DeKalb announces $21M program to help prevent evictions

Monica Griffin at her apartment in Stonecrest. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)
Caption
Monica Griffin at her apartment in Stonecrest. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Applications for renters, landlords open on Friday

DeKalb County will use a new federal grant to help local renters avoid eviction during the ongoing pandemic.

DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond announced the $21 million grant — which was made possible by the federal stimulus package signed in December — during a Tuesday morning county commission meeting.

A “tenant-landlord assistance coalition” comprised of representatives from the DeKalb court system, its marshal’s office, Atlanta Legal Aid and Goodwill of North Georgia will help distribute the money to those who need it.

Online applications are scheduled to be available starting at 9 a.m. Friday.

“Help is on the way,” Thurmond said.

Both tenants and landlords can submit applications for the program, officials said. If approved by the magistrate court clerk’s office — which is bringing on 10 additional staffers to assist with the review process — the parties involved would be contacted by a mediator or a representative from Legal Aid.

If an agreement is reached on what is owed and the best path forward, corresponding documents would be filed in magistrate court. A judge would then issue an order directing Goodwill of North Georgia, which is acting as administrator of the grant, to send payment either to the renter or directly to the landlord.

Chief Magistrate Judge Berryl Anderson said Tuesday that there are currently some 8,000 dispossessory cases in various stages in DeKalb County. Writs of possession have been filed in about 1,700 of those cases, meaning the federal eviction moratorium that’s set to expire in March is the only thing keeping those families off the streets.

Anderson said the grant program will be “laser-focused” on addressing existing situations.

“These are not people that we think may be in trouble, but families that we know are in trouble right here in DeKalb County,” she said.

Thurmond said he wasn’t sure how many residents would end up being helped by the program, because some renters may only owe a few months in rent or utilities while others are close to a full year behind.

“It’s almost impossible to say,” Thurmond said of how far the money will stretch. “But we’re going to invest every nickel in some form or fashion.”

Other metro Atlanta governments may launch similar programs.

In neighboring Fulton, county manager Dick Anderson said Tuesday that staff plan to roll out an $18 million rental assistance program on March 1. Anderson said the county is close to selecting a vendor to help run the program, but is still getting a grasp on the potential demand and exploring the creation of a call center.

Staff writer Ben Brasch contributed to this article.