Usually at this time of year, my
colleagues and I are in the thick of budget season, figuring out how
to leverage your taxpayer dollars to meet our goals of creating a
prosperous, equitable city.
This year is different.
And because of the pandemic, the
budget process will be different too. A week from today, on May 12,
Mayor Bowser will transmit her budget for fiscal year 2021. In order
to keep everyone safe and healthy, the Council’s committees will only
be taking testimony virtually, and there will be limited time for live
comments (though all written and voicemail testimony will be
included). Read more about this year’s budget process
We are also looking ahead to when
we can reopen businesses as we continue to safeguard the public’s
health. You might have read Mayor Bowser launched a plan last week –
ReOpen DC – as well as named committee members
from our city to help lead that process. What we know right now is
that our current public health protocols will be extended at least
through May, and that the District will only begin reopening after the
established public health criteria have been met.
I am continuing to connect with
residents and share Unemployment Insurance (UI) updates and other
information on COVID-19 resources through virtual town halls. My next
events will be:
Wednesday, May 6 at 7pm, The Ask
Rayceen Show, discussing how to stay safe and strong through the
public health crisis. Tune in on Facebook
Thursday, May 7 at 6pm, Freelancers
Happy Hour! Focusing on support for freelancers and gig workers
through the unemployment extension program: Pandemic Unemployment
Assistance (PUA). Grab a drink and tune in on our Facebook page.
Interested in hosting a virtual
town hall with our office? Email my Deputy Chief of Staff Ashley Fox
at: [email protected]. I
will also be getting more regular info out to you by moving my
newsletter from bi-monthly to weekly, so look out for more updates next week!
Stay well and stay strong DC. I
know many of you are hurting and struggling right now. We will get
through this, and if we do it strategically, we will be a stronger and
more equitable city because of it.
As many of you know, I have
been digging deep into unemployment issues throughout this crisis and
have also been working as a volunteer call taker at our auxiliary
Unemployment Insurance (UI) call center. I have been receiving many
great questions about unemployment and related benefits over the last
few weeks, and I would like to start featuring one or two of those
questions (and the answer) in my newsletter. This week’s featured
Q. How are Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits
A. PUA is the expansion of UI to those normally not
eligible: independent contractors, 1099s, gig workers, new hires.
Initially, PUA applicants will be given a minimum benefit amount equal
to one-half of DC’s average weekly UI benefit, which is $179 a week.
PUA applicants will also get the additional $600 a week through July.
Once weekly earnings are confirmed, benefits may be adjusted upward,
not to exceed DC’s UI maximum weekly benefit of $444 a
Today, the Council voted on our fourth
coronavirus relief bill to confront this crisis as it evolves and
provide relief where it is needed most. You can read about the
previous actions the Council has taken on my website and the
The bill approved today covers everything from rent
payments to evictions to third-party food delivery commissions. Here
are the highlights:
Rent payment plans:
The bill requires landlords with five or more units to provide payment
plans of at least one year to tenants affected by the public health
emergency. These payment plans will help affected tenants avoid large
rent bills right after the end of the emergency.
protections now go a step further by prohibiting landlords from filing
eviction notices for an additional 60 days after the emergency
Microgrants will not
be taxed as income for businesses.
Third-party food delivery commissions: Food delivery apps can charge restaurants
hefty fees, cutting deeply into already slim profits. The Council bill
caps these fees at 15%, which is in line with similar efforts in
places like Seattle and San Francisco.
Reporting on jail conditions: The Mayor is now required to regularly
report to the Council on conditions inside of the DC jail and the
steps the administration is taking to combat COVID-19.
Giving DC residents a fair shot at COVID-related
jobs: My Labor Committee,
specifically our new senior analyst Emily Price, worked on language
prioritizing DC residents for contact tracers and other jobs created
by the pandemic in health-care fields.
The Council also prohibited foreclosures on both single family homes
and condos today. This important step, which 15 other
states have already taken, will make sure our residents don’t lose
their homes because of this virus.
SEASON IS COMING
The Council delayed the normal
budget process this year to give the Mayor more time to focus on
COVID-19 relief efforts. As noted above, the Mayor will now send her
proposed budget to the Council on May 12. Each committee will only
hold two or three hearings for all of their agencies, with limited
time for each hearing. If you are interested in testifying, I strongly
encourage you to check out the budget calendar, which shows the timing of hearings as well
as each Committee’s process for accepting testimony.
My Labor Committee will be holding one hearing on Monday,
May 18, for public witnesses interested in testifying on any of the
agencies under the Committee’s jurisdiction. Here’s how it will
testify, email [email protected] by 10am on Friday, May 15 with your
name, email address, telephone number, organizational affiliation and
job title (if any). The Committee will then email instructions on how
to participate live.
Written testimony can be sent to
or left via voice message by calling the Committee at
testimony received over email or voicemail will be included as part of
the official record. Due to limited time, the Committee will likely
not be able to accommodate all requests to testify live.
