Ward 6 Neighborhood Update: 12-10-20

I hope you and your family had a safe Thanksgiving. Because my last newsletter was entirely focused on COVID, there's A LOT of important information below, including time-sensitive info on emergency, one-time $1,200 funding from the District for gig workers and other employees ineligible for traditional unemployment, back payments on missed rent, and bridge funding for restaurants. 

I'm going to cover those items first. After that, plenty of news from around the Ward and updates on some important pieces of legislation I've been working on as this legislative session of the Council comes to a close. Let's jump in!

Quick Links: Rent Backpay | ERAP Extension | Restaurant Funding | PUA Stimulus | Brickies Recap | Zoo Lights | WMATA Cuts | Affordable Housing Construction | Public Safety Bill | Opioid Bill | Hate Crimes Bill | Civil Protections and Sanctuary Bills | COVID Testing | Free WeatherizationStudent Meals | Volunteer | Free Diapers | Free Groceries 

Get financial assistance with missed rent payments (closes Friday):

If you have missed rent payments, there is funding available to help you. Please share this on any neighborhood listservs or groups. Apply by December 11 (that's this coming Friday) for immediate assistance with payments made to your landlord with a Housing Stabilization Grant. The grants can help make up missed rental payments from April 1, 2020 through November 30, 2020. Payments for missed rent are made directly to landlords. So I want to flag for tenants and renters – if you are behind, make sure your landlord gets an application in asap. Again, the deadline to apply is this Friday, December 11. More on the program below, pulled from the landing page: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/rent

Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) Now Open for Applications Twice Per Year

ERAP is a long-running program dating back to the Great Recession that has helped tens of thousands of families avoid eviction during tough times. Given the challenges we are facing, the program recently expanded to two times a year that a household can apply for assistance. Here's the information on how to apply: https://dhs.dc.gov/service/emergency-rental-assistance-program

Restaurant Bridge Funding Application Now Open 

Today, the District opened the application for the next phase of the Bridge Fund, specifically for our local restaurants (https://coronavirus.dc.gov/page/bridge-fund). This important funding can be used to support general operational expenses such as rent or mortgage payments, docking expenses, payroll, insurance, fuel for mobile vendors, or utilities, as well as expenses incurred related to winterization or COVID-19 preparation. If you're a Ward 6 restaurant or food service business, you should get an application in as soon as possible using the link above.

One-Time $1,200 Check for PUA Recipients

On Monday, the Mayor announced a one-time stimulus payment of $1,200 for recipients of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, relief for workers who do not qualify for traditional unemployment benefits. The funding will be sent to anyone who qualified for PUA benefits prior to Nov 30, 2020. The checks will be automatically sent on a rolling basis to PUA recipients this month. As usual, please reach out to my Constituent Services team if you are having a hard time getting your benefits. You can reach anyone on my team here: http://www.charlesallenward6.com/contact

The 2020 Brickies were Just What We All Needed

Last week we held our 14th annual, and first-ever virtual, Ward 6 Brickie Awards. And I know I felt uplifted and rejuvenated by all of the great work and sense of community I could still feel over the computer screen. I want to congratulate our winners, each of whom has done incredible work to serve their neighbors during a truly challenging year. If you missed it, you can watch the hour-long program here or check out the Hill Rag's recap here. I certainly would encourage it as a way to get to know the work of our awardees. Here's who won a Brickie this year: 

Neighbor Award: Allion McGill (pictured right) for her fast work to coordinate thousands of volunteers in the early days of the pandemic to help neighbors with grocery and errand runs or getting food.
Public Service Award: Donte Lucas, of DC's Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, who has been one of the key folks running the Emergency Operations Center that coordinates all of the District's efforts to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. 

Business Award: Erik Bruner-Yang, whose restaurants have put DC and H Street on the culinary map over the past 10 years. But when the pandemic hit, Erik pivoted to an idea he had to raise funds to pay restaurant kitchen staff to prepare meals for essential workers, hungry neighbors, and front line health care workers. The Power of 10 Initiative has spread to 30 restaurants in multiple cities as a way to save jobs and fight hunger, having now served more than 275,000 meals. And it all started right here in Ward 6. Check out their work here: https://www.powerof10initiative.com/

Community Organization Award: Presented to GOODProjects, a nonprofit founded by three DC natives who met on the football team at Georgetown. GOODProjects is intensely focused on serving families living in Greenleaf, Syphax, and James Creek public housing to lift 500 families out of poverty by 2030. But when the pandemic hit, they recognized that many of the kids they work with regularly would fall behind or struggle with virtual learning. So they created a safe space at Greenleaf where students could have access to internet, laptops, and the support of teaching professionals while doing their virtual learning. Check out their work here: https://goodprojects.org/

Civic Pride Award: Maurice Cook (pictured right), who is the Executive Director of Serve Your City, which has taken on the work of being a lead agency in the Ward 6 Mutual Aid group. Maurice has been the glue (or the sticky gum as he joked during the Brickies) for more than a decade in service to uplifting Black and Brown students to provide them with opportunity and exposure to new experiences and activities. During the pandemic, he's been a central mover and shaker in collecting virtual learning supplies, helping families with applications, distributing food and masks, and so much more, working in tandem with dozens of nonprofits. Check out their work here: https://www.serveyourcitydc.org/

We also tried to use the Brickies as way to support our local restaurants by encouraging folks to order out for dinner that night if they could, and several Ward 6 businesses got into the spirit with a special Brickies menu or dish. Thanks to everyone and hope some great meals were enjoyed all around!

