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D.C. Council Operates, Despite COVID-19 Pandemic

The members of the District’s legislative body continue to perform their duties, with some adjustments, despite the COVID-19 pandemic in the city.

Since the outbreak of the virus and Mayor Muriel Bowser’s eventual stay-at-home order, the D.C. Council hasn’t held any meetings since the March 17 session, including committee meetings or public roundtables. Those activities that are largely held at the John A. Wilson Building in Northwest have been supplanted by council members engaging with their constituents.

“We have been out and about in the ward handing out food,” Council member Vincent Gray told The Informer on April 1. Gray, with a Safeway official at his side, touted his negotiations with the company to see that the stores located in his ward have the food and products that his constituents need.

Gray said he has visited senior centers in his ward since the emergency’s declaration and has emphasized the importance of social distancing.

“We need to get past the spike,” he said. “Everyone needs to stay at home and hunker down. We can get past this.”

Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) says he has been engaging his constituents, too.

“My staff and I, while working remotely, have continued working tirelessly to serve the residents of Ward 5 during this unprecedented pandemic,” McDuffie said. “We communicate daily with the mayor and District leaders and have hosted conference calls with residents, workers and small business owners. We are paying special attention to our seniors and residents with limited resources, ensuring access to food and needed services.

“The impact of COVID-19 is being felt in every corner of the city,” he said. “However, history demonstrates it is more likely that this pandemic will hit the poor, communities of color and minority-owned businesses the hardest. As the government continues responding to the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on our local economy, we must ensure that resources are equitably distributed.”

Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) sends out an e-newsletter from his office to his constituents, keeping them informed of the latest developments regarding the District’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. In the April 3 edition, he talked about the drive-thru testing available at the United Medical Center in the ward, made a plea for beds and resources for children and listed the city’s virus website for updates.

“We will get through this together,” White said in his April 1 newsletter.

Council members David Grosso (I-At Large) has sent out his e-newsletter to residents throughout the city, while fellow council members Anita Bonds (D-At Large) and Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) have held tele-town hall meetings to measure residents’ response to the virus and to answer questions.

The council met on April 7, its scheduled legislative meeting, for its first virtual session.

Gray, who has served as the District’s mayor and chairman of the D.C. Council, said he has never seen events like those of the past month.

“This is different for me but I will continue to work hard and represent the residents of Ward 7 the best way I can,” he said.

Bowser said the coronavirus crisis hasn’t stopped her office or the council in preparing the fiscal 2020-2021 budget.

“The emergency bill passed by the council stated that I will present the budget on May 6,” the mayor said on March 31. “We are planning on doing that and the budget will be done then.”

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