Latest News

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 dcpaidfamilyleave.dc.gov. 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.”

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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.”


Highlights of the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development’s Report for the FY 2021 Budget include...
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Celebrating Juneteenth, Preparing for Phase 2 Reopening

Dear Resident,

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]


 


Important Information on Protests and Voting Rights

Dear Resident,

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...


Letter to DCBOE Calling for Independent Audit

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


 


Letter to DCBOE on Missing 2020 Absentee Ballots

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


 


Important Information About Curfew and Absentee Ballots

Dear Resident,

Last night was chilling. It was downright frightening to hear and see the almost totalitarian words and actions of Trump, and then experience its impact, by sitting in our homes listening to the whirring of combat helicopters and watching combat vehicles encircling our city.

As a local elected official, I always think about what actions I can take and what impact I can have. We are the nation’s capital, and we need to be the model of safeguarding the First Amendment right to free speech and peaceful protest. Our Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has put in place many trainings, reforms, and lessons learned from Pershing Park and other protests, so I was also disturbed by reports in the press, in social media, and of on-the-ground phone calls I made to hear about actions taken by MPD in response to protesters who remained out after the curfew. 

Particularly, I am concerned about the tactics used at 15th and Swann Street NW and alleged reports of officers blocking alleyways to prevent exit.

The murder of George Floyd is angering, particularly for Black and Latino residents who worry daily they could be put in a similar circumstance because of the color of their skin. The very real issue of police brutality and excessive use of force targeting people of color in our country is cancerous, and protests like the ones we are seeing in our city and others is part of the solution in moving toward justice and healing. 

I am also very disturbed by the violent activity, including fires set, vandalism and looting that has taken place over the last few days. It is heartbreaking to see our city boarded up and many windows smashed and small businesses damaged. I understand that MPD wanted the curfew to be able to protect residents and isolate the violent actors.

Tonight, I and members of my staff will be joining the Office of Police Complaints observation team to document and do oversight over MPD’s response to the protests and curfew. It’s not usually how I would spend an Election Night, but I think this is incredibly important to our city and our democracy.

That’s my awkward segue to Election Day: This is It! Today is the day. If you have an absentee ballot, you need to have it postmarked by today or drop it off at one of DC’s 20 Voting Centers. Voting Centers are open till 8pm tonight.

Many of you requested a ballot, but it never came in the mail. If that is the case, please email [email protected] and cc: me at [email protected]. If DC Board of Elections received your request but you never got your ballot, the Board is giving voters in this case the option of having a ballot emailed to them. More information below.

Finally, I know many of you disagree with the two-day curfew Mayor Bowser ordered, which is again in place from 7pm tonight until 6am tomorrow. I expressed my concerns to the administration that this is confusing for voters, given the polls remain open until 8pm, but the Mayor is not moving the time. If you need to vote between 7pm and 8pm, that is considered an essential activity. Please talk to my office if you have concerns.

More information below on the curfew and voting.

Stay safe, DC.

Elissa.


Phase 1 of #ReOpenDC Begins This Friday

Dear Resident,

Yesterday, Mayor Bowser announced that she issued a mayoral order to begin Phase 1 of #ReOpenDC tomorrow, May 29. 

What does this mean? Some nonessential businesses such as barbers and hair salons can serve customers by appointment only, and restaurants will be allowed to serve diners in a limited capacity in outdoor seating only. As well, residents will be able to use our public parks and some other public amenities. Gatherings of under 10 people are now permissible, so if you feel comfortable you can host non-household family and friends for a dinner party or gathering in your home. You can get more specifics by reading the reopening order.

While we need to start moving into recovery and resumption of economic activity, I remain concerned about the public health threat to our city. We have experienced 453 deaths of DC residents from coronavirus, and COVID-19 remains in our community. These are difficult decisions, and we need to make sure they are rooted in the best known practices of public health and accurate data. Like some of you, I have struggled to understand both the selection and calculation of the administration’s metrics governing how and when to reopen.  

I want to make a few reminders. Even though we will enter Phase 2 of reopening, social distancing is still extremely important. Although masks are only required in certain public settings such as supermarkets and public transportation, I strongly urge you to wear a mask when you are outside your home. And please continue to practice good hygiene by washing your hands and staying home if you feel sick. If you think you might have contracted COVID-19, please get tested and information on how to do that is below.

