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Grosso gets update from DDOT on efforts to reduce bicycle congestion

Earlier this month, Councilmember Grosso sent a letter to the District Department of Transportation request a plan for measuring the traffic in existing bike lanes and upgrading routes as necessary to accommodate the growing number of cyclists in the District of Columbia.

He was pleased to hear back from the agency that they are conducting counts of bicycle traffic already, have made improvements to bicycle lanes , and remain committed to expanding bicycle infrastructure throughout the District.

Read the letter from Councilmember Grosso and DDOT's response below.

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Grosso proposes re-designating government officials to bolster statehood movement, reflect D.C. status

For Immediate Release: 
June 20, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Grosso proposes re-designating government officials to bolster statehood movement, reflect D.C. status

Washington, D.C. – Today, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced legislation that would redefine District of Columbia government titles to advance the statehood movement and align them with the actual status of the D.C. government.

The “Washington D.C. Preferred Terms Establishment Act of 2017” designates D.C. as Douglass Commonwealth and redefines the Mayor as Governor of Washington, D.C. Additionally, the bill renames the Council as the Legislative Assembly with a Speaker, rather than a Chairman. Further, Councilmembers would be referred to as Representatives of the Legislative Assembly.

“As we continue the fight for statehood, it is my hope that this legislation will mobilize community advocates, organizers and residents and reinvigorate the movement as a whole,” Grosso said. “Changing these names, of course will not make us a state. However, I believe changing them can move us closer toward statehood."

One of the major barriers to statehood is that many across the country view the District of Columbia as a city. To them, statehood seems like quite a leap. But, the change put forward in this legislation can help rectify that perception.

It also aligns titles with how D.C. operates.

“The District of Columbia government acts concurrently as a state, county, and municipal government,” Grosso said. “It’s time the titles accurately reflect the work we do in the Wilson Building.”

Councilmembers Anita Bonds (At-Large), Elissa Silverman (At-Large), Robert White (At-Large), and Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1) joined Grosso as co-introducers. Councilmember Vince Gray (Ward 7) signed on as a co-sponsor.

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Washington D.C. Preferred Terms Establishment Act of 2017

Washington D.C. Preferred Terms Establishment Act of 2017

Introduced: June 20, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, and Brianne Nadeau

Summary: To designate the Governor of Washington, D.C., the Legislative Assembly of Washington, D.C., Representative, and Speaker as preferred terms for references to the District of Columbia and its executive and legislative branches, respectively, and to direct the Mayor to develop a plan for implementing such terms.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you Chairman Mendelson.

Today, along with my colleagues Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, Anita Bonds and Robert White, I am introducing the “Washington D.C. Preferred Terms Establishment Act of 2017.”

By way of history, the Home Rule movement began in earnest after World War II and Presidents Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy each supported home rule bills with a governor and legislature.

President Johnson ultimately initiated the terms Mayor and Council, possibly to mollify conservative opposition and under the Nixon administration, those terms remained.

As we continue the fight for statehood, it is my hope that this legislation will provide a tangible medium around which we can mobilize community advocates, organizers and residents and reinvigorate the movement as a whole.

The purpose of the legislation is to designate D.C. as Douglass Commonwealth and redefine the Mayor as Governor of Washington, D.C. Additionally, the bill renames this Council as the Legislative Assembly with a Speaker. Further, rather than Councilmembers, we would be referred to as Representatives of the Legislative Assembly.

The legislation further provides that within 30 days of the effective date of the act both the Mayor and the Council must adopt the preferred terms for use in the functions and activities of those respective offices. Finally, within 90 days of the effective date, the Mayor must submit to the Council for review, a plan implementing the preferred terms throughout the District.

Changing these names, of course will not make us a state. However, I believe changing them can move us closer toward statehood.

One of the major barriers to statehood is that many across the country view the District of Columbia as a city. To them, statehood seems like quite a leap but the change put forward in this legislation can help rectify that perception.

Adopting the terms Governor and Legislative Assembly will have the significant effect of giving the statehood movement new momentum. Most importantly, it will help build an expectation in the public mind of statehoods’ logic and inevitability.

