ATLANTA: Georgian officials who are struggling to distribute federal funds to prevent evictions have laid out plans to increase the speed at which they return money to landlords and tenants.
The improvement plans were submitted to the US Treasury Department last week. If they are not approved, the state risks losing part of the $ 550 million allocated to it in a first round of federal rent assistance.
State officials overseeing rent disbursements are developing a tool to easily check if tenants have already received help and turn to colleges and universities for workers in the evenings and on weekends, Patrick said. Farr, director of the state planning and budget office in the improvement plan dated November. 15.
They are also stepping up their efforts to raise awareness about funding.
“The GRA program understands the urgency to deliver rental and utility assistance to tenants, landlords and utility providers as quickly as possible across the state,” said Farr.
Georgia is under pressure to improve its distribution of rental assistance.
As of mid-November, less than 10% of the $ 550 million had been spent to help state residents struggling with rent or utility payments during the pandemic. The money is part of the $ 46.5 billion in rent assistance that Congress has approved for American communities, including an additional $ 437 million for Georgia.
Nationally, more than $ 10 billion had been spent through September 30, with the pace of spending accelerating throughout the summer, according to the Treasury Department. Officials blame the money for helping stave off a wave of evictions after the U.S. Supreme Court in late August allowed the evictions to resume.
But Treasury officials could scavenge some of the money in slower places like Georgia and reallocate it to jurisdictions that distributed it faster to tenants and landlords. More than 30 states could be at risk of losing funds, according to a report released this month by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
But the report singled out Georgia, Ohio, Arizona and Tennessee for their slow disbursement of aid and their large number of tenants. Most states had spent more than 10% of their first round of allowances by the end of September, and that number has climbed to between 71% and 90% in four top-performing states: New York, California, Illinois and New Jersey, according to the report.
An email sent to the Treasury Department on Friday to check on the status of Georgia’s improvement plan was not immediately returned.
Tenants threatened with eviction in Georgia said during a protest last week that they had struggled to reach officials of the Georgian agency administering the rental assistance program, had faced severe requests for additional documents and had been referred to other agencies.
In its plan to the Treasury Department, the state said it has steadily improved the pace at which it processes requests for assistance, and that it anticipates an increase in the number of households it will serve – and the amount of money he would distribute – in each of the next few months.
He had about 33,000 claims pending payment as of Nov. 12, and predicted it would take about $ 200 million below his average payment per claimant of $ 6,300.
Bruce Marks, CEO of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, said many measures in the state’s improvement plan should have been implemented months ago. NACA organized the protest last week.
“It’s basic stuff,” he said.
State officials said they face many hurdles in implementing the program, including changing guidelines from federal officials and an electronic portal that requires constant updates.
Other places in the state received their own set of rental funds, and the state initially did not process requests from those jurisdictions.
But it extended eligibility statewide in August, which required a tool to ensure benefits are not duplicated, state officials said.
He has now identified a supplier to provide this tool, in accordance with the improvement plan.
It also identified 13 regions across the state to assign “outreach coordinators” to increase awareness of the aid program and find opportunities and ways to help people apply.