The Council granted Mayor Muriel Bowser authority to extend D.C.’s public health emergency over the coronavirus pandemic to May 20, 2021. The emergency was set to expire at the end of this month. Bowser first declared an emergency March 11, 2020. She plans to extend it to May 20, according to her spokesperson.
“We are renewing everything,” said Chairman Phil Mendelson during a Monday press conference of past emergency legislation related to the pandemic. “The most important feature is the public health emergency is being extended to May 20, 2021, which will coincide with some of the work that is happening on the executive side with public health officials and where we will be in mid-May, in terms of improving our situation in the health emergency.”
When the Council unanimously voted to grant an extension of the public health emergency on Tuesday, members also voted to extend protections for residents and businesses that are tethered to it. The moratorium on evictions, from notices to removals, was extended to at least late May, as was the moratorium on utility shutoffs. According to Mendelson’s office, the Council is waiting to see recommendations from the mayor’s rental housing strike force before making any final decisions on legislation related to evictions. The strike force’s recommendations are due later this month.
“It was and continues to be the Council’s intent that the eviction moratoria from notice and filing up and through executed evictions are necessary to stop people from moving during the public health emergency, and that the moratoria apply to all parts of the eviction process,” says the emergency resolution.
The Council also gave the mayor more time to submit her budget in their coronavirus emergency bill. Her budget, subject to Council review, was technically due March 31. But the Council gave her until April 22, so local lawmakers can account for the federal stimulus package, which they hope Congress will pass this month. The Council still plans to pass the budget within 70 days of receiving the mayor’s proposal.
The Council is delaying the budget by three weeks, so two weeks of public hearings have been rescheduled. Mendelson says he’ll circle back on new dates, so people know when to testify. (Pro tip for those interested in testifying from 730DC: There is no surplus, but we had a surplus when the fiscal year ended in September. That money automatically went to the Housing Production Trust Fund and the capital fund for infrastructure needs, as required by law, and could be directed to address the four-year deficit.)
Something to watch out for this budget season: Some councilmembers are interested in raising taxes on the wealthy so revenue could go to priorities like affordable housing. DCist reports that Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen and several others are discussing this possibility, after his attempt to modestly raise income taxes on people who earn over $250,000 annually last budget cycle failed. Allen looks to have more support this budget season, seeing as the November elections shifted the Council left.
Councilmembers Allen and Robert White (At-Large) tacked on an amendment to the emergency legislation that would let vacant ANC seats be filled. The Council had barred any special elections for vacancies during the public health crisis.
“As the public health emergency has extended far longer than many of us envisioned, we have to re-evaluate that prohibition and think through how we provide residents in ANCs with vacancies a representation through which they are entitled,” said Allen.
There are currently eight ANC vacancies. One of those vacancies represents residents of DC Jail. Joel Caston, who’s incarcerated at the jail, ran for the long-vacant seat this past November but a paperwork error didn’t allow him to take office. The Allen and White amendment enables Caston to run for a special election, which Allen says the Department of Corrections is working to host.
— Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? email@example.com)
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