Washington Area Women's Foundation

DCWA: DC Council candidates respond to issues important to local women.

In an election guide released this week by the DC Women’s Agenda, DC Council candidates were challenged to find solutions to staggering issues confronting women and girls in DC, including the facts that 12% of DC women lack health insurance; 25,000 individuals, primarily women, are on the DC Housing Authority wait list for affordable housing; and, 9% of babies born with HIV/AIDS nationwide come from DC.

In response to a proposed policy that would support the adjustment to inflation each year for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) (currently at 19% of the federal poverty line), the At-Large candidates offered different point of views. Councilmember Kwame Brown said he would “consider supporting this option but would like to have more information…to ensure that this is the best option to improve the quality of life for our local parents and children,” and Candidate Patrick Mara said he “would need to assess the implications of such a policy change in light of the present budget situation.” Councilmember Carol Schwartz said she “favored adjusting the amounts of TANF benefits to account for inflation” and Candidate David Schwartzman said “a cost of living adjustment every year for TANF benefits is absolutely necessary.”

This issue is especially important when you consider that for a family of three, to meet their basic living expenses, they must pay $4,386 per month, according to Wider Opportunities for Women. Even with a variety of public benefits, including food stamps in the amount of $426 per month, Child Care and Development Fund Subsidy and Medicaid, families’ expenses are more than they can afford with the TANF benefit of only $427 a month.

The 2008 Election Guide/ Issues Affecting Women and Girls details candidates’ responses to questions related to women’s issues in the upcoming election and is designed to help voters understand candidates’ positions on issues related to health care, housing/homelessness, wages, benefits and economic self-sufficiency, teens and child care. The D.C. Women’s Agenda calls for candidates to focus on the issues facing women and girls and encourages D.C. residents to expect the same of the candidates – both now and after the elections in the fall.

Debbie Billet-Roumell is the coordinator of the DC Women’s Agenda, a Grantee Partner of The Women’s Foundation that is a coalition of advocacy organizations, service providers, and individuals working to promote the advancement of equality, safety and well-being for women and girls in the District. It is chaired by the DC Employment Justice Center and Wider Opportunities for Women.

The Election Guide is available online or by requesting a hard copy at DBRoumell@wowonline.org.