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small business

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Breweries, distilleries, cideries, and wineries could expand into taverns under Grosso proposal

For Immediate Release: 
March 20, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Breweries, distilleries, cideries, and wineries could expand into taverns under Grosso proposal

Washington, D.C. – Homegrown breweries, distilleries, cideries, and wineries would have greater freedom to open up additional taverns in the District of Columbia under legislation proposed by Councilmember David Grosso earlier this week.

“In the past decade, the District of Columbia has developed a thriving industry of breweries, distilleries, cideries, and wineries, which have supported hundreds of local jobs” said Grosso.

However, although they can all currently sell alcohol and food at their production facilities, they are prohibited from owning a separate tavern elsewhere in the District.

Grosso says these outdated laws, a relic of post-Prohibition regulations, disadvantage D.C. businesses.

“These ownership restrictions only apply to District of Columbia breweries, distilleries, cideries, and wineries, but there is nothing to stop a similar out-of-town business from opening up their own taverns here in D.C. Our own small businesses can now be on equal footing.”

The Manufacturer's Satellite Taverns Amendment Act of 2019 would allow local brewers and distillers to own and operate up to two satellite taverns elsewhere in the city that would primarily sell products that they manufacture themselves.

Locally grown businesses could continue to operate tasting rooms and restaurants at their brewing and distilling locations, but this would eliminate the need for complicated ownership structures to also operate a stand-alone tavern elsewhere.

“Our city is a better place because of our home-grown businesses and this bill will help to support their continued growth in the District of Columbia,” said Grosso.

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Grosso expands proposal to promote retail equity for the underbanked

For Immediate Release:
February 5, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso expands proposal to promote retail equity for the underbanked

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso today re-introduced legislation to promote equity at local businesses and combat the trend towards cashless retail, a discriminatory practice that excludes District of Columbia residents who do not have a credit or debit card.

The Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2019 requires retail establishments operating in the District of Columbia to accept cash as a form of payment. Further, it prohibits discrimination against anyone who chooses to use cash as a form of payment, such as charging different prices.

“By denying patrons the ability to use cash as a form of payment, businesses are effectively telling lower-income and young patrons that they are not welcome,” Grosso said. “Practices like this further stratify our diverse city when we should be working to foster greater inclusion.”

One in ten residents in the District of Columbia has no bank. An additional one in four are underbanked and therefore may not have access to a debit or credit card.  

“Through this bill, we can ensure that all D.C. residents and visitors can continue to patronize the businesses they choose while avoiding the potential embarrassment of being denied service simply because they lack a credit card,” Grosso said.

Grosso originally introduced the legislation last year, but that version only required food establishments to accept cash. The version introduced today expands the requirement to accept cash to all in-person retail establishments.
Last week, the New Jersey state legislature overwhelmingly passed similar legislation prohibiting cashless retail.

Grosso has also been focused on how the trend toward cashless payment is impacting city services. In December, he sent a letter to City Administrator Rashad Young requesting a full accounting of which D.C. government agencies accept money from the public, for what services, and, of those, which cannot be paid in cash. Additionally, he has been monitoring the impact of the cashless 79 express bus route pilot program which could worsen commuting options for riders with disabilities or lower income residents.

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Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2019

Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2019

Introduced: February 5, 2019

Co-introducers: Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Brianne Nadeau, Vincent Gray, and Trayon White. 

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend Title 28 of the District of Columbia Official Code to prohibit retail establishments from discriminating against cash as a form of payment, and to provide for enforcement of this requirement.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you Chairman Mendelson.

Today, along with my colleagues Chairman Mendelson and Councilmembers Bonds, Nadeau, Trayon White, and Gray, I am introducing the Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2019.

Last year, I introduced similar legislation along with many of my colleagues.  This new proposal expands the cashless prohibition to include all retail establishments, instead of only those establishments that sell food.

Several local businesses have recently implemented new policies to ban the use of cash as a form of payment.

This has been a nationwide trend, backed in some instances by credit card companies like Visa, which have provided short-term funding to businesses that agree to stop accepting cash from their customers.

This practice requires that patrons have a credit card in order to purchase a salad at Sweetgreen, frozen yogurt at Menchie’s, or a sandwich at Jetties.

Banning the use of cash is a discriminatory practice that disproportionately impacts the 10% of DC residents who are unbanked, and an additional 25% of residents who are underbanked and may not have access to a credit card.

