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Ward 4 Dispatch: Citi Open, First Budget Vote, and Evictions and Utility Protections

Dear Neighbors, 

I hope you’ve had a great week! I’m writing to share important updates to DC’s moratorium on evictions and utility shutoffs, lots of Ward 4 news, and quite a few events and resources for our community. We’re also working hard to finalize DC’s budget, which will have its first of two final votes on Tuesday next week.

Ward 4 News

Citi Open Returns to Ward 4 at Full Capacity with Rafael Nadal

Citi Open, DC’s prestigious tennis tournament is returning to Ward 4 at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center from July 31-August 8 after being cancelled last year due to the pandemic. Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal will be headlining the tournament for the first time in his first appearance since his semifinal loss to Novak Djokovic at the French Open in June. While Citi Open was supposed to happen at half-capacity, the National Park Service recently approved for the tournament to take place at full-capacity. The crowds of tennis lovers can impact nearby neighbors, so each year measures at taken to reduce the inconvenience caused by the event. Due to the public health emergency, the Mayor’s team is taking lead on coordinating the District agency response and logistics for the tournament, including the distribution of parking passes and communicating with the community about the impact of the tournament on the neighborhoods surrounding the courts. My office will continue to support in all the ways we can. There will be a community briefing to discuss logistics this Monday, July 19 at 6pm. Residents can attend the briefing at this link (Event number: 172 592 7187, password: OPEN2021). 

West Education Campus to Be Renamed After John Lewis

This week it was announced that Ward 4’s West Education Campus would be renamed after civil rights hero and longtime Congressman John Lewis. The renaming is part of a broader process whereby the District is reassessing the names of buildings and streets named after figures who enslaved people, oppressed women and people of color, or violated human rights. The renaming decision was made after gathering community input. West is one of the first DC buildings to be renamed because the school is being renovated and will reopen this coming fall. The proposed name change still needs to be approved by the DC Council. 

The West school was originally named after Joseph Rodman West, a Union general and former Senator who ordered the torture and killing of Apache chief Mangas Coloradas, who had come to meet with him to discuss terms of peace. By contrast, John Lewis was a key leader of the Civil Rights Movement, helping organize the March on Washington and co-leading the march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights. He persisted in the cause despite threats, beatings, and arrests – and dedicated his career in Congress to advancing racial and economic justice. Lewis famously called on us to “get in good trouble, necessary trouble” in the pursuit of equality. John Lewis died on July 17, 2020 – one year ago tomorrow. 

Metrobus Crash at Fort Totten Injures Driver and Passengers

On Thursday my team and I responded to a Metrobus crash at the intersection of Riggs Road and 1st St NE by Fort Totten Metro Station. The bus crashed onto a retaining wall, injuring 13 people, including the driver and another passenger critically. The driver was initially trapped in the bus and had to be extricated by emergency response personnel. Thank you to DC Fire and EMS, MPD, and all of the agencies that helped remove passengers and transport them for treatment. While we don’t yet have details on every passenger who was injured, WMATA confirmed yesterday that the driver was released from the hospital and is in good condition. That stretch of Riggs Road is particularly dangerous and has been the site of many crashes throughout the last decade. I will be working to see how we can calm traffic and ensure the safety of everyone who lives or commutes through Riggs Road. 

Petworth Station Affordable Apartments Renovated and Expanded

This past Thursday we celebrated 78 newly renovated apartments and 10 new apartments at Petworth Station, an apartment building at 940 Randolph St NW. Petworth Station is a key source of affordable housing for the Petworth Community. The tenants there used DC’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) and collaborated with agencies and stakeholders to secure an incredible renovation of their building. Thank you to DC HFA, DHCD, WC Smith, Wells Fargo, Bread for the City, ANC 4C06 Commissioner Namatie Mansaray, the Latino Economic Development Center, and of course the Petworth Station Tenants Union for working together to ensure that working families in Ward 4 can continue to have a home here for decades to come. This is what community looks like! At least one affordable unit remains available in the building if you would like to apply.

