DeKalb judge issues new countywide eviction moratorium

DeKalb County Chief Superior Court Judge Asha Jackson. SPECIAL PHOTO

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DeKalb County Chief Superior Court Judge Asha Jackson. SPECIAL PHOTO

County CEO will also propose raising ceiling on rental aid

The nationwide eviction moratorium has expired. But one metro Atlanta judge has extended another lifeline to renters in her county.

DeKalb Chief Superior Court Judge Asha Jackson recently signed a new emergency order creating a ban on evictions throughout the county for another 60 days. The order was based on the continued COVID-19 public health emergency and the cyberattack that targeted DeKalb’s Tenant-Landlord Assistance Coalition earlier this year, dramatically slowing its distribution of federal aid.

According to Jackson’s order, 145 writs of eviction had already been scheduled to be executed in the county — and about 1,650 more were pending with the local marshal’s office.

ExploreUpdate: With ban now lifted, Ga. could see a ‘sprinkle or a typhoon’ of evictions

“This emergency order is a godsend,” DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond said in the news release. “Without this local extension to the CDC moratorium, thousands of DeKalb residents faced the stark reality of having their belongings set out on the street in the midst of surging COVID-19 infection rates.”

Thurmond said that, during the new local eviction moratorium, the county will also consider expanding the parameters of the county’s aid program.

As of Friday, DeKalb had distributed about 11% of the $31 million it allocated for rental and utility assistance. The county had helped 763 households but still had 1,657 pending applications from tenants and landlords.

DeKalb had the extra hurdle of recovering from a March cyberattack that wiped out many initial emails and applications for its assistance program, but its struggle to quickly get federal aid to residents tracks with many other governments across the state and the country.

ExploreFederal rental aid trickles out as tends of thousands of Georgians face eviction

An AJC analysis found that, as of July 20, only about 6% of the $710 million that Georgia and select local jurisdictions received from the federal government had been distributed to renters and landlords.

A significant complaint about DeKalb County’s assistance program is that aid was capped at 60% of the amount of back-rent owed by a tenant, up to $10,000. The current program also allows tenants to receive the equivalent of two months of future rent.

Thurmond — who acknowledged that the local moratorium would “increase the financial burden and stress on landlords, especially our mom-and-pop owners” — said he would propose modifications to those limits on aid during Tuesday’s meeting of DeKalb’s county commission.

Under the new proposal, the TLAC program would pay 100% of all past-due rent up to 12 months and increase future rent payments to three months.

In an emailed statement, DeKalb County Commissioner Ted Terry offered support for Judge Jackson’s order and Thurmond’s proposal to expand the aid program’s parameters.

“The timing of this expanded local eviction moratorium, coupled with the crucial TLAC policy change, as the school year begin, will mean thousands of children who otherwise might be out on the street won’t experience additional barriers to the severe loss of learning impacting our education system in DeKalb,” Terry said.

Classes start Monday for DeKalb County schools.

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, whose district includes parts of DeKalb, also issued a statement praising the local moratorium.

“I’m urging other counties across Georgia and the country to follow DeKalb’s lead in extending the moratorium locally,” Johnson said, “so we can keep people struggling with back rent in their homes during a surge in the Delta variant and catch up on the back log of cases.”

For more information on DeKalb’s rental assistance program, visit www.dekalbcountyga.gov/renthelp.