Coronavirus Update: Council Extends Pandemic Protections
After receiving word that the Mayor was unlikely to extend the District's
Public Health Emergency (PHE) beyond July 25th, the Council voted to extend
the majority of the resident and business protections currently in place
under the PHE through November 5th. Had the Council not acted today, dozens
of protections, from evictions to the cap on what fees delivery apps can
charge local restaurants, would have lapsed on July 25th. Not only would
this have been disastrous for those still awaiting STAY DC support, but it
would have fully disregarded the effort to return to normal operations
through a phased approach—such an abrupt end to the PHE would have been
exceptionally difficult for those who are steadily rebuilding from the last
There are five programs or protections that today's emergency legislation
would have expire on a date other than November 5th, those are:
1. Expanding the definition of employment
2. Enabling, but significantly limiting, utility disconnections
3. Extending the rent increase moratorium
4. Modifying circumstances in which a landlord may file an eviction notice
5. Updating protections against predatory debt collection practices
As each of these provisions have their own unique activation dates and
circumstances, more detailed information on each measure is listed in the
section below this letter.
One other update in today's legislation that I would like to highlight for
residents is the requirement that the Mayor launch a targeted email
outreach campaign to residents participating in various public benefit
programs on the availability of rent and utility assistance through STAY
DC (a $350 million federal relief program). And to support the path to
accessing these funds, landlords have the ability to complete the majority
of a STAY DC application, with tenants remaining responsible for completing
the tenant attestation/consent portion of the application.
With the expectation that the Mayor will not be extending the PHE, Chairman
Mendelson is directing Council committees to examine which PHE protections
within their purview should be extended or modified as we move forward in
the reopening/recovery period. I am somewhat concerned that this
committee-focused approach may not be as comprehensive and complete of a
review process as it should be, but members will presumably work together
to address those provisions and programs that operate across multiple
District agencies and Council committees.
Please see coronavirus.dc.gov for the latest District updates &
resources on COVID-19
Get vaccinated TODAY at any of the District's walk-up vaccination sites
The 5 Exceptions to the November 5th Protection Extension:
1 - Expanding the Definition of Employment
The Council previously expanded the definition of employment in order to
expand unemployment insurance (UI) access to workers during the pandemic.
The Council modified this language so that as long as the expanded
language is permitted under federal law, the Department of Employment
Services will also have the authority to expand the definition and,
therefore, continue expanded UI access.
2 - Limiting Utility Disconnections
Utilities will not be permitted to shut off any service until October 12th.
For 90 days after this date, utilities will be required to restore service
to a customer if the customer makes a minimum payment of $10 and enters
into a payment plan.
Utilities will also face a number of limitations should they pursue
shutting off a customer's service after October 12th. Utilities will not be
able to shut off a customer's service for any of the following
* The customer owes less than $600
* The customer is eligible for relief (such as those with a pending STAY
DC application, those who receive SNAP or TANF, or those who have
* The customer is under a payment plan and is only 1-2 months behind
* The customer has requested to enter into a payment plan within the past
45 days, but hasn't received a response
* The utility hasn't provided past due notice to the customer within the
past 60 days as required under the law
Please Note: The emergency legislation also allows the Office of the
People's Counsel to negotiate utility payment plans on behalf of customers.
3 - No Rent Increases Until 2022
The prohibition on rent increases is extended to December 31st, 2021.
4 - Seeking a Balance on Evictions
Landlords cannot file for an eviction for the duration of the PHE + 60 days
if that tenant owes $600 or less or if the tenant has a consistent late
payment of rent. However, landlords may file for an eviction immediately if
the tenant poses a current and substantial threat to the health and safety
of others (including the unlawful possession of a firearm) or if the tenant
has caused significant damage to the property or rental unit.
After October 12th, a landlord may file for an eviction if:
* The amount of rent due is more than $600
* The tenant failed to submit an emergency rental assistance
application within 60 days of receiving notice of past due rent
* The tenant's application for emergency rental assistance was denied
* The tenant's rent payment plan is $600+ or if the tenant is two months
or more behind on their payments
After January 1st, 2022, a landlord may file for an eviction for material
violations of the lease.
5 - Combating Predatory Debt Collection
The Council passed a separate emergency bill entitled, "Protecting
Comsumers from Unjust Debt Collection Practices Act," to address growing
concerns with predatory debt collection practices during the pandemic.
Importantly, this bill expands the definition of debt to include all
consumer debt (this includes medical debt) and prohibits deceptive
behaviors and harassing communications from debt collectors.
Our Office is Open!
Connect with our staff - While Councilmember Cheh's physical office is
closed during the public health emergency, she and her staff are
teleworking and will remain accessible for residents.
You may continue to reach us via phone through our main line at (202)
724-8062 with legislative ideas, budget requests, and constituent services