On March 17, 2020, The Council of the District of Columbia enacted, and the Mayor signed into law, the COVID-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act of 2020. The Act extends numerous benefits and protections to workers and businesses. On April 7, 2020, the Council of the District of Columbia passed a second emergency measure, the COVID-19 Response Supplemental Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, to provide additional relief from the adverse effects of the coronavirus outbreak on District of Columbia residents. Mayor Bowser is expected to sign the bill into law.
Key Provisions of the COVID-19 Response Supplemental Emergency Amendment Act of 2020
- Freezes residential rent at the current rate for the duration of the public health emergency and 30 days beyond.
Note: A rent freeze is not a rent holiday. A freeze maintains rent at the current amount, preventing rent increases; a rent holiday allows non-payment or forgiveness of rent.
- Creates a mandatory 90-day mortgage deferment program for residential and commercial mortgage holders who request one. No late fees or penalties will accrue and repayment of the deferred amount can be done by payment plan, instead of through a required balloon payment. This program requires landlords to pass along proportionate savings to their tenants if they receive a deferment.
- Provides vacant property designation waivers for businesses closed due to the public health emergency.
- Expands the small retailer tax credit.
- Adds basic cable television and Internet service to the list of utilities that cannot be cut off for non-payment during the public health emergency.
- Forbids debt collectors from communicating with debt holders and from repossessing vehicles during the public health emergency.
- Provides early compassionate release of some incarcerated individuals based on retroactive good time credits, including elderly and seriously ill inmates who no longer pose a threat to society, under specific conditions.
- Provides COVID-19 response grants to hospitals (expected to be reimbursed later via federal aid).
- Modifies the District's sick leave law to align with the CARES Act.
- Waives mandatory community service hours requirements for graduating high school seniors.
- Authorizes short-term borrowing for the District, for the first time in five years.
- Facilitates electronic drafting and filing of wills.
- Authorizes the Mayor to extend the current public health emergency by 90 days, with subsequent 15-day extensions, as needed.
- Requires that all government contracts signed during the public health emergency, but not providing a service related to the public health emergency, include a requirement for subcontracting at least 50% of the value of the contract to Certified Business Enterprises.
- Enhances penalties for unfair trade practices related to the public health emergency, and authorizes the Attorney General to prosecute violations of consumer protections related to the emergency.
- Requires the Board of Elections to mail an absentee ballot application, along with a postage-paid reply envelope, to every District of Columbia registered voter, to encourage people to vote by mail.
March 17, 2020: The Council of the District of Columbia passed the COVID-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act of 2020.
April 7, 2020: The Council of the District of Columbia passed the COVID-19 Response Supplemental Emergency Amendment Act of 2020.