At times, responding to this pandemic has been a bit like building the plane while flying it.
Between rapidly expanding unemployment insurance, creating new business grants, and transitioning as many voters as possible from in-person voting to mail-in ballots, there are a lot of unprecedented and big changes happening fast. And, as you've probably noticed, it hasn't always gone smoothly. I know and share how frustrating this is. Trust me when I say these are issues my team and I, as well as thousands of DC government employees, are working to fix as quickly as possible. Please have patience, but also communicate with us about what you're seeing, especially if they are urgent issues for you. I know folks are anxious, are hurting, and may have urgent bills to pay. My whole team has been working hard to address and solve problems.
I am confident we'll get these glitches fixed, but I know in the meantime, it's very frustrating and it can add to the anxiety we are all facing each day.
Quick Links: Unemployment for Contractors and Gig Workers| Expanded Testing for COVID-19| What the District's Finances Look Like | Free Counseling "Warm Line" |Stay At Home Extended | How to Vote By Mail | Census, Census, Census | Volunteer With Neighborhood Groups | Community, Online | Diapers Help | Groceries Help
Unemployment Application for 1099 and Independent Contractors Now Open: Starting Friday, DC's Department of Employment Services can accept applications for individuals who are self-employed or independent contractors. This comes following the Federal CARES act, which made the change to allow DC to provide unemployment insurance to this group of workers. Still, while the website has launched, it has some steps in the application that are causing confusion. A heads-up on a few issues we've seen:
- As a matter of process, you need to fill out first DC's Unemployment Insurance form and then the PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) application. Please note, while DC's form will say you are ineligible -- your application will still be processed!
- You will need to provide documentation of any 2019/2020 wages, which is a federal requirement. You can submit a 1099, tax return, or pay stub.
- If you previously applied and were denied, you will need to re-apply.
PUA is effective January 27, 2020 through December 31, 2020.
- There's a technical glitch in the DC application when uploading Weekly Certificate Forms as part of enrolling in backpay. It seems like a good workaround is to print-to-PDF each form and upload each week's form as a PDF.
Individuals who are typically ineligible for regular UI (i.e. independent contractors, gig workers, those with insufficient work history) who cannot work due to COVID-19 are eligible for a maximum of 39 weeks of benefits, which includes $600 in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).
- Right now, it takes about 21 days to process unemployment claims and get benefits to residents. DC has brought a second call center online to process the claims, and that time is decreasing.
DC Opens a Second Testing Site, Expands Testing to *Some* Asymptomatic Patients: This week the Mayor announced the opening of a second public testing site in the District at UDC-Bertie Backus Campus is now available for public testing on Tuesdays and Thursdays for free. Additionally, eligibility for testing has been expanded by the Department of Health to include people who are not displaying any symptoms, but have been exposed to someone else diagnosed with COVID-19. Here's how to register for a test (you cannot do on-site registration):
- An appointment is required and must be scheduled through the Testing Triage Call Center by calling 1-855-363-0333.
- The Testing Triage Call Center hours are 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday.
- The Call Center evaluation will include individuals answering pre-screening questions regarding their signs and symptoms.
- If the individual meets the testing criteria, the individual will receive additional information about testing and what to bring to the site on the day of their appointment.
- There is no on-site registration at UMC or UDC-CC Bertie Backus Campus. An individual who does not pre-register will not receive a test.
- Here is a link to all the places in the District offering testing: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/testing
Update on the District's Finances: On Friday afternoon, the Chief Financial Officer presented an updated look at the District's finances for the remainder of this year and next fiscal year. With so much of our economy on pause while we flatten the curve, the District is understandably taking a big financial hit. At the same time, we’re creating new spending to mitigate the fallout with expanded unemployment insurance, small business grants, and keeping a limited number of essential District services running. As we approach the budget process this year, it is shaping up to be a painful one. There are many questions with this news, and we don’t have all the answers yet, but I'll certainly be working on ways to engage Ward 6 residents to make sure your voice is heard and reflected in the decisions the Council ultimately makes. Also of concern, for the last few weeks, I’ve been saying the recovery is likely to take two more years - and the CFO’s analysis seems to support that. Here are a few top line items from the presentation:
- The CFO is estimating this will be a two-year recovery on a very broad scale, changing our projected GDP growth from +2% to -3.8%.
- Sales tax receipts will see the biggest drop, with essentially 56% of sales tax frozen.
- The District is facing a $722 million loss this year and more than $1.2 billion next year. One way to think about this is the drop in revenue we are projecting has basically wiped out the growth the District experienced in the last three years combined.
