Category: budget

What you need to know: A look at Mayor Bowser’s 2016 District budget

*Editor’s Note: This week, The Daily WRAG is excited to bring you commentary on the recently released 2016 federal and state budgets from leading fiscal policy experts. What issues should you be concerned about in your jurisdiction? How might the proposed budgets affect your grantmaking priorities? Check in this week for an overview of the federal, District, Maryland, and Virginia budgets, and their implications for some of the most pressing social issues affecting our region.

Next up, Ed Lazere, executive director of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, shares his take on Mayor Bowser’s first budget:

by Ed Lazere
DC Fiscal Policy Institute

Mayor Bowser’s first budget invests heavily in affordable housing, in efforts to address rising homelessness and to protect thousands of families with children from losing basic income support. She accomplished this despite facing a shortfall between revenues and the costs of maintaining city services. To fund these important investments while still balancing the budget, the mayor proposed a number of reductions and modest tax increases, including a sales tax change that will add 25 cents to a $100 purchase.

  • Building Affordable Housing: Mayor Bowser committed $100 million to the Housing Production Trust Fund to build and renovate housing. This doubles the Trust Fund’s resources.
  • Helping More Families Pay Rent: The budget expands rental assistance (D.C.’s Local Rent Supplement Program) to make 200 homes affordable to very low-income households and to aid families needing help after short term “rapid rehousing” subsidies end.
  • Protecting Families with Children: Mayor Bowser extended income and employment assistance for one year to 6,000 families facing the loss of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. This will prevent 13,000 children from falling deeper into poverty and will give the mayor’s new human services leadership a year to address a TANF program that has not always served families well.

Despite these gains, large gaps remain to creating “pathways to the middle class,” Mayor Bowser’s stated goal. While the budget provides a record level to build affordable housing, it offers a much more modest increase to help families pay rent, yet rental assistance is key to making housing affordable to very low-income families. In addition, a one-year plan to keep families from being cut off the TANF welfare-to-work program gives time to repair a flawed system, but leaves vulnerable families with too little to make ends meet – $156 a month for a family of three.

Here are areas the DC Council should prioritize as it considers adding resources to the mayor’s spending plan.

  • Add Support to Families with Children on TANF: TANF should provide financial stability while helping parents move to greater self-sufficiency. Even with the extension of benefits for a year, the very low levels of assistance do not support family stability.
  • Expand Rental Assistance: There is virtually no affordable private-market housing in the District, which means that families with low wages or living on fixed incomes will struggle with housing cost burdens without additional assistance. Expanding rental assistance is a way to create affordable housing quickly and for the lowest-income families.
  • Increase Resources for At-Risk Students: The current funding devoted to helping low-income and other at-risk students in DCPS and public charter schools is well below the level recommended by a D.C.-commissioned study. Increasing the “at-risk weight” would allow high-poverty schools to take the steps needed to help low-income students succeed.

You can check DCFPI’s full take here for the key changes in Mayor Bowser’s budget.

Ed Lazere, the executive director of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, has led the organization since its inception in 2001. Under his leadership, DCFPI has become the primary source of independent information on the DC budget and one of the most influential policy organizations focused on the District. Mr. Lazere is recognized as a leading expert on the District’s budget and tax system, and he is looked to as a resource on a number of policy issues such as affordable housing and welfare-to-work programs.

What you need to know: Virginia’s 2016 budget in the wake of proposed federal cuts

*Editor’s Note: This week, The Daily WRAG is excited to bring you commentary on the recently released 2016 federal and state budgets from leading fiscal policy experts. What issues should you be concerned about in your jurisdiction? How might the proposed budgets affect your grantmaking priorities? Check in this week for an overview of the federal, District, Maryland and Virginia budgets and their implications for some of the most pressing social issues affecting our region.

