DC’s budget cuts have far-reaching consequences, affecting the safety and well-being of vulnerable communities and highlighting the importance of social services.

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DC budget cuts are an issue of safety, and the DC community deserves better. 

Conversations about safety have been taking place all over the District, as residents in each ward consider what it means to be safe. At Bread for the City, we know that safety is not about how many people the city can lock up but rather about how we – organizations, coalitions, and, yes, the city government – invest in our communities to ensure everyone has what they need to thrive. Yesterday, the city’s leadership put forward a budget that does not do what is necessary to keep DC safe – a budget that included cuts to critical housing supports, cuts that impact access to behavioral health services, cuts to early childhood education, and so many more programs that directly impact the people who walk through our doors each day.

Racial equity is about more than platitudes, and DC residents deserve city leadership who listens to their needs and supports the growth and development of their communities – especially those communities who have experienced disproportionate disinvestment. The city’s professed goals of creating equitable health, economic, and social outcomes require a budget that funds the programs and initiatives that help make that happen. The budget is a statement of values, and with the city’s 2025 budget release today, we see clearly that the health and well-being of low-income Washingtonians is not the focus of the District’s current leadership.

The cuts to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) and cuts to other housing supports will have real consequences for those already burdened by housing costs that outpace wages. We continue to see rising numbers of unhoused people, holding on to our status as one of the top cities with the highest rate of homelessness per capita in the country. A budget that does not adequately house people is not a budget that seeks to keep people safe.

Additional cuts to community and child services will undoubtedly impact some of the only behavioral health supports available to DC residents who live on low incomes. Funding to the Access to Justice Initiative was rolled back to pre-COVID era levels even though the need for free legal services has dramatically risen since 2019. It is unclear how our city’s leaders can rationalize the gap between need and levels of support in our post-pandemic economy. A budget that cuts equitable access to representation in court – to secure a family’s housing or protection from domestic violence, and that eliminates crucial behavioral health supports is not a budget that prioritizes safety.

Much attention, and funding, has been placed on a misunderstood approach to public safety in the 2025 budget and the Secure DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2024. This bill will not make our communities safer but will lead to higher rates of incarceration and increased violence while simultaneously enabling an increased lack of police transparency. The safest communities are the best-resourced communities. By stripping our neighbors of behavioral health funding, low-cost transportation, early childhood education support, and community services and continuing to gut affordable housing programs, this administration is harming the communities served by Bread for the City and other direct services agencies across the District.

It is now up to the members of the DC Council to rectify this budget and ensure that we have a budget that creates a safe and secure DC. Bread for the City joins partners like the DC Fair Budget Coalition, the DC Fiscal Policy InstituteAccess to Justice CommissionWashington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, and more to demand a budget that prioritizes the safety and well-being of those most often pushed to the margins.

Want to get involved with our advocacy and organizing around DC’s budget? Email getinvolved@breadforthecity.org!

#DCBudgetCuts #CommunitySafety #SocialServices

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