We continue to be in a public health emergency, but life does go on! Here are a few big-ticket ways you can participate and make our city a better place: 

  1. Vote! The deadline to request your absentee ballot has passed, but you can still vote safely by voting early at any of the District’s 20 Voting Centers! And if you did request and receive an absentee ballot, remember to mail it in by June 2! Please let me know if you requested a ballot and never received one.
  2. Participate in Discussions on Next Year’s Budget! Budget hearings are continuing, including for my Committee on Labor & Workforce Development! Scroll down to our budget section for more details, or click here for a full schedule of hearings. 
  3. Get involved with #ReOpenDC! The #ReOpenDC Committee released their first set of recommendations last week, but this process is still ongoing! Please reach out to my office, to other Council member offices, and to the mayor to share any thoughts or recommendations you have about how we can reopen safely and equitably.

Yesterday I asked the Bowser administration how we will determine whether to move to Phase 1. I was told those metrics are yet to be decided. Bottom line is that we need to safeguard the public’s health and protect our workers and residents.  If you have questions, thoughts, or recommendations regarding our reopening, please feel free to contact my office any time.

Stay safe and stay well, DC.

Elissa.


Newsletter: Vote! Testify on DC’s Budget! Read the ReOpen DC Recommendations!

Dear Resident,

I want to highlight at the very top three very important events that have a major impact on the future of our city: Election Day, Budget Season, and the release of Mayor Bowser’s Re-Open Recommendations!

First, Election Day! Are you a registered voter affiliated with a political party in DC, such as a registered Democrat? Then you should vote in the June 2 primary! Let me anticipate your next question: Aren’t we still under the Mayor’s stay at home order? That’s why DC has shifted largely to a vote-by-absentee-ballot election! The DC Board of Elections is encouraging DC voters to vote by mail, though 20 vote centers will be open on Election Day, June 2. This is a large decline from the 144 voting precincts usually open on Election Day.

How do you vote by mail? You need to request your absentee ballot by Tuesday, May 26. That is only five days away. Here’s how you can request your absentee ballot:

  1. Download the Vote4DC App
  2. Call (202) 741-5283 to have your mail-in ballot request mailed to you
  3. Download the mail-in ballot form and email the completed form to [email protected]
  4. Download the mail-in ballot form and fax the completed form to (202) 347-2648
  5. Download the mail-in ballot form, print, and send the completed form to: DC Board of Elections 1015 Half Street, SE, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20003

The list of voting centers open on Election Day is here.

Second: It’s not just election season, it is also budget season! On Monday, Mayor Bowser delivered her proposed fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget and Tuesday she answered questions about it before the DC Council. Certainly this is a different budget than we thought we’d be looking at only a few months ago. Due to declines in sales and income tax receipts, the Mayor needed to cut $476 million from the current year’s budget (FY 2020) and $578 million from next year’s budget (FY 2021). I share more thoughts on the budget below.

Finally, this morning the Mayor previewed her ReOpen DC committee recommendations. You can read these recommendations here. I’m just absorbing them myself, so we’ll spend more time on this in next week’s newsletter, but I wanted to make sure you had access to them.

I know this is an anxious and stressful time for everyone. I hope you are all finding safe ways to enjoy the spring weather and taking the time to unwind when you can. Stay well and continue to stay home if you can, DC. We will get through this, and if we do it in a smart and strategic way, I think we will be a stronger and more equitable city coming out of it. 

Please feel free to call or email my office any time with questions or concerns. 

Elissa.


Newsletter: Next Week Will Be a Big One

Dear Resident,

This is hard.

It’s hard to keep this Groundhog Day pace, and it’s so hard to keep up with all the news around COVID-19. And it just got harder, as Mayor Bowser, Governor Hogan of Maryland, and Governor Northam of Virginia all made different pronouncements this week about starting to relax restrictions and move toward reopening.

I want to highlight what Mayor Bowser announced yesterday: The District’s stay-at-home order will extend another three weeks, until June 8. So we are asking you to continue to stay home if you can, and travel only for essential activities such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy. It is vital toward our efforts to slow down transmission of the virus. The Mayor also announced a more comprehensive mask-wearing policy: Everyone nine years of age and older in the District needs to wear a mask in public if they cannot consistently maintain six feet of social distance. You can read the Mayor’s order here.

So what did the mayor say about her budget? The big news here is that the budget proposal has been postponed until Monday, May 18. This means that many of the DC Council’s budget hearings have been rescheduled. Details on my Committee on Labor & Workforce Development’s hearings and how to testify, as well as other key dates and committee information, are included in the budget section of the newsletter, so keep reading! 

A final thought: Next week will be a big news week. At the beginning of the week, the Mayor’s budget is expected to be released, which will include both next year’s budget and revisions to this year’s budget. Then toward the end of the week, the Mayor’s COVID-19 ReOpen DC Committee will release its recommendations. I have many questions about this, as will many of you, I am sure. Stay tuned.

Feel free to email or call with questions.

Stay well, stay safe, and for the next three weeks, continue to stay home!

Best wishes,

Elissa.