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It’s time for real change to help survivors of childhood sexual abuse heal

For Immediate Release: 
June 15, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

It’s time for real change to help survivors of childhood sexual abuse heal

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety held a hearing on two laws to eliminate the criminal and civil statute of limitations on sexual abuse. Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), a member of the committee and author of the Childhood Protection Against Sexual Abuse Amendment Act released the following statement:

“I believe there are few actions more depraved than sexual violence against children. Full of boundless curiosity, bold imagination, and care-free spirits, the unique innocence of childhood is something to marvel.

“Unfortunately 1 in 10 children will be stripped of this innocence before their 18th birthday.  Alarmingly, children are most vulnerable to sexual abuse between the ages of 7 and 13. Because children have no comprehension of adult sexual behaviors and activity, any exposure to these aspects of adult life can and often does result in mental and emotional trauma.

“The experience of sexual violence as a child is one that endures for ages.  Most survivors do not come forward until well into adulthood, suffering for years with depression, feelings of guilt and sometimes difficulty forming intimate relationships. 

“My legislation eliminates the civil statute of limitations for recovery of damages arising out of child sex abuse claims.  Additionally, the bill creates a two-year window for individuals whose claims of child sex abuse were previously time-barred, enabling victims to go back in time and begin working to heal.

“Child safety depends on legislators holding institutions, not just individual perpetrators, accountable for their actions.  We cannot continue to allow individuals or institutions to maintain their depraved secrets. We must instead encourage and empower victims to come forward and know that a fair and just system is in place to help them right unspeakable wrongs.

“Given the passage of time, the evolution of this body and society as a whole on this issue, it is my sincere hope that we can affect real change for victims by enacting these critical measures to enhance their legal recourse.

“I want to thank everyone who testified today, especially those who are survivors of such crimes.  Your bravery today will help those like you who have endured so much and seek justice for their anguish.

“I also want to thank Chairperson Charles Allen for holding a hearing on these two critical measures.  I look forward to working together with him to advance them to the full Council.”

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Council approves 2018 budget with Grosso priorities

For Immediate Release: 
June 13, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Council approves 2018 budget with Grosso priorities

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Council of the District of Columbia gave final approval to the budget for fiscal year 2018, which contained top priorities that Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) worked closely with his colleagues to include.

“The budget approved today invests in education, our children, our neighbors, and the future of the District of Columbia,” Grosso said.

As chairperson of the Committee on Education, Grosso fought for increased investments in education, including per pupil funding, early childhood literacy, and the public library system.

“Ensuring that every child is in the best position to succeed is my top priority on the Council. I’m heartened to see that the other members of the Council share that priority.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the collaborative efforts to double the mayor’s proposed per student funding increase to three percent,” Grosso said.

He also pushed to accelerate the modernizations of D.C.’s aging school buildings in order to provide a quality learning environment for every student. Working with his colleagues, he was able to move up West Education Campus, Jefferson Middle, Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan, and School Within a School at Goding, among others.

The Council also funded many policies that were enacted through legislation that Councilmember Grosso authored, such as startup funds for the implementation of the universal paid family leave law, investments to provide youth quality out of school time programming, and incentives for first time home buyers.

In addition to the councilmember’s education priorities, he supported and worked with his colleagues to secure funding for other vital programs. Click here to learn more.

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Councilmember Grosso supports rainbow crosswalks to celebrate LGBTQ community

Councilmember Grosso in April sent a letter to the District Department of Transportation supporting the idea of painting crosswalks on 17th Street, NW rainbow to commemorate the important place of the LGBTQ community in the District of Columbia and to further celebrate D.C.'s welcoming and inclusive values. The idea originated with ANC Commissioner Randy Downs (2B05).

Yesterday, Councilmember Grosso received a response from DDOT.  Although the painting cannot be made permanent, he is excited to hear that temporary rainbow crosswalks will be painted in time for the Capital Pride Parade.  Councilmember Grosso plans to volunteer to get them painted this Saturday morning. He appreciates the work of DDOT, Commissioner Downs, and Ms. Sheila Alexander-Reid, the Director of the Mayor's Office of LGBTQ Affairs, to come up with this compromise solution.

Additionally, DDOT has informed Councilmember Grosso that DDOT has coordinated with the Department of Energy and the Environment on their Storm Drain Mural Project, operated in partnership with the Anacostia Watershed Society.  They are currently seeking artists to create designs for storm drain murals along 17th Street, NW.  The goal of these murals is to raise awareness of storm drains as a connection to our local waterways, as well as to promote the neighborhood's LGBTQ identity. Learn more about the program here.

