WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — In its first vote on the 2024 budget Tuesday, the D.C. Council restored millions of dollars in funding to various housing programs.

That includes ERAP, or the Emergency Rental Assistance Program which helps people in emergency situations cover rent or other housing needs.

“We are in the midst of a housing crisis. The cost of housing is so high,” said At Large Councilmember Robert White, who chairs the housing committee.  “Without these safety nets, it’s not a far cry to say we would’ve been paying for theses mistakes for years to come.”

Under Mayor Muriel Bowser’s proposed budget, funding for ERAP would’ve been cut by more than 80%, dropping the funding level to about $8 million. Council voted to restore funding to $43 million.

“The Mayor proposed only $8 million in ERAP, that would’ve lasted only three or four weeks in the next fiscal year. That would’ve been devastating,” said White.

$43 million puts the program at the same funding level it was at for fiscal year 2023. In that budget, funding for the program dried up in about six months.

“We saw $43 million get used up and have the application closed by March of this year. So, the idea that for next year we would have such a small fraction was terrifying,” said Amanda Korber, speaking on the Mayor’s proposal.

Korber is with the Legal Aid Society of DC.

“ERAP is one of the most important programs that our clients need to access,” she said. “I would say ERAP is probably one of the main programs that stands between tenants and eviction and homelessness.”

Korber said she is grateful council restored the funding, but she’s still concerned.  

“$43 million is a huge improvement over the $8 million the Mayor had proposed in her budget. And we’re happy to see we’re at least at this point back up to where we were at last year. (But,) we know $43 million is not going to be enough next year.”

Various other housing programs also received more funding or support following Tuesday’s vote.

250 new housing vouchers were created.

And money was restored to the Office of the Tenant Advocate, which assists people in court who are in legal disputes with their landlord.

“What is different about this budget, in previous budgets council does not usually make such seismic shifts from what the Mayor proposes,” said White. “The shift in housing this year was about $240 million difference from what the Mayor introduced and what the council passed. That is a recognition from the council of how important and fundamental housing is.”

Council will take its second vote on the budget May 30.