$100M in relief coming for struggling DC businesses; coronavirus testing to expand

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the establishment of a $100 million fund for struggling businesses and updates to the District’s coronavirus testing infrastructure.

During a briefing Wednesday, Bowser laid out the framework for The Bridge Fund, which will split the $100 million among four of the industries hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic: $35 million for restaurants, $30 million for hotels, $20 million for entertainment and $15 million for retail.

“We know that businesses are right now struggling,” Bowser said.

More than 55,000 jobs have been lost, and revenue has decreased by 41% between December 2019 and September 2020, the mayor’s office said.

D.C. Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio said that hotels will be able to apply for grants as early as next week. Falcicchio did not give a specific timeline for when applications will open for the other industries.

Grant sizes depend on the industry, and award amounts range widely:

  • Restaurants: $10,000 to $50,000
  • Hotels : $10,830 to $270,750
  • Entertainment: $4,000 to $100,000
  • Retail: $5,000 to $25,000

Falcicchio added that 80% of the money awarded to businesses from The Bridge Fund will go to payroll, following the model of an early Events D.C. program.

The $100 million relief bill is funded by federal and local dollars — $20 million from the federal CARES Act and $80 million from the D.C. Council — and was introduced in July by D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie.

“We know that Black-owned businesses have been the hardest hit and are more likely to close due to the pandemic,” McDuffie said in a statement Wednesday after the briefing. “While there remains much work ahead, today marks a clear commitment to continue to do all that I can to support our workers in D.C. and the small businesses that employ them.”

Bowser expressed excitement about The Bridge Fund, but added that more money is needed from the federal government, as business will struggle further this winter. She said that Congress must pass the Heroes Act so that businesses can survive the months ahead.

Bowser also said that plans are underway in D.C. to tighten coronavirus restrictions, and that those plans will be announced “soon.”

“We can’t handle this locally,” Bowser said, adding that the federal government needed to step up with a nationwide plan.


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Coronavirus testing expands Monday

Bowser also announced the expansion of coronavirus testing.

The District has seen a recent surge in testing, administering between 3,500 to 4,200 tests a day, said Christopher Geldart, the director of D.C.’s Department of Public Works.

On Monday, a new testing site will open in a Nationals Park garage at 16 N St. Southeast. The garage site will operate on weekdays between 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Current testing sites will also add on hours starting Monday.

Firehouse testing sites will extend their hours, opening from 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

And the testing sites on F Street (between 4th and 5th streets in Northwest), UDC-CC’s Bertie Backus Campus (5171 South Dakota Ave. Northeast) and Anacostia (2241 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. Southeast) will open between 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Starting Monday, people getting a coronavirus test from the District will be asked for their insurance information.

Bowser said that the D.C. government shouldn’t be footing the bill when “insurance companies should pay for the tests.”

Although testing administrators will ask for insurance information, anyone who wants a coronavirus test will be able to get one regardless of their insurance situation, the mayor assured.

“No one will be turned away, and no one will be charged a copay,” Bowser said.

An overview of all the testing updates announced Wednesday is listed on D.C.’s situational update slides.

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