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Thank you, Chairman Mendelson. I would like to thank you for scheduling and holding this series of hearings. Your approach to constructing a witness list and timing the hearings on this bill allow everyone to hear diverse perspectives on the “Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015” and get us to the most informed place as we move forward.
At this point, we are all aware that, as introduced, Bill 21-415, “The Universal Paid Leave Act” will establish a fund to enable workers in the District of Columbia or individuals paying into the fund to receive some amount of paid leave for a qualifying event such as birth or adoption of a child, caring for a sick family member, or for self-care. The fund will be supported by payments from employers, the self-employed, and certain individual employees.
As Chairperson of the Committee on Education, I believe that investing in our families will benefit the lives of all of our residents and our city’s children. This bill will help workers take the time they need to support their families or themselves without having to make the hard choice between a paycheck and their immediate health needs. Numerous studies and data have shown that forms of paid leave are good for people of all ages and help to retain a strong and productive workforce.
The economic data we need in order to come to a final conclusion on this legislation is extremely complicated and how we apply those numbers is contentious. We are here today to get as much information as we can to inform the process and ensure that we are aware of exactly what the fiscal and economic impact of this bill will be.
I believe that the long-term effects will be good for our businesses and the economy of the District of Columbia. It will increase a person’s likelihood to return to work after a qualifying event, therefore decreasing the costs associated with employee turnover. It will make the District of Columbia a city where people want to work and have children, and it will give all of our businesses a competitive edge by offering progressive benefits packages at a lower cost than they can now.
During the drafting process and since the first hearing, my office and many others have been using tax data, employee numbers, the data from California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, and the preliminary findings of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research which has been studying our current paid leave policies in the D.C. Government. The introduction of this legislation has enabled many of our fiscal partners, who are here today, to create more sophisticated models and deeper sets of numbers, so that we as legislators can determine what is feasible.
As written, the bill has over ten variables that if adjusted would lower the cost of the bill or the burdens on employers or residents. In our conversations about the proposed legislation, I have heard many of the concerns and believe there are shifts that can be made and we are analyzing all of them closely.
As the bill moves through the process at the Council, I am committed to continuing to work closely with our Chief Financial Officer, the Council budget office, Chairman Mendelson, businesses, advocates, and experts to complete the details of what options we have for providing the best amount of paid family and medical leave for the maximum number of D.C. workers.
We have a lot of work to do to get to a final piece of legislation that everyone can be proud of and take responsibility for and that will help all of our workforce and qualifying residents to take the paid time off that they need without creating a new and extreme burden on our businesses.
With that, I want to thank everyone who is here today or is submitting testimony for the record. I appreciate the time that you have all taken, regardless of your position on the bill, to study it and provide us with your feedback.
I look forward to the testimony and engaging in a robust dialogue with the witnesses. Thank you.
For Immediate Release:
May 28, 2014
Contact: Dionne Johnson Calhoun
Grosso Reports FY2015 Budget Victories
Success with priorities in education, workforce development, transportation, homelessness, environment, and more
Washington, D.C. – Today, the D.C. Council held a legislative meeting on the first reading of the FY 2015 Budget Request Act of 2014 and the FY2015 Budget Support Act of 2014. Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) worked in committee to ensure inclusion of his top priorities in the budget.
“The Committee of the Whole put forward a thoughtful and comprehensive budget that will benefit all District residents in the areas of education, workforce development, human services and transportation. This budget is the result of a lot of hard work and careful considerations and I am pleased to support and vote in favor of it,” said Grosso.
Grosso’s FY2015 Budget Victories
Tax Revision Commission
From the very beginning, Grosso supported the diligent work of the Tax Revision Commission. He advocated for the inclusion of the Commission’s recommendations in the FY15 budget, and was happy to join his colleagues in passing one of the largest tax relief packages for low & middle class individuals and families in the District’s history. In particular, Grosso advocated for the following:
- Adding a new individual middle income bracket of $40,000 to 60,000 at 7% in FY15 and later 6.5% in FY16
- Expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to childless workers
- Raising the standard deduction for single and married filers
- Reducing the unincorporated and incorporated business franchise tax to 8.25%
Improving public education has been a priority for Grosso since he first joined the Council. He supported the work of the Committee on Education in the FY15 budget and is especially pleased to support the following enhancements:
- $1 million for the continuation of the Community Schools grant program, which works to integrate academics, health and social services, youth and community development, and community engagement in our public schools. Grosso strongly supports school being seen as community centers and this funding is vital to the success of the program.
- A provision requiring D.C. Public Schools to report on its implementation of a restorative justice pilot program next school year. Grosso is committed to pushing our education sector to reexamine school discipline policies in an effort to end the school-to-prison pipeline. Restorative justice programs implemented with fidelity in schools is one way to advance those efforts.
- Grosso also supports the Committee on Education’s decision to amend the Capital Improvement Plan to align capital funding with those schools that need it most. The additional funding for School Within A School, Logan Elementary, Marie Reed Elementary, Murch Elementary, Orr Elementary, and Watkins Elementary for modernization in FY2015 is important to the continued improvement of these education campuses.
- Expansion of the school-based mental health program administered by the Department of Behavioral Health. Social-emotional support personnel are especially important for students. Our kids do not leave the stress of their home lives at the school house door. Even the best, highly qualified teacher struggles to teach a child who is only physically present but shut down mentally from stress and trauma.
- $100,000 to support teen health educators who provide sexual and reproductive health education to their peers.
It is important for the District of Columbia to not only establish a positive climate for businesses, but also for residents who work here or are seeking meaningful work. Grosso was proud to champion and support initiatives to improve workforce development and support District government employees.
