Ward 1 Update: Inauguration, New Council Period, & More
Even as we were so happy to leave 2020 in the rear view, it has been a challenging beginning to 2021. I’ve compiled some important updates to help us get through the next several weeks together safely.
Upcoming Presidential Inauguration
First, I want to thank Ward 1 community members for staying home and not engaging with the violent hate groups that were in town last week. As such a politically engaged community, I know it was difficult for many of us to stay home and watch on TV and see updates through Twitter as these groups descended into the District and attacked the very seat of our democracy. As I said in my statement following the Jan. 6 attack, “The District of Columbia is not just our nation’s capital. It is home to more than 700,000 residents who are trying to live their lives, raise their families and do their jobs. We have always welcomed visitors who come to demonstrate peacefully. THIS was not THAT.”
You can click on the quote above to read my full statement. I know Jan 6. is a day that we will continue to reflect on and process, but I do want to update you on how we are preparing for the upcoming Presidential Inauguration:
Immediately after the attack on Jan. 6, Mayor Bowser extended the public emergency that had been declared earlier in the day for a total of 15 days. The order allows her more flexibility to use resources to protect the District, and it gives city leadership the authority to apply for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in order to "recoup expenditures incurred, or obtain funding needed, under this order. She issued an additional order to pause various activities in the District until Friday, Jan. 22 at 5:00 a.m. (This does extend the pause on indoor dining that was going to end this Friday, Jan. 15.)
Mayor Bowser has also sent a letter to the United States Department of Homeland Security asking the department to adjust its approach to the Inauguration in specific ways. You can read the full letter here. Acting Police Chief Contee shared this morning that we can expect to see about 20,000 National Guardsmen to support Inauguration Day security.
Councilmembers will be briefed on the comprehensive safety plan before the inauguration, and I will keep Ward 1 updated on important developments, however I highly encourage residents to text INAUG2021 to 888-777 to get real-time updates related to the inauguration from DC Government. DC's Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) will issue updates on public safety, street closures, weather alerts, transit updates, and more.
We are also encouraging everyone to watch the inauguration on TV or online rather than attend in person. In a joint Statement from Bowser, Hogan and Northam on Planning for the 59th Presidential Inauguration, they state: “On January 20, there will be a transition of power, and we will work together, and with our partners in the federal government, to ensure the safety of the National Capital Region. Due to the unique circumstances surrounding the 59th Presidential Inauguration, including last week’s violent insurrection as well as the ongoing and deadly COVID-19 pandemic, we are taking the extraordinary step of encouraging Americans not to come to Washington, DC and to instead participate virtually.”
I had a few residents reach out last week to let me know that they suspected members of hate groups were staying in Airbnbs in our ward. I immediately reached out to Airbnb representatives. Earlier today, Airbnb announced that it will cancel reservations in the Washington, D.C. metro area during the Inauguration week. Their announcement can be found here.
Of course, this also means that we need to closely monitor hotel reservations. I will be meeting with hotel representatives in Ward 1 this week to discuss their plans to keep our community and essential workers safe. I have been in touch with Unite Here, the labor union representing our hospitality workers to understand their perspective on how to keep workers safe.
Last week, our Ward 1 community also experienced violence in the Columbia Heights neighborhood. I was briefed by Commander Emerman (MPD) as well as our community partner Collaborative Solutions after the 4 separate incidents on Thursday and Friday that were tied to two conflicts. The investigations are ongoing, but if you’d like specific details regarding the incidents, I’m happy to talk with you directly about what we know so far. This evening (1/13), I'll be joining @ANC1A (1/13) at 7:00 p.m. to address public safety concerns. You can find call in/login information here: http://anc1a.org/agenda/ I have been allotted 5 minutes at the beginning of the meeting, so please join early to be sure to catch my update. I will also be having a deeper conversation about these conflicts with ANC1A at their monthly public safety meeting on January 21.
I am working to secure funding right now to expand conflict resolution services to the other neighborhood where the conflict is originating from. We need these resources on both sides of the conflict in order to see a resolution.
For those who were not able to join last month, here is the video link to my final public safety town hall of 2020.
Related to how we envision safety in our community, tomorrow (1/14) at 6:30pm, the MPD Accountability and Oversight Committee under the Police Reform Commission will host its second community forum to hear experiences, insights and ideas to strengthen oversight and accountability of MPD. Use this link to sign up to testify or watch: https://bit.ly/3s4Zy60
You may have seen that yesterday the District reported the highest number of coronavirus cases ever in a single day with 430 new cases. The news of a vaccine rollout does not mean we can let our guard down against this virus. We are so close to getting through this, and we need to each do our part to keep our family and friends safe. Wear a mask, practice social distancing, and avoid gathering with people outside of your household.
On Monday, we learned that District residents over the age of 65 are now eligible to begin receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Several members of my team worked quickly to help register Ward 1 seniors for appointments as soon as registration opened up. Unfortunately, the 6,700 slots allotted for this week filled up in less than 24 hours.
More appointments may be available as soon as later in the week, and you can sign up to receive an alert for when more appointment slots open up. The reason that we can’t book appointments further in advance is because DC Health has to order vaccines on a weekly basis, so as those orders are confirmed to arrive, appointments will be made available to the public.
