- The Washington Times - Monday, May 23, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Oink, Oink. There’s plenty of fatback on the table, but barely a streak o’ lean.

The proposed fiscal 2017 budget for the nation’s capital is loaded with pork, largesse and a heavy dose of social services — so-called investments needed to bolster the safety netting and improve the quality of life for one and all.

If you think high crime rates and high tax rates are deterrents, think again. The FY17 budget plan even wants to help you buy your own house.

Many of the details are courtesy of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, which, fortunately, never misses a chance to remind officials about gaps in the District’s welfare and human services net.

Forget about HGTV’s “Property Brothers” if you’re looking for how-to advice. The District is willing to give — g-i-v-e — you the money if you’re a first-time home buyer.


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The financial assistance, says DCFPI, comes via a $5 million budget increase to cover down payments for lower-income folks. The current ceiling is $54,000. The proposed budget would set the new figure at $80,000. With that kinda down payment dough, a first-timer could buy a home in any quadrant of the city.

Let’s turn to child care with this eye-opener: “[D.C.] child care costs are the highest in the country.” So says Child Care Aware of America, which documents such things, and puts annual costs for an infant at $22,631 and for a 4-year-old at $40,473. Do I hear a hallelujah for free pre-K public education?

Any working parent who wants or needs child care is aware of the high costs, which can blow a budget quicker than you can spell subsidy. The thing is, D.C. officials want to subsidize the child care providers and parents. So how’s this for double?

The budget is proposing:

A $1.8 million increase to providers.

Another $1.8 million to, in the words of DCFPI, “improve other supports to parents and early education providers.”

Those new funds do not, presumably, include mothers’ milk or the breakfast, lunches and snacks already provided by moms and dads. Because — ta da! — the Healthy Tots program would get an additional $1 million to help “early childhood centers provide nutritious meals and snacks, use locally grown food, and strengthens standards for physical activity at these centers.”

There’s a new rent subsidy program, too. You can call it the You Are Not Alone Program. Joking aside, this new pilot program isn’t for homeless folks. It’s for formerly homeless people, for whom city leaders will set up a $1 million fund to help them cover their rent. That may help adults, and the youths get help, too. The pool of money for homeless youths gets a $2 million boost.

Unemployed? Know someone unemployed? The budget proposal has a heart, boosting weekly benefits from $359 to $425.

Regarding the homeless, D.C. spends so much money on various silos addressing homelessness that I’m willing to bet neither the mayor nor members of the D.C. Council could cite the exact dollar amount. There’s the school system. The health agency. The housing agencies. The planning agency. The zoning agency. The police agency. The agencies that please the business section. The agencies that dawdle in IT, contracting and regulatory affairs.

Suffice it to say, city leaders do not want to know how much they spend on homelessness because that would trigger oversight, which is why the word “crisis” is often tagged onto the end of homeless when the topic arises.

In the “major gaps” section of its analysis, DCFPI pointed out that there are no transportation subsidies for adult learners. Hmm.

Infants, toddlers, 4-year-olds — covered. Unemployed adults — covered. Homeless families, homeless singles, formerly homeless adults and families, homeless youths — covered.

Transit subsidies for adults trekking to and from “educational programs?” Uh, methinks not. That sounds like paying Ebony, who lives in Palisades, to sit on a stoop in Shaw to learn how to braid hair. Or paying Ryan to ride back and forth from a bar in Dupont Circle to decide whether he wants to become a bartender.

Politics likely won’t be any more prudent over the next couple of weeks, as politicians oink toward a final budget proposal and deliberations on the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2016 — a proposition that isn’t fair to everyone.

Oh well.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]

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