On March 17, the Council of the District of Columbia adopted the COVID-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 (“Emergency Act”). The Emergency Act, among other things, provides temporary protections for workers, relief for businesses, and authority and flexibility for the District government during periods of public and public health emergencies, which Mayor Muriel Bowser declared on March 11. The Council is expected to take additional action to respond to the emergency at its next scheduled meeting on April 7.
TITLE I: LABOR AND WORKFORCE PROTECTIONS
Section 101: Wage Replacement for Affected Employees
- “Affected employees” are those who have become unemployed due to the public health emergency, such as quarantine, ceased or reduced employer operations, or reduction in revenue.
- “Affected employees” are eligible for unemployment compensation regardless of whether their employer has provided a date certain for the employee to return to work or whether the employee has a reasonable expectation of continued employment with the current employer.
- Benefits paid to affected employees will not be charged against the employer’s experience rating account.
Section 101: Employment Protections
- Under the D.C. Family and Medical Leave Act, the one-year employment and 1,000-hour work requirements do not apply to an employee who has been ordered or recommended to quarantine or isolate.
- An employee who is unable to work as a result of the emergency is entitled to Declaration-of-Emergency (DOE) Leave.
- A recommendation from the federal or District government or medical professional to quarantine or isolate shall serve as certification for the leave.
- DOE leave applies to all employers regardless of the number of employees.
TITLE II: BUSINESS RELIEF
Section 201: Delayed Hotel Property and General Sales Tax Remittances
- The deadline to pay the first installment of property taxes for hotel property is extended to June 30, 2020.
- The deadline for businesses, except hotels and motels permitted to defer property tax, to pay sales and use tax for periods ending in February and March is extended to July 20, 2020.
Section 202: Public Health Emergency Small Business Grant Program
- The Mayor may issue grants to “eligible small businesses” that demonstrate financial distress caused by the emergency for employee wages and benefits, operating costs, and repayment of federal Small Business Administration loans.
- “Eligible small businesses” are those eligible for Small Business Enterprise (“SBE”) certification by the Department of Small and Local Business Development (“DSLBD”), nonprofit entities, and independent contractors and self-employed individuals that are ineligible for unemployment insurance.
- A business is eligible for SBE certification if it is: (1) a Local Business Enterprise, (2) independently owned and operated, and (3) is either a small business concern under the federal Small Business Act or has average annualized gross receipts within limits set by DSLBD. More information on certification eligibility is available through DSLBD.
Section 203: Restaurant Delivery
- Registered restaurants and taverns may sell beer or wine in closed containers for carryout or for delivery to the homes of District residents, so long as the order includes prepared food items and the restaurant or tavern has received written authorization from the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (“ABRA”).
Section 204: Corporate Filing Extension
- The deadline for business entities to file the first biennial report for 2020 with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (“DCRA”) has been extended to June 1, 2020 from April 1, 2020.
TITLE III: PUBLIC HEALTH, SAFETY, AND CONSUMER PROTECTION
Section 301: Amendments to the District of Columbia Public Emergency Act
- The Mayor may enter into emergency procurements subsequent to Council notice, waive application of laws administered by the Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking (“DISB”), and exercise personnel flexibility.
- The Mayor may extend the current emergency declarations by 30 days and then in 15-day periods thereafter.
- The Mayor may revoke, suspend, or limit the license, permit, or certificate of occupancy of a person or entity that violates an emergency executive order.
Section 302: Amendments to the Department of Insurance and Securities Regulation Establishment Act
- The DISB Commissioner may issue emergency rulemakings, orders, or bulletins applying to regulated entities to address, among other issues, the submission of claims, grace periods for payment, and temporary postponement of cancellations, nonrenewals, or premium increases.
Section 303: Public Benefits Extension and Continued Access
- The Mayor may extend the eligibility period for individuals receiving benefits, extend the timeframe for determinations of new applications, and take other actions as appropriate to support continuity of, and access to, any public benefit program until 60 days after the end of the public health emergency.
