Billions in rent relief pass with stimulus

Combined ShapeCaption
Georgia is expected to receive hundreds of millions of dollars to assist renters impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, . after President Donald Trump signed a stimulus bill Sunday that he previously called a “disgrace”. The package includes a new $25 billion fund for eviction prevention, . and extends by one month a Centers for Disease Control eviction moratorium that was set to expire Dec. 31. It also extends the Dec. 30 deadline for counties and cities to spend funds received from . the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act passed in March. Many local governments had put those funds toward housing aid and faced a choice between reallocating the money or giving it back to the federal government. Now, they have an additional year to spend the money. With the extension of deadlines and an infusion of new funds, “We have the ability to take a deep breath,” said Matthew Elder, . the director of HomeFirst Gwinnett, a nonprofit partnering with the magistrate court on a new eviction prevention program funded by CARES

Cities and counties with populations of 200,000 or more will receive direct subsidies

Georgia is expected to receive hundreds of millions of dollars to assist renters impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, after President Donald Trump signed a stimulus bill Sunday that he previously called a “disgrace.”

The package includes a new $25 billion fund for eviction prevention, and extends by one month a Centers for Disease Control eviction moratorium that was set to expire Dec. 31.

It also extends the Dec. 30 deadline for counties and cities to spend funds received from the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act passed in March.

Many local governments had put those funds toward housing aid and faced a choice between reallocating the money or giving it back to the federal government. Now, they have an additional year to spend the money.

Housing experts have warned of a deepening crisis exacerbated by the pandemic. The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates 14 million households are at risk of eviction once the CDC moratorium ends.

Officials with the coalition said Monday that Georgia could receive about $700 million in eviction prevention funds from the new stimulus.

With the extension of deadlines and an infusion of new funds, “We have the ability to take a deep breath,” said Matthew Elder, the director of HomeFirst Gwinnett, a nonprofit partnering with the magistrate court on a new eviction prevention program funded by CARES.

“It’s not everything needed to cure the entire eviction crisis in front of us, but it is a tremendous step forward,” he said.

Like the CARES Act, the new emergency housing fund will be allocated to states and counties based on population. Lawmakers lowered the population threshold for direct recipients, however, to 200,000 residents.

That means many more counties and cities will be eligible for direct housing assistance than were eligible for direct CARES funding, which required a minimum population of 500,000.

Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties, along with the city of Atlanta, each received CARES Act funding directly from the federal government. All other cities and counties had to go through the state to get a share of the aid.

The new housing law includes a number of eligibility requirements designed to benefit the most vulnerable renters. State and local governments must prioritize those making less than half of area median income, or have been unemployed for three months or more.

Marjy Stagmeier is the founder and board chair of Star-C, which works to reduce transiency in school systems in part by providing rent relief. Her organization, which received some CARES funds, has helped more than 2,000 households across metro Atlanta pay rent since the pandemic started.

“We feel like we set up a pretty strong delivery system,” Stagmeier said. “If we could get access to more money, we could distribute it quickly to qualified residents.”

Eryn Hurley, associate legislative director for the National Association of Counties, called the emergency housing fund a “first of its kind.”

Between the additional funds and the extension to the CARES spending deadline, counties will have more flexibility in responding to local needs, she said.

“Counties were just trying to spend as much money as possible so that [the Treasury Department] doesn’t recoup any of the funds,” Hurley said. “Now that the deadline has been extended, counties definitely have more time to reevaluate what their current coronavirus relief plans look like and maybe allocate funds toward different programs and services that could support residents and communities as a whole.”