Newsletter: Vote! Testify on DC’s Budget! Read the ReOpen DC Recommendations!

Dear Resident,

I want to highlight at the very top three very important events that have a major impact on the future of our city: Election Day, Budget Season, and the release of Mayor Bowser’s Re-Open Recommendations!

First, Election Day! Are you a registered voter affiliated with a political party in DC, such as a registered Democrat? Then you should vote in the June 2 primary! Let me anticipate your next question: Aren’t we still under the Mayor’s stay at home order? That’s why DC has shifted largely to a vote-by-absentee-ballot election! The DC Board of Elections is encouraging DC voters to vote by mail, though 20 vote centers will be open on Election Day, June 2. This is a large decline from the 144 voting precincts usually open on Election Day.

How do you vote by mail? You need to request your absentee ballot by Tuesday, May 26. That is only five days away. Here’s how you can request your absentee ballot:

  1. Download the Vote4DC App
  2. Call (202) 741-5283 to have your mail-in ballot request mailed to you
  3. Download the mail-in ballot form and email the completed form to dcabsentee@dcboe.org
  4. Download the mail-in ballot form and fax the completed form to (202) 347-2648
  5. Download the mail-in ballot form, print, and send the completed form to: DC Board of Elections 1015 Half Street, SE, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20003

The list of voting centers open on Election Day is here.

Second: It’s not just election season, it is also budget season! On Monday, Mayor Bowser delivered her proposed fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget and Tuesday she answered questions about it before the DC Council. Certainly this is a different budget than we thought we’d be looking at only a few months ago. Due to declines in sales and income tax receipts, the Mayor needed to cut $476 million from the current year’s budget (FY 2020) and $578 million from next year’s budget (FY 2021). I share more thoughts on the budget below.

Finally, this morning the Mayor previewed her ReOpen DC committee recommendations. You can read these recommendations here. I’m just absorbing them myself, so we’ll spend more time on this in next week’s newsletter, but I wanted to make sure you had access to them.

I know this is an anxious and stressful time for everyone. I hope you are all finding safe ways to enjoy the spring weather and taking the time to unwind when you can. Stay well and continue to stay home if you can, DC. We will get through this, and if we do it in a smart and strategic way, I think we will be a stronger and more equitable city coming out of it. 

Please feel free to call or email my office any time with questions or concerns. 

Elissa.


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CONSTITUENT Q&A 

Q: I applied for unemployment insurance and/or pandemic unemployment assistance and I see that my benefits were put on a US Bank Debit card. I never received the debit card. What do I do?

A: We encourage everyone to sign up for direct deposit if you can. You can do that through your claimant portal. Here’s the phone number you can call if you need to replace and receive for the first time your US Bank debit card: 855-696-3729.


BUDGET

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This week kicks off two months of FY 2021 budget deliberations. Now more than ever, I hope you’ll be engaged in the budget process: How we spend your taxpayer dollars is critical to a successful recovery and making DC a more equitable city. Each Council committee has a slightly different public engagement process, but all will take comments from the public in one form or another. Please let your voice be heard.

Mayor Bowser delivered her proposal via a presentation to the press on Monday and then answered questions in a budget hearing with the Council on Tuesday. The budget comes in two parts: the appropriations and then accompanying legislation to enact it. With coronavirus and DC’s stay at home order lowering expected tax revenues, the Mayor also submitted significant changes to the current year’s budget, known as the FY 2020 supplemental. The details of the Mayor’s proposed FY 2021 budget, and the proposed revisions for the current year budget, can be found online here

As Chair of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee, I remain focused on how we safeguard the public’s health and move toward recovery from this incredible health and economic crisis. COVID-19 has exposed many inequities in our economy, including how those who are paid some of the lowest wages in our city are some of the most essential to keep it going. My budget priorities will be largely the same as in the past: Making sure that we are optimizing your taxpayer dollars to narrow the opportunity gap in our city and build a robust economy for all. In my committee, I will be focused on how we create and maintain career pipelines for our residents into our largest industry sectors, such as health care and IT. I also will be working with restaurant and hotel operators to implement strategies for preserving businesses and jobs. Outside of my committee, my priorities are again the same: Investing in affordable housing, education, and public safety.

