My name is Rachel Anderson; I’ve been a DC resident for over a decade and am now a homeowner in Ward 6. I’m also a member of Jews United for Justice, a community of thousands of Jews and allies committed to advancing social, racial, and economic justice in DC. I’m proud of DC’s commitment to communities where everyone can thrive. But claiming this value of community means that we must act in accordance with it by making funding choices that put people first, meet basic human needs, and prioritize racial equity.
In accordance with requests from DC’s Excluded Worker Coalition, I’m calling on the Council to allocate $160 million in the FY23 budget for workers excluded from federal assistance programs and to ensure that the money already appropriated for excluded workers by the DC Council reaches them.
In Jewish tradition, employers bear serious responsibilities to their employees. Our texts and history tell us that when we are in the employer role, we must give our employees fair and timely compensation and maintain workplaces that offer true dignity and respect. Judaism recognizes that when we do right by working people, then families, communities, and our whole region are more likely to thrive. DC’s FY23 budget affords us an opportunity to meet our ethical and practical obligations to the workers who have done so much to support our District during the pandemic.
Since its creation in 2020, DC CARES has been funded three times with the goal of providing direct cash assistance to DC residents, including undocumented community members, members of the cash economy, and returning citizens, who were excluded from federal pandemic relief efforts. This funding has allowed thousands of DC residents to receive cash assistance that they need and very much deserve. Still, each person in the DC CARES program has received only a few thousand dollars, even as the pandemic and economic uncertainties enter a third year and as other DC residents are eligible to receive additional supports such as enhanced unemployment insurance payments, federal stimulus dollars, and continuous Medicaid coverage, that these excluded workers have been denied.
As you work on the FY23 budget, please remember that the pandemic is not over. Even as some in our city pretend otherwise, many of our neighbors are still facing work disruptions and challenges covering costs for necessities such as housing, food, and health care. The Mayor’s proposed budget doesn’t invest a single dollar in this impactful cash assistance program for excluded workers. But the DC Council can address this injustice and make sure DC is a city where we live the values we purport to hold.
I support the demand from workers that they be “excluded no more” and urge the DC Council to commit $160M in direct cash assistance. Our city relies on the resilience of all our communities. This is an investment in people who have been left behind by federal programs and structures of inequity. The DC Council can and should continue to fund this cash assistance program in the FY 2023 budget.