By Julie Zauzmer and Michael Brice-Saddler

    The D.C. Council on Tuesday backed down from a plan to end the city’s pandemic-era ban on eviction filings for nonpayment of rent, despite warnings from several lawmakers that the decision to keep the eviction moratorium in place could imperil millions of dollars in federal funding.

    The District must use about $130 million in federal rent-relief funds by September or run the risk of being compelled to return the money. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) had proposed resuming eviction filings in the District as a way to spur landlords and tenants to apply for the rent-relief money that the city has recently made available, thanks to the federal stimulus.

    But lawmakers and advocates said that the relief program, known as Stay D.C., is still new and not functioning smoothly yet, and council members decided to hold off on making changes to the eviction moratorium, which bans both eviction filings and physical evictions.

    “Until the District returns to normalcy, residents need as much support as possible,” council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) said.

    The council will hold a hearing Friday on the looming end of numerous pandemic-related protections, and some members said they would propose ways to end the eviction moratorium in June.

    Some said it was still too soon. “More than 60 percent of executed evictions happen in Wards 7 and 8, but D.C. hasn’t fully vaccinated even 20 percent of its residents east of the river yet,” said Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4). “While I certainly hope we will be in a much better place in the coming months, I’m not comfortable lifting the moratorium on optimism alone.”

    Others worried that Tuesday’s decision would mean federal dollars might go to waste. “Every week that we wait makes it much less likely that we utilize all this funding in September,” member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2) said. Member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) echoed: “I’m very concerned about leaving money on the table that could pay people’s arrearages. . . . Even two weeks might matter here.”