Excluded Worker Testimony for the DC City Council

Bill Mefford

Bill Mefford

Executive Director, The Festival Center

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Testimony in Support of Excluded Workers

DC City Council

April 8, 2022

On April 8 Bill Mefford, the Executive Director of the Festival Center, testified before the City Council in support of granting aid to excluded workers. 

I am the Executive Director of the Festival Center, located in Adams Morgan. We are a community center providing practical support to faith communities and justice-seeking organizations in DC as well as training and mobilizing efforts for faith leaders across the country. I appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today.

I support the demand from workers that they be “excluded no more” and I urge the DC Council to commit $160 million in direct cash assistance. Our city relies on the resilience of all our communities. This is an investment in people who have been left behind by federal programs and structures of inequity. The DC Council can and should continue to fund this cash assistance program in the FY 2023 budget.

Excluded workers deserve our support.

Last year, the DC City Council allocated $41 million dollars for excluded workers. While this was greatly appreciated by workers and their allies, the devastating impact of the pandemic and economic shutdowns has proven that this simply has not been enough. This is why I am joining a diverse coalition of organizations who are asking for $160 million for excluded workers in this year’s budget. We are requesting that the City Council repair the Mayor’s budget which did not include one single dollar for assistance for Excluded Workers.

Excluded workers are overwhelmingly Black and immigrant residents who, in addition to the pandemic, have most often been victim to high rates of unemployment due to systemic racism.

Further, the DC City Council has historically over-invested in the Metropolitan Police Department and in so doing, the city has neglected other necessary areas that are in need. In fact, with the rise in crime, it is madness to continue the same failed policies of over-funding MPD that have brought us to this point. Public safety demands that we first invest in the residents who live in the District so that we can fully enhance the quality of life for all residents.

This includes excluded workers who, unfortunately, were once again excluded in the budget submitted by Mayor Bowser. You have an incredible opportunity to acknowledge the significance of workers’ contributions to this city and to the common good. You have strong support from DC faith leaders to invest in Excluded Workers and so therefore, I urge the City Council to allocate $160 million in the 2023 budget for Excluded Workers.

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