DC Council to vote on COVID-19 consumer protection measures Tuesday

In its legislative meeting tomorrow, D.C. council will consider additional provisions to protect district residents amid COVID-19, including increased consumer protection measures.

Margaux Renee, Staff Editor

In an effort to further address the critical needs of residents as coronavirus cases spike in D.C., the city council will vote on the COVID-19 Response Temporary Amendment Act of 2020 this Tuesday. 

According to a draft of the bill circulated April 2, the council aims to provide  Mayor Muriel Bowser with the necessary authority to support district residents during this public health and economic crisis. This includes “wage replacement, business relief, and additional authorities and exemptions regarding health, public safety, consumer protection, and government operations.” 

The additional bill comes just weeks after the council unanimously voted to approve resolution R23-0282, the initial COVID-19 emergency declaration and response bill. This initial bill, adopted March 17, included vital measures such as the extension of unemployment benefits to those newly furloughed or unemployed, a moratorium on evictions, late fees, and utility shut-offs, as well as the expansion of public benefit programs like Healthcare Alliance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. 

Following the passage of this bill the council announced via its website that additional provisions and amendments were to come, emphasizing that “the measure passed at the most recent meeting was comprehensive, but is not intended as the final word on the topic.”

In response, six local advocacy organizations including the Legal Aid Society for the District of Columbia, Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless and Tzedek DC drafted a letter to the council recommending four additional measures to be adopted Tuesday: protection of federal stimulus funds from garnishment by the debt collection industry, relief from debt collection and debt collection litigation, credit report protections and the extension of a foreclosure moratorium to all DC homeowners.

 Ariel Levinson-Walman, founding president and director-counsel of Tzedek DC — the district’s only legal non-profit dedicated to providing free legal help for those facing debt-related problems — explains what’s at stake Tuesday.

“If the council adopted our recommendations,” Levinson-Waldman said, “there would be a period of breathing room created,” adding that a sixty-day grace period would ensure that “on day one, after the pandemic, folks are not hauled back into court and facing litigation or civil arrests from the debt collection process.” 

The council’s legislative meeting will begin at 10:00 a.m EDT tomorrow, and will be virtually available to the public here: https://dccouncil.us/pre-register-here-for-our-first-ever-virtual-online-legislative-meeting-on-tuesday-april-7-at-10am/