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AARP joins rally for DC senior services funding

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Juan E Hernandez G

AARP members braved the rain on April 29th and turned out at the Wilson Building in their red shirts to urge DC councilmembers to support funds for senior services.  The Washington Post reported that 300 people showed up for a rally and many stayed for a budget hearing which followed the rally.
The funding of senior services in DC is part of what AARP DC is advocating to make the District more age-friendly.  Both the mayor and the city council have made commitments to transform the District of Columbia into an Age-Friendly City – a place where District residents of all ages can live and thrive thanks to policies and programs that improve the quality of life.  AARP members discussed these same issues and others, with councilmembers during and after the rally.

Also, AARP has looked at the mayor's FY 2014 Budget to see if the mayor is backing up his verbal commitment with budgetary support.  Below, you'll see what we found.

Housing: 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, especially for older adults.
Public Space and Transportation: An Age-Friendly DC offers safe public spaces and accessible ways to get to them.
The Mayor’s budget allocated significant funding to the District’s libraries and other community space.  He budgets over $140 million to renovate MLK, Woodridge, Palisades, and Cleveland Park libraries, provides another $8 million to extend library hours, and close to $115 million 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.
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.  He also supports the upcoming 2014 Primary Election, allocating an additional $2.3 million to the DC Board of Elections.  AARP DC encourages the use of additional funds specifically 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 only begins to address the chronic underfunding of the DC Office on Aging.  He does allocate an additional $2.7 million for the homebound and congregate meal programs to compensate for expected sequestration cuts and makes permanent the expansion to the meal programs made in FY 2013.  He also adds additional full-time employees to form a care team that will expand efforts to transition persons from skilled nursing facilities back to the community and coordinate the Age-Friendly DC initiative.  [note: AARP DC is very supportive of this last 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].

However, absent from the budget is a $5.8 million step increase for the over 20 providers who deliver DCOA's services to 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.
This analysis only begins to scratch the surface of the age-friendliness of the Mayor's Budget. For more information, to contribute directly to the Mayor’s action plan, and to hold the Mayor accountable to his commitment visit http://action.aarp.org/afcdc.  You can also view the entire budget online at http://budget.dc.gov.

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