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With the end of the federal eviction moratorium right around the corner, a recent computer error frustrated the City of Atlanta’s emergency housing assistance program, complicating renters’ ability to seek financial support amid the pandemic.
Last week, soon after the city announced its federally funded assistance program would be again accepting applications, some would-be recipients of the money — which could be used to help pay rent, utility bills or other housing-related expenses — received error messages suggesting “We were unable to save your intake information” and “You will need to reapply for assistance.”
This was due to a “technical glitch in the application form,” according to Chad Parker, a spokesman for United Way of Greater Atlanta, which is administering the city’s program.
“After opening the program back up on June 28, we began to notice a low number of applications on July 1 and were closely monitoring the situation,” Parker said in an email to Atlanta Civic Circle. “With the recent extension of the eviction moratorium announced and the approaching July Fourth weekend, the low application numbers didn’t immediately trigger alarm bells for us. But the continuing slow pace of applications and the increasing questions about the error messages indicated a technical problem, which we immediately tackled.”
The online application portal has now been repaired, Parker said.
“In the last 24 hours, we have seen an increase in applications going from only 167 applications to 368,” he added. “We are currently working on FAQs for those who may have experienced technical issues and will be posting them on our website, social channels and alerting our partners.”
In addition to the sense of urgency spurred by the looming expiration of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction ban — the moratorium lifts at the end of July — a bandwidth issue has city and United Way officials encouraging people in need to apply for the rental assistance program sooner than later.
Program leaders told Atlanta Civic Circle last week that only the first 2,000 applicants who file the requisite paperwork — essentially, proof of financial hardship due to the public health crisis — will be considered before the application window closes again.
Officials said then that they expect the current $15.3 million round of funding could help a few thousand households stay home after the eviction moratorium expires.
Parker said Friday that he doesn’t think the city and United Way will be able to distribute all of the money before the eviction ban is lifted, but “we hope to process as much as we can” before then.
If applicants have any additional issues with the assistance program, he added, “We encourage them to call 2-1-1, where a Community Connection Specialist will flag their application for assistance.”