Testimony of Elissa Silverman, At the DC Council Agency Oversight Hearing for the Department of Employment Services DC Council Committee on Housing and Workforce Development


Chairman Brown, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Elissa Silverman, and I work for the DC Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI). DCFPI engages in research and public education on the fiscal and economic health of the District of Columbia, with a particular emphasis on policies that affect low- and moderate-income residents.

The Department of Employment Services is tasked with several missions critical to the health and prosperity of our city. In recent years, the agency has seemed to suffer from a case of benign neglect in several of these areas, but DCFPI looks forward to working with the Gray administration and new DOES Director Rochelle Webb in moving the agency forward. I am going to focus my remarks on specific policy recommendations in these key areas: 

1.     Oversight and coordination of a workforce development pipeline that meets the needs of job seekers and employers. DCFPI, along with several partner organizations, believes a good starting point is to improve the city’s First Source law through the creation of a workforce intermediary.

2.     Effective monitoring and enforcement of laws that regulate the working conditions of wage earners. One critical deficiency in this area is lack of implementation of the city’s Living Wage law, which was passed nearly five years ago. DOES has yet to finalize regulations, hampering compliance and enforcement.

3.     Well-constructed data systems to monitor outcomes and performance to improve budgeting

4.     Efficient disbursement of unemployment benefits and other supports for those seeking work. A recent Inspector General’s report highlighted deficiencies in training of agency workers and proper staffing.

Mayor-elect Gray and DC Council Chairman Kwame Brown have made the issue of jobs and improving First Source a top priority. A recent DC Auditor review found several deficiencies with First Source, including insufficient monitoring, inadequate procedures, and a lack of internal controls.Obviously, an initial step must be to strengthen compliance and monitoring of First Source agreement
But this will not be enough.

Both employers and workers seeking jobs have expressed that First Source does not meet their needs. Employers often state that many of the city’s job seekers on the First Source registry do not have the training and skills needed for the jobs they are creating.DCFPI, along with several partners, have authored a brief on First Source, and a primary recommendation is that the District implement a First Source broker, known in some cities as a “workforce intermediary.” The First Source broker would act as a coordinator between employers, job seekers, and training providers. It would complement, not replace, the work of the District’s existing workforce organizations, including the Workforce Investment Council (WIC). Without a more proactive approach, the District will continue to fall short of meeting its hiring goals.

 As far as the committee recommendations on First Source, we believe the first step should more vigorous enforcement and regulation of the First Source law. We also encourage the Mayor-elect as well as the committee to strengthen data collection on First Source. We believe that will better inform decisions, such as adjusting the contact amount trigger for First Source.

 Thanks so much for your time. I am happy to answer any questions.