DC Excluded Workers Need $30 Million to Survive the
Economic Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic
RSVP to the Don’t Exclude Me action June 29th – 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM – Freedom Plaza
DC is home to over 30,000 residents we know cannot access federal assistance through unemployment insurance and/or the federal stimulus. The DC FY21 budget must include cash assistance for those excluded by the federal government so that they too can survive the prolonged health and economic crisis through next year.
DC is Home to Workers in Dire Need of Support
Tens of thousands of DC residents are excluded from federal unemployment insurance (UI) relief efforts. This includes undocumented workers, day laborers, sex workers, street vendors, people doing hair out of their homes, returning citizens, and other informal economy workers. The vast majority of these DC residents are low-income workers who do not have the savings needed to get by without work for many months. Excluded workers are overwhelmingly Black and immigrant residents who have also been among the hardest hit by COVID-19.
Cash Assistance is Urgently Needed for Excluded Workers
In late March, Congress passed a measure that softened COVID-19’s economic blow to millions of Americans, including one-time direct payments of up to $1,200 for most adults and an additional $500 for each child under age 17. Congress also approved four months of federally-funded Unemployment Insurance (UI) payments of $600 per week that will be in addition to state UI benefits that jobless workers receive. In addition, they established Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)—a program for people who are ineligible for UI, such as those who have a limited work history, are self-employed, people working as independent contractors, and those in the “gig economy.” Unfortunately, undocumented workers are ineligible for direct payments, UI, and PUA.
Congress also cruelly excluded those in families of mixed-immigration status from receiving the one-time federal payments. In a mixed-immigration household, some tax filers or their children may use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), which the IRS issues to those without Social Security numbers so they can pay taxes. If anyone in the household uses an ITIN, no one in the household will qualify for the one-time federal payment, unless at least one spouse served in the military in 2019. This means that families with U.S. citizen children and authorized non-citizen workers are entirely excluded from federal stimulus payments.
Residents who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own are in dire need of modest assistance so they can afford the basics. Given exclusions at the federal level, DC government must find local dollars to ensure all DC residents get the help they need. Leaving any of our neighbors behind is morally wrong and antithetical to our professed values as a sanctuary city.
Events DC Investment is Insufficient
While we are thankful for the $5 million investment in cash assistance for undocumented residents through Events DC, much more is needed. The current investment will not reach approximately 25,000 of DC’s excluded workers, while the $1000 benefit is not enough to sustain families during an economic crisis that will span for many more months. . And unfortunately, this limited fund doesn’t cover non-immigrant cash economy workers at all.
DC Can Afford to Protect All of DC’s Excluded Workers
When assessing the actual needs of all of DC’s excluded workers, $30 million is a modest ask that would provide only $1000 to most excluded workers. This number is well below the projected need. If DC were to provide comparable cash assistance of worker in the formal economy, the ask would be close to $250 million. DC can afford this modest investment, either through using our reserves, raising additional revenue, or re-allocating non-essential funding.
Reserves: The city can afford to fund a temporary program to help stabilize families that call DC home. Before the pandemic began, DC had $1.43 billion dollars in reserves, and under the newly-passed relief legislation, DC can borrow $500 million in the 2020 fiscal year to help us meet cash flow needs and stay afloat. This better enables the DC government to provide more adequate assistance for excluded workers beyond the funding that DC Events announced.The Mayor’s budget uses the entire $213M Fiscal Stabilization Fund, but the other three reserves appear to be refilled by year’s end. District policymakers rightly discuss how great it is that the city has been able to build up its reserves for a rainy day. They should be just as proud to use reserves when a rainy day comes. That time is now.
Revenue: The excluded workers coalition joins Fair Budget Coalition’s tax revenue recommendations for FY 2021. The DC Council can increase revenue to expand support for excluded workers by:
● Asking more from those who can afford it more, or who have been mostly insulated from the economic impact of the pandemic.
● Repeal or scale back tax giveaways that are ineffective.
Re-Allocation: The DC Council can reallocate money in the Mayor’s proposed budget that would have a limited effect on key services, such as delaying nonessential capital projects.