- As a reminder, this is an estimated forecast. Like any other estimate, it is based on certain assumptions and predictions and it could change for the better or the worse.
- Here's the full presentation from the CFO.
While this is obviously a very serious financial forecast, the District is entering this crisis in just about the best financial position we could. We had a full reserve fund to help in just such a crisis and carried significant surplus revenue from last year to this year.
Related: I'll be releasing my plan to take public input on the proposed budget for every agency under the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety shortly. Like every other aspect of life, we won't be able to hold traditional public hearings as everything will be streamed online. More to come, but we certainly want to hear from residents and advocacy groups on what the priorities are in a much tighter budget than in recent years.
Feeling Stressed, Anxious, And Need to Talk? Talk with a clinician anytime in DC by calling 1-888-7WE-HELP (1-888-793-4397). It's hard right now. Even if you're staying in and working, it's hard. If you've lost a loved one or a friend or a job, it's hard. Talking it out helps. Here's information on how you can reach someone. This is a free service, considered a "warm line" meaning it's available just to help with stuff that might not rise to emergency, but it's certainly bothering you. It's okay to call and talk with someone who can offer a sympathetic ear and sound advice.
Reminder - Stay At Home Extended Until May 15, School Year Ending May 29: The Mayor has extended her Stay at Home order until May 15, which includes the closure and modifications for most businesses not deemed essential. I think we all knew this was inevitable, but it is still hard for all of us. I'd encourage you, as you are able, to keep supporting our local businesses with whatever purchases you need. We want them with us on the other side of this, but it's going to take both government and community support. And let this be a reminder, we aren't out of the woods by any means. Physical distancing is CRUCIAL right now as we head into higher demand on our health care system. Stay home. Save lives.
Related: Wearing a face mask does not replace the need to stay six feet away from everyone else when you are out in public. And please limit your trips to essential trips only.
Request Your Absentee Ballot Today. Glitches Are Being Worked Out: The District has a Presidential and Local Primary Election coming up on June 2. We've dramatically shifted how DC residents can still vote. You can request a mail-in ballot and vote from your couch! There have been a few glitches that the Board of Elections is working to fix, but I'll flag them here so you know:
- Most people are not receiving an email confirmation after requesting an absentee ballot. Your request has still been received. I recommend taking a screenshot of the confirmation page that does pop up after submitting your request.
- The Vote 4 DC App works much better on iPhones than Android phones. Unfortunately, I don't think that's something that will be fixed in time for this Primary Election.
- The Track My Ballot feature generally works, but it often takes a week or longer before it is updated with new requests.
- The Board of Elections has repeatedly assured residents their applications are being received.
- Ballots will be mailed out in early May.
- You must be a registered voter to receive a mail-in ballot. Here's where you can register: https://www.vote4dc.com/ApplyInstructions/Register
- If you have an issue, there are a few ways to engage BOE. On Twitter, tag @Vote4DC. Over phone, you can call 202-741-5283. Over email, send a note to DCabsentee@dcboe.org. Of course, let me and my team know if you're having issues.
Take the Census! Take the Census! Take the Census! Now that I've asked three times, will you take the Census if you haven't already? So much is at stake in how the Census counts different states' population changes - including funding levels for many federal programs. Take the Census now and ensure you and your family are counted in our community. Right now, ANC 6E (Shaw, Mt. Vernon Triangle) and ANC 6D (Southwest) are a little behind the rest of the Ward in participation - check out the map on participation rates as of mid-April to the right. But we can all do more! Here's how you can fill out the Census, which only takes about 10 minutes, from your home. If you are at home all day, take a moment and call a friend or neighbor, catch up with them, and remind them to do the Census.
Community Events Happening Virtually!
- Literary Hill Bookfest is Coming Up on May 3: Yes, Ward 6's Literary Hill Bookfest is still happening on May 3 - albeit virtually. Get the details here!
- Pearl Street Warehouse Free Streamed Shows: Itching for some live music? Pearl Street Warehouse has a schedule of streamed performances: https://www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com/
- Folger Shakespeare Library Marked 200th Birthday Online: If you missed it, Ward 6's own Folger Shakespeare Theater had a day-long virtual celebration of Shakespeare's 200th birthday, including some very interesting conversations you can still find here.