In addition, this practice is discriminatory against youth, who are often unable to obtain a credit card, impacting many of our middle school and high school students.

 By denying patrons the ability to use cash as a form of payment, businesses are effectively telling lower-income and young patrons that they are not welcome.

 These are customers who could otherwise afford the simple luxury of a glazed treat from District Doughnut in Union Market, though they may not have the ability to obtain a credit card.

In addition to the disparate impact on low-income and young patrons, this practice effects other customers who may prefer to pay with cash to better manage their budget, or to avoid the very real risk of identity theft that comes along with credit card use.

 Through this bill, we can ensure that all DC residents and visitors can continue to patronize the businesses they choose, while avoiding the potential embarrassment of being denied service simply because they lack a credit card.

 Thank you and I welcome any co-sponsors.

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Grosso promotes retail equity with bill to prohibit cashless retail

For Immediate Release:
June 26, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso promotes retail equity with bill to prohibit cashless retail

Washington, D.C. – Today Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced legislation that promotes equity at local businesses by ending the trend towards cashless retail, a discriminatory practice that excludes District residents who do not have a credit or debit card.

The Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2018 requires retail food establishments operating in the District of Columbia to accept cash as a form of payment. Further, it prohibits the discrimination against anyone who chooses to use cash as a form of payment, such as charging different prices.

“By denying patrons the ability to use cash as a form of payment, businesses are effectively telling lower-income and young patrons that they are not welcome,” Grosso said. “Practices like this further stratify our diverse city when we should be working to foster greater inclusion.”

One in ten residents in the District of Columbia has no bank. An additional one in four are underbanked and therefore may not have access to a debit or credit card.  

“Through this bill, we can ensure that all D.C. residents and visitors can continue to patronize the businesses they choose while avoiding the potential embarrassment of being denied service simply because they lack a credit card,” Grosso said.

Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Brianne Nadeau, Vincent Gray, and Trayon White joined Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation.

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Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2018

Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2018

Introduced: June 26, 2018

Co-introducers: Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Brianne Nadeau, Vincent Gray, and Trayon White. 

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend Title 28 of the District of Columbia Official Code to require retail food establishments to accept cash; to prevent discrimination against customers who prefer to use cash or do not have access to credit cards or other payment methods; and to provide for enforcement of this requirement.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you Chairman Mendelson. Today, along with you, Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Brianne Nadeau, Vincent Gray, and Trayon White colleague, I am introducing the Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2018.

Several local quick service restaurants, coffee shops, food trucks, and other businesses have recently implemented new policies to ban the use of cash as a form of payment.

This practice requires that patrons have a credit card in order to purchase a salad at Sweetgreen, frozen yogurt at Menchie’s, or a sandwich at Jetties.

Banning the use of cash is a discriminatory practice that disproportionately impacts the 10% of DC residents who are unbanked, and an additional 25% of residents who are underbanked and may not have access to a credit card.

In addition, this practice is discriminatory against youth, who are often unable to obtain a credit card, impacting many of our middle school and high school students.

By denying patrons the ability to use cash as a form of payment, businesses are effectively telling lower-income and young patrons that they are not welcome. 

These are customers who could otherwise afford the simple luxury of a glazed treat from B Doughnut in Union Market, though they may not have the ability to obtain a credit card.

In addition to the disparate impact on low-income and young patrons, this practice effects other customers who may prefer to pay with cash to better manage their budget, or to avoid the very real risk of identity theft that comes along with credit card use.

Through this bill, we can ensure that all DC residents and visitors can continue to patronize the businesses they choose while avoiding the potential embarrassment of being denied service simply because they lack a credit card.
 

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Local Business Support Amendment Act of 2017

Local Business Support Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: February 7, 2017

Co-introducer: Chairman Phil Mendelson

Summary: To amend the District of Columbia Code to create a local business ombudsman; establish roles and responsibilities of the Ombudsman’s office and to designate agency-wide Officers for Small and Local Business Inclusion; to remove endorsement fees for the issuance and renewal of basic business licenses; to allow a basic business license to be issued without a certificate of occupancy; to allow for the same registered trade name to be used for multiple business locations; to amend the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations to decrease the percentage of funds owed each quarter by supply schedule vendors for doing business with the government; to amend the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations for trade name renewal and requirement for an expiration notice.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you, Chairman Mendelson.  Today, along with you, I am introducing the “Local Business Support Amendment Act of 2017.”

