I’m continuing with the question
and answer format. Here’s this week’s Top 10:
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released guidance saying it
is safe for students to socially distance three-feet instead of
six-feet. Will more students be allowed to return in person?
Today, DCPS announced that it will adopt the CDC guidance of
three-feet social distancing for students. I am very happy about this.
I’ve gotten a number of
emails from parents, particularly in Wards 1, 3, and 6, who are
frustrated that DCPS hasn’t been more aggressive about getting
students and teachers back in the classroom. I think we
can all agree that in-person is where students not only learn best but
best develop social-emotional skills.
But I want to temper expectations: DCPS has said that the new three-foot rule
will allow for more students in Term 4 (beginning April 19) to attend
in-person classes in elementary schools where students don’t change
classrooms or cohorts. It will be on a school-by-school basis; schools
will reach out to parents in early April to offer slots. However,
middle and high schools are not likely to see much adjustment until
next school year because students change classes frequently, in what’s
known as cohort-mixing. DCPS still believes cohort-mixing presents
more of a health concern.
My big concern remains that there is a trust gap of many
parents, students, and teachers. We need to offer the vaccine to every adult who works in
schools. There is a new program with CVS that has just launched to
vaccinate educators. And I think DCPS needs to do more
to build the confidence of families that safe measures have been put
in place to protect the health and safety of youth and adult learners
so everyone feels comfortable returning in-person.
Is DCPS returning to full-time in-person learning for next school
DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee has told both the DC Council
and parents in a recent DCPS town hall that “the plan” is to return
all students who are interested to in-person learning for the next
school year. I hope we can get more definitive on this soon.
Many parents will likely be
returning to physical workplaces if they haven’t already by the fall.
Our DCPS families need to be able to plan.
The Chancellor also said that the
system is “exploring” a virtual option for families that are reluctant
to return in-person.
What is going on with in-person COVID-19 testing in schools?
There have been a number of
COVID-19 cases in schools, and randomized testing helps prevent
outbreaks from occurring. Right now, 10 percent of the student body is
randomly tested per
week. Educators and building
staff have access to mail-in tests every 10 days, and they can get
them in person too.
When will DC start giving out the unemployment benefits from the
American Rescue Plan?
Soon, but not soon enough. DC Department of Employment Services (DOES)
Director Unique Morris-Hughes says it will take two to three weeks to
make the coding changes in our archaic unemployment insurance
technology system. Once again, this is why DC needs to make
modernization of our UI technology a priority. My Labor
Committee has made it a priority, and I hope the Bowser administration
will continue to do so as well.
I know that many of you have been
frustrated by the lack of communication from the DOES about the Biden
Rescue Plan. I asked a few weeks ago, and I asked again on Friday in a
formal letter to the agency to communicate directly with each claimant
via email how the Biden Rescue Plan will benefit them. You can
read the letter here.
I also have heard from claimants
who filed for unemployment at the beginning of the public health
emergency that they are concerned they have reached the end of their
benefit year, and they will not be eligible for the Rescue Plan.
YOU WILL BE ELIGIBLE. Some have seen a $0 account
balance and have not been able to file your weekly certifications. I
have alerted the agency and have asked for quick
The Rescue Plan helps those
collecting traditional UI and PUA. Here’s a quick sketch:
UI: The plan
extends UI into September. If you are currently in the Pandemic
Emergency Unemployment Compensation extension, it will keep going. If
you exhausted PEUC under the Continuing Assistance Act and were
receiving EB the week of March 13, 2021, you have to stay on EB until
you exhaust all of the EB benefits you are entitled to. If someone
collecting EB becomes eligible for regular UI at any time, that person
must stop receiving EB and file a new regular UI claim. Otherwise,
when their EB benefits end, they become eligible for
PUA: The plan
extends PUA from March 14, 2021 to September 4, 2021. Eligible
individuals can receive up to 79 total weeks of PUA benefits
(including any weeks of PUA, regular UI, and EB benefits an individual
I’m at the end of my benefit year.
I filed for unemployment last March. Am I still eligible for the
American Recovery Act Benefits?
Yes. If you no longer qualify for regular UI
benefits, the American Recovery Act provides Pandemic Extended
Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) weekly benefits for anyone unemployed
between March 14, 2021 and September 6, 2021. Anyone receiving as
little as $1 of benefits during that time also qualifies to receive a
$300 weekly supplement through the FPUC program.
Is DC getting a FEMA mass vaccination site?
Many residents have asked me if DC
will get a mass vaccination site like the one in Philadelphia. According
to the Washington Post, FEMA says DC is not big enough to get a
site. This is frankly ridiculous, and I strongly urge FEMA to
reconsider their decision.
I heard some residents got contacted by their health insurer and
got the vaccine even though they weren’t eligible according to the
priority system. What’s going on?
Some residents have told me that
they have been offered a vaccine appointment by their hospital or
health provider even though they aren’t a senior or otherwise eligible
yet. When I asked why this is happening, DC Health said the resident
might not be aware they are eligible. But enough people
have contacted me saying they aren’t eligible to make me concerned. I
have asked the Department of Health to look into this so that we can
make sure our distribution system -- across all portals -- is
equitable. I am concerned that we might be allocating too many doses
to hospitals and health insurers and not enough to our registration
I can’t pay my rent/mortgage. What should I do?
There is help available! First,
talk to your landlord if at all possible.
The Biden Rescue Plan provides two
new sources of federal help, one for homeowners that will provide
assistance with mortgage payments and the other for people having
trouble paying rent or utilities. We are still waiting for
applications to open up for these funds – but it may happen as early
as this month.
The Bowser Administration has
contracted to build a rental housing assistance portal that will be
ready in early April. This tool will act as a clearinghouse to help
you find resources like help with paying back rent, finding legal
protection, signing up for utility assistance and getting landlord and
mortgage assistance. In the meantime, you’ll find useful information
I heard DC might become a state. When is that happening?
If you weren’t able to watch the DC
Statehood hearing held by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform
on Monday, March 22, you can still watch it here.
Kudos to Mayor Bowser, Chairman
Mendelson, Congresswoman Norton, our Interim CFO Fitzroy Lee, DC
military veteran Harry Wingo, and Wade Henderson, interim president
and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, for
their testimony and for keeping their cool in the face of absurd
questions from Republican House members.
Statehood opponents argued
ridiculously that DC can’t succeed as a state without an agricultural,
manufacturing or mining sector and that it lacks an airport, a
landfill and a car dealership – and that residents don’t have a source
of income like farming.
So what’s next? The committee will
likely be voting on the bill soon, followed by consideration on the
floor of the House of Representatives. Then it’s off to the Senate.
With President Biden’s backing of statehood, our chances are better
than ever, but the main obstacle lies in the Senate whose legislative
filibuster requires a 60-vote threshold to advance a bill. I will keep
Thanks for reading.
Thank you for reading! Have questions or need to get in
touch? Reach us at [email protected] or
Councilmember Elissa Silverman