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Sep 24

2020

Legal Aid Clients Testify About Unemployment Benefit Delays in Public Hearing

On September 16, 2020, six Legal Aid clients were among the 60 witnesses who testified before the District of Columbia Council’s Committee on Labor and Workforce Development’s public hearing on the performance of the Department of Employment Service (DOES)The stories the witnesses shared revealed widespread problems with unemployment benefit processing during the pandemic – including difficulty accessing CARES Act benefits like Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). These problems include benefit delays, unclear information, technological difficulties, and other systemic challenges with the current system for requesting and receiving unemployment benefits. Read more →

Sep 22

2020

D.C. Courts Launch Remote Hearing Sites

The D.C. Courts have launched five remote hearing sites spread throughout the city that litigants can use to attend virtual court proceedings. These sites will be equipped with computers, printers, and other technology. Masks and cleaning materials will be available on site to help make sure that individuals using these sites remain safe. Phones at the sites will connect litigants with court staff who will be available to answer questions and provide technical assistance. Additionally, the remote sites will have important information for litigants, including information about legal services providers and available social services. Read more →

Sep 21

2020

Legal Aid Remembers, Honors Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

We mourn the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She spent her whole career fighting for the right for all of us to live with dignity and up to our full potential.

When asked how she wanted to be remembered, she said:

Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has.

As the pandemic and a renewed focus on the violence against Blacks and other people of color has shown us, the tears in our society are deep, open wounds, and we cannot count on any one person (no matter how notorious) to fix them. But Justice Ginsburg’s talent, determination and brilliance helped give us the tools we need to move forward in our fight for justice.

Thank you, Justice Ginsburg. Rest in peace.

Sep 17

2020

Trump Administration Closer To Ending Temporary Protected Status for More Than 60,000 Dc Residents

Legal Aid opposes the Trump administration’s efforts to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for thousands of long-term DC residents. This week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Ramos v. Nielsen to lift a preliminary injunction that was stalling the Trump administration’s efforts to end TPS for citizens of El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Sudan. The case is linked to Bhattarai v. Nielsen which involves TPS recipients from Honduras and Nepal. The decision brings the Trump administration closer to its goal of eliminating TPS for more than 400,000 individuals in the United States. It also threatens to greatly exacerbate family separation as there are more than 270,000 US citizen children whose parents are TPS recipients and fear deportation. Read more →

Sep 15

2020

DC DHS To Resume SNAP and TANF Certifications

DC’s Department of Human Services (DHS) has restarted its normal certification procedures for Food Stamps/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. These requirements had been waived between March and August 2020 in response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. DHS will call and/or send notices to individuals who need to recertify these benefits.

District residents who receive notices to recertify or who DHS calls to complete a phone interview should do so immediately to ensure their benefits do not stop.

Households that receive recertification notices and/or requests for verification documents may submit them to DHS online at or through the DC Access Mobile Phone App, as well as by mail, or in-person at any of the three open DHS Service Centers (Congress Heights, H Street, Taylor Street). If you receive TANF or SNAP (or work with individuals who receive these benefits) and you are unsure about whether you need to recertify, you should contact DHS at 202-727-5355 or download the DC Access Mobile App.  Anyone whose benefits are terminated can contact Legal Aid for assistance.

Sep 15

2020

D.C. Court of Appeals Overturns Marijuana Conviction; Decision Has Implications for Record Sealing

The D.C. Court of Appeals recently reversed the conviction of a man who had been convicted of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance after the police found 1.76 ounces of marijuana during a traffic stop. This decision interprets an initiative adopted by D.C. voters in 2014 that decriminalized the possession of less than two ounces of marijuana. Despite this law, courts continued to convict individuals found with less than two ounces of marijuana if they were found to have an “intent to distribute,” even if defendants had not actually made the marijuana available for sale. This decision ended that inconsistency, holding that possession of a small amount of marijuana, coupled with the intent to distribute, fell within the class of conduct that the statute decriminalized. Read more →

Aug 27

2020

Bold Action Is Required to Stem the Tide of Evictions in DC

In the last month, researchers at nine national organizations and institutes have released analyses estimating the devastating wave of evictions facing tenants across the U.S. The National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel and the consulting firm Stout Risius Ross, LLC released a new tool that allows users to easily view relevant Census Bureau data related to eviction by state. According to Stout’s tool, currently 36.6% of Washington, DC’s renting population will be at risk of eviction when the eviction moratorium expires in December, which is equivalent to around 57,000 households. They report that the District’s estimated rent shortfall is currently a staggering $79 million. And these numbers will only go up with time. Read more →

Jul 31

2020

District passes emergency legislation to protect workers from COVID-19

Since May 29, 2020, when some District businesses began to reopen, many jobless workers contacted Legal Aid for advice. These workers’ concerns were two-fold: they feared being required to return to jobs that might not yet be safe, which could risk their health and the health of their household members, and yet they also feared being “reported” by their employers to the unemployment office for refusing work, which could jeopardize the unemployment benefits they needed to survive the pandemic. Black workers, immigrants, and workers with limited English proficiency reported feeling especially vulnerable. Indeed, a recent nationwide survey demonstrated that employers disproportionately retaliated against Black workers for raising safety concerns with their employers. Read more →

Jul 31

2020

Public charge rule blocked during public health emergency

On Wednesday, July 29, 2020, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction and temporary stay that enjoins the federal government from implementing or enforcing the public charge rule. The Trump Administration first proposed the public charge rule in September 2018. The rule would make it more difficult for immigrants to obtain legal permanent resident status if they had received or applied for federally-funded public benefits. Members of the immigrant and immigrant-allied communities – including Legal Aid – vehemently opposed the proposed rule. However, despite ongoing litigation, the public charge rule went into effect on February 24, 2020. Read more →

Jul 27

2020

Sealing Criminal Records Is Harder Than Ever

At long last, our society has begun to reckon with the devastation that over-policing has wrought, particularly on communities of color. Many District residents have known for years that one of the costs of a police encounter can be a life-changing criminal record. Once burdened with a criminal record, individuals encounter obstacles to getting employment, housing, public assistance, and education. Sealing those records, therefore, can be invaluable. Unfortunately, even before the public health emergency, D.C. had one of the most restrictive record-sealing processes in the country. Now is the time to make criminal record sealing easier; but, in D.C., it is only getting harder. Read more →