A total of $25 billion in federal appropriations was provided directly to states, U.S. territories, local governments over 200,000 population and Indian tribes and is being administered through the U.S. Department of Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance program.
The Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) began administering the State of Georgia Rental Assistance Program (GRA) in early March 2021. GRA can help renters with past due rent obtain assistance for rental arrears and utilities. Payment will be made directly to landlords and utility providers. To learn more, visit GeorgiaRentalAssistance.ga.gov.
Which jurisdictions in Georgia does GRA include? During the initial rollout of this program, GRA will provide assistance to residents in all jurisdictions with the exception of jurisdictions that received their own funding: the city of Atlanta, Augusta-Richmond County Consolidated Government, Chatham County, Cherokee County, Clayton County, Cobb County, DeKalb County, Forsyth County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Hall County and Henry County. Due to their population thresholds, these jurisdictions received direct allocations from the Treasury. DCA anticipates providing rental assistance in these areas later.
Who can apply for assistance through GRA?
Tenants or landlords can initiate an application. GRA can serve renter households with rental arrears who meet the following conditions:
- Qualified for unemployment benefits or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due directly or indirectly to COVID-19; AND
- Demonstrates a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; AND
- Has a combined household income at or below 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI).
Households with incomes that fall below 50% AMI will be prioritized. Households are also prioritized where one or more household members are unemployed and have been unemployed for 90 days.
What is the process to apply for assistance?
Applications are accepted through the portal at GeorgiaRentalAssistance.ga.gov.
Can cities apply for funds directly from GRA to recover unpaid utility bills or help residents with rent?
No. DCA is not providing subgrants to communities that did not receive a direct allocation. However, DCA welcomes the opportunity to work with cities in the initial rollout area (all cities except those in the 12 jurisdictions receiving direct aid) to inform residents and customers about the availability of this program.
What is the deadline to request assistance?
Program funds are anticipated to be spent by the end of the calendar year and may be spent sooner. This is a short time frame to apply for relief, and cities are encouraged to assist DCA in getting information out to your residents.
What is the best way my city can take advantage of this program for our community and households having trouble paying rent and utilities?
Your city can help share the word about the availability of these funds by:
- Partnering with DCA to create a plan to spread the word
- Printing information on your utility bills that includes the website or link for customers to apply for assistance
- Posting notices on social media, the city’s website, and including in all city newsletters to customers
- Reaching out to chamber of commerce, Realtors, landlords, homeowners associations and other groups to share information about the GRA program
- Coordinating with your county government to make sure you are getting consistent and complete information to residents
- Coordinating rental assistance funds with their local eviction courts, as some communities are doing.
For any questions or updates on this program, government officials can contact GaERASupport@dca.ga.gov. Landlords or tenants should visit GeorgiaRentalAssistance.ga.gov.
This story originally appeared in the March/April 2021 edition of Georgia’s Cities magazine.