Testimony of Ed Lazere, Executive Director, At the Public Hearing on Department of Employment Services FY 2015 Budget

Chairman Orange and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Ed Lazere, and I am the executive director of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute.  DCFPI engages in research and public education on the fiscal and economic health of the District of Columbia, with a particular emphasis on how policies impact low-and-moderate income families. 

I am here today to testify on the proposed budget for the Department of Employment Services, with a focus on three issues: funding to support enforcement of minimum wage, paid sick leave, and wage theft; funding and partnerships to support literacy services for jobseekers; and reporting on participation and outcomes in key workforce development programs. 

Enforcement of Wage and Benefit Laws

The paid sick days and minimum wage laws passed last year are only useful if workers are able to make claims to the government when they have not received some or all of the pay that they are owed.  That is why DCFPI supports the proposed FY 2015 funding of $150,000 to enforce DC’s paid sick and safe leave requirements.  We encourage the committee to identify additional funds for public outreach.  The bill’s fiscal impact statement suggest a funding level of $253,000 is needed. 

Similarly, we encourage the committee to identify roughly $600,000 to enhance the ability of the Office of Wage-Hour to fund the Wage Theft Prevention Act.  Note that the Wage Theft Prevention Act would reform the Office of Wage-Hour, which is tasked with enforcing the paid sick days, minimum wage and overtime laws by creating a formal hearing system with administrative judges. 

Adult Literacy 

The DC Fiscal Policy Institute is a member of the Adult and Family Literacy Coalition.  We understand that DC residents cannot take advantage of training programs and be competitive for living-wage jobs without basic literacy skills, and too many residents lack such skills.  DCFPI believes that the District needs to make a much addressing adult literacy a much higher priority.  

For the FY 2015 budget, we encourage the District maintain existing funding mechanisms and levels and add funding to start implementing recommendations from the recent report from DC Appleseed. 

  • The budget should maintain the $4 million Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between DOES, the OSSE Division of Adult and Family Education, and the Department of Human Services to maintain support for adult literacy services for DOES clients.
  • The budget should include $175,000 to create a taskforce convened by the WIC to make recommendations on connecting literacy services with career services.
  • The budget should allocate $1 million for a new “innovation fund” to pilot various approaches to providing literacy services in a career preparation context.

To read the complete testimony, click here.