The Department of Community Affairs (DCA) received most of the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) funds in Georgia from the federal government, yet is now turning over fund to local governments that have done a better job at dispersing funds to renters and landlords in need.

The U.S. Treasury allocated Georgia with two funds- ERA 1 and ERA 2. ERA 1 allocated $552 million and ERA2 allocated $437 million.

There are 12 jurisdictions that have received their own funding within the state, such as the city of Atlanta.

According to the DCA’s website, the agency has paid $58 million to over 9,000 tenants as of December 15, which is about 5.9% of the total $989 million in ERA funds.

“Beginning September 30, 2021, the ERA 1 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,” stated the Treasury.

Agencies that did not meet The Treasury’s expenditure goals by the September 30 deadline had to submit an improvement plan by November 15. To avoid the recapture of funds, agencies had to either have 30% of funds already expended or 65% of funds obligated.

Those goals already take into consideration having 10% of funds set aside for administrative costs.

In a report done by Sarah Stein from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta in a December 1 Atlanta Regional Housing Forum webinar, there are several counties at risk of having their funds Reallocated.  Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb and Forsyth county have an expenditure rate below 30%. Chatham  and Dekalb have an expenditure ratio between 65% and 30%.

To speed up the ability to process applications and disperse aid, Stein recommends making adjustments to the application process.

“The U.S. Department of Treasury has tried to lift up and encourage programs to directly pay money to tenants,” Stein said. “So not just paying money to landlords, but in the event that a landlord isn’t communicating or there’s an issue there, that the money can go to the tenant so that the tenant can still recover from what crisis that they’re experiencing.”

She also suggested allowing applicants to self-attest income and leases.

According to Stein, the total potential state-wide funds at risk is approximately $120 million, which can be up to 25,000 unserved households.

Daphne Walker, the Division Director for the housing assistance division at DCA, wants people to remember that the agency doesn’t have jurisdiction in some of the most populated parts of the state and that it allowed those 12 separate jurisdictions to get their funding out first when considering the speed of DCA’s ERA rollout.

“It was always the expectation that DCA would be available towards the end of this process to assist with any jurisdiction that required additional funding or additional support,” Walker said.

To avoid The Treasury taking back surplus ERA funds and dispersing to other programs, DCA has instead voluntarily reallocate money to stay in Georgia.

“We’ve reached out to jurisdictions and said, ‘Okay, where are you? Where are you struggling with distribution? Is there anything that we can do to help? Can we support your programs if in fact, you’re at a point of expanding funding?’” Walker said.

DCA has submitted to The Treasury a $25 million reallocation to Fulton County, $25 million to Dekalb County, $15 million to Henry County and $9 million to Clayton County.

“There’s no one that’s petitioned us at this point that has not received a volunteer reallocation,” Walker said. “We are voluntarily reallocating $74 million in the state of Georgia, to jurisdictions that are getting out the funding.”

Bria Suggs became a General Assignment Reporter for The Atlanta Voice in August 2021. In 2019, she earned 2nd place for Best Entertainment Story at GCPA. In SEJC's 2020 Best of the South Awards, she placed...