Covid Response Emergency Act of 2020

by Frances McCrary,

On Tuesday, March 17, 2020 the DC Council unanimously passed a consensus emergency bill in response to the COVID epidemic currently impacting the District and the nation. It will remain in effect for 90 days, though a Temporary bill, which will require a second Council vote, will ensure it remains in effect for 270 days. (source)



Image by DC Jobs with Justice

  • DC workers who are unemployed or partially unemployed as a result of public health emergency are eligible for unemployment. This includes workers who have been quarantined or isolated due to or consistent with health regulations or whose an employer who has ceased or reduced operations.
  • Upon application, an affected employee shall receive unemployment insurance compensation.
    • The work-search requirement has been waived
    • The requirement for how long someone has to have been employed has been waived
  • Note: Tip workers should be vigilant about the amount that they are being approved for because the initial amount is calculated by employers. Workers can bring other documentation to calculate a higher wage.
  • People with questions or concerns can contact Legal Aid for assistance

FMLA – Family Medical Leave Act

  • All people working in DC are covered (DC residents working in MD or VA would not be covered by this expansion unless there is a similar one in those states)
  • FMLA protects your job if you leave to care for yourself of a family member but is unpaid.
  • DC FMLA provides p to 16 weeks of unpaid leave for caring for yourself or your family (up to 16 weeks – eligible for this once in 2 years) Note: Many employers do not realize that DC FMLA is longer than federal FMLA of 12 weeks.
  • This law expands DC FMLA so that you cannot be fired if you need to take unpaid FMLA leave for any reason related to COVID-19, including self-quarantining.
    • Expanded to cover all small businesses regardless of size
    • Waives amount and time of work before benefits kick in

Recommendation for workers: If your employer is talking about laying you off due to closure or reduced hours, you may want to request FMLA leave. You will be protected under FMLA and can still collect unemployment insurance (even though you’ll have a job to come back to). If you are laid off it will be harder to get back into the job market.

Alliance (DC health insurance), TANF, SNAP

  • Your current benefits will be automatically extended if they expire during this period.
  • You will need to renew within 60 days after the emergency ends.
  • Advocacy issue: if you have a decrease in income, advocacy may be needed for an electronic recertification or other options (this likely would not require a law change)

Rent and bills

  • Evictions are prohibited during the state of emergency
    • All eviction proceedings have been suspended through May 1st by the court
    • Current pending evictions are being rescheduled
  • Late fees cannot be charged on rent during any month for which there is a public health emergency
  • Electric, water, and gas cannot be disconnected during the health crisis and until 15 days after the state of emergency ends (the current state is through the end of March)
  • Any non-criminal court is likely postponed
    • Debt collection and foreclosure courts are closed until May 1

Prescription Refill

  • Pharmacists may refill prescription medications prior to the expiration of the waiting period between refills so that people can maintain an adequate supply of medications

Driver’s license registration / DMV related

  • Licenses, registration, permit, authorizations, and certifications are extended during the health crisis
  • Deadlines, fees, fines, and penalties are waived.

TOPA timeline

  • Any deadlines during the emergency are extended to 30 days after the state of emergency is over (LEDC is confirming that understanding with attorneys)

DC Jail

  • Releasing people who only have misdemeanors (this needs to be confirmed)
  • DC Superior Court Chief Judge is encouraging the police to give citations instead of arrests where possible (under the discretion of police)


  • Delayed and hearings will be postponed.


  • Timelines are not being enforced at this time

DC Council

  • Can meet virtually

Small business grant program

  • Small businesses negatively impacted by the health crisis are eligible to apply for a grant.
  • Consultants and contractors are now likely eligible


  • Are not required to meet during the public health emergency
  • ANCs are permitted to meet virtually and conduct business remotely.


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