Reviews | DC has enough money to help those facing eviction

What is happening here? The city has over half a billion dollars burning a hole in its pocket but failing to meet the basic needs of its most vulnerable residents. This approach is wrong, causes traumatic suffering and weakens the social fabric of our city. City leaders may ask us to be understanding of their budget decisions, but with such surpluses we rightly feel angry and disappointed with their choices.

For less than $200 million, the mayor could protect these households from the cascade of damage to health, stability and security that evictions and homelessness bring. Our low-income black and brown neighbors — many of them are the famous “essential workers” of the pandemic and the dc economy motor — have been suffering for nearly two years now, as white neighbors with far greater resources have recovered and even increased their wealth.

Bowser must rush to meet critical and urgent needs for rent and utilities, dedicating a portion of the surplus to preventing evictions and utility cuts. Although DC did not receive the $187 million the mayor requested from the federal government for these purposes, it can now use the excess funds to fill the overburdened Emergency Rental Assistance Program and provide assistance. emergency in terms of public services and the Internet. It can also increase funding for the rapid rehousing program to ensure the stability of these families. As we emerge from the pandemic, with our huge budget surplus, not a single resident should face eviction or homelessness due to economic hardship.

Why act now? Aid cannot wait for the regular budget process. By late spring, tens of thousands of renters will potentially be facing eviction, with the average DC household facing an eviction claim for less than the cost of a area median monthly rent.

If the $1.5 billion surpluses of the last three years tell us anything, it is that we need to be less careful in our budgeting and put human needs first. Many of these households would not be in dire straits if we had allocated funds more generously for critical pandemic relief through the normal budget process. We budgeted for savings when we had to meet the real level of need with the resources we clearly had.

While recent stock market jitters and inflation may shake our collective nerves, the accumulation of wealth at the top has exploded during the pandemic. It is still essential for the Mayor, the DC Council and all of us to remember that preventing homelessness and evictions is the right path and costs only a fraction of what it will take to deal with the consequences later. . The costs can be measured in dollars, wasted human potential, and long-term adverse effects on health, learning, and productivity.

Bowser should immediately tap into the surplus to help avert an eviction crisis. She and the DC Council must not take the “cautious, let’s see” approach to budgeting that prioritized wealth over community well-being. We have literally made savings more important than well-being. We have to make a different choice in the future.

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