During my first term in office, I served as an active member of the Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs and was an active member of the Workforce Investment Council.  During that time, I became deeply familiar with the agencies that govern business operations in District of Columbia.

I consistently heard from local businesses of all sizes that D.C. government regulations are not business friendly and there are very few incentives for businesses to locate here.

After meeting with businesses and associations of all sizes, we devised a few relatively simple ways the D.C. Council can act to alleviate the government imposed burdens on our city’s businesses. 

First, this bill creates a Local Business Ombudsman who will act as an independent business navigator and will work on behalf of businesses to trouble shoot and act as the point of contact during permitting, licensing and taxation process.

Second the bill will separate the Certificate of Occupancy from the Basic Business License process.  It will allow for a Basic Business License to be issued without the requirement of a Certificate of Occupancy.  Currently, businesses throughout the city lose start-up capital waiting for the approval of their Basic Business License because they had to obtain the Certificate of Occupancy first, with no exceptions.   Others do not need a Certificate of Occupancy at all, but are forced to obtain one regardless of their business model.

Third, the bill will allow for the transfer of a Basic Business License to a new location without any additional fees and it will also remove the additional endorsement fees when a business license is issued or renewed.  I understand that this is revenue for the city, but I believe we need to closely analyze what these seemingly small fees on businesses are really worth if they are ultimately driving industry and jobs out of the city.      

Lastly, the bill will allow for a registrant to apply for, and use, only one trade name for a business under the same Basic Business License.  It will extend the trade name issuance from two years to five years to remove the burden of costly biennial reporting.  It will also decrease the percentage of funds owed each quarter by D.C. supply schedule vendors for doing business with the D.C. government. 

These are impactful changes that can be made to make us better aligned with how neighboring jurisdictions treat trade name registration and reporting. 

I believe this bill can be the catalyst for a necessary conversation about how we can pass responsible laws and regulations that do not hinder the greatest drivers of our local economy. 

I yield the remainder of my time to the Chairman for any remarks and we welcome any co-sponsors.

Thank you.

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Grosso Attends First Workforce Investment Council Meeting of 2016

For Immediate Release
February 1, 2016

Contact: Keenan Austin
(202) 724-8105

Grosso Attends First Workforce Investment Council Meeting of 2016

Washington, D.C.—Today, D.C. Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) attended the first Workforce Investment Council (“WIC”) meeting of 2016 where the Board welcomed the new Chairman, Andy Shallal and Executive Director, Odie Donald.  The Board primarily focused on adopting the draft of the D.C. Unified State Workforce Development 4-Year Plan, which is necessary for U.S. Departments of Labor compliance with the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (“WIOA”) that became federal law on July 22, 2014. 

Councilmember Grosso released the following statement on the meeting and his role on the WIC:

  “I am hopeful that now with a new Chair and Executive Director, the Board can continue its important work.  It is critical that while the WIC is keenly focused on the drafting of the 4-year state plan in the months ahead, we must still honor the previous work of the Board to better align the business community, D.C. government agencies, and WIC sanctioned bodies like the American Jobs Center Subcommittee and the Career Pathways Taskforce to produce greater workforce readiness and training. Timelines for the WIC must be made clear to the members of the D.C. Council and that as an oversight body, the Council is encouraged to be heavily engaged during the plans’ passive approval period later this month. 

 As the Chairman on the Committee of Education, I am particularly concerned about the coordination between public charter schools concentrated on adult education and youth reengagement, the DCPS career academies, the DC ReEngagement Center, and UDC’s Community College.  All of those bodies receive public dollars to educate our youth and adults to become career and college ready.  Those providers rely heavily on the WIC, the Department of Employment Services, and other key agencies to expeditiously move available federal and local dollars.  It is imperative to me that the WIC is routinely reviewing agencies who are responsible for allocating those dollars and that the WIC has timely review and vote periods to ensure that providers are not losing out on available funding.  Public education service providers and trainers need to be a major focus of our conversations about the 4-year state plan.”

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Grosso Introduces Bill to Encourage and Support Local Businesses

For Immediate Release
November 3, 2015
Contact: Darby Hickey
(202) 724-8105

Grosso Introduces Bill to Encourage and Support Local Businesses

Washington, D.C.--Today, Councilmember David Grosso introduced the Local Business Support Amendment Act of 2015.  “This bill will alleviate some government imposed burdens on our city’s businesses," Grosso said. “The Local Business Support Amendment Act makes important changes to better align the District of Columbia with neighboring jurisdictions and help our local businesses flourish.”

