Recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing an unprecedented financial hardship for many Montgomery County residents, the Emergency Assistance Relief Payment (EARP) is a program that provides immediate financial assistance to households in need. While the need is great, this program seeks to fill the gaps for those who are not eligible or who will not benefit directly from the federal or state COVID-19 aid.
The benefit will be $500 for a single individual, $1000 for a family with one child, and $1000+$150 for each additional child for families with more than one child, with a maximum benefit of $1450.
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A bill to freeze rent increases in Montgomery County during the COVID-19 emergency passed the County Council unanimously on Thursday. Bill 18-20 was supported by the Renter's Alliance and the local labor movement. "Protecting renters and keeping rental housing affordable and stable is always critical for working families, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Gino Renne, president of UFCW Local 1994, which represents more than 8,000 county employees. "The passage of Montgomery County's Bill 18-20 requiring landlords to keep rent increases to the county guidelines will help ensure that our workers who live in rental housing won't be prompted to move when staying at home and social distancing remain critical to public health." The bill would still allow landlords to charge late fees. Councilmember Tom Hucker also offered an amendment that codifies the County's voluntary Rent Increase Guidelines to cap rent increases at 2.6% and would extend the provisions of this measure for 180 days after the emergency has been lifted.
Councillmember Will Jawando's legislation to prohibit landlords from raising rents during the COVID-19 emergency passed in amended form yesterday. The Renter's Alliance supported Bill-18-20 as introduced - with a zero percent increase provision - and we supported an amendment to prohibit late fees (see Renters Alliance testimony). The original bill was co-sponsored by County Council President Sydney Katz, and Councilmembers Nancy Navarro and Craig Rice.
An amendment by Councilmember Andrew Friedson that would have allowed rents to increase up to 5% was soundly defeated 7 to 2. The final version of Bill 18-20, which passed unanimously, was amended with language offered by Councilmember Tom Hucker that codifies the County's voluntary Rent Increase Guidelines to cap rent increases at 2.6% and would extend the provisions of this measure for 180 days after the emergency has been lifted. The bill as passed would still allow landlords to charge late fees.
Councilmember Jawando, who advocated strongly for a zero increase and prohibition on late fees, said he was pleased with the bill's passage:
"I appreciate the advocacy of the Renter’s Alliance and many other organizations as we fought for a freeze on rent increases during the COVID public health emergency. While I would have strongly preferred to halt all rent increases and late fees, I am pleased that the most offensive increases will not move forward and that many of our residents will benefit,” he said.
The Renters Alliance strongly supported the passage of this legislation in its original form with a zero increase and prohibition of late fees. William J. Roberts, Esq., who chairs the organization's Board of Directors, expressing disappointment in the amendments, was nevertheless pleased that some protection for renters ultimately passed.
"Bill 18-20 is a necessary measure during a national public health and economic emergency," he said. "It was meant to provide protection to renters from fees and housing cost increases during this unprecedented time and also keep renters economically stable so that no one is forced to move when we are all being asked to stay home. We fought for a freeze of all increases and fees to provide maximum protection and flexibility to renters. To be clear, the bill does not do all that we wanted, but it will provide a measure of relief and security for many as we endure this pandemic and it will stop the most egregious increases in their tracks.
We thank the Council for recognizing the need for emergency protections for renters, and we especially thank Councilmembers Jawando, Navarro, and Rice for fighting for a total rent freeze to keep our renter population stable and safe in their homes".
As this new law is implemented by the executive branch, we encourage renters to continue to be in communication with their landlords about their status and to continue to look to the Renters Alliance for information and support.
(Washington, D.C., April 21, 2020) —Today, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka unveiled the safety conditions working people are demanding before the economy is reopened.
“We must do what the federal government has refused to: protect America’s workers,” said Trumka. “We should not be focusing on when we can reopen the economy but rather on how we should reopen it to ensure the health and safety of working people.”
Safety First: Working People’s Plan for Reopening the Economy the Right Way:
Trumka emphasized how a premature reopening will endanger lives and livelihoods and lead to a rapid subsequent reclosing.
Read Trumka’s remarks.
Listen to a recording of the call.
washington dc: Open Society Foundations Invest in the District of Columbia’s Emergency Response to COVID-19
The Open Society Foundations to help some of D.C.’s most vulnerable residents affected by the pandemic.The Open Society Foundations today announced plans to spend more than $1 million to help the District of Columbia respond to short-term needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Open Society’s contributions will provide direct assistance and legal aid to families and workers struggling to obtain unemployment insurance and other benefits, as well as undocumented immigrants and families of currently incarcerated people.
“The Open Society Foundations are stepping up because this is a time to rally on behalf of those most in need and for the civic organizations striving to reduce structural inequalities in the District of Columbia,” Tom Perriello, executive director of Open Society-U.S., said. “Support from philanthropy and the business community is all the more critical because of Congress’s decision to shortchange the District in the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act).”
By grouping the District of Columbia with U.S. territories, the CARES Act cost the District billions of dollars in aid allotted to states. Legal services assistance will help support workers who lost out on that support. The Foundations will make a grant of $250,000 to AYUDA, which has created a fund for low-income immigrants to help cover the costs of food, housing, medical care, as well as provide direct cash assistance during the COVID-19 emergency.
The Open Society Foundations also will provide $250,000 to support community-based and grassroots organizations, including the People’s Bailout Fund, to provide emergency cash assistance to unemployed and underemployed workers, in addition to grassroots leaders seeking to mitigate the disproportionate and adverse impact of the COVID-19 crisis on people of color, immigrants, and low-income communities.
The Foundations will direct another $250,000 to support D.C.-based non-profits committed to creating living wage work, housing, and health protections for criminalized workers and recently released individuals. People who have been detained and incarcerated, as well as their families, are a particularly vulnerable population typically excluded from other relief assistance and services.
“We have a moral obligation to help the most vulnerable populations get the help they need. This is a first step towards building transformational change that addresses the needs of D.C.’s most marginalized citizens,” said Jasmine Mickens, senior policy specialist, at the Open Society Foundations.
The Foundations will direct another $300,000 from its D.C. office to provide emergency support to organizations working to make sure that public health policies are inclusive of at-risk, low-income communities.
Since 2002, the Open Society Foundations has had an office in Washington, D.C. It currently has approximately 80 employees.
The Open Society Foundations work in more than 120 countries around the world to build vibrant and inclusive democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. To learn more, please visit our here.