The Office of the Attorney General is partnering with local organizations in order to support five in-person STAY DC clinics to help residents apply for resources and funds to pay bills. (Courtesy Photo)

By Micha Green
D.C. and Digital Editor

With Washingtonians having felt the economic sting of the COVID-19 pandemic, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine partnered with local nonprofits to provide five in-person STAY DC clinics. The STAY DC in-person clinics will help residents meet their financial obligations by assisting them with applying for resources to pay for rent, utilities and other bills.

“The pandemic has exacerbated the financial challenges that many D.C. residents face as workers have lost jobs and families have struggled to care for their children. At the same time, they still have bills to pay to keep a roof over their head and their lights on,” said AG Racine.

STAY DC, which stands for “Stronger Together Assisting You,” is a financial assistance program for D.C. renters and housing providers who are looking for resources in order to offset the loss of income. With STAY DC, families are able to pay landlords, settle debts and avoid financial and housing crises later.

In a survey done by D.C.’s Martha’s Table in April 2020, nine in 10 families reported being financially impacted by pandemic, almost 60 percent of parents who were employed were not being compensated, two-thirds of parents were concerned about their ability to pay utilities and more than half were concerned about paying rent.

As a means of assistants tenants in need during the pandemic, the federal government provided $2.5 billion nationally in federal rental and utility assistance funds. The District’s portion of federal assistance funds totals $200 million to eligible residents. From those funds, the District created STAY DC, which is run by the D.C. Department of Human Services and the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development.

Washingtonians can apply for assistance covering outstanding rent and utilities back to April 1, 2020 and three months of future rent.

However, according to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), residents had difficulty in applying for the STAY DC resources to assist with paying bills. Partially due to the complicated application process, STAY DC has more than 80 percent of funds available to distribute to support Washingtonians in meeting their financial responsibilities.

The OAG said in a statement that without assistance the application process can be difficult for tenants who face technological barriers, are elderly, disabled, illiterate or whose primary language is not English.

Volunteer attorneys and staff from the OAG will work at the clinics to assist residents in applying for financial support.

“STAY DC is a critical program helping DC residents pay their rent and utility bills during these challenging times. But for many, the application process has been difficult,” Racine said. “I’m proud that attorneys and staff from my office have stepped up to offer their support to help residents fill out these forms, and I hope residents come to these clinics and take advantage of this help.”

The first clinic was Aug. 3 from 6-9 p.m. at Luther Place Memorial Church in Northwest, D.C. The next STAY DC clinics are:

  • August 10, 6:00pm – 9:00pm
    Ward 8: Hart Middle School: 601 Mississippi Ave SE, Washington, DC 20032
  •  August 19, 6:00pm – 9:00pm
    Ward 8: Hart Middle School: 601 Mississippi Ave SE, Washington, DC 20032
  • August 28, 10:00am – 2:00pm
    Ward 7: Marshall Heights Community Development Organization: 3939 Benning Rd NE, Washington, DC 20019
  • September 18, 10:00am – 2:00pm
    Ward 7: East Washington Heights Baptist Church: 2220 Branch Ave SE, Washington, DC 20020

The District must distribute at least $130 million to eligible to residents before Sept. 30 or else it forfeits additional federal funds for which the District would be eligible.

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Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor