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Elissa Silverman is an at-large member of the D.C. Council and chair of Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. Elissa believes that a transparent governing process helps ensure all residents' voices are heard. She is committed to improving the quality of life for residents in all eight wards.
If you applied for Unemployment Insurance (UI) at the beginning of the COVID-19 public health emergency (mid-March), you have likely exhausted or are about to exhaust your benefits. UI is designed to last for 26 weeks, but fortunately, there are additional 13-week extensions currently available. The extension is not automatic, however. UI claimants will need to apply and fill out an application to receive extended support.Read More
If you are a DC worker affected by COVID-19, the District has programs that may be able to help, including the Shared Work Unemployment Insurance Program ("Shared Work"). Shared Work is a way for businesses in the District to keep employees on staff during the COVID-19 pandemic AND reduce payroll costs.Read More
If you are an unemployed DC worker, including workers affected by COVID-19, the District has programs that may be able to help. Our strongest protection for District workers at risk of losing their paycheck is Unemployment Insurance (UI).Read More
Our city has an incredible opportunity to strategically invest in ourselves and make the District of Columbia a more egalitarian, equitable city. What am I talking about? Over the next two months, my D.C. Council colleagues and I will make pivotal decisions on how to spend more than $17 billion for the upcoming fiscal year, as well as a billion more this year as well.
It is budget season, and this is a budget like none other.
This could be a game-changer, but it is up to us to spend the money in a way that will not just perpetuate the status quo. The infusion of a few billion federal dollars for COVID-19 recovery gives us a unique opportunity to make transformative investments in public education, housing, workforce development and public safety. We have some big choices ahead, and we need your input. More information on how to weigh in on the budget is below.
We need to spend dollars in the savviest way possible to help those residents and businesses who have been hurt the most by the pandemic to turn their trajectories around, as well as build strong systems to make our city a place of opportunity for generations to come. It’s important to keep in mind this pandemic did not impact all District residents equally. That’s why I am a bit surprised about Mayor Bowser’s approach: I don’t see in her proposal that we are truly targeting dollars to help those who have been most impacted by COVID. Instead, I see a lot of sprinkling of dollars here and there. I think of the graphic below that’s used to demonstrate equity, of the kids trying to look over the fence at the baseball game.
We need to use these dollars to build a big booster for the smaller kids, not give the same size boost to everyone. Right now, this budget gives the same size boost to everyone.
We also know that direct payments to our unemployed residents and the local businesses who through no fault of their own had to lay off their employees are the best way to help both groups come out of this emergency. But there’s not much in this budget that helps either group. As well, the mayor’s proposal takes $400 million from the Paid Family Leave fund to spend largely on benefits that do not help our residents or workers most impacted. It’s important to keep in mind that many residents lost the ability to use paid family leave because they lost their jobs. And by giving a tax break to all businesses, we’re not targeting those businesses who really need the help, such as our hotels, our restaurants, our locally-owned retail. Again, it is giving the same size boost to everyone, instead of giving a big boost to those who need it the most.
We are beginning to come out of a once-in-a-century public health emergency and economic crisis. We have access to a significant amount of federal funds to help our residents, our businesses, and our District government emerge in a way that gets us to a more equitable place. It’s up to us whether we make it game-changing. I will push for that to happen. I’ll have more specifics in upcoming newsletters.
Take care, and stay cool!
May 20, 2021
The Honorable Muriel Bowser
Mayor, District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004
Dear Mayor Bowser:
Thank you for your leadership during the COVID-19 emergency. We faced interwoven, once-in-a-lifetime public health and economic challenges, and now we face another great challenge of recovering from this incredible crisis. We have an equally remarkable opportunity to make transformational change with the $2.3 billion in federal dollars coming to the District from the American Rescue Plan.
(Click here for a PDF of the letter or continue reading below.)
Only half of District residents have gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control. Even if you take out all the kids who have not been eligible for the vaccine (emergency approval of the Pfizer vaccine happened earlier this week for 12 to 15-year-olds), that still leaves nearly 40 percent of District adult residents unvaccinated.
Does that percentage surprise you?
I ask, because a number of residents who email me or who have requested meetings with me say they don’t know anyone who hasn’t gotten at least one vaccination shot. And I believe them. But the data shows that nearly four out of ten District adults have not gotten even one shot, even though the supply of vaccine is plentiful, there are walk-in clinics, and many opportunities day and night to get protected against this virus.
The pandemic has put a bright spotlight on how in a city of less than 69 square miles, we can live vastly different lives and often not realize it. And this puts us in a predicament in crafting public policy for the greater good of all District residents, if we consider the District of Columbia a community as a whole. Because in some parts of our city, almost everyone is partially or fully vaccinated. Residents are eager to take off masks, get a cocktail at a bar, and see a show at the Kennedy Center or 9:30 Club -- and those businesses are eager to have them do it. In other parts of our city, residents are eager to get back to pre-pandemic life as well, but not everyone in their neighborhood or social circle has gotten vaccinated. So taking off a mask, going to a bar, and seeing a show can have deadly consequences.
On Monday, Mayor Bowser announced that almost all public-health-related restrictions will be lifted in less than two weeks. By June 11, pre-pandemic life will return: Bars will be open, Capital One Arena can be sold out for (hopefully) playoff hockey and basketball, and we can stand awkwardly close to random people once again. I have more information and infographics explaining the new rules below. But I will admit that the complete lifting of public health restrictions is worrisome to me.
Perhaps it comes down to the term “community spread”: What community are we referring to? If COVID-19 remains a threat to the health and safety of residents in certain parts of our city but not other parts, is that a successful approach to stemming the virus? Data has shown that Black residents in our city have died at a much higher rate from COVID than white residents, and I am concerned this trend will exacerbate if we let down our guard and take a community posture that the threat of COVID to health and safety is over. As well, I am concerned that very rosy data showing the virus curbing has since been shown to have errors: Numbers are still trending downward, but not as robustly as the erroneous data led us to believe.
These are not easy decisions, and we need to take them on thoughtfully and judiciously.
Other big decisions are on the horizon: In two weeks, Mayor Bowser will present her budget to the Council, which will set off a two-month review process. This will be a pivotal budget for our city: We have the opportunity with this budget to move in a different direction and become a more just and equitable city. It is up to us.
More information below.