DC Paid Family Leave Begins Today!

DC Paid Family Leave fully launches today! That’s right, DC workers will no longer have to choose between caring for a loved one or themselves and bringing home a paycheck...

Dear Resident,

DC Paid Family Leave fully launches today! That’s right, DC workers will no longer have to choose between caring for a loved one or themselves and bringing home a paycheck. Longtime readers of this newsletter are very familiar with the program: It will give up to eight weeks of paid parental leave, six weeks of paid family leave, and two weeks of paid personal medical leave to private sector workers in DC (federal workers and DC government workers have separate benefit programs).

This morning, the application portal at dcpaidfamilyleave.dc.gov went live. Check out the site to learn more and/or apply. You can also call 202.899.3700 or email does.opfl@dc.gov with specific questions. You can find my statement celebrating the program launch on my website. But that’s not all that’s happening!

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Today is also the day when DC’s minimum wage increases to $15 an hour, and the DC tipped minimum wage increases to $5 an hour. As the Washington Nationals might say, Fight for $15: Fight Finished! Of course, this comes at an incredibly challenging economic time when many of DC’s businesses remain shuttered or are operating at low capacity, and many workers are collecting unemployment assistance. Yet these jobs are absolutely essential to our economy and our well-being, and many of the workers who receive minimum wage have been on the front lines helping us at grocery and hardware stores, among other places, to weather this public health and economic crisis. Thank you to all these workers.

Finally, it’s budget season. This is when my colleagues and I make the key decisions about how to spend your taxpayer dollars for the next fiscal year, and these upcoming days are critical. The first of two votes on the appropriations for FY2021 happen next week on Tuesday, July 7. Many of you have written to me about how our city should approach public safety and policing, and that has been a big part of the budget conversation.

As Chair of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee, my focus has been on advancing racial justice by investing in the programs, capital projects, and people that will allow DC residents and businesses to truly benefit from our local economy. I am also focused on making sure there is a level playing field for our workers and businesses by enforcing our labor laws and making sure there’s not a competitive disadvantage to playing by the rules. More on the budget below.

Finally, finally: Many of you have expressed concerns to me about DC’s approach to re-opening amidst the COVID-19 public health emergency. I share your concerns, and I have sent questions to the Administration about it. As of this morning, I still had not received answers about why the administration decided to move into Phase 2 without meeting the established contact tracing metrics. As well, the experiences of other states who have relaxed restrictions, seen subsequent COVID outbreaks, and then had to put restrictions back in place should give us caution. I will continue to press the Bowser administration about this.

We might be in Phase 2, but please continue to follow the recommendations of Dr. Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control: Wear a mask or face covering when you are outside your home. Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face. Move activities outdoors as much as possible. 

I’ll admit: I am feeling exhausted. We all are. But we need to help and support each other, and that’s how we will get through this challenging time. That spirit of cooperation and intersectionality, to use a wordy word, will make us a more equitable, compassionate, just city in the end.

Take care.

Elissa.


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CONSTITUENT Q&A 

Q: I am receiving Unemployment Insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Why haven’t I received back pay

A: The Department of Employment Services has received more than 120,000 applications for unemployment assistance since mid-March, and that has taken a lot of time and energy to process. The agency is now ready to assess back pay for UI and PUA applicants as well as decide the proper wage replacement amount for PUA. Please make sure you have submitted the proper paperwork so the claims examiners have all the facts they need to make decisions, particularly regarding PUA.


FOURTH OF JULY

This Fourth of July holiday will be like no other, and although I do hope that residents are able to celebrate, I also hope that everyone puts their health and safety first. While DC government does not support having a mass gathering for fireworks, the traditional fireworks display is put on and paid for by the Federal Government. The fireworks will be launched from federal property, including West Potomac Park. Anyone who plans to watch should please do so while also maintaining proper social distancing from others not in their household.

*Please note that District government operations will be modified on Friday, July 3, in recognition of the holiday. This includes public coronavirus testing sites, which will be closed on Friday. 

For Fourth of July guidelines and recommendations from the District, click here or head to coronavirus.dc.gov.


