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Fulton County’s COVID-19 rental assistance hailed by feds as others in metro lag

By David Pendered

Most metro Atlanta governments have resisted federal encouragement to distribute federal funds to prevent residential evictions for nonpayment of rent related to COVID-19, according to a tally of the latest report from the Treasury Department.

A majority of federal funds have not been released in metro Atlanta and Georgia to prevent residential eviction for non-payment of rent related to COVID-19. Credit: Treasury Department, David Pendered

The impetus to get the money to households at risk of eviction is heightened by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Thursday to end the eviction moratorium enacted by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Georgia landlords were among the plaintiffs in a case led by the Alabama Association of Realtors.

Fulton County is alone in stepping up the distribution in a significant way. Fulton distributed $5.7 million in July, compared to the $9 million it distributed during the entire first half of the year, according to Treasury’s report.

Fulton’s program for releasing funds was showcased in a roundtable discussion hosted Thursday by Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo, according to a statement from Treasury.

Adeyemo convened representatives of 10 local governments that have devised programs from scratch that are to help people remain in their homes, with assistance from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The purpose of the conversation was to discuss a set of best practices that can be shared nationwide.

The Treasury Department’s report shows Clayton and Cobb counties have made zero distributions and zero families helped in July, the report shows. The two counties may have been among the 12 percent of grantees nationwide who did not report their spending to Treasury, according to the report.

The distribution rate in the five-county core of metro Atlanta now stands at 26 percent, according to a tally of Treasury’s numbers. That compares to a distribution rate of 12 percent for the period from Jan. 1 through June 30.

This image of lifesaving is part of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s campaign to help connect renters and landlords with federal rental assistance. (Image from consumerfinance.gov)

The Biden administration has urged local governments across the country for several months to release funds. When local governments responded that they feared retribution if funds were dispensed improperly, the administration waived or reduced accounting provisions for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

On Wednesday, the Treasury Department provided seven additional policies aimed at helping local governments get the money into the hands of those for whom it was intended. Those that don’t risk losing money intended for their public, according to a Treasury statement:

  • “If grantees are unable or unwilling to deliver ERA1 resources, Treasury is prepared to reallocate funds. Beginning September 30, 2021, the ERA1 statute requires Treasury to recapture excess funds that have not been obligated by a state or other grantee and reallocate those resources to high-performing jurisdictions that have obligated at least 65% of their original allocation.

The department posted several tweets Wednesday that highlighted successful distribution models such as Fulton County’s system. One tweet observed that the distribution rate in July was 15 percent higher than the rate in June, and double the rate in May.

These figures are provided by the Treasury Department in its Aug. 25 reporting of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. At least one organization in metro Atlanta involved the distribution has said its distribution amounts are under reported. The Treasury Department presents the data as it was provided by grantees.

 

 

 

 

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David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.

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