DeKalb plans to extend COVID-19 aid program for renters, landlords

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond encourages residents to get vaccinated during a vaccination event at The Gallery at South DeKalb in Decatur on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2021. The county gave out $100 prepaid debit cards to people who got shots. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond encourages residents to get vaccinated during a vaccination event at The Gallery at South DeKalb in Decatur on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2021. The county gave out $100 prepaid debit cards to people who got shots. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The only Georgia county to have its own eviction moratorium is also likely to extend a pandemic relief program for tenants and landlords through next Spring.

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond and the county’s board of commissioners will soon decide whether the Tenant-Landlord Assistance Coalition should be extended until March 31, 2022. The county began accepting applications in February, but majority of its funding has not been distributed.

DeKalb County Chief Operating Officer Zach Williams said Tuesday the program had disbursed roughly 22% of the $31 million allocated for rental and utility assistance. The program is overseen by the Housing Authority of DeKalb County and the Atlanta Legal Aid Society.

“Thanks to those two agencies, we’ve spent over $6.8 million and we’ve helped over 1,200 families,” Williams said during a committee meeting.

The program’s launch was marred by an attempted cyberattack on March 24, which forced the county to stop accepting applications until June. As a result, it disbursed only about 4% of its initial $21 million budget by mid-June.

It’s designed to help the thousands of DeKalb residents who are in some stage of the eviction process due to lost wages and other hardships caused by the pandemic. Landlords also are able to receive funds to offset revenue losses.

ExploreEvictions likely to climb in metro Atlanta as court ends moratorium

Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she supports extending the program. When Thurmond increased how much money a single applicant can receive, the county’s seven commissioners all informally voted to back his decision.

“I support the extension of the TLAC program and continue to encourage the allocation of additional funds through partners with the capacity to aid in reaching the people expeditiously,” Cochran-Johnson said in a Tuesday email.

Because extending the program requires adjustments to county contracts, the board of commissioners will vote on both items. They’ll go before the Planning, Economic Development, and Community Services (PECS) Committee on Sept. 16, then the Board of Commissioner’s Sept. 28 meeting if it passes. The commissioners don’t oversee the Tenant-Landlord Assistance Coalition, which has drawn complaints from Commissioner Ted Terry.

He’s raised gripes with the program’s implementation, arguing the county should redirect the funds to local nonprofits for relief administration.

“I suppose it is possible we’d still be allocating funds by March 2022, but if it took another six months to distribute the funds after the (Board of Commissioners) approved the new policies, it would be a failure,” he said in an email to the AJC on Tuesday.

DeKalb has been Georgia’s most aggressive county when it comes to several COVID-19 initiatives, such as offering $100 incentives for vaccinations and maintaining its own eviction moratorium.

Caption
People wait in line to receive their Covid vaccinations shots at the Mall at Stonecrest Saturday, August 28, 2021. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

People wait in line to receive their Covid vaccinations shots at the Mall at Stonecrest Saturday, August 28, 2021. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Caption
People wait in line to receive their Covid vaccinations shots at the Mall at Stonecrest Saturday, August 28, 2021. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nationwide moratorium at the end of August, but DeKalb Chief Superior Court Judge Asha Jackson had previously enacted the county’s own moratorium. Her order is set to expire at 5 p.m. Sept. 29.

ExploreNational eviction ban nixed, but DeKalb’s remains in place

Linsdey Siegel, an attorney with Atlanta Legal Aid, said at the time that the extended moratorium gives people with past-due rent more time to try to resolve their situations and avoid becoming homeless.

“Unfortunately, no other county in Georgia has done the same, so in most parts of the state thousands of renters are at immediate risk of eviction because of the Supreme Court’s decision,” Siegel said.

For more information on the Tenant-Landlord Assistance Coalition, visit dekalbcountyga.gov/renthelp, email renthelp@dekalbcountyga.gov or call 404-371-3201.

About the Author

ajc.com

Editors' Picks