Jewish tradition teaches that all people have inherent dignity and equal value, and that in a just world all people would have what the Torah calls dei machsoro, resources sufficient for their needs. We are called to be partners in the creation of that world, to build a better future than we inherited — in this time, that call is louder than ever. As we see the dramatic actions that governments, and businesses, and people all across the world are taking, we know this to be true: bold action can indeed be taken when needed. We don’t merely need to envision a just world. We can choose to make it possible.
We must not just recover from the impacts of COVID-19; we must recover justly. We have a chance now to rebuild our city and our world. Let’s not rebuild the same world with the same cracks. Let us rebuild a better world, a more equitable world, a more just world. DC needs a truly just recovery.
Mayor Bowser will soon release her budget. This budget season will be different than anything we have ever faced in JUFJ’s 20 years of local advocacy. As COVID-19 continues to impact the city, our elected leaders must make choices for the future. Every choice made in this budget is a choice about the kind of world we are building.
After years of growth, the District’s CFO (Chief Financial Officer) projects a $750 million loss in the next fiscal year. Elected officials could choose to respond with harmful cuts to services that are needed now more than ever — or this loss could be met justly, with a combination of solutions that include asking those with the greatest resources, even in these times, to step up and pay their fair share.
We learned last week that because of an abbreviated budget schedule, budget hearings will vary by committee. Some will forgo live hearings with public witnesses altogether, limiting the voices of those who will be most directly harmed by any loss of government services. Public voices closest to the challenges instigated by COVID-19 have also been left out of the Mayor’s “ReOpen DC” committees, which have ceded leadership largely to big business, political insiders, and monied interests.
The “ReOpen DC” committee announcement occurred on the heels of a request by a coalition of corporate interests for nearly a BILLION dollars in broad tax cuts for themselves, as well as a suggestion to dismantle the District’s paid family and medical leave program set to launch in July.
To build a better world here in our city, we must start with the choices we make in our budget.
WE DON’T JUST NEED A RECOVERY.
WE NEED A JUST RECOVERY, DC.
WE NEED A JUST RECOVERY, DC.
A #JustRecoveryDC must:
- Put People First: For too long the District government has failed to fully or equitably meet the basic needs of residents in all eight Wards. This is an opportunity to make different policy decisions. The first priority for DC government assistance should be residents and small, local businesses with the greatest need, not the city’s most successful businesses and wealthiest residents.
- Commit to Transparency: Council hearings must center the voices of public witnesses who will be directly affected by funding decisions. Now is the time to make lasting changes, and to elevate direct, transparent engagement between the people and the Mayor and DC Council. (You can make sure your voice is heard in the democratic process by requesting your absentee ballot here for the June 2 DC primary election and June 16 Ward 2 special election.)
- Meet Human Needs: In Jewish tradition, we are taught that no community is complete without ten key features designed to meet its residents’ core spiritual and physical needs.* Programs that serve the health, housing, food access, economic security, educational, and general wellbeing of District residents and workers must be protected. Maintaining a social safety net is vital to keeping people afloat during a period of economic recovery so they can emerge stronger.**
- Demand Racial Justice: Black and brown residents have been the hardest hit by COVID-19 and are historically the last to bounce back after an economic downturn.** This is not a result of individual residents’ choices, but rather of policy decisions designed to disinvest in these communities. It is crucial to prioritize support for communities most affected by this virus. To ensure the recovery is equitable, the DC Council must apply a racial equity analysis to the budget and recovery policy decisions.
- Choose to Raise Revenue: Budgets are moral documents. Decisions to balance budgets on the backs of poor and working class people through cuts to essential services are not inevitable. There is a better, more equitable path forward to ensure our economy recovers justly. Now is the time for the DC Council and the Mayor to end wasteful corporate tax giveaways, to innovatively use funding already at our disposal, and to raise revenue from our wealthiest residents and most successful businesses who have benefited from significant federal tax giveaways in recent years.
Yes, this year and this budget season will be different than anything we’ve faced. But we are doing what we have always done: alongside our partners we continue to fight for our values and make sure that social, racial, and economic justice are advanced — not in spite of this pandemic, but because of it. Join JUFJ’s Just Recovery DC campaign to take action today, and every day, over the coming months as we work to build a better future in the District.
Actions you can take right now:
- RSVP to join us on May 26 at 6:30 PM for our Just Recovery DC team call.
- Tell the Mayor and Council to protect DC’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program and funding from cuts at the request of the same business lobbyists who have opposed this program since it was introduced in the Council in 2015. TAKE ACTION NOW and ask your friends and neighbors to write in to our leaders, too.
- Tell Council to allow public testimony. Lawmakers need to listen to the people most affected by budgetary decisions. TAKE ACTION NOW.
*The ten items Talmudically required in a city are a courthouse, a tzedakah or charitable giving system, doctors and blood letters (healthcare providers), educators for children, a synagogue, ritual mikveh or bathhouse (for religious and health purposes), a publically accessible restroom, craftspersons, and a kosher butcher to ensure residents can feed themselves. Learn more: myjewishlearning.com/article/community-focused