Last week, the District of Columbia City Council met virtually for the first time in the council’s history. During that meeting, the members of the council voted unanimously to pass a COVID-19 Relief Bill that will provide assistance to, and protect, citizens of the District. First and foremost, the new bill allows Mayor Bowser to extend the current public health emergency through the middle of June, so get comfortable, we still have a ways to go. Additionally, the relief bill covers a wide range of topics from monetary issues to small business protections to voting rights that we think you’ll like.
The bill helps DC resident’s with monetary concerns. Landlords will be prohibited from increasing rent until 30 days after the public health emergency has ended. Further, landlords will be prohibited from evicting tenants until the emergency is over. For those in debt, debt-collectors will be prohibited from contacting debtors or initiating legal battles until 60 days after the emergency has ended. For mortgage holders, the bill directs local mortgage lenders to allow deferment of payments for 90 days after the emergency ends. If you are renting and your landlord is able to obtain mortgage relief, your landlord will be required to allow deferral of rent payments. Finally, the bill prohibits utilities from shutting off for non-payment. Utilities include phone and internet access, so no one will be losing their lifeline to a world outside their door.
For small businesses, the same mortgage and rent deferral rules in the bill also apply. Additionally, the council has mandated that the branches of the District of Columbia government use small, local businesses for all contracts in excess of $250,000. The bill also allows the city to make advance payments on the contract to the businesses. Hopefully, this will give much needed relief to our local business owners!
The bill covers a wide range of other topics under the public health emergency. To encourage people to vote from home, the DC Board of Elections will be sending every voter in the District an absentee ballot for the June primary. Consumer protections have been enacted to protect families that will require funeral services. And, as were sure many of you have already discovered, the bill allows for delivery and carry-out sales of alcohol and wine from restaurants (as long as you are also buying food). You can get creative with that one.
The full bill itself is a 150 page behemoth, this blog only addresses a portion of what is in it. We tried to pick out the pieces that most people will deal with, but other sections of the bill could apply to you more than it will others. If you have any question about what the DC COVID-19 Relief Bill means for you and your business, give us a call and an experienced Social Distancing Law attorney will assist you in deciphering the legalese. Stay safe DC!