FAQ: State of Georgia Rental Assistance Program

Governor Brian P. Kemp announced that the State of Georgia has received more than $552 million in stimulus funds through the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The United States Treasury allocated $25 billion to be distributed to states and local governments intended to provide relief to landlords and tenants who are behind on rental payments due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Applications for this program will open on March 8, 2021. Please keep reading for frequently asked questions about eligibility, timelines, and selection.

What is the name of Georgia’s program, and how can it help me?

The State of Georgia Rental Assistance (GRA) program will be administered by the Department of Community Affairs. Payments will be made directly to landlords and utility providers for past-due balances. Financial assistance is being made available through this program to eligible tenants, their landlords, and utility providers to cover activities including rent arrears, current and future rent payments, and utility arrears payments.

Who qualifies for assistance?

In general, households meeting the following criteria will be eligible:

  • Must be a renter in Georgia 
  • Must have a household income at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI)
  • Must have either qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19;

and

  • Must demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability through having an eviction notice, past due rent or utility notice;

Are any applications given priority for assistance?

Priority for assistance will be given to:

  • Households at or below 50 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) 

OR

  • Households with one or more individuals who have been unemployed 90 days or longer at the time of application 

How do I find information about whether I fall below 80 AMI?

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has a website here. You will need to select the button that states “Click Here for FY 2020 IL Documentation” and then select your State and County to see a chart based upon household size.

I have fallen behind on my rent – what can I do now until the program starts?

Talk to your landlord and let them know about this program. Also, start looking at the documentation requirements and begin collecting them so that you will have them ready once the application process starts. All documents showing evidence of income, including any public benefits, should be gathered. Please continue to monitor the georgiarentalassistance.ga.gov site for updates.

What about the eviction moratorium?

The CDC Eviction Moratorium has been extended until March 31, 2021, meaning that no one should be evicted solely for non-payment of rent until that date. Visit GeorgiaLegalAid.org for more information. 

What documents do I need to complete the GRA Tenant Application?

Proof of Identity

Can include:

  • Driver’s license
  • Government-issued photo identification
  • U.S. Military photo ID
  • Tribal photo ID
  • Passport or passport card

Renters will need the following types of documents/items (e.g., copies, pictures, screenshots, etc.) along with their signed, fully completed application. The online application will specify the actual documents required. Income documents should be provided for all adults, age 18 and above, who reside at the rental property full-time, with no other place of residence.

Verification of Income

Income Documentation

Acceptable supporting documentation for households seeking assistance includes documentation of the household’s total income for the calendar year 2020 or documentation of the household’s monthly income at the time of application. Acceptable forms of income verification include:

  • Copy of Form 1040 for 2020 as filed with the IRS for the household (For Form 1040, both the return and the tax forms used to establish the household’s income for tax purposes, such as W-2 statement(s) and any 1099 forms, must be submitted),
  • Documents evidencing annual income (e.g., wage statement, interest statement, unemployment compensation statement), and

Receipts of forms of benefit income, such as TANF, Social Security, SSI, and SSDI payments that are not always considered taxable income and will not be reported on a tax form can include a determination letter from the government agency that verified the applicant’s household income, provided that the determination for such program was made on or after January 1, 2020

  • If the above listed documents are unavailable, documentation for the most recent two months leading up to application submission must be provided and can include:
    • If employed, pay stubs, third party verification from the employer, or a letter from their employer
    • Documentation of cash assistance such as Social Security income, unemployment benefits, worker’s compensation (excluding lump sum distributions), or public assistance benefits,
    • Documentation of child support or alimony payments,
    • Documentation of any income received for self-employment, including documentation of income from the operation of a business or profession, or direct payments for services, or complete and sign a Self-Employment Income Certification Form
    • Bank statements, and
    • Documentation of Social Security, annuities, retirement income, pensions, disability or death benefits (to include spousal benefits) and other similar types of periodic or monthly receipts, excluding benefits received by anyone