Legislative Updates

Protections for DC Residents as Public Health Emergency Ends

A few days ago we found out that the Mayor did not plan to extend the public health emergency after it expires on July 25. The public health emergency includes key protections for DC residents, including the moratorium on evictions, the ban on utility shutoffs, the freeze on rent hikes for tenants and businesses, consumer protections, and more. During Tuesday’s legislative session the Council voted unanimously to implement protections for DC residents as the public health emergency ends when it comes to their rent, utilities, and evictions.

A freeze on rent hikes for tenants and businesses until January 1, 2022. This is important given how many DC families would have faced rent hikes this summer, and the many businesses still struggling to recover that cannot afford for their rent to rise.

No utility shutoffs for residents until October 12. Under this law all DC residents will continue to be protected from utility shutoffs until October 12. Starting October 12, utility companies can shut off utilities for residents who owe more than $600, but they must give at least 60 days advance notice, provide information about payment assistance programs, and turn utilities back on if the resident enters a payment plan and makes at least a $10 payment. 

No utility shutoffs for low-income residents until at least February 2022. Low-income residents have extra protection from utility shutoffs until at least February 2022. Until then utility companies are not permitted to shut off utilities for customers who are recipients of public assistance programs like SNAP, TANF, LIHEAP, STAY DC, UDP, CAP, Medicaid, or Alliance (DC’s health care program for immigrants).

STAY DC can cover your water, gas, and electricity bills, and Internet soon too. You can already cover all of your water, gas, and electricity bills through STAY DC, but the bill also requires for STAY DC to expand its benefits to cover some Internet bills as well by August 9. Beyond STAY DC, here are other programs to help cover your watergas, and electricity bills.

The city has to contact residents on social services programs about STAY DC. DC residents who are already signed up for social services programs are likely to also need support from STAY DC. The city will be required to share resources about STAY DC with residents who receive unemployment benefits, emergency rental assistance, Medicaid or Alliance benefits, LIHEAP, SNAP, or TANF.

Early on, evictions will only be allowed in very limited circumstances. Currently, evictions are only allowed are when a tenant poses a “current and substantial threat” to other residents through unlawful possession of a gun, threats or acts of violence, or assault. Once signed, this law will also allow for eviction filings for causing significant damage to the unit. Then by August 26 evictions that were scheduled to occur before the pandemic can proceed as long as tenants get a 30-day notice informing them of the new eviction date. Eviction filings based on lease violations cannot begin until January 1, 2022.

No eviction filings for nonpayment of rent until October 12 and only when several conditions are met. These conditions include the landlord first applying for rent relief on behalf of the tenant through STAY DC and waiting at least 60 days for the tenant to fill out their side of the application too. Landlords must also be owed at least $600 to be able to file for an eviction. Additionally, landlords are required to send notices of past due rent written in clear language in the tenant’s native language.

Tenants can stop evictions over non-payment of rent by applying for STAY DC. A tenant facing eviction over nonpayment of rent can prevent the eviction by applying for rent relief through Stay DC within 60 days of receiving notice of past due rent. A tenant who has already applied for STAY DC and is waiting for their application to be processed is also protected from eviction. In addition, they cannot be evicted if they never received notice that their landlord applied for STAY DC on their behalf. And even if the STAY DC application is denied, they can still prevent an eviction by entering into a payment plan with their landlord.

This framework is not perfect. We know that anytime we set up new processes or rely on imperfect programs people fall through the cracks. But this adds layers and layers of protections for DC residents to help prevent an eviction crisis or mass utility shutoffs at the end of the public health emergency. Altogether, this is a far stronger set of protections and a longer phased approach than what the Council considered and rejected in May. And it’s a world of difference compared to the consequences of the public health emergency protections lapsing without safeguards, which would have happened in two months without Council action. That’s why I ultimately voted for these protections, and I’ll be monitoring what we can do in the coming weeks to ensure that our transition from the public health emergency is just and keeps people housed and supported. That includes making STAY DC work for all DC residents. 

