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I couldn't pay my rent and D.C. helped

I couldn't pay my rent and D.C. helped
By Gordon Chaffin • Issue #150 • View online
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Some of D.C.'s local elected officials have mounted their own outreach campaigns for STAY DC COVID emergency rental assistance. This includes posting flyers around the neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of Evan Yeats, ANC 4B01)
Some of D.C.'s local elected officials have mounted their own outreach campaigns for STAY DC COVID emergency rental assistance. This includes posting flyers around the neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of Evan Yeats, ANC 4B01)
Hey, folks. I thought you might be interested in the STAY DC emergency rent assistance story we published today. Please download the app and consider supporting a Street Sense vendor. That’s the best way to help us continue doing this journalism.
Summary: Street Sense Deputy Editor Gordon Chaffin shares his experience with the STAY DC emergency rent assistance program. He argues that D.C.’s program is failing by standing up too many hurdles for applicants to jump and shares quotes from local government officials who don’t seem to be following federal guidance for quick tenant help. Gordon asks everyone in D.C. struggling to pay back rent and utilities to apply at stay.dc.gov.
‘Crystal Clear’: STAY DC rental assistance offers residents a limited-time opportunity for a financial fresh start
I could not afford to pay my rent for five months last year. Money didn’t come in from side jobs when I was counting on it. So, thanks to the federal ban on evictions, I was able to keep living in my apartment until my lease was up in November. I still owe for those months and I don’t have the money to pay it back. I requested approximately $5,000 from STAY D.C., a COVID-era rental assistance program that pays my landlord for the rent I still owe. The federal government gave D.C. $352 million to help tenants like me who apply, but if the District doesn’t give much more of it out over the next two months, the feds may take it back.
Many residents don’t know about this opportunity to make a financial fresh start post-pandemic. STAY DC includes payments to tenants and landlords for rent and utilities from April 2020 through this summer. You apply to the D.C. government — stay.dc.gov — and your landlord gets a check for what you owe. In some cases, like mine, your landlord may not want to participate in the program. In that case, the government sends you a check and you pay your landlord back with the money. Landlords can apply and receive payment directly after tenants confirm details.
Be prepared for the difficult application, which requires computer and internet access, plus digital copies of lease agreements, bills, and other documents. Also, be aware of the long delays. D.C. residents are waiting months for the help they need within days. Please share this information widely, and with people who don’t seem like they need help: a friend, a neighbor, a follower on social media. It can be terribly embarrassing to admit that you couldn’t pay the rent and other basic expenses. You’re an adult! It’s hard to abandon the facade of self-sufficiency. And what if you have a family you can’t support? In a pandemic, it’s easy to stay silent about how you hurt when you see others hurting even more. But, I believe we can be grateful and vulnerable, we can embody grace and work toward justice for ourselves and others.
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Office Phone: 202-347-2006
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Gordon Chaffin

This is Gordon Chaffin's newsletter. By day, he's a local journalist and current events storyteller living in Washington, DC. The goal: produce writing and multimedia -- civic participation resources -- that include, inform, and equip stakeholders with the least power to improve their community. On evenings and weekends, Gordon is a freelance audio/video producer and photographer. Topics of interest: transportation -- especially non-car transit -- plus housing, environmental justice, social and gender policies like family-medical leave, and education -- especially early childhood. Please send news tips to gordon[AT]streetsensemedia[DOT]org and freelance job inquiries to gordonchaffin[AT]gmail[DOT]com.

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