The administration of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is proposing reducing funding for an emergency COVID-19 housing assistance program in half — from $22 million to $11 million.
The city says the United Way of Greater Atlanta, which is in charge of administering the program, is having trouble spending the money allocated from the federal CARES Act before the required Dec. 30 deadline.
The program launched back in August to prevent evictions related to COVID-19. Initially, applicants could receive up to $3,000 to cover rent for three months. Then, the United Way increased that amount to $5,000 and expanded the program to include mortgage assistance.
The United Way’s President Milton Little said the program began to see an uptick in qualified applicants in October and November. Still, the most the nonprofit expects to be able to pay out in assistance by Dec. 30 is about $11 million.
“I think the greatest challenge we faced was time. Given the pace of enrollment right now, if we had an additional three to four months, we have no doubt that the total amount allocated for the project would be expended,” Little said.
Atlanta is lobbying the U.S. Department of Treasury for an extension to use the CARES Act funds.
If that doesn’t happen, the city is requesting permission to move money from the rental assistance program to other COVID-19 relief efforts, like hazard pay for public employees.
The Atlanta City Council must approve that change. The Community Development and Human Services committee moved the legislation forward Tuesday and now it goes before the Finance Committee.
The program was expected to serve 6,700 renters when it was first launched. At the time, the city said it believed the need in Atlanta could be double that.
To qualify for the rental assistance, tenants need to make less than 80% of the area median income, which is about $60,000 for a family of three. For homeowners, the limit was 100% of the area median income, which is about $75,000 for a family of three.
Residents also have to prove that they’ve lost income or faced unexpected costs because of the pandemic.
Ten thousand eviction notices have gone out in Fulton County since the pandemic began.