10-22-20: Ward 6 Update

It's late October and we're still living in a pandemic. Winter and cold weather are looming as our small businesses are fighting to hang on. Parents are juggling the start of a new school year and trying to answer every challenge from getting students plugged in online to figuring out what Halloween will look like.

We keep facing new challenges as this drags on and disrupts more and more lives and traditions of our community. There's something real called COVID fatigue and I want you to know I feel it too. It's almost impossible not to. But as we watch cases surging again in other parts of the country, it's more important than ever to keep up all the important steps you've taken this year - protecting yourself and your neighbors. Hang in there and let me know if I and my team can help you in any way.

Quick Links: Schools Re-Opening | Mail-In Voting | COVID Alerts to Your Phone | Halloween | Small Biz Grants for Winter | Vision Zero Passes | Unemployment Extension | Testing Locations | Free Meals | Rental Help | Mortgage Help | Volunteer | Diapers | Groceries 

I Want Your Thoughts on Schools Re-Opening: On Friday, the Council will hold a roundtable discussion with the Chancellor on DCPS's proposed return to the classroom for some students, beginning with our youngest PK3 students through 5th graders. I know this is both a big concern and challenge for parents who are juggling way too many things at once. I have many questions of my own – both as a parent and Councilmember. DCPS has not communicated effectively to parents or teachers and it’s creating a lack of trust and uncertainty, right at the time when they need it most. 

I will be at the hearing on Friday afternoon, but with the number of Councilmembers participating, I’ll likely only have about 10 minutes overall to ask questions of the Chancellor. That’s simply just not enough. So I’ll be sending DCPS additional questions, many that I’ll take directly from parents and educators that have been contacting me, to get more information out about what they’re proposing so folks can make the best decisions for their kids and family.

I want to know what you think. Do you feel comfortable sending your student back into the classroom? As a neighbor, do you feel comfortable with schools resuming limited in-person instruction?

It's important to emphasize right up front that DCPS is offering in-person classrooms as an option - any family with a student offered an in-person seat may choose to continue virtual learning (read the proposal from DCPS Chancellor Ferebee here). In-person classroom instruction will first resume for students in grades PK3-5, with a priority on high-need students, including students who may be experiencing homelessness, English language learners, or students receiving special education services. In each school, one classroom per grade will be in-person five days a week, with half days on Wednesdays. DCPS will also offer what they are calling Student CARE Classrooms. These are rooms that bring together a small number of students and an adult. The students will continue virtual learning, but have the opportunity to socialize and use DCPS technology. Again, the priority is on those students who might not have a reliable way to fully engage with virtual learning.

I am still trying to understand the implications here, as well as the engagement (or lack thereof) with teachers and other education staff on the frontlines. The Council will hold a roundtable discussion on Friday, but the Education Committee Chairs have decided to only hear from and question school leaders, not the public, so I wanted to make sure I offered Ward 6 families the chance to let me know what you think of the proposed plan. I will be sharing concerns from Ward 6 with the Chancellor in a letter. If you want to share your thoughts, simply reply back to this email and let me know your concerns. 

Mail-In Voting is Underway In DC, Early Voting Begins Next Week: In case you hadn't heard, there's an election underway. By now, the Board of Elections should have mailed every DC resident a ballot. While there might be a few still arriving in mailboxes, most residents should have a ballot. If you haven't, contact the Board of Elections directly at 202-727-2525. And if you can't get a response, please loop in my office constituent services team. If you received a ballot for someone who does not live at your address, please mark "Return to Sender" on the envelope and put it back in your mailbox for USPS. Remember, you can return your completed ballot via USPS or at any secure drop box throughout the District, each of which is emptied twice a day.

I pulled together a two minute video explaining the different parts of your mail-in ballot.

Vote Week begins October 27! If you prefer to vote in-person, District residents can vote at any Early Voting Center beginning Monday, October 27, through Monday, November 2. In Ward 6, the Early Vote Centers are at Sherwood Recreation Center, Kennedy Recreation Center, and Washington Nationals Ballpark (wow, what a home run!). Here's the full list of locations. Vote early and avoid long lines!

If you need to easily share or revisit this information, I've put all of the information Ward 6 residents need to either vote by mail or vote in person safely in the General Election on my website.

