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COVID-19 relief bill extends eviction moratorium, promises housing assistance

By Sean Keenan

When President Donald Trump begrudgingly scribbled his signature on the $900 million COVID-19 relief package on Sunday, he effectively cast a lifeline to the countless Americans — including many Atlantans — threatened with displacement amid the nearly year-long pandemic. 

On Dec. 1, when City of Atlanta officials were under the impression they only had until the end of the month to spend federal funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, they announced they might have to cut a $22 million housing assistance program in half to ensure all the money was spent. 

The passage of the mammoth new relief bill, though, extends the deadline to use the CARES money to the end of 2021, meaning the city’s online portal, which until Dec. 19 had allowed people financially afflicted by the crisis to apply for help, could soon reopen.

However, it’s still unclear whether municipal leaders intend to keep the program intact or instead allocate about $11 million toward things like payroll expenses related to public safety and public health. City officials now await guidance from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and will decide how to use the money thereafter. 

Officials with the city and United Way of Greater Atlanta, which is administering the housing assistance program, have not responded to SaportaReport’s requests for more information, and this story will be updated as comments are provided.

Nevertheless, the newly approved relief bill sets aside another $25 billion for rental assistance that will soon be divvied up by state and city governments. Renters across the country will be able to apply for up to 15 months of rental assistance, NPR reported. 

And while this good news can’t stop the looming wave of evictions from ultimately crashing, the federal relief package also extends the nationwide residential eviction moratorium for another month, until the end of January.

(Header image, via Martin Falbisoner via wikimedia.org: The nation’s Capitol)

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