Newsletter: Life-Changing Moments

Even if we were not impacted directly, 9/11 changed our lives. My condolences to all who are honoring lost loved ones and thank you to our fire and emergency medical services personnel, police and others who are the front lines of emergency response.

Dear Resident,

Today is 9/11, a solemn remembrance of the terrifying day 19 years ago in which nearly 3,000 lives were lost due to terrorism. Some of you might have family or friends who either died on the planes that were targeted or were a first responder in New York, Pennsylvania, or right across the Potomac at the Pentagon. Even if we were not impacted directly, 9/11 changed our lives. My condolences to all who are honoring lost loved ones and thank you to our fire and emergency medical services personnel, police and others who are the front lines of emergency response.

We are in the midst of another life-changing moment right now: COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on our health and on our economy. Some of you have had the virus; some may have lost a friend or family member due to COVID. I know some of you reading this have lost income and jobs. How we respond as a community will determine how long-lasting the impacts will be of COVID-19. Every decision needs to be informed by our public health experts and science. And we also need to be creative and innovative problem solvers to get our kids safely back to in-school learning, our businesses, particularly those hardest hit in hospitality and entertainment, back to work, and all of our residents securely and safely housed.

The DC Council has returned from our summer legislative recess, and as we close out Council Period 23 in these last four months of the year, COVID response will dominate the agenda. Next week, my Committee on Labor and Economic Development will conduct an oversight hearing of one of the key pieces of our economic safety net: unemployment assistance. I will also be participating in hearings on rent control and evictions, as well as other important housing policies. You can find a calendar of all Council hearings here.

A request:  If you are currently unemployed or have recently experienced unemployment, please take 5 minutes to complete this survey from the Workforce Investment Council (WIC), of which I am a member. Your input will help the WIC better understand the barriers unemployed residents face and how to address them.  

Take care everyone. If you have innovative policy ideas, send them my way. If you are still struggling to access public benefits to help you cope with COVID, please let me know. With our collective efforts to help each other, we will overcome this virus.

Thanks again for reading.


In This Issue:


Constituent Q&A

Q. Will the District be participating in the federal Lost Wages Assistance program, which provides unemployed workers with an additional $300/week?

A. Yes. Last week, I received confirmation from the Bowser administration that DC would be applying, and Tuesday night we received word that our application was approved. The Department of Employment Services (DOES) has set the first week of October as their goal for getting the additional funds to DC workers. I will continue to follow up with DOES for updates.


Upcoming Events

There are several important hearings coming up that I want to flag for you, including my Labor and Workforce Development Committee’s upcoming Unemployment Insurance Oversight Hearing on September 16 at 10:00am.

Testimony has a big impact on how programs like Unemployment Insurance function. If you’ve had any experience with DC’s unemployment insurance or other workforce assistance or development programs, I strongly encourage you to consider testifying.

Live testimony requests will be taken until September 14 at 5:00pm and can be submitted by emailing labor@dccouncil.us.

Click here to submit testimony and learn more about this hearing

Other upcoming DC Council hearings of note:


Resources for Students and Families

Photo credit: NBC4Photo credit: NBC4

I hope that the first weeks of school, while much different than any of us could have predicted just one year ago, have gone smoothly for students and parents. For those who do need assistance, please check out the following resources. 

Technology support:

If you and your child are experiencing technical difficulties or haven’t received a requested device, contact your school immediately. If your school isn’t responsive or you need additional assistance, visit backtoschool.dc.gov for the latest updates and answers to frequently asked questions and/or contact the tech support helpline at (202) 442-5885 and Press 1.

Mental health services for caregivers:

The District’s Mental Health Hotline now includes support from licensed clinicians for parents and caregivers experiencing stress due to changes in schooling and family life. Parents can receive immediate support and learn about wellness services by calling 1-888-793-4357. The hotline is open 24/7. 

The District will also begin hosting Wellness Wednesday (WW) online meetings for parents and caregivers. Click here for the WW September schedule and more details.

Food access:

Students who receive free and reduced priced meals during the school year will continue to receive meals as part of their virtual first term. However, these meal locations may differ from a family’s summer meal pickup location. Families should confirm meal site locations with their school. 

DC’s new mobile app program, DC Access, allows SNAP users (individuals and families) an easy, safe way to sign up for benefits or recertify from home. For more food access resources, please visit coronavirus.dc.gov/food.


Coronavirus and Testing

High risk states: This week, DC Health released an updated list of high-risk states. States that were added include Montana and Ohio. States that were removed from the updated list include Alaska and Arizona. 

Free, walk-up testing and testing by appointment continues to be offered across the District. Click here for a full list of walk-up sites, firehouse locations, and appointment-only sites. Save time at the District's walk-up testing sites by pre-registering at coronavirus.dc.gov/register.

Coverage for high-risk workers: Mayor Bowser has mandated that all DC-licensed health insurers cover COVID-19 testing at no cost for certain high-risk residents. This requirement will cover high-risk individuals through the duration of the public health emergency.


