Councilmember Silverman Introduces Legislation Supporting Small Businesses, Seniors, and Spending Transparency

D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) today introduced three bills to help make the District more accessible, affordable, and transparent by proposing a Small Business Advisory Council, a housing subsidy for severely rent-burdened seniors and disabled residents, and a searchable public grants database that tracks District spending.

Councilmember Silverman introduced the Small Business Advisory Council Act of 2017 to provide a forum for businesses to advise the D.C. Council on ways to improve the city’s regulatory processes and address systemic issues with District agencies. The Advisory Council would include one small business community member nominated by each Council member, in addition to a representative from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, the Office of Tax and Revenue, the Department of Employment Services, and the Department of Small and Local Business Development. It is modeled after the successful pedestrian and bicycle advisory councils.

The legislation was co-introduced by Councilmembers Robert White (D-At Large), Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4), and Charles Allen (D-Ward 6). Councilmembers David Grosso (I-At Large) and Trayon White (D-Ward 8) were co-sponsors.

“Better supporting small businesses means being better listeners and troubleshooters. A Small Business Advisory Council helps us do that,” Silverman said.

Councilmember Silverman also introduced the Senior Tenants and Residents with Disabilities Rental Assistance Program Amendment Act of 2017 to provide up to $500 per month to elderly residents and residents with disabilities who are currently on the D.C. Housing Authority’s housing waiting lists. Among other factors, qualifying District households would include at least one person 62 years or older or one person who has a disability, with either being at or below 80% of the Area Median Income. 

“Our elderly and disabled residents are often most at-risk of losing their homes with the rapid rise in cost of living every year—many of whom have lived in rent-controlled buildings for years,” said Silverman. “A small helping hand with living costs increases the chance that these residents can stay in their homes while reducing the likelihood that they’ll need other more expensive District services in the future.”

Established as an amendment to the Tenant Assistance Program created under the Rental Housing Act of 1985, the legislation was co-introduced by Councilmembers Anita Bonds (D-At Large), David Grosso (I-At Large), Robert White (D-At Large), Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4), and Trayon White (D-Ward 8).

Finally, Councilmember Silverman introduced legislation to create a public database detailing the $800 million in grants awarded annually by the District. The database, established by the Grants Transparency Amendment Act of 2017 and housed within the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, would allow residents to search grants across fiscal years and access information about the grant amount, recipient, length of award, awarding agency, and purpose. The bill also leaves room to later include other types of information about spending, such as contracts, tax incentives, and subsidies.

Co-introducers included Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), and Charles Allen (D-Ward 6). Councilmember Anita Bonds (D-At Large) offered support as a co-sponsor.

“Being more transparent about District expenditures builds public trust and, as we’ve seen in other jurisdictions, ultimately helps save money,” said Silverman. “Getting information about how we spend public dollars should be simple for residents and government employees alike.”