Today, Michael Cassidy, president of The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, gives us his thoughts on how the U.S. House and Senate budget proposals may affect Virginia:

by Michael Cassidy
The Commonwealth Institute

Further cuts to federal investments in public services, as proposed in both the House and Senate budget plans, will hurt our local economy and do so on the backs of the state’s most vulnerable. That’s because Virginia relies heavily on federal help to meet the needs of our communities and our people:

  • Despite the bright spots in the national economy, Virginia has still not fully recovered from the recession and earlier federal budget cuts. The number of unemployed Virginians is still 70 percent above where we were eight years ago, and more Virginians still need help meeting their basic needs. In February, more than 856,000 people relied on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help put food on the table. That’s a 67 percent increase since the same month in 2007.
  • As Virginia’s economy regains its footing, federal assistance is vital.  For example, the state is expected to receive $102 million in 2016 to help women and infants get the nutrition they need. Likewise, federal funds will help us support struggling communities and provide affordable housing for low-income families: through $430 million in housing vouchers and an additional $50 million community development block grant.
  • Our schools rely heavily on federal funding, too, especially to make up for recent state cuts. In 2016 our school divisions are expected to receive almost $261 million to help students in poverty get ready for college and careers, and $285 million to help teach students with disabilities.

Under either the House or the Senate budget plans, all of these services could face deep cuts.

What’s more, these two plans would put health care out of reach for hundreds of thousands of Virginians by eliminating the tax credits available through the federal marketplace for private insurance, as well as cutting Medicaid and changing the way it’s funded. Removing the tax subsidies alone would threaten health care for the 319,000 Virginians who have gained coverage through the federal marketplace this year. On top of that, the proposed changes to  Medicaid would inevitably result in less funding and fewer people receiving coverage.

Given the state budget landscape, there’s little hope that Virginia’s General Assembly would make up the difference in the wake of federal cuts. The state just had to fill a $2.4 billion shortfall last fall and relied heavily on budget gimmicks and deep cuts to do it.

With families still struggling across Virginia and the state unwilling to invest in the things that we know strengthen the economy, we cannot bear further cuts at the federal level. At a time when Virginia’s families need Congress to continue making strong investments in education, health care, and family supports like nutrition and housing, the House and the Senate budget plans would do great damage to the commonwealth.

Michael Cassidy is the president and CEO of The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, a nonprofit think tank focused on providing independent research, analysis and public education on budget and tax issues, with emphasis on the impact of fiscal decisions on low- and moderate-income Virginians. He also worked for several years as a budget analyst at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget where he handled policy development, regulatory and legislative review and budgetary process and execution for a wide variety of social policy programs.

What you need to know: The 2016 federal budget

*Editor’s Note: This week, The Daily WRAG is excited to bring you commentary on the recently released 2016 federal and state budgets from leading fiscal policy experts. What issues should you be concerned about in your jurisdiction? How might the proposed budgets affect your grantmaking priorities? Check in this week for an overview of the federal, District, Maryland and Virginia budgets and their implications for some of the most pressing social issues affecting our region. Don’t worry – Maryland’s state budget should hopefully be completed soon. When that happens, we’ll have you covered.

First up, Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, offers his analysis of the 2016 federal budget:

by Robert Greenstein
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

The budgets that the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed in late March would shrink federal spending to strikingly low levels that, measured as a share of the U.S. economy, are unprecedented in modern America.  These cuts would seriously affect the ability of states and localities to deliver adequately in areas such as educating children and increasing opportunities for disadvantaged people.  Congress’ new budget plans would:

  • Repeal health reform and cut Medicaid deeply on top of that. The plans would radically restructure Medicaid by converting it to a block grant and cutting federal funding steeply. The Medicaid cut in the House plan, including its repeal of health reform’s Medicaid expansion, would reach $1.8 trillion over ten years relative to current law, adding tens of millions of Americans to the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured.  Federal spending for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program in 2025 would be a third less than what states would receive under current law, and the cuts likely would keep growing after that.
  • Deeply cut other federal funding for state priorities. Federal policymakers already have substantially cut the part of the budget that includes support for schools and a wide range of human services (such as nutrition assistance for new mothers and young children, job training, housing assistance, and child care), along with transportation, medical and scientific research, and other programs. Funding for this part of the federal budget — known as non-defense discretionary funding — is set to fall under current law to the lowest levels on record, measured as a share of the economy, with data going back to the 1960s.  Yet the House and Senate budgets would cut funding further for this part of the budget.  Many of these programs are important to increasing opportunity, productivity, and long-term economic growth.