There will then be a second
Committee hearing on Thursday, May 28, with Department of Employment
Services Director Unique Morris-Hughes. For more on the new timeline,
including when the Council will take its final votes on the budget,
check out the budget calendar here.
If you are receiving unemployment benefits that have recently or
are about to run out, you can now file for an extended 13 weeks of
support. This extension should be automatically applied to your
account (just keep filing weekly as usual), and you will also continue
to receive the federal support of $600/week, through July 2020. Click
here for more information.
ASSISTANCE FOR BUSINESSES
Shared Work Program for Employers: This week, my office will be publishing a
new Quick Guide on the Shared Work
Program (on our Coronavirus Resource Page), which is an excellent option for local
businesses who want to avoid layoffs, but need to scale back payroll.
By using the Shared Work Program, businesses can supplement employees’
pay due to reduced hours with unemployment benefits – so the business
gets to retain experienced staff and employees can receive boosted
wages thanks to federal unemployment dollars! Added bonus: all
employees who are part of a shared work plan automatically qualify for the federal $600/week
unemployment support. Click here to
Expanded Federal Support: The Federal Government
has expanded funding for two business support programs: the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). These
programs are highly popular, so interested applicants are encouraged
to act quickly. More information can be found about these in our recent newsletter under the “Assistance for
NOW HIRING: CONTACT TRACE FORCE
Many of you have asked my office
about job opportunities with the District's Contact Trace force –
applications are now open! These positions will be a mix of
full-time and part-time, and all full-time positions will offer
benefits. They are for a fixed 13-month term, and hiring/posting of
new positions will be ongoing as the District ramps up contact
tracing. The Force will be a critical part of our efforts to reopen DC
and is a great service opportunity for those in low-risk populations.
Applications are now open at: careers.dc.gov
In today's legislative session, the
Council passed a bill with language authored by my Committee Staff
requiring at least 50% of the jobs in the Contract Trace Force be
reserved for District residents. By making sure we devote as many jobs
to District residents as possible, we can help our unemployed
residents and ensure our District has a safe reopening.
Thanks to my colleagues on the Council for unanimously approving this
Howard University Hospital has opened a new testing site at
4414 Benning Road NE. The
site will be open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:00am-2:00pm.
Appointments are required and can be made by calling:
The District has recently expanded priority
coronavirus testing for
some residents who are not yet showing symptoms. As of the Mayor’s
April 21, 2020 announcement, the District has three priority groups
for testing at the United Medical Center and UDC Bertie Backus Campus
Hospitalized patients and healthcare
facility workers with COVID-19 symptoms or history of exposure to a laboratory confirmed COVID-19
The following individuals who are
exhibiting symptoms OR
who have a history of
exposure to a laboratory confirmed COVID-19 patient: patients in
long-term care facilities; patients over the age of 65; patients with
underlying health conditions; and first responders.
- Individuals with
If you are asymptomatic and not in
one of the priority testing groups, you can still be tested by a
private lab. Testing at the public sites and most private sites will
require an advance appointment. To make an appointment at one of the
District’s public sites, call 855-363-0333 between the hours of 8:30
am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday. Click here for more details on testing, including what
to bring to your appointment and hours of operation for the District’s
The District is also working
towards making antibody testing available within the next
Last week, the Mayor announced new
agreements that would bring two new hospitals to the
- A 136-bed hospital at St.
Elizabeth’s East in Ward 8, operated by Universal Health Services in
conjunction with George Washington University and George Washington
Medical Faculty Associates.
- A 225-bed hospital operated by
Howard University in Ward 1.
These agreements must be approved
by the Council, and I will be taking a closer look at how the new
hospital plans ensure our residents get the high-quality care they
deserve. I am eager to see the specific contracts and details on what
services will be offered, especially at the hospital in Ward 8. I am
concerned that the emergency room is only level 3 trauma, which means
that critical patients will still need to be transported across the
District. We have a unique opportunity to address critical health
equity issues with these facilities, and it is an opportunity we
cannot afford to miss.
A new $1.5 million rental
assistance program will be available starting on May 11th from the
Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). The fund will
be managed by Community Based Organizations and nonprofits and offer
assistance to low income renters experiencing financial hardship due
to COVID-19. DHCD estimates that the program will serve approximately
400 households for a minimum of 6 months and up to two years. Stay
tuned for more updates.
The Housing Committee has also published an updated Quick Reference Guide that addresses a variety of
housing questions and issues.
PET PANTRY OPEN FOR PETS IN NEED
Pet owners and animal lovers have
something extra to celebrate during National Pet Week (this week) –
the opening of the Humane Rescue
Alliance's (HRA) Pet Pantry! HRA recognizes that if people in the District are struggling
during COVID-19, then their pets probably are, too. The Pet Pantry
provides free pet food to those in need and will distribute supplies
using social distancing protocols. Food distribution sites and times
vary, so visit the Pet Pantry website for details and the most updated
Councilmember Elissa Silverman