Metro Atlanta distributed 12% of federal COVID-19 funds to prevent evictions
By David Pendered
Metro Atlanta governments have distributed 12% of the federal funds made available this year to prevent residential evictions for nonpayment of rent related to COVID-19, according to a tally of the latest report from the Treasury Department.
The region’s distribution rate is nearly twice the national average, which is 6.4%, according to a tabulation of money accounted for as of June 30. The figures appear in the July 20 federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
The 12% rate is for the City of Atlanta and the five core counties of Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett. Atlanta had the highest disbursal rate, at 27%. Gwinnett had the lowest, at 5%, the tally showed. Several governments chose to not report disbursals or the number of households helped during each month.
Limited safety nets now exist to help individuals avoid eviction. President Biden has called for various efforts to prevent evictions, and at least two face challenges.
Biden chastised state and local governments in a July 30 statement for slow distribution rates and urged them to get money to people before the start of the expected upward spiral of evictions:
- “[T]here can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic. Every state and local government must get these funds out to ensure we prevent every eviction we can.”
Despite federal cajoling, state and local governments have increased distribution rates only slowly. A total of $1.5 billion was distributed nationwide in June, which Treasury emphasized in a statement was more than that distributed in all prior months combined. Still, the overall distribution rate is below 7%, and only about 90% of grantees have reported in each of the monthly periods.
On Monday, Biden Press Secretary Jen Psaki amplified the pressure on local governments in a statement:
- “As the Administration made clear last week, there is no excuse for any State or locality not to promptly deploy the resources that Congress appropriated to meet the critical need of so many Americans. This assistance provides the funding to pay landlords current and back rent so tenants can remain in their homes or apartments, not be evicted. No one in America should be evicted when Federal funds are available, in the hands of State and local government, to pay back rent due.”
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s department’s weighed in on Tuesday. Treasury’s homepage featured two tweets on coronavirus relief funding, including one from the independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that leads to a how-to guide on applying for federal rental assistance.
In addition, Biden has called on landlords to delay evictions, and for states and cities to issue their own moratoriums on evictions related to income lost as a result of the pandemic. The delays are intended to provide more time for federal funds to be released to tenants facing eviction following the CDC’s determination that it has no legal foundation to issue another extension.
Biden said, July 30:
- “State and local governments should also be aware that there is no legal barrier to moratorium at the state and local level.”
However, a challenge to a state moratorium already is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
A group of landlords in New York has submitted a request asking that the state’s eviction moratorium be blocked. The eviction ban extends through Aug. 31. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration does not appear to have indicated if it will extend the moratorium. Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor can rule on the request herself or ask the full court to consider it. Sotomayor has asked New York to respond to the landlords’ complaints by Aug. 4.
Incidentally, Georgia was represented in the U.S. Supreme Court case that the CDC cited as reason for not seeking to extend its moratorium.
The Georgia Association of REALTORS was a party in the lawsuit that resulted in the June 29 Supreme Court ruling that the CDC moratorium had no legal foundation, but could continue through July.
Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote an opinion that allowing the moratorium to stand through July 31 would, “allow for additional and more orderly distribution of the congressionally appropriated rental assistance funds.”