While Fulton County’s leaders re-assess their choice to turn away federal grant money, the county is hosting two forums to help the public get access to grant money.
The choice to take another look comes after multiple tense Fulton Board of Commissioners meetings that featured several hours of public comment, mostly of people asking county leaders not to turn away what they saw as free money.
Those looking for information about how to get access to federal funds can attend events on Tuesday, Feb. 18, from 11 a.m. to noon at the North Fulton Government Center, 7741 Roswell Road; or Thursday, Feb. 27, from 11 a.m. to noon at Aviation Community Cultural Arts Center, 3900 Aviation Circle.
For decades, Fulton has received money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that the county would disperse to cities — mostly on the Southside — that didn’t have large enough populations to apply for the grants on their own. The money goes toward things like home repairs and down payment assistance.
Like others, Fulton has had trouble distributing the money. The county failed to spend more than $5 million over five years, causing HUD in November to threaten to suspend all 2020 awards. The county also had to spend nearly $1 million of its own money repaying grants that went to two cities for projects it thought qualified for the money, but were later rejected by federal officials.
The Board decided in December to begin the process of no longer accepting the money over concerns that it wouldn’t be spent correctly — or wouldn’t be spent at all.
The future of the money is still up in the air, as HUD and Fulton continue talks. Some commissioners have fought to keep receiving the money and ask organizations at the state and federal level help Fulton distribute the money.
Chairman Robb Pitts said many municipalities have tried to spend the federal money and failed due to the red tape.
Pitts put together a 12-member advisory committee (see members below) filled with Southside mayors, some of whom spoke against giving back the money, and several civic leaders.
Pitts said said that the group, in trying to expend the rest of the leftover money, suggested moving $862,000 of funds for home rehabilitation to down payment assistance so residents could directly apply to receive the grant on a first-come, first-served basis. Some of the federal dollars date back to 2016.
The money would be used for down payments and closings cost for first-time Fulton homebuyers who can afford monthly payments but not the initial costs.
A public comment period is required because they are changing the intended purpose of the money, according to a county spokeswoman.
Those who want to comment on the proposed moving of funds can send a note no later than 5 p.m. on March 6 to firstname.lastname@example.org, or:
Fulton County Government, Department of Community Development
137 Peachtree St., S.W.
Suite 300, Atlanta, Ga. 30303
Members of Pitts advisory board:
• College Park Mayor Bianca Motley Broom
• Hapeville Mayor Alan Hallman
• Fairburn Mayor Elizabeth Carr- Hurst
• East Point Mayor Deana Holiday Ingraham
• Union City Mayor Vince Williams
• Palmetto Mayor Clark Boddie
• Chattahoochee Hills Mayor Tom Reed
• Atlanta NAACP President Richard Rose
• Joe Beasley, southern regional director of the National Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, which was founded by the Rev. Jesse Jackson
• Rev. Timothy McDonald, First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta
• Rev. Gerald Durley, pastor emeritus at Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta
• Helen Butler, head of Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda
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