On Wednesday, May 22, the DC Council took its first and only vote on the FY 2014 Budget. For weeks prior, Councilmembers had been determining priorities, holding hearings to examine individual Agency budgets, and talking with constituents about the programs that matter most to them. During this process, AARP DC reiterated the need for an Age-Friendly budget, shared its legislative priorities for the year (built on the needs shared with us by members), and worked with members to make sure older adults benefitted from the budget.
Based on the discussions from the Council dais and early analysis of the budget documents, it appears that there is much to celebrate in the FY 2014 Budget. Both the Council and Mayor made seniors a priority and took an important step in the transformation of the District into an Age-Friendly City – a place where persons of all ages can live and thrive.
Here are some of the highlights:
$5 million for the DC Office on Aging – The Mayor listed a $5.8 million increase as his number two wish list priority. The Council worked to include that priority in the budget, finding $5 million from a variety of cost savings.
$4.5 million for seniors to modify their homes under the Single Family Modernization Grant Fund – This tremendous increase in funding will allow many more seniors to secure grants for important home modifications.
Full repeal of the tax on out-of-state bonds – This repeal eliminates a tax on out-of-state bonds and provides financial security to over 17,000 District residents, the majority of whom have moderate incomes and many of whom are retiree.
Funding of Schedule H tax credit – The budget funds several changes to this credit that were approved last year, including an increase in the income ceiling to from $20,000 to $40,000 next year and $50,000 in subsequent years; an increase in the maximum credit from $750 to $1,000; and provisions that will make it easier for people sharing housing to claim the credit.
Expansion of senior property tax exemption – For the past 35 years, the 50% property tax credit for seniors was available to persons age 60+ earning under $100,000. The budget now funds the credit for persons earning up to $125,000 and adjusts it for inflation in subsequent years.
$1.75 million for tenant based housing vouchers – These vouchers, administered through the Local Rent Supplement Program, will allow more people to access affordable housing immediately. This is an important counterpoint to the long-term investments made by the District in this budget to enhance the affordable housing development.
In June, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer will make its next revenue projection. If this projection is higher than expected, there may be opportunities for additional funding. And if this funding opportunity arises, we would recommend that the District:
Allocate at least $600,000 to the Grandparent Caregiver Program – A $600,000 increase will fully restore the cuts made by the Child and Family Services Agency in 2011 and help grandparents who have volunteered to raise their grandchildren.
Fund the remainder of the Mayor’s priority ($800,000) for the DC office on Aging – These additional funds will provide much needed increases to providers, who have seen increase demand in basic services like case management, home delivered meals, and transportation.