Today, the DC Council is prepared to pass legislation negotiated with Mayor Bowser that intentionally and shamefully ignores the needs of immigrant workers and other residents who work for cash. Our leaders say the District “doesn’t have the money” to help these neighbors, who already have been excluded by the federal government from key lifelines, like unemployment insurance and payments from the IRS ($1,200 per adult, $500 per child.)
This is a sad day for a community where leaders claim to care about our immigrant neighbors.
If there is ever a time to set aside rules about work status or strict documentation of lost income, it’s now. If there is ever a time to say we need to help people and then figure out how to pay for it, it’s now. DC residents who have lost their jobs or suffered reductions in income are wondering how they will be able to stay in their homes. Families are going hungry. Supporting our neighbors is critical now, but also to ensuring that our city recovers when the pandemic is over.
Not only is this the right thing to do, it is doable. The initial funding sought by advocates is $5 million, less than 0.1% of the local DC budget. Even with the recently announced $607 million budget shortfall, this aid would barely affect the actions needed to keep our budget in balance.
To say that the District cannot afford to help our immigrant neighbors is not only deeply disappointing, it’s simply wrong. From hospitality, to food service, to office maintenance, and retail, immigrants are the backbone of so many industries that have helped the District thrive in recent years. As a result of our prosperity, the city started this year with $1.43 billion in reserves, which could be tapped to help get through this crisis. The Mayor and Council should also look to close tax loopholes that have leaked revenues for years, such as the Qualified High Technology Companies tax subsidies that have been shown to be useless. Just this one step could free up as much as $25 million and do a lot of good right now.
The District can and should include everyone who has been hurt by this unprecedented public health crisis. It’s what’s right for our community now, and for our community’s future.