You can read Councilmember Grosso's letter below, followed by DDOT's response.

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Statement of Councilmember Grosso on recent noose incidents

For Immediate Release: 
June 5, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on recent noose incidents

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on the recent incidents involving nooses in the metropolitan area:

“It is extremely disturbing to see stories like this on what feels like a daily basis. The District of Columbia is a diverse and welcoming city that strives to affirm and protect the human rights of all residents. That includes the right to be free from intimidation.

“No one should be afraid to go to work, visit a museum, worship in church, or walk to school. These acts violate that right. They seek to instill fear in our communities.  We cannot allow them to succeed. And we will not.

“If you do have any information about these incidents, I urge you to contact the Metropolitan Police Department at at 202–727–9099 or text 50–411.”

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Grosso Budget Victories

Grosso Budget Victories

Education

As chairperson of the Committee on Education, Councilmember Grosso’s number one priority during the budget process was ensuring that our schools have the resources they need to improve learning for all residents across the District of Columbia. 

The Council largely endorsed the work of the Committee on Education that increased per student funding, invested in early childhood learning, and improved the resources of our public libraries, while also accelerating modernizations for many schools to provide a better learning environment.

Highlights of the education budget include:

  • An increase in the uniform per student funding formula of 3.0%, doubling the mayor’s proposed 1.5% increase, with a special thanks to Councilmembers Cheh, Gray, and Chairman Mendelson in particular for making that possible.
  • Investing in the successful early literacy intervention program that gets students at or above reading level by third grade.
  • Accelerating the modernization of schools, including West Education Campus, Jefferson Middle, Eaton Elementary, Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan, School Within a School at Goding, and planning for the now-vacant Shaw Middle School.
  • A commitment to alternative approaches to school discipline with an enhancement in the Restorative Justice program funding.
  • Additional investment in the Community Schools program to improve student outcomes.
  • Funding to set up the Office and Commission of Out Of School Time Grants, which was established in legislation introduced by Councilmember Grosso.
  • Enhancing the learning opportunities of all D.C. residents with investment in expanding D.C. Public Libraries’ collections.
  • Preserving local history with ongoing funding for the D.C. Public Libraries’ D.C. Oral History Project, through partnerships with D.C. Historical Society, and Humanities D.C.

In addition to his work on the Education Committee, Councilmember Grosso secured or supported changes to the budget in other areas.

Judiciary and Public Safety

  • Commit D.C. to a new approach to public safety by investing in the NEAR Act which the Council passed unanimously last year.
  •  Funded a grant for organizations working with incarcerated young adults utilizing literacy-based interventions to improve their success while incarcerated and upon transition back to the community.

Health

  • Supported a rate increase for behavioral health providers.
  • Increased funding for in-home delivery programs for D.C. residents living with chronic health conditions such as HIV/AIDS, cancer and diabetes.

Human Services 

  • Supported Councilmember Nadeau’s changes to strengthen Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits for District residents by reducing penalties and eliminating time limits.
  • Supported further investment toward meeting the goals of the Homeward D.C. plan to end homelessness, and implementing the new plan on youth homelessness.
  • Supported additional funding to the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) Rapid Housing program to help youth emancipating from and aging out of foster care achieve housing stability.

Housing

  • Supported strong investment for the Housing Preservation Fund to preserve affordable housing units across the city.
  • Supported reducing the waiting list for tenant-based Local Rent Supplement Program vouchers with the allocation of the additional funds.
  • Funding for Grosso’s First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit to lower the barrier to home ownership in the District of Columbia.

Business and Economic Development

  • With monies provided by the Committee on Education, funded a study of the feasibility of establishing a public bank in D.C.
  • Supported the inclusion of a study of certified business enterprises’ capacity to better understand why so many waivers are granted in government-assisted projects.

Labor and Workforce

  • Supported investment for adult transit subsidies for adult learners, removing a barrier to educational attainment for non-traditional students. Grosso appreciates Councilmember Silverman's efforts on this issue.

Committee of the Whole

  • Supported funding to establish the administrative infrastructure for paid family leave, which will provide a competitive advantage to businesses and relieve families of the difficult choice between paying their bills and caring for their loved ones.

