DC will provide $10,000 to help families get out of homelessness

The district will spend nearly $25 million to help 600 low-income families exit homelessness, including up to $10,000 in cash, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced Monday.

The pilot program, called the Career Mobility Act Plan, is for families coming out of homelessness but not in need of permanent housing vouchers. Bowser explained that some residents enrolled in government assistance programs face a dilemma when choosing jobs if their new earnings are less valuable than the benefits they received. She called it the “benefit cliff”.

“We’re creating a new program that helps fill that gap,” Bowser said. “We tell the families that we have your back, but we want you to continue earning, learning and growing, so you can manage all that these benefits have covered.”

The pilot project — available to families enrolled in DC’s Family Relocation Stabilization and Rapid Relocation programs — will be tailored to each resident’s career and family goals, Bowser said. Among the benefits available are rent and career support, up to $10,000 in cash, and the city will contribute $200 to a savings account for each month a family pays their share of rent, said Bowser. Assistance from the program will last for up to five years.

The city originally planned to help 300 families through the pilot project using $11.7 million in funds through the American Rescue Plan Act. It doubled that number after about 1,500 families applied to participate in the program, said Laura Zeilinger, director of DC’s Department of Social Services. All participants will be selected by lottery and the first 300 families will be registered before the end of the month; the second 300 will be entered next year using an additional $13.1 million that Bowser announced on Monday.

DC will provide $1,000 for school expenses to 15,000 families in need

Bowser said this effort will support the city’s progress in ending family homelessness in the district. The number of families in shelters has fallen by about 78% since 2016, thanks in part to the closure of the decrepit DC General shelter. Bowser made the announcement at the DHS Service Center at 1207 Taylor Street in Ward 4, which closed for renovations during the pandemic and is expected to reopen in a few weeks.

“This program is going to help our families in Ward 4. We know that 15% of our Black families and Latinx families here are below the poverty line,” said DC Council (D-Ward 4) member Janeese Lewis George. “And [the service center] will be a great resource for them. They will be able to come here and will not have to go downtown or anywhere else. We provide them with resources.

The pilot project marks the Bowser administration’s latest effort to provide families with direct cash payments, including a $1.5 million cash assistance program announced earlier this year for new and expectant mothers. from Wards 5, 7 and 8. And last month, Bowser said the city would provide 15,000 low-income families with one-time payments of $1,000 to help them get ready for the school year.

“We’ve developed so many different programs over the years that are surrounded by a lot of bureaucracy and hoops that aren’t effective and don’t necessarily help families move forward. And it has a lot to do with not trusting people…or that we think they have to prove they deserve help,” Bowser said of recent initiatives. “We believe money can make a difference…And we’ve also had – let’s be clear – over the last two years an injection of dollars that has allowed us to move forward in some of these ways.”

Julio V. Miller