(The Center Square) – Georgia has disbursed only $21.3 million of the $989 million in Emergency Rental Assistance program money the state has been allotted from the federal government, officials said.
The state's rental assistance funding does not include aid counties or cities with more than 200,000 people received directly from the U.S. Treasury for their rental assistance programs. Residents in those areas were allowed to apply for funds from only their local agencies.
The Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) expanded the rental relief program Friday to everyone in the state.
"We are living in a pandemic that has impacted Georgians in many different ways," DCA Deputy Commissioner of Housing Tonya Cureton Curry said. "Having these rental assistance funds available from the U.S. Treasury is an unprecedented opportunity to bring landlords and tenants current on rent and utility payments. DCA is working closely with all local jurisdictions and the U.S. Treasury to provide funding to those in need across the state as we want to continue supporting as many Georgians as possible."
The DCA's announcement came a day after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's eviction ban, which was set to expire Oct. 3. The court ruled only Congress has the authority to impose a nationwide moratorium.
President Joe Biden's administration has since called on state and local officials to distribute the Emergency Rental Assistance "and to use all the flexibilities the law authorizes to get these funds to the people who need them."
Federal officials also asked state and local governments to allow evictions for nonpayment only after landlords and tenants have applied for Emergency Rental Assistance funds.
About 1.2 million households are very likely to face eviction for nonpayment of rent over the next two months, according to a recent U.S. Census Bureau of Statistics report. About 37% of workers in Georgia rent their homes, according to recent National Low Income Housing Coalition data.
The U.S. Treasury reported spending more than $3 billion on the program from January through June.
Georgia received the first set of federal Emergency Rental Assistance – $552 million – under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump in December. It also received $437 million for the program under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which was signed by Biden in March.
As of Monday, 14,400 tenants have applied to the Georgia Rental Assistance Program (GRA), officials said.
A spokesperson for the agency said DCA staff "is working as efficiently as possible to process applications."
GRA requires applications and documents to be submitted by both tenants and landlords. The program's staff reviews and cross-references documents submitted by both parties. GRA officials said tenants should contact their landlords to make sure that they have also applied for the program to avoid delays.
"The speed at which funds are administered has increased, and we expect this to continue as we have implemented updates to the online portal to further streamline the process and experience for applicants," the spokesperson said.
The DCA's decision Friday was the second expansion of the program. Officials opened eligibility in May to include renters who receive monthly federal rent subsidies.
The Georgia Apartment Association did not respond Monday to a request for comment.