COVID-19 Resources in Ward 6: My staff and I are keeping a running list of resources available for Ward 6 residents on my website. That includes information on free daily meals for students and senior residents, free groceries and diapers, how to volunteer, how to get tested if you are symptomatic, and more. If there's something you'd like to see added or corrected, reach out to Erik Salmi on my team (firstname.lastname@example.org): http://www.charlesallenward6.com/covid_19_info
Here's Who To Support Financially or By Volunteering: I know many folks are looking for ways to be helpful during these hard times. If you find yourself with a lot of time and you are healthy and able to volunteer, these are groups that can put you to work. I cannot emphasize enough, however, that if you are not feeling well at all, please do not volunteer. And if you are fortunate enough to be in a position to make donations, these are organizations helping put food on the table and meet other needs for your neighbors right here in Ward 6 and across the District:
- Table Church DC (via Ward 6 neighbors): Started by Ward 6 neighbor Allison McGill, this is a great effort pairing volunteers with residents who need help with a range of needs, including just someone to run to the store for them.
- Ward 6 Mutual Aid Network: Started by Ward 6 neighbor Maurice Cook and Serve Your City, this is a group collecting and redistributing food and other essential items for neighbors.
- DC Medical Reserve Corps: Organized by the DC Government, here's a way to help out as our medical response scales up.
- DC Public Schools: In need of volunteers to help keep running their many meal sites for kids in DC during school closures! Please fill out the linked survey.
- Capital Area Food Bank: In critical need of volunteers to help sort and pack food in their warehouse and assist at their offsite food distributions
- Food and Friends DC: In urgent need of extra volunteers throughout the coming weeks. There are two volunteer opportunities, food preparation and packaging and meal and grocery delivery
- Food Rescue US: Volunteers with vehicles needed to pick up and deliver food from businesses to DC residents in need
- Grace’s Table: Looking for volunteers to help feed the homeless each Saturday
- Martha’s Table: Volunteers needed to help prepare and bag food for their emergency food sites across the city
- We Are Family: Volunteer to deliver groceries to seniors.
- Food for All DC: Volunteer to drive groceries to seniors, immunocompromised, and other DC neighbors who are homebound. Volunteer here.
- Aunt Bertha: Aunt Bertha’s network connects people seeking help and verified social care providers that serve them by zip code. Contact your local shelter to see what help and/or items may be needed
- Greater DC Diaper Bank: Long a staple of the region (and founded by a Ward 6er), the Greater DC Diaper Bank helps low-income families meet the need for diapers. DC Diaper Bank works with partner sites to distribute diapers. You can donate or support their work here: https://greaterdcdiaperbank.org/give-dollars/
Free groceries for residents:
- Ten DC School Sites Distributing Free Groceries Each Week: I mentioned this above, but sharing here as well. Ten DCPS meal locations are now distributing groceries as well as student meals. Every Monday is Eastern High School's day to distribute in Ward.
- Martha's Table: Daily grocery distribution at 2nd and H Street, from 5:15-5:45 pm. Donate here to support their work: https://marthastable.networkforgood.com/projects/95536-martha-s-table-martha-s-table-expanded-programs-covid-19
- Capital Area Food Bank: Behind many good nonprofits is the CAFB, supplying many groceries from bulk purchasing to food pantries across the region. Help them today: https://www.capitalareafoodbank.org/donate/
Father McKenna Center Grocery Pantry Now Open: One of the programs partnering with the Capital Area Food Bank is the Father McKenna Center at 900 North Capitol St., NW. Information on how to support or receive groceries here.
H Street Food Drive for Ward 5-6 Neighbors: Contactless food/groceries available for neighbors who need some extra assistance. They also offer contactless food delivery for anyone in the area that needs it, especially elderly, single parents, those with special needs. Drop off or Send Non-Perishable Food Deliveries To: @maketto1351 | Attention: H ST. NE FOOD DRIVE | 1351 H ST. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002. Send all monetary donations To: PayPal: PayPal.me/CHRiSCARDi | Venmo: @ChrisCardi
Pick up at Maketto: 1351 H Street, NE
Monday – Saturday: 7:30am – 9:30pm
Sunday: 7:30am -5pm
- If in need of delivery assistance text 202-681-3532.
- Pick up at Maketto: 1351 H Street, NE
Please Call 911 If You have Serious Health Emergencies: One of the challenges we are seeing is many people are hesitant to call 911 if it isn't related to COVID-19. Please, if you need emergency medical care, do not hesitate to call 911. Here's an op-ed on the challenge.
Related: I can't believe I have to say this, but after the President floated the dangerous and wrong idea of injecting or consuming cleaning supplies or bleach to treat COVID-19, please, please, please do not put any cleaning products in your body. I don't care if he says he was being sarcastic, there's no excuse for that kind of reckless language. There is no known cure or vaccine and you won't find it under the kitchen sink.