D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) will introduce broad legislation Tuesday to try to tackle chronic unemployment, including boosting requirements for certified local businesses and offering big tax breaks to companies that train some District residents.
The proposals, which come as attempts by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) to combat unemployment have been slow to take hold, are designed to entice local employers to quickly hire more District residents. If approved, the measures would also give thousands of younger adults, many of whom are underemployed, a tax break.
One proposal, which is being co-sponsored by council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), would require that at least half of all employees at certified local companies be District residents. The designation, called Certified Business Enterprise, allows companies to receive preferential treatment when seeking city contracts.
Currently, to earn the designation, a company needs only to be based in the District and headed by a District resident. Also, half of the company’s assets, sales or employees must be based in the District.
Catania and Cheh’s proposal would rewrite those guidelines to place greater emphasis on the hiring of city residents. But the bill stipulates that a CBE would lose its preferential status if another firm submits a bid that would save the city 12 percent or more on a contract.
Catania will also introduce legislation to expand the earned-income tax credit for low-income residents. Currently, residents without children do not qualify for the tax credit until they turn 25.
But Catania’s bill would extend the credit to childless adults who are 18 to 25 and earn less than $13,400 a year. Catania argues that the tax break would make it easier for high school graduates and dropouts to move into the workforce instead of onto public assistance.
And to encourage more companies to do more hiring, Catania is proposing broad tax credits for local businesses that train unemployed or low-income District residents. Under the proposal, the city would pay half the costs associated with training a District resident who is on welfare, unemployed, recently incarcerated or low-income, Catania said. The tax credit would be capped at $10,000 per person per year.
“If we can incentivize people to hire . . . it can help someone get their foot in the door,” Catania said.