States are not in a position to absorb major new cost shifts from the federal government.  State revenues were seriously damaged by the recent recession, the worst for state finances in 70 years.  While revenues are slowly recovering, they remain in a hole, often well below what is needed to meet state needs.  For instance, school districts nationally employ 285,000 fewer workers than in the fall of 2008, the first full school year after the recession started, even as the number of students has risen by about 485,000.

Congressional budget plans aren’t laws.  Rather, they establish a framework for subsequent legislation.  With government remaining divided in Washington, much of what is in the House and Senate budgets won’t become law this year, as gridlock will likely continue.  But some aspects of these budgets could be seriously considered — if not now, possibly in 2017.  And in any event, continuing gridlock and eroding federal investments in areas important to promoting opportunity pose major problems by themselves, including problems for states and localities.

Robert Greenstein is the founder and president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  He is considered an expert on the federal budget and a range of domestic policy issues, from anti-poverty programs and various aspects of tax policy to health reform and Social Security.  He has written numerous reports, analyses, book chapters, op-ed pieces, and magazine articles on these issues. 

Mario Morino’s new book released today…High rates of students in remedial community college courses…Talking with new DHCD head [News, 5.19.11]

COMMUNITY | Today Venture Philanthropy Partners, in collaboration with McKinsey & Company, are launching their latest publication, Leap of Reason: Managing Outcomes in an Era of Scarcity, by Mario Morino. The book calls on funders to empower their grantees to focus on impact and outcomes, rather than onerous reporting requirements, particularly during the current economic downturn when maximizing nonprofits’ impact is especially important.

BUDGETS | Yesterday advocates demonstrated to protest the cuts to services for the homeless in the District’s FY2012 budget. They seem to have gotten their message across: Council Chairman Kwame Brown told the crowd that he would “do everything I can to restore all of the homeless services” in the budget, though he said he wouldn’t be doing it by raising the income tax. (WAMU, 5/19)

– A new report shows that significant segments of students at the region’s community colleges have to enroll in remedial English, math, and English as a second language courses. (Examiner, 5/19)

– Jay Matthews takes a look at the controversy around an extremely rigorous new DC charter school, which opponents think won’t adequately meet the needs of special education students and students learning English as a second language. (WaPo, 5/12)

Closing more bad charters sooner (WaPo, 5/15)

– D.C. schools investigate security breaches in 2011 tests. (Examiner, 5/19)

HOUSING | John Hall, the new director of the Department of Housing and Community Development, talks about his plans and priorities for his new position, particularly with regard to ensuring a supply of affordable housing. (City Paper, 5/17)

ENVIRONMENT | New technology being acquired by DC’s Wastewater Treatment Plant will be the “largest source of clean renewable energy in Washington, D.C.,” according to George Hawkins, the head of DC’s Water and Sewer Authority. (WAMU, 5/17)

– The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region is inviting nominations of exceptional youth and young adult leaders for its 2011 Linowes Leadership Award. The foundation awards four people annually, with one award specifically recognizing a young person, age 18 or younger. Nominations must be in by May 25. More information is available here.

– Greater DC Cares’ 2011 Impact Summit, where regional business, nonprofit, and volunteer leaders who have made an impact in philanthropy, volunteerism, and service will be recognized, is coming up on June 15. The is an open call for nominations in each category. Nominations are due by May 27. Forms and more information can be found here.

GIVING | Today is the Dulles Greenway’s annual “Drive for Charity” day. 100% of the tolls collected today will be donated to five Loudoun County nonprofits. If you’re wondering how much one day of tolls amounts to, last year’s Drive for Charity day raised $226,427.

Today’s news round-up by Rebekah.

Awards galore…Discrimination complaint against charter schools…A hope for budget autonomy? [News, 5.13.11]

AGING | Yesterday, WRAG’s Working Group on Aging was recognized by Emmaus Services for the Aging as one of their 2011 Aging in Community Honorees. Tamara and Kathy Freshley received the award on behalf of the working group at the awards luncheon, where WRAG member Richard England (picture) and the Honorable Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging at the US Department of Health and Human Services, were also honored.

