We write as leaders of religious congregations that are members of Good Faith Communities, a coalition of organizations in the District that have united on behalf of the poor and homeless in our city. Our faith traditions teach us that we are our brothers’ keepers. Our faith traditions require us to work to build just societies that care for those who live at the margins. Our faith traditions call us to be a voice for those who are least able to speak for themselves. It is in that spirit and from our love for the District and its people that we express our concern for the well-being of our most vulnerable neighbors.
We are troubled that the proposed D.C. budget for fiscal 2012 will probably make the lives of thousands of low-income District residents even more difficult.
We applaud Mayor Vincent C. Gray for proposing a budget that includes not only spending cuts but measures designed to increase revenue as well. We believe that this two-pronged approach is a sensible, balanced way to resolve the District’s expected $322 million budget shortfall.
However, we are concerned that two-thirds of the proposed spending cuts would come at the expense of extremely low-income residents. We believe that it is wrong to ask the poorest and most vulnerable of our residents to make the greatest sacrifice in balancing our budget.
For example, we oppose the proposals that would cut $20 million from services to our homeless brothers and sisters, that would take $18 million from the trust fund that creates housing opportunities for the working poor and that would reduce rent subsidies for the poor and potentially homeless by $4 million.
We also find it troubling that the proposed budget would cut off the only source of income for 1,000 residents with disabilities who have applied for federal Supplemental Security Income benefits but often must wait months for applications to be approved. If the proposed budget is enacted, these residents would lose income that pays for essentials such as transportation and rent. Other spending cuts proposed in this budget would reduce mental health services for children.
We urge Mayor Gray and the D.C. Council to proceed with the proposed measures designed to increase revenue but to rethink the spending cuts that threaten to harm the poor.
The writers are, respectively, senior rabbi at Temple Micah in Glover Park and pastor at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown.