DC wants to give out more rent money; considers added incentives to get teens vaccinated

D.C. can’t seem to get money out the door quickly enough to help everyone who has asked for assistance with rent.

Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio said during a D.C. Council conference call Friday that the city has made a number of improvements to StayDC, the District’s rent and utility assistance program, in an effort to get through a substantial backlog of applications.

Falcicchio said the program gives landlords “the ability to handle multiple applications, and really helps housing providers who have multiple units.” Earlier this week, he said, the city made a change to allow residents “to get into the portal and really see more clearly where their application is in the process, and to understand where it is in terms of status.”

Falcicchio said 3,430 applications have been completed and paid out so far.

At-Large Council member Elissa Silverman asked whether he found that number “concerning.”

“Because we have an estimate of at least tens of thousands of households who are in rent arrears and would qualify,” Silverman said. “And we’re here in June — we’ve got to get this money out the door by September, [and] we only have 3,430 approved.”

Falcicchio said about 22,000 applications were in process, and interest remains high.

Silverman said the council is hearing from landlords and tenants who can’t get through the process.

Information on applying can be found online or by calling the hotline at 833-4-STAYDC (833-478-2932) from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Incentives to get teens vaccinated

D.C. is trying to get more teens vaccinated against COVID-19 amid disparities in rates across the District’s wards, and that could mean more free money — or even tuition.

Three vaccine sites in D.C. are offering $51 gift cards as part of the city’s push: RISE Demonstration Center (One Medical), Ron Brown High School (DC Health) and Anacostia High School (Safeway).

“How are we measuring whether $51 is an effective incentive?” Silverman asked during Friday’s call. She added that Ohio held a lottery for students to get free tuition at Ohio State.

“One incentive would be paying for college. Is that being considered? I know we have one state university, but the biggest thing we hear from our young people is their concern they can’t pay for college. So it seems like being a part of the lottery would be a good incentive for that. We’re encouraging our kids to get vaccinated,” she said.

D.C. is looking at additional incentives aimed at its younger population, Falcicchio said: “We’re considering options as we get closer to the start of school about incentives made specifically to appeal to our young people.”

He added, “That’s something that’s an active conversation. We certainly are looking at Ohio and other states that have had sort of tuition or scholarship-based incentives and seeing what they’ve learned thus far.”

Patrick Ashley, of DC Health, said the numbers are “double or almost double” at sites with incentives to get vaccinated. And he said the outlook is positive.

“I was at Anacostia before they opened on Saturday, and there was 20 people waiting at the doors, and then talking to them, they were there because it was $51 being given out,” Ashley said.

“And so that’s a good sign. Individuals … it just takes a little bit sometimes to push people over the edge. And that’s what we’re hoping to do.”

Ashley said more data on D.C.’s overall vaccination rates will be available next week.

Friday’s call and the conversation around incentives comes after data from the city’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education revealed at least 60% of kids ages 12-15 in Wards 2 and 3 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. In Wards 7 and 8, however, fewer than 10% of kids in the same age group have received at least one dose.

The disparity has some officials concerned about this fall’s return to schools and the possibility of outbreaks as the more easily transmissible delta variant spreads.

WTOP’s Scott Gelman contributed to this report.

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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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