Zoo Lights Express Comes to Ward 6 December 12

It's a little holiday cheer, 2020 style. While the National Zoo is closed as part of COVID-19 precautions, the annual holiday favorite Zoo Lights is hitting the road. And it's coming to Ward 6 this Saturday, Dec 12, from 6-8 pm. Here's the route. Please be sure to physically-distance and wear a mask even though we are outside. 

Proposed Metro Service Cuts Would be Catastrophic 

If you haven't heard, WMATA released a draft, proposed, worst-case scenario budget if there isn't federal relief from COVID-19 to get the system through a year when ridership has dropped off a cliff due to the pandemic. And as I said on Twitter, its real bad. If you're worried about proposed cuts and how it would affect you, let me know. And while federal funding is the most urgent and immediate solution, we should be preparing for what could help get ridership back up once this pandemic is under control. And I believe it could be something along the lines of the Metro For DC bill I proposed right before the pandemic hit, which would invest in and help the folks who depend on a good public transit system the most. It must be our goal to come out of this with a public transit system ready to grow into what we'll need in the future, and not one playing catch-up over the next five years.

Northwest One Construction Begins on Bringing Affordable Homes Back to Community

Last month the long-awaited project to bring affordable and market-rate homes and retail back to the Northwest One and Temple Courts space of Ward 6 (near Mt. Vernon Triangle and NoMa) finally broke ground after years of hard work. This is a big step forward in bringing more than 200 affordable homes to Northwest One and Temple Courts, a project I've been working on dating back to before I was elected to the Council. When the project is fully completed in both phases, more than 500 new, affordable homes, including one for one replacement for residents who have been waiting. This is a promise long owed to the residents and an issue I've been meeting with residents on and working to see reflected in the final details for years. I'm especially proud of the offerings for families and multi-generational housing, including several four-bedroom townhome style units. I want to give a special thanks to Washington Interfaith Network (WIN) for their tireless work on this project and to the commissioners of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6E. Here's a quick preview of the project from Urban Turf.

Public Safety Omnibus Bill / Second Look Act Passes First Vote Unanimously

The Council also unanimously passed the Omnibus Public Safety and Justice Act of 2020, which contains more than a dozen provisions modifying or strengthening our public safety laws. Of note, it includes a permanent bill banning possession or use of ghost guns, a gun created without a serial number, often by mail-order with parts, or a 3D printed gun. We are seeing more and more ghost guns without a serial number or assembled via a mail-order kit used in violent crimes. The bill also includes updates to improve and get the word out about the District's Red Flag law, which I helped lead through the Council last year.

It also includes the Second Look Act, a bill that would expand a successful re-sentencing effort the District has undertaken in the last three years to give people who were sentenced to very long sentences as young people the opportunity to show they have rehabilitated, learned, and been held accountable. Someone becomes eligible only after having served a minimum of 15 years in prison for their sentence. The bill would expand eligibility up to anyone who committed offense under the age of 25. It is important for this bill to move forward for two reasons. First, at the core of our challenge with mass incarceration are sentences handed out that are longer and more severe for Black people - the data is unbelievably clear about this disparity in sentencing, even among violent crimes. Mass incarceration creates a direct feedback loop into communities experiencing the most violence in the first place. And second, anyone who started serving decades-long sentences as a young person is now at least middle-aged and far less likely to reoffend. This is no longer a hypothetical question. More than 50 men have been re-sentenced and released under existing law. Many have immediately started careers working with young people today who are at-risk of committing a violent crime and none have reoffended violently or been re-convicted. We desperately need their voice and lived experience working to make the community safer in this moment when a pandemic is severing key lifelines to those most at-risk. They are working to not only undo the harm they have caused, but also break the cycle of violence we are seeing play out right now in unbelievably heartbreaking ways. To get a sense of what this looks like, I highly recommend this PBS Newshour profile on one man released under the existing law.

