Significant Birth to Three Funding Passes in the DC Council

SIGNIFICANT BIRTH-TO-THREE FUNDING PASSES FY20 DC COUNCIL

Council makes meaningful commitment to infant, maternal, family health and wellbeing

Community advocacy delivers for DC families; more investment needed for full funding

 

WASHINGTON, D.C.: The Council of the District of Columbia passed a nearly $16 million investment as a partial yet key down payment on the Birth-to-Three for All DC Act of 2018. The Council’s commitment will fund measures to ensure healthier birth outcomes and supports for the District’s youngest residents to grow and thrive. Community advocacy to hold the Council accountable to the promise of the unanimous passage of the Birth to Three for All DC Act resulted in this partial funding but more money is needed to fully implement program. The budget, including this funding, now heads to Mayor Muriel Bowser for her signature in June.

“Today’s budget bill is a victory for the District’s working families. We spoke with one voice to move our elected officials to make a significant commitment to the future of our families,” said Ericka Taylor, Co-Director of the DC Working Families Party and one of the Birth-to-Three for All Coalition co-chairs, along with Jews United for Justice and SPACES in Action. “ Residents will continue to fight for the money needed to realize the full promise of ensuring that every child in the District has their best start.”

District families moved the DC Council with more than 1,000 petition signatures, 500 emails, and 100 calls advocating for Birth-To-Three funding. More than 100 testimonies highlighting Birth-to-Three funding were delivered before the Council throughout budget season, including testimony from more than 40 lay leaders. Additionally, more than 50 people attended the Mayor’s Budget Engagement Forums to advocate for funding for Birth-to-Three in her FY20 budget proposal.

Additional advocacy from the Birth-to-Three coalition was directed toward reforming corporate tax giveaways. In a major victory during first votes on the budget, nine Councilmembers voted for an amendment to end tax credits for “Qualified High Technology Companies” — or QHTCs — and to direct the savings toward investing in District families and critical human needs.

"The DC Council budget process is about making our government priorities clear and often community advocates are the ones who help us set those priorities," said Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau, Councilmember for Ward 1 and chairperson of the Committee on Human Services. "Through my  partnership with advocates and like-minded colleagues, I was proud to lead the Council in converting a $15 million subsidy to corporations into investments in childcare affordability, housing for our homeless neighbors, lead pipe abatement, and mental health services for students."

Today’s budget victory was hard won; last year, with the passage of the Birth-to-Three Act, Mayor Bowser said the District had to make a choice between the District’s recently enacted Paid Family and Medical Leave law and the Birth-to-Three programs, an assertion made amidst the District’s ongoing maternal and infant mortality crises. This false narrative shortchanges both the immediate and long-term needs of moms and babies, and all DC families. With significant community input, this either/or situation was rejected and advocates were able to make the comprehensive continuum of care from prenatal stages through age three one of the most discussed issues this year and push the Council to more than triple the Mayor’s initial funding for Birth-to-Three supports.

The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are critical to their success -- but support for DC families in those 1,000 days is fractured, and it’s failing Black and Brown families in particular. The Birth-to-Three strategy, coupled with paid family leave, is designed to ensure every infant and toddler in DC, regardless of their family's race, income, or zip code can get the high-quality wrap-around support and care they need to thrive. This Act is also a legislative blueprint for guaranteeing every family in DC spends no more than 10 percent of their income on high-quality, developmentally-stimulating early childhood education. The Birth-to-Three for All DC Act expands access to critical educational, social, and health services and professionals in ways that meet parents where they are: through home visiting, phone-based counselling, and in pediatrician offices. Full funding for these programs is necessary to reduce racial inequalities and lifelong health and achievement disparities.

The FY 2020 investment:

·       Home visiting for Early Head Start --  $4,006,951

·       Healthy Futures (program that supports social-emotional development and behavioral health) -- $1,526,000

·       Healthy Steps (funding two new sites of this program that connects families to community navigators and comprehensive whole-family health supports in pediatrician offices) -- $600,000

·       Help Me Grow (telephone parenting supports/hotline/resources) -- $80,000

·       Lactation consultants -- $323,000

·       Childcare subsidy funding (cost of care/teacher salaries): $9,298,064  
Total FY 2020 investment: $15,834,015

Councilmember commitments:

·       Councilmember Vincent Gray championed passage of the Birth-to-Three For All DC Act last year and leveraged his role as Chairman of the Health Committee to fund many of the health programs in the bill during this budget cycle (Healthy Futures, Help Me Grow, Healthy Steps, Lactation Consultants).

·       Chairman Phil Mendelson significantly increased funding for home visiting for vulnerable homeless and immigrant families.

·       Councilmember Brianne Nadeau championed an amendment to scale back an ineffective corporate tax giveaway and redirect $2.4 million of that foregone revenue toward Birth-to-Three childcare affordability.

·       Councilmember Jack Evans and the Finance and Revenue Committee narrowed eligibility for a childcare tax credit program to better target support for low and middle income families. By limiting a previously broad tax credit, the Committee was able to generate more than $1 million for Birth-to-Three programs.

·       Councilmember Robert White and the Committee on Facilities and Procurement committed $300,000 for home visiting for families experiencing homelessness

·       Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie and the Business and Economic Development Committee committed $75,000 toward the expansion of the Healthy Steps program.

·       Councilmember Elissa Silverman and the Labor and Workforce Development committee committed $150,000 for workforce training of lactation consultants.

·       Mayor Bowser for committed $5 million in her proposed budget to support DC’s childcare subsidy program which enables early childhood education centers to provide high-quality care to low-income families.

 

The Birth-to-Three for All Coalition Executive Committee includes DC Working Families Party, Jews United for Justice, SPACES in Action, DC Action for Children, DC Early Learning Collaborative, and DC Fiscal Policy Institute.