The bill creates a Local Business Ombudsman, in the Department of Small and Local Business Development, who will act as an independent business navigator and will work on behalf of businesses to trouble shoot and act as the point of contact during permitting, licensing and taxation process. 

The bill also separates the Certificate of Occupancy from the Basic Business License process and will allow for a Basic Business License to be issued without the requirement of a Certificate of Occupancy.  Currently, businesses throughout the city unnecessarily lose start-up capital waiting for the approval of their Basic Business License because they have to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy first, with no exceptions.  Some businesses do not need a Certificate of Occupancy at all for their business model, but are forced to obtain one regardless.

The bill eliminates Basic Business License endorsement fee structures and allows for the transfer of a Basic Business License to a new location without any additional fees or applications.  It will also allow for a registrant to apply for, and use, only one trade name for a business, and will extend the trade name issuance from two years to five years to remove the burden of costly biennial reporting. 

“During my first two years in office, I became deeply familiar with the agencies that govern business operations in D.C. I have met with local businesses of all sizes throughout this city, and I have consistently heard that D.C. government regulations are not business friendly and offer few incentives for businesses to locate or expand in the city.  I understand that fees serve as revenue for the city, but I believe we need to closely analyze what these seemingly small fees on businesses are worth if they are ultimately driving businesses and jobs out of the city,” said Grosso.

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Grosso Introduces Universal Paid Leave Legislation

For Immediate Release

October 6, 2015

Contact: Darby Hickey

(202) 724-8105

 

Grosso Introduces Universal Paid Leave Legislation

Washington, D.C.--Today, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015, along with Councilmembers Silverman, Allen, Nadeau, May, McDuffie, and Cheh. This legislation, which would give 16 weeks paid leave to all workers in D.C., follows Grosso’s success last year to give D.C. government employees 8 weeks of paid family medical leave.

 “As a country we lag behind the rest of the world on family leave—we need pro-family policies that encourage care taking and nurturing,” said Grosso. “The Universal Paid Leave Act will support our D.C. workers and families, while giving our local businesses a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining highly qualified employees.”

The bill, which Grosso co-wrote with Councilmember Silverman, would allow any employee in D.C., or any D.C. resident employed outside of the city, to access a government-run fund that would pay for up to 16 weeks of leave for a qualifying event. Qualifying events include a baby born or adopted, or major medical operations for the worker or a family member. The bill’s definition of family and major events are inclusive of the diversity of D.C.’s workers and families, including low-income workers, single-parent households, caregiving for non-child family members, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, and more.

“In D.C. we have been a leader on paid sick days, on raising the minimum wage, and providing paid family leave for government employees,” said Councilmember Silverman. “With this legislation, we once again position D.C. as a national leader on policies that bolster our families, workers, and employers.”

“I am very supportive of this legislation", said Michael Visser of Flying Fish Coffee and Tea. "As a small business, the proposed program would allow me to support paid family leave that I otherwise could not afford,  not only for my own employees, but employees throughout the city."

Research shows that paid leave for either parent after the birth or adoption of a child has a significant positive outcome for the child’s future academic success. After California and New Jersey enacted paid leave programs, employers stated that the new law had a positive effect on employee retention, productivity, and profitability. Read more about the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015 below.

To read a copy of the bill, click here.

BILL SPECIFICS:

The Universal Paid Leave Act creates a system for District of Columbia workers to receive up to 16 weeks of paid leave for a major life event such as birth or adoption of a child or caring for a sick or injured family member or for self-care.  District of Columbia employers would pay into a city managed fund on a per-employee basis estimated to be less than 1% of the payroll.

Who takes: Any person working in the district for 50% or more of the preceding year for any covered employer.  Self-employed individuals can pay in and be covered; private residents will pay in for themselves and be covered.  DC Government Employees would continue to get their salary during paid leaves, rather than being part of this system, but the number of weeks of leave would be raised from 8 to 16 and add their own serious health conditions as a reason for taking leave.  D.C. residents who work for the federal government or an employer outside of D.C. will pay into the fund individually, as will self-employed D.C. residents.

