“Since the Council last met under our current public health emergency, the District has undergone a significant health, social, and economic transformation as the COVID-19 public health emergency touches nearly every resident of our City and region. The District has instituted key provisions of the first emergency, including setting up the Microgrant small business recovery program, a prohibition on evictions, utility relief, an expansion of tax relief, and an expansion of unemployment benefits. I want to thank my colleagues, as well as the Mayor and her administration, for their tireless efforts in this crisis. As Chair of the Committee on Business and Economic Development, I have continued to work around the clock to mitigate further financial losses experienced by residents and businesses.
As I have continued engaging the business community and other key stakeholders since the passage of our first emergency legislation, this second iteration continues to provide vital support for residents and small and local businesses by taking urgent and innovative steps.
I am proud to have added provisions to support our Certified Business Enterprises (CBEs). Specifically, the bill increases the subcontracting amount for construction and non-construction contracts entered into during the public health emergency from 35% to 50%. This helps to ensure that the limited District funding will be targeted to residents of our City during this critical time. I am also proud to include a provision that would allow the agency to provide contractors with advance payments.
The emergency legislation supports workers, small businesses, and families by requiring mortgage servicers to defer mortgage payments for property owners experiencing hardship as a result of COVID-19 and requiring those savings be passed on to tenants. As Chairman of the Council committee with oversight of the DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, I am proud to have included this language that will provide a needed and concrete reprieve for renters, owners and businesses alike during this time.
Previously, we prohibited terminating gas, water, and electrical services during the public health emergency. This legislation expands the prohibition on the disconnection of utility services to include cable and telecommunication services. It also authorizes the Office of the Attorney General to enforce violations of the provisions of the Council’s COVID-19 emergency legislation by merchants.
Recognizing that communities of color and minority-owned businesses continue to face systemic barriers, which in many ways are exacerbated during this pandemic. As I wrote to my colleagues two weeks ago, we must remain vigilant, so we do not exacerbate existing disparities and contribute to displacement of individuals and businesses in communities of color.
While this is an impactful bill that will help us through this crisis, the work of this Council, Mayor Bowser, and the District government continues. There will undoubtedly be additional measures necessary, and as we consider those, it is imperative we work collectively to guide our City through this unprecedented time.”