Within hours of the Council approving these changes, I and six other Councilmembers sent a letter to the Executive calling for deeper community outreach and application support for rent and utility assistance through STAY DC. STAY DC offers very generous benefits, covering: up to 18 months of owed rent paid in full, up to 3 months of future rent, and all of your unpaid utility bills for water, electricity and gas. And every dollar is paid by the federal government. If you or someone you know needs support, please apply for STAY DC. But the reality is that many of the DC residents who need help the most still don’t know about this vital program, or cannot apply on their own due to barriers with language, literacy, or technology. These barriers were evident when I hosted a Ward 4 Community Action Day where my staff and volunteers helped Brightwood tenants fill out their applications. That’s why our Council letter calls on the city to:

  • Do targeted outreach to residents on social services programs who are likely to need STAY DC benefits and have already shared the required documentation with the city
  • Host regular in-person events between now and September in our neighborhoods and apartment buildings to help residents with the difficult application process
  • Thoroughly engage residents who were initially denied for STAY DC to help them complete their applications successfully. No one should go without the aid they need
  • Release a comprehensive outreach plan and data on their promotion efforts

My office will continue to do all we can to get the word out and help our neighbors apply. 

Tuesday, July 20: The Council’s First Vote on the DC Budget

This Tuesday, July 20 will be the first and most consequential vote on the DC budget. Although two votes are required to finalize the DC budget, the first vote is the most important because it’s when Councilmembers can propose funding changes and designate which programs or services will receive those funds. In other words, the first budget vote happening on Tuesday is when the most significant changes to the budget will be voted on. The Chairman will release a revised version of the DC budget the day before, so any changes that are proposed during Tuesday’s legislative session will be amending his revised budget. I will be supporting budget changes that move us closer to a just recovery and meet our community’s needs – as I have throughout this budget process. You can watch Tuesday’s hearing online or on Channel 13 starting around noon.

Neighborhood Events

Petworth Summer Saturdays Brings Jazz to Upshur Street. On Saturday, July 17 at 5pm outside of Willow (843 Upshur Street) we’ll have our second concert in the Petworth Summer Saturdays series with Frankojazz performing. Described as entertaining world beat music, Frankojazz is an eclectic band that blends African Rock and Reggae with original and inspiring songwriting. Hope you can make it!

Outdoor Movie Night at Shepherd Field. On Saturday, July 17 at dusk DPR will host an outdoor screening of the animated movie SOUL (decided by community vote) at Shepherd Field (1500 Kalmia Rd NW). Get your bug spray, snacks, blankets, and yard chairs ready and bring the whole family! And please avoid bringing chairs or tables with sharp edges that could damage the turf.

Takoma Park Neighborhood Library Reopens. On Monday, July 19 Takoma Park Neighborhood Library is set to finally reopen! DC Public Library hours are from 10am-6pm on Mondays through Saturday, except for Thursdays, which are 12pm-8pm. Customers can visit a library location to browse the collection, sit at a table or lounge area, or use public computers for 70-minute sessions. Indoor programming and events are starting to be phased in too. Face masks are required for staff and the public.

Jobs Not Guns Recruitment Fair. On Tuesday, July 20 at 11am-3pm at 901 G St NW the DC Business Gun Violence Prevention Coalition is hosting a Jobs Not Guns Recruitment Fair with 50 local businesses to recruit DC residents for jobs, employment training, and subcontracting opportunities as part of a broader push to reduce gun violence in the District. RSVP and find more details at this link.

Paws on Panels Block Party! On Saturday, July 24 at 11am-2pm join Uptown Main Street, Solar Solutions, and Howard Trails Animal Rescue for a Paws on Panels Block Party at 4700 14th St NW. Activities will include free photobooth for your pet (or human family), balloon animals, bubbles, live music, concert ticket giveaways, pet-friendly outdoor cafes, opportunities to go solar, and information about pet adoption or fostering.

New Playground, Popsicle Party, Yoga, and Jazz at The Parks at Walter Reed. On Sunday, August 1 The Parks at Historic Walter Reed are hosting a full day of celebrations, including free Yoga on the Lawn by Yoga Heights at 9:30am-10:30am, a new FRESHFARM Market from 10am-2pm, a Playground Popsicle Party to celebrate the new playground at 4:30pm, and a jazz concert lineup with the popular children’s performer Baba Ras D at 5:30pm, followed at 6pm by Sam Taybron’s The Love Station and Kris Funn’s Cornerstore. Our friends at The Parks at Walter Reed have more than 90 events lined up in the coming months for residents and neighbors to enjoy. Check out the details on their website.

