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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Councilmember Elissa Silverman Introduces Emergency Bill to Provide Important COVID-19 Protections for Businesses and Workers
WASHINGTON, DC, July 23, 2020 – Today, 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.”
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 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 dcpaidfamilyleave.dc.gov went live. Check out the site to learn more and/or apply. You can also call 202.899.3700 or email email@example.com 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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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.
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.”
Press Release: Labor and Workforce Development Committee Renews Commitment to Economic Equity in FY 2021 Budget Report
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 24, 2020 – Today, the D.C. Council’s Committee on Labor and Workforce Development unanimously approved recommendations for the fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget put forth by Committee Chair Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large). The recommendations prioritize investing in high-demand industry training in healthcare, IT, and infrastructure; modernizing DC’s unemployment insurance system; creating employment opportunities for DC youth during the school year; and making sure a level playing field is enforced so DC workers get paid fairly. In total, the Committee recommends an increase of $1.5 million to the Department of Employment Services (DOES) budget from Mayor Bowser’s proposal to help DC recover from the economic crisis that has resulted from the coronavirus pandemic and take on the challenge of truly addressing income inequality and racial inequity in the District of Columbia.
“With these recommendations, we are demonstrating our commitment to continue addressing racial injustice by making sure that our residents, particularly Black and Latino residents, benefit from their taxpayer dollars paid to the District government,” Silverman said. “Given the economic and racial inequities that many Black and Latino residents face, those communities will likely have a harder time recovering from the pandemic. We need to put the money and political will in place to help these households regain financial footing and to invest in the programs and capital infrastructure to move toward a more equitable and just city.”
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Today is Juneteenth, the commemoration of the day (June 19, 1865) Black slaves in Texas learned of their freedom. For many, it is a day to celebrate freedom, the African-American community, and Black culture. This year, given the galvanizing work of Black Lives Matter, global protests over the murder of George Floyd, and the spotlight on unjust policing of Black Americans, there is a heightened awareness of Juneteenth. There are many celebrations/protests happening around the city today. Here’s a good list from Washingtonian magazine... [Click to continue reading]
It’s Saturday, and I usually don’t bug you on the weekend, but there are three urgent items that I feel are so important that I wanted to communicate with you today: the protests condemning police brutality around the country, and, specifically in our city; the militarization of DC streets by Trump and DC government’s efforts to resist; and, finally, the absentee ballot debacle and investigation into what happened on Election Day...
On June 3, 2020, At-large Councilmember Elissa Silverman sent the following letter to the DC Board of Elections (BOE) calling for the Board to contract with an outside firm to do a full audit of the primary to determine why absentee ballots were not processed and identify other widespread failures that might have occurred. The letter is posted in full below and can also be found in PDF form here.
On June 2, 2020, At-large Councilmember Elissa Silverman sent the following letter to the DC Board of Elections (BOE) regarding hundreds of voters missing their requested absentee ballots. The letter demands answers as to why so many voters who requested absentee ballots never received them. The letter is posted in full below and can also be found in PDF form here.