Newsletter: Legislative Updates, New COVID-19 Resources, and Virtual Town Hall Opportunities

Dear Resident,

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 PUA@dc.gov 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.
Elissa.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

On Tuesday, we held our second-ever virtual legislative meeting of the DC Council. The agenda was relatively light, but the Council made some important changes to increase transparency in our recovery efforts. Key measures in the COVID-19 Supplemental Corrections Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 include:

  • Clarification that landlords who receive a mortgage deferral under the previous Council relief bill must pass on a proportionate amount of their deferral savings on to affected tenants.
  • A requirement that landlords who get a mortgage break must notify tenants within five days of receiving deferral approval. 
  • Expansion of the current prohibition against rent increases to commercial properties.
  • Expansion of the provision allowing restaurants, bars, and cafes to deliver food with beer, wine, or liquor for takeout or delivery to also include nightclubs.

I’m working with my colleagues and the District government to make sure the mortgage deferral process is clear and easy to understand for renters and landlords. Stay tuned for additional details. Find the full text of this week’s emergency bill here.


OFFICE UPDATES

List of email addresses for CM Silverman's office

Even in the midst of COVID-19, I have good news to share from my office: I’ve added three fantastic additions! I recently welcomed to the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development Emily Price as my Senior Policy Advisor, and Richard Grant as my Legislative Analyst. And you will notice some shiny new changes to my newsletter, website, and social media thanks to my new Communications Director, Reana Kovalcik! Emily, Richard, and Reana’s past experiences span local nonprofits and other branches of District government, and I am excited for you to meet them all once this public health emergency ends!

 

 

 

 

 


VIRTUAL TOWN HALLS

Even though we can’t come together in person, I’ve been able to meet with many community members and organizations virtually through Facebook Live and live-streamed town halls. Most of our virtual town halls have focused on labor issues such as UI and other assistance programs for workers and small businesses. Want me to come speak at your community meeting or event? Email us!

Upcoming town halls and recent recordings: 

  • Facebook Live Town Hall with Ward 3 Democrats
    • April 23, 7:00pm
    • Discussing how the District is managing the public health emergency and answering questions from the community about available resources. 
    • Participate live via: facebook.com/Ward3Democrats/
  • Tele Town Hall with AARP
    • April 30, 10:00am-11:30am
    • Discussing the Council’s work on unemployment insurance and other resources, particularly for seniors.
    • Keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook pages for details.
  • Virtual Town Hall with DC Hospitality Coalition (DCHC)
    • Click here for a recording of our virtual town hall with DCHC discussing UI and other cash-assistance programs for those in the hospitality industry.

2020 CENSUS AND ELECTION

Get counted, DC! You have two important opportunities to be counted this year: the 2020 Census and our 2020 elections. Luckily, it’s incredibly easy (and quick) to fill out your census and register for an absentee ballot. I filled out my Census earlier this week, and it took five minutes!

  • Fill out your 2020 Census here
  • Register to vote, request an absentee ballot, or change your voting registration here

SUPPORTING UNDOCUMENTED COMMUNITY MEMBERS

As many of you know, I fought hard for the inclusion of resources for undocumented District residents in the Council’s April 7, 2020 emergency legislation. Unfortunately, my proposal giving Mayor Bowser the authority to provide cash assistance to DC residents restricted from unemployment insurance was removed from the final legislation. Just two days after the Council’s emergency legislation passed, however, we got great news that Events DC (the District’s quasi-governmental body that manages our Convention Center entertainment venues) will be providing the District with an $18 million relief package. The package includes $5 million targeted to support undocumented residents. This is a good start, and I will continue working with my colleagues to identify additional ways we can provide support to our most vulnerable communities.


UPDATED COVID-19 RESOURCES

The latest COVID-19 updates can be found at coronavirus.gov.

The latest unemployment insurance resources can be found at elissasilverman.com/coronavirus 

Domestic Violence:

Food Access:

  • For homebound individuals who need help accessing groceries or other essential services, call (888) 349-8323 or access the Get Help DC online portal.
  • DCPS free grocery pick up (first come first served) offered via meal sites. Click “Meal Sites for All DC Students” to see which sites are offering grocery service.
  • Coronavirus.dc.gov/farmersmarkets lists markets with approved waivers to operate each week. 
  • Food waste drop off sites are listed via DC’s Zero Waste website

Healthcare:

  • DC Health Link has made some updates to assist policy holders during the coronavirus crisis: 
    • No termination of coverage for non-payment of premium during the health crisis (non-termination policy is automatically applied)
    • No late payments notices during the public health emergency
    • Premium payments can be deferred up to 60-days. 

Housing:

  • Landlords must pass on savings from mortgage deferrals to tenants financially impacted by the coronavirus, and must now notify tenants of any approved deferrals within 5 days. 
  • Quick Reference Guide from the Housing Committee
  • Quick Reference Guide from the Office of the Tenant Advocate

Roads, Parks, Sidewalks:

  • Road and park closures (for vehicles) have been expanded to include Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park and roads in Fort Dupont and Anacostia Park.
  • Sidewalks near grocery stores and other essential retailers will be temporarily expanded in all wards to allow pedestrians enough space to practice social distancing.
  • Residents can send suggestions for sidewalks to expand to their Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners or Business Improvement District staff. Learn more here

Taxes:

  • There is a new online tool available to help those who don’t usually file a tax return quickly register for the $1,200 Economic Impact Payment from the IRS. 
  • A full list of tax resources from the IRS is available here.

Unemployment Insurance: 

  • Applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) will now open on April 24.
  • Shared Work Unemployment Insurance Program applications are now open! This can be a great alternative to reducing payroll while avoiding layoffs. 
  • Please do not include your social security number or any attachments when reaching out to the covid19.ui@dc.gov email address. Not only is this a privacy risk for you, it may also cause the system to flag your email as spam, resulting in non-delivery. 
  • The most recently updated UI Quick Fact Sheet is available here.
  • http://www.elissasilverman.com/coronavirus_updates