State agency returns over $80 million in unspent rent relief funds to metro Atlanta counties with thousands of applicants

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The Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) has released $80.6 million in federal rent assistance funds to five metro Atlanta counties — Fulton, DeKalb, Henry, Clayton and Hall — which have already spent their own federal funds to help tenants facing eviction, with thousands more seeking help.

Fulton County announced Feb. 10 that it had received $25 million from the DCA and was making it available to applicants who were struggling to cover rent and utilities amid the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 in progress.

Fulton’s announcement says some of the nearly $1 billion the DCA received in cash from Federal Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) last year is on its way to counties across the country. metro Atlanta with a much better track record of providing emergency rental assistance for those in need.

The US Treasury Department approved the transfer to county eviction prevention programs in January, with $25 million each for Fulton and DeKalb, $15 million for Henry, $9 million for Clayton and $6.6 million for dollars for Hall Counties.

Many renters and landlords “still need help, even two years into the pandemic,” Fulton County Chairman Robb Pitts said in the announcement. “Although the economy has recovered strongly, there are still many in our community who have been left behind.”

DCA received nearly $1 billion in two rounds of federal ERA funding last year — $552.3 million in ERA1 and $437 million in ERA2 — to administer the eviction prevention program across the state of Georgia. The Treasury Department has disbursed an additional $157.9 million to some of the state’s most populous counties and cities.

But by January – a year later – the DCA had only distributed about $68 million, or 12.3%, of the $552.3 million in emergency housing assistance it had received during of the first round of federal funding. Amid heavy criticism from tenant advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers, the DCA volunteered in December to return $80.6 million in unspent federal funds to the five metro Atlanta counties, which had received a total of $61.7 million in ERA1 funds and had already disbursed most or all of that. cash.

Otherwise, the state agency had to return the money to the Treasury Department, after failing to meet the federal minimum disbursement goal of 30% by September 30. The Treasury Department asked the DCA to submit a program improvement plan on November 15.

Fulton’s program has set the benchmark in Georgia for the disbursement of federal ERA funds. According to the county, it has approved 6,937 applications for rent and utility assistance of the 22,538 it has received since March 1, 2021. Fulton’s rent relief program is open to county residents in outside the city of Atlanta.

Even after using its two federal ERA allocations, Fulton said, the county never closed applications due to lack of funding. Instead, it advanced $4 million in local funding to its housing assistance program pending the DCA transfer of $25 million.

The county has worked proactively to get rent relief funds into the hands of those who need help. According to the ad.

Officials from DeKalb, Henry, Clayton and Hall counties have not yet said whether they have received the additional DCA funds and opened applications for people seeking housing assistance.

People should be able to apply for that money soon, according to state and federal authorities. DCA spokesman Adrion Bell said Atlanta Civic Circle in an email Friday that the agency has completed the necessary steps to reallocate funds to counties, and that the Treasury Department is disbursing the actual funds. A Treasury Department spokesman had no information Friday as to whether the counties had made the money available.

Fulton County residents outside of the city of Atlanta can find out if they are eligible for rental assistance and submit a request at www.fultoncountyga.gov/renthelp, or call 855-776-7912 to speak to a live agent Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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