May 8, 2020
The Honorable Muriel Bowser
Mayor of Washington, DC.
1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20004
Dear Mayor Bowser,
COVID-19 must compel us towards real action to address DC’s dual affordable housing and homelessness crises. While many Washingtonians are working from home and adjusting to a remote lifestyle, far too many of our neighbors are unable to do so. Before COVID-19 struck, it was estimated that 7,000 households experience homelessness on a given night, and that over 40,000 live on the tenuous line between housing and homelessness. Without your leadership and bold action, these numbers will only grow higher.
Increase funding for ERAP in your Fiscal Year 2020 Supplemental Budget
We are writing to request that your Fiscal Year 2020 Supplemental Budget includes a significant funding increase for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). ERAP is a crucial lifeline that allows our neighbors facing eviction to remain stably housed. While we commend you and the DC Council for pausing formal evictions during the public health emergency, we worry that when the crisis ends, evictions of those who owe back rent will occur at an alarming rate. Significant increases for ERAP are required to prevent the economic impacts of COVID-19 from pushing more people into homelessness.
Prioritize ending chronic homelessness in your FY 2021 Budget
We’ve long known that housing is healthcare, and COVID-19 serves as yet another proof point. Homelessness, like COVID-19, disproportionately impacts people of color, has serious and lasting health impacts, and requires strong governmental leadership to address it. This pandemic reminds us that we cannot thrive collectively until all our neighbors have access to adequate and affordable housing and healthcare. This is doubly true for our neighbors experiencing homelessness.
Ending homelessness is a matter of life and death. To date, 9 people experiencing homelessness have died from COVID-19. Therefore, even in the face of a recession, our asks for Fiscal Year 2021 remain the same. We are calling on you to end chronic homelessness for 1,800 households and prevent over 2,000 individuals from entering into homelessness.
Budgets are moral documents
Budgets are moral documents, especially during uncertain fiscal times. We know that DC’s budget will be tight this year, and we applaud you for using the rainy-day fund to address emergency needs. However, for our neighbors experiencing homelessness, it has been pouring for years. We recognize that it will be hard for DC to fund these urgent needs without Federal assistance. As such, we will continue to advocate alongside you for Congress to treat DC fairly.
Still, more must be done locally to mitigate the economic harm caused by this crisis and the very real inequities that existed long before COVID struck. We implore you to utilize the many tools for revenue generation at your disposal, such as scaling back ineffective programs like the Qualified High-Tech Tax Credit, increasing taxes on our wealthiest neighbors who benefited from the Trump Tax Cuts, and using the FY 2019 surplus to offset costs already incurred. Simply put, we are asking you to put people over profit.
Budgets are about hard choices, and this year the choice could not be clearer: robust investments in housing to end homelessness are needed to protect the health of all Washingtonians.
- Miriam's Kitchen, The Way Home Campaign Steering Committee
- The DC Fiscal Policy Institute, The Way Home Campaign Steering Committee
- Everyone Home DC, The Way Home Campaign Steering Committee
- Friendship Place, The Way Home Campaign Steering Committee
- Pathways to Housing, The Way Home Campaign Steering Committee
- People for Fairness Coalition, The Way Home Campaign Steering Committee
- The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, The Way Home Campaign Steering Committee
- Black Lives Matter DC
- DC Hunger Solutions
- DC Jobs with Justice
- DC Statehood Green Party
- Empower DC
- Friendship Place
- Good Faith Community Coalition
- Jews United for Justice
- Legal Counsel for the Elderly
- LISC DC
- March for Racial Justice
- ONE DC
- Positive Force DC
- Restaurant Opportunities Center DC
- RESULTS DC
- Serve Your City
- TENAC (DC Tenants' Advocacy Coalition)
- The Equal Rights Center-
- We Are Family Senior Outreach Network
Cc: Rashad Young, City
Laura Zeilinger, Director, Department of Human Services
Jenny Reed, Director of the Office of Budget and Performance Management
Phil Mendelson, Chair, DC Council
Brianne Nadeau, Ward 1 Councilmember, Chair, Committee on Human Services
Anita Bonds, At-large Councilmember
David Grosso, At-large Councilmember
Elissa Silverman, At-large Councilmember
Robert White, Jr., At-large Councilmember
Mary Cheh, Ward 3 Councilmember
Brandon Todd, Ward 4 Councilmember
Kenyan McDuffie, Ward 5 Councilmember
Charles Allen, Ward 6 Councilmember
Vincent Gray, Ward 7 Councilmember
Trayon White, Sr., Ward 8 Councilmember