DC Microgrants Out This Week, Rent Program Announced

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DC Attorney General Karl Racine speaks at the April 29 Coronavirus Situational Update. Screenshot: DC Grancicus

Small businesses will be informed if they qualified for DC’s microgrants program between April 29 and May 8, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said at her Monday Situational update.  The microgrants were one piece of District economic relief addressed by Bowser at the April 29th COVID-19 Situational update, which also focused on rent relief and questions about monthly billing for services prohibited by the public health emergency.

DC Microgrants

Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) will notify grantees of awards in the Small Business Recovery Microgrant Programover a 10-day period starting April 29, said Interim DMPED John Falcicchio. Checks will take up to two weeks to receive, whereas electronic transfers may be available in as little as two days after information is confirmed. A few hundred applicants who submitted an incomplete application will be contacted to complete their information, he added.

The microgrant program was established March 17 with a $25 million pot, and closed April 2. The funding pool was later expanded with an additional $8 million sourced from both Events DC and the Federal CARES Act.

That increased funding means that every one of the 7,000 applicants should receive a check, Falcicchio said. Independent contractors, sole proprietors or self-employed applicants will receive a $1,000 grant, he stipulated. The range in amounts received by employers will be between $2,500 and $14,000.

More Rental Assistance

Low-income families will soon be able to apply for assistance paying their rent. The Department of Housing and COmmunity Development is developing a $1.5 million program with federal funds to give help paying rent to certain tenants. Applications will open on May 11. Bowser said the amounts can be used to pay retroactive rent for April and May, and are expected to help 400 households for between six months and two years based on financial need. The exact perameters for application have not yet been established, Bowser said, but are determined by the federal government.

District Attorney General Karl Racine said that his office had heard about two dozen attempts to evict tenants or increase rental feeds during the public health emergency, both prohibited by council’s emergency legislation. He said all but two complaints had been resolved.

DC Residents are encouraged to call OAG with concerns at the numbers above. Screenshot: DC Granicus

Payments for Unusable Services

The Office of the Attorney General is dealing with complaints about monthly fees for services that they cannot use due to the restrictions imposed by the public health emergency, Racine said. The office has heard concerns about continued billing for services such as child care and monthly parking fees. “There’s got to be some allowances where the law essentially precludes folks from driving in for the purpose of work, if they are not working for an essential business,” Racine said.

There have also been a handful of complaints to the office from daycare customers who had been threatened with losing their spots if they did not continue to make monthly payments. Characterizing this as a ‘threat’, Racine said that “using that kind of power to demand payment or have a kid not be in daycare when we get back to work, I would argue –and I think most courts would argue and believe –is completely inappropriate.”

Racine said it whether or not people were obligated to make these payments ‘was a challenging legal questio’ , referencing the force majeure clause, which he defined as meaning parties would be released from a contractual obligation if becomes illegal. He said force majeure is a consideration through a stay-at-home order.

“I think those issues are ripe legal issues, and we’re going to stand on the side of the cosumer here,” Racine said, adding that his office continues to work with businesses on the matter, and that for the most part they are making reasonable compromises.

Emergency legislation passed by DC Council March 17 and April 7 prohibits contact from debt collectors, makes it illegal to increase rental fees or evict tenants, and provides increased consumer protections.

If you have concerns about these matters, you are encouraged to contact the DC Office of the Attorney General at the numbers above or at oag.dc.gov

New data reported as of Tuesday, April 28, included 112 new positive COVID-19 cases, bringing the District’s overall positive case total to 4,106. 15 additional COVID-19 related deaths were reported. A total of 205 DC residents are known to have lost their lives to the disease.

 For more information on the District’s response, visit coronavirus.dc.gov.