If you missed the hearing live, you can watch the recording of the Council’s budget briefing with the Mayor here.

Upcoming Budget Hearings

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As a reminder, my Committee on Labor and Workforce Development will be hearing from public witnesses on Thursday, May 28. If you have thoughts on unemployment assistance, the Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program, enforcement of our wage and hour laws, and how we leverage our taxpayer dollars to recover from COVID-19, please sign up! Testimony will be taken live (limited time will be available), via voice message, and by email. If you want to testify on any of the agencies in the committee’s jurisdiction, you have one week left to sign up by emailing labor@dccouncil.us. A full list of hearings and FY 2021 Budget events can be found online here.


CORONAVIRUS EMERGENCY LEGISLATION

The Council unanimously passed the latest version of our “Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2020” on Tuesday. This bill consolidates four previous emergency acts adopted by the Council since March 17, 2020, adds a number of new provisions, and makes updates to several previously adopted provisions.

Notable updates include:

  • Language significantly strengthening the Shared Work program, which will help workers keep their jobs and help businesses reopen successfully when the time comes.
  • A provision extending rental payment plans to tenants, including those who live in smaller apartment buildings (less than five units) and single-family homes.
  • The creation of utility payment plan options for residents affected by the public health crisis.

TESTING Screen_Shot_2020-05-18_at_9.56.39_AM.png

Testing continues throughout the District and is available at four public sites: United Medical Center in Ward 8, University of the District of Columbia’s Bertie Backus Campus in Ward 5, Howard University Hospital in Ward 1, and Bread for the City).

Testing is also available at nine private sites, and two member specific sites. For additional information on testing and locations, click here

 


SMALL BUSINESS RESOURCES

Wards 7 and 8 Small Business Microgrant Program

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The Wards 7 and 8 Small Business Microgrant Program is an extension of the DC Small Business Recovery Microgrant Program. This expansion program opened on Wednesday, May 20 for applications, and closes on Friday, May 29. Grants of up to $10,000 are available, and only businesses who did not receive funding through the DC Small Business Recovery Microgrant Program are eligible. Stay tuned to coronavirus.dc.gov for updates. Click here for more info and to apply.

Educational / Academic Retail Shops (EARS) Pilot

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Last week, Mayor Bowser announced a pilot program to allow certain educational retail stores to open for curbside and front door pickup. Shortly after the program launched, it was also expanded to include card shops, florists and sundries. Interest in this program has been strong, and there are already 12 shops across the District that have been able to reopen via the pilot! 

Visit https://coronavirus.dc.gov/ears to see the list of approved locations and for more information on how to apply.


EMERGENCY FUNDING FOR WATER BILLS DURING COVID-19

Funds are now available to provide emergency relief to residents struggling to pay their DC water bills during the coronavirus public health emergency. Assistance is available throughout the emergency and for up to 105 days after the emergency is formally ended by the Mayor. Funds will be applied to help pay all or part of an outstanding water bill balance and for ongoing monthly Clean Rivers Impervious Area Charge (CRIAC) discounts. The Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) will review and approve requests and DC Water will apply those credits to customer’s water bills.

To apply, submit copies of the following to DOEE:

  • Recent DC Water bill
  • Recent proof of income or proof of termination or unemployment
  • Government-issued, photo identification
  • Complete and signed CRIAC Residential Relief Application: https://doee.dc.gov/service/criac

RESOURCE ROUNDUP

With the constant stream of news and updates during the coronavirus pandemic, I know it can be hard to keep track of which resources are available for which issues. Here’s a quick roundup of some of the most recent coronavirus resources and program updates from our office: