April was hard. On many levels. We’ve watched the daily counter of lives lost to COVID continually tick up higher and higher. We’ve had to tell our kids - like Jordi and I did the other week - they won’t be returning to their school, their teachers, and their friends this spring and try to reassure them through that disappointment.
And we’ve witnessed firsthand how gaps and inequities in our city (and country) have left some neighbors more vulnerable and isolated, and with devastating results.
In my office over the last few weeks, we’ve continued working to solve the everyday problems we all still have, while also focusing on urgent situations like a son who lost his mother to coronavirus and now faces eviction from the apartment they shared. We are supporting a family that lost their grandmother, who was the rock of their home. We are working to help a spouse who reached out just to please ask that their husband's passing be remembered amidst all this loss. These aren’t stories from faraway places. These are your Ward 6 neighbors - in pain, in loss, and in despair. And I know every household is experiencing this crisis in different ways. So even as the weeks feel like they're dragging on and our patience with following the Stay At Home orders can wear thin, these are some of the stories and neighbors that remind me why we’re all in this together and why we’re all being asked to make these sacrifices. And I hope it is also a reminder to have a little extra compassion and patience right now.
Of course, as the calendar turns to May, I know there’s hope. I see it every day in the actions both big and small by you and our neighbors. Whether it's pitching in to help a local business survive, or supporting an older neighbor with chores and errands, or just a kind gesture on the sidewalk when you see someone. I get asked a lot, “When will we reopen? When will things start getting back to normal?” Last week, I joined several of the Mayor’s ReOpen DC Committee meetings to talk through how our city will start coming back. And while much of the news is sobering, there is a lot of thought going into how we reopen schools, businesses, parks, and more. The challenges are numerous, and as I’ve said before, the data we see daily - which continues to show significant community spread - lags two to three weeks behind the interventions we’ve all taken. So our actions today won’t show up in the testing results and more somber fatality reports for two to four weeks. We expect to have the Mayor share updated plans on the emergency and more specifics on many of these fronts by May 15th (next week), so please stay tuned.
In the meantime, please wear a mask when you head outside, minimize your trips, and give a wide berth to those around you.
Quick Links: Council Passes Fourth COVID Response Bill | Business Interruption Insurance Effort Stalls | Small Business Grants | Shared Work Program Alternative to Layoffs | ReOpen DC Survey | Free Counseling "Warm Line" | | How to Vote By Mail | Ward 6 Hits 53% in Census | Volunteer With Neighborhood Groups | Diapers Help | Groceries Help | Neighborhood Gems
Council Passes Next Emergency Legislation: Yesterday, the Council met (full video here) and passed another emergency bill via virtual meeting as we continue to respond to the fallout from the coronavirus. A few of the highlights in the bill:
Rent Re-Payment Program: Previously, the Council banned evictions during the public health emergency. No one should lose their home because they couldn't earn money due to precautions around slowing the spread of the virus. Yesterday, the Council further mandated that landlords with five or more tenants must work to create re-payment plans over the course of a year. We can't have a situation where the public health emergency ends and tenants suddenly owe a massive lump sum.
Evictions Cannot Be Filed: Additionally, this legislation takes the further step of banning landlords from filing a notice in Court for eviction until 30 days after the end of the public health crisis.
Capping Third-Party Delivery Fees: The Council also imposed a cap of 15% on fees third-party delivery services can charge restaurants for picking up and delivering food orders.
Stronger Oversight of DC Jail: The Council passed into law the requirement that the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, which I chair, receive weekly updates on progress to improve conditions at DC Jail in slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus and steps taken to ensure the safety of everyone involved. If you want to understand what's happening in our DC Jail, I've got a tweet thread (and link to an op-ed from two community leaders) that runs through the major issues.
Amend Petitions Process To Get On the November Ballot: I led the effort to think through changing our petition process to get on the November ballot. Typically candidates or petition gathers are able to spend time at markets, door knocking, or other face-to-face opportunities to collect enough signatures to get on a ballot. That's obviously not safe or really possible right now. Just like many states around the country, the Council lowered the total needed signatures and expanded ways to collect those signatures electronically. Check with the Board of Elections soon for updates to that process. This includes those seeking to run for Council, ANC, or to have a ballot initiative appear on this November's ballot.
Small Business Microgrants Aren't Taxable: If your business received a microgrant from the District government, it won't be treated as taxable income next year. Good to know, right?
Separately, the Council also passed emergency legislation to freeze foreclosures during and up to 60 days after the public health emergency - thanks to Councilmember Brianne Nadeau for leading the effort. Remember, last emergency bill, the Council authorized mortgage servicers to permit deferred payments for homeowners who fall behind on their mortgage during this public health crisis.
