Council Extends COVID Emergency Authorization, Slows Budget Process to Allow Inclusion of Federal COVID Aid

The District’s COVID public health emergency went into effect on March 11, 2020. Now, just a week before the one-year anniversary of that emergency’s imposition, the Council has once again extended its COVID response legislation. This action allows the Mayor to extend the current public health emergency until, at the latest, May 20 of this year. The current expiration date for the health emergency is March 31. We will not know until the Mayor puts out an eventual Mayor’s Order if she will extend the emergency until the new maximum allowable date, or until an interim date. Many important measures, such as the eviction moratorium, are tied to the public health emergency end dates laid out in each successive Mayor’s Order.

The Council’s latest extension of the COVID relief bill also included a small but important delay in the date by which the Mayor must submit her proposed budget to the Council. The date was legislatively shifted from March 31 to April 22 with hopes that the federal COVID relief measure currently being debated in Congress will be finalized in the coming weeks. It is hoped that this three week delay will allow the Mayor to incorporate the federal relief funds the District will likely receive into her budget proposal, and that therefore it will more accurately reflect the District’s financial reality moving forward.

When the Council passed its initial COVID response bills, the November 2020 general election was not far off, and given the many urgent pressures facing the government and health advisories to avoid in-person meetings, it was decided that the filling of Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner vacancies should be delayed until a proper, COVID-safe process could be put into place. The latest Council COVID bill includes just such a process, allowing the filling of these vacancies to move forward once again. Among the eight vacancies to be filled are the long-vacant seat for the ANC 7F07 Single Member District, whose constituency is largely comprised of those incarcerated at the DC Jail.

Finally, the Council’s COVID bill extension also includes a new limitation on the fees that delivery apps can charge on orders that customers pick up themselves at restaurants. The fees on pickup orders will now be limited to a maximum of five percent. Delivery fee limits, set by the Council in an earlier measure, will remain in place at their current level of fifteen percent.

Returning to a measure the Council first considered at its February Legislative Meeting, the Council approved a bill at its most recent meeting that would provide District government employees with two weeks of bereavement leave for the loss of a minor child or in the case of a stillbirth.

The Council’s next Legislative Meeting will be held on April 6.