Clayton picks firm to oversee management of $3M in rental assistance



Clayton County is partnering with a Norcross-based law firm to oversee distribution of almost $3 million in federal pandemic assistance funds meant to aid those struggling to pay their rent.

The south metro Atlanta county on Tuesday hired MNA Law to manage non-profits hired to distribute the second round of Emergency Rental Assistance money, also known as ERA-2, to renters and their landlords. The program is designed to help Clayton residents struggling to stay in their homes. MNA Law could earn up to about $197,000 under terms of the contract.

The move comes as Clayton has had trouble getting the millions in 2021 American Rescue Plan Act funds it has been awarded over the past few years into the pockets of those who need them because of poorly executed distribution plans, bureaucratic red tape and unresponsive providers.

Jonesboro-based Project Real Life Youth Occupational Training Corps is currently the only non-profit working directly on the distribution.

Clayton Deputy Chief Operating Officer Landry Merkison said that MNA helped to oversee the disbursement of about $6.2 million in the first round of emergency assistance funding, dubbed ERA-1, which convinced county leaders to rehire the firm for its latest distribution.

“Originally there were going to be three vendors in ERA-2. That quickly went down to two and that quickly went down to one,” Merkison told board members.

He said the money must been distributed by December 2024.

MNA Law has been in operation for more than 20 years and specializes in corporate and government affairs work, managing partner Monique McNeil said.

“We are happy that we are able to really assist the residential residents of Clayton County,” McNeil said. “It has been a heavy undertaking, but also one that is rewarding.”

Commissioners said they were pleased with MNA’s performance, especially in the context of past difficulties.

“They were very good at helping the citizens,” Commissioner Gail Hambrick said of her interactions with the firm. “We had no problems at all. I’m glad that we’re doing this with them. (They are) very professional.”

“And no phone calls,” Commissioner Alieka Anderson said, referring to the mountain of calls board members received from unhappy residents dealing with past partners in the funding.