Government Testimony on DC’s Unemployment Insurance System Rescheduled for September 30, 2020
D.C. Council’s Labor Committee announces monthly roundtables on unemployment through end of year
WASHINGTON, D.C., September 15, 2020 – At the request of the D.C. Department of Employment Services (DOES), the D.C. Council’s Committee on Labor and Workforce Development has agreed to reschedule the government’s appearance to deliver testimony and answer questions on the District’s unemployment insurance programs to Wednesday, September 30 at 3 p.m. Dr. Unique Morris-Hughes, Director of the Department of Employment Services, had been scheduled to testify at tomorrow’s (Wednesday, September 16) oversight hearing.
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.
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.
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 DCPSreopenstrong.com 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.
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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On Wednesday, September 16, 2020, Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large), Chair of the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development will hold a Public Oversight Hearing on on the District’s unemployment compensation program during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Hearing will air on the DC Council's Live Stream channel and TV Channel 13.
Those who wish to testify live must email the Committee at [email protected] by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, September 14, 2020.
If you are unable to testify live, written and voicemail statements will be made a part of the official record. Statements should be submitted by email to [email protected] or by calling (202) 455-0153 by 5:00 p.m. on October 7, 2020 (this date has been extended from the original deadline of September 30).
A complete hearing announcement along with instructions for submitting live testimony, as well as written or phone testimony, can be found here and below.
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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On Tuesday, July 28, 2020, the Council passed the Protecting Businesses and Workers from COVID-19 Emergency Amendment Act of 2020. This bill was introduced on July 23, 2020 by Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large) and is the first piece of legislation in which the Council has acted to protect workers during the coronavirus public health emergency. On September 22, 2020 the bill was passed by the Council and has been sent to the Mayor for her final signature.
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.”