WASHINGTON — It was after high noon when DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson gaveled the virtual hearing with Mayor Muriel Bowser and members of her executive staff. They were there to wrangle through a revised budget and make tough decisions after a loss of $1.5 billion in revenue due to the COVID-19.
Chairman Mendelson instructed members to "keep their statements to 10 minutes each."
After an opening statement from Bowser on her "DC Hope Budget," Mendelson and his council colleagues, one-by-one, moved swiftly through the agenda.
They each peppered the mayor, City Administrator Rasha Young and Director of Budget and Performance Management Jenny Reed with questions on a revised budget that now included cuts to public safety, education, food and housing.
They were all previously funded programs that each council member believes is vital to District residents in every Ward. The council knows that families, and children, may feel the pain that comes with these spending reductions.
Mayor Bowser believes the sacrifices being made today will position the city and its economy for the better, after the COVID-19 pandemic.
"What we're saying here is not insignificant, Bowser said at Monday's press conference. "We do not have mass layoffs here, we do not have furlough days here, and what we asked our employees do is work with us while the economy comes back."
The mayor said this is not the budget she planned, but faced with an unprecedented challenge -- the COVID-19 crisis -- she said it's the best city leaders could offer. The proposed budget closes the gap by depleting the city's $322 million surplus from 2019, shifting millions around and slashing pay raises for all government workers. According to the budget, that would save the city $89.1 million.