WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04) and the Georgia Democratic delegation sent a letter to Community Affairs Commissioner Christopher Nunn seeking answers about “what factors led to the decision to establish the Georgia Rental Assistance (GRA) program for closing new applications, why it took days for DCA to publicly announce the decision, and what DCA intends to do with the remaining federal funds to support the program.”
The state of Georgia received nearly $1 billion in federal funding to prevent people from being displaced. Lawmakers said last month’s sudden shutdown was “unacceptable” and its lack of transparency “woefully inadequate”. The members of Congress who signed the letter all supported the legislation that provided the funding and are concerned that applicants were not given adequate notice before applications to the program were closed.
Read the full letter HERE and under.
Commissioner Christopher Nunn
Georgian Ministry of Community Affairs
60 Executive Park South, NE
Dear Commissioner Nunn,
We are writing to express our deep concern at the decision of Georgia’s Ministry of Community Affairs (DCA) to abruptly terminate a vital lifeline for Georgians without notice and without transparency. Specifically, we are asking for information about what factors led to this decision to close the Georgia Rental Assistance (GRA) program to new claims, why it took days for DCA to publicly announce the decision, and what DCA is doing with the remaining federal funds to support the program plans program.
This termination may leave thousands of Georgian families homeless, jeopardizing Georgia’s economic recovery. These Georgians work and run small businesses, have young children at home, or are trying to get their lives back on track after a global crisis, and they deserve answers as to why DCA is suddenly not accepting new applications for the federally funded Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), also known as GRA.
From April 2020 to October 2022, 235,217 eviction notices were filed in the greater Atlanta area, despite federal moratoria on evictions. These requests were overwhelmingly aimed at low-income and minority communities, which have also borne the brunt of the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With this in mind, ERAP has been a lifeline for thousands of hard-working families across Georgia. Congress originally created this program under the bipartisan Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which went into effect in December 2020. In the first phase of funding, the state of Georgia received more than $552 million directly, with more than $157 million also going to eligible local governments across Georgia. In the face of more disasters, Congress provided states with a second round of federal funding to help hard-working families under America’s bailout plan. In this second tranche, the state of Georgia received more than $437 million directly, with an additional $125 million allocated to eligible Georgia local governments.
This funding came at a critical time in our state’s history. Thanks to this government support, tens of thousands of Georgia families have been able to remain in their homes, sparing them and their children the tumultuous aftermath of eviction, and many Georgia real estate owners have been able to obtain ongoing funding to meet their costs. Many Georgians planned to use this aid for their rent in November, and some planned to apply for the aid for the first time. In fact, as of October 27, 2022, some Georgians were working on their applications, trying to make them as comprehensive and accurate as possible so that they could submit them in time for the November rent.
Then, on October 28, 2022, these Georgians tried to log into the DCA website — the same website they had been checking all week — only to find a one-sentence announcement. DCA was no longer accepting new applications.
In fact, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, even Georgians who had previously been approved for assistance by DCA had their approval suddenly revoked, immediately putting their ability to pay rent in limbo.
According to several housing advocates who have contacted some of our offices following this decision, their clients have not received any prior notice, nor any opportunity for redress or appeal. Not even the many housing advocates and groups that previously partnered with DCA to support renters were notified of the change. As recently as October 26, 2022 — two days before DCA suddenly closed — Georgia counties had even directed tenants to apply for the DCA program.
This is unacceptable. Georgia has received nearly $1 billion in federal funding to support eviction assistance. This abrupt and premature decision to shut down the GRA program may unnecessarily force Georgians from their homeland.
While we appreciate that DCA eventually sent a letter regarding the closure to our offices on the day of the closure, the application was closed before the letter was sent, resulting in hours of ambiguity and confusion as to the state of the program. The notice published by DCA on November 2, 2022 – usually one day after the rent is due – is grossly inadequate.
Given the challenges this decision poses for many Georgians, particularly those facing housing insecurity and insecurity, I request that you provide a written response on the completion and future of the program no later than December 9, 2022, as well as a full briefing of our staff to transmit.
While we’re proud of Georgia’s economic recovery, we must still fight for hard-working Georgian families across the state who need a little help staying on their feet amid rising costs. That means using federal resources to the fullest to support hard-working Georgia families who are staying in their homes, rather than abruptly ending a critical resource with no notice just days before rent is due.
Representatives Hank Johnson (GA-04), Sanford Bishop (GA-02), Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA-07), Lucy McBath (GA-06), Nikema Williams (GA-05) and David Scott (GA-13).
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