We are on Day 209 of the COVID-19 public health emergency in DC. I want to quickly cover ground on three big topics of interest: voting, DCPS re-opening, and DC’s budget.
First, many of you have received General Election ballots in the mail. Today, Monday, October 5, is the first day that you can deposit your ballot in one of the 55 drop boxes placed across the District. Locations are here. <[link removed]>This initial mailing of ballots was done in batches, so it has been common for voters in the same household to receive ballots on different days.
If you have not gotten a ballot in the mail by the end of this week, I would recommend contacting the Board of Elections to make sure you will be in the next mass mailing. You have the option to mail in your ballot, put it in a Drop Box, or bring it to a Vote Center.
Next, students, caregivers, and teachers have been struggling with distance learning. How and when to fully re-open our school buildings and return students and teachers to a physical classroom is one of the most vexing decisions of this pandemic. I know remote learning has been stressful for all, and many parents have been put in an unreasonable situation balancing the needs of their children and working at the same time. I will admit I am torn about the right decision, because we need to weigh so many important factors: public health and safety, the best environment for learning and social-emotional development, and the needs of working parents. I participated in a DC Council hearing on this topic last Friday, in which a variety of opinions were expressed.
Mayor Bowser is likely to announce the plan for DCPS’s second term this week, so stay tuned. Along with other Councilmembers, I have asked the Administration to be more transparent and forthcoming with information so families can know what to expect, feel heard, and give input. Last week, the Mayor announced a limited number of school building openings for supplemental instruction and career education. The list is on slide 12 of this mayoral update <[link removed]>. Last week, we received an update <[link removed]> that all DCPS elementary schools would have their HVAC systems upgraded, but little else regarding fall reopening plans. I hope more information will be coming very soon.
Finally, the District’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Jeffrey DeWitt, released last week what is known as the quarterly revenue forecast. It was not as bad as expected given the incredible impact the public health measures put in place have had on our economy, but it showed considerable challenges for the current fiscal year that started October 1, and for future years. You can find the CFO’s letter and the revenue forecast here <[link removed]>.
Revenue estimates for Fiscal Year 2020, which ended September 30, were revised upwards by $222 million because income and property tax collections were stronger than anticipated. However, the CFO projects revenue for Fiscal Year 2021, which began October 1, will be down by $212 million. He also projected similar gaps in successive years if we don’t take any action. We have to take action, because unlike the federal government, by law we need to balance our budget by the end of the year.
I am hopeful that there will be a change of administrations at the White House, and that there will be a major fiscal stimulus passed by Congress. I also hope the administration will collaborate with the Council to create a plan on how to address the budget holes and prioritize spending given a possible infusion of federal money. We need to help those industries and workers most impacted including restaurants and hotels. I will have further thoughts on this in future newsletters.
Please stay safe, wear your masks, and be in touch.
In This Issue:
- Voting <#voting>
- Unemployment Updates <#ui>
- Housing and Eviction Protection <#housing>
- Streatery Winter Ready Grant Program <#winter>
- Coronavirus + Flu Shot <#corona>
- Fall Leaf Collection <#leaf>
- Resource Roundup <#resource>
Q. My unemployment benefits have run out or are about to run out, what options are available for me?
A. Unemployment Insurance initially lasts 26 weeks, but claimants can extend for at least 13 more. The extension is not automatic! If you lost your job due to COVID-19, you are eligible for an additional 13 weeks of payments through Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). You need to apply at dcnetworks.org <[link removed]>. Additional details can be found on my website <[link removed]>.
With mail-in balloting, it’s no longer just Election Day or Election Week, it's Election Month! As I mentioned, ballots have already begun arriving in mailboxes. If you aren't registered yet, you can click here <[link removed]> to register online between now and October 13.
If you want to check the status of your ballot, you can contact the Board of Elections at 202-727-2525, or use their online tracker here <[link removed]>.
Election Month timeline:
- First week of October: Mail-in ballots start arriving via USPS. All registered voters will be sent one; you do not need to request a ballot.
- October 13: Deadline to register to vote <[link removed]>. D.C. does have same-day voter registration, which is available throughout Early Voting and on Election Day, but you’ll need to go to a polling place <[link removed]> in person and bring your proof of residence <[link removed]>.
- October 21: Haven’t received your mail ballot? Make a plan to vote early or on Election Day at one of DC’s in-person polling places!
- October 27: In-person early voting starts. Find early voting centers and line wait times here <[link removed]>.
- November 3: The Final Day of Election Month, or what we call Election Day! If you are mailing your ballot or using one of DC's Ballot Drop Boxes <[link removed]>, it must be postmarked or dropped off by 8pm on Election Day. Find Election Day voting centers and line wait times here <[link removed]>.
- If you are voting in person, you do NOT have to vote at your normal voting center, or even in your own Ward! You can vote at any Early Voting Center <[link removed]>fromOctober 27-November 2, or at any Election Day Voting Center <[link removed]> in the District.
- If you get a ballot for a voter no longer living at that address, write Return to Sender on it and mail back to the Board of Elections.
In the past few weeks, I held a two-part hearing on our unemployment compensation system. On September 16, more than 45 people shared their experiences, questions, and ideas and many more who have submitted written/oral testimony to us or filled out our short and simple UI/PUA Survey <[link removed]>. Last Wednesday, Department of Employment Services Director Unique Morris-Hughes testified for three hours.
During those three hours, I focused on how we can make sure those who qualify for unemployment compensation are receiving it. I asked Director Morris-Hughes to look at making the 13-week extensions of unemployment compensation automatic, as it is in other states. Right now, claimants have to apply, and it has created gaps in financial assistance. My colleagues and I also asked the Director to continue to consider claims processing efficiencies and staffing redeployment to make the system work better.