How much does the employee get?  Up to 16 weeks for a qualifying event.  Wage replacement is Benefits would equal 100% of average weekly wages up to $1,000 a week and then 50% of average earnings above that amount, up to a maximum benefit of $3,000 a week.

Who pays: Covered employer means any individual, partnership, general contractor, subcontractor, association, corporation, business trust, or any person or group of persons acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee, but shall not include the United States or the District of Columbia.

How much does the employer pay? A scaled percentage of their employee’s wage for that pay roll period (less than 1% of the annualized salary before taxes).

What is a qualifying event?     

  • Qualifying event means one of the following:
    1. The birth of a child of the employee;
    2. The legal placement of a child with the employee (such as through adoption, guardianship, or foster care);
    3. The placement with the employee of a child for whom the employee permanently assumes and discharges parental responsibilities; or
    4. Care for a family member or personal serious health condition
  • Family member means
    1. A person to whom the employee is related by blood, legal custody, domestic partnership, or marriage;
    2. A foster child;
    3.  A child who lives with the employee and for whom the employee permanently assumes and discharges parental responsibility; or
    4. A person with whom the employee shares or has shared, within the last year, a mutual residence and with whom the employee maintains a committed relationship. 
  • Personal Care for a "Serious health condition" – this definition is expansive and inclusive so that our LGBTQ population can access leave for procedures that require hospitalization or managed care. The Bill contains inclusive definition of serious health conditions, caregiving, needs for military families, and other reasons for long-term paid leave.

Is the person’s job protected?  D.C. Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) currently protects many employees from termination or other forms of retaliation for taking a leave (which would typically be unpaid, but could include vacation or sick days as a part). Currently, the D.C. FMLA applies to, Businesses with 20 or more employees in the District; and Employees who have worked for the same employer more than a year and worked 1,000 or more hours in the year leading up to their leave request.  The legislation would make only modest changes to job protections under the DC FMLA. It would decrease the hours and month requirement for eligibility for job protection, leave the small business exemption in place, and amends the definitions of “family” and “serious health condition” to match those in other laws.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (link)

BACKGROUND:

Infographic: How Access to Paid Leave Helps Fathers

Infographic: To Promote Women’s Leadership, We Need Public Policy 

The Business Case for Paid Leave and Paid Sick Days 

Business School Faculty Letter to Congress

The Economic Benefits of Family and Medical Leave Insurance 

The Science Behind Why Paid Parental Leave is Good for Everyone 

Small Business Majority Research on Paid Family Leave 

The Cost of Doing Nothing, U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Perez

 

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Frequently Asked Questions: Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015

1. Why does D.C. need the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015?

The Universal Paid Leave Act would allow workers to care for themselves and their loved ones when major life events arise. Paid family medical leave helps families and  workers to be healthier and happier. For businesses, the legislation allows them to retain talented and dedicated employees, while avoiding the high costs and lengthy processes associated with staff turnover and on-boarding. A robust paid family and medical leave program will give D.C. employers a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining highly qualified workers.

2. What would this legislation mean for employees?

The bill would cover up to 16 weeks of paid leave annually for a qualifying event (family bonding or personal/family medical issues).  100% of an employee’s wages will be replaced for the first $1,000 of her or his average weekly salary and then 50% thereafter up to $3,000 a week.

Example:  Your annual salary is $50,000.  You are a new father and want to take time off to be with your adopted child.  You elect to take off 8 weeks and qualify to take leave after applying and having your eligibility verified. Your average weekly salary is $961, so you will receive that full amount for the entire 8 weeks.

3.  Who is covered by the proposed legislation?

All District of Columbia employees are eligible for paid family medical leave if they are residents of the city or spend more than 50% of their time working for an employer in the city. Employees are eligible to receive payments from the family medical leave fund at the start of employment. However, employees are only eligible for job protection after six months or 500 hours of work in a 12-month period. 

4. What are the responsibilities of an employer?

An employer pays a percentage (estimated 1% or less) from payroll for each employee into the government managed family medical leave fund. The fund administrators will be required to verify and process claims and will then pay the employees directly. The fund administrators would also handle any related investigations or appeals.

5. How will the proposed legislation be funded?

The Universal Paid Leave Act creates a city-managed fund financed by an employer-based cost-sharing model. Similar to Unemployment Insurance, all D.C. employers (except the federal and local government) will pay up to 1% of payroll into the fund. This fund would be administered by the D.C. government—keeping the burden off of employers—and the fund size will have  a maximum limit.