Transportation and the Environment

  • Supported allocation of funds to the Department of Health to waive the fee for birth certificates for D.C. residents experiencing homelessness.
  • Working with Councilmembers Evans and Cheh, included language to qualify rooftop farms for tax incentives.

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3 Comments

Stop The Cuts

On Tuesday, May 30, 2017, the Council of the District of Columbia will consider Mayor Bowser’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget. I’ve said many times on the record that this is the worst education budget I’ve seen in my five years on the Council. It’s not only the education portion of the budget, but the entire city budget that needed improvements. The Council has worked together to improve this budget, but there is still more to be done. In particular, I have yet to understand why we are continuing to give tax cuts to the wealthy while we are underfunding education, social services, and the arts and humanities.

Just in the Education budget, the Committee on Education worked to restore cuts to early childhood literacy programs, increased the Universal Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF) to 2.38% over last year’s approved budget (the Mayor’s increase was 1.5%), expanded the number of pre-K enhanced slots, and increased the book budget for the D.C. Public Library. You can find out more about the Committee’s work here. However, we still have so much more to do not only in education but throughout the entire government.

This is why I support stopping the estate tax cut, which will only benefit approximately 150 families in the District of Columbia, and cost the District $12 million in annual revenue. I also support a new proposal by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute of stopping the implementation of the business franchise tax reduction for businesses earning $5 million or more in annual revenue. This would save the District approximately $21 million per year that we could put right back into education, social services, and the arts and humanities. We can also use this money to plan for potential federal funding losses due to Trump’s reckless policies and heartless budget proposal.

Let the Council know that the wealthy should not benefit while our education system, social services, and arts and humanities communities suffer. E-mail and call your Councilmembers and let them know that you support stopping the estate tax cut permanently, and only allowing the business franchise tax cut to be implemented for businesses earning under $5 million in annual revenue. This will provide much needed investments across the District of Columbia.

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Surviving CFSA

By Ashley Strange*

Six years is more than enough time to learn how foster care operates. Surviving it is another thing. I entered the foster care system at the age of 15, one month before my 16th birthday, and was emancipated six years later. Year one in the system left me confused. Who were these strangers I am being told to live with? Year two was when I lost hope of living with my family. Separation and unintentional isolation will change anyone’s behavior. Year three is when things started to look hopeful because I had finally settled into a loving home. Year four I found my voice. I started demanding my clothing and transportation stipends, and advocated for the Youth Bill of Rights to be provided to every foster home. Year five is when the fear of emancipation struck hard. With no immediate family support, I became depressed and worried about homelessness. Year six, I finally cracked. I was aging out of foster care and I was afraid of what adulthood would bring. The struggle to maintain grades, travel across town to school, have enough money, and find housing in an overpopulated and expensive city is enough to drive anyone crazy, but I survived. It is because of my story that any significant changes that deal with child welfare concern me.

Child and Family Services Agency

Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) is the District of Columbia’s child welfare agency that protects child victims and children and youth at risk of abuse and neglect, and assist their families. Overall, CFSA currently serves 2,675 children and youth: 951 (36%) youth are in foster care and 1,724 (64%) youth are served in their homes. [1] CFSA is responsible for investigating allegations of abuse and neglect of children and youth under the age of 18 that are residents of the District of Columbia. When victims of child abuse and neglect are identified, CFSA’s trained social workers work to keep children safe by assisting families and connecting them to services to prevent future endangerment. The agency also provide safe out of home care which involves the temporary removal of a child from a dangerous home with the hope of reestablishing permanent homes.

Youth in care are people too, and they deserve what is owed to them. To ensure that youth are aware of their rights, by law CFSA must provide all youth in care a copy of the Bill of Rights.

Safe Haven Redesign

CFSA’s goal is to continue to reduce the number of children in foster care by increasing placement in homes, reunification with the child’s family, guardianship, and adoption. Recently, CFSA’s Director Brenda Donald announced significant changes to the agency. She proposed a Safe Haven Redesign which will reduce foster care providers from seven to one, eliminate the traditional and therapeutic designation, bring all D.C. foster homes under direct care of CFSA, and ensure that the entire system is trauma-informed. In early March 2017, CFSA released a Request for Proposals (RFP), which solicited applications for services of a contractor to provide foster care placement and case management services for approximately four-hundred (400) children and youth in foster care who will be placed in Maryland only. For more information, please view Safe Haven Redesign Request For Proposal (RFP). The RFP closed on last Friday. A few providers have applied.

