Despite public outcry, the District of Columbia City Council on Tuesday approved a measure that would curtail public assistance to help offset a projected $440 million budget deficit and avoid the possibility of higher property taxes over the next two years.

In apparent agreement with an earlier proposal by Councilmembers Marion Barry and Yvette Alexander, the Council decision would end payments to welfare clients after five years of assistance.

While the Council approved several amendments to offset a current $188 million budget shortfall, the governing body also discussed who would be taxed and how much in the event increasing the District’s tax coffers became a means to raising revenue needed to balance the budget.

In November, Mayor Adrian Fenty had proposed reducing welfare checks by 20 percent to residents who had been on the rolls more than five years. However, under Mayor-elect Vincent Gray’s plans, as of 2011, long-term recipients would lose 40 percent of their monthly benefits, with decreases continuing up to 60 percent by 2013.

Currently, 17,000 District households receive public assistance checks, which average $370 a month. Forty percent of recipients have received benefits for more than five years.