In April the D.C. Council removed a provision from a coronavirus relief bill that offered support for people who don't qualify for unemployment.
Several local social justice organizations hosted a DC Excluded Workers rally Monday morning at Freedom Plaza in support of D.C. workers who are left out of key cash assistance programs, including sex workers and others in the informal economy, along with roughly 25,000 undocumented residents in the city. Organizers include the Latino Economic Development Center, HIPS, D.C. Jobs With Justice, and others.
Many of the city's workers can't access key programs offering financial relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, including expanded unemployment insurance and stimulus checks afforded under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act. Alex Taliadoros, one of the organizers with the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, said via direct message on Twitter that there were roughly 300 people at the rally lobbying the D.C. Council to invest $30 million in assistance for these workers.
"The situation for excluded workers is really dire. Families that were already living paycheck-to-paycheck have now been without income or aid for months. DC communities will experience a humanitarian crisis with homelessness, hunger, and despair if we continue to leave these workers behind," Taliadoros said. "$30 million is enough to give each DC excluded worker — undocumented immigrants, returning citizens, and cash economy workers — $1,000 in cash assistance. These workers are locked out of our social safety net and need relief too."
"Excluded workers were the first to lose their jobs from this crisis and will be among the last to get their jobs back. They have also been particularly hit hard by the COVID pandemic. Our communities are resilient but they need this lifeline to make it through," Taliadoros added.
When the D.C. Council passed coronavirus relief measures earlier this year, it left out financial assistance for the city's undocumented workers. In one version of an April bill, the Council would have established a pool of money to assist excluded workers. But the provision, which D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson said at $33 million was too costly for the city, was later scrapped.
The city's entertainment and convention authority, Events DC, approved $18 million in aid for the local hospitality industry in April — including $5 million for undocumented workers. But an analysis from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute says that money isn't enough.
"Five million dollars will extend less than $200 in one-time funding to every undocumented resident in the city, far below what is needed to stave off hunger for several months in a city with skyrocketing housing costs," DCFPI analyst Alyssa Noth writes.