COMMUNITY | Jean Case, co-founder of The Case Foundation, was honored this week by the Washington Business Journal as the Corporate Philanthropist of the Year:

“Jean Case is an actively engaged philanthropist and pioneer in the world of interactive technologies…The Case Foundation is recognized for its innovative efforts to increase giving and catalyze civic and business participation, as well as to promote innovation, collaboration and leadership in the nonprofit sector.” (Washington Business Journal, 5/12)

Related: The Case Foundation has also been a pioneer in their use of social media. Learn more about their efforts at an upcoming WRAG event, “Social Media: How and Why Foundations Should Join the Conversation,” on June 9.

EDUCATION | Advocates filed a complaint with the Justice Department’s civil rights division yesterday contending that DC charter schools discriminate against special education students and others with special needs. The complaint says that charter schools’ admissions practices “‘contribute to…the failure’ of all DC schools to properly serve the city’s most vulnerable and fragile children.” (WaPo, 5/12)

– When Mayor Gray and Chairman Brown testified yesterday before the House oversight committee, some expected to hear threats of a return of the financial control board. However, the session has been described as “relatively cordial,” with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) afterwards suggesting that they might be willing to give the city a higher degree of budget autonomy in the future, as well as creating a contingency budget to ensure that the city continues to function normally in the event of a government shutdown. (WaPo, 5/12)

– The various committees of the DC City Council have submitted their reports on Mayor Gray’s proposed FY 2012 budget. The Committee on Human Services’ report lodges significant complaints about the proposed Department of Human Services budget, saying that it “will devastate the city and and further spending pressures will ensue in various city services as a result of neglecting the basic needs of poor families, children and homeless adults.” Meanwhile, the Housing and Workforce Development committee report calls for more funding for the Local Rent Supplement Program and Housing Production Trust Fund. (City Paper, 5/12)

Friday the 13th news roundup brought to you by Rebekah.

Be a Budget Advocate: Speak Up for Our Region

By Tamara Copeland, President

Fairfax County

Montgomery County

Prince George’s County

District of Columbia

For months now, local elected officials have struggled with how to maintain services – ranging from housing for low-income people to keeping libraries open and keeping our communities safe – while grappling with insufficient funding. Some of their decisions we have applauded. Others have brought frowns and deep concern as we fail to understand their thinking.

In some jurisdictions, the decisions have been made, but for a few major jurisdictions in our region, the next week is critical. It is time to let your elected officials know what you think as one of their constituents and it is time for you as a knowledgeable philanthropic leader to offer advice to local politicians as they struggle with some right versus right decisions.

Earlier this week, WRAG held a budget briefing with local experts from Fairfax County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and the District of Columbia. In the videos to the right, each leader speaks to the most important jurisdictional budget concerns for his/her community and offers suggestions for how our region’s philanthropic leaders can advocate for sound budget decisions.

Additionally, the Think Twice Before You Slice Campaign offers more advice on how to communicate the importance of careful decision making on the budgets. Read them here.

Reactions to the “millionaire’s tax”

LOCAL BUDGETS | Brown pitches tax plan to D.C. wealthy (WaPo, 5/13), and many of them support it:

Daniel Solomon, a founder of D.C. Vote [and Washington Grantmakers Board member], said his attendance at the meeting prompted him to write a letter to council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) and council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) today to express his support and that of his wife, Jane Solomon, for the Brown’s proposal.

He wrote: “As a couple that will have to pay the tax increase, let me say why we are supportive:

1) the marginal increase in our taxes will be truly marginal, perhaps $1,000

2) the increase will bring us close to parity with Montgomery County taxes, so it’s not going to drive anyone out of the city

3) the increase will bring our tax rate back close to what it was several years ago

4) during times of need, those who can afford to pay the most should shoulder the biggest burden for those who are less fortunate, which is the teaching of most religions and many political philosophies.”

Regional budgets are tightening, but nonprofits shouldn’t panic—yet

The media might be sounding the alarm on the economy, but Stephen Fuller says that the nonprofit community shouldn’t panic—not yet, anyway.  Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis, recently discussed the region’s economic forecast with a group of Washington Grantmakers and Nonprofit Roundtable members.


