Newsletter: Remembering George Valentine
I know that many District residents are experiencing hardship and heartache during this public health emergency. I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to the families who have lost loved ones to the coronavirus, including our former OAG colleague George Valentine who previously served as Deputy Attorney General for our Civil Litigation Division. George was a wonderful person and a committed member of the community who dedicated more than two decades of his career to public service in District government, most recently as Deputy Director for the Office of Legal Counsel. Our hearts are with George’s family and we join them in remembering an admirable man whose life ended far too early.
I want to thank our first responders, healthcare workers, police officers, grocery store clerks, pharmacy attendants, janitors, delivery drivers, and all others who are helping District residents through this crisis. Your work is critical for our community, and please know that OAG is standing by you.
Unfortunately, we know this virus isn’t just threatening lives—it’s weakening our economy, disrupting our daily life, and putting our most vulnerable residents at risk. That’s why it’s so important that D.C. receive proper federal emergency relief funds. Just last week, Congress shortchanged the District $750 million in emergency aid. To fight this injustice, 10 Republican, 25 Democrat, and one Independent Attorneys General joined me to implore the Senate, House, and President Trump to treat the District as a state for purposes of emergency relief. D.C. has a larger population than two states, we pay more in federal taxes per capita than any other state or territory, and new COVID-19 diagnoses are rising daily. Congress and the President must treat the District equitably—anything less will exacerbate this emergency.
Our office is also working to respond to your questions and investigate complaints. Hearing from you is the best way to help us spot problems. Call our consumer hotline at 202-442-9828 if you have been scammed, overcharged, or otherwise harmed by an individual or a business. Read our COVID-19 Consumer Alert available in multiple languages to learn about protections for workers, consumers, tenants, and more. Regularly check www.oag.dc.gov/coronavirus for the latest coronavirus tips and warnings and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to stay up-to-date on our work.
Finally, I urge you to stay at home, practice social distancing, and call your families and loved ones to stay connected. It may take time to return to normalcy, but with shared sacrifices, I have no doubt we will get through this together.
Karl A. Racine
CONSUMER ALERT: Protecting Seniors from Abuse and Exploitation During the COVID-19 Emergency
Many of the District’s nearly 83,000 seniors are at higher risk of exploitation or abuse because they must rely on others for money management, healthcare and daily tasks—especially during the COVID-19 emergency when they are particularly vulnerable. Read our latest consumer alert with tips and learn about cases OAG’s Elder Justice Section has brought this year to protect District seniors. Now more than ever, it is important for residents to be vigilant and report abuse, neglect or exploitation of seniors and vulnerable residents to Adult Protective Services’ 24-hour hotline at 202-541-3950, MPD at (202) 727-9099, and OAG at 202-727-3807 or email@example.com.
District seniors who are isolated or looking for someone to talk to about sports, movies, music, or anything else can call the D.C. Department of Aging and Community Living’s hotline at 202-724-5626. It’s a great way to make a meaningful connection and stay engaged!
Community Resources: Getting the Help You Need
District agencies and local organizations are coming together to provide help to residents during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Below are several new resources for residents:
Workers and Small Businesses
- Unemployment compensation
- DC Small Business Recovery Microgrants for struggling businesses
- More resources
- List of low-barrier emergency shelters from Department of Human Services
- Free housing from Washington Intern Student Housing for frontline medical workers and first responders. To get more information and sign up, call (703) 930 -1656 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- More resources
- Special COVID-19 enrollment period for DCHealthLink coverage
- Mental health services list from the Department of Behavioral Health
- More resources
- Information and FAQs from OAG about the public charge rule and COVID-19 in English and Spanish.
- Anyone—regardless of immigration status—with COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, and shortness of breath) needs to call a health care provider and seek treatment. For those without a provider, call Mary’s Center at (844) 796-2797.
- Resource guide from Immigrants Rising
- More resources
Children and Families
- OAG’s Child Support Services can be reached at (202) 442-9900 and CSSDCustomerService@dc.gov. Child Support payments will continue as normal. DC Superior Court has cancelled all Child Support Hearings until May 15, 2020.
- Free resources to watch, read, listen, and learn from D.C. Public Library
- More resources
Stopping Price Gouging
District law prohibits price gouging during a state of emergency. In response to complaints from residents, AG Racine sent five cease-and-desist letters to District-area convenience stores and one online seller over allegations of price gouging. OAG found evidence of illegal price markups for disinfecting products, gloves, other essential items residents need to safeguard their health. Last week, AG Racine and a bipartisan group of 33 Attorneys General also urged Amazon, Craigslist, eBay, Facebook, and Walmart to do more to root out price gouging online and protect consumers during the pandemic. Report price gouging to OAG at (202) 442-9828, Consumer.Protection@dc.gov, or submitting a complaint online.
Join OAG’s Weekly COVID-19 Tele-Town Halls
OAG has launched a series of weekly COVID-19 Tele-Town Halls to educate the public about their protections under District law. The first two calls in this series were tailored for ANC Commissioners and local labor leaders to help inform their communities about protections for District consumers, workers and tenants, and how to report price gouging, scams and discrimination. You can access this information by visiting our tele-town hall factsheet, audio (ANC town hall or labor leader town hall), and transcript. You can also learn about your rights and important tips during this public health emergency by reading our COVID-19 Consumer Alert in the following languages: Amharic, Chinese, French, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese. You can join our next tele-town hall for the D.C. business community on Friday, April 3 at 11:00 a.m. by RSVPing to OAGCommunity@dc.gov.
Urging COVID-19 Protections for Incarcerated Residents
As we work to protect our communities from COVID-19, we must consider the safety of incarcerated residents. AG Racine recently joined a group of 31 prosecutors in calling on other prosecutors across the country to take steps to reduce the number of detained and incarcerated individuals who pose no threat to public safety. Reform-minded prosecutors must be allowed to use their discretion to implement smart, data-driven reforms to that can reduce incarceration, produce better outcomes, and, indeed, help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
DC Students: Join OAG’s Twitter Chats, Earn Community Service Hours
OAG is hosting weekly #AskDCOAG Twitter chats (@AGKarlRacine) for youth and families on important topics during the pandemic, such as managing family conflict, discrimination and civil rights, and more. During the first Twitter Chat, local experts talked about conflict while practicing social distancing and provided de-escalation techniques to diffuse potentially violent scenarios. It was a great success, reaching over 30,000 Twitter feeds! Our next #AskDCOAG chat is on Tuesday, April 7 from noon to 1:00 p.m. to discuss preventing child abuse. Learn how District students can earn community service hours by participating.
Fighting for Immigrant Medical Care
With COVID-19 putting lives at risk, everyone in America should have the peace of mind knowing they can get medical care if they need it. Yet the Trump administration refuses to confirm that they will not penalize immigrants for accessing public benefits to which they are entitled. AG Racine joined a coalition of 18 Attorneys General demanding the administration make clear that the public charge rule will not apply to people who must rely on Medicaid during this COVID-19 crisis. People should not have to choose between medical care and jeopardizing their immigration status. Residents can also read information and FAQs about the public charge rule and COVID-19 in English and Spanish.
Calling on Companies to Expand Paid Sick and Family Leave
Last week, State Attorneys General across the country called on Amazon and Whole Foods to expand paid sick and family leave for their employees and independent contractors during the pandemic. In a letter, the AGs urged the companies to provide paid sick and family leave comparable to what smaller companies are required to provide under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Workers shouldn't feel forced to come to work if they’re feeling ill or are taking care of family or loved ones.