Safe and Stable Families Redesign

Additionally, CFSA plans to leverage the fiscal flexibility of the Title IV-E Waiver to spend more funding on community-based prevention and family-strengthening services rather than foster care resources due to the reduced number of children and youth in foster care. CFSA hopes to revamp their prevention and in-home services for families to stay together in a safe environment.

Concerns about the changes

On April 7, 2017, Mayor Bowser released her proposed fiscal year 2018 budget for CFSA. The Mayor’s proposal allocates $226,485,929 for CFSA’s budget in fiscal year 2018, which is a $6,143,893 reduction from fiscal year 2017. Though these redesigns could bring about some benefits, I am concerned that the current proposed budget does not provide CFSA with adequate funding to properly implement these changes or to respond to unanticipated challenges. CFSA has maintained that the reductions in the budget corresponds with the decrease in the number of youth involved in the foster care system. However, this theory may backfire on them.

I am also concerned about the timing of these changes. In 2015, CFSA experienced a shortage of foster care placements when the agency terminated two contracts that placed children in homes. In CFSA’s FY2016-2017 pre-performance oversight responses, CFSA alluded to the fact that the agency is still experiencing difficulty when it stated it “continues to refine the process of matching children entering care to available foster care homes.”[2] 11 children in out-of-home care slept overnight at CFSA’s offices while awaiting a licensed placement in fiscal year 2016.[3] In fiscal year 2017, 6 children slept overnight in an office. Although some of these instances were exceptional cases, they still underscore the difficulties that the agency experiences placing children, especially youth in certain sub-populations: teens, pregnant and or parenting youth, or youth with special needs. Only 25 % of foster children are expected to be placed with kin by the end of this year.[4] I experienced this shortage first hand.

In 2015, my second foster home allowed me to stay there as long as I needed while completing school. However, CFSA began pressuring my foster parent to take in another child immediately. My foster parent became overwhelmed with the number of calls she received. I began to receive calls asking about my housing plan and was provided a list of shelters. I made the decision to leave and entered a transitional living home, named Wayne’s Place.

Wayne’s Place

Two years ago, Mayor Bowser and Director Donald announced the opening of a new transitional home for youth between the ages of 18 and 24. The Wayne’s Place Project is a partnership between CFSA and the Department of Behavioral Health that is managed by the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative. Wayne Place is a complex of six buildings with 22 two-bedroom apartments that can house up to 44 youth. It receives an annual funding of $1,015,250. The program was designed to help young adults who need support to live independently and succeed.

I lived in Wayne’s Place in my sixth year, from September 2015 to March 2017. When I first entered the transitional home at the age of 21, the security guards consistently made inappropriate comments to me. Additionally, some of security guards were engaging in inappropriate relationships with some of the young women there. Both issues were more or less taken care of after I testified before the Committee on Health and Human Services on March 3 2016. Still, Transitioned Aged Youth (TAYs) complain about unprofessional staff. Many of the female TAYs continue to express to me that they feel uncomfortable, and several have left the program. Additionally, TAYs voice frustration that their caseworkers did not provide enough housing and employment support. Thankfully, I had great caseworkers who supported me. The idea of Wayne’s Place is good idea in theory, but there still remains a lot of unresolved issues that need to be addressed. Their goal to transition youth to middle-class, for the most part, is proving more difficult than they had hoped.

Tutoring Services

The Mayor’s FY18 proposed budget insufficiently provides tutoring services for youth in care. In a letter to Director Donald, Councilmember Grosso asked about the agency’s budget plans, and funding for tutoring services for youth. Director Donald responded that the “proposed budget is sufficient to improve the educational progress” of their children. However, I disagree.

Just a few years ago when I requested tutoring services for a college course, I was denied and told to used my school’s services. When I explained that the process to request a tutor at the school would take time, and that I desperately needed one now, I was provided a tutor who could not help me.

Similarly, when I first entered foster care my foster family grew impatient with waiting for the agency to respond to tutoring requests and eventually paid for outside tutoring services. My math and reading tutors came three times a week for two hours each. These tutoring sessions allowed me to make up what I missed in elementary and middle school. Eventually, the cost became too much for them to pay. My foster family was very frustrated that they were never reimbursed for services the agency were supposed to provide. 