- Grosso worked diligently with the Chairman of the Committee on Government Operations, Kenyan McDuffie, to pass a proposal for 8 weeks of paid family leave for District government employees in connection with the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child, or the care of a family member who has a serious medical condition. This is the most expansive family leave provision in the country.
- $5.5 million investment in District Workforce Development at the University of the District of Columbia Community College Workforce Development and Lifelong Learning program to ensure that we are supporting workforce development programs that are successful and supporting our residents so that they can secure life-long, meaningful employment that allows them to take care of themselves and their families.
- $175,000 for a new employee at the Workforce Investment Council and a technical assistance consultant to conduct a cross-agency study that will track how each District agency allocates their adult literacy and workforce development funding.
Food Security & Recreation
Grosso believes we need to bolster our recreation options and efforts toward food security in the District of Columbia and complement the strong, robust health care infrastructure we are establishing. Grosso was pleased that the following initiatives he advocated for and supported were approved:
- $8,000,000 for the renovation and modernization of the District’s only Therapeutic Recreation Center, which services people with disabilities and is located in Ward 7. The funding will create additional changing spaces and showers in the women’s locker room, help to replace a badly patched roof and expand the physical size of the facility, which has not been renovated since it was built in 1971.
- $1.3 million to create a locally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enhancement. With this funding, no resident receiving SNAP benefits will receive less than $30 per month in assistance, greatly increasing food security in the District.
- $75,000 to support the Summer Food Services program administered by the Department of Parks and Recreation for low-income children participating in summer programming; $63,000 to support school food pantries at low-income schools in the District; $500,000 in capital dollars to support the development of urban farming, new community gardens and edible landscapes at sites across the District.
Grosso is committed to improving how the District assists our most vulnerable residents, as well as health outcomes in the city. He advocated for and supported the following:
- $600,000 to hire 10 family case managers for families at D.C. General to assess families, connect them with the appropriate social services, and ultimately assist them in finding permanent housing.
- $1.3 million to fund key provisions of the End Youth Homelessness Act of 2014, including funding for 10 transitional beds and 5 emergency shelter beds for youth aged 24 and younger, and street outreach to identify and assist vulnerable youth.
- $2 million to fund the Homeless Prevention Program Establishment Act to implement prevention efforts that have proven to be successful in other jurisdictions.
- $2.3 million to expand the Permanent Supportive Housing Program at the Department of Human Services.
- $3 million to the tenant-based Local Rent Supplement Program (LRSP) for homeless families, and those at risk of becoming homeless.
- New funding for coordinated entry system to connect the homeless population to housing and other wrap around services.
- $200,000 to conduct a feasibility study for the CCNV individual homeless shelter to determine the housing and service needs of the population and facility.
Transportation & the Environment
Having a multi-modal transit friendly city that is the “greenest” in the country is something we should all desire and is a top priority for Grosso. Over the course of this year, he has established quarterly meetings with the District Department of the Environment to discuss his priorities, participated on panel discussions with the DC Environmental Network to address waste management in the District, and just last month joined the Anacostia Watershed Society in a river clean-up targeting 25 sites around the Anacostia watershed. Grosso was pleased that the following initiatives he supported were including in the FY2015 budget:
- Budget Support Act language establishing a statutory deadline of June 30, 2018 for the District Department of the Environment to adopt and publish a Record of Decision selecting the remedy for remediation of the contaminated sediment in the Anacostia River. This commitment ensures that DDOE will work quickly and efficiently so that District residents can swim and fish in the river sooner rather than later.
- $500,000 to conduct a Comprehensive Rail Study to examine the impact of increased population on current commuter rail, the feasibility of expanded commuter and industrial rail, and the impact of privately-owned rail crossing on current and future rail use.
- Grosso is pleased to report that the Council will maintain the planned 6-year, $400 million investment in the streetcar project and dedicate $45-$65 million of operating funds to the project annually. The Council adjusted the proposed streetcar PayGo transfer from a fixed to a floating base year. 25% of the District’s revenues generated over the previous year, rather than a locked-in baseline of FY15, will be dedicated to support the construction of the new streetcar. The provision will be implemented in FY2017. These changes ensure that District residents will reap the benefits of a comprehensive streetcar system.
- $187 million towards the H Street bridge, a critical infrastructure project needed for the completion of the streetcar line. Full replacement of the H Street bridge will be completed before Fiscal Year 2018.
- $5 million for the Washington Humane Society, which provides the District’s animal control services, to secure a new location and building.
Transparency & Open Government
Grosso is fiercely committed to transparency and open government. To advance these ideals, he was successful in getting the following reporting requirements included in the FY2015 Budget Support Act:
- By October 1, 2014, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer shall submit a report on recommendations for improving transparency of the agency’s budget, including a plan for implementing improvements by the submission of the Fiscal Year 2016 budget to the Council.
- With the support of the Chair of the Committee on Health, language was also included in the BSA requiring the Department of Health to begin submitting quarterly reports on all grants administered by the agency. During the performance oversight and budget hearings, we heard testimony from many public witnesses regarding the continuous delays with DOH expending grant money. The quarterly reporting will help improve oversight and hopefully grant funding operations at the agency.
- Grosso also worked with the Chair of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, to include language requiring the Department of Parks and Recreation to submit reports to the Committee on workforce strategic hiring plan to fill 106 vacancies, the development and implementation of a comprehensive complaint in-take database system to quantify and analyze the number and type of complaints the agency receives and report on the status of a system to produce performance metrics.