Saturday, March 25, 2023

Budget Surprise - and Your Opportunity to Show Up!

In my last blog post - March 22 blog post - I said I’d be listening to see what was said about the personal needs allowance (PNA) for people getting residential supports from DDS.  So I was surprised (and pleased!) to learn, in DDS director Andy Reese’s budget briefing yesterday, that the mayor’s proposed FY24 budget includes $745,000 to allow DDS to increase the monthly PNA from its current level of $100 to $150, starting in October 2023.  The increase is intended to make up for 15 years without any cost-of-living increase in the PNA.  He also said that DDS intends to ensure, beginning in January 2024, that the PNA will receive the same annual cost-of-living increase that the Social Security Administration makes in its yearly January SSI payments.

This was astonishing news!  But remember – this is a proposed budget, and as Colby King reminds us in his Washington Post article today, Colby King on DC budget, DC is even more under the Congressional microscope (thumb) than usual.  It’s important to come together as residents and responsibly express our priorities for the life of our future state(!) in DC council hearings.  Particularly in light of the many empty downtown buildings, DC cannot count on the level of resources it has enjoyed in recent years, so we have to be selective and targeted in what we advocate for.  For this reason, I will tell you transparently that I can’t favor the DC council’s push for free bus service at this time – I fear a sweeping change like that will come at the expense of other lower-cost, but very important priorities.  (I say this as someone who initially favored this move, when it seemed we would continue to run substantial surpluses.)

You may not agree with my views, and that’s okay!  Take a look at these:

FPI guide to the DC budget

Influencing the DC budget

Proposed FY24 DC budget

Proposed FY24 DC DDS budget

and then sign up to testify on Wednesday:  March 29 signup.  The hearing is on Zoom, so you can participate from home, or from anywhere!  Or if you can’t testify “in person” (on Zoom), then plan to submit written testimony.

Advocates will be testifying about the personal needs allowance, making sure DSP wages are increased to the agreed 117.6% of the DC living wage, ensuring that wait times for DDA applications aren’t keeping newly-eligible applicants from getting services, promoting affordable housing and employment for DC residents with disabilities, and more.  Your voice is essential to make sure the views of people with disabilities and their supporters are clearly heard!

And one more thing:  This coming Thursday, March 30, the day after the budget hearing, DDS will host (at 250 E St SW) the final program in a full month of Developmental Disability Awareness Month (DDAM) events - DDAM March 2023.  There will be an art show/sale from 3-4, then the program from 4-6.  And this year, Mayor Bowser herself will be in attendance, so be there if you can, to show her our enthusiasm and determination!

Curious about some of the terms I use?  Check here: Terms and organizations

Wednesday, March 22, 2023


The mayor’s FY 2024 budget appeared today, and on Friday March 24 at noon, Director Andy Reese will be briefing the community about the DDS budget – - so log on here at noon Friday to hear what he has to say at the Friday forum: DDS community forum link.

I will be listening especially for two things:

  • Plans to implement cost-of-living increases for the monthly personal needs allowance received by people getting residential supports, which has been stuck at $100 a month for 15 years with no increases;
  • How wage increases for the indispensable DSP workforce under the DSP Payment Rate Act, passed 3 years ago, are going to be assured going forward.

I hope you’ll tune in to hear what Andy has to say on Friday, and then go to this site - March 29 signup -  and sign up to testify before the DC council’s Committee on Facilities and Family Services on Wednesday, March 29.  If you can’t deliver testimony, at least make sure that you submit written testimony, which usually is due by one week following the hearing.  We were successful last year at getting revised eligibility criteria for disability supports passed by the council – make sure that new committee chair Janeese Lewis-George knows that we remain an active and determined constituency!

Also, take a few minutes now to enjoy these photos from Quality Trust’s Better Together reception on March:  It was a wonderful event!

Monday, March 6, 2023

Passing of Judy Heumann, Renowned Activist and First Director of DDS

The entire world is mourning the death of disability rights leader Judy Heumann, which happened two days ago, on March 4.  Here is AAPD's obituary covering her amazing and impactful career:  AAPD on passing of Judy Heumann.

In a couple of my blog posts in recent years, I called attention to her memoir, Being Heumann (Heumann at Politics and Prose) and to the film, "Crip Camp," celebrating the roots of her activism at Camp Jened (DDAM viewing of "Crip Camp").  

But besides her national and international accomplishments, Judy Heumann played an important role at the local level, reorienting DC's disability services and pointing the way toward the future as the first director of DC's Department on Disability Services (DDS).  This doesn't usually get as much attention as her many other achievements, but for us it was hugely important.  

Heumann's passing in Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (DDAM) gives us an opportunity to celebrate her essential role in setting DC on the path toward inclusion and autonomy for DC's disabled residents. There won't be another one like her anytime soon.

Information about her March 8 memorial service (in-person and online) is here: