DeKalb to reopen applications for pandemic rental assistance after cyberattack

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond
DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond

Credit: DeKalb County government

Only about 4% of the county’s $21M rental program budget has been disbursed

DeKalb County leaders announced Monday they would reopen the application window for renters and landlords who need financial assistance as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due in part to an international cyberattack, the county has only disbursed about $900,000 of its $21 million budget for the program, named the Tenant-Landlord Assistance Coalition. The online application will be available starting next Monday, June 21, at 8:30 a.m.

While there’s no evidence any data was compromised as a result of the March 24 cyberattack, DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond said the targeted server was taken offline and provided to the FBI, who are conducting their own investigation.

“The good news is this was a setback, but it did not impede our efforts to continue to provide assistance and support to those who need it in DeKalb County,” Thurmond said during a Monday news conference.

ExploreDeKalb’s COVID-19 rent assistance program targeted in cyberattack

The TLAC program was announced in February and received an “overwhelming” amount of applications during its initial 10-day acceptance window, county officials said. The program was designed to help the thousands of DeKalb residents who are in some stage of the eviction process due to lost wages and other hardships caused by the pandemic. Landlords also are able to receive funds to offset revenue losses.

“We cannot compensate or provide assistance to every single renter and every single landlord who needs it,” Thurmond said, citing an estimated $50 million in back rent and unpaid fees across the county. “But (what) we have decided to do is triage those needs and ensure that the people who are most at risk of being evicted are first in line to receive the support.”

Clerk of Court R. Javoyne Hicks, who oversees the program, said anyone who applied previously should check next Monday to see whether their name or case number is shown in the county’s online system. If not, they need to reapply.

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“We have doubled our staff as of last week so that we can be prepared to handle your applications and to process them more efficiently and effectively,” she said. Thurmond added they hired and trained an additional 32 staff members to assist with the program.

Hicks said applicants will need to include several documents, including their lease agreement, a wage statement, a verification of wages and verification of the debt. To seek utility assistance, the unpaid utility bills will also need to be provided. For those without Internet access, officials at the DeKalb County Courthouse, located at 556 North McDonough Street, can assist in filling out an application.

The county’s administration of this program, which is funded by a federal grant, has come into question by activists, renters and even some county officials. District 6 Commissioner Ted Terry called for the TLAC program to be “reset or scrapped altogether,” adding the money should be redirected toward local nonprofits that helped administer funds from previous federal stimulus packages.

ExploreJust 3.5% of DeKalb’s rental assistance funds have been distributed

A county spokesman previously told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that DeKalb has allocated more than $11 million to local nonprofits during previous rounds of federal relief. Thurmond said Monday the county hopes to receive another $9 million from the federal government in the next two weeks to help further boost the program.

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