Section 304: Price Gouging and Stockpiling
- It is unlawful for an entity or individual to charge more than the normal average retail price for any merchandise or service.
- It is unlawful for an entity or individual to purchase goods designated by the federal or D.C. government as necessary, in quantities greater than those specified by the federal or D.C. government.
Section 305: Disconnection of Electric Service
- An electric company may not disconnect service for nonpayment during a public health emergency or for 15 calendar days thereafter.
Section 306: Disconnection of Gas Service
- A gas company may not disconnect service for nonpayment during a public health emergency or for 15 calendar days thereafter.
Section 307: Disconnection of Water Service
- No water supply may be shut off for nonpayment during a public health emergency or for 15 calendar days thereafter.
Section 308: Eviction Prohibition
- The time for service of a summons in a proceeding for restitution of possession is tolled, effectively prohibiting the initiation of eviction proceedings against commercial and residential tenants.
- A housing provider may not evict a tenant.
- Note: By the March 15 Order of the Chief Judge of the D.C. Superior Court, all evictions of commercial and residential tenants on or before May 1 are stayed, and all hearings in the Landlord and Tenant Branch are continued until new dates are set.
Section 309: Prescription Drugs
- A licensed D.C. pharmacist may dispense a refill prior to the expiration of the waiting period.
Section 310: Extension of Licenses and Registrations; Waiver of Deadlines
- Within 45 days of the end of a public health emergency, the Mayor may:
- Extend the validity of a license, registration, permit, or authorization;
- Waive deadlines for filings and fees associated with the failure to timely renew or submit; or
- Extend or waive the deadline by which action is required by the executive branch, or by which approval or disapproval is deemed to have occurred based on inaction by the executive branch.
Section 311: Homeless Services
- Contingency provisions for the Homeless Services Reform Act are established.
Section 312: Residential Tenants Rights
- Deadlines for tenants and tenant organizations to exercise Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act and Rental Housing Act rights are extended to 30 days after the end of the emergency period.
- A housing provider may not impose a late fee on a tenant.
Section 313: Good Time Credits
- The Department of Corrections may award additional good time credits to effectuate the immediate release of persons sentenced for misdemeanors, consistent with public safety.
Section 314: United Medical Center
- The Fiscal Management Board trigger for the Not-for-Profit Hospital Corporation for Fiscal Year 2020 is removed.
TITLE IV: EDUCATION
Section 401: Amendments to the Student Promotion Act
- The Chancellor may waive requirements to attend summer school for a student who fails to meet promotion criteria.
Section 402: Amendments to the Education Research Practice Partnership Establishment and Audit Act
- The meeting of the education research practice partnership review panel is postponed until 7 business days after the end of the emergency.
TITLE V: PUBLIC MEETINGS
Section 501: Advisory Neighborhood Commission Meetings
- Advisory neighborhood commissions are not required to meet, and they may meet remotely.
Section 502: Other Boards and Commissions
- The requirement for boards, commissions, and public bodies to meet is waived, unless the Mayor determines it is necessary or appropriate to meet.
- The review period for nominations transmitted to the Council is tolled.
Section 503: Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”)
- The time to respond to a FOIA request is tolled.
Section 504: Amendments to Open Meetings Act
- An agency may comply with open meetings requirements by allowing the public to view or hear a meeting live or as soon as reasonably practicable thereafter.
TITLE VI: COUNCIL AUTHORITY
Section 601: Budget
- The deadline for the Mayor to submit the fiscal year 2021 budget to the Council is moved to May 6, 2020.
Section 602: Virtual Meetings
- The Council may meet virtually.
Section 603: Grant Budget Modifications
- Grant budget modifications received by the Council as of March 17, 2020 are deemed approved.
This material is for informational purposes only and should not be relied on for legal advice. For legal assistance with an employment or business matter, contact our Firm through the “Contact Us” page on our website, or calling us at 202-795-9999.