July 13, 2021

Coronavirus Update: Council Extends Pandemic Protections

Dear Neighbors,

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:

  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 circumstances:

  • 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 Medicaid/Alliance coverage)
  • 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 requests.