Stay DC: District launches rent help program

If you’re having trouble paying for rent and utilities in D.C. because of the pandemic, there’s good news: The District is launching a $350 million program to assist residents called Stay DC.

Through the program, renters and housing providers can apply for grant money to cover past and future rental payments in addition to utilities such as water, gas and electricity.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Monday that the program is designed to address housing instability in the city.

“The money will be used to help residents facing housing instability due to the pandemic up to 12 months in back-due rent and three months toward rent and utilities,” Bowser said.

She added that there are income parameters for eligibility.

An applicant’s total 2020 annual household income can’t be above designated levels set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development according to household size. For example, a family of four must make less than $79,600.

“We want to encourage anybody who is struggling, and we know many people are struggling with their housing costs, to go ahead and access that assistance,” said Laura Zeilinger, director of D.C.’s Department of Human Services. “You don’t have to wait until you are facing eviction. We would like to be able to help residents at this point in time.”

In addition to applying online at stay.dc.gov, residents can also call 833-4-STAYDC.

D.C. Council Member Anita Bonds said it’s important for residents to take advantage of the money being offered.

“If I were in a situation where I’m suffering from the effects of coronavirus, I would be concerned about having a moratorium for over a year, not having the ability to pay my rent,” she said.

“And then I would think about, ‘My goodness, this is a fund that also will pay in advance a few months.’ So I’m really appealing to all of our tenants to take advantage of this money. It is not very savvy on our part to not do that. This is taxpayers’ dollars. And we want to make sure that we use it wisely. So that’s my plea to tenants across the city.”

Bowser said the issue isn’t just with rent, but also utility payments, and they don’t want people to wait.

“Because there could be a crush. The government has to get a certain amount of the dollars out by Sept. 30,” she said.

Funding for the program comes from the December Congressional Appropriations Act. D.C.’s share of the allocation is $200 million — the minimum amount states can get.

The American Rescue Plan Act makes an additional $21.5 billion available, with the District’s share of the allocation at $152 million, so a total of $352 million is available for STAY DC and related efforts, according to a news release.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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