Summer in the Parks: Every Thursday in July at Fort Circle Park. On every Thursday this month (remaining dates include July 22 and 29) from 5pm-8pm the Rock Creek Conservancy is hosting Summer in the Parks, a celebration at Fort Circle Parks in NE DC with food trucks, music, and family-friendly themed activities. Learn more on their website. Come celebrate our urban oasis!

Open Streets Returns to Georgia Avenue. On Saturday, October 2 from 10am-3pm Open Streets will return to Georgia Avenue in Wards 1 and 4. During that time period, a miles-long stretch of Georgia Avenue will close to cars and will instead host an urban festival of activities ranging from food, drinks, fitness classes, obstacle courses, children’s games, live music, and other educational and entertainment programming.

Save the Date: Down in the Reeds Festival. On Saturday, October 9 from 11am-7pm Down in the Reeds Festival is back in Ward 4 hosted by The Parks at Walter Reed! It’s a free all-day festival celebrating the power of music to heal across communities and cultures. Check out the website for ways to plug in and follow them on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram for updates as the festival takes shape. Thanks to everyone involved in planning this!

Community Resources

DMV Resumes Walk Up In-Person Services Next Week! At long last the DC DMV is resuming walk up in-person services next week, with adjudication services beginning on Monday, July 19 and all service centers re-opening to walk ups on Tuesday, July 20. Knowledge Tests are available at each service location on Tuesdays through Saturdays until 3pm. Please keep in mind that the first week of walk up services is bound to be crowded, so arrive early if you can or save the trip for a different week. And you can skip the trip to the DMV altogether if your service can be taken care of onlineClick here for detailed hours and information for each DMV location.

Parents, Don’t Miss Out on the Child Tax Credit! This week 86,000 families in DC and millions across the US started receiving a monthly benefit worth up to $300 per child under 6 or $250 per child under 18. Individuals making less than $75,000 and married couples making less than $150,000 are eligible for the full amount. Families should receive these payments the same way they received their stimulus checks, typically through direct deposit or by mail. If you did not get your stimulus, did not file taxes, or did not earn income in recent years, make sure you sign up to receive the benefit online. Undocumented parents with ITIN numbers who have US citizen children are also eligible for this benefit! And if you just had a baby, the IRS will update its portal in a few weeks so you can update your family information and enroll for checks for your baby. Also, congrats! Please do me the favor of checking in with your friends and neighbors to make sure all Ward 4 residents who are eligible for this benefit can receive it. It’s a game-changer for working families.

WMATA Extends Metrorail Hours Expand to Midnight. Starting Sunday, July 18 you’ll be able to ride Metrorail until midnight seven days a week! The extension is the first in a set of coming improvements at Metro, including all-day rail service, high-frequency bus routes, and improved service across the region. This is particularly important for restaurant and nightlife workers and customers who rely on Metro to make it home at the end of the night. Last month Metro also resumed late-night bus service to 2am on 36 routes and restored more bus service on high-demand routes. Also on the way is a flat Metrorail fee of $2 for each weekend trip and the elimination of the transfer fee between bus and rail.

DC Has a New Online Visitor Parking System. This week DDOT launched a new online parking portal to make visitor parking easier by allowing residents to print out their own parking permits for visitors. If you don’t have a printer at home, you can print out a pass at a police station, public library, or DDOT kiosk. And if you don’t have a computer or smart phone, there is a 24-hour helpline available at 202-671-2631. Tip: remember that 2020 Annual Visitor Parking Passes remain valid DC-wide until September 30, 2021 in case you need to use that.

The Roaring Success of DC Public Library’s Dinosaur Contest! A few weeks ago I told you about the DC Public Library’s Dinosaur Roaring Contest. Well, the results are now public and I thought you would enjoy seeing the outcome yourselves. Thank you to all the Ward 4 kids and grown ups who competed!

That’s all for this week! I know it has been a heavy week for many, so I’ll leave you with this sunny portrait of two of our Ward 4 puppies at Fort Stevens!

The photo was taken at the Reenactment of the Battle of Fort Stevens, a great community event organized by the National Park Service and the Alliance to Preserve the Civil War Defenses of Washington. Thank you to all the neighbors who helped plan the event and are preserving the important history we have in Ward 4 and across the DC area.

Yours in Community,