Protesters blow up Georgia for slow rental aid | Georgia News

By SUDHIN THANAWALA, Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) – Dozens of housing activists, tenants and lawmakers gathered on Tuesday to pressure Georgian authorities to speed up the distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid aimed at preventing evictions in the state.

Congress has set aside nearly $ 1 billion in funding for Georgia to help tenants pay off rents and overdue utility bills during the pandemic, but the state has struggled to withdraw the money.

Georgia had distributed less than 10% of the first set of funds by the end of September, according to a report released last week by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The report singled out Georgia, Ohio, Arizona and Tennessee for their slow disbursement of aid and their large number of tenants.

At Tuesday’s rally in downtown Atlanta, Lajoycelyn Bowles, 43, said she repeatedly contacted the Georgia Department of Community Affairs – the state agency administering Georgia’s funds – but never had an answer.

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She was diagnosed with COVID-19 in August and is too sick to work. She received an eviction notice this week from her owner in Lithonia, Georgia.

“I am frustrated and pissed off,” she said.

Warren Crudup, 58, said last week that a judge gave him seven days to move out of his Atlanta duplex after an organization that helped him with rent stopped paying. He called the process of applying for state aid “crazy”.

“They keep asking for all this information and then come back and say, ‘You live within the city limit, or we didn’t get your papers.’ Just all kinds of excuses, ”he said.

The Department of Community Affairs said in a statement that it has so far distributed $ 44.2 million to more than 6,900 tenants and landlords. It also added staff and extended working hours to handle an increase in requests since the expansion of eligibility statewide.

“A complete, accurate and verifiable application package is required to receive assistance,” and “there is an expected 30-day processing time for completed submissions,” the agency said.

The rally was hosted by the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, which is planning additional protests in other locations that are slow to provide rental assistance. Protesters carried signs and chanted outside the offices of the Department of Community Affairs.

“The money is there and it is outrageous that tenants are being evicted,” said Bruce Marks, CEO of NACA.

Marks criticized the Department of Community Affairs as one of the “most incompetent, incompetent and overwhelmed institutions to provide aid.”

The department’s deputy housing commissioner Tonya Cureton Curry previously told the AP the agency has experience with housing assistance programs, but not on this scale.

Congress has approved $ 46.5 billion in rental assistance for American communities. More than $ 10 billion had been spent through September 30, with the pace of spending accelerating over the summer, according to the US Treasury Department. Authorities attribute the money to helping avert a wave of evictions after the U.S. Supreme Court in late August authorized the resumption of evictions.

The Treasury Department announced last month that it would start reallocating money from those programs that don’t need it or don’t have the desire to put a program in place.

Associated Press writer Michael Casey in Boston contributed to this report.

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