needy:
*Increasing Emergency Rental Assistance by $1 million to prevent homelessness and in fact save the city funds by keeping people out of shelters. Some 1,000 families could be assisted by these funds to avoid homelessness.
*Providing $7 million in increased funding for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. This would assist about 4,000 families with children in their transition from welfare to work. With this, later this year such aid will fall to only $257 per month which is far less than what is need to live on in the city.
*Add $3.9 million for Interim Disability Assistance (IDA) for those waiting for federal disability determinations. Moreover, the federal government reimburses a large portion of the city's IDA expenses while persons are in the application process.
*Add $11 million for Rapid Re-Housing Funding, along with $4.5 million for the Local Rent Supplement Program and $4.3 million for Permanent Supportive Housing. These are critical tools for helping to address the need for housing for the 600 families using DC General. These programs can be used to shorten families' stays at DC general and get them back into housing.
Although D.C. City Council members have reallocated funding toward these objectives, more needs to be done to fully meet these preventive and restorative programs.
Various clergy have been urging the council members to act constructively to fulfill these goals. "We enjoyed constructive conversations with many of the council members. They were not only receptive to our concerns, but also interested in addressing them. I have hope that council members will work together to find additional resources for those still hurting from the recession," said Monsignor John Enzler of Catholic Charities. The Rev. Kendrick Curry, pastor of Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church and vice president of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations applauded the effort of local clergy.
"This is our calling – to minister and serve ……we need the city's leaders to join us in that effort."