Atlanta plans to review uses of COVID-19 relief funds in late April

Jennifer Ide, chair of the Atlanta City Council’s Finance Committee, said federal stimulus funds need to address addiction and homelessness. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
Jennifer Ide, chair of the Atlanta City Council’s Finance Committee, said federal stimulus funds need to address addiction and homelessness. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Several Atlanta City Council members recently flagged housing assistance as a major priority for the city after the mayor’s chief operating officer identified the most relevant uses of the forthcoming federal coronavirus relief package.

Jon Keen told the council’s Finance/Executive Committee on Wednesday that the city could receive $178 million from relief package that expires after Dec. 31, 2024. However, Keen said the U.S. Department of the Treasury may change the final amount.

The total federal aid package amounts to $1.9 trillion. It is expected to flood Georgia’s government with nearly $5 billion.

ExploreMetro Atlanta governments expect $916 million from COVID-19 relief plan

Keen said the federal package will also allocate funds into the federal Emergency Rental Assistance program, Homeowner Assistance Fund, Homeless Assistance and Supportive Services Program, and the emergency housing vouchers. It is currently unknown how much of those funds will flow directly into the city, Keen said, but those funds must be used within a few years.

He also said the relief package allocates funds to airports to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the pandemic.

The city, Keen said, cannot use the $178 million for pensions or to offset revenue resulting from a tax cut enacted since March 3. He added that the city should not create long-term obligations with the money because it is one-time funding.

Keen said the city should consider ways to address deficits or needs that incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms will obtain a draft of recommended funding uses by March’s end, Keen said.

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City Council will review and approve the allocations on April 28 and May 3, Keen said, adding that the allocations will be reflected in the fiscal year 2022 budget.

“We’re in the process of gathering the data and reviewing the needs,” Keen said.

The City Council is working to direct more than $15.2 million in separate pandemic relief funding toward rental assistance, but the committee stressed that Atlanta renters still face a deep need for assistance.

About our coverage

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is tracking the money coming into Georgia from the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package. Journalists from across the newsroom will document how the money is administered and spent, whether it accomplishes its goals and whether it creates any unintended consequences. It is part of our commitment to hold government accountable and show our readers how government action affects their lives. Our journalists work hard to be fair and will follow this complex story as it unfolds in the coming months and years.

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What the $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus means for U.S., Georgia

City Councilwoman Jennifer Ide, chair of the council’s Finance Committee, said they need to ensure Atlanta uses funding from any of its available sources to support Atlanta residents who are homeless or struggling to pay rent.

Ide warned that failing to address addiction and homelessness with any of the available funds “will be a big, black mark on the city.”

Councilwoman Natalyn Archibong said Atlanta needs be an arbitrator with property owners and tenants to create “a win-win” scenario for both landlords and residents in order to avoid an “eviction tsunami.”

“We are really facing a serious crisis,” Archibong said. ”The relief that is needed has got to be very practical, has got to be very timely, and it’s going to take a lot of innovative thinkers to figure this out.”

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