Council chairman asks DC mayor to speed emergency money to head off evictions

The COVID-19 pandemic spurred a nationwide moratorium on evictions, but the ban has ended, and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson is raising concern about the possibility of several hundred evictions in the District in the coming weeks.

“We have money available to help tenants with their rent; and if the tenant is eligible, they shouldn’t be getting evicted,” Mendelson said.

He said that the city has about $200 million in emergency federal funds that are meant to keep people in their homes, but he warned that bureaucratic red tape in the city’s STAY DC program is preventing the money from reaching its intended purpose.

“There are about 70 evictions scheduled next week, most, if not all of them, would be stopped if the rent is paid. And, I’m told that for most of them, if not all of them, the STAY DC money is eligible, but the city is not moving quickly enough to get those dollars out,” Mendelson said.

STAY DC provides grant funding to renters and housing providers to cover past and future rental payments, as well as utilities. Last month, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office said that the District has reached a national milestone for rent relief ahead of a use-it-or-lose-it deadline of Sept. 30.

John Falcicchio, D.C. Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development, responded to Mendelson’s letter on Wednesday, saying there were certain conditions where they could not apply funds from STAY DC.

Falcicchio said the program’s funds could not be used to be for past-due rent incurred before April 2020, and that the evictions set to begin Sept. 13 involve residents who received an eviction notice before the beginning of the pandemic.

In a letter Wednesday to Bowser, Mendelson said that the city’s Department of Human Services, which administers the STAY DC program, has rebuffed his efforts to meet in order to address the crisis.

“They’re not willing to meet with me; they’re not willing to address this issue; and they’re not willing to block these evictions next week, as far as I can tell,” Mendelson said.

In his response, Falcicchio said there are other programs in D.C. aimed at these residents besides STAY DC and “it is important to note that while the STAY DC program is a critical component to the District’s ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not, nor is it intended to be, the one and only eviction prevention resource.”

He said the Office of the Tenant Advocate and the Department of Human Services have been preparing to work with tenants facing eviction between Sept. 13 and Oct. 1.

Mendelson asked Bowser to explain to the council by week’s end how she will make the money available to avert the evictions.

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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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