Officials in D.C. say they are on track to hand out nearly every penny of emergency federal funding to help residents pay rent and utility bills amid the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, the city has set a deadline to apply for help under the District’s popular STAY DC program.
D.C. will stop accepting applications under the STAY DC program Oct. 27 at 7 p.m., according to a news release from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.
Bowser is also calling on the U.S. Treasury Department to move quickly in reallocating leftover money from other places across the country that could be used to help District residents who apply before the deadline. D.C. has already requested from the feds its final tranche of emergency rental assistance, or ERA, funds.
The deadline to apply comes several months after the end of a nationwide ban on evictions and when hundreds of evictions were being scheduled for nonpayment of rent, as of last month.
Overall, D.C. was allocated $352 million in federal emergency rental assistance, including through the American Rescue Plan.
“We’re saying to the federal government that we know that there are residents that still need support, and we want to be able to help them,” John Falcicchio, the city’s deputy mayor for planning and economic development, told WTOP.
STAY DC, which stands for Stronger Together by Assisting You, is the largest rental-relief program funded by the huge infusion of federal funds connected to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the program rolled out in April, D.C. has handed out nearly $155 million in rent and utility assistance to over 23,000 residents, according to the city’s figures. Another $105 million in applications, which would assist 19,000 more residents, is being processed now.
Adding in another $80 million spent on other rental assistance programs and administrative and housing stability services, only about $11 million remains unspent. That means, as of Thursday, the city had obligated 95% of its federal rental assistance funds.
On Friday, Falcicchio said, the Treasury Department was going to tell the city what it needed to provide in order to apply for the additional funding.
The additional funding, if granted, would be used to make sure D.C. funds all STAY DC applications submitted by the deadline, he said. The rest would be used to “bolster with additional funding those programs that existed before the pandemic.”
“We know this important federal resource has kept Washingtonians housed and made our city safer during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Bowser said. “We thank the Biden administration for their commitment to what we know to be true in Washington, DC, that housing is a right, and urge Treasury to expedite reallocation of excess ERA funds.”
Earlier this month, the Treasury Department announced plans to start reallocating federal rental assistance to places with higher demand, which came amid the slow distribution of the funds in some parts of the country.
While there were questions early on about how quickly the money was getting out the door — and a lengthy, confusing application process — D.C. sped things up over the summer, eventually ranking No. 1 per capita among all states for the amount of funds disbursed and No. 2, after New Jersey, in the percent of the allocation spent, according to data provided by the Treasury Department.
“We will conduct outreach and in-person events through the 27th to ensure everyone has a chance to apply and demonstrate the great need for this assistance in Washington, DC. We will be sure to communicate changes to the program loudly and clearly for our residents, beginning with this announcement,” D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development Interim Director Drew Hubbard said.
Renters and landlords can still apply for STAY DC funds online or in-person at several pop-up events and application clinics throughout the city.
There are four in-person events scheduled through the end of the month for renters to get help with their applications.
Applicants can call the STAY DC Call Center at 833-4-STAYDC for help with the application, Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“We have a record to show that if we are given additional resources, that we could spend it in a way that helps our residents who need us most,” Falcicchio said.
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