DC: COVID-19 (Coronavirus) April 8th Update: New Emergency Legislation Brings Additional Relief by Councilmember Anita Bonds

On Tuesday, April 7, 2020, At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds voted in favor of the COVID-19 Response Supplemental Emergency Act of 2020. This legislation is the Council’s second effort to assist the many residents and small businesses that have been negatively impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic and a supplement to the COVID-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, which was passed on March 17, 2020.

The Councilmember expressed her appreciation to Mayor Bowser and her Executive team, Chairman Mendelson, her council colleagues, council staff, and the many residents, nonprofits, and business leaders who helped to make this second emergency package a reality.

As Chairperson of the Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization, Councilmember Bonds worked with her colleagues to protect and keep renters and owners in their homes. The COVID-19 Response Supplemental Emergency Act of 2020 provides that during the public health emergency:

Rent matters:

  • Rent increases are prohibited in all rent-controlled AND market-rate units throughout the public health emergency and for an additional 30 days after the emergency has ended; and
  • Tenants who recently filed a Notice to Vacate (NTV) but can no longer leave the apartment unit due to the public health emergency are prohibited from being charged double rent.

Tenant deadlines:

  • All deadlines associated with TOPA (Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act of 1980) transactions are “tolled” or paused and extended for 30 days after the public emergency has ended; and
  • All deadlines for tenants and tenant organizations to exercise rights under the Rental Housing Act of 1985 are “tolled” or paused and extended for 30 days after the public emergency has ended.

 Deferrals of mortgage and rent payments:

  • Residential and commercial mortgage holders whose mortgage servicer is under the jurisdiction of the Commissioner of the Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking (DISB) AND who can demonstrate evidence of a financial hardship resulting directly or indirectly from the public health emergency are granted an interest- and fee-free deferment period of 90 days;
  • Mortgage holders may not report to credit bureaus a delinquent mortgage payment occurring as a result of deferred payments;
  • Those mortgage holders must, in turn, reduce the rent costs of qualifying tenants by an amount proportional to the reduced mortgage amount by the mortgage holder; and
  • Qualifying tenants may be required to repay the amount of any reduced rent, without interest or fees, within 18 months, or at the end of the lease term, whichever occurs first.

On March 17, the Council’s first emergency bill, the COVID-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, included the following protections for tenants:

  • A ban on utility shutoffs during the public health emergency;
  • A ban on late fees charged for rent payments during the public health emergency; and
  • A ban on evictions throughout the term of the public health emergency.

“Regrettably, we were unable to relieve tenants in rental properties of their amenity fees. Since we are currently under a Stay-At-Home Order and, therefore, unable to utilize such facilities, it only makes sense that residents don’t have to incur this expense. Also, we have not yet found a certifiable way to offer cash assistance to some of our most vulnerable residents,” said Councilmember Bonds.

“However, my top priority is to make sure sure that residents who are without work or enough savings to meet their financial obligations do not face eviction or lose their home. So, I will continue to work on these items should there be a third emergency bill. I believe that the Council will continue to take the steps necessary to keep all District residents housed and equipped with the resources needed to weather this storm,” she continued.

The supplemental emergency bill also provides many additional benefits for residents and businesses. These benefits include the authorization of the use of electronic signatures to validate legal wills, the mandate to send all registered voters in the District with a mail-in voting paper ballot, and the expansion of paid sick time and emergency paid leave for workers impacted by COVID-19. Furthermore, the bill prohibits the disruption of internet, cable, and phone services during the public health emergency. 

Requirements for unemployment insurance were also adjusted so more individuals would be eligible for the benefit (without the need to seek alternative employment first) and will receive payouts in less time. 

The legislation also waives community service hours and in-seat instruction time requirements graduating high school seniors. Additionally, DCPS has provided for students to have electronic devices to support distance learning and is working with local cable providers to secure hotspots for students. If your student does not have a device, please contact your school. For more information on how to obtain a hotspot, visit https://dcps.dc.gov/coronavirus#distance.

Click here to view the full text of the supplemental emergency bill or the first emergency bill passed in March.

Remember to limit your activities outside of your home and abide by the Mayor’s Stay-At-Home Order. We should not leave our homes unless we need to buy groceries, going to work an essential job, or seeking emergency medical services. Routine exercises that allow for at least six feet between each person are permitted. 

“Each of us is responsible for maintaining social distancing in public. Hanging out in your favorite park or running pass another individual on a crowded sidewalk is not safe social distancing. The sooner we work together and follow the guidelines, the sooner we’ll be able to move forward and enjoy our beautiful city and neighborhoods, its institutions and restaurants, group activities, friends, and family gatherings,” said Councilmember Bonds.

Thank you in advance for playing your part in helping to ease the effects of this pandemic.