TWHC Budget and COVID-19 Update
COVID-19 shows us that another world is possible. From temporarily moving our older and sicker shelter residents to hotels, shrinking the prison population, to pausing rent increases, we’ve seen our elected officials lead from a place of compassion and justice. Mayor Bowser and the DC Council have made the moral choice to dip into DC’s rainy-day fund to pay for basic human needs amidst this crisis. We are moving down the right path and for our neighbors who were living in crisis even before the pandemic, even more must be done.
COVID-19 reminds us that ending homelessness is urgent
For our neighbors experiencing homelessness, COVID-19 is a crisis within a crisis. We’ve long known that housing is healthcare and this pandemic is yet another reminder. The same healthcare issues that kill our neighbors living without housing at disproportionate rates - diabetes, heart disease, AIDS and cancer- leave them at higher risk for serious illness or death from COVID-19. To date, 144 of our neighbors experiencing homelessness have tested positive for COVID-19 and, tragically, 8 have died. To save lives, lessen the strain on our healthcare system, and mitigate harm caused by this and future pandemics, DC must end homelessness. COVID-19 reminds us that housing is essential to our collective health and well-being.
DC's annual budget process is in full swing and we expect the Mayor to release her budget on or around May 13th. Today, we’re doubling down on our asks. While COVID-19 leaves many of our neighbors with urgent needs, we know that the needs facing the homeless community have not diminished; they’ve gotten greater. This is why we’re calling on Mayor Bowser to include robust funding to end chronic homelessness in her fiscal year 2021 budget, including:
· $51.6 million to end chronic homelessness for 1,800 households
· $17.6 million to prevent 2,150 individuals from entering homelessness
· Robust increases to low-income housing programs, such as The Housing Production Trust Fund and the Local Rent Supplemental Program
Additionally, Mayor Bowser is expected to introduce a supplemental budget in the coming days, and this must include strong funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). The economic impacts of COIVD-19 will severely impact people’s ability to pay rent and this extra funding will help those economically impacted catch up on rent and stay housed.
Compassion, not cuts
COVID-19’s economic devastation highlights a painful truth that has existed for far too long. While some DC residents prosper, many live at or near the poverty line. And like COVID-19, poverty, racism, and homelessness disproportionally impact our Black and Brown neighbors. COVID-19 is impacting individual finances and it is also hurting DC’s robust economy and budget. Still, we stand strong in our belief that our elected officials must make hard choices to fund and expand vital human services, like housing.
Just as COVID-19 will impact the health of our houseless neighbors the most, so too will the economic impacts of this virus disproportionately impact our neighbors living without housing and those living on the brink of homelessness. Our elected officials have hard choices ahead. We hope they prioritize the needs of people over profit and use DC’s precious resources to end homelessness and meet the basic needs of our residents.
DC can and must do more to fund vital human needs during and after this crisis. Still, DC cannot shoulder these burdens alone. Congress, in their federal relief package, made the deliberate and racist choice to classify DC as a territory and not a state. This means that DC was shortchanged by $750 million, vital funding that DC could help residents impacted by this virus. If you believe DC should be treated as a state and paid what we are owed, click here to raise your voice. Please share this with your friends who are not DC residents so that their voting members in congress know that this is a desperately needed fix.
Across DC, mutual aid groups are working around the clock to meet resident’s needs and supporting each other during this difficult time. These groups are in the process of compiling The People’s Demands and to “protect our people and primarily reflect the beliefs and needs of folks that are Black, brown, immigrants, indigenous, low-income and native Washingtonians.”
Help shape the final list of demands by filling out this survey.