Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs has received an inquiry from Democratic state congressmen into the agency’s decision to stop accepting new applications for a $1.1 billion program designed to keep thousands of families with a roof over their heads.
Six Democratic members of the Georgia delegation sent a letter to Christopher Nunn, commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, asking him why he had closed new applications for the Georgia Rental Assistance program and how the the remaining funds would be distributed.
The department announced on its website that it would not be accepting new applications after Oct. 28, an abrupt decision that caught housing rights groups and other nonprofits working to unprepared. help low-income families who depend on payments to cover their rent.
According to the congressional letter, 235,217 evictions were filed between April 2020 and October 2022 in Atlanta despite federally-enacted eviction moratoriums.
“This termination potentially leaves thousands of Georgian families homeless, jeopardizing Georgia’s economic recovery,” read the Dec. 2 letter from U.S. Representative Hank Johnson and his fellow Democrats. “These Georgians work and operate small businesses, have young children at home or are trying to put their life on track in the wake of a global crisis, and they deserve answers on why DCA suddenly stopped accepting new applications for the federally funded Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
The DCA announced in late October that it would no longer accept applications from new tenants and landlords due to insufficient funding. Since March 2021, nearly 90% of the $989 million in funding has been paid or committed to paying more than 8,000 landlords for rent owed to 54,000 tenants. The Treasury Department also reallocated $280 million to local governments.
The decision did not affect the eligibility of current participants for additional housing assistance.
Nunn responded in a Dec. 6 letter to the Democratic delegation that the claim that it took days to notify agencies that new applicants were no longer being accepted was incorrect.
“Based on the advice and experience of other programs, the GRA has not provided advance notice, so as not to generate a wave of applications that the program is unlikely to be able to fund,” wrote Nunn. “For reference, new GRA applications peaked in June 2022 and have continued to decline since then.
“To insinuate that it took days to communicate is simply inaccurate,” Nunn said. “Not only did DCA include a simple status update on the portal, as well as detailed updates to frequently asked questions, but GRA also sent over 130,000 emails to tenants and landlords who had submitted requests. .”
DCA recommends that tenants contact their landlords directly to ensure that their landlord has applied to the program, and applicants should respond promptly to requests for documentation from program staff.
Funds are typically transferred directly to landlords whose delinquent tenants are at risk of becoming homeless due to job loss or other hardship during the pandemic. The federal program requires participants to earn less than 80% of the median income in their area.
A state improvement plan was submitted in November 2021 after Georgia’s 9% payout rate fell significantly below the Treasury Department’s 30% threshold. Several other states were well ahead of the Georgian agency in allocating funds, but the state complained that launching the program was difficult due to timeliness and bureaucracy.
At the time, the Georgian agency detailed steps it had taken to improve a program that provided help to tenants and landlords 60% faster.
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