6. What is the difference between paid sick days and paid family medical leave?

Paid family medical leave is different than paid sick days. It would be used only for birth or adoption of a child, or for a major medical event. The estimated average cost per employee paid by the employer will be $385 annually and that amount will cover the employee for up to 16 weeks of paid leave—far less than paying directly out of pocket which will give businesses the opportunity to offer competitive benefits packages.

7. Is the employer required to hold the employee’s job during leave?

Yes, the D.C. Family Medical Leave Act standards provide 16 weeks of job protection that is unpaid. The Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015 proposes to extend job protection to employees who have worked for 6 months or 500 hours in a 12 month period. 

8. What if all the staff at a small business take leave at the same time?

We do not underestimate the effects that long-term leave has on businesses, but this is unlikely to be a problem—nationally only 13% of workers take family medical leave annually. The bill aims to enable workers to take the time they need to care for themselves or family members when the situation arises and then return to work at full capacity. The ability to retain talented and dedicated employees, and avoid the high costs and lengthy processes associated with staff turnover, makes paid family medical leave good business, no matter a business’ size.

8. What if I reverse commute or my employer is not mandated to pay into this fund?

If your employer is not required to pay into the fund, then you, as a resident, will pay into the system on your own behalf thereby enabling you to receive benefits when you become a parent or personal or family medical situations arise.  If you are a self-employed individual then you are automatically enrolled in the system to pay into the fund and receive the benefit.

9. What other jurisdictions have paid leave?

New Jersey (2008), California (2002), and Rhode Island (2013) have income tax-based family leave and temporary disability insurance policies that cannot be implemented in D.C. because of federal Home Rule restrictions on taxing income. We have, however, learned from the strengths and challenges with these programs and have incorporated their best practices into the D.C. legislation.  Globally, the United States lags behind other countries that all offer some form of paid leave for their citizens.  

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Grosso Invests in Urban Farming in FY16 Budget

For Immediate Release
June 9, 2015
Contact: Dionne Johnson Calhoun  
(202) 724-8105

  

Grosso Invests in Urban Farming in FY16 Budget 

Washington, D.C.--During the FY16 budget process, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) worked closely with his colleagues to ensure inclusion of his top priorities in the budget.  Among his budget priorities is the D.C. Urban Farming and Food Security Act of 2014, a bill which became law on April 30, 2015.

The bill enables residents using their property for urban agriculture purposes to take advantage of a 90% tax abatement program.  Additionally, the legislation enables those tax exempt entities that allow farmers to grow and sell produce on their property to maintain their tax exempt status.  Although not funded to the fullest extent, the allocation in the FY16 budget is $460,000, which includes $60,000 for an FTE at the Department of Parks & Recreation and $400,000 for the tax abatement program.

"I believe a sustainable food system encourages local production and distribution that makes nutritious food accessible to all of our residents," said Grosso.  "Getting this bill funded in the FY16 budget signals the District's commitment to environmental sustainability and food security."

The final votes of the Council on the Budget Request Act and the Budget Support Act are scheduled for June 10 and June 16 respectively.

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Grosso Introduces Bill to Establish a Small Business Tax Deferral Program

For Immediate Release
April 14, 2015

Contact: Dionne Johnson Calhoun
(202) 724-8105

Grosso Introduces Bill to Establish a Small Business Tax Deferral Program

Washington, D.C. – Today, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced the Small Business Tax Deferral Act of 2015. This legislation would establish a small business tax deferral program for those business owners with annual gross receipts that do not exceed $5 million when averaged over a three-year period.

“Small businesses provide a significant number of employment opportunities, foster growth and innovation and are often staples in the communities they serve,” said Grosso. “In D.C. we need to create a climate where small businesses not only survive but thrive and helping to alleviate the operational drain that payment of rising property taxes often causes, will certainly aid in this effort.”

According to a recent report published by the D.C. Office of Revenue Analysis, “mom and pop” shops—those with only a handful of employees—have sharply declined over the past 15 years.  These businesses include florists, bookstores, hair salons, butchers and others.  This legislation will help these types of businesses keep their doors open for years to come.

