Usually at this time of year, my colleagues and I are in the thick of budget season, figuring out how to leverage your taxpayer dollars to meet our goals of creating a prosperous, equitable city.
This year is different.
And because of the pandemic, the budget process will be different too. A week from today, on May 12, Mayor Bowser will transmit her budget for fiscal year 2021. In order to keep everyone safe and healthy, the Council’s committees will only be taking testimony virtually, and there will be limited time for live comments (though all written and voicemail testimony will be included). Read more about this year’s budget process below.
We are also looking ahead to when we can reopen businesses as we continue to safeguard the public’s health. You might have read Mayor Bowser launched a plan last week – ReOpen DC – as well as named committee members from our city to help lead that process. What we know right now is that our current public health protocols will be extended at least through May, and that the District will only begin reopening after the established public health criteria have been met.
I am continuing to connect with residents and share Unemployment Insurance (UI) updates and other information on COVID-19 resources through virtual town halls. My next events will be:
- Wednesday, May 6 at 7pm, The Ask Rayceen Show, discussing how to stay safe and strong through the public health crisis. Tune in on Facebook here.
- Thursday, May 7 at 6pm, Freelancers Happy Hour! Focusing on support for freelancers and gig workers through the unemployment extension program: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Grab a drink and tune in on our Facebook page.
Interested in hosting a virtual town hall with our office? Email my Deputy Chief of Staff Ashley Fox at: [email protected]. I will also be getting more regular info out to you by moving my newsletter from bi-monthly to weekly, so look out for more updates next week!
Stay well and stay strong DC. I know many of you are hurting and struggling right now. We will get through this, and if we do it strategically, we will be a stronger and more equitable city because of it.
Groundhog Day, that 1993 Bill Murray classic, used to be one of my favorite movies. Now I feel I am living it, and the consequences are much higher than determining if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow and Murray’s beleaguered weatherman ends up with Andie McDowell.
These days and weeks have been hard. They are hard for parents, many of whom are homeschooling their children while also working. They are hard for our seniors and immune-compromised, who are most vulnerable to the virus and often isolated from family and friends. They are hard for the 70,000+ workers in our city, who have lost employment and filed for unemployment.
As Chair of the Council’s Labor and Workforce Committee, I have been focused on how to help our District's workers. My staff and I are (tele)working hard to help those who are having difficulty getting unemployment insurance (UI) and also working on policies that will make wage replacement more accessible, keep all households in the District stable, and position us for economic recovery. I know some of you are frustrated with the unemployment office. It is frustrating. As I mentioned, more than 70,000 workers have filed for UI in the last five weeks, which is twice the number that usually apply ALL YEAR. The Department of Employment Services has gone from 9 call takers to nearly 200, including volunteers from other District agencies. I’m now one of those volunteers, though I admit Council business has limited my call time.
I’m continuing to work with my team to keep our COVID-19 resources updated with the latest info, which you can always find at elissasilverman.com/coronavirus. We have received some encouraging news on UI recently – applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for independent contractors, 1099 recipients, and gig workers will now open April 24 (tomorrow!) instead of April 28. Email [email protected] to ensure you are on the alerts list.
I hope each of you is staying safe and finding ways to support one another.
Stay well, and of course, please stay home if you can.
I know many of you, like me, are experiencing some struggles going into Week 4 of #StayHomeDC. I am having to make significant adjustments to my daily routine, and I know that those taking care of children or sharing confined spaces with family and friends are navigating a difficult new normal. Successfully reducing our health risk from COVID-19 is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. I want to thank every resident who is going to great lengths to stay home for your sacrifices to keep COVID-19 contained, and yourself and your community safe.
Many of you have written to me with questions about what support is available for you and your families. My staff and I have been working around-the-clock to get you updates and information – through my newsletters, a coronavirus-focused section of my website, and most recently through Facebook Live webinars explaining what resources are available and how to access them. I have also published a series of one-page infographics to help you quickly navigate what help you’re eligible for as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Click here to jump straight to our updated COVID-19 resources (*updated 4/9/2020!), which contains answers to the most common questions I’m receiving.
Thanks for reading, stay safe.
Silverman Statement on Removal of Legislative Language to Authorize Cash Assistance for DC Workers Restricted from Unemployment Insurance
Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), chair of the DC Council Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, issued the following statement on the removal of legislative language from an April 7 emergency bill that would authorize the Mayor to set up either individual or community grants for cash assistance to DC residents who are restricted from unemployment insurance:
STAY HOME, DC!
I know many of you have gotten that message loud and clear, and you are staying home. You are following the proper six-feet social distancing practices, washing hands thoroughly, and leaving your home only for outdoor walks and essential errands. Thank you! I recognize there are others of you who can’t stay home because you are essential workers in the public and private sector, such as our Department of Public Works and Unemployment Insurance claims workers, our health care providers, and our grocery store workers. Thank you!
This morning, the D.C. Council took emergency action to put immediate measures into place to assist District residents, workers, and businesses with the coronavirus public health emergency. Decisions that we have taken and will be taking as a government to slow down the virus impact every facet of our lives. The legislation the Council passed today was intended to address some of these critical needs, such as providing economic assistance to workers and businesses, preventing evictions and utility cut-offs, and extending deadlines, as well as giving the Mayor the authority she needs to act swiftly and decisively to manage our government and our city in the best way possible.
This morning, Mayor Bowser announced more proactive measures for D.C. government to help our community contain the spread of COVID-19, the novel strain of coronavirus. These are hard decisions, and I agree with the mayor’s actions. They are necessary to keep our city healthy.
D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) will close its buildings to students through March 31, move up its spring break to next week, and engage in distance learning during the second closure week. D.C. government will continue essential services like trash pickup, though some agencies whose employees can work remotely will move to telework. Recreation centers and D.C. public libraries will also be closed starting Monday through March 31. You can keep up with the latest news at coronavirus.dc.gov.
Silverman Responds to Second Audit Confirming Line Hotel Failed to Meet $46M Tax Abatement Requirements
Earlier this week, the Bowser administration released a second audit of employment at the Line Hotel development project which found the level of D.C. resident hiring did not meet the specified requirements for the project to receive a $46 million tax abatement. The second audit was requested by the hotel’s owner, the Sydell Group, after they disputed data in an initial audit by the Department of Employment Services (DOES) released in April 2019.
The second audit reached the same conclusion as the first: Sydell fell short of the legislated requirements in two of seven categories. All seven categories needed to be met, as outlined in legislation passed into law by the D.C. Council creating the Line Hotel’s abatement.
In celebration of Black History Month, I invite you to join me and my staff for a free screening of HARRIET on Sunday, February 23, at 2:00pm at the Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Neighborhood Library (1630 7th St. NW)!
Special thanks to Pat Joseph and Charnisa Royster on my staff, along with D.C. Public Library, who have organized the screening of this film based on the inspirational life of Harriet Tubman. The movie follows Tubman’s escape from slavery and road to becoming one of our country’s most revered freedom fighters and icons of courage. If you’re still undecided, we’ll even have popcorn and light refreshments thanks to Naval Lodge No. 4! Additional details about Sunday's screening are here.