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THE NEWS:

The Council has so far passed two emergency bills that provide some relief to housed residents during this difficult time. Let’s unpack what these protections are:

For renters: no evictions, late fees, or rent increases. In the Council’s first emergency bill, the District enacted a moratorium on evictions during the public health emergency. Meaning landlords cannot evict residential or commercial tenants, or file any new evictions at this time. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency March 11 and the Council allowed her to extend the emergency until mid-June.

In the second emergency bill, the Council outlawed any rent increase during the emergency and for 30 days thereafter. That includes rent increases issued before March 11 but that would take effect during the emergency declaration. The mayor’s March 11 declaration triggered a price gouging prohibition law, which includes rent increases over 10 percent. The Office of the Attorney General is enforcing this and says it already sent a cease-and-desist letter to a landlord for breaching this limit. 

For those who got a notice to vacate prior to the emergency, the second bill pauses the clock. Tenants do not need to find new housing and will have the same number of days to vacate after the emergency is over. The bill also pauses the TOPA process, meaning any tenants or tenant associations who got a TOPA notice during the COVID-19 crisis have 30 days after the emergency to start organizing. Those who got the notice that their landlord is selling before March 11 and already started the TOPA process can pause and restart after the emergency.      

For homeowners: no foreclosures and some mortgage relief. The second bill requires local mortgage lenders—meaning those that are regulated by the District—to defer payments for 90 days without late and processing fees if borrowers can demonstrate financial hardships related to the pandemic. These savings must be passed onto commercial and residential tenants. Mortgage companies also cannot report any delinquency to the credit bureau at this time.        

For those that cannot afford rent or mortgage payments: At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman advises contacting your respective landlord or mortgage servicer to go over options. Renters can call the Office of the Tenant Advocate at 202-719-6560 for additional support, including legal help. Silverman says homeowners that get loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may be eligible to defer payments for up to a year.    

For everyone: no utility or internet disconnections. The first bill prohibits companies from disconnecting or suspending gas, water, or electric service during the emergency. The second bill, unanimously passed Tuesday, added cable, internet, and broadband providers to the list of companies that cannot disconnect service if customers can’t pay right now. The OAG is monitoring and enforcing these prohibitions, along with other protections outlined in the emergency legislation. Individuals can report violations online.     

For those looking to read the fine print, here is the second emergency bill, along with resources I used to write today’s newsletter: Silverman’s newsletter and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute’s write-up on the second emergency package

A reader pointed out that my summary of mortgage deferments in yesterday’s newsletter about the Council’s most recent bill was incorrect. I said the Council is providing mortgage deferment for any individual or business, which clearly isn’t the case. I very much appreciated the feedback. In fact, it inspired today’s newsletter.—Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? agomez@washingtoncitypaper.com

CITY DESK LINKS, by Amanda Michelle Gomez:

  • At Wednesday’s press conference, Bowser said 53,148 unemployment claims were filed between March 13 and April 6. Of those, 18,478 payments were made, totaling over $6.7 million. Self-employed people need to reapply if they were denied unemployment now that eligibility is expanded under federal law. But these individuals need to wait because the Department of Employment Services is updating its system to service this group. People will be alerted by email when they can apply. DOES Director Unique Morris-Hughes says the unemployment benefits website has been updated to waive work-search requirement and a one-week waiting period. [Twitter]

  • The District announced 5 new deaths related to COVID-19 Wednesday, bringing the total count to 27. All five people were over the age of 50. Of the total known deaths, 56 percent are black. (For context, black residents account for 46 percent of D.C.’s total population.) With 229 new positive cases, the District’s total number of reported patients with COVID-19 is 1,440. Ward 6 reports the most positive cases, with 235, while Ward 3 reports the least, with 104. [EOM]   

  • Housecleaners, caregivers, day laborers, restaurant workers, and street vendors are among the workers who were excluded from the Council’s coronavirus relief package because of their immigration status. “They don’t value everything I did,” says Ingrid Vaca, a housecleaner of 20 years. [WCP]

  • By the end of the week, Harris Teeter and Giant Food will cut occupancy by half and to 20 percent, respectively, so customers can actually practice social distancing. [WAMU]   

LOOSE LIPS LINKS, by Mitch Ryals (tips? mryals@washingtoncitypaper.com

  • The D.C. Council’s first virtual meeting went smoothly. How disappointing. [WCP]

  • Remote learning exposes disparities in access to technology and wifi. [Post]

  • Some cities are closing streets to alleviate packed sidewalks. Bowser isn’t convinced that’s the answer. [WAMU]

  • Federal judge orders inspection of conditions in the DC Jail as inmates and attorneys ask for release. [WTOP, Post]

  • A 51-year-old DC Jail inmate was taken to the hospital; the total number of positive coronavirus cases inside rises to 28. [Twitter]

YOUNG & HUNGRY LINKS, by Laura Hayes (tips? lhayes@washingtoncitypaper.com) 

  • Coconut Club is delivering cannabis gifts with its spam fried rice thanks to a partnership with Joint Delivery. [WCP]

  • Lots of Washingtonians are turning to White Claw. [Washingtonian]

  • Some restaurant relief funds are so overwhelmed they can’t take new applications. [Eater]

ARTS LINKS, byKayla Randall (tips? krandall@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • The Kennedy Center and the NSO have reached a new contract agreement. [Washingtonian]

  • DC Theatre Scene has created SCENE TV, a new IGTV channel for artists to share how they’re coping with the coronavirus pandemic. [DC Theatre Scene]

  • D.C. soul band Oh He Dead opens up about navigating an upended local music scene during a pandemic. [Kojo Nnamdi Show]

SPORTS LINKS, byKelyn Soong (tips? ksoong@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • Maryland sophomore Jalen Smith, a likely first-round selection, has declared for the NBA Draft. [NBC Sports]

  • Relive the Mystics’ title run on NBC Sports Washington and Twitter, where Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Cloud, Ariel Atkins, and associate head coach Eric Thibault will be live tweeting the games. [WNBA.com]

  • A chat with Michael Wardian, the Arlington man who ran the equivalent of 10 marathons in a little more than two and a half days over the weekend. [Sports Illustrated]

  • The state of Maryland has explored using ice rinks as temporary morgues during the COVID-19 pandemic. [WTOP]

CITY LIGHTS, by Emma Sarappo (Love this section? Get the full newsletter here. Tips? esarappo@washingtoncitypaper.com)

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