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Grosso’s opening remarks from hearing on amendments to the Small Business Enterprise and Certified Business Expenditure Acts

Councilmember David Grosso’s opening remarks from the Committee on Business and Consumer Affairs hearing on three bills that will amend the Small Business Enterprise and Certified Business Expenditure Acts:

Thank you, Chairman Orange for holding this hearing.

Today, we are here to discuss bills that would amend the Small Business Enterprise (SBE) and Certified Business Expenditure Acts.  I do not believe that the current set-up is working well for our city businesses or agencies.  I am not suggesting we disband the SBE program, I am suggesting that we reform how it is being implemented.  I believe we can address helping small businesses in more creative ways that will help them thrive as opposed to forcing agency’s to do business with them.

Last December when the Committee held a roundtable on these issues we analyzed the Auditor’s September 2013 report that provided a substantial amount of basic data regarding each agency’s budget, the required SBE amount to be spent, and how much the agency actually did spend during the first three quarters of fiscal year 2013.  We are able to capture which agencies are in compliance and which ones are not.  And as I stated last year, from what I can tell, there is a pattern of inconsistency from agency to agency, quarter to quarter, year to year.

I believe our system is too inflexible.  Rather than spurring growth, it pushes businesses out of the District because they do not want to deal with the maze of requirements for certification.  I do not believe that we can demand that each agency meet an often intangible goal without looking at a more holistic approach that supports small businesses without over burdening government agencies. 

Creating more SBEs by expanding the scope of RFP requirements, broadening the exceptions in the Code for who qualifies as a CBE or SBE, or making blanket percentage requirements on agencies is not the answer.  

As we know, the SBE program is not unique to D.C.  Across the country, hundreds of cities and counties have small business enterprise programs in place.  Each program is different, but common themes of success include established city-wide participation and individual contracting goals. This year, the Small Business Policy Project studied the concerns of over 200 stakeholders.   In February, the project published their findings in a report that includes over 50 recommendations for improving the environment for small businesses in the District of Columbia.  Many of their recommendations are relatively simple and can be done soon.  For example we can do three things:

First we need to improve the environment for small businesses who want to operate in the city.  We can expand their resources and technical assistance funding that helps to provide support at each stage in a business’s “lifecycle.”  If there is better technical assistance then we can measure outcomes and track a business’s long term success.

Second, we need to give the small business community a voice and listen to that voice. Let small businesses express their needs and have a platform where they are heard.  For example, a small business advocate or ombudsman would help the business community to advocate for their needs and concerns.  

And lastly, we can work to improve the access to information and communication with small businesses.  If DCRA and DSLBD can streamline their processes and share more data than small businesses can thrive here.  Also, if we allow for the delay in licensing fees or other major hurdles like retail space and other economic hardships that emerging small businesses must face than we are truly helping them survive.

I would like to hear today if DSLBD would be able to implement these bills, if they truly address SBE and CBE compliance, and if there aren’t better ways to assist each agency to meet SBE goals and how they engage with stakeholders to raise participation.

I would like to work together with you, Chairman Orange and the Committee to find ways that government can better assist small businesses so that they can thrive in D.C. and so that SBE’s can be involved in all of our contracts. 

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Oversight letter to Department of Small and Local Business Development

In addition to posting our summaries of agency performance oversight hearings over the past weeks, we also want to share with you the follow-up oversight that happens in this process. After a hearing, Councilmembers often send letters to agencies with further questions. Here is Councilmember Grosso's letter to the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development, and the Office's response:

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Certified Business Enterprise Program Needs Revamping Overall

By Councilmember David Grosso and Christina Henderson 

Anyone who has ever experienced the contract and procurement process for the District government knows it is not for the faint-of-heart. Governed by an elaborate maze of rules and sometimes the rather subjective interpretation of the rules, procurement requires organization, advanced planning, interpersonal skills, patience, and a healthy dose of persistence.  After only ten months on the job, Councilmember Grosso has probed a dozen of areas where the District’s procurement practice could be improved, but, chief among those would be the Certified Business Enterprise (CBE) program. He is not alone in this critique.

