Last October, the Mayor committed to transform the District of Columbia into an Age-Friendly City – a place where District residents of all ages will can live and thrive thanks to policies and programs that improve the quality of life. And last week, Mayor Gray released his FY 2014 Budget, outlining his Administration’s priorities for the near future. AARP DC’s review of the budget shows that the two commitments – an Age-Friendly DC and the FY 2014 Budget – still need work to become compatible. Below are the key principles of age-friendliness, some highlights of the FY 2014 Budget, and thoughts on how the two measure up.
An Age-Friendly DC will increase the accessibility and affordability of housing.
As promised in his State of the District Address, the Mayor dedicated $100 million toward affordable housing. $87 million was allocated to the Housing Production Trust Fund, a permanent fund to provide for the development and preservation of affordable housing. Also, smaller increases were made to the Local Rent Supplement, Home Assistance Purchase, Emergency rental, and Rapid Rehousing programs. This investment will certainly enable the long term development of more affordable units, but it is not clear how this investment would impact affordability immediately.
The Department of Housing and Community Development’s Single Family Rehabilitation program, which provides grants to homeowners to make modifications and, thus, remain their homes and the community, received no increase. In order to maintain the current stock of housing, programs like this must receive additional funding and strong oversight.
Public Space and Transportation
An Age-Friendly DC offers safe public spaces and accessible ways to get to them.
The Mayor’s budget makes the District’s libraries a priority. His budget allocates over $140 million to renovate MLK, Woodridge, Palisades, and Cleveland Park libraries and provides another $8 million to extend library hours.
The budget also highlights needs for improved community space. Close to $115 million is proposed for renovations to Barry Farms Recreation Center, the Southeast Tennis Center, and park space in NoMa. All of these investments in community space have the potential to provide improved public areas for learning, sharing, and activity.
The Mayor’s Budget does not spell out specific projects for DDOT and Department of Planning. However, AARP DC looks forward to projects like the use of $1.5 million by these agencies to update livability features (e.g., sidewalk improvements, traffic calming measures, better bus stops) along Kennedy Street, NW.
Community and Civic Participation
An Age-Friendly DC connects persons to volunteer opportunities and meaningful work, promotes cultural diversity, and provides for residents to engage in the formulation of policies relevant to their lives.
The Mayor proposes to eliminate the tax on Out-of-State Municipal Bonds. AARP DC supports the elimination of the tax for current retirees and others who purchased these bonds assuming that they would not be unduly taxed.
To support the upcoming 2014 Primary Election, the Mayor allocated an additional $2.3 million to the DC Board of Elections. AARP DC supports the use of additional funds to strengthen recruitment and training for poll workers, provide greater integration of technology at the polls, and correct some of the access problems that plagued the November 2012 election.
Health and Social Services
An Age-Friendly DC supports the health of residents and provides access to programs that promote wellness and active aging.
The Mayor’s Budget makes a modest increase, $2.7 million, for DC Office on Aging’s (DCOA) homebound and congregate meal programs. This increase compensates for expected sequestration cuts and makes permanent the expansion to the meal programs made in FY 2013.
The Mayor adds additional full-time employees to DCOA for two purposes. The first is to form a care team that will expand efforts to transition persons from skilled nursing facilities back to the community. AARP DC will monitor how this team relates to the existing staff of the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) and manages the care transitions beyond the day of transfer from a facility.
Second, one employee is to serve as the Coordinator for Age-Friendly DC. AARP DC is very supportive of this position – a dedicated individual will help advance the initiative and include a wide range of stakeholders in the process. However, we believe it would be better to situate this employee in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for HHS, rather than DCOA, in order to involve a larger number of District agencies.
The Mayor increased funding for the Grandparent Caregiver Program by $600,000. We recommend the program receive an additional $1 million increase to provide adequate levels of support for grandparents who are caring for their kin. A $1.6 million increase in the FY 2014 budget, along with the $600,000 added by the Council last year, would restore nearly 100% of the cut made in the FY2011 Supplemental Budget.
Absent from the Mayor’s budget is needed funding for the DC Office on Aging’s providers. AARP DC and the Senior Advisory Coalition have advocated for an increase the Agency’s baseline by $5.8 million to provide a step increase for the over 20 providers who deliver services. This increase would represent at 25% increase and help providers fill 1/3 of the gap between current funding levels and demand for services. While the Mayor listed this $5.8 million as #2 on his Prioritized Wish List, the funding can only become a reality if the budget revenue exceeds the forecast by $21.8 million. AARP DC encourages the Mayor and the Council to act now and include this funding in the DCOA budget.
The creation of an Age-Friendly DC needs you. Please take a moment and sign up to be an age-friendly “Builder” at http://action.aarp.org/afcdc. As part of this group you will receive regular information on the process, contribute directly to the Mayor’s action plan, and hold the Mayor accountable to his commitment.
You can view the entire budget online at http://budget.dc.gov.