BUDGET

With so much going on, you might not realize that we are in the final decision stages of the budget. Here’s where we are: Last week, the Council’s committees forwarded recommendations for next year’s budget onto the full Council for consideration.

Earlier this week, each committee chair presented their recommendations. You can watch each committee's mark-up discussion here and find a find a summary of presentations here. Much time was spent talking about police and public safety, particularly in schools; affordable housing; and workforce development. 

I’ll go into a little more detail about my committee. Last Wednesday, my Labor and Workforce Development Committee unanimously approved recommendations that prioritize:

  • Implementing and funding best-practice approaches to making sure our residents have the best shot at getting jobs in our key industries, such as healthcare, IT, and construction. 
  • Fixing our outdated unemployment insurance (UI) system.
  • Making sure that workers and DC businesses have a level playing field. 

I want to thank my fellow Committee members for their support and efforts on these recommendations, as well as my dedicated Committee staff who worked so hard on this effort. I think our budget report is a pretty good read! I hope you will take some time to review the highlights in my recent press release or to read the full report online. A summary is also outlined below, so keep reading!

Highlights of the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development’s Report for the FY 2021 Budget:

Investing in Unemployment Insurance and Paid Leave Programs 

  • $45 million to ensure our UI system is modernized by September 30, 2022. 
  • $1.8 million to enforce anti-retaliation protections for workers in the Universal Paid Leave Act. 
  • $750,000 to establish a new grant program that helps District employers and workers navigate workplace leave laws.

Investing in Training that Connects More Residents to Living-Wage Careers 

  • $1.75 million for the Career Pathways Innovation Fund, which embeds reading and math skills in occupational skills training.
  • $915,000 to establish a paid internship pilot program for 250 District high school students.
  • $689,000 to establish a healthcare sector partnership and training program that will help District residents get living-wage jobs at hospitals, managed care organizations and other health-related businesses.
  • $129,000 to create industry advisory committees focused on modernizing training at the DOES’ DC Infrastructure Academy – including training for Commercial Drivers Licenses and Information Technology.

Investing in Worker Protections 

  • $128,000 to hire an additional attorney at the Office of the Attorney General to combat wage theft.
  • $100,000 to fund a public education campaign on tipped workers’ wage rights, which is required under the legislation that repealed Initiative 77.

Investing in and Respecting DC Government Workers

  • Requiring that collective bargaining rights be respected with up to $35 million being used first to honor two executed collective bargaining agreements covering 10,000 union workers, if funds in the budget become available.
  • $150,000 to conduct a study on the employment of and employment practices related to transgender and non-binary individuals in District government agencies.

Click here to read my Committee’s report in full.


REOPEN DC, PHASE 2

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DC moved into Phase 2 of the District’s reopening last week. Immediately after moving into Phase 2, however, we also surpassed 10,000 positive cases of coronavirus in the District. There are big changes in Phase 2, including: Indoor seating at restaurants, expanded operations at the DMV and public libraries, the reopening of playgrounds and further access to District parks and fields, and more. Click here to learn more about what’s different in Phase 2 and access guidelines for all affected sectors, as well as the general public. 

I know many people have questions about the metrics used to determine when we move to the next phase of re-opening. I share your concerns, and I have asked numerous questions of the Administration about how the decision was made to enter Phase 2.  I haven’t received any response to my questions yet, but I will keep pushing for answers.

Detailed guidance for businesses, apartment complexes, public transit use of parks and recreation facilities, and many other sectors are available online.


TESTING 

As I noted in previous sections, I hope everyone takes very seriously that we are still in a pandemic, even as we move forward with the reopening process. While the peak “hotspots” are not in our region, we should all be very concerned about recent spikes in cases. If you think you may have been exposed, please seek testing at any of the District’s sites or through your doctor. 

Antibody testing: The District recently started offering scheduled antibody testing for residents ages 6 and up at Canal Park in the Navy Yard. However, demand has been so high that currently no additional appointments are being taken. If you are interested in antibody testing but do not want to wait, you can request a test from your doctor any time. 

