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 pandemic year.
There are five programs or protections that today's emergency legislation would have expire on a date other than November 5th, those are:
- Expanding the definition of employment
- Enabling, but significantly limiting, utility disconnections
- Extending the rent increase moratorium
- Modifying circumstances in which a landlord may file an eviction notice
- 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.