Twenty District activists affiliated with the Cancel The Rents organization gathered outside of the John A. Wilson Building on Sunday at a rally calling for the STAY DC program to be extended beyond its Oct. 27 termination date.
STAY DC, an acronym for Stronger Together by Assisting You, serves as the federally-funded program designed to keep residents in their homes by paying for back rent and utilities accrued during the coronavirus pandemic. Bowser administration officials manage the program established in April following legislation signed into law by President Biden.
But earlier this month, Bowser administration officials said due to remaining applications for assistance depleting all available funds, additional requests for funding would not be considered.
Sean Blackmon, a Democratic Socialist who co-led the rally’s program, said STAY DC must remain in effect as many residents still face eviction in the District.
“Washington, D.C. is one of the most rapidly gentrifying cities in the U.S.,” Blackmon said. “This is an increasingly expensive city to live in. People don’t have the money or the resources to pay for housing. Housing is a human right and we must keep STAY DC operational so people can stay in their homes.”
In addition to funding STAY DC and keeping it open beyond Oct. 27, Cancel The Rents wants the District’s eviction moratorium, which expired in early October, to be extended and to see the STAY DC application process streamlined.
Nearly $155 million in rent and utility assistance from the program has aided more than 23,000 residents.
Presently, another $105 million in applicants’ subsidy requests now being processed will assist another 19,000 residents.
Cancel The Rents activist Michael Marinelli said the Bowser administration can dip into the city’s contingency funds to pay for an extension of STAY DC and that the D.C. Council has the power to fund the program beyond Oct. 27. Marinelli requested STAY DC remain operational until the pandemic ends and a short period of time afterward. He also said the STAY DC application should not be so complicated.
“We need the process to encourage people to apply for rental assistance, not discourage them,” he said. “Currently, 120,000 people are behind on their rent in the city — that is 1 out of every 6 D.C. residents. Plus, 20,000 people face eviction in the next four months.”
Blackmon said Cancel The Rents “will continue to organize and to hold events” to stress the importance of programs like STAY DC and to highlight the housing problems low-income people face in the District.
“Throughout the country, D.C. is known as a progressive city but most vulnerable people have to fight in order to get basic considerations,” he said. “It was complicated for people to get COVID-19 vaccinations and getting unemployment benefits was bureaucratically twisted. There are also 10,000 empty housing units in the city. It would seem to me that there is a focus on profits to be made from housing instead of assisting fellow human beings.”