Fulton County is putting on a clinic on how to administer a government program with the utmost transparency.

Although the county stopped accepting applications for its $18 million emergency housing assistance program in mid-March — like many governments, Fulton was inundated with requests for financial help — officials have architected an expansive database illustrating how the operation is functioning.

The page breaks down who is applying for rental assistance, where those applicants are located and how much money is being doled out.

The numbers underscore a massive demand for help with housing costs amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

To date, more than 15,500 applicants have requested a total of nearly $55 million in assistance from the federally funded program — all during the roughly two-week period in which the county was accepting applicants.

Many of those applicants, however, aren’t eligible to receive benefits from Fulton’s program because they live outside the service area. Atlantans, for instance, don’t qualify for the program because the city runs its own federally supported program. 

Folks who live outside the service area comprised more than $20 million of the ask, per the database. 

Still, Fulton officials are now tasked with determining how to distribute $18 million worth of money to a pool of people who requested almost twice that amount. 

Thus far, only about $590,000 has been dealt for rental assistance, and just $40,300 went to help people pay for utilities and other housing costs. County officials are still sifting through thousands of applications that came in before the online portal closed on March 15. 

The average applicant requested nearly $8,000 in help from the program, with most requesting  rent support.

The vast majority (85 percent) of applicants within the service area were Black or African-American; most applicants (69 percent) were women; and the average annual household income of applicants was about $12,000.

Fulton’s database highlights the dire straits the pandemic has placed people in, although it also sets a standard of accountability that other jurisdictions should strive to replicate.

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