A New Tool in Fighting COVID-19 Spread...Your Phone: This week, DC Health launched a voluntary app that allows you to receive notifications if you've been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The DC COVID Alert Notification system is used by the DC Contact Trace Force to work to contain outbreaks and the spread of the novel coronavirus by quickly alerting people who might have been exposed. This DCist article has more information. For iPhone users, if you have the latest operating system upgrade, you don't even need to download anything. It's an option under settings labeled "Exposure Notifications." For Android users, you'll need to download the DC CAN app and follow instructions from there. The app does not track your geographic location or share your name or personal data. It uses bluetooth to detect nearby phones participating where a user has tested positive, which sends out a randomized beacon alert based on proximity, alerting folks who might otherwise not realize they may have been exposed. The more people who participate, the more successful this effort can be at slowing the spread as we head into winter months.

Questions About Halloween? As a parent and a neighbor, Halloween in Ward 6 is incredibly special time. It's also the latest conundrum facing parents and houses who love to decorate and hand out candy. Here is what the Department of Health has issued for guidance, including laying out low, medium, and high-risk activities. 

Small Business Resiliency Fund Deadline Oct 23: If you run a small business in DC, don't miss out on the chance to receive up to $10,000 in grant support in preparing your business for winter. Winter will present new challenges for our small businesses, including many restaurants that have found a lifeline in takeout and outdoor dining (keep supporting your favorite places and be sure to tip well if you can afford it!). The city is making funding available as we prepare for colder weather. Information here!

Council Passes My Vision Zero Enhancement Legislation!  Last month, the Council unanimously passed my Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus bill, which takes major steps to improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike. This bill is close to my heart personally, having lost a close friend who was hit in a crosswalk, well-known Ward 6 cycle advocate and friend Dave Salovesh, and many other neighbors in crashes in just the last three years. We've seen a spike in traffic deaths this year despite far less commuting due to COVID. But the changes required by this law, which range from ensuring crosswalks are restored following construction in a timely manner to planning for deliveries and ride-sharing without blocking access to laying out a plan forward, will not only improve safety, but will create a stronger street life and provide an economic boost. Read more in the Post.

Unemployment Benefits Extended Another 7 Weeks: This week the Council voted to extend unemployment benefits another seven weeks, taking advantage of federal funding that can help keep a lifeline to our workers who have lost income due to the pandemic -- this should apply both to PUA recipients and traditional unemployment recipients. Thanks to my colleague and Chair of the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development Elissa Silverman for her hard work to make this happen. More information on the extension on her website.

New Hours for Firehouse Testing: There is free, public testing for COVID-19 available in Ward 6 or across the District nearly every day. Keep in mind most testing sites are outdoors and are subject to closure during bad weather. It seems like testing results are getting turned around much faster the longer this pandemic goes on, but let me know if you're finding otherwise. As a reminder, here are the testing sites in or near Ward 6 each week: 

Fire Station Engine 8: 1520 C St., SE
Tuesdays, Thursdays, 3-7 pm (new days and hours!)
Saturdays, 12-4 pm

Fire Station Engine 10: 1342 Florida Ave, NE
Thursdays and Fridays, 3-7 pm (new days and hours!)
Saturdays, 12-4 pm

Of course, you can find a site open most days in the District here if you'd like to get tested sooner.

Free Student/Kid Meal Sites As Of Sept 1: Click here to see the updated list of school meals being provided as we begin the 2020-2021 school year. Please note, students can get a meal from any school. Here's a link to meal sites based on bus lines.

Extra Rental Assistance Available: If you are behind in your rent, there might be support available. Additional funding from the federal government will be available to assist District residents. More information here.

DC Re-Launches Mortgage Assistance: If you're a home owner in the District of Columbia whose income has been hurt by the pandemic, you could be eligible for mortgage assistance through DC's Housing Finance Agency. Get the information here!

Here's Who To Support Financially or By Volunteering During COVID: At this point, we've been living physical distancing for more than 100 days. The initial burn to do something may have faded, but these organizations are still doing great work to help our neighbors and they're worth your support. 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:

  • 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 KitchenChef 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

Free diapers: 

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

Thanks and keep wearing your mask, 

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