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Need help with rent? Overdue utility bills? Got a typewriter that needs repairs? All of these goods and services are only a phone call away. Seven local pols currently maintain constituent services funds with a total of more than $300,000 just sitting there unused. Past misuse of these slushy accounts has given them a bad name, but back rent and unpaid bills are specific problems the funds are meant to fix.
There are currently moratoriums on evictions and utility shutoffs in D.C., but Council Chairman Phil Mendelson has said he’s looking for a way to fine tune the utility shut-off ban so that it’s only helping people who can’t afford to pay. The chairman proposed an end to the utility moratorium in December, but withdrew it after receiving pushback.
But the issue isn’t dead. Mendelson says he’s concerned that residents will be buried under unpaid utility bills when the public health emergency, and therefore the shut-off moratorium, finally ends. He believes some utility assistance programs are going unused, in part because there’s no incentive to pay overdue bills. He says he’s searching for a way to narrow the moratorium so that people who can afford to pay their bills but are not, “ie scofflaws,” are excluded.
[Background: City Paper reported on Mendelson’s thinking on utility shutoff protections last year.]
In the meantime, constituent services funds are “totally an option,” Mendelson says. But “we’re not getting the requests.”
Although you might have to jump through some hoops, here are the seven local elected officials who keep constituent funds and how to hit them up for a check. (One former local elected official still had some cash left over as of Jan. 1.)
• Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie: $202.86. Contact McDuffie’s office at (202) 724-8028. Constituent services director Kelley Cislo’s email is here. But Ward 5 residents might want to try Bonds, Mendelson, or Bowser first. McDuffie is a bit light on cash at the moment after dropping about $8,000 on turkeys giveaways and toy drives over the holidays.
• Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White: $5,026. Call White’s main office at (202) 724-8045. He also has three constituent services staffers: James Wood, Eric Cleckley, and Louise Thorne. Their emails are listed here.
— Mitch Ryals (tips? email@example.com)
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By Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
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By Emma Sarappo (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
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