ACTION ALERT: East of the River Grocery Access Legislation

East End Grocery and Retail Incentive Program Tax Abatement ActCommunity Action Guide

Prepared by the DC Food Policy Council’s Working Group on Equity, Access, Health, and Nutrition Education

 

What does this bill do?

The East End Health Care Desert, Retail Desert, and Food Desert Elimination Act is a three part bill designed to bring high quality services to the residents of Wards 7 and 8 by funding the construction of a full-service community hospital, urgent care center, and ambulatory care clinic and by offsetting costs and providing tax incentives to attract affordable grocery and retail anchor stores to specific commercial areas. You can read each of the proposed text of the bills here, here, and here.

It designates funding to establish incentives for affordable grocers and retailers to locate in specific commercial areas of Wards 7 and 8.  This is meant to apply specifically to large, anchor stores that sell both groceries and retail goods.

  1. It all but eliminates the cost of leasing District-owned land for grocers and retailers and fully pays for store construction costs, which are forgiven by the District over a thirty year period. If a participating store closes before the end of the thirty year period, the store owes the District for a portion of the construction cost based on the number of years remaining.
  2. It establishes the East End Medical Center Fund, comprised of 50% of the District’s unassigned end-of-year surplus funding in excess of 60 days cash on hand, to be applied to the construction of the hospital and corresponding care centers and to fund the East End Grocery Retail Incentive Program. It is assumed that in one year’s time, the District will have enough reserve funding to exceed 60 days cash on hand. This bill assigns 50% of that additional, one-time, yearly funding to pay for construction of the hospital and, at the discretion of the Director of Health Care Finance, be transferred to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development to fund the construction of grocery and retail anchor stores.
  3. It exempts participating anchor retail stores from real property, deed recordation and transfer, personal property, and sales taxes so long as 50% of full-time employees are District residents. These tax exemptions improve store profitability and could lower the price of goods paid by consumers.

 

How can you help make this bill a real law?

You can tell the Council of the District of Columbia that you want this bill to pass!

On May 19th at 11am, at in Room 500 of the John A. Wilson Building (Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC), the Committee of the Whole, the Committee on Business & Economic Development, & the Committee on Health will hold a Public Hearing on the East End Health Care Desert, Retail Desert, and Food Desert Elimination Act of 2017. In-person testimonies make a big difference to our Councilmembers, so making the time to join this hearing will have a big impact on the bill’s success.

 

What do I have to do if I want to participate in this hearing?

Those who wish to testify should contact Cherita Whiting, Committee Legislative Clerk (202) 727-7774 or cwhiting@dccouncil.us, and provide your name, organizational affiliation (if any), and title with the organization by Wednesday May 17th. You must bring 15 copies of your written testimony to the hearing. Additional written statements are encouraged and will be made part of the official record. Written statements may be submitted by e-mail to cwhiting@dccouncil.us or mailed to: Council of the District of Columbia, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Suite 113, Washington D.C. 20004.

As an individual, you will have 3 minutes to speak, and if you represent an organization or business, you may have up to 5 minutes. Written testimony can be as long as you’d like, but what you say to the Council needs to fit in those timeframes. Remember that one page of double-spaced text (about 250 words) takes about 2 minutes to read aloud, so we recommend planning your remarks accordingly. After you testify, the Council may ask follow-up questions about what you’ve said and why you care about this issue. If you’ve never testified before the DC Council before, we recommend reviewing this brief, helpful guide.

In terms of structuring your testimony, we recommend:

  • Thanking the Councilmembers for convening this hearing and considering this bill;
  • Briefly introducing yourself and/or your organization/business;
  • Explaining why you care about the issue of eliminating food deserts;
  • Explaining how one or more of the pieces of this bill will make a difference to you, your organization, or your community;
  • Expressing any concerns you might have about elements of this bill that might be incomplete or in need of additional clarification;
  • Close by thanking the Councilmembers for listening and re-stating clearly whether you think the Council should support this legislation and make it a law of DC;

Lastly, be sure to practice reading your testimony aloud before the big day, and timing how long it takes you. Practicing will help you stay on time and make your points clearly and succinctly.

 

What can I do if I can’t testify that day?

You can still submit written testimony to Cherita Whiting, Committee Legislative Clerk Assistant at cwhiting@dccouncil.us email or notify the Councilmembers on the Health Committee about your support of the bill through the contact information listed here: http://dccouncil.us/events/committee-of-the-whole-business-and-economic-development-health-joint-publi .

 

Have other questions?

Thank you for being part of the movement to improve food access in your community! Please direct any questions or concerns to paula.reichel@dcbc.dc.gov.

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