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Launch into Spring: DC Programs and Services That We Should All Know

Dear Neighbors,

As we wait for the proposed DC budget to drop next week, I wanted to share this compilation of DC resources that not enough of us know about or use enough. I hope it is a useful resource for you and your families as we begin spring in DC!

New Parents and Children

  • Free Infant Car Seats and Booster Seats for DC children. Not only does DC provide parents with these free car seats, but a Certified Passenger Child Safety Technician can also help you safely install them in your car at the DMV Inspection Station.
  • Free Monthly Books for Children Under 5. DCPL’s Books from Birth program provides all children in DC with a free book in the mail each month from birth until they turn 5.
  • Free Portable Cribs. DC Health offers free, safety-approved portable cribs and safe sleep education for DC parents with infants.
  • DC Paid Family Leave. DC now guarantees 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child, 12 weeks to care for an ill family member, 12 weeks to recover from serious illness, and 2 weeks of prenatal leave to workers in the private sector.
  • Strong Start. DC’s Strong Start Early Intervention program provides early intervention therapeutic services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and developmental delays.
  • Early Stages. Early Stages is a free DCPS diagnostic center for children between the ages of 2 years 8 months and 5 years 10 months that helps diagnose developmental delays and arranges services to address them.
  • Child Care Tax Credit Costs. A tax credit for child care for costs up to $1,115 per child.
  • Free Pre-K for Kids Ages 3-4. DC offers free early childhood education for 3- and 4-year-old children. Families can apply for slots through the MySchoolDC Lottery.

Resources for Seniors

  • Senior/Disability Property Tax Deduction. DC seniors 65+ and persons with disabilities who make less than $149,400 can reduce their their property tax by 50%.
  • Free Dental Services. Seniors aged 65 and older with no dental insurance coverage are eligible for free dental services through DC Health — including crowns and dentures.
  • Safety Adaptations for Senior Homes. DACL’s Safe at Home program provides safety adaptations in and around the homes of qualifying seniors and adults with disabilities.
  • Residential Disability Parking Permits. Residents with mobility impairments who live in single-family homes without their own parking can apply for a reserved parking space.
  • Tax Assistance at DC Libraries. Seniors and other DC residents can receive free assistance with income tax return preparation by appointment at libraries across DC. 
  • WMATA Senior SmarTrip Card. Seniors over 65 are entitled to 50% reduced fares for MetroRail, MetroBus, and regional buses by securing a Senior SmarTrip Card.
  • Senior Wellness Centers. DC has seven senior wellness centers that offer excellent programs, daily activities, exercise equipment, computer labs, and opportunities to socialize for senior citizens — including our Hattie Holmes Center in Ward 4!
  • Free University Courses for Seniors. DC residents over 65 can take up to two free courses per semester at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC). DC seniors can also audit undergraduate courses at Georgetown University at a very low cost.

DC Public Libraries

Sustainability and the Environment

  • DC RiverSmart Rewards. Beautify your yard, install native plants and free trees, get a rain barrel, reduce water runoff, and cut your water bill via this beloved DOEE program.
  • Free Solar for Income-Qualifying Homes. DOEE’s Solar for All program installs free solar panels for income-qualifying households that reduce families’ energy costs.
  • Lead Pipe Replacement. DC Water offers lead service line replacement projects to replace hazardous lead pipes in your home at a heavily subsidized or no cost.
  • Neighborhood Trees. DC has a dedicated arborist for each neighborhood, allows you to request tree planting in tree boxes on your street, and has protections for special trees and heritage trees that preserve our tree canopy, cool our city, and improve air quality.
  • Free Trees for Your Home. You can get free trees to be planted at your home through Casey Trees. And you can get a $50 or $100 rebate for trees you plant at your home.
  • Garden Tool Library. DPR’s Garden Tool Library allows neighbors to borrow garden and construction tools up to a week and is conveniently located in Ward 4!
  • Free Food Waste Drop Off. DPW provides free food waste drop off at designated farmers markets citywide every week, including Uptown Farmers Market in Ward 4.
  • Curbside Composting. DC has a free curbside composting pilot program that provides weekly food waste collection for single-family households at no cost to DC residents.

Keeping Our Communities Clean

  • Bulk Trash Pick Up. If your home is serviced by DPW, book an appointment via 311 to have bulk items collected. You can also bring bulk items to Fort Totten Transfer Station!
  • Electronics Recycling, Hazardous Trash, and Document Shredding. DPW offers special collection events for electronics, hazardous trash, and document shredding one Thursday per quarter at Anacostia Skate Park and one Saturday per quarter at Carter Barron. DOEE also offers dedicated electronics recycling events across DC.
  • Free Compost. You can pick up up to five 32-gallon bags of free compost on Tuesday-Friday from 10am-2pm at Fort Totten Transfer Station (bring your own bags and shovel).
  • Ridding of Our Rats. DC Health is on the front lines of our everlasting battle against rats! Just request a Rodent Inspection and Treatment via 311 to receive their assistance.
  • Supplies for Your Cleanup. If you are planning a local cleanup, the Office of the Clean City can provide pickers, gloves, and trash bags — and even arrange to collect the litter.

