A Georgia state agency has stopped accepting applications from people seeking assistance with their rent payments, saying the state has begun to run out of money from the federally funded aid program.
The Georgia Department of Community Affairs posted an announcement on its website last week that the agency is no longer taking rental assistance applications, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The news caught housing advocates off guard and left some tenants scrambling to pay rent with little warning, said Lindsay Siegel, director of housing advocacy at Legal Aid of Atlanta.
“The DCA put some tenants in a pretty bad position,” Siegel said. “If they knew they were running out of money, they should have told them so they could plan.”
The federal government put $46.5 billion into an emergency rental assistance program in 2020 in hopes of averting spikes in evictions and homelessness during the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. Treasury Department reported a year ago that several states and large cities had already exhausted their share of the funding.
Now Georgia is getting close to running out of rental assistance money, prompting the Department of Community Affairs to suspend applications, agency Commissioner Christopher Nunn said.
Nunn said Georgia has paid out more than $830 million out of $989 million the state has been approved to receive in rental assistance funding.
“We do not want to be in a position where we run out of money and have applications that we cannot pay out,” Nunn said. He added: “In no way, shape or form has this program been canceled.”
To qualify for help, renters must show financial hardship, such as unemployment, and they were at risk of losing their homes.
Though most Americans have returned to work more than two years after the pandemic took hold, inflation has caused sharp increases in housing prices, prompting some landlords to raise rents.
Raneice White of Atlanta said her family had initially been approved for $1,200 in assistance for their November rent, but she checked again last week and learned they had been denied.
“Our rent is due Saturday,” White said, “and we were kind of depending on the money.”