County commissioners unanimously approved another $5 million in federal rental assistance Tuesday night, shoring up pandemic relief programs that were more popular than expected.
The move will allow the county to help an estimated 2,120 renters, on top of the 1,000-plus who have already received rental assistance.
The money will come from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which Congress passed in March. The bill provided direct relief to people, businesses and some local governments, including Cobb, which received $132 million in April. Cobb commissioners have since distributed all but $1.1 million to local businesses, nonprofits, school districts and homeowners.
Nonprofits Star-C and HomeFree USA, both of which were tapped to administer the county’s rental assistance programs, told commissioners Oct. 12 they would soon run out of money.
Nonprofit HomeFree USA was chosen in September to administer $2 million in rental assistance. Under the assumption the average renter would need up to $4,800, the program approved by commissioners was expected to help about 400 people.
More than 3,500 people have applied, however, and a HomeFree representative told the board it would need $6.6 million to help everyone who has applied.
Tuesday’s vote allocated another $4 million to HomeFree’s program. The county estimates that amount will allow the nonprofit to help another 1,600 people.
Another nonprofit, Star-C, was chosen in May to administer $1.5 million in rental assistance for tenants facing eviction.
Star-C has spent almost $800,000 to date on 509 families, according to county documents. Before Tuesday’s vote, it was expected to run out of money in early November.
The vote gave the Star-C program another $918,000, an amount that could help 520 families, it estimates.
Parking deck, Braves bonds In other business, the board voted to transfer about $300,000 to the Parking Deck Facilities Fund and $150,000 to the Law Library Fund.
Both transfers come from the county’s general fund, which had $475 million, according to the adopted budget for the 2020 fiscal year.
Government stay-at-home orders imposed this spring, as well as “the rapid decline of activity in and around the Marietta Square and the Cobb Judicial Complex” has hammered both funds, Volckmann wrote in his ask.
Whether the pandemic will ultimately batter the county’s general fund as well is still an open question, Volckmann added.
“On the date of this agenda, the County cannot predict with any meaningful certainty the particular nature or extent of the adverse impact that the Pandemic, the resulting economic ramifications, the federal and State responses thereto or any other related factors will have on the operation and financial condition of the County,” he wrote.
Commissioners also voted to use more than $2 million from the Cumberland Special Service District II Fund so the county could meet Atlanta Braves stadium debt obligation.
That obligation is funded, in part by revenue from the county’s hotel/motel tax, which plummeted in the 2020 fiscal year. The tax was expected to raise more than $16 million in the fiscal year that ran from October 2019 to October 2020. Instead, it brought in just under $11 million.