I am grateful that the Committee on Human Services added $250,000 for increased tutoring services when they unanimously voted on the budget on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. I believe this additional funding is sorely needed. I am also pleased that the Committee provided $500,000 additional dollars for rapid housing. I would have liked to take advantage of this program but I was told by an officer at the Office of Youth and Empowerment that 23 years olds could not receive these vouchers, which is unfair.

In closing, my time in care was not all horrible. Without services like the Education Training Voucher (ETV), a college scholarship for youth foster care, and Capital Area Asset Builder, a match savings program, I would not have been able to graduate debt-free or pay my first month’s rent. Now I am a college graduate with full time employment. No system or organization is perfect, but if CFSA wants to reach their goal of protecting and serving all youth under their care they need to do three things: improve, improve, and improve!


*This post is part of an ongoing series of posts by Councilmember Grosso’s staff to support professional development. All posts are approved and endorsed by Councilmember Grosso.

 

[1] Pg. 3. March 1, 2017. Fiscal Year 2016 CFSA Performance Oversight Hearing: Testimony of Brenda Donald, Acting Director of CFSA

[2] February 21, 2017. CFSA Performance Oversight Hearing FY2016 2017 (First Quarter) p. 113

[3] Ibid p. 117

[4] Ibid p. 111

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Grosso proposes tax credit to expand affordable housing

For Immediate Release: 
May 16, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Grosso proposes tax credit to expand affordable housing

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso today introduced the Community Impact Investment Tax Credit Act of 2017 to spur the creation and preservation of more affordable housing in the District of Columbia.

The legislation encourages impact investments—investments made to solve social, environmental, or infrastructural challenges while yielding a financial return—in affordable housing through community development financial institutions (CDFIs) by providing to investors an income tax credit of up to 33 percent.

 “The affordable housing crisis will not be solved overnight, nor by any singular entity. Using every financing tool and partner is essential,” Grosso said.  “Through this legislation, we will continue the city’s affordable housing initiatives and multiply our public resources by promoting private investment to create more homes that D.C. residents can afford.”

While the city has made historic investment into the Housing Production Trust Fund, additional dollars are harder to come by as D.C. balances investments in other priorities such as education and city services. The bill would leverage public investment of up to $1 million in tax credits to provide $3 million for affordable housing.

“It is clear investors want to support affordable housing,” Grosso said.  “In just the last year, a local CDFI, Enterprise Community Partners, has been able to raise $11 million in impact capital to finance the preservation and production of local affordable homes. We can make that impact even greater by incentivizing this type of investment.”

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Community Impact Investment Tax Credit Act of 2017

Community Impact Investment Tax Credit Act of 2017

Introduced: May 16, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, and Charles Allen

Summary: To amend Title 47 of the District of Columbia Official Code to establish a tax credit program for local community development financial institutions to spur the creation of more affordable housing.

Two-Pager

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Across the country, the shortage of affordable housing serves as a significant impediment to the improvement of quality of life and economic competitiveness.  According to a report published by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition last year, there is not a single state in the U.S. where a minimum wage employee working full-time can reasonably afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market rent.

Here in the District of Columbia, rents have risen by almost 30 percent over the past 10 years.  While the city has made historic investments into the Housing Production Trust Fund, meeting the actual affordable housing demand would require an investment of around $5 billion according to the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute; a figure that is untenable to achieve while still investing in other needs and priorities.

That is why today along with my colleagues, Councilmembers Robert White, Elissa Silverman, and Charles Allen, I am introducing the Community Impact Investment Tax Credit Act of 2017.

This legislation establishes a tax credit program for taxpayers making an impact investment through a community development financial institution or CDFI, to spur the creation and preservation of more affordable housing.  

Under the bill, individuals, corporations and foundations—stakeholders that may not otherwise directly invest in affordable housing efforts, will be eligible to claim as a credit against their District income taxes, unincorporated business franchise taxes or corporation franchise taxes, 33 percent of their investment up to $1 million.

Impact investments serve to encourage responsible investing by mobilizing capital into mission-oriented entities that strive to make a positive impact in areas presenting social, environmental or infrastructural challenges while yielding a financial return. 