Finally, I want to speak to the role a victim's family or a survivor plays in this process. The application for re-sentencing is a lengthy process, taking upwards of a year or two. It is at the discretion of a judge, who must weigh a number of factors in considering if someone should receive a re-sentencing. If a victim's family or survivor wishes to speak out, in favor of or against a re-sentencing that might lead to an early release, the judge must weigh and consider their perspective. Victims have used their statements to both support and oppose re-sentencing. The judge must also look at how the applicant used their time while incarcerated, including both participating in positive programming, and any and all violations of the rules within a prison. I want to really emphasize that this is not automatic process. Not everyone who has applied has been released in the last three years - judges also deny requests. But those who have are doing remarkable things to help our community, and I think that's very valuable. Here's a good article putting our bill in context with similar efforts around the country: Washington Post: A growing group of prosecutors, who say the job is more than just locking people up, want to help free criminals too

Opioid Overdose Prevention Bill, Putting Health First, Advances

I also want to share that another bill I wrote, which further centers the District's response to the opioid crisis on public health responses, advanced unanimously on first vote. The bill importantly decriminalizes possession of paraphernalia related to personal consumption, creates "Good Samaritan" legal protections for anyone who intervenes to administer life-saving naloxone or calls 911 to report an overdose, and makes it easier for nonprofits serving these neighbors to do so while helping them use safely. These are all best practices if your approach to reducing overdoses begins with harm reduction rather than punishment, understanding addiction requires specific approaches that our criminal justice system is not suited to respond to. Read more about the bill in the Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/dc-opioid-deaths-2020/2020/12/05/95cfba3a-34c0-11eb-b59c-adb7153d10c2_story.html

Hate Crimes Bill Advances Council, Banning LGBTQ+ Panic Defense

Yet one more significant piece of legislation to cover! I also helped advance an omnibus bill with a series of new proposals to reduce the number of hate crimes in the District. Most prominently, and in working closely with Chairman Mendelson and David Grosso, is banning what is known as a panic defense. This is when a defendant tries to excuse their illegal behavior, often violent, because they "panicked" when learning their victim was a member of the LGBTQ+ community. This defense was most famously attempted in the slaying of Matthew Shepherd, but it has also been used in the District. The bill is named for a Bella Evangelista, a transgender woman killed in 2003, and Tony Hunter, a gay man killed in 2008, both of whose assailants employed the defense. The bill also includes stronger protections against defacement of buildings and spaces targeting protected classes of people and grants the District's Attorney General the ability to bring civil suits in instances of hate crimes. Read more in the Washington Blade: https://www.washingtonblade.com/2020/11/23/d-c-council-committee-approves-bill-to-ban-lgbtq-panic-defense/

Modernizing Restraining Orders for Domestic Violence Survivors, Finalizing DC as a Sanctuary City

Finally, there are two more bills I want you to know about. Very quickly: 

B23-165: A bill that modernizes our civil protections for intra-family offenses, notably domestic violence cases. It also creates a new anti-stalking statute for situations that aren't quite familial, but often involve relationships in close proximity, such as an former romantic partner's new partner or a landlord who lives on the premises. 

B23-0501: Locks into permanent law the District's status as a sanctuary city for our immigrant neighbors by preventing coordination between the federal Immigrant and Customs Enforcement agency and our local law enforcement agencies. More on both of these laws here: http://www.charlesallenward6.com/committee_on_judiciary_and_public_safety_to_consider_six_bills

Where You Can Get Tested

Daily Testing Sites In or Near Ward 6:

  • Judiciary Square
    Monday-Friday, 8:30 am to 1 pm
    F St., NW between 4th and 5th Sts.

  • Nationals Park
    Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, 2:30-7:30 pm
    Geico Parking Garage

  • Fire Station Engine 8
    Tuesday, Thursday, 2:30-7:30 pm
    Saturday, 12-4 pm
    Sunday, 12-4pm (open 11/29)
    1520 C Street, SE

  • Fire Station Engine 10
    Tuesday, Thursday, 2:30-7:30 pm
    Saturday, 12-4 pm
    Sunday, 12-4pm (open 11/29)
    1342 Florida Avenue, NE

New!! Bring Your Insurance Card or Pre-Register: Starting next week, testing sites will ask, but not require, you to bring your insurance card. Insurance isn't required, but insurance companies cover testing and this can begin to offset some of the cost borne by the District. It isn't required, and a test will still be free, but it does help save the District money to put in other areas of need. This is a cost insurance companies should be bearing. If you pre-register for a testing site, you can enter your insurance information then to save time.

Free Weatherization to Warm Up Your Home

As cold days set in, make sure your neighbors know the District offers assistance to seniors and income-qualifiying residents for assistance with weatherization projects that can keep your home warmer. Learn more here: https://doee.dc.gov/service/weatherization-assistance-program-wap

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.

Related: School Without Walls, one of the District's top public high schools serving the entire city, is considering changes to its application process. While I understand the challenges of a pandemic, I'm consistently worried about the disadvantages changes at the last minute pose to students who don't have as strong of a network to assist with an application. I spoke with the Post about the proposal: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/school-without-walls-admissions/2020/12/04/74cf7060-366d-11eb-8d38-6aea1adb3839_story.html

Here's Who Is Helping Neighbors During COVID

These organizations are still doing great work to help our neighbors and they're worth your support. If you need assistance, this list is a good starting point. 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. 

  • 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.
  • Breadcoin: A nonprofit offering flexibility to folks who are hungry in where and how they purchase food or meals at a restaurant.

Free diapers 

Free groceries for residents

Stay safe, stay home, and wear a mask if you need to go out. 

Charles Allen

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