Newsletter: Stay Home, DC! New COVID-19 Guidance for DC Workers & Businesses
STAY HOME, DC!
I know many of you have gotten that message loud and clear, and you are staying home. You are following the proper six-feet social distancing practices, washing hands thoroughly, and leaving your home only for outdoor walks and essential errands. Thank you! I recognize there are others of you who can’t stay home because you are essential workers in the public and private sector, such as our Department of Public Works and Unemployment Insurance claims workers, our health care providers, and our grocery store workers. Thank you!
I want to emphasize this point: No matter what your job, no matter if you are a student or retired, young, old, or somewhere in between, WE ALL PLAY A BIG ROLE IN HELPING DC THROUGH THIS PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY. I believe that coronavirus will change our lives in a very profound way. One big thing that it has demonstrated to me is our interconnectedness: What we do on an individual level has a societal impact as well. The Washington Post has a great graphic showing how one person infected with COVID-19 who does not properly social distance and quarantine will cause many, many of us to get infected. We do not want this to happen.
Our goal as a city and as a region right now is to slow down transmission of the virus so our hospitals are not overwhelmed and as many residents as possible can stay healthy. DC government, as well as Maryland and Virginia, have put measures in place to meet that goal. Below, I will detail some of these measures, such as closing non-essential businesses, moving to distance learning and grab-and-go feeding sites for students, and limiting Metrorail and Metrobus to essential travel.
The measures we are putting in place to slow down transmission are severe, and they have impacted many of you individually. Some of you have been laid off from work or have had your hours drastically reduced. Some of you are independent contractors who have lost work. Some of you own businesses who have been mandated to close or have had a steep decline in business due to the public health emergency. I know this is very hard. I want you to know that my Labor Committee and my colleagues on the Council, as well as Mayor Bowser and her administration are working as hard as possible to give you relief to stay stable at this time.
Below I'll detail efforts on Unemployment Insurance and a small business grant program. We will do everything possible as a local government, but we cannot do this alone. We need the federal government to step up, and we are hopeful that the relief package in Congress will help us with money and resources to help workers, businesses, and our hospitals and health care institutions deal with this virus.
I know you are getting information from many sources. It is overwhelming. I want to let you know about two good places to get local information:
This is the DC government's main website for information and resources. This also includes the latest information about healthcare providers and data.
My office will put materials here to supplement what DC government has put out, particularly on issues relevant to labor and workforce.
Important Updates on Unemployment Insurance (UI): For those of you who have lost employment or have had work hours significantly reduced due to the impact of COVID-19, Unemployment Insurance is the best way to put cash in your hands and keep your family stable at this time. I encourage every employee of a DC business who has lost a job or significant hours because of the COVID-19 public health emergency to apply for unemployment insurance. Some employees are not eligible due to their immigration status, and my committee and the administration are working on possible ways to provide assistance as well.
As I mentioned earlier, the public health measures we have put in place have had a severe impact on our economy. I spoke with City Administrator Rashad Young yesterday about a number of calls and emails I’ve received expressing concerns with the unemployment application process. The Department of Employment Services is experiencing an unprecedented amount of applicants — more than 21,000 workers have filed for UI within the last 10 days. I know this is an uncertain and scary time, especially for the restaurant community. My Labor Committee and I are working as hard as possible to get more assistance for District workers.
Here are some important updates to keep in mind:
- You DO NOT need to be searching for work to qualify for benefits if you lost shifts or your job because of the COVID-19 public health emergency. The DC Council waived the work search requirement through emergency legislation, but that change is not yet reflected in the online application. The administration is working to fix this as soon as possible. You will not be denied when you answer “NO” on the work search question.
- DOES suggests that COVID-affected applicants still answer “NO” on the work search question. Some applicants have received notices of denial, but the City Administrator has confirmed that those claims will still be processed. Keep a file of all paperwork you receive from DOES.
- DOES has waived the one-week waiting period to receive benefits once approved. The online application system has not been updated yet to reflect this, but the waiting period is waived.
- Applicants who are undocumented do not currently qualify for unemployment insurance. The Council is working with the administration to find a solution to assist undocumented workers as soon as possible.
- For District employers, the DC Council’s emergency legislation waived the employer experience rating. District employers will not see their tax rate increase due to employees filing claims.
Closure of Non-Essential Businesses: Yesterday, Mayor Bowser took the necessary step of mandating the closure of non-essential businesses. This measure was put in place to send a clear message that you should only go out for absolutely necessary errands, like grocery shopping and picking up prescriptions. Some businesses have already closed and additional ones now include salons, and retail clothing stores, among other places. Based on Centers for Disease Control guidance, the Mayor has also limited gatherings to fewer than ten people—and those people should only be family or individuals with whom you live.
You can find the Mayor’s official guidance on what businesses are closed here.
DC Small Business Recovery Microgrants Now Available: Emergency grants for District small businesses are now available through the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED). The grants, which will go up to $25,000, can cover employee wages and benefits (including fringe benefits associated with employment, such as health insurance), accounts payable, fixed costs, inventory, rent, and utilities. Applications are due on Tuesday, March 31 by midnight, and you can find information about how to apply here.
DMPED will review applications next week and evaluate the most equitable way to distribute funds based on the number of applicants. The first payments are expected to be made in April, and community development financial institutions will help distribute grants once awards are approved. Those institutions will also assist with follow up to ensure the funds are spent as intended.
There has been some confusion about new businesses qualifying, and businesses can apply even if they haven’t been in operation for three years. One note: The application says to detail losses in January and February, but the Bowser administration says you only need to detail what losses your business has experienced since March 13, when the COVID-19 public health emergency was enacted.
Given the overwhelming need, DMPED expects that the fund may be oversubscribed. If an individual is denied, note that they can reapply. Additional notices are coming soon to provide more guidance about reapplications on the Mayor’s primary coronavirus recovery website: coronavirus.dc.gov/recovery.
Find a preview of who is eligible here.
Deadline for Tax Filings Extended: The deadline for District taxpayers to file and pay their 2019 DC individual and fiduciary income tax returns (D-40, D-41, and D-40B), partnership tax returns (D-65), and franchise tax returns (D-20, D-30) is extended to July 15, 2020. This means taxpayers will have an additional 90 days to file and pay from the original deadline of April 15, 2020.
The Office of Tax and Revenue’s walk-in centers are closed, so all taxpayers who can file their returns electronically should do so. Questions and concerns can be directed to their customer service center at 202-727-4829 between 8:15am and 5:30pm on Monday through Friday.
Distance Learning for DC Students: The Mayor has announced that DC Public Schools (DCPS) buildings will be closed through April 24 in an effort to further contain the coronavirus and ensure students and families stay safe.
Students have now moved to a distance learning model, with hard copy curriculum packets available for pick up for every grade level. DCPS families can pick up packets between 8:30am and 2:00pm on Tuesday, March 31 and Wednesday, April 1 if they haven’t done so already. Students can also continue to get regular meals at any of these sites while school buildings are closed.
Find the latest updates and full details at dcps.dc.gov/coronavirus.
Limited Transportation: Metrorail and Metrobus have reduced bus and rail service. They are encouraging only essential travel.
We will all get through this with help from each other. My office is teleworking, but we are available for questions and any assistance we can provide.
Stay safe, and STAY HOME, DC!
Thanks so much.