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Newsletter: Life-Changing Moments

Dear Resident,

Today is 9/11, a solemn remembrance of the terrifying day 19 years ago in which nearly 3,000 lives were lost due to terrorism. Some of you might have family or friends who either died on the planes that were targeted or were a first responder in New York, Pennsylvania, or right across the Potomac at the Pentagon. Even if we were not impacted directly, 9/11 changed our lives. My condolences to all who are honoring lost loved ones and thank you to our fire and emergency medical services personnel, police and others who are the front lines of emergency response.

We are in the midst of another life-changing moment right now: COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on our health and on our economy. Some of you have had the virus; some may have lost a friend or family member due to COVID. I know some of you reading this have lost income and jobs. How we respond as a community will determine how long-lasting the impacts will be of COVID-19. Every decision needs to be informed by our public health experts and science. And we also need to be creative and innovative problem solvers to get our kids safely back to in-school learning, our businesses, particularly those hardest hit in hospitality and entertainment, back to work, and all of our residents securely and safely housed.

The DC Council has returned from our summer legislative recess, and as we close out Council Period 23 in these last four months of the year, COVID response will dominate the agenda. Next week, my Committee on Labor and Economic Development will conduct an oversight hearing of one of the key pieces of our economic safety net: unemployment assistance. I will also be participating in hearings on rent control and evictions, as well as other important housing policies. You can find a calendar of all Council hearings here.

A request:  If you are currently unemployed or have recently experienced unemployment, please take 5 minutes to complete this survey from the Workforce Investment Council (WIC), of which I am a member. Your input will help the WIC better understand the barriers unemployed residents face and how to address them.  

Take care everyone. If you have innovative policy ideas, send them my way. If you are still struggling to access public benefits to help you cope with COVID, please let me know. With our collective efforts to help each other, we will overcome this virus.

Thanks again for reading.

Councilmember Silverman Questions Dismissal of DCHA Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Franselene St. Jean-Clarke

On Friday, September 11, 2020, At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I) sent a letter to Steve Walker, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Talent and Appointments concerning the recent dismissal of DC Housing Authority Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Franselene St. Jean-Clarke. Councilmember Silverman has requested a response by September 25, 2020. 

Click here to read the full text of the letter or see below. 

Councilmembers Silverman and Robert White Introduce Viewing Stands Disapproval Resolution

On Tuesday, September 8, 2020, Councilmembers Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large) and Robert White (D-At-Large), introduced the following Disapproval Resolution, “Inaugural Parade Viewing Stands Construction Reprogramming Request No. 23-120 Disapproval Resolution of 2020”.  This resolution disapproves reprogramming request No. 23-120 of $1,000,000 of local funds budget authority from the Department of Employment Services to the Department of General Services to cover costs associated with construction of reviewing stands for the 2021 Presidential inaugural parade. 

Click here to view the introduction in full.

Newsletter: End of Summer for DCPS and DC Council

Dear Resident,

I’m not sure if it’s “Back to School” or, more aptly, “Back to School, But Still at Home,” but for those who might not be aware, our DCPS students start school this Monday. As Mayor Bowser and DCPS Chancellor Louis Ferebee announced a few weeks ago, DCPS will be remote learning until at least November 6. I, along with several of my colleagues, have asked the Administration repeatedly about the readiness of our system and our families to learn via technology. 

I remain concerned that some of our students either do not have a computer, or do not know how to use their computer and hotspot well enough to make remote learning successful. DCPS leadership has assured the Council, however, that they are prepared. If you are a DCPS family still in need of technology for the new school year, please call your school ASAP, call DCPS at 202-442-5885, or reach out to my office for assistance.

Chancellor Ferebee also announced that enrollment and vaccination rates remain lower than expected. For information on vaccinations and other health support for your student, click here. Visit for a full list of resources for students and families. Best wishes to our students, parents and teachers on their first term. Please give me your feedback on how things are going with remote learning.

The DC Council is also saying goodbye to summer recess soon. We head back into session starting September 8, the day after Labor Day.

 A final note: If you are planning to participate in this Friday’s March on Washington, please help our city contain COVID-19 by wearing a mask and social distancing as best you can. For full details about the March, including the route, road closures, and what safety measures will be in place, click here

Take care, and see you on the other side of Labor Day.


Newsletter: Two Important Topics – Unemployment Assistance and Voting!

Dear Resident,

I want to talk about two very important items right up front: Unemployment Assistance and Voting.


My Committee on Labor and Workforce Development will be holding a hearing on DC’s unemployment assistance programs on September 16. Details on how to sign up to testify live or submit written/voicemail testimony can be found on my website. I encourage our workers who have had difficulties with either traditional Unemployment Insurance (UI) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to sign up to testify.

I know many of you read the A1 story in the Washington Post about workers who have struggled to get benefits. It was additionally heartbreaking for me, because the story demonstrated not only how workers struggle to access the safety net, but also that there are benefits available that many do not know about. If you cannot work remotely, but worry that you might expose vulnerable family members to coronavirus by working, you are eligible for up to 12 weeks of federal paid coronavirus sick leave, for example.

Bottom line: We need our safety net to work to keep families and our local economy stable at this challenging time. We also need the federal government to come to an agreement about additional unemployment assistance ASAP.

