Fulton County plans to use some of the $206 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds for its emergency rental/utilities payment assistance program that started last year, plus grants for small businesses struggling amid the pandemic.
“At least 60% of residents in the 65th District are homeowners, and at least 20% of those are homeowners that are struggling to stay in their homes because of variables from the pandemic,” District 65 State Rep. Mandisha Thomas, D-Atlanta, said, referring to a mortgage payment assistance program the county is planning. “(There is) $10 million for grants to small businesses. Georgia has been dubbed the Entrepreneur State. How can we hold this title if we don’t adopt Commissioner Khadijah’s plan? There are over 5,000 business owners in south Fulton that seek resources and equipment. We need Commissioner Khadijah’s grants.”
Thomas spoke at the Fulton Board of Commissioners’ June 2 meeting at Assembly Hall in downtown Atlanta, where the board voted on District 6 Commissioner Khadijah Abdur-Rahman’s resolution to enact the county’s rescue implementation plan for its American Rescue Plan Act funds. The vote had already been held from the board’s recess meeting May 19.
Of the 187 individuals submitting remarks during the public comment period, 12 said they supported Abdur-Rahman’s resolution and none said they opposed it.
But after commissioners had a long discussion about whether or not to include in it a $3,000 premium pay bonus for all eligible Fulton employees and motioned for amendments, since some questioned whether or not it would be compliant under federal laws, the vote to approve the amended resolution failed by a 3-3 vote.
Commissioners Robb Pitts (chair), Liz Hausmann and Lee Morris (Districts 1 and 3) voting yes, Abdur-Rahman and Commissioners Natalie Hall and Marvin Arrington Jr. (Districts 4 and 5) voting no and District 2 Commissioner Bob Ellis abstaining.
Then, the vote to pass the main resolution also failed 3-3, with Abdur-Rahman, Arrington and Hall voting yes, Ellis, Hausmann and Pitts dissenting and Morris abstaining.
“The policy you have put forward, because it provides to the extension some part of the implementation plan, it is not in compliance with the American Rescue Plan Act. But the county manager will fix it,” County Attorney Kaye Burwell said before the vote.
Abdur-Rahman replied, “We’re playing with people’s lives that happen to be our employees. It’s in compliance. To sit up and say we’re almost doing this in a lackadaisical mode is offensive, it’s untrue and it does a disservice to our employees.”
The resolution likely will be voted on again at the board’s June 16 recess meeting.
In an update on Fulton’s rental/utilities assistance program, county CFO Sharon Whitmore said Fulton has received $10.7 million in federal funds, part of a total of $43 million to be used for COVID-19 relief efforts, but only $2.3 million has been doled out to residents so far.
“That’s better. We were at a million two weeks ago,” Hausmann said, referring to an update at the board’s May 19 recess meeting.
After Hall asked Fulton COO Anna Roach about efforts to speed up the allocation of funds to residents for the rental/utilities assistance program, Roach said the county is hiring 70 more employees through a company called P&N to handle case reviews and other paperwork to pick up the pace even more.
“We believe that by applying 70 (employees) to that process, we’ll take our review time all the way down to eight weeks for the first tranche of $18 million” in federal funds, she said, adding the 30 employees the county has already hired via P&N to address the issue have already made a difference.