Rental assistance rollout frustrates renters and landlords
ATLANTA - The federal government OK’d more than $46 billion in emergency rental assistance, but the rollout of this money here in Georgia has been slow.
This money could be a lifeline for people about to lose their homes from pandemic-related hardships. A metro landlord told the FOX 5 I-Team his request for one client took almost six months.
"It’s a pretty lengthy application process," landlord Boyd Smith said.
The Treasury Department’s Emergency Rental Assistance started arriving in Georgia last spring. Smith applied immediately for a tenant through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
"We did all of that in April. We submitted it. Then nothing. Crickets. For months. I’m emailing the same email address; I get no replies," he said.
Georgia DCA oversees $989 million designated for landlords and tenants. Only 21 percent of the money, the state reports, has been dispersed so far. Smith is one of the owners of the Crawford Mobile Home Community. He says he rents to many single moms.
"They are good, blue-collar, hard-working Americans," he added walking us around the community that sits just outside of Athens.
But, he has one tenant who has been struggling. He told the FOX 5 I-Team she lost her job when daycares shut down, and she got behind on rent.
"Prior to covid she had a good job," he recalled. "She ended up unable to work and had to take care of her children."
He says his renter was just the person the ERA money is meant to help, but help was hard to get.
Boyd Smith walked us through the frustrating process.
"We never even received any information that they ever even received our packet. That’s what I kept trying to get: Did you get? Are we in the queue?"
He said it dragged out so long that he was just a day away from having to evict his tenant. Finally, a breakthrough came just in time.
"Dana, I finally received money today."
That was Oct. 7.
"Yep and I started I think on April 28."
We reached out to the DCA spokesperson Adrion Bell to help us understand why the system seems so sluggish.
"We are usually looking to 30-45 days on the completed applications."
The Department of Community Affairs spokesman said he can’t speak to this case, but generally, what’s gumming up the system are applicants themselves combined with the need to make sure the applications aren't fraudulent.
"A lot of times people think they have completed their online applications and they haven’t. Either they haven’t e-signed them, which means the process doesn’t even begin until the completed e-sign package."
If DCA doesn’t disperse 30 percent of the funds by Nov. 15, the federal government can take the money back. Mr. Bell doesn’t think that’ll happen. He says the department has hired more processors and as of today has $2 million ready to go out in the next 48 hours.
Boyd Smith says it’s a landlord’s market today and now with the evictions moratorium over, the money must come more quickly.
"I know there are landlords that are not lenient at all and now that the moratorium is lifted, they will be Johnny on the Spot to get those out."
Over at DCA they offer another tip for renters: If your phone has been cut off or your number changed, your email too, you must tell them so they have a way to contact you.
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