Press Release: In Response to Public Letter From Councilmember Robert White, Office of Risk Management Withdraws Insurance Increase Proposal Opposed by District Small Businesses

WASHINGTON, DC (September 17, 2022) – After months of advocacy on behalf of small business owners and the District’s hospitality industry, and on the heels of Councilmember White’s letter last week to the Office of Risk Management (ORM), Director Jed Ross informed Councilmember White last night that the Administration will drop the proposal to require substantially increased insurance for businesses applying for public use permits (i.e. streateries, sidewalk cafes). Enforcement would have begun on January 1, 2023.

In May, District small business owners contacted Councilmember White in his capacity as chair of the Committee on Government Operations & Facilities and shared that the new insurance requirements threatened their viability and could displace them to outside of DC. One business owner shared their insurance typically costs between $24,000-$26,000 annually, but, with the proposed increase in coverage requirements, it would jump to between $120,000-$150,000 annually. Councilmember White immediately brought these concerns to ORM, but received insufficient answers, and, subsequently, no response as he continued pressing the agency throughout the summer for information. On September 8th, Councilmember White wrote to Director Ross at ORM, again seeking answers on behalf of the local hospitality industry about why the proposed insurance requirements were so out of line with other metropolitan areas’ requirements, and detailing the economic strain this added requirement would put on an industry struggling to recover from the pandemic.

On the evening of September 16th, ORM Director Ross informed Councilmember White and the Committee on Government Operations & Facilities that the Administration is pulling back the proposal and will not require this insurance increase.

“There’s been a lot of heartbreak lately with people’s favorite local bars and restaurants closing after navigating unprecedented challenges throughout the pandemic,” said ANC Commissioner John Guggenmos, who chairs the Logan Circle Business Recovery Committee and the DC Nightlife Council. “The hospitality industry is still hurting, and we need all the help we can get as we get back on our feet. I was very concerned with the heightened insurance requirements on outdoor eateries. It felt like no one was listening to local businesses and our concerns. I appreciate Councilmember White working and fighting with me to protect DC’s local businesses.”

“I’m grateful to the small business owners in the District who contacted me about this issue and partnered with me and my committee counsel Neah Evering in getting to the bottom of the rationale for the requirement, and ultimately in its removal,” said Councilmember White. “The proposed insurance requirement far exceeded the insurance requirements of comparable major metropolitan areas, and I am committed to ensuring local businesses can operate in an environment without unreasonable roadblocks—particularly at this point in our pandemic recovery.”

Media Contact:

Devon Haynes, Communications Director

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