DC takes steps to reach residents before federal rental assistance funding expires

D.C. lawmakers are concerned not enough people are taking advantage of a federal assistance program to help pay rent and utilities as the money runs out in under two months.

On Sept. 30, whatever is left of the $130 million D.C. has to offer in federal rental and utility assistance disappears. So far, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio told council members on a weekly call, D.C. has given out $61 million of it.

“What we saw last week was a bump in the number of residents’ applications,” Falcicchio said, going from about 1,000 to more than 1,500 resident applications.

The Stay DC program helps those facing financial hardship and housing instability, and those who have struggled to pay rent and utility bills during the pandemic. Two thousand applications have been processed so far, and Falcicchio said the District has hired more staff, with approved overtime, to ensure all new applications are processed in time.

“So what we’re hoping to do is be able to get caught up. Now, that is, if the number and the rate of applications that are incoming stays consistent,” he said.

On average, he said the city is giving out $6,700 in rental assistance per individual. However, he said, many applications are only partially complete, and a team of employees is assigned to track down residents and get needed information, and see whether they want the application processed.

At-Large Council member Christina Henderson asked for an update from the city regarding  contacting unemployed residents to ensure they know about the federal resource.

“As part of one of the bills that we passed on emergency (authorization), I had an amendment in there that required us to reach out to everyone who is on unemployment or receiving life needs, etc., to let them know about Stay DC,” she said.

The bill set a deadline of next week.

“Are we going to meet that deadline?” Henderson asked

Falcicchio responded that a number of goals were set to reach out to different groups.

The Department of Employment Services “has been great about getting the word out to recipients of their benefits. But let me just check to see that we’re being comprehensive and in what you laid out,” he said.

Council members asked that the city representatives have those answers on next week’s call.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up