In hopes of running out of funds, state abruptly closes emergency rent assistance program
When the application portal for Georgia’s Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program suddenly closed late last month, it set off alarm bells for local housing advocates, who worried the state was denying people help. that can prevent eviction.
“Currently, we are no longer accepting new tenant applications,” Georgia Rental Assistance Website 28, adding that completed applications will still be processed on a first-come, first-served basis.
But the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), the agency running the federally funded pandemic relief program, told Atlanta Civic Circle That the program’s unexpected suspension was due to its efficiency in disbursing the approximately $1 billion allocated by the US Treasury Department.
Since March 2021, DCA has distributed or promised approximately 85% of its $989 million in federal ERA money to more than 48,000 tenants and 8,000 landlords. It expects to use all of its federal rental assistance funds once pending applications are processed, according to agency spokeswoman Alyssa Howard.
Still, housing advocates say the program’s unexpected termination blinded tenants.
Atlanta Legal Aid Society Attorney Lindsay Siegel Told Atlanta Journal-Constitution“DCA has put some tenants in a very bad position.”
“If they knew they were running out of money,” she said, “they should have told them so they could plan.”
Some tenants told AJC That DCA reversed approval of their rental assistance applications when the program stopped taking applicants, but Howard said that was not the case.
“DCA does not reverse the payment unless the applicant was entitled to payment due to an error in the financial information provided by the applicant for the ACH transfer or something in the information required to approve the payment in accordance with the US Treasury and/or other inaccuracy [Georgia Rental Assistance] Program guidelines,” she said, adding that DCA’s rental assistance program has worked as it is supposed to.
But Georgia’s ERA program has been anything but smooth sailing since its inception.
Last February the Treasury Department found that DCA had been Slack in disbursement of ERA cash, To avoid needing to return unspent federal funds to the Treasury Department, the agency $80.6 million released Five metro Atlanta counties with their own rental assistance programs that disbursed funds more effectively.
Howard said the DCA has received very few applications recently. “Applications peaked in June 2022 and have been steadily decreasing since then,” she said.
Howard said DCA recently announced a partnership with Georgia Power that will provide $44.5 million in utility support.
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