Protestors Rally to Demand Swifter Distribution of Almost $1B in Rental Assistance

Activists, renters and lawmakers gathered in protest Tuesday as they called on Georgia officials to expedite the distribution of federal rental assistance aid meant to prevent evictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Associated Press reported. Georgia received hundreds of millions of dollars, nearly $1 billion, to help struggling tenants pay their rent and utility bills, but the state has been slow-moving in disbursing the aid.

A report released last week by the National Low Income Housing Coalition said that the state had handed out less than 10 percent of the money by the end of September, the AP reported. Georgia, Ohio, Arizona and Tennessee were all named in the report for their lagging distribution efforts.

The rally on Tuesday took place in downtown Atlanta. Demonstrator Lajoycelyn Bowles said that she made multiple attempts to get in contact with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the state agency charged with handing out the aid, but has never gotten a response.

Bowles, 43, said that she has been too sick to work since contracting COVID-19 in August, leading up to her landlord in Lithonia, Georgia, presenting her with an eviction notice this week.

"I'm frustrated and pissed off," she said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Georgia Slow on Rental Assistance
A report released last week by the National Low Income Housing Coalition noted that Georgia, Ohio, Arizona and Tennessee were all slow-moving in distributing federal rental assistance funds. Above, an applicant waits with his paperwork for utility assistance at a rental assistance fair for Jackson residents at the Mississippi Trademart at the state fairgrounds on July 24, 2021, in Jackson, Mississippi. Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo

Warren Crudup, 58, said a judge last week gave him seven days to leave his duplex in Atlanta after an organization that was helping him with rent stopped paying. He called the process of applying for help from the state "crazy."

"They keep asking for all this information and then come back and say, 'You live in the city line, or we didn't get your paperwork.' Just all kinds of excuses," he said.

The rally was organized by the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, which plans additional protests in other places that are lagging in providing rental help. Protesters carried signs and chanted outside the offices of the community affairs department.

"The money is there, and it's outrageous that tenants are being evicted," said Bruce Marks, NACA's CEO.

Marks blasted the community affairs department as one of the "most incompetent, unable, overwhelmed institutions in providing the assistance."

A call and email to the agency were not immediately returned. The department's deputy commissioner of housing, Tonya Cureton Curry, previously told the AP the agency has experience with rental assistance programs, but not at this scale.

Congress approved $46.5 billion in rental assistance for U.S. communities. More than $10 billion had gone out through September 30, with the pace of spending picking up through the summer, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Officials credit that money with helping avert a wave of evictions after the U.S. Supreme Court in late August allowed evictions to resume.

The Treasury Department announced last month it would start reallocating money from those programs that either don't need it or don't have the desire to set up a program.

Georgia Rental Assistance Issues
Activists, renters and lawmakers gathered in protest November 16 as they called on Georgia officials to expedite the distribution of federal rental assistance aid meant to prevent evictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Above, a man walks in front of a For Rent sign in a window of a residential property in San Francisco on October 20, 2020. Jeff Chiu/AP Photo