The pandemic has placed new pressure on vulnerable households and the recovery is very much just getting started. That coped with the affordable living crisis in the Greater Washington area has caused families to make the heartbreaking decision between food and rent.
With combined average monthly utility costs at nearly $200, including rising water bills, many individuals in the region are unable to withstand common life events.
As the cost of living in the D.C. area continues to rise, the median income for Black residents in the region continues to either stagnate or remain much lower compared to other populations. The median annual income for Black D.C. residents remains flat at $41,000 compared to $120,000 for white residents.
Each day GWUL staff witness firsthand how the traumas of catastrophic illness or other unexpected life events wreak havoc on family stability. As a result of unforeseen emergencies, a family’s overall financial health hangs in the balance and homelessness and food insecurity are a constant threat. The Greater Washington Urban League provides emergency services as an answer to thousands of calls per month from distressed residents seeking relief.
GWUL administers programs on behalf of our partners Pepco, Washington Gas, and the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) to assist clients that are unable to pay their water, electricity, or other utilities to get back on their feet. Our ultimate goal is to help individuals and families get to a point of self-sufficiency while also providing short-term intervention during sudden economic crises.
The GWUL First Responder Emergency Fund (or “FREF”) is a rapid response program that provides assistance for District and suburban Maryland residents experiencing sudden financial hardship. GWUL must provide more than just counseling to vulnerable communities. With FREF as an extension of our emergency response, we leverage the full suite of existing housing services and help dramatically reduce home foreclosures and economic struggles throughout the region.
Nearly 314 households received emergency rental assistance
Nearly 400 eligible residents received emergency assistance with their water bills.
Nearly 150 eligible residents received emergency assistance with their electric bills.
Nearly 40 eligible residents received emergency assistance with their gas bills.
GWUL provides a suite of emergency assistance programs. The League has been a long standing safety net for our community providing short term crises intervention. These programs cover emergency assistance for rental arrears, homelessness prevention, and disruption of water, gas and electricity service. Our community is still dealing with the prolonged effects of an economic crisis, compounded with the impact of economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic that is forcing historically excluded populations to choose between basic needs and paying their rent, mortgage, and utilities. Our services are free and we gladly partner with PEPCO and WASA to assist clients unable to pay their water, electricity or other utilities.
The utility assistance sector of this program served 849 clients and disbursed $113,988.40 in utility payments. The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) helps low wealth District residents get caught up on their rent and get back on their feet. Applicants can get up to $6,000 in aid to pay overdue rent. As much as $900 can be obtained for a security deposit and first month’s rent. In fiscal year 2020 the League helped 181 residents with rental payment disbursements of $515,176.97 through the ERAP program.
The Rapid Exit program diverts District residents who are suffering from or facing homelessness from DC shelters. Financial assistance can be used for first months rent, security deposits, host household expenses, and relocation. In fiscal year 2020 the Rapid Exit program helped prevent or curtail homelessness for 188 residents by providing $142,478 in payment assistance.
The League also administered the District's COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program (CHAP) which provided financial assistance to residents who were in rental arrears due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Qualified applicants were eligible to receive up to $4,250 of funding to pay delinquent rent due to loss of employment or reduction in work hours resulting from the pandemic. In fiscal year 2020 the CHAP program assisted 43 District residents with rental payments totaling $137,276.35.
GWUL also administered the Rapid Rehousing Program (RRH) in partnership with the DC Department of Human Services. On a monthly basis RRH assisted an average of 123 individuals who were experiencing homelessness return to permanent housing. In fiscal year 2020 the RRH program disbursed $375,023 in rent and utility payments for program clients.
Pepco Energy Assistance
GWUL is in partnership with PEPCO to provide assistance to families needing assistance with their electric and gas bills. Through the program families can apply for up to $500 once per year to help pay for their utilities.
PEPCO Gas Application
Water Bill Assistance
GWUL is in partnership with the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA), to help families pay their water bill during times of financial crisis. Through S.P.L.A.S.H. (Serving People by Lending A Supporting Hand), which is funded solely by contributions from the community and thoughtful WASA customers, residents can apply for assistance once during a program year and can receive up to $350.
D.C. Water S.P.L.A.S.H. Program
How to Contribute to WASA:
If you want to contribute to the S.P.L.A.S.H. Program, check the “Round Up” box on your monthly water bill and your total will be rounded up to the next dollar amount. Money collected from the “round up” program goes into the S.P.L.A.S.H. Program.
How to Apply for Utility Assistance:
For information on getting assistance for your utilities call the GWUL offices during business hours Mon-Fri 9 AM – 5 PM.
EMERGENCY RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (ERAP)
The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) helps income-eligible District residents facing housing emergencies. The program provides funding for overdue rent if a qualified household is facing eviction (including late costs and court fees). The program also supports security deposits and first month’s rent for approved residents who is moving to a new unit in the metropolitan area.
The ERAP application process can be open to 60 days. However, the payments can only be used once per year for each eligible household.
To be eligible to apply, you must be a DC resident with a proven state of emergency and your household must meet the federal poverty guidelines. (125%)
EMERGENCY RESPONSE FUND
The Greater Washington Urban League is looking for qualified contractors to perform the various types of weatherization work and other building services. We seek contracting firms of all sizes. Minority owned businesses are welcome. All Weatherization Contractors are required to have a DC business license, BPI certifications, Liability & Pollution Insurance and meet the requirements listed in the RFQ. This program offers contractors a host of benefits in addition to revenue. Technical training is paid for by DOEE. The work offers an opportunity to fill-in seasonal gaps and an opportunity to be listed as a preferred vendor of the League.