Lost Wages Assistance
I want to make sure that claimants fill out their self-certification form to receive up to $1200 from the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program. You do not have to submit an application for LWA, but you must self-certify on the DOES Claimant Services portal. When you log into the portal, you will see a self-certification question asking if you are unemployed or partially unemployed due to COVID-19. You can also certify via phone or in person if online is not an option for you. For full details on LWA and other unemployment resources head to my website <[link removed]>.
Extending UI Benefits
Lastly, some of you may be reaching the end of your initial 26 weeks of Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. If you have or are about to exhaust your UI, you can apply for an additional 13 weeks of benefits through the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). Note, this is not automatic, you must apply! You can find more resources about extending your UI benefits on my website <[link removed]>.
<[link removed]>Unemployment Resources <[link removed]>
<>Housing and Eviction Protection
I want to update you on two pieces of legislation that will help us achieve our housing equity goals:
- My Eviction Notice Moratorium Emergency Act <[link removed]>, which was co-introduced by Councilmember and Housing Committee Chair Anita Bonds, prohibits landlords from sending tenants Notices to Vacate during the pandemic. This legislation will greatly reduce the number of people in the District who leave their homes unnecessarily out of fear of a pending eviction (remember, evictions are unenforceable for 60 days after the pandemic!).
- A one-year moratorium <[link removed]> on a little-known provision in D.C. law, Certificates of Assurance, that guarantees market rents in perpetuity to developers and grants tax credits to landlords if the Council expands the city’s existing rent control law to more properties. This moratorium will give the Council more time to consider rent limitations, rent control expansion, and whether developers really need a government guarantee of permanent market rents.
The Council also passed a number of other important pieces of legislation at our last Legislative Meeting, including:
- My COVID-19 worker safety legislation <[link removed]>, which includes important anti-retaliation laws for workers affected by the coronavirus.
- Extending the COVID-19 public health emergency through the end of 2020. This also means that our moratoriums on utility disconnections, debt collections and evictions tied to the public health emergency are also extended.
- Preventing non-D.C. firms from receiving preferences meant to help local businesses secure government contracts.
- Reducing traffic fatalities by passing the Vision Zero Omnibus bill <[link removed]>.
- Condemning a partnership between the District and the federal government to prosecute more gun crimes in federal courts. Court records revealed <[link removed]>that the initiative, which was supposed to be enforced citywide, actually targeted three predominantly Black wards.
The Council will hold our next legislative meeting on Tuesday, October 6, 2020, at noon. More information on our upcoming meetings and hearings can be found at www.dccouncil.us <[link removed]>.
<>Small Business Grant Program
I know many of us want to continue to support our neighborhood restaurants, but it is getting chilly outside! The Streatery Winter Ready Grant Program <[link removed]> can provide local restaurants currently offering outdoor dining (and select non-food retail businesses) $6,000 in grant support to winterizing their outdoor spaces. These grants can be used for things like tents, heathers, propane, winter-appropriate furniture, and more. Approved applicants will receive a conditional award letter with details regarding the disbursement process. Questions about the program or about submitted applications can be sent to [email protected]
<[link removed]>Apply online <[link removed]>
<>Coronavirus and Testing
High risk states: DC Health's most recently updated list <[link removed]> of high-risk states included: Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, West Virginia, and Wyoming. The following states were removed from the high-risk list: California, Hawaii, and Ohio.
Free, walk-up testing and testing by appointment continues to be offered across the District. Clickhere <[link removed]> for a full list of walk-up sites, firehouse locations, and appointment-only sites. Save time at the District's walk-up testing sites by pre-registering atcoronavirus.dc.gov/register <[link removed]>.
Flu shots: Cold and flu season is upon us! With the coronavirus pandemic not yet contained, it’s more important than ever to stay healthy. You can receive flu shots at no or little cost from your doctor and many local pharmacies. Click here <[link removed]> to find a list of locations where you can get a flu shot.
<>Fall Leaf Collection
Leaf collection in DC begins on November 9, but there will be some changes made in order to ensure everyone's health and safety during the pandemic. This year, residents are required to bag their leaves. The Department of Public Works (DPW) will distribute 20 paper bags to each household starting on October 30. An unlimited number of paper bags can be left for pickup, but after a household uses their 20 from DPW, they will have to provide the additional bags.
<[link removed].>Leaf Collection Schedule and Updates <[link removed].>
See below for a roundup of some of the most recent resources, funding opportunities, and program updates from our office. The newest items will always be on top.
- Census 2020: There's still time to submit!Get counted, DC! Complete your 2020 census and help ensure DC gets the resources our residents need: 2020census.gov <[link removed]>.
- 2021 DC Youth Poet Laureate Applications Open: Poets ages 14-20 are encouraged to submit <[link removed]>. Applications close October 15, 11:59pm.
- Eat It Forward Campaign: Your favorite Black-owned restaurant could win $25,000 through this contest sponsored by Discover card. Entries are accepted any time from now through October 31, 2020. Full details, including how to participate/nominate, can be found here <[link removed]>.
- DC Mortgage Assistance Program (DC MAP) relaunched: DC MAP <[link removed]> provides financial relief to District homeowners who have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. MAP COVID-19, qualified borrowers can receive a loan of up to $5,000 monthly toward their mortgage for up to six months.
- Food Access Resources: [link removed]
- Unemployment Assistance: elissasilverman.com/unemployment <[link removed]>
Councilmember Elissa Silverman - United States
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