Urgent Need: Cash Assistance for Excluded Workers

We urge Mayor Bowser and DC Council need to provide cash assistance to DC residents who cannot work, access unemployment benefits, and/or receive federal stimulus assistance. We call this group “excluded workers.”

  • DC government should use the programs and infrastructure that already exists to get assistance to as many excluded workers as possible.
  • DC government must also make grant funding available – with the ability to subgrant – to local nonprofits to meet the needs of people disconnected from government services.

Take Action Now. Send an email with these needs and solutions to members of the DC Council and Mayor Bowser’s office.  Link to letter here.

Mendelson: PMENDELSON@dccouncil.us
ecash@dccouncil.us

Silverman: ESilverman@dccouncil.us
lweiss@dccouncil.us

Robert White: rwhite@dccouncil.us
mngwenya@dccouncil.us

Grosso: dgrosso@dccouncil.us
mnocella@dccouncil.us

Bonds: ABonds@dccouncil.us
ikang@dccouncil.us

Nadeau:  BNadeau@dccouncil.us
tjackson@dccouncil.us

Cheh: MCheh@dccouncil.us
jwillingham@dccouncil.us

Todd: BTodd@dccouncil.us
snewman@dccouncil.us

McDuffie: kmcduffie@dccouncil.us
mflowers@dccouncil.us

Allen: CAllen@dccouncil.us
lmarks@dccouncil.us

Gray: vgray@dccouncil.us
EGoulet@dccouncil.us

Trayon White: twhite@dccouncil.us
wlockridge@dccouncil.us

Solutions:

Create a benefit that mirrors Unemployment Assistance that is available to people who do not have Social Security or Alien Registration Numbers

There are thousands of DC residents and workers who have documented income but do not have the ability to access unemployment. In fact, these workers have even had Unemployment Insurance paid on their behalf, but cannot access the current system.

  • DC should make unemployment benefits available using a model similar to the one under development in New Jersey.
  • The new program regulations should allow for ITIN or other means of identifying workers that does not rely on SSN and ARN

Use existing government programs to provide cash and food assistance to residents in need

The DC Healthcare Alliance is the of the largest programs that DC government administers that  engages undocumented residents. Undocumented residents will be left out of the cash assistance available in the CARE Act.

  • Providing cash assistance to all Alliance recipients, mirroring the federal cash assistance.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (SNAP), Interim Disability Assistance (IDA) program, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) programs are already designed to provided cash and food assistance to DC residents in need and have supplemented the federal aid available to individuals and families.

  • DC should initiate COVID-response need-based assistance program administered through SNAP, IDA and/or TANF within the Department of Human Services

Make grant funding available to local nonprofits to provide cash assistance to people disconnected from government assistance

DC government should act quickly to make grants funds available to nonprofits to provide cash assistance directly to residents facing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. This fund should:

  • Include public funding, with an opportunity for philanthropic donations
  • Be available to nonprofit organizations
  • Create a cap on administration
  • Allow for sub-granting to ensure organizations with close relationships to impacted residents can act as conduits for funding

In order to act swiftly and decisively to mitigate even more harm to the Districts most marginalized workers and families, DC must shorten the timeline and drastically simplify the RFP process for receiving grants.

Background and Context

Who are Excluded Workers?

Millions of workers in the United States are excluded from the basic human right to organize or collectively bargain.  Whether it’s due to policy or practice, they cannot organize without facing retaliation, bargain collectively to transform their workplace conditions, or access basic labor protections. In short, millions of workers have been robbed of their dignity.  DC Jobs with Justice and our partner organizations are conducting a needs assessment and of excluded workers in DC, however at this moment, we believe 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.

Tens of thousands of DC residents are undocumented. Because they are undocumented, they are ineligible for either unemployment benefits or the federal cash assistance in the CARE Act. With the need for social distancing and related economic impacts, many undocumented workers are out of work, like the rest of the country.

Native-born Americans and immigrants with Social Security Numbers are also out of work. Many low income workers have no proof of income and no way to access cash assistance. This includes: sex workers, day laborers, street vendors, people doing hair out of their homes, returning citizens, and other informal economy workers.

Why cash assistance is critical

Many excluded workers are already extremely low income and have few resources to make it through the COVID emergency with access to food, toiletries, and the most basic necessities.

DC has taken many important steps to shore up residents who are at risk in this moment. This includes a moratorium on evictions during the emergency. Unfortunately, many low income residents live in precarious and informal housing arrangements. They may not be protected from being kicked out of their homes, even if they know of the current protections.

As a result, a lack of cash resources to excluded workers is likely to result in homelessness and hunger. Some of the key uses of this cash assistance are:

  • To purchase food
  • To maintain housing
  • To maintain cell or wifi service
  • To maintain transportation (which is still needed to access food or health services)

Why we need solutions based inside and outside of DC government:

DC’s existing services are able to access tens of thousands of DC residents. DC programs already provide access to cash and food. This creates an avenue to reach many residents who we reasonably fear are suffering and at risk during the COVID-19 crisis.

Non-governmental organizations have additional tools, skills, and experiences working with marginalized and vulnerable populations and the additional assistance they may need to access services. Many low income people are unbanked, have limited access to technology, have limited literacy in any language, do not speak English, lack regular interaction with the local government or service providers, lack savings, are unable to travel to meal programs, and because of a heightened police presence, are even more afraid that police interactions will result, ultimately, in deportation and family separation.  Additionally, many undocumented workers also face real fears about engaging with any government agency, including the Public Charge concerns, fear of interfacing with ICE or law enforcement, and lack of familiarity. Given the 6-month reauthorization requirement on the Alliance, even that system has thousands fewer participants than before the change.

Community-based institutions have relationships with excluded workers and can reach them based on trust and experience. Organizations – critically those both large and small – have deep and wide relationships with individuals and families who will be missed by government-run programs. Many have already pivoted their work to provide cash assistance to the population they serve, from large direct service providers serving thousands, to organizations with staffs of less than five serving dozens or excluded workers who could not otherwise access support. For those reasons it is critical that resources flow to organizations that already have relationships and systems in place to connect with residents.

Before the onslaught of COVID, marginalized and vulnerable workers were already experiencing deep trauma, economic insecurity, and lack of substantive worker protections.  During a pandemic, community trauma is multiplied – a reality that will have long-lasting public health consequences.  DC’s elected leadership must do all we can to protect and sustain our whole communities. These solutions are the first steps the District needs to take to support our most marginalized and vulnerable workers, and address the needs and human dignity of our entire workforce and all our residents.

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