While the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) wades through its backlog of roughly 33,000 emergency rental assistance (ERA) applications, the state agency is denying nearly as many applicants as it’s approving.

As of early December, the DCA had received nearly 50,000 applications for federal rental aid. It had processed just over 16,000 of them—less than one-third of the total—approving 54% and denying assistance to the other 46%, according to public records obtained by Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA), a national renter advocacy organization. 

Already under fire for administering one of the slowest-spending emergency rental assistance programs in the country, the DCA now faces questions about why thousands of applicants are being rejected. DCA officials did not respond to Atlanta Civic Circle’s requests for comment.

NACA’s CEO, Bruce Marks, said it’s “outrageous” that DCA is denying almost half of the applications processed. Based on his group’s research nationally, the DCA’s rental assistance program “stands out as an outlier that is completely dysfunctional and mismanaged,” he told Atlanta Civic Circle.

DCA officials have repeatedly defended their program, pointing to cumbersome federal regulations and the massive amount of money—$552 million—they received from the U.S. Treasury Department in January from the first round of ERA funding as obstacles to distribution.

Marks and other critics have called for the DCA to turn some of its ERA1 money over to local governments which have shown they can spend it more promptly.

That might actually happen. DCA officials on Dec. 7 presented a plan to state lawmakers to share more than $80 million of its ERA1 pot with metro Atlanta county governments: $25 million for Fulton, $25 million for DeKalb, $15 million for Henry, $9 million for Clayton, and $6.6 million for Hall.

State Rep. Becky Evans (D-HD83) has told Atlanta Civic Circle that, pending Treasury Department approval, the “voluntary reallocation” could commence early next year. 

But even if that plan pans out, the DCA would still be charged with disbursing hundreds of millions of dollars–and Marks and others are calling for changes to the state’s ERA program.

The president of apartment management firm R. James Properties, Kelly James, said the ERA application process is still “so complicated that many residents who wish to apply for rent relief have a lot of trouble completing the application.” 

What’s more, he told Atlanta Civic Circle, applications today largely rely on participation from both renter and landlord. If a landlord won’t cooperate, the DCA can pay renters directly, but it won’t pay landlords if the tenant refuses to play ball.

“The simplest step DCA could take to speed up the distribution of rent relief funds is to replace the entire resident portion of the application process with a simple landlord attestation form,” James said.

He also suggested creating a streamlined, uniform application process for all Georgia agencies tasked with disbursing ERA funds, as application protocol across the board is considered burdensome for folks without easy access to computers or those lacking technological wherewithal.

Marks added that the DCA also must do a much better job communicating with applicants, especially when the state agency denies claims because they lack some of the requisite paperwork.

“I’ve never heard of any [ERA] provider that has come close to 50% denial,” Marks said, adding that DCA does not have an appeals process for people who’ve had their claim denied. DCA officials did not respond to a question about the appeals process for denied claims.

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18 Comments

  1. My name is Lisedia Onyiorah I apllied for Georgia rent relief on 1/11/2022, on 1/26 I had the first contact with the Michelle Brooks followed by several contacts and messages where she stated that all looked good. A few days later my application was denied and although I’ve reached out to Michelle, I am still unsure as to why the denial. On 2/9 after several messages I received an email about a “denial reverse” and that was the end of it.

  2. I have waited since September to be approved but still nothing you can never actually speak to a person and have any type of conversation. Why would anyone even bother to apply? It takes them 6 months to even look at your application and by then any landlord would evict. Now what? Oh you don’t qualify anymore. What a joke. It seems like they are only giving the money to their friends and to hell with everyone else.

  3. update I was denied yesterday because I don’t have a signed lease to give them even though treasury website says you don’t have to have it. also he didn’t even offer to help with my power bill. 6 months for this ? what a freaking joke

  4. I completed my application 1/18/22 my processor was Tiffany Dumas. She sent me 1 message stating what she needed from me I sent the information within 10 minutes and never heard from her again. My status was additional information needed since 1/26/22. I message her in the portal several times as well as reached out to her via email and she never responded, after months of waiting my status updated to denied application. I never received an email explaining why I was denied. I even sent the processor another message asking why I was denied and once again no response. I didn’t understand this because I turned in everything she asked for within 10 minutes. When I call no one can give me any information because they say they can’t access my portal.

  5. DCA is a joke and full of liars. The government needs to send the funding to counties individually because having Atlanta controlling everything is another fraud in the making of mishandling funds. They made up their own qualifications so they don’t have to help people. I ask for help for 2 months to help me get on my feet because I was sick with COVID-19 and my apartment was preleased so I couldn’t renew. I’m struggling to find somewhere because of the past due balance which was 1 month and none 60 day noticed what is owed plus 1 month assistance to help me when I find a place to stay. I was told by Michelle Brooks that they can help me and she’ll give this to her supervisor to rush it to get it approved and during that time, I had a family emergency with my dad and sister was admitted in the hospital then to find out after uploaded more documents just to get my application withdrawn. Mind you I’m living from family members to family members to hotel to hotel til I got robbed at gun point and these people still won’t help because I no longer stay in the unit after I was forced out. I’m not asking for an arm and leg of 18 months, I’m a hard working citizen who’s struggling to get back on her feet.

  6. Class Action Lawsuit against the DCA is needed. It is also recommended that the State Of Georgia audit their books/funds paid out and the US Attorney prosecute ALL who were involved in their fraudulent activities. No appeals process, no denial reason[s] or follow-ups for the applicants sounds UNLAWFUL & DISCRIMINATORY. The devil is a liar and in the details. Fire the whole staff.

