Pepco and the Washington Interfaith Network (WIN) have partnered to expand training, jobs and higher wages for District of Columbia residents.

Pepco Holdings President and CEO Dave Velazquez, who joined WIN leaders and members of the D.C. Council to announce the partnership Thursday afternoon during a virtual press conference, said the program is most critical at this time.

“Many families across our service area continue to struggle because of the effects of this pandemic,” Velazquez said. “I want everyone to know that our focus remains on keeping our customers connected. We want to work with every customer to establish payment arrangements if they need it, to provide energy assistance; as a company, we have donated millions of dollars to relief funds. … This partnership agreement we announced with WIN will help us even more.”

According to the initiative, any work in the District requires a “street opening permit” to be set at $20 per hour, increasing to $22 per hour within one to two years. This includes underground work such as electric, natural gas, water, telecommunications, or other utility infrastructure.

“This enhanced partnership with WIN is a tremendous achievement, and supports efforts in building a resilient and equitable economy that provides all residents with more opportunity and continues to position the District as a leader in driving an innovative, inclusive and sustainable energy future,” said Donna Cooper, Pepco region president.

The plan also calls for the Department of Employment Services to expand its support of the DC Infrastructure Academy to increase enrollment from 100 to 120 students per year in the Pepco Utility Training School at the academy. Every graduate will be offered a job with Pepco or one of its contractors.

“We are so grateful that in this season of two major pandemics of both having serious social and economic reverberations throughout our city and our country, we are grateful that Pepco has stepped to the forefront to be a strong partner for justice, fairness, and opportunity,” said Rev. Joseph Daniels, lead pastor of Emory Fellowship in Washington and WIN co-founder.

Rev. Lionel Edmonds, fellow WIN co-founder, concurred.

“We are proud to partner with Pepco to increase access to good job opportunities in some of the wards with the highest unemployment rates in the District by increasing its local hiring through the DC Infrastructure Academy,” Edmonds said. “This agreement serves as a nationwide and even global example for what corporate accountability looks like when communities organize to put their interests in racial equity and economic justice on the table.”

Council members Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) and Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) said the program is welcomed as many District residents continue to struggle financially amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is an example of a partnership where the private sector can step up in a meaningful way,” McDuffie said.

Gray agreed.

“This is going to open some doors,” he said. “This is groundbreaking to see something like this happen.”

Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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