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The DC Council Must Vote NO on the Coronavirus Public Health Extension Emergency Act of 2021

Bread for the City strongly encourages the DC Council to vote “no” on Chairman Mendelson’s proposed amendment to the eviction moratorium, the Coronavirus Public Health Extension Emergency Act of 2021.  Landlords are currently prohibited from serving eviction notices and filing new eviction cases against tenants for the nonpayment of rent. This legislation creates an exception that uses the ability to evict as an incentive, allowing landlords to immediately begin the eviction process for tenants behind on rent. This would have a devastating impact on DC residents, especially DC residents of color who represent the overwhelming majority of evictions in DC. The DC Council must vote no on this and instead focus on immediately extending the existing tenant protections in place and fixing the STAY DC program, so no DC resident is evicted for missing their rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On April 12, the DC government launched STAY DC, a federally funded emergency rental assistance program designed to assist DC tenants behind on rent. With over $350 million in funding, this program has already received over 10,000 applications from the estimated tens of thousands of DC tenants in need of assistance. The stark reality is that of the 18,000 households which have reported being behind on rent, 95% are headed by a person of color, and 80% are Black. These are the households that would be undoubtedly subjected to the increased pressure of eviction lawsuits if this bill is passed. They are also the homes STAY DC is supposed to help. Unfortunately, tenants are already struggling to get approved for assistance through STAY DC because of numerous issues, including logistical problems with the application website, language access limitations, disinformation and confusion about tenant eligibility, and gathering the extensive documentation required by the program. To date, not a single DC resident has received assistance through STAY DC.

At a time when there is a unique opportunity to make tenants and landlords in the District whole, the District government needs to be focused on ensuring that STAY DC money gets to DC residents while safeguarding the legal protections for its most vulnerable communities. This means extending both the current public health emergency and the tenant protections tied to it, including the eviction and eviction case filing moratoriums. This does not mean allowing landlords to begin evicting vulnerable tenants who fell behind on their rent because of a global pandemic. Bread for the City will be discussing these issues and more at the Special Committee on Covid-19 Pandemic Recovery hearing next Friday, May 21.

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