  7. My name is Keith Benas I applied for rental assistance in December 2021 after losing my job at the hospital. I was denied rental assistance and the DCA isn’t responding to my request to have the decision overturned. To make matters worse I’m being evicted and the DCA has represented within the Cobb county courthouse where the eviction was signed off on. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. I don’t trust the DCA and the money has been mismanaged. The government should’ve gave the money directly to the people so that they could pay their rent or mortgage.

  8. I agree completely with all the statements above. I applied on October 4 of 2021 and Still the portal says under review. People that have applied within just the last month of March have been approved but they are so backlogged apparently not of they. Can approve the new applicants in under a month. Does any one not have some kind of recourse against this? Something must happen this is beyond unfair .

  9. I applied in October of 2021 and now am at risk of losing my home. This program screams FRAUD! The whole process seems cruel and discriminatory. It feels as though these processors are purposely stalling applications. The processors give you a strict timeframe on when to turn in documentation. 5 days to be exact. But do not have that same timeframe on processing these applications once documentation has been received. I have been asked for additional paperwork through the portal, with five days to do so and then I hear nothing from my processor. Only to be assigned a whole new one a month later and have to repeat the same process over. It feels like they want you to not be able to provide the paperwork in time so they can deny you. They ask you for paperwork for the most mundane things..and when you provide it, its like “oh wait! We need this!” Iv been asked to proved my identity multiple times, iv proved my work history, I sent them in my covid results when I got sick and lost my job. Iv sent in past due bills! I was literally without gas and heat during the winter! All of which I sent to my processor via the online portal. Still wasn’t enough. I was asked for more documentation.. which I sent in with no response after. It literally feels so intentional. They are not even hiding the fact anymore that they don’t want people to be able to get help. Help with tax payer dollars might I add. Do you know how hard it is in Gregoria to find somewhere to live once you have an eviction on your record? and its like they don’t care! How are these processors not required to finish an application all the way though before moving onto the next? Its like they just get to to when they want. And if they don’t feel like doing it they hand you off to another processor. Also not to add that six months to process an application screams negligence, incompetence, and just flat out cruel!! when people are out here loosing their homes! Their lives! its like they want you to get evicted. they want you to be on the street. Them having no sense of urgency baffles me! They hired 200 people to just answer phones and redirect you back to the portal where no one will respond to you for months!!! This is criminal and based on the other testimonies iv heard and seen from other people I am planning to get a lawyer. Because serious action needs to be taken and it seems like no one will listen until they have a class action lawsuit on their hands. Something needs to change. People are in need.

  10. Same thing happened to me as the rest of you guys let’s start a class action or a civil rights fucking state reform and get these fucking losers out of office and take the power back to the people and vote for mayors again and stop this shit before it’s too late… China isn’t making humongous advances in military(released 3 huge advanced naval ships within the last week and just yesterday they caught there first missle in mid flight…) Times are getting crucial for our children’s future

  11. I agree with all the comments above my application was on file for at least 6months. I finally got an email from Michelle Collins and sent her all the request she ask for, then I got another email from Donnie Halloway a week later stating I need more of basically the same document I was to speak with her and as I was sending in my documents on the same day I spoke with her I received an email that I was denied and I wasn’t even finish uploading the documents she requested during that time. I don’t know why I was denied after all the long months they took to even review my application it only took a second for them to denied me. I have one question who is getting approved? Now I have to look for other option for health. Smh

  12. I applied in April 13 I got a response from deandre Farrell 2 weeks later he stated he was my processor and told me what was needed to turn in my water Is off I have 3 small kids and I uploaded the dispossession they denied me I have real bills lease and everything no response til now a denial no reason on why I was denied or nothing

  13. I applied for assistance 2 months ago.
    I just received a denial, so did my son for his request for assistance.
    With no explanation.
    I’m thinking about suing as well.

  14. I was denied it says because I live in the city of Fulton county the county I applied for. Where am I supposed to live , their definitely doing something with the money because we’re not getting it . People are so greedy because it shouldn’t be this many people getting denied with $25,000,000 per county come on now. I’m not sure who’s specifically denying it but they need to just make it a machine to where if you qualify you get it right away. It’s definitely something deep because this is sad and lies saying they can help but not doing it.

  15. Well if this doesn’t just top it all off… I applied for Oregon rental assistance back in 2021 each month I contact them with no issues just behind, they say so be patient. Than with two days left I reach out again no email no letter just on the chat they inform me I was denied do to calling from 4 different states which is a bull face lie as I’m home bound. Than they say to many claims at that address… Another lie… And told me I can’t nor will I be considered even if I appeal..

  16. I am experiencing the same issue as many folks have detailed here. I applied for assistance in August of 2021. I was told my application was moving forward in April as I had provided all the necessary documents. One month later I received a message that DOT guidelines had changed and was requested to provide an additional document, of which I had already provided. I had heard nothing until recently that my application was denied. If anyone knows of an attorney that is looking into these handlings please provide that information because this is appalling. They are playing with the lives of too many Georgians in need.

  17. I applied June 4th parental assistance I met all the qualifications a month later I was denied never received a message or an explanation or perhaps if I had left something out or did something wrong nothing whatsoever. I emailed the address that it says to do so and it says that they periodically check the messages it will get back to you. I’ve left eight messages never has anyone got back to me. I called the number and asked if I could reapply cuz I had not heard anything they said no that I have to wait for an email or a letter it’s going on 2 months and I’ve received neither

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