The D.C. Council unanimously finalized the District’s 2022 budget spending plan. (Courtesy Photo)

By Carl Thomas
Special to the AFRO

The D.C. Council unanimously finalized the District’s 2022 budget spending plan. The plan, which really revolves around a substantial boost in federal aid and a tax increase in the wealthiest residents, has been referred to by some members of Council as “transformative.” From homelessness prevention and services to violence interruption, the new budget is thoughtfully crafted in collaboration with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Council of the District of Columbia.

Last year, D.C. lawmakers found themselves in a very different position. The fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget was 3.9 percent less than this year’s, as the city’s pandemic-strained economy was forced into a litany of budget cuts. The 2022 version attempts to address the needs presented to District residents during the pandemic, offering much needed direct payments to low-income residents, city supported trust funds for post-secondary use for resident children and expanded local tax credits, which pay monthly.

The new budget includes several boosts to homeless prevention programs made possible by an increase in taxes for residents who make more than $250,000 annually. City officials will take a portion of that tax revenue to create permanent housing for more than 3,000 people experiencing homelessness. The amendment, which was presented by Council members Charles Allen (D- Ward 6), Brianne Nadeau (D- Ward 1) and Janeese Lewis-George (D- Ward 4), will introduce a basic monthly income for individuals and families who earn less than $54,414 annually. Under the plan, people who qualify would receive a $500 monthly payment to help supplement their ability to live and thrive in the District of Columbia.

The Housing Production Trust Fund, which is the District’s primary source for producing and maintaining affordable housing, received additional funding, which will push the fund over $400 million over a two-year period. The Council also will increase funding to $50 million for necessary repairs to public housing.

“I would say that this is the largest investment in affordable housing, and housing, specifically for homeless individuals and families, possibly in history, or at least in anyone’s memory,” said Kate Coventry, a policy analyst for the DC Fiscal Policy Institute.

While Mayor Bowser did initiate a request for an additional 170 police officers (at $11 million), the submitted budget had already cut the overall police budget and diverted some policing funds to violence interruption and community-based programs. “We’re not going to write a blank check,” said Council member Allen, explaining that the 2022 budget she submitted already included funding for 195 new officers and an expansion of the existing cadet program. The final budget met somewhere in between, with MPD receiving $5 million additional for 85 new officers. 

Bowser’s budget proposal included a 3.6 percent increase in per pupil allotment for D.C. Public and Public Charter Schools. School-based mental health programs and workforce training programs at the University of the District of Columbia both received increased funding as well. Lawmakers also were able to use a portion of the tax increase to pay for a salary increase for early childhood educators.

To find out more about the final budget and how it affects you, visit www.dccouncilbudget.com.

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