Community Safety and Traffic Safety

  • Security Cameras for Homes, Businesses, and Churches. DC will cover or heavily subsidize the cost of installing a security camera for homes, businesses, and houses of worship through OVSJG’s Private Security Camera System Incentive Program.
  • Watch Commander Line. Each police district station has a 24-7 phone line staffed by captains and lieutenants who can answer questions about police emergencies taking place. The Fourth District Watch Commander line is 202-391-7177 and Second District line is 202-438-4421.
  • Graffiti Removal. Neighbors can contact 311 to report graffiti for DPW to remove on public property. They also remove graffiti from private property with owners’ permission.
  • Support for Crime Victims. The Crime Victims Compensation Fund managed by DC Courts and recently expanded by the DC Council reimburses crime victims for medical expenses, mental health counseling, lost wages, property damage, and other expenses.
  • Vacant or Blighted Buildings. You can request a vacant or blighted property inspection by DOB for buildings in your neighborhood that contribute to safety issues. Property owners of vacant or blighted buildings are taxed at much higher rates to incentivize owners to utilize their properties, and DOB may order abatement for blighted buildings.
  • 211 Warmline for Families. Struggling families can call DC’s new 211 Warmline to be connected to social services and resources they need before they reach a crisis.
  • Request Traffic Calming. If you need traffic calming on your street, the first step is to submit a Traffic Safety Input request via 311. DDOT prioritizes 200 traffic safety requests in DC each quarter to investigate and address with traffic calming.
  • Traffic Safety Input Request Database. DDOT’s database helps you track traffic safety input requests in your neighborhood, including forthcoming traffic safety improvements, prioritized requests, and outstanding requests DDOT will consider in the future.

Public Transit and Transportation

  • Free Metro for DC students. The Kids Ride Free program allows DC students to ride for free on MetroBus, MetroRail, and the DC Circulator while traveling within DC.
  • Request a Bike Rack. DC residents can request a bike and scooter rack to be installed in public space by submitting a request to 311 under the “Bicycle Services” category.
  • Neighborhood Connect. An on-demand shared-ride shuttle service that operates seven days a week in parts of Wards 1, 4, 5, 6, and 8 and costs DC residents only $3 per ride.
  • 50% Reduced Metro Fares. If you are enrolled in SNAP benefits, WMATA’s Metro Lift program will discount your Metro fares and bus fares by 50%.
  • Capital Bikeshare. Easy, affordable bike-sharing program that offers both classic bike or ebikes for rent. And households that receive SNAP, TANF, WIC, LIHEAD, or Medicaid qualify for even more affordable $5 annual memberships.
  • DC Pays for Your eBike. You can get up to $2,000 to buy an e-bike with the first part of the program prioritizing residents on SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, or DC Healthcare Alliance.

Recreation, Health, and Wellness

  • DPR Fitness Centers. DC has more than 30 DPR fitness centers (gyms) that DC residents can use for completely free, including seven gyms across Ward 4.
  • DPR Pools. DC has more than 35 free indoor pools and outdoor pools for exercise and recreation, including our pools at Roosevelt, Takoma, and Upshur in Ward 4.
  • Other Recreation. Did you know that DC has three public golf courses, a roller skating rink, an indoor ice skating arena (being renovated until 2025), and several skate parks?
  • Reserve a Picnic Area in Rock Creek Park. Residents can reserve eight picnic groves in Rock Creek Park (most in Ward 4) to hold events there from April through November.
  • Free COVID Tests. You can still pick up free rapid COVID tests at several DC libraries.
  • Free Condoms. To promote safe sex and prevent the transmission of STDs, DC will send you free condoms to your DC address.
  • Free HIV/STD Testing. DC also provides free at-home HIV or STD test kits and free and convenient walk-in testing for HIV, STDs, or hepatitis (no insurance needed).
  • Free Narcan. DBH provides free naloxone (Narcan) to DC residents to prevent opioid drug overdoses. You get it at locations across DC or have it mailed to your home.
  • Mental Health Access HelpLine. DBH operates a 24-7 Access Helpline at 1-888-793-4357 for emergency psychiatric care and providing access to mental health services.
  • Community Response Teams. For people experiencing distress related to mental health or substance abuse, call DBH’s Community Response Teams at 202-673-6495.
  • DC Sobering Center. DC has a new 24-7 Stabilization Center at 35 K Street NE, where residents can go or be brought to recover from a substance use disorder crisis.
  • Health Care for Immigrants. Many immigrants in DC are ineligible for federal health care like Medicaid or Medicare, so DC provides them coverage through the DC Health Care Alliance program and the Immigrant Children’s Health Program.

