Washington, D.C. – Today, Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto introduced the “Business and Entrepreneurship Support to Thrive (BEST) Amendment Act of 2021” to streamline the licensing process for new and existing businesses.This legislation will make it easier for residents to contribute their ideas for the betterment of their communities, creation of jobs, employment of our local workforce, and generation of new tax dollars for programs and initiatives reflective of our city’s values.
As introduced, this legislation would lower initial licensing costs, establish a progressive fee renewal structure based upon revenue earned, and remove outdated and duplicative licensing requirements that have long complicated the business incorporation and compliance processes. This small business reform legislation will be an essential next step in the District’s post-economic recovery and will move us closer to our shared, long-term goal of expanding economic opportunity for all.
Currently, incorporating or starting a business in the District of Columbia has proven exhaustive, unnecessarily complex, and expensive, with this being especially the case for those who do not have adequate financial resources. Entrepreneurs must navigate a series of licensing categories to identify the most appropriate category for their business before then having to work with other city departments with limited coordination and support to secure proper licensing and permitting documentation. Entrepreneurs may also need to address zoning or regulatory requirements and pay burdensome licensing fees. This process can cost entrepreneurs countless hours of productivity and thousands of dollars. Even some of our smallest or most short-term business models, such as non-food retail stores or temporary pop-ups, often must pay several hundreds of dollars in fees to fulfill license requirements.
Furthermore, required fees and payments can make it hard to maintain or scale an existing business. The overall legislative requirements have also made it difficult for the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), which oversees business licensing, to enforce rules and regulations efficiently. Current regulations create an unfriendly environment for business that may drive entrepreneurs to explore opening up shop in neighboring states. These barriers to entry especially harm minority and women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs and other residents with limited access to capital. This has been particularly true this past year, during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
“Doing business in Washington, DC should be accessible, efficient, and cost-effective. As our city works to recover from the devastating effects of COVID-19, it is imperative that we act quickly to reform our existing business incorporation and licensing model in order to support our entrepreneurs,” said Councilmember Pinto, “We must provide financial relief as we remove systemic barriers that prevent residents from underserved communities from successfully participating in our city’s diverse marketplace – that is why I am focused on stimulating equitable economic growth in our city and region.”
This bill addresses these issues by:
This legislation builds upon Councilmember Pinto’s efforts to support workers and aid small business recovery during the pandemic. During her tenure, Councilmember Pinto helped shepherd the passage of legislation she co-authored to expand the restaurant streateries program. She also introduced the “Great Streets Amendment Act of 2021” to expand the number of businesses within Ward 2 that are eligible for grant funding from the District’s Department on Small and Local Business Development. In her fiscal year 2022 budget request letter to Mayor Bowser, Councilmember Pinto advocated for several measures to support our economic recovery – including rent relief for small businesses.
Councilmember Pinto will continue working with her colleagues throughout the Council budget oversight process to devise creative solutions to address urgent matters facing the District’s local workforce and small business community.