Archives

Blog

May 17

2021

The Council Should Not Weaken Protections from Utility Shut-Offs During the Pandemic

Earlier today, my colleague, Beth Mellen, highlighted that the Council will vote tomorrow on a bill that would substantially weaken the District’s COVID-19 pandemic eviction moratorium – even as the District struggles to process thousands of requests for rent relief.  The bill also includes language that would weaken existing protections against utility shut-offs during the pandemic, allowing households to have services cut off unless they enter into payment plans, apply to STAYDC for assistance, or participate in one of a few listed safety net programs.  Throughout the pandemic, the utility shut-off moratorium and the eviction moratorium have worked together to protect Washingtonians – eviction protections have kept them in their homes, while consistent access to electricity, water, gas, and telecommunications services have helped ensure health and safety.  Weakening utility protections puts safe housing for Washingtonians at risk, even as the pandemic continues.  Read more →

May 17

2021

DC Council to Consider Restarting Eviction Process Before New STAY DC Rental Assistance Program Is Effectively Serving Tenants

On Tuesday, the DC Council will consider a legislative proposal to cut back on the District’s eviction moratorium.  Landlords currently are prohibited from serving tenants with eviction notices, filing new eviction cases, or actually evicting tenants.  In early April, the Council approved a narrow exception allowing the eviction process to restart where tenants present a current and substantial public safety threat.  The Council now will consider whether to create a similar exception for nonpayment of rent.

In December 2020 and March 2021, the federal government approved sending up to $352 million in emergency rental assistance to the District for tenants who fell behind on rent during the pandemic.  On April 12, the District launched the new STAY DC program with an online application portal to distribute these funds.  Since that time, according to numbers provided by the Department of Housing & Community Development last week, approximately 10,000 tenants have submitted completed applications online and another 10,000 tenants have started the process.  Unfortunately, according to the Mayor’s staff, not a single payment has been made.  These problems must be resolved first.

Read more →

May 17

2021

STAY DC Program Needs an Overhaul to Live Up to Its Promise to Prevent an Eviction Crisis

As a part of its $350 million Emergency Rental Assistance allocation from the Department of Treasury, the District launched a new rental assistance program on April 12, 2021 called Stronger Together by Assisting You, or STAY DC. The purpose of this program is to stabilize tenants who have experienced financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent evictions by providing tenants with up to 18 months of rent relief.

According to reports from the Department of Housing and Community Development, over the past month, approximately 11,000 tenants have submitted a complete application for rental assistance online, and another 10,000 have initiated applications. Yet, not a single tenant has been approved for, let alone awarded, rent relief. Tenants and advocates are understandably concerned that STAY DC may end up being an ineffectual and inaccessible program unable to accomplish its stated objectives.

Read more →

May 04

2021

DC Among Jurisdictions with Highest Insured Rates in the Pandemic, But Still Room for Improvement

In a recent report, Families USA, a leading organization in health care advocacy, showed the devastating impact that lack of health insurance has on COVID-19 diagnosed cases and deaths at national, state, and county levels. Being uninsured is linked to a third of deaths from COVID, nationwide. The study found that an estimated 10.9 million diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in the United States from March 2020 to February 2021 were associated with a lack of insurance. Read more →

Apr 20

2021

Legal Aid Statement on Conviction of Derek Chauvin

Following the brutal, senseless killing of George Floyd last year, we at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia unequivocally affirmed the obvious: that Black Lives Matter, and renewed our commitment to stand in solidarity with those speaking out, peacefully demonstrating, and demanding a country and a society that will treat every one of its residents with dignity and respect.

And today, while still feeling grief and outrage over Mr. Floyd’s death, we believe that justice and accountability have been rightfully served with a conviction for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer. Read more →

Apr 08

2021

“40 at 50” Honorary Event Recognizes D.C. Pro Bono Leaders

Yesterday, the D.C. Circuit Judicial Conference Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services held the first-ever virtual “40 at 50” Pro Bono Event. The event recognized DC law firms for outstanding leadership in pro bono service. It honored firms that had at least 40% of their lawyers contribute at least 50 pro bono hours in years 2019 and/or 2020. Read more →

Mar 29

2021

Reflections of a Domestic Violence Attorney

More than a year ago, on March 13, 2020, our lives changed drastically. Seemingly overnight, stay-at-home orders were put in place and most of the country started working from home. Here, at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, we quickly shifted our practice from an in-person office setting to a virtual one. In the Domestic Violence/Family Law Unit, we had to figure out how to provide our services to domestic violence survivors under our new normal. Read more →

Mar 26

2021

Longtime Legal Aid Pro Bono Volunteer David Reiser Receives 2021 William J. Brennan Jr. Award

Last week, the D.C. Bar announced plans to honor David Reiser of Zuckerman Spaeder with the 2021 William J. Brennan Jr. AwardThis award, bestowed upon members of the D.C. Bar whoexhibit “excellence, commitment, and dedication in the areas of civil rights, civil liberties, and the public interest,” is well deserved and reflects David’s substantial contributions to the pursuit of justice, equality, and the public good. Read more →

Mar 26

2021

USDA Withdraws Appeal in Legal Aid Lawsuit Challenging SNAP Rule

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (the USDA) withdrew its appeal of a decision last October from Judge Beryll Howell of the federal District Court of the District of Columbia vacating a USDA rule that would have cut off access to SNAP, otherwise known as food stamps, for nearly 700,000 Americans, including more than 13,000 DC residents. Legal Aid and Alston and Bird represented Bread for the City and two individual clients (Damon Smith and Geneva Tann) in a challenge to the rule that was combined with a similar suit filed by the District of Columbia on behalf of itself, nineteen states and New York City. Read more →

Mar 18

2021

Stop AAPI Hate

We at Legal Aid are horrified by the tragic violence in Georgia on Tuesday evening that stole the lives of eight individuals—six of whom are of Asian descent, and seven of whom are women. We mourn their loss and recommit ourselves to work that honors them and the countless other victims of race and gender-based violence.

These senseless killings take place at a time when we are witnessing a surge of hate crimes against Asian Americans throughout the United States. According to a recent report by Stop AAPI Hate, Asian Americans have reported roughly 3,800 incidents of hate-related acts since the pandemic struck. But the Atlanta shooter also targeted women, and in particular, women associated with an industry vulnerable to terror and abuse. This is consistent with another deeply troubling pattern: In the past year, Asian American women—too often hypersexualized and objectified in our culture—have disproportionately experienced hate-related harassment, bullying, abuse, and violence, at a rate 2.3 times that of Asian American men. Read more →