By Briana Thomas
Special to the AFRO
On April 7, the D.C. Council unanimously passed a coronavirus relief bill to provide financial and community assistance for District residents and businesses.
The COVID-19 emergency relief bill includes rent freezes, 90-day mortgage deferments, grants to hospitals and early release for some inmates, among several other provisions.
However, the bill does not include financial aid for undocumented residents who live and work in D.C., a provision that city leaders initially included in the legislation, but was later removed.
Undocumented residents in Washington, D.C. are not included in the new COVID-19 emergency relief bill passed by thhe D.C. Council on April 7 and groups such as the D.C. chapter of the National Domestic Workers Alliance are speaking out on the exclusion. (Courtesy Photo)
According to the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the provision would have provided immediate cash assistance to thousands of immigrant workers and their families. But without the aid, hotel workers, day laborers, building cleaners, restaurant workers and many more laborers across the sector will be left to struggle.
A leader with the D.C. chapter of the alliance, Ingrid, said in a news release that Council members need to consider the needs of the undocumented community.
“I have already lost the majority of my cleaning jobs and am now having to face how I will pay my rent or even pay for food. We are not disposable and deserve help in this critical moment,” Ingrid said.
The provision would have made undocumented residents eligible to receive unemployment insurance or stimulus checks.
The bill in its current form, without protections for undocumented residents, will go into effect as soon as Mayor Muriel Bowser signs the legislation.
DC Jobs with Justice, a Washington-based labor coalition, wrote an open letter to Bowser on April 7 urging monetary help for all that are affected by the pandemic.
“Excluded workers include tens of thousands of immigrant families and other workers. These people make D.C. work. They care for children and grandparents so others can go to their offices, they clean hotel rooms to make our hospitality sector strong, they power our new development by constructing our buildings, they keep our offices clean overnight, they wash dishes and keep bars stocked so we can enjoy our cocktails and D.C.’s fine dining. They are active members of the D.C. community,” the letter stated.
The group said that cash assistance is a matter of racial equality and that the majority of those uncovered by the Council’s legislation are “almost exclusively Black and Brown residents.”
State Policy Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance Rocio Avila, told the AFRO April 8 that it is the responsibility of the local government to offer all residents support during this crisis.
The Alliance was hoping the City Council would incorporate $5 million in funds to provide an alternative wage replacement or safety net for workers who don’t have work authorization in the country, including not just immigrant laborers, but also street vendors and underground economy workers who receive cash wages, Avila said.
“The pandemic is not discriminating against anybody based on race, class, gender, sexual orientation and it can infect anybody,” Avila explained. “However, the resources available to people if they become infected, or if they have the privilege to stay home and shelter in place to avoid or prevent being exposed to the virus, is actually not equitable.”
Neighboring counties like Montgomery County recently set aside $5 million in funds to support vulnerable residents during the coronavirus outbreak, according to the County’s government website.