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.


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CONSTITUENT Q&A 

Q. I finally started getting my Unemployment Insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits, but I don’t see back pay. Will I receive retroactive benefits?

A. Yes, your UI and PUA benefits will be retroactive to your COVID-related date of eligibility. For those receiving PUA, a priority has been placed on getting all eligible applicants into the system and receiving benefits. As I mentioned in last week’s question, right now that means that you will first receive the $179 minimum PUA payment and the additional $600 a week from the CARES Act, which goes through July. Getting everyone processed will take some time.

Once the agency hits a cruising altitude, so to speak, the Department of Employment Services will then adjust benefits to more accurately reflect earnings and assess back pay.


TESTING

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On Monday, the Mayor announced that DC Health and the Department of Forensic Sciences would begin working with health care providers to conduct a citywide seroprevalence survey, to test for COVID-19 antibodies. The survey will focus on high-risk individuals and will help the District to better understand exposure to and spread of the virus, as well as test for potential antibodies that would create resistance or immunity to the virus. My office will publish more on this testing as new information becomes available. 

Testing continues throughout the District at both public and private sites. Check the District’s coronavirus testing page for full details and requirements of each testing site here.


BUDGET 

The Mayor’s budget will now be delivered to the Council on Monday, May 18 (instead of this week), which means the Council’s budget hearings are also pushed back. Budget hearings will now start on May 19 with the Committee of the Whole, and the Council’s first budget vote is scheduled for July 7.

Here are some important hearing dates you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • Labor and Workforce Development:
    • Public Witness Hearing for all agencies: May 28, 9:00am-12:00pm
    • Government Witness Hearing, Department of Employment Services: June 4, 9:00am-12:00pm
  • Committee of the Whole
    • Public Briefing on the Mayor's Fiscal Year 2021 Proposed Budget and Financial Plan: May 19, 10:00am-6:00pm. This is an early opportunity to learn about what is in the budget and hear about the Mayor's budget priorities
    • Public Witness Hearing: June 17, 12:00pm-6:00pm and June 18, 9:00am-6:00pm. This is the final hearing on the entire FY 2021 budget; public witnesses can testify on any issue or agency. 
  • Education
    • Public Witness Hearing for all agencies: June 4, 12:00pm-3:00pm.
    • Government Witness Hearing, DC Public Schools:  June 11, 9:00am-3:00pm.
  • Housing & Neighborhood Revitalization
    • Public Witness Hearing, Department of Housing and Community Development: June 8, 9:00am-12:00pm. 
    • Government Witness Hearing, DC Housing Authority: June 8, 12:00pm-3:00pm; June 15; Department of Housing and Community Development: June 15, 3:00pm-6:00pm.
  • Judiciary & Public Safety
    • Government Witness Hearings, Metropolitan Police Department: June 1, 9:00am-12:00pm; Department of Corrections, Board of Elections, and Office of Campaign Finance: June 1, 12:00pm-3:00pm.

Hearings will be broadcast live on DC Council Channel 13 as well as streamed live online on the Council's website and on entertainment.dc.gov. A full timeline of hearings, important budget dates, and participation information can be found at: dccouncilbudget.com/

How to Testify: Committee on Labor & Workforce Development:

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Given the new, online format of this year’s budget hearings, not all Committees will be accepting live (virtual) testimony. Click here for a full schedule and details for each hearing. My committee, Labor and Workforce Development, will be accepting live testimony on all agencies under our jurisdiction during our May 28 hearing – though the number of witnesses we can take is very limited. I would encourage everyone interested in participating to also consider weighing in via email or by voicemail:

  • To testify live: Email labor@dccouncil.us with your name, email address, telephone number, organizational affiliation and job title (if any) by May 26 at 12:00pm. The Committee will then email instructions on how to participate live. 
  • Email: Written testimony should be sent to labor@dccouncil.us by June 8.
  • Voicemail: Call the Committee at 202-455-0153.  

Any testimony received over email or voicemail will be included as part of the official hearing record.


UNEMPLOYMENT RESOURCES

On the Unemployment Insurance (UI) front, I’ve continued to participate in Q&A and virtual Town Halls focused on helping residents find relief and navigate their unemployment benefits during this crisis.Screen_Shot_2020-05-14_at_1.38.45_PM.png Most recently, I was joined by many of my fellow Councilmembers on The Ask Rayceen Show. I also hosted a Facebook Live event with the Washington Area Community Investment Fund focused on unemployment benefits for 1099/gig workers and small business assistance programs. We had a lot of great questions asked and answered (one of which is our constituent question of the week!) on our Facebook Live event, so be sure to go back and watch the recording if you didn’t get a chance to catch us live.