Youth testing: Available for children ages 6 and up at District testing sites. Children’s National also continues to provide drive-thru and walk-up testing for pediatric patients who have a physician’s referral. 

Free, walk-up testing: Available at neighborhood firehouses as well as the District’s Judiciary Square and MLK Jr. Ave SE testing sites. Firehouse testing is available in the evenings from 4:00pm-8:00pm, and four sites are now available to residents Monday-Saturday (Saturday stations have afternoon hours from 12:00pm-4:00pm). No doctor’s notes or other documents are needed – though you may have to stand in line.

Testing by appointment: University of the District of Columbia’s Bertie Backus Campus in Ward 5, Howard University Hospital in Ward 1, and Bread for the City in Ward 6. For additional information on testing and locations, click here.


DC STATEHOOD 

Last Friday, the House of Representatives voted in favor of DC Statehood! Yes, the US Senate is an obstacle to moving forward, but I still think this is a very big deal. For context, the last time the House voted on DC statehood was 1993, and the bill failed 153-277. 

The fight for statehood is not new to District residents. The Black Lives Matter protests put Statehood in a national spotlight after President Trump used Secret Service and other federal entities to harm protesters who were exercising their First Amendment rights on DC streets. We are making progress and are closer than ever to achieving statehood. Keep engaging your friends and families in other states and ask them to support #DCStatehoodnow!


SCHOOL REGISTRATION AND SUMMER MEALS

School is out for the summer, but I still have some important news for our families with students!

  • Enrollment is happening NOW! Even though we don’t yet know if classes will be online or in person, we still need families to enroll their students ASAP so that our teachers and schools can prepare to welcome them! If you have not already, please head to MySchoolDC to get your student(s) enrolled.
  • Free meal sites continue to serve students and their families! See details below for summer meal options. 

Schools and Recreation Centers across the District are offering meals, and some also have grocery pick up available on a first-come-first-served basis. Click here for a full list of meal and grocery sites (updated as of 6/15). If you are tech savvy, you might also want to check out this map tool from USDA that can help you find meals for kids anywhere in the United States – also handy if you are traveling or are staying somewhere other than home during the pandemic!

If your child usually receives free or reduced-price meals, there is also additional food assistance available through a program called Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT). Head to the DC Department of Human Services’ webpage for more information and/or to sign up. Additional food access options are available through Martha’s Table and Capital Area Food Bank, as well as many other mutual aid and other non-profit organizations across the District.


HOUSING RESOURCES

In my last newsletter, I previewed the Department of Housing and Community Development’s new COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program (CHAP), and now all the details are available on the District’s Housing Resources page. CHAP offers rental assistance to low-income renters who are behind in their payments. To qualify, tenants must earn 80% of the Median Family Income or below based on the COVID-19 Income & Rent Schedule. Financial assistance will be based on income and household size. Assistance can be applied for rent from April 2020 onward for up to three months of overdue rent.


RESOURCE ROUNDUP

Here’s a roundup of some of the most recent coronavirus resources and program updates from our office:

  • Events DC, Expanded Funding for Community Grant Program: This program provides financial support to qualifying non-profit organizations dedicated to supporting children through sports, performing arts, or the cultural arts in the District of Columbia. Funding will be made available in two grant cycles, with applications for the first grant cycle due no later than August 1, 2020. Please see the Events DC Community Grant Program page for more information and applications.
  • Metro Updates: Fifteen rail stations that had been closed as part of WMATA’s COVID-19 response will reopen on Sunday, June 28. Beginning Monday, June 28, buses will be added to the system’s 14 busiest bus lines to provide more capacity and more frequent service as the region reopens. Click here for details
  • Summer Learning and Education: Tools and tips for summer learning from DCPS can be found here. The Office of the Student Advocate’s Parent and Family Go-To Guide can be found online here
  • New and Expanded Outdoor Spaces for Small Business “Streateries”: Applications are now being accepted for DC small businesses interested in expanding their outdoor space for food and beverage service. Click here for more information and to apply. 
  • Unemployment Assistance: http://www.elissasilverman.com/coronavirus