Georgia agency using federal rental help money to pay utility bills

The Department of Community Affairs says it has partnered with Georgia Power to pay utility bills for more than 200,000 Georgians

Credit: cus

Credit: cus

The Department of Community Affairs says it has partnered with Georgia Power to pay utility bills for more than 200,000 Georgians

State officials say they will use $44.5 million in federal money to help more than 200,000 Georgians pay past due utility bills.

The money, part of nearly $1 billion provided to the state during the pandemic to help prevent hardship for tenants and income loss to landlords, will go to low-income Georgia Power customers, according to officials at the Department of Community Affairs (DCA).

Help with utility bills is consistent with the law that created the program, as well as the general goal of keeping renters safely in their homes, Tonya Cureton Curry, deputy commissioner of the department, said in a statement.

“It’s our mission to provide safe and affordable housing to Georgians and this begins with access to not only housing, but, to utilities, water, HVAC, and more,” she said.

The utility bill assistance announcement comes after DCA recently stopped taking applications for rental assistance under a federally funded pandemic relief program. At least some tenants said that they were already approved for rental assistance, then had that approval removed from the department’s portal. DCA has said it would continue to process those applications previously in the works.

The utility help will be paid out over the next six months. To be eligible, households must have income lower than 80% of the area’s median, and be within one of 294 zip codes included in the program, she said.

Priority will be given to those with household income below 50% of the area median or households with at least one individual who has been unemployed for 90 days.

Recipients will not need to pay the money back.

The median household income for the state of Georgia is about $61,000, according to the Census Bureau. But incomes differ dramatically from one area to another. Forsyth has a median income of nearly $113,000. Madison County’s median income is $51,000, according to the government.

Georgia Power will notify eligible customers, officials said. But renters can also contact the department directly to ask about eligibility and to apply for the program. That email address is:

Of those 200,000 customers eligible for aid, officials were unable to say Monday what share they represent of the total number of Georgia Power customers behind on their utility bills.

The $989 million rental assistance program, overseen by the department, was created to handle funds sent to Georgia under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

While some critics have said the program has lagged in making payments, officials say the department has been effective, paying out about $830.4 million and keeping roughly 48,600 tenants in their homes.