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Note: We’ll be pushing the publishing of our daily news roundup for as long as the mayor has 11 a.m. COVID-19 press conferences.


For a few days, workers who are undocumented or cannot prove their income had hope that government aid would finally be on its way.

The Council released a sweeping emergency bill on Thursday to address the coronavirus pandemic that included provisions which would provide cash assistance to those who cannot apply for unemployment benefits or are excluded from the federal relief package. But the section was cut in a revised version of the bill.  

Employees who have been excluded from any government assistance so far include undocumented people who work in restaurants or in the informal economy. These individuals are nannies, landscapers, day-laborers, street vendors, and home aides that care for the elderly or disabled. Like so many workers across the city, these individuals had to stop working because doing so is too dangerous. Working means spreading or possibly catching the coronavirus disease. Or they’ve been laid off because their place of employment temporarily or permanently closed, be it a restaurant or salon. But unlike many workers, they’ve had to make due with money they’ve managed to save, if any, or funds raised through mutual aid groups.  

“We are asking that the D.C. government doesn’t leave us in the cold because we are people too. We are just people who don’t have papers,” says Enrique Arias, a street vendor in Columbia Heights. “We work. We pay our bills. We pay our taxes. We follow the laws.”

“I’m appalled yet again that mutual aid systems function way above the level that the government is functioning on this issue,” says Megan Macaraeg, a labor organizer with the immigrants rights group, Many Languages One Voice. “It’s appalling. It’s also really telling.” 

The first version of the bill created a parallel unemployment compensation program for excluded workers and a grant program so nonprofits can divvy out cash to workers who don’t feel comfortable interfacing with the government. Council Chairman Phil Mendleson said the provisions were infeasible, costing $33 million and $42 million, respectively. The chairman says the grant program is worth taking a closer look at, although he can’t promise that it’ll make it into the final bill. “We’re committed to keep working on this issue to see what financial relief can be provided,” said Mendelson during a press conference on Monday. 

Advocates are now trying to get one of two provisions from the initial draft that helped excluded workers back into the final bill before councilmembers vote on its final passage on Tuesday. DC Jobs with Justice, one of the organizations that has been building support around the provisions, says it never had any dollar amounts attached before Sunday. Now, organizers are asking that lawmakers provide at least $5 million in assistance to nonprofits who can directly give money to workers. “If D.C. had implemented a mirror UI program, it would have had a much bigger fiscal impact than that,” says Elizabeth Falcon with DC Jobs with Justice. The ask is small, but the money could go a long way for workers whose hardships predate the pandemic. 

When City Paper asked about excluded workers during a press conference on Friday, Mayor Muriel Bowser said her “heart breaks for everybody” who is being devastated by this global pandemic. But D.C. can’t help everybody. 

“This is not the type of response that can be handled locally only and we have to be very mindful of that,” she said. “We cannot meet the need for every individual and every business with only District funds.” 

The Trump administration has centered its policy around excluding immigrants from government assistance. The administration’s largest immigration policy to date was its public charge rule, which makes it harder for immigrants to enter the U.S. or gain green cards if they are likely to need public benefits in the future. States and localities have thus had to provide protections and relief to immigrants themselves. This is why D.C. dubs itself a sanctuary city. Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? agomez@washingtoncitypaper.com

CITY DESK LINKS, by Amanda Michelle Gomez:

  • There are now 24 deaths related to COVID-19, at least 5 of which died in the community and not in a hospital. The D.C. government released a racial breakdown of COVID-19 data on Monday. Bowser says the most complete data as it relates to race is deaths. While black residents make up 46 percent of D.C.’s population, they make up 58 percent of its COVID-19 deaths. During Monday’s press conference, the mayor would not provide her own analysis of the racial breakdown, leaving that to the medical professionals. But she did acknowledge that limited COVID-19 data across the country show black people dying in greater numbers. [EOM, Twitter]

  • With 99 new positive cases, the District’s total number of reported patients with COVID-19 is 1,097. [EOM]   

  • Official counts are understating the COVID-19 death toll. A Virginia funeral director prepared the remains for 3 people who tested positive, but only one had the virus noted in their death certificate. [NYT]

LOOSE LIPS LINKS, by Mitch Ryals (tips? mryals@washingtoncitypaper.com

  • Avoid rim jobs during the pandemic, D.C. advises. [WCP]

  • The D.C. housing market is strong, but for how much longer? [WAMU]

  • More than 50,000 people filed for unemployment in D.C. since March 13. [DCist]

  • Two men staying in D.C.’s halfway house have died in the past three days. [Twitter]

YOUNG & HUNGRY LINKS, by Laura Hayes (tips? lhayes@washingtoncitypaper.com

  • Hear from the undocumented immigrants who used to work in D.C. restaurants. [WCP]

  • Where to pick up fully prepared seder dinners. [Washingtonian]

  • Local Irish pub owner Mark Kirwan is keeping busy as a police officer. [RTE]

  • The city shut down the Wharf’s Municipal Fish Market after crowds gathered Saturday night. [WUSA]

ARTS LINKS, by Kayla Randall (tips? krandall@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • You can still celebrate filmmaker Bong Joon Ho at home. [WCP]

  • Here’s the status of major art exhibitions that were set to come to D.C. [WAMU]

  • High school yearbook editors are still putting in work. [Post]

SPORTS LINKS, by Kelyn Soong (tips? ksoong@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • The United States Tennis Association released new guidelines on Friday encouraging tennis players “to take a collective pause from playing the sport we love.” That hasn’t stopped residents in the D.C. area from finding and playing on open courts. [WCP]

  • Public health leaders warn that it’s a possibility that live sports won’t return until 2021. [Post]

  • Pro Football Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell, the first African American player to sign with the Washington NFL team, died on Sunday. He was 84. A cause of death has not been disclosed. [ESPN]

  • Rui Hachimura upset Donovan Mitchell in the NBA 2K Players Tournament, taking down the No. 4 seed, 74-71. Maybe it helped that he had someone bringing him a towel and water during timeouts. [Yahoo]

CITY LIGHTS, by Emma Sarappo (Love this section? Get the full newsletter here. Tips? esarappo@washingtoncitypaper.com)

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