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IMPORTANT UPDATES on Employer Relief and Employee Benefits 3/17

March 17, 2020

Dear Restaurant Community, 

We have a few important updates to share with you based on what was passed by the DC City Council and recommendations from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam Tuesday, March 17, 2020. We are also sharing what is a work in progress and happening on the Federal level.

This is a long email, but includes important information, so please read the entire message as most of your questions could be answered with this update. 

DC Update
The DC City Council just voted on Emergency Legislation, which means it goes into effect immediately upon the Mayor's signature. Below is a breakdown of what was passed:

  • Grants and loans for eligible small businesses to cover employee wages, operating expenses and loan repayment. This will be administered by the Mayor’s office who will also determine funding availability and guidelines. Stay tuned for more information and how to access within the next 48 hours.
  • Sales tax relief: Returns may be filed up to 90 days late without penalty, provided taxes are paid by the end of the tax year, September 30, 2020. 
  • Restaurants are granted the ability to provide wine, beer and spirits in closed containers with food deliveries and pick ups. A minimum of one item of prepared food must be included in the order.
    • Board approval shall not be required for a registration however, a restaurant or tavern must receive written authorization from ABRA prior to beginning take-out or delivery.
    • We are working closely with ABRA to ensure the authorization process is expedited. Please stay tuned for real time updates, when effective date applies and what you as an operator may be required to do to expand your to-go and delivery offerings.  More to come.
  • Prohibition of evictions for residents and businesses during the declared public health emergency. A landlord tenant complaint cannot even be served until after the emergency.
  • Employees who become unemployed as a result of the public health emergency are eligible for Unemployment Insurance, and the wait time is eliminated.
    • Partially employed workers who have been given reduced work hours due to the public health emergency are eligible for UI benefits
    • Click here to register for Unemployment Insurance in DC. Please pass this information along to your employees.
    • Click here for more information on the Unemployment Compensation Process. Please pass this information along to your employees.
    • Do not apply for UI in person, instead you should do it online or call 202-724-7000.
    • UI is currently set at $444 maximum per week. At the discretion of the City Council, they may revisit increasing UI funding formula in the coming weeks.  We have been advocating for this increase for days and hope to see some movement to reflect an increase.
    • DOES is experiencing a high volume of applications, and is increasing employees working on UI, but some applicants have experienced wait times.
  • For employers, unemployment Benefits will not be charged to the experience rating account. 
  • Leave taken during a Declaration of Emergency is protected under the DC Family and Medical Leave Act which provides 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave. The one year, 1,000 hour work requirement is waived. 
  • Utility disconnection protection provided for businesses and residents.

Please note that the Council can amend the emergency legislation to increase benefits, and introduce additional legislation to address relief and stimulus. Important for you to know that THIS is a starting place and we encourage you to stay engaged as we navigate this precarious time. 

Currently DC businesses are required to provide sick leave to all employees. See below for a breakdown of the accrual rate. Employees begin accruing leave as soon as they start work, but cannot access leave until 90 days of employment.  

If an employer has

Employees accrue at least

Not to Exceed

100 or more employees

1 hour per 37 hours worked

7 days per calendar year

25 to 99 employees

1 hour per 43 hours worked

5 days per calendar year

Less than 25 employees

1 hour per 87 hours worked

3 days per calendar year

Tipped Employees

1 hour per 43 hours worked

5 days per calendar year

Governor Northam held a press conference this morning and made the following new restrictions: Virginia Update

  • The Commonwealth has mandated limiting patrons to 10 of less. Take out/to go is still encouraged. 
  • Unemployment funding will be available due to the declaration of emergency. Virginia is waiving the one-week waiting period. 
  • Click here for information on applying for unemployment funding. Share this information with your employees.
  • Businesses are encouraged to contact the Virginia Employment Commission to discuss unemployment funding/financial hardships. 
  • We are working with the state and county legislatures on relief for our industry. Stay tuned for more updates. 
  • Click here for more information from Governor Northam.

Small Business Administration Relief
While we are waiting to refine what would be done locally in jurisdictions across our region in terms of any financial relief, grants or loans, we strongly encourage you to begin your application for disaster loans through SBA Disaster Loan Assistance to start the process. 

Click here to start the application process so you are in the best position to submit as the request for SBA loan link goes live in DC, MD, and VA. 

Federal Leave Updates
There is a Federal leave mandate that the House passed on Friday and the Senate is likely to pass today or tomorrow. We will get further information from our partners at the National Restaurant Association to provide additional guidance and information. Please stay tuned as this develops.  

Support for Workers
We have heard from so many of you about your concerns rooted in your employees. There are some local grassroots efforts to help workers, as you may have seen. We are collaborating with Hook Hall Helps who are helping to ensure that workers have access to to-go meals and supplies. Operators and companies can donate supplies, perishables, meals, or financial support. Read more here.