Cobb County seeks $40M more for rental assistance

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Cobb County commissioners this week agreed to request an additional $40 million in federal rental assistance funding, an amount that would more than double what the county has spent on housing since the onset of the pandemic.

The funds would come courtesy of the state Department of Community Affairs, which has struggled to distribute its allotment of federal rental assistance dollars despite overwhelming demand. As of late November, less than 15% of the $989 million provided to the state had reached renters, even as evictions have soared and a backlog of applications await processing.

Cobb County, by contrast, has spent nearly all of the money it has received to date — about $39 million in total, with another $13.8 million expected from the U.S. Treasury in the future. But that still hasn’t prevented a surge in evictions.

According to data tracked by the Atlanta Regional Commission, landlords have filed an average of 1,500 evictions a month in Cobb since a federal moratorium was lifted in August. That’s up 50% from about 1,000 a month in the first eight months of the year.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, Chairwoman Lisa Cupid, a Democrat, said the county was asked by the state to help distribute some of its remaining funding, which is earmarked for those who fell behind on rent due to pandemic-related hardships.

“With the latest surge in COVID cases, we know the need is still very much there,” Cupid said in a statement. “Anything we can do to help keep people in their homes will help give those residents a sense of security and help slow down the spread of the omicron variant in our community.”

Cobb County’s Magistrate Court, where eviction cases are processed, has been key to its success in administering the rental assistance program, where other public agencies have struggled. Chief Magistrate Brendan Murphy integrated nonprofits into the court’s operations to help residents and landlords with the application process.

Commissioner Keli Gambrill, a Republican, was the lone vote against the county’s request for more rental assistance money.

Gov. Brian Kemp still has to sign off on the transfer, and the Cobb board would have to vote again to distribute the money, which has to be spent by a Sept. 30 deadline.