I am aware that many people had issues with the online portal, the phone system, and even the notification system. In a press briefing this morning, Dr. Nesbitt acknowledged the glitches in the online and notification systems and reported that the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) will be working with the developers of the online system to ensure notification alerts do go out the next time appointments are available. She also informed the public that the system should have eliminated the option to fill out the questionnaire when appointments were all filled, but it did not. If you did not receive a date, time, and location for an appointment – you will have to register again once you re-enter the online system. If you do not have an appointment, please do not go to the vaccine centers. The centers will only have enough vaccines for the appointments scheduled.
If you provide services related to entertainment or events, you may be eligible for funds from the Entertainment Bridge Fund applications. More information here.
New Council Period
The Council has entered a new Council Period. At the beginning of Council Periods, the Chairman assigns Councilmembers to committees they will chair or sit on. In Council Period 24, I will remain Chair of the Committee on Human Services, which is responsible for matters concerning welfare, social services, homelessness, and disability services.
I will continue to focus on how we can give individuals and families the support that they need to thrive in the District of Columbia. Each budget season, I’ve fought to increase funds for direct resources and social services, and I plan to continue pushing for deeper investments for those who need it most.
I have also been given joint oversight over DC Housing Authority (DCHA) for programs they administer along with DHS, along with Councilmember Anita Bonds, Chair of the Committee on Housing and Executive Administration.
The Committee on Human Services also gained jurisdiction over the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, the Office of Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing, and the Office of the Ombudsperson for Children. I am working with my team to establish my plans and goals for these agencies, and I will share more in a future email.
Healthcare Access for Undocumented Residents
During the first Legislative Meeting of 2021, along with Councilmember Vince Gray, Chair of the Committee on Health, I introduced emergency legislation to increase access to healthcare for undocumented residents. During the FY21 budget, Councilmember Gray and I worked to simplify and fund the DC Healthcare Alliance Program. We reduced the barriers for healthcare by requiring enrollees to only complete one in-person interview. for recertification instead of two. The second recertification could be done by phone.
Before, the two in-person interviews burdened residents and resulted in less participation, leading to a sicker population being served. We’ve been working on reforming the process for about 4 years, but we could not get accurate estimates regarding the cost. However, due to the pandemic, the reforms were put into place with no additional funding added to DC Healthcare Finance and my work during FY21 budget actually added funds ($6.6 million) for Alliance. So we believe funds should be available to make additional & necessary improvements to Alliance.
The emergency legislation we introduced will no longer require in-person interviews & limits recertification to once a year. This will also prevent another situation like we saw at the end of FY20 where DCHF had a surplus of $28 million that got reprogrammed to cover MPD overspending. We want to keep these funds in healthcare.
As Councilmember Gray said at our Legislative Meeting, “We need to take a vow as a city to never again require our undocumented residents to wait in a 5-hour line at 4a.m. to renew their healthcare every 6 months.”
We are approaching a full year under a public health emergency. It has never been more clear how important it is that we invest in healthcare, especially for some of our most vulnerable neighbors. I will continue working to introduce permanent legislation and ensure it is fully implemented.
The Council Office of Racial Equity (CORE)
CORE is ready to launch! The rollout of CORE will take place on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 18, 2021. The office will bring tools and resources that are designed to help advance racial equity in the District of Columbia. You can RSVP to get to know the team and to learn about the available resources during a virtual meet and greet hosted by CORE on Friday, January 22, 2021 at 11:00am.
We have residents who recently joined our email list, so I want to reintroduce our Constituent Services team: Oscar Montiel and Allie Bobak. When you contact our office with a concern or issue related to the community or an agency, they work with me, your Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, and government contacts to get the matter resolved.
In 2020, our team resolved over 1000 constituent services cases. Many of these cases were related to the pandemic and included connecting Ward 1 residents directly to critical services – such as coordinating food distribution efforts, helping families receive devices for distance learning, finding hand sanitizer for senior buildings, assisting with unemployment claims, and more.
But we also continued assisting our local community organizations. To highlight a bright spot, we recently helped change the parking signs in front of CentroNía to allow for parents to park for 15 minutes while they pick-up or drop-off their children. Our team worked closely with CentroNía Family Center Manager Michael Yacob to get this done. Big thank you to CentroNía for working with us to make pick-up/drop-offs safer for families in our community.
If there’s any way that our team can assist, please reach out.
OSCAR MONTIEL - ANC 1B & 1D
ALLIE BOBAK - ANC 1A & 1C
Events DC Community Grant Program
Events DC is accepting applications for Cycle 2 of their Fiscal Year 2021 Community Grant Program with an application deadline date of March 1, 2021. For additional details about the Events DC Community Grant Program, to see a list of past recipients or to register for an Information Session, visit here.
DC Health Link Open Enrollment
If you are currently do not have health insurance, take a look at affordable plans at http://DCHealthLink.com. Open Enrollment for individuals and families runs through January 31.
UPO Community Needs Survey
Every three years the United Planning Organization, the District’s designated community action agency that helps families achieve economic satbaility, is required by their funding sources to conduct a District wide Community Needs Assessment. The Community Needs Assessment survey will help UPO identify the types of programs and services that will best support District Residents.