$40 Million DC Restaurant/Bar/Retail Rent Relief Program Delayed Despite Impending Restart of Commercial Evictions

Image by Mr.TinDC licensed under Creative Commons.

The new $40 million Small Business Rent Relief Program is still stuck in neutral, as Mayor Bowser’s administration will be unable to open it up for applications in the “Fall 2021′ timeframe they had hoped due to what they claim is the complexity of the program as reflected in the legislation passed by DC Council.

John Falcicchio, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, explained to me on Twitter why:

“This one is going to be tough to design and administer. It would be much more efficient to get the relief to businesses instead of making businesses a pass through to their landlord … Our next step is to find an administrator for the program…[The] legislative language limits the admin[istrative] fee to 1% so it will be tough to find an administrator to develop the program, run it & do compliance for it”

Many of DC’s large grant programs during the pandemic have actually been administered by a 3rd party administrator (RAMW was one of the administrators for the Streatery grant program) who handles/reviews the applications. According to the legislative text, this would apparently limit the administrator to $400,000 in fees to run the program.

One option that could be potentially possible – the DC Council could pass an emergency bill to tweak the way the grant works so that some of the requirements are simplified and the administrative fee cap is raised. I’m hoping the executive is talking with CMs on this issue to address this quickly. Commercial eviction proceedings can be filed January 1st, meaning actual eviction won’t be too far behind.

As a reminder, this program will award grants to restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and brick & mortar retail establishments in DC equal to 1/3 of the business’s past-due rent for the 4/1/20 – 3/31/21 time period. The tenant/business owner would be required to pay 1/3 of the past due rent, with the landlord agreeing to forgo 1/3 of the past due rent.

The grant program would be limited to spots:

  • Operating on leased property
  • With 2020 revenue of no more than $5 million
  • In Good Standing with DC Tax/Revenue
  • Lease that extends to at least the end of 2023
  • Did not receive the SBA Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) or Shuttered Venue Operators Grants.
  • That would get current on rent if the grant was awarded.
  • Priority given to biz who didn’t get PPP loans.

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