Written by Westra Miller

Feb 09


The Make One City Possible Campaign: When $9 a Day Is a Blessing

Westra Miller, Staff Attorney

Legal Aid is a member of the Fair Budget Coalition, a partnership of over 20 community members and 75 local organizations that seeks to promote a just and inclusive District of Columbia through advocacy and organizing and by advancing budget and public policy initiatives which reflect the interdependency of the District’s community and economic development systems.  This week, the Coalition kicks off its campaign to Make One City Possible.  In the coming days and weeks, the Coalition and DC residents will be asking the mayor to invest in programs and policies that ensure that all residents of the District have more equal opportunities to live and work in this city.  As part of this effort, the Coalition is initially focusing on programs that promote employment and provide support to those District residents who cannot work due to a disability—programs such as Interim Disability Assistance (IDA). 

IDA provides an income of $270 a month – or about $9 a day – to individuals who are waiting for their SSI application to be approved and have no other means of support.  Although $270 may not seem like a lot, recipients depend on this money for rent, prescriptions, and necessities like toothpaste.  Without IDA, many of these residents – who cannot work and have no other income – would be forced to rely on expensive emergency services, such as emergency rooms and shelters, thus costing the District more.  In addition, if the SSI application is approved, the federal government reimburses the District for IDA assistance paid during the application period thus helping to fund the program. 

District residents used to be able to depend on IDA for temporary aid during the long SSI application process. However, in the last several years, local funding for IDA has been reduced drastically, leaving many vulnerable residents languishing on a waitlist without a means of survival.

Legal Aid recently contributed to the Coalition’s blog highlighting the importance of the IDA program for Ms. C, just one of many DC residents for whom IDA benefits made a real difference during a critical time in her life. After developing severe disabilities, Ms. C lost her job and came to rely on IDA benefits to pay for her much-needed prescription medication. To read that story, and others contributed by community members, as well as more information about the campaign, please visit the Make One City Possible blog.  To learn more about the coalition’s goals, please visit the Fair Budget Coalition website.

Oct 04


D.C. Seniors to Continue to Receive Critical Food Through Commodity Supplemental Food Program

Westra Miller, Staff Attorney

Late last week, Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced that the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), an important program providing food to low-income D.C. seniors, would be extended through the end of 2011.  Advocates, such as Legal Aid, had been concerned that the program would end with the close of the fiscal year on September 30, leaving thousands of seniors without essential food such as juice, cereal, rice, dry beans, or canned goods.  Approximately 6,647 seniors who have a gross income below 130% of the federal poverty level receive a bag of $58 worth of groceries each month through CSFP.  They will continue to receive these critical items with no break in service due to the Mayor’s recent commitment to extending CFSP.  Given the very real economic pressures facing many District residents—and especially seniors on fixed incomes—the extension of a program such as CSFP comes at a critical time.  However, the extension is also a reminder of the precarious fates of many locally- and federally-funded benefits programs in this season of budget-cutting.  While Legal Aid is pleased that many of our clients and community members can continue to rely on the food provided through CFSP through the end of the year, we and other advocates will not stop our ongoing work to ensure that any upcoming budget cuts or programmatic reductions are fair to all D.C. residents.