The Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), which has been struggling to disburse the hundreds of millions of dollars allocated by U.S. Treasury Department for Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA), is expected to turn some of that money over early next year to local agencies that have shown greater ability for getting it to folks in need.
DCA Commissioner Christopher Nunn said during a private meeting with state lawmakers on Tuesday that he is hopeful the federal government will approve his agency’s plan for “voluntary reallocation” of ERA money “by the beginning of the year 2022,” according to notes taken by state Rep. Becky Evans (D-HD83), which she shared with Atlanta Civic Circle.
The DCA has been under intense scrutiny from activists and politicians for what many consider the sluggish administration of its ERA program. By Oct. 31, the DCA had disbursed just 14% of its first round of ERA funding—$69 million of its $552 million ERA1 purse—and applications for assistance have been stacking up.
During the early months of the nationwide ERA program, the DCA was charged with helping the Georgia communities that didn’t receive their own federal funding, while more populous counties and cities ran their own rental aid operations.
Many of those 11 local agencies proved efficient at distributing their ERA funds—in fact, some temporarily stopped accepting applications because they had spent their money—so, in August, the DCA opened its application portal to renters and landlords statewide.
“The applications went up [by] four times,” according to Evans’ notes. The flood of applicants came primarily from Fulton and DeKalb counties—metro Atlanta counties with large populations.
DCA officials have said they’re currently chipping away at a backlog of roughly 33,000 applications, according to a program improvement plan the agency was required to file Nov. 15. Allowing faster-spending governments to share the load should get money to people financially afflicted by the pandemic sooner.
The DCA has proposed sharing over $80 million of its ERA1 money with metro Atlanta governments, according to Evans’ notes: $25 million for Fulton, $25 million for DeKalb, $15 million for Henry, $9 million for Clayton, and $6.6 million for Hall.
“Commissioner Nunn says that the tone of the Treasury seems to be wanting to keep money in the state,” Evans wrote. “He thinks the Treasury will accept the voluntary proposal by DCA.”