As always, if you or your organization is interested in hosting a virtual town hall with my office, please email my Deputy Chief of Staff Ashley Fox at: afox@dccouncil.us.

DOES has also added several new resource FAQs to help guide you through the unemployment benefits process:


UPDATES FOR SMALL BUSINESSES & NONPROFITS

I have received numerous requests recently from residents who applied for the District’s Small Business Microgrant, but were awaiting additional information on how to proceed. Yesterday, I was given an update from the City Administrator that all applicants should have been notified of their status and next steps as of May 8. Depending on the situation, applicants received one of three types of notifications: conditional award, incomplete/need more information, or ineligible. Every conditional award letter should have instructions about the process for disbursement. If you received a notification that your application was incomplete, you are still eligible for an award, but will need to complete your documentation. Any applicants who haven’t received a notification about their status or have additional follow up questions should reach out to: dcbizgrant@dc.gov. 

Additionally, Mayor Bowser and Serve DC announced last week a Request for Proposals for grant funding to help nonprofits effectively recruit, retain, and engage volunteers amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The 2020 Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) will be awarded to District-based non-profits to directly support organizations with re-imagining and re-engaging their volunteers in light of the current public health emergency. Serve DC will distribute a total of $75,000 in sub-grant awards of up to $7,500 per grantee. The deadline for organizations to apply is May 29, 2020. To view the Request for Proposals and learn more, visit Serve DC.


SNAP ONLINE LAUNCHES IN DC

Yesterday, the District joined 15 other states and regions across the nation in expanding SNAP options for our residents to now include online purchases. Currently, the options for online shopping with SNAP EBT include Amazon, Amazon Fresh and Amazon Pantry.SNAP.jpeg There is also free shipping on eligible orders. You can click here to enter your EBT card and begin shopping. 

In the District, most of our SNAP users are residents with families that include children, and one in eight DC residents currently receives some form of food assistance. During the pandemic, many families may be choosing to stay away from grocery stores for health reasons, or may be having trouble finding the items they need in a safe manner. While SNAP online will not solve all our food access issues during the pandemic, this is at least one additional way that our families can access food during this difficult time. 

Visit DC Hunger Solutions for more information and a handy guide for applicants.


NEW HOUSING PROGRAM OPENS 

Last week, I shared with you that the District would be launching a new housing assistance program for residents struggling to continue paying their rent during the pandemic. Just last night, additional details were finally released and application instructions are now live! Here’s what you need to know:

Program info:

  • $1.5 million available for tenant-based rental assistance to low-income renters.
  • Rental assistance will allow tenants to remain current with monthly rent payments and can be used retroactively to pay April and May 2020 rent. 
  • Community-based nonprofit organizations will administer the program and work with renters.

Eligibility:

  • District residents who have resided in their unit since February 29, 2020.
  • Live in a rental property of 50 units or less – Limited Equity Cooperatives will be considered eligible.
  • Tenant needs to show they are behind on or unable to pay rent.
  • Tenant must earn 60% of the Median Family Income or below based on the COVID-19 Income & Rent Schedule.

How to Apply:

The Housing Counseling Services and Latino Economic Development Center will review applications, conduct income certification, and complete payment disbursement. You may contact either organization to express interest in applying and/or ask questions.

  • Housing Counseling Services: 202-667-7713
  • Latino Economic Development Center: 202-588-5102

Additional details, including what materials you will need to have ready for your application, can be found here.


COVID-19 UPDATES

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On Wednesday, the Mayor extended the District’s stay at home order to June 8, 2020. The Mayor underscored that the stay at home order may end sooner, but only if the District sees a sustained decline in positive coronavirus cases over two weeks. More details on coronavirus in the District can be found in the Mayor’s May 13 Situational Update.

The District continues to expand the type of data collected about the coronavirus and is regularly rolling out new, more useful ways of looking at the data. The most recent updates include a map of positive cases by neighborhood,Coronavirus_by_ward_graphic.png and an expansion of the daily reported hospital data to include total patients (COVID-19 and other) as well as hospital bed capacity. Currently, our acute care centers are operating at 71% of normal capacity, which means we still have plenty of beds available for any residents in crisis. 

This week, Councilmembers also received an in-person (socially distanced) tour of the Convention Center, which has been transformed into our coronavirus Alternate Care Site (photos and additional details can be found here). This site will only be opened if our hospitals begin approaching their total capacity, which includes their normal capacity plus their added surge capacity. The site will be used for patients who do not require a ventilator or ICU care. For full details on the new site, including capacity and services information, click here


All the District’s coronavirus data can be found online at: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/page/coronavirus-data.