Georgia renters and housing activists rallied outside the Buckhead home of the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) commissioner on Saturday to call foul on what they consider a dysfunctional emergency rental assistance (ERA) program.
For months, the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) has decried the DCA’s handling of the hundreds of millions of rental aid dollars from the U.S. Treasury Department intended to help Georgians avoid eviction. The DCA has disbursed only about 12% of the Treasury funds it received a year ago.
NACA leaders assembled several dozen concerned renters and activists to protest outside agency commissioner Christopher Nunn’s home, because, they said, the DCA has stonewalled them on numerous meeting requests to discuss how to improve the ERA program.
Nunn wasn’t home, said NACA CEO Bruce Marks, but the protestors left a message via the commissioner’s security cameras. “He knows we know where he lives, so he can’t continue to hide from accountability,” Marks told Atlanta Civic Circle.
Some of the renters said they had been awaiting aid money—or even a response from the DCA on their ERA application status—for months.
“I came because I wanted to know the answer to why I didn’t receive funding for the application I put in in September of last year,” Camillya Edwards said from outside Nunn’s home, according to a video viewed by Atlanta Civic Circle. “I feel like I’ve been ignored. Everybody feels like they’ve been ignored, even though we know the money is there.”
Krystal Brandford, a state employee who’s been waiting on an ERA check since applying for aid in March, said she risked professional retribution by demonstrating outside Nunn’s house. “I had to think, ‘Should I not go, because of my job, or should I go to help myself?’” she said in another video from the event. “Because, regardless of my position, I still have a family to take care of.”
Marks said NACA’s efforts have put needed pressure on the DCA, which he has said is running “one of the worst [ERA programs] in the country.”
“I don’t think they would have reallocated $80 million were it not for our activism,” he said Sunday, referring to the DCA’s plan to yield some of its unspent ERA money to high-performing county agencies in metro Atlanta. Earlier this month, the Treasury Department approved ERA funds transfers to Fulton, DeKalb, and other counties.
DCA representatives could not immediately be reached. Atlanta Civic Circle will update the story with any responses.