Through this legislation we will accomplish the public policy goal of expanding affordable housing across the city by leveraging the private market to seed investments in affordable housing production and preservation.  

Since just last year, Enterprise Community Partners, a local CDFI has been able to raise $11 million in impact capital to finance the preservation and production of local affordable homes.

Their ability to raise this amount of capital in less than a year demonstrates investor demand to support affordable housing.  Unfortunately, we currently lack tax benefits and incentives for this sort of investment, which serves as a barrier to attracting many people that may be interested in making an investment of this kind.

Solving the affordable housing crisis is not something that will occur overnight and is not something that can be accomplished by any one entity or organization; however, through this legislation we will add another financing tool to the arsenal and partner with the private market to expand the amount of debt capital available for affordable housing projects.
 

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Mayor Bowser attempts to game Council budgetary process

For Immediate Release: 
May 11, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105 (Grosso), Kelly Whittier, (202) 431-5697 (Cheh)

Mayor Bowser attempts to game Council budgetary process

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso, Chairperson of the Committee on Education, and Councilmember Mary Cheh, Chairperson of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, released the following joint statement in response to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s errata letter on the education portion of the D.C. Fiscal Year 2018 budget:

“Several weeks ago, after months of planning, Mayor Muriel Bowser submitted to the Council her budget for fiscal year 2018. We, along with parents, teachers, students, administrators, and advocates were very disappointed when we received a budget that leaves our schools without the resources to put every child in the best position to succeed.

“Our committees, like all council committees, have examined agency funding levels, historical spending, and will make a determination as to the appropriate spending for fiscal year 2018.  We found that the mayor drew up her budget and, like many mayors, built in funds to be used at her discretion, beyond effective Council control.

“Today, she sent the Council an errata letter, usually meant to fix minor mistakes in the submitted budget.  However, this letter bears all the hallmarks of an attempt to regain control of those funds. And it irresponsibly claims to have solved the uniform per student funding formula shortfall that the mayor created. In truth, it includes only one-time money.

“Through our oversight of the budget, we have found sources of funds that can be reallocated to provide a more sustainable solution to investing in our students’ futures by providing recurring, not one-time, dollars to increase the uniform per student funding formula over the mayor’s original proposed 1.5 percent.  Recurring dollars represent a real commitment to our students, providing year-to-year funding, rather than having to go through this exercise in the next budget cycle.

“The mayor now attempts to defeat that reallocation by saying ‘Oops – we see some errors and want to correct them.’

“The public is ill-served by the mayor’s political gamesmanship which lacks transparency and is contrary to the system of checks and balances. The mayor proposes, the Council disposes. And that’s exactly what we, working with our colleagues, intend to do, regardless of today’s letter.”

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Grosso concerned over implementation of student loan ombudsman

Councilmember Grosso sent a letter to the Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking (DISB) raising concerns over the dual-expertise qualification needed for the District of Columbia's Student Loan Ombudsman that could delay hiring of the vital position.

Legislation introduced by Councilmember Grosso and passed by the Council last year created an ombudsman in DISB empowered to establish licensing requirements for student loan servicers in the city.  They are also charged with informing D.C. residents about their options when seeking student loans and when working to repay them.

DISB advertised the position as a "Student Loan and Foreclosure Ombudsman", requiring applicants to have qualifications in both fields, a move that Councilmember Grosso feels will yield no qualified candidates and thus delay the hiring of a student loan ombudsman.

"The District of Columbia, one of the most educated cities in the U.S., is the most indebted jurisdiction when it comes to average federal student loan debt," wrote Grosso. "The 140,000 student loan borrowers residing in D.C. owe an average of $40,885, about 40 percent higher than the national average."

Recent actions by the Trump Administration to halt a planned overhaul to student loan management initiated under President Barack Obama have cast the system into doubt and made the need fir a dedicated student loan ombudsman in D.C. even more important.

"Now more than ever, a dedicated Student Loan Ombudsman is necessary to ensure that our residents will be able to lodge complaints and receive vital educational information as it relates to their student loans.  Further, this role will enable the District of Columbia to take a critical step in protecting student loan borrowers by creating servicer accountability and providing stringent oversight of this industry," Grosso wrote.

Read the councilmember's full letter below.

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