In early 2020, the COVID pandemic forced entire industries of workers out of a job. Unemployment benefits and stimulus checks provided financial relief for many DC workers, but thousands more were not eligible for these benefits, including undocumented workers, returning citizens, and people like restaurant staff who work in the cash economy. These workers would be left behind with zero support unless we took action.
Together with immigrant justice organizations and service providers, faith communities, unions, sex worker organizations, and returning citizens organizations, DC JWJ led the Excluded Workers campaign calling for cash assistance for excluded workers. We responded immediately to the needs, winning the first cash assistance program for excluded workers anywhere in the country. We continued to fight for more by holding actions outside of councilmembers’ offices, lifted up the voices of excluded workers, and helping implement a low-barrier program. Together we won $14 million in direct payments which helped thousands of people pay for food, stay in their homes, and stay safe during COVID.
This campaign continues in 2021 with a budget campaign and the creation of an Excluded Worker Committee and Leadership Council where excluded workers themselves identify needs and set campaign demands.
Written by Ina Padua
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