Finally, yesterday's Council hearing also approved a long-stalled project at 8th and O St., NW to bring 85, including 24 affordable, multi-bedroom homes to Shaw! Many thanks to ANC 6E for diligently working with me to get this project to this point.
So, Are Business Insurers Just Going to Sit This One Out? I'd like to talk for a moment about one aspect of yesterday's bill that ultimately was removed. Many small businesses pay for business interruption insurance policies, which is exactly what it sounds like -- protection against lost revenue when businesses cannot operate for reasons outside of their control. According to the insurance industry, DC businesses pay more than $16 million in monthly premiums for this coverage. But we're already hearing from local businesses that their claims for lost business after non-essential businesses largely closed down are being denied. Last week and over the weekend, I worked with Chairman Phil Mendelson and DC's Attorney General Karl Racine on language to help ensure legitimate business interruption insurance claims are paid out in a timely manner to our small and local businesses. Unfortunately, the provision was pulled from the emergency bill we passed on Tuesday. A number of my colleagues were concerned that the insurance industry will challenge the constitutionality of the Council’s action. We think we have a very strong argument that our action would be consistent with the Constitution, but a legal battle is always unpredictable.
Nationally and locally, we’ve seen insurance companies denying nearly all claims for business losses during COVID-19-related closures. Some insurance policies may have language that could be read to exclude this pandemic from coverage, but many experts I spoke with think the insurance industry is overstating how many policies would be excluded. Large corporations can afford to hire attorneys who will battle and get them a payment. But small businesses can’t, and their doors will be long shuttered by the time courts rule. That's why the proposal created a fund to pay claims on the front end, even if there was a legal challenge that will need to be sorted out in court.
Despite the setback, I will continue to work with my colleagues to see if there is more we can do to help our small businesses who have legitimate claims for relief. I am very grateful to Chairman Mendelson for his partnership and work on this complicated issue, even if we couldn't get it sorted out this time. As a city, we must urgently try every possible avenue. Insurance companies are not disinterested parties here. They've been happily collecting premiums ($16 million a month!) for years from small businesses, with the promise of being there when a business needs them. So where are they now? Here's a recap of the debate from the Washington City Paper.
DC Small Business Microgrant Awardees Being Notified Now Until May 8: Through this Friday, DMPED will be notifying small businesses and nonprofits who applied for some of the $25 million to help cover costs and lost revenue during this public health emergency. Last week the Mayor announced she was allocating an additional $8 million toward the fund. Here's a write-up by the Washington City Paper, including an update on funding at the top.
Related: More than 6,000 applications in DC have been approved already as part of the second round of the Federal Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program.
Take the ReOpen DC Survey: Mayor Bowser and her team want to hear your feedback on what concerns, hopes, and priorities you have for re-opening the District of Columbia. Here's the link.
Dept of Employment Services Offering Shared Work Program: One idea gaining momentum nationally and locally is the federal shared work program. This is a little-used program locally that allows an employer to keep employees on the payroll by reducing hours for everyone. The federal government (within a range of acceptable reductions) makes up the difference in the employees' paychecks via DC's Department of Employment Services. If this sounds like it could work for your business, here's some more information on the program for employers. And here's the landing page to learn more.
Unemployment Application for 1099 and Independent Contractors Now Open: DC's Department of Employment Services is now processing 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).
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 the level of an 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.
Ballots Are Being Mailed Out for June 2. Have you Requested Yours? 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.
- Did I mention that ballots are being mailed out? You could be voting soon from your kitchen table!
- 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.
Ward 6 Is Now at 53% Census Response: This is good news! We're seeing more and more folks participate in the US Census. Some of our biggest increases were in Southwest at Greenleaf and The Wharf. But there's still work to be done. This week, we need to see higher participation rates from the Capital Riverfront/ Navy Yard neighborhood, and Truxton Circle and the northeastern parts of Shaw. Here's how you can fill out the Census, which only takes about 10 minutes, from your home.
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.
- World Central Kitchen: Chef José Andres' nonprofit kitchen has set up shop at Nationals Park and has been serving up hundreds of meals to Ward 6 seniors. If you can chip in to keep their work going, know it is helping your 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
- Download a Southwest Neighborhood Coloring Book: I believe credit for this goes to the Victory Dance Creative for a coloring book with some of the iconic places in the neighborhood. Download it for free here from the Southwest BID and relax with some simple coloring.
- Capitol Hill Small Biz Team Up: Great story by NBC 4 looking at how four woman-owned businesses on Capitol Hill are teaming up during the pandemic to stay afloat and work together.
- Hill Rag: Trivia Game Raising Thousands for Local Businesses (keep an eye out for my staff if you join in next week)!
- Washington Post: They Got Married In The Middle of The Friendliest Street In Town - And The Neighbors All Came To Help
- Capitol Hill Restoration Society: Mother's Day Photo Scavenger Hunt still on this weekend (virtually)