Letters to the Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Sankofa a Sign of Worse Times?

I am saddened by the idea of Sankofa bookstore going under due to rising property taxes. This is truly insane and something must be done about it. What businesses will occupy our neighborhoods that are truly of the community? If Sankofa goes down due to unchecked capitalism and greed, then there will be a clear signal sent that the powers that be want us out, so they can move in and bring the corporate chains with them. Oh, and the dog park is across the street at Howard.

Meva Thomas
Washington, D.C.

Retirement a Scary Thought

I read the story “Many African Americans Are Not Financially Ready to Retire” and all I could think was, no duh! Being able to fully retire and not have to work is a privilege and a blessing that isn’t as prevalent as it once was. Living up here, I can’t afford to simply live off of retirement. A few years in and that money will be gone. Thankfully for me, I am blessed with children who would never watch me or suffer or go without, but everyone doesn’t have that!

Janet Wilkes
Laurel, Md.

Keeping College Grads in D.C.

On May 17, I’ll become the first person in my family to graduate college. As I don that cap and gown, there’s something else on my mind: finding affordable housing.

I’m thrilled to work for my (soon-to-be) alma mater, Georgetown University. I have dedicated my undergraduate career to youth development and will continue that work, both in a professional capacity and as a mentor.

With this job, I’m not only breaking the education generational gap, I’m unlocking new economic opportunities for my family. I’ll earn more in my first post-college job than my mom and grandma have earned their entire lives.

As such, budgeting weighs heavily on my mind. I’ve calculated my monthly budget — including contributions to my retirement accounts — which allows $1,100 for rent. For $1,100, I can live in a basement unit with a roommate in Adams Morgan, a group home in Mt. Pleasant or an apartment in Virginia. I want to stay in the District, but the limited housing options make this choice difficult.

Living in the District is about more than convenience. By living closer to work, I’ll have more time and energy to continue my volunteer activities outside of work.

I’m encouraged by the Workforce Housing Fund, introduced in Mayor Bowser’s FY20 budget proposal. The fund would create additional housing units for middle-income workers like myself.

I’m ready to join the workforce and continue contributing to our vibrant D.C. community. I support initiatives that make living here more affordable for new graduates like me.

Jerome Smalls

Jobs are D.C.’s Top Priority

As District residents have continuously expressed their eagerness to work, Mayor Muriel Bowser has answered the call by investing in our workforce and extending that investment into other areas that affect District workers. A key priority of the Bowser administration has been fulfilling the commitment to helping residents become competitive in the workforce and connecting them to opportunities for full employment, lifelong learning, economic stability and the highest quality of life.

As the director of the Department of Employment, I have the honor of advancing Mayor Bowser’s vision of ensuring Washingtonians across all eight wards receive a fair shot at achieving economic prosperity through education, employment opportunities and quality workforce training services. This is why I stand by Mayor Bowser’s investments that included $20 million for Workforce Housing for our working class that finds market-rate housing a few steps out of reach and $250,000 toward the expansion of ASPIRE, an initiative that gives returning the citizens an opportunity to explore entrepreneurship. I am also excited about continued investment towards key economic development projects that includes the St. Elizabeths infrastructure development and investment towards projects for Hill East. For every new development project, jobs are created.

Potential cuts to the budget could derail or stall the robust progress the Bowser administration has put in place. Under the Bowser administration, Wards 7 and 8 have experienced the lowest unemployment recorded. Cuts to the budget could ultimately cause a ripple effect throughout our local workforce. Cuts towards development initiatives, education and workforce training services can potentially cause a rise in unemployment as residents may have limited access to the tools and resources needed to obtain job stability.

The Department of Employment Services has placed an increased emphasis on providing individualized support that is tailored to the needs of our diverse population. Without continued full investment, we will not be able to expand programs and services that prepare residents for careers in in-demand industries. There is more work to do as we ensure all Washingtonians benefit from the rapid progress of our beloved city. Mayor Bowser’s budget keeps us on track for delivering on promises made.

Dr. Unique Morris-Hughes
Director, D.C. Department of Employment Services

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