1. Make it cheaper, faster, and simpler to start a business in DC
  2. Expand DC cottage food law
  3. Remove barriers to entrepreneurship for returning citizens

Make it cheaper, faster, and simpler to start a business in DC

Starting a business in DC can be expensive, confusing, and time consuming. Many entrepreneurs find it difficult to turn their business dreams into a reality.

We are advocating for the following areas of reform:

  • Streamline the licensing process
  • Lower fees for new and small businesses
  • Create a “one-stop shop” portal
  • Reduce barriers for low income residents and returning citizens
  • Simplify home-based business regulations

Expand DC’s Cottage Food Law

Cottage food businesses are a way for entrepreneurs with big dreams but little capital to get started small in their own homes without having to spend tens of thousands of dollars on professional equipment and commercial kitchen space. Nearly every state across the country has embraced these businesses as job creators and revenue generators, but DC’s Cottage Food Act places limits on producers that push this business model out of reach for most Washingtonians.

We are advocating for the following areas of reform:

  • Expand the venues where cottage foods can be sold
  • Remove the $25,000 revenue cap
  • Streamline the registration process

Remove barriers to entrepreneurship for returning citizens

DC Government encourages returning citizens to start their own businesses through training programs like Aspire to Entrepreneurship, but restrictions like Clean Hands certification—as well as background checks for certain business licenses, and “good moral character” requirements for occupational licensing—create needless barriers for returning citizens.

In order to obtain a business license, applicants must sign a Clean Hands affidavit certifying that they do not owe more than $100.00 to DC Government. If an applicant owes more than $100.00 to DC Government – which can include money owed pursuant to fines, past due taxes, DC Water and Sewer Authority service charges, parking fees, etc. – they must settle those debts before proceeding. This presents a significant challenge to returning citizens who must pay off their incurred debt before they can earn an income through entrepreneurship. DC Government should seek to support, not alienate, returning citizens as they reenter the workforce.

We are advocating for the following reforms to DC’s Clean Hands certification:

  • Narrow the types of debt included under Clean Hands.
    • In the original legislation passed in 1996, the types of debt included under Clean Hands were fines for violating the Litter Control Administration Act of 1985, the Illegal Dumping Enforcement Act of 1994, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Civil Infractions Act of 1985, and past due taxes. In the years since, the types of debt included have been expanded to traffic violations, utility bills, and more.
  • Offer transparent payment plans or debt abatement.
    • Currently, applicants may obtain a business license if they have entered into a payment schedule. But it is unclear where or how these payments plans are available. DC Government should offer transparent payback or debt abatement options.
  • Reform punitive fines and fees.
    • Applicants are fined $1,000 for making knowingly false certifications during the Clean Hands approval process. This overly punitive fine hurts people trying to better their situations by starting a business.

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