Reopen DC Must Prioritize the Safety and Livelihood of Workers and Tenants

This past week DC Jobs with Justice worked with community leaders and policy experts to demand that DC prioritize workers and tenants in the reopening process. Our demands included:

Justice for Excluded Workers
There are tens of thousands of workers in the District who will not be able to access any form of cash assistance to weather the storm of the immediate Covid-19 crisis. These workers have been excluded because of who they are or the work they perform. Their needs are particularly acute during the pandemic and must be addressed. We joined with our allies in labor and community based groups to call for DC to expand efforts at guaranteeing the economic security, safety, and health of all workers including excluded workers.

Recoup Unpaid Unemployment Insurance Taxes and Limit Workplace Fraud
Week after week we have seen an unprecedented numbers of workers applying for unemployment insurance and putting pressure on an already overburdened public assistance program. Meanwhile gig companies such as Uber and Lyft–whose workers have seen incomes fall dramatically – continue long-standing practices of worker misclassification and tax avoidance. DC JWJ joined with leading academics from Georgetown, CUNY, and GW to call for DC to hold these gig companies responsible for unpaid unemployment insurance taxes, ensure that workers receive the highest-level of available benefits under traditional unemployment insurance, and revise UI law to apply the “ABC test” across industries.

Eliminate Barriers to Unemployment Compensation and Expanded Sick Leave
DC JWJ joined with several of our allies in the Just Pay Coalition to call for two urgent actions needed to ensure that all workers have access to basic protections. As mentioned in our other letter we must ensure that all workers can access unemployment insurance. To that end we recommend expanded language access, optimizing the application for mobile devices, and increasing capacity to handle phone applications. We also reiterated our call for ensuring that all workers have access to 2 weeks of sick leave, including workers with large employers currently exempted from federal sick leave legislation.

Strengthening and Expanding Rent Control While the District Reopens and Recovers
As the District begins to reopen following the COVID-19 outbreak, it is more important than ever to ensure that DC’s residents remain stably housed and can afford their rent. To date, nine homeless District residents have died from COVID-19 and the unhoused community has a disproportionately high rate of infection. If the District is going to contain and limit the spread of this virus and establish a resilient and equitable District, it cannot allow more people to become homeless or fail to increase the supply of affordable housing. That is why we joined with our allies in the Reclaim Rent Control Coalition to call for the council to act now and implement the full Reclaim Rent Control platform. By expanding the supply of rent controlled housing and making rent control protections more meaningful, the District will help ensure that there is affordable housing available for the District’s most vulnerable in every ward.

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