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Commentary By Ash Kosiewicz: It's Time For A Courageous Budget

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This is my story of hope for D.C. It doesn't start with hope though. It starts with tragedy, but it ends with hope.

When I see the cuts in Mayor Vincent Gray's budget, I realize the tragedy is bigger than the story of cuts to any one program. With its severe cuts to Health and Human Services and small business support, the mayor's budget does not reflect the shared priorities of a lot of people in this city. They're definitely not my priorities.

So what's my story about? Picture this: Small, local businesses line streets in a community with mixed-income housing within walking distance. Business owners know their customers as neighbors, their employees live nearby, and residents and small businesses recognize their mutual stake in strengthening the community's quality of life. People work hard and live in decent, affordable housing –- the type of community that celebrates what we have in common and the connection between thriving small businesses and stable housing.

But here's what's standing in the way: If the D.C. Council doesn't restore $1.7 million in cuts to small business technical assistance, hundreds of small business owners who create jobs and revenue for the city lose out. This revenue could support Health and Human Services, including programs that preserve affordable housing for D.C.'s most vulnerable residents. The mayor's budget already cuts $18 million from the local Housing Production Trust Fund -- a key funding source to help D.C. residents tackle the city's growing affordable housing crisis.

And that's not even all of it. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in microloans no longer find their way into D.C.'s economy, not to mention the money that small businesses put back into it when they locally source their goods and products.

It's time for a courageous budget that recognizes how all the pieces can fit together to strengthen, not weaken, what is around us; support progressive tax revenue, and support the restoration of funding to programs that foster thriving small businesses and promote stable housing in the District.

If we build our story of hope together, in the process, we can start to really understand what's at risk. It's not this program or that program -- it's our community.

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