Small Business Grant Program

The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development’s Great Streets Retail Small Business Grants are now open. This grant program is designed to help small business owners located in a Great Streets Corridor during the coronavirus pandemic. Awards of up to $50,000 are available for use towards storefront renovations, equipment purchases and technology enhancements to support e-commerce. The final information session for prospective applicants will be held September 15 at 11:00am. Applications are due September 28, 2020. 


Census 2020

The 2020 Census will stop counting on September 30, 2020 – this is earlier than usual! If you have not yet completed the census online, census staffers may be giving you a home visit to ensure you and your family are counted. All census takers will carry an ID with their name, photo, Department of Commerce watermark, and expiration date. Always ask to see ID. You can also find out if census takers are in your area by texting “DOOR” to 442020

You can avoid a home visit by filling out the census online today at 2020census.gov, or by phone at 844-330-2020. The Census determines what level of federal support DC gets for vital programs and services – please do your part!


Voting

Yesterday, I participated in the Council’s oversight hearing yesterday on the DC Board of Elections and its preparations for the November 3 general election. Many corrective actions have already been taken to address what happened in the primary, which is encouraging. 

This is the biggest message that came out of the hearing: If you wait to vote, you will wait longer to vote. Here’s what I mean: We’ve been accustomed to thinking of Election Day as when you vote, but actually, Election Day is going to begin the first week of October when DC residents will receive mail-in ballots. THIS IS A CHANGE FROM THE PRIMARY: Every DC voter will receive a ballot at the address in which you are registered at the Board of Elections. 

If you’re worried that you may not receive your ballot in time for it to be counted, you can contact the Board of Elections at 202-727-2525. You can track the status of your mail-in ballot starting in early October here

Registration:

You can check your registration information online here. There are several options for registering for the first time or updating your registration:

  • Respond to a registration mailer from the Board of Elections. 
  • Register/update registration online and allow your DMV-issued ID signature to be used as your registration signature. This option means you will NOT have to print anything, but you will still have to email your registration forms. 
  • Fill out the registration information online, print and sign the forms, mail back. 

Voting Absentee:

You do NOT need to request an absentee ballot for the November election! Ballots will be mailed to all registered voters – see the section above to make sure you are registered and your information is correct. Ballots should be in the mail in early October, and you have three options for returning them:

  • Drop it in the mail. Postage is prepaid. 
  • Return the ballot to any vote center, either early voting locations between October 27 and November 2 or on Election Day. 
  • Drop it in one of the District’s secure drop boxes (full list here). Ballots in these drop boxes will be collected twice a day by BOE.

In-Person Voting:

Please consider voting early to avoid crowds! Early voting will take place October 27 - November 2. Click here for a full list of early voting centers. On Election Day, November 3, there will be at least 90 Vote Centers open from 7 am to 8 pm. You can vote at any Vote Center; you do not have to vote at your usual voting place (which may not be open) or even in your Ward. 

If you are interested in serving as a poll worker or just want to get more involved, please click here for a full calendar of upcoming Board events.


Smartrip Cards Go Digital

Metro and regional transit riders now have an easier, hands-free option for riding: transferring their physical SmarTrip card onto their iPhone and Apple Watch. If you connect your SmarTrip card to your Apple Pay account and/or download the Metro mobile app, you can ditch the physical fare card and simply pay with your phone the same way you might use Apple Pay in a store. If you're tech savvy, this is a good way to reduce your surface contact during the coronavirus pandemic.

This digital option can be used anywhere SmarTrip is accepted: all 91 Metrorail stations in DC, Maryland and Virginia; all Metro parking garages and lots; all Metrobus routes; and all regional bus providers, including ART, DASH, Fairfax Connector, Cue, Ride On, TheBus, Circulator, Loudoun County Transit, and Potomac and Rappahannock Transit/PRTC.


Resource Roundup

See below for a roundup of some of the most recent resources, funding opportunities, and program updates from our office. The newest items will always be on top.

  • Eat It Forward Campaign: Your favorite Black-owned restaurant could win $25,000 through this contest sponsored by Discover card. Entries are accepted any time from now through October 31, 2020. Full details, including how to participate/nominate, can be found here
  • Ward 7 & 8 Microbusiness Dream Grants: The Department of Small and Local Business Development is taking applications for the Ward 7 and 8 2021 Microbusiness Dream Grants from August 15, 2020 until September 30, 2020. Between 20-25 grants of up to $10,000 each will be awarded. 
  • DC Mortgage Assistance Program (DC MAP) relaunched: DC MAP provides financial relief to District homeowners who have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. MAP COVID-19, qualified borrowers can receive a loan of up to $5,000 monthly toward their mortgage for up to six months. 
  • Database to Lookup Mortgage Deferrals: This tool will allow anyone to look up whether or not a particular address and landlord has received a deferral. You can also contact the DC Pro Bono Center or the Legal Aid Society for assistance. 
  • Humane Rescue Alliance (HRA) Pet Resources: (HRA) continues to operate their Pet Pantry at six different locations every month. They also have excellent tips for keeping your pet safe in this intense heat
  • Unemployment Assistance: http://www.elissasilverman.com/coronavirus