Georgia was slow to spend rent assistance money. The federal government might want some of it back. – Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia 2021-10-25 14:11:19 –

Photo by Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

In a bailout package last December, Congress secured billions of dollars to help millions of Americans at risk of being expelled from their homes in the midst of a pandemic economic collapse.

U.S. Treasury Emergency rental support The (ERA) program sought to provide lifelines in the form of cash grants to lessors and landlords, managed through state and local agencies. Some governments moved funds quickly. Others were late.

The state agency responsible for processing most of Georgia’s ERA funds will distribute less than 30% of these federal funds by the end of September, with tenants avoiding peasant evictions and landlords avoiding foreclosures. You may endanger some of your cash that should help you.

By September 30 Georgia Community Authority According to data released by the federal government on Monday, (DCA) paid only 9 percent of the $ 552 million allocated by the Treasury. This is well below the 30% threshold established by federal authorities to determine which ERA grantees hold all their money and potentially earn more. You may also be forced to confiscate some of them so that they can be used by other institutions.

Of the 13 institutions in Georgia that received the first round of ERA Money (over $ 710 million in total), DCA was the slowest to distribute. By comparison, Fulton County paid all of the $ 18 million allocated during the round.

DCA spokesman Drion Bell said on October 12 that he “did not expect” to return the money to the Treasury, but declined to request an interview with a government official and asked for further comment. Did not respond.

But Treasury officials said October 4th letter To ERA recipients[recapture] Dollars from the worst performers who couldn’t or didn’t want to speed up their support. The agency said its goal was to “encourage the best recipients to use more resources as needed, encourage the adoption of best practices to help streamline grantees, and improve the process.” , Assisting renters and landlords who are struggling with funding. “

If federal agencies can show that by November 15, they have spent at least 30% of their first ERA batch and mandated at least 65%, grantees will sacrifice some of their cash. He said it could be avoided. DCA authorities did not answer the question. We were able to create an impressive “program improvement plan” showing how much they promised applicants and how they would move forward.

Grantees whose plans have been approved by the Treasury may increase their spending ratio by 15% to help achieve the 30% standard.

This means that DCA was awarded $ 192 million in the second round to hold all of the ERA funds in the first batch, but is not affected by the reassignment in this round. The agency must spend at least an additional $ 35.8 by November 15. Prove that a million dollars and it mandated at least 65 percent of that $ 552 million to secure that nudge. Looking at this, DCA spent $ 33 million in the eight months from January to September.

DCA is not the only one in this struggle to move money. Nationally, a report on October 12 shows that four-tenths of ERA programs are at risk of reacquisition and reallocation of funds. National low-income housing alliance.. Officials in less populated states, such as Wyoming and Delaware, complain that spending targets are “unrealistic” and “desperately” due to the amount allocated, and that the Treasury’s recovery is unfair. Is stated. [need] This money to solve a serious shortage of affordable housing ” Pew Charitable Trust..Georgia, however, is home Hundreds of thousands of inhabitants Those who believe that they may be at risk of eviction. The DCA supported less than 3,000 households by the Treasury deadline, and many lessees continued to scramble.

Still, some agencies are optimistic that DCA will be allowed to maintain transport of ERA, despite the shortcomings of DCA.

“At this point, I can’t imagine the Treasury withdrawing money from DCA,” said Audrea Lease, executive director of Star C, a nonprofit organization that helps Cobb County split ERA funds. ..

She said Star-C, one of the few organizations Cobb has partnered with, has begun instructing people to apply directly to the DCA because it uses almost all of its allotted funds.

Chelsea Julas, a spokesman for the Atlanta Apartments Association, said an organization representing landlords and real estate owners throughout the metropolitan area provides feedback on the rental assistance application process and payment of funds. “we, [DCA] We focus on investing resources to address barriers and providing a significant amount of federal support to residents and real estate owners in need by the end of the year, “she said.

Still, the slow ERA distribution of DCA puts many at risk of losing their homes. “The state-wide community will suffer,” said Michael Lucas, Managing Director of the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyer Foundation (AVLF), which has helped the city of Atlanta and several other Metro Atlanta jurisdictions with eviction prevention efforts. increase. “Not only are families evacuated, but many are homeless. Classrooms and schools struggle to stir students in and out of nearby schools.”

“In addition, there is a risk of losing more naturally occurring, affordable housing stock, as responsible small landlords, who are an important part of the residential landscape, risk losing rental properties,” Lucas added. rice field.

Some of the challenges faced by the DCA were shared by other agencies across the country. For example, many governments have contracted with third-party vendors such as Star-C and AVLF to help with the initial funding. The online application portal was suffering from glitches.DeKalb County ERA Program Received a cyber attack March. However, one of the most common speed bumps stems from other bureaucratic regulations that require applicants to do more paperwork than the Treasury requires.

Housing and legal professionals say that allowing the government to give ERA money directly to lessors makes money more efficient than paying on behalf of landlords and utilities as usual. It states that it is one of the best ways to get to. In addition, Treasury officials urged ERA recipients to accept self-signed certificates. This is basically a promise from the applicant that the pandemic has worsened their financial and housing conditions.

It is unclear whether DCA regularly accepts self-certification or encourages distribution partners to do the same, and it seems that DCA has not begun to provide ERA funding directly to applicants.

Fulton, Gwinnett, and Hall counties allow landlords to deposit directly into the lessor’s account if they refuse to accept ERA funds. Legal agencies say this is a common practice. The Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Decalve, Henry counties and the city of Atlanta do not offer that option.

DCA officials said WABE Earlier this month, government agencies increased the amount of ERA to distribute each month: “If the Treasury has the opportunity to consider our plans, they are all that we demand to meet their expectations. You will notice that you are doing. “

This article was created in collaboration with a non-profit news agency Atlanta Civic Circle, Sean Keenan is a reporter focused on affordable housing.

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