As many of you know, the District requires that all construction and non-construction contracts over $250,000 have at least 35 percent of the total dollar amount be subcontracted to a small business enterprise. When we first learned of this requirement working on procurement issues, we could not believe this was a blanket rule even for non-construction contracts. Sure, an agency can seek a waiver from the Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD) if it cannot reach the 35 percent threshold, but as general practice, the blanket rule applies without regard to the needs of a particular scope of work. The recent dust-up over District’s instant tickets lottery games contract which lapsed on July 20 is a perfect example of how complicated this can be for businesses. When the vendor, Scientific Games International, reported that it was unable to meet the 35 percent requirement because the majority of its costs—printing and delivery of the tickets—could not be subcontracted, it was suggested at a Council hearing in June that the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (the contract administrator in this case) “expand” the scope of work to make it easier for vendors to meet the 35 percent. In other words, there was suggestion that a D.C. contractor create the need for more work, that’s not needed, thereby costing taxpayers more. With OCFO choosing to rebid the contract, it seems they went that route. This is the very thing that frustrates people about government—waste. (Update: Since publishing this blog, we have learned that OCFO rebid the lottery contract using the original scope of work. Only one vendor has bid; it was not Scientific Games International.)

The instant ticket contract debacle peaked our interest about the District’s CBE program. Perhaps, we thought, the 35 percent requirement is tied to some sort of evidence-based look at the disparity in utilizing local small businesses for District contracts and best-practices around the country. However, the Council’s recent attempt to raise the subcontracting requirement to 50 percent for construction contracts, made it evident that policy making for the CBE program has been far more arbitrary than anyone would admit.

Across the country, hundreds of cities and counties have small business enterprise programs in place. We examined the laws/ordinances, policies and practices that govern 15 localities to see if there are any lessons to be learned and shared. There were differences among each of the cities. For example, some cities business enterprise programs are only for minority or women-owned businesses. Others only establish subcontractor participation requirements for construction contracts, and not professional services or purchasing. However, there are two major practices that would be helpful for the District to adopt.

Citywide Goals. All 15 cities and counties we examined have two different types of participation goals when it comes to their business enterprise programs – citywide goals and contract goals. Citywide goals are generally set annually by the local governing body to determine what percentage of contracting dollars they would like to see awarded to local businesses that fiscal year. In some cities, the participation goals differ based on type of contracts, as well as classification of the business. They are not summarily adopted as goals for individual procurements. More importantly, the goals are informed by the current business climate in the city. Philadelphia’s Code, for example, requires that their annual participation goals be based in part on: (1) the present availability of qualified disadvantaged business enterprises (DBE’s); (2) the utilization of qualified DBEs in past contracts awarded by the City; (3) a forecast of eligible contracts to be awarded within the fiscal year; and (4) an updated Disparity Analysis of businesses in the Philadelphia area. From New York City to Milwaukee, WI to Orlando, FL, they all have similar methods for setting their participation goals. As with any strategic planning effort, this allows for regular evaluation of the progress of the business enterprise program using accumulated data to determine whether specific program provisions require modification, expansion, or curtailment.

Contract Goals. The District’s blanket 35 percent subcontracting requirement for contracts over $250,000 stood out as an anomaly that appears to lack substance. Fourteen of the fifteen cities we studied set their goals contract-by-contract. In Denver, CO, the City enlists the help of 3 committees –Construction Goals Committee, Heavy Highway Goals Committee, and Professional Services Goals Committee – to help determine the various business enterprise participation goals for projects. So far this year, there have been goal determinations set as high as 40 percent.

In Houston, TX, the Office of Business Opportunity reviews scopes of work to determine specific participation goals based on a calculation that includes among other things available qualified businesses and past levels of utilization for similar contracts. In January, the New York City Council amended its business enterprise law to require that each agency set goals for individual procurements based in part by “the citywide goals and the agency’s annual utilization plan, the size and nature of  the procurement, and the availability of MBEs, WBEs and EBEs with the capacity to perform the specific types and scale of work involved in its procurements.” This type of approach seems to have worked well for these cities. Not only do the businesses appreciate that the goals are not arbitrary and therefore achievable, it requires the city to have a strong understanding of what’s happening in its small business community.

Tomorrow, the Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs will hold a public hearing on two bills related to the District’s CBE program, the Certified Business Enterprise Program Enhanced Reform Amendment Act of 2013 (B20-422) and the Small and Certified Business Enterprise Development and Assistance Amendment Act of 2013 (B20-181). Both bills include some necessary enhancements, but without addressing the way in which we establish participation goals for our local businesses the program will continue to have problems. See a quick glimpse of how D.C.’s CBE program stacks up against other cities around the country:

 

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