In case you just returned from a remote part of the world where they have paid family leave—that is, almost everywhere except the United States—you might have missed the introduction last week of our universal family leave bill for D.C.
I’m so excited to have introduced the legislation on Oct. 6 with David Grosso, the bill’s co-writer and my fellow independent at-large councilmember. Many thanks to the hard work of advocates, including the D.C. Paid Family Leave Coalition and Jews United for Justice, as well as Legislative Director Ari Weisbard and Chief of Staff Kitty Richards for making this first step in securing paid family leave for the District a reality. Thanks also to Councilmember Grosso and his staff for their partnership in developing the bill and our five colleagues who signed on as co-introducers (Nadeau, McDuffie, Allen, May, and Cheh). The bill has been referred to the Committee of the Whole under Chairman Mendelson. You can read the full press release here and follow the bill’s status here.
I’ve been overwhelmed by emails saying how groundbreaking and impactful this bill is going to be. I’ve heard from expectant parents and people who have suffered through severe illnesses or cared for family members. They’re cheering us on and asking how soon this benefit might begin. I’ve heard from small businesses saying how this bill would make it easier to offer an attractive benefit to their employees. I’ve also heard from the D.C. Chamber of Commerce expressing concerns. This newsletter is focused on understanding how the program would work, how you would benefit, and how you can support pushing the legislation forward.
When families go through big life challenges, like having a new child or fighting a serious illness, they all too often struggle to make ends meet. Nearly everyone needs to take time away from their job at some point to care for a relative, deal with a serious personal illness, or welcome a new child but most often their leave is unpaid. Fewer than 40% of workers earn any income when facing a serious personal health issue. Only 13% of workers nationally have access to any paid family leave. Most staggering though is lack of access to family leave for our lowest-paid and most marginalized workers – in low income jobs, a mere 5% of parents are able to continue earning an income when caring for a newborn or a seriously ill relative.
The Universal Paid Leave Act will ensure that everyone living or working in the District will be able to take paid leave when they need to care for themselves or their family. Learn more about our efforts to secure #PaidLeave4DC!
Read answers to frequently asked questions and make sure to share this overview on Paid Family Leave with your friends. You can also read the press release on Councilmember Silverman's introduction of the Universal Paid Family Leave Act and her newsletter on how the program would work in the District.
Today, At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman introduced legislation focused on boosting solar energy production across the District. The bill was co-introduced with support from eight Councilmembers and the Office of People’s Counsel.
“Solar energy is becoming a critical part of the District’s energy supply,” said Silverman. “As more solar panels are installed in the District, residents are gaining protection against rate spikes when oil and gas prices fluctuate and reducing the amount of carbon produced in the District.”
Today, At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman introduced legislation focused on increasing unemployment benefits in the District and expanding unemployment support to part-time workers. The bill was co-introduced or co-sponsored by ten Councilmembers.
Unemployment insurance (UI) is one of the most important safety net programs for workers and benefits 30,000 District workers each year. Similar to social security, UI is considered an “earned benefit,” a benefit only available to individuals with a history of working.
Like many of you, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can make the District a safe city in every neighborhood, in every ward. I want to thank you for writing to me with your concerns and ideas on how to improve public safety. I’ve seen some of you at community meetings focused on this issue; thank you for your time and input. It is so important for me and my colleagues to hear from you. The recent uptick in crime, particularly homicides and armed robberies in specific areas of the city, has been upsetting and unnerving. I want to let you know that there is a sense of urgency at the Wilson Building on this matter, and I am committed to making sure we use evidence-based policies to approach this important issue in a way that truly protects all residents.
I am very pleased with the Public Service Commission’s decision today. The Pepco-Exelon merger was clearly not in the public interest, and the Commission’s decision recognizes this fact. Had this merger gone into effect, it would have almost certainly resulted in higher rates in the future, less public accountability, and slower progress towards clean and renewable energy. That is why more than half of the District’s elected advisory neighborhood commissions took action to reject the merger, and thousands of District residents testified before the Commission or wrote in opposing the merger. Today, the Commission listened to those voices in rejecting the merger.
Last week we made more progress on our efforts to expand the District's supply of affordable housing. At Tuesday's legislative meeting, a resolution I championed that will strengthen our efforts to build permanent affordable housing in all wards of the city was unanimously approved by my colleagues. The resolution sends a strong message that we need to amp up a housing program known as Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) so that middle-income residents--teachers, administrative assistants, nurses, and chefs, for example--can live in neighborhoods with access to good transit, schools, and retail that they otherwise couldn't afford.
Last Wednesday was an eventful day in the District!
As many of you know, the D.C. Council gave preliminary approval to a budget for next year that puts meaningful and significant investments into our priorities: making the District a city that is affordable to all ages and income levels; ending chronic and family homeless by moving those without shelter quickly into stable, permanent housing with appropriate supportive services; improving our public education system by having additional funds go directly into the schools of our most at-risk students; moving thoughtfully forward with body-worn cameras for officers to create better communication and transparency in public safety; and creating opportunities by piloting innovative approaches to adult job training, entrepreneurship, and community development.
Today, my colleagues approved an amendment I put forward to the Summer Youth Employment Program. This is one of our largest employment programs, and it employs thousands of teenagers every summer. My amendment requires the Department of Employment Services (DOES) to produce, and publish, basic information on program participants, most importantly on their employment following the end of the program. Additionally, it encourages DOES to work with the Council to create a more rigorous evaluation of the summer youth program for next year.
On several occasions--including yesterday when I absentmindedly barreled into her leadership team coming off the elevator--Mayor Muriel Bowser has said that we are the "new kids on the block." Yet the Mayor certainly proved herself to be a poised and forceful advocate for the District when faced with Congressional meddling into the implementation of Initiative 71 last week. I applaud and stand with the mayor on this; I believe the will of District voters should be upheld. If you have questions about the implementation of Initiative 71, here is information.