Making Justice RealThe Official Blog of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia
Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), Another DC Safety Net Program Suffers Funding Cuts
The current economic climate is hard on many but devastating on the most disadvantaged in our community. The District is cutting funding to D.C.’s safety net programs at a time when the need for such programs is sharply rising. One such safety net program is the D.C. Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP).
For those who temporarily fall behind on their rent due to an unexpected loss of income or a one-time medical expense, ERAP is a lifeline. ERAP provides funding to prevent a family’s eviction. In D.C., if a tenant is sued in landlord tenant court for allegedly failing to pay rent, then the tenant may redeem his or her tenancy and resolve the eviction case by paying the full rent balance due to the landlord. ERAP offers funding to vulnerable, low-income District residents in such housing crises. The program saves tenancies by paying the back rent for eligible families facing eviction cases. Very low-income DC families (125% of the Federal Poverty Level) with dependent children, elderly household members, and persons with disabilities may qualify for ERAP.
By bringing families current in their rent, ERAP assures that future rent payments made by the family are applied to the present month rather than to the arrearage, thereby preserving the tenancy. For households with small children, elderly members, and persons with disabilities being evicted is particularly traumatic and destabilizing. Without ERAP, such families are often forced to live on the streets or in the shelter system and must face the additional hardships that follow from being homeless—such as difficulty getting children to school, problems retaining custody of children, and keeping or finding employment. Importantly, ERAP benefits not only the individual families whose homes are saved, but society at large as well, by reducing homelessness and the problems that arise from such desperation.
In 2008, there were 5,232 applicants for ERAP—1,900 more than in 2007—and 3,714 D.C. households were served. There is no doubt that the number of applicants in 2009 will be even higher.
However, currently, ERAP has not yet received any funding for the 2010 fiscal year. ERAP is administered by four organizations in D.C.—Housing Counseling Services, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, and Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness. The organizations expected funding at the beginning of October, but 41 days into the fiscal calendar, none of them have received any funding to continue their important work. In fact, many of the organizations are no longer making appointments or considering applications because there are no funds to offer tenants. Other organizations have been accepting appointments despite having no funds, with the hope that the funds are on their way. In the meantime, families eligible for ERAP are being evicted for falling back on a couple months of rent.
To learn the status of ERAP funds or to apply for ERAP, contact the individual organizations at
Catholic Charities : 202-574-3442
Community Partnership: 202-574-3442
Housing Counseling Services: 202-667-7006
Salvation Army: 202-332-5000 or 202-561-2000.