The central concern for the nonprofit community is that a failing national economy will tighten government budgets, which will in turn restrict the funding of nonprofits, and consequently increase the demand on funders. While this is a logical projection, Fuller noted that government budgets lag about a year behind current economic conditions. As a result, nonprofits should not be affected in 2008.

Since 2009 budgets are being proposed right now, the real impact of a stumbling economy might not be felt until the 2010 budget cycles. The delay between real time economic behavior and government budget decisions gives nonprofits time to prepare for a shift in funding.

Following Fuller’s regional overview, Neil Bergsman (Maryland Budget & Tax Policy Institute), Ed Lazere (DC Fiscal Policy Institute), and Michael Cassidy (The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis) discussed the budget processes in each of their respective jurisdictions. But even armed this knowledge, nonprofits and funders should be cautious of funding promises from local governments. “You have to question the numbers,” warned Cassidy. “The politics are there to bury the bad news and whistle past the graveyard.”

A few important notes:

  • In Maryland, funding for Medicaid, K-12 education, and public higher education will all increase in the 2009 budget.
  • The District’s 2009 budget, though as-yet-unannounced, will be tight. This leaves room for concern about schools funding to cover the Chancellor’s new initiatives, which were not previously anticipated.
  • Assuming Virginia maintains its current service level, the state’s existing revenue stream will not be sufficient. The result will be an estimated $1.2 billion deficit projected for the 2008-2010 biennium budget.

The Economy, Nonprofits, and Local Philanthropy: A Timely Discussion

The possibility of an economic stimulus package is filling the national headlines, but the story isn’t only a national one. The Virginia and Maryland legislatures and the DC Council are facing budgetary realities that may have significant impact on the nonprofits you support and the funding requests that you receive. A recent special report in the Chronicle of Philanthropy states that nonprofits are “bracing for tough times” as the economy continues to falter.

This coming Tuesday, Washington Grantmakers will host a Regional Budgets Briefing with the Nonprofit Roundtable. We’ve arranged for local and national experts to give us a look at how budget challenges in DC, Maryland, and Virginia will have dramatic consequences for area nonprofits and the issues on which we all work.

Our panel will be comprised of: Stephen Fuller (GMU Center for Regional Analysis), Ed Lazere (DC Fiscal Policy Institute), Neil Bergsman (Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute), and Michael Cassidy (The Commonwealth Institute)

If you would like to attend, please email

These articles offer more information on some of the challenges facing our region and the field of philanthropy:

Bracing for Tough Times (Chronicle, 2/7)
Charities Vow to Fight Proposed Cuts in Federal Budget (Chronicle, 2/6)
MD Gov. O’Malley proposes budget (MD Nonprofits, 1/17)
Response to VA Gov. Kaine’s Budget (Commonwealth Institute)

Tuesday, April 24 – In the News…

“Idol Gives Back” – 30 million ‘American Idol’ viewers will learn about Save the Children, The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and UNICEF Malaria No More. (Christian Post, 4/24)
E.J. Dionne: “What marks a genuine cultural change is “Idol’s” interest in poverty itself… The program will, in effect, be a sustained, two-night argument to “Idol” viewers that they might have an obligation to do something about injustice and the pain of others.”

[Va.] Fairfax County Budget… (WaPo, 4/24)
– increases school spending by 4 percent;
– does not make up for loss of $6M in federal funding for child care. 960 child-care slots will be lost (waiting list already at 3,000);
– continues to preserve 1 cent of tax rate ($22.7M) for affordable housing and stormwater management;
– does not provide for a “living wage” for county employees.

[D.C.] After resigning from the D.C. Board of Education in protest, Jeff Smith joins school advocacy organization DC VOICE as executive director. (WaPo, 4/24 – scroll)

[D.C.] “St. Elizabeths is making progress,” say Hospital Exec and D.C.’s director of mental health dept. (WaPo, 4/24)

[D.C.] “G’town med students to open clinic for homeless” (WBJ, 4/20)

Poll: 61 percent of Americans favor D.C. House seat (WaPo, 4/24)