Housing, Utilities, and Food

  • Support for Homebuyers. If you are looking to buy a home in DC, DHCD’s HPAP program and HFA’s DC Open Doors program can provide invaluable support with costs.
  • Homestead Tax Deduction. If you own and live in your DC home as your main residence, you are likely eligible for the Homestead Tax Deduction on your property taxes.
  • Tax Credit for Renters and Homeowners. The Schedule H Tax Credit provides up to  $1,325 back to low and moderate-income DC renters and homeowners.
  • Inclusionary Zoning. Most residential developments are required to offer affordable units for low and moderate-income residents to rent or buy through the Inclusionary Zoning Program.
  • Emergency Rental Assistance. DC’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) can help struggling DC tenants cover thousands of dollars in overdue rent.
  • Housing Code Inspections. Tenants concerned about unsafe or undignified living conditions in their unit or their building can request a housing code inspection by DOB.
  • Radon Test Kits. Worried about radon in your home? Get a free test kit from DOEE. 
  • Utility Assistance Programs. If you are struggling to pay your DC Water, Washington Gas, or PEPCO bills, DC offers financial support through LIHEAP and other programs.
  • Food Assistance. DC residents and families can receive food assistance through SNAP, the WIC Program for women and infants, and the WIC Farmers Market program.
  • Ward 4 Mutual Aid. The organizers and volunteers with Ward 4 Mutual Aid continue to support our neighbors by distributing supplies, food, and limited cash assistance.
  • Medically Tailored Meals. DC residents with life-challenging illnesses can receive free medically-tailored meals and medically-tailored groceries from Food & Friends.

Education, Job Training, and Small Businesses

  • DC Futures Scholarship. Up to $8,000 in scholarships for DC students attending UDC, Catholic University, or Trinity Washington University through this OSSE program.
  • DC Tuition Assistance Grant (DC TAG). Up to $10,000 per year in tuition assistance for out-of-state tuition at public universities and up to $2,500 in tuition assistance for private HBCUs nationwide and nonprofit universities in the DC Metro area.
  • Mayor’s Scholars Undergraduate Program. Up to $4,000 per year in needs-based assistance for students earning their first associate or bachelor’s degree.
  • Free Masters of Social Work. Starting Fall 2024, UDC will offer a free Masters of Social Work degree program to help address DC’s shortage of social workers. 
  • Arts Grants. The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (CAH) provides art grants to DC residents and nonprofits year-round to support the arts in DC. 
  • Summer Youth Employment Program. Paid summer jobs in DC government and local businesses for DC youth ages 14-24 in honor of the late great Mayor Marion Barry. 
  • Project Empowerment. Job readiness training and employment placement for returning citizens and DC residents ages 22-54 with other life challenges.
  • American Job Centers. DOES has three American Job Centers that offer career counseling, resume support, interviewing skills, job search assistance, and more. 
  • Free Certifications and Job Placement. The DC Infrastructure Academy has free certifications and job programs with DC Water, PEPCO, solar, and more!
  • Free UDC Workforce Development Programs. UDC offers workforce development programs and courses at no cost to DC residents on pathways like construction, property management, hospitality, healthcare, IT, and early childhood education (CDA).

Advocates for You in DC Government

I hope some of these programs are new and useful to you! There are so many other programs DC has that could have also been included, but these are some of the ones I know many residents do not know about or utilize enough. So feel free to pass this list on to your neighbors and keep highlighting the resources that have made a positive impact in your life.

We know that there are aspects of DC government that need to be improved, and that is what I am focused on as your Councilmember. But I am also proud that DC offers so many programs and services to meet our communities’ needs — and that we strive to do more each year.

And let us always remember that behind each of these programs are hard-working District workers and community volunteers who put in the work to keep our city running 365 days a year. Last Friday, I had the chance to stop by 13th & Missouri NW to shine some love on Mrs. Phyllis Burnett, who is one of our devoted Ward 4 Safety Techs who looks after our young scholars on their way to and from school. Ward 4 is grateful for Mrs. Burnett, all of our crossing guards, and everyone serving our community day in and day out.

Have an amazing end to your week, Ward 4!

Yours in Community,

This post also appeared as a Councilmember’s Corner blog post on Petworth News.