I also want to let employers and workers know about the Shared Work program. This is a way employers can keep valued employees working at a reduced work schedule and allows those workers to tap into federal unemployment benefits to make up for lost wages. On Tuesday, August 18, I’ll be hosting a Facebook Live Event on how the program works with Zach Herman of the National Conference of State Legislatures. I hope you will join me next week and spread the word to any business owners or workers interested in learning more about the Shared Work program!

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Newsletter: Good Trouble

Dear Resident,

On Tuesday, I engaged in some “good trouble,” as John Lewis might have called it.

While some of you waited in line to honor the civil rights warrior and American hero at the U.S. Capitol, my DC Council colleagues and I made final (for now) decisions about next year’s budget and other legislation that will go into effect immediately. I’ll save the juicy details for the Budget and Emergency Legislation sections below, but there was contentious debate about how to provide financial assistance to DC residents who do not qualify for government unemployment programs, how much subsidy to give for-profit developers to build affordable housing, and how to protect businesses, their workers, and customers during this pandemic. These were tough discussions and big decisions about how to spend your taxpayer dollars and how to use the power of the law. Spoiler alert for those who couldn’t tune in for the entire marathon session – my Protecting Businesses and Workers from COVID-19 Emergency Amendment Act passed at the very end of the meeting! More below.

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Press Release: Councilmember Elissa Silverman Introduces Emergency Bill

Councilmember Elissa Silverman Introduces Emergency Bill to Provide Important COVID-19 Protections for Businesses and Workers 

WASHINGTON, DC, July 23, 2020Today, At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I) introduced emergency legislation that would put in place basic health and safety standards to  protect District workers during the coronavirus pandemic. The Protecting Businesses and Workers from COVID-19 Emergency Amendment Act would require employers to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees, establish social distancing policies that apply to workers and customers alike, and prohibit retaliation against workers who speak out about unsafe conditions. The bill is expected to receive a vote next Tuesday, July 28. 

“In order to safely and successfully reopen our businesses and jumpstart our economy, we need to make sure our workplaces are safe,” said Silverman. “Customers are not going to spend their money at businesses they feel are taking a risk with their health and the health of workers. It is vital to our economy and our city that we get this right.” 

Pivotal Moments

Dear Resident,

Bonne Fête Nationale! Francophile or not, we are facing our own pivotal point in history both with coronavirus and our economy, as well as with the fight for a more equitable city and country. 

First, I’m starting a little schoolmarmish: Though DC has healthier data trends than other parts of the country, I am concerned that many of our neighbors are not thinking of the greater good. I have been in several public and private gatherings in recent days in which DC residents ARE NOT wearing face coverings or social distancing. Please continue to wear masks or face coverings when you go out of your home, continue to wash your hands, and continue to keep a six foot distance from those outside your household. Think of the effect your actions have on others! We don’t want to be the next Houston, Florida, or Arizona...

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DC Paid Family Leave Begins Today!

Dear Resident,

DC Paid Family Leave fully launches today! That’s right, DC workers will no longer have to choose between caring for a loved one or themselves and bringing home a paycheck. Longtime readers of this newsletter are very familiar with the program: It will give up to eight weeks of paid parental leave, six weeks of paid family leave, and two weeks of paid personal medical leave to private sector workers in DC (federal workers and DC government workers have separate benefit programs).

This morning, the application portal at went live. Check out the site to learn more and/or apply. You can also call 202.899.3700 or email [email protected] with specific questions. You can find my statement celebrating the program launch on my website. But that’s not all that’s happening!

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Press Release: DC Paid Family Leave Program Launches

WASHINGTON, DC, July 1, 2020 – DC’s Paid Family Leave program fully launched July 1, 2020, allowing eligible workers the opportunity to take time off from work to care for loved ones or themselves during the most critical times in their life without sacrificing a paycheck and financial stability. The program will offer employees of DC businesses up to eight weeks of paid parental leave, six weeks of paid leave to care for sick family members, and two weeks of paid leave for personal medical reasons. DC’s Paid Family Leave program will be the sixth of its kind in the nation.

“After five years of working with advocates, businesses, the Department of Employment Services, and my colleagues to put it in place, I am thrilled that DC workers can finally benefit from paid family leave,” said At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman, who chairs the DC Council’s Committee on Labor and Workforce Development and co-wrote the initial legislation in 2015 with Councilmember David Grosso (I-At-Large). “Paid leave ensures that District workers won’t have to choose between supporting their family members or bringing home a paycheck. For our lower-wage workers, for those managing a job and elder care, for businesses who want to treat their workers with dignity, this is a huge step toward making our city more equitable and just.”

The benefits offered through the District’s Paid Family Leave program include wage replacement of up to $1,000 a week. Studies have shown that employers also benefit from paid leave through higher employee retention and a leveling of the playing field on recruitment between small and larger employers; many smaller businesses generally cannot afford to offer paid leave without a public social insurance option.

Apply and find more information about Paid Family Leave at Those with specific questions can call 202.899.3700 or email [email protected].

The program is funded through an employer payroll tax, which began July 1, 2019. Last Friday, June 24, DC Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt announced that $303 million in tax revenue has been collected over the last year, giving the program a healthy reserve and the funds necessary to start on time.

“I want to thank Director Unique Morris-Hughes of the Department of Employment Services for her commitment to getting this program up and running. She and her Paid Family Leave office hit the key milestones on time and without delay, which is incredible given the public health emergency we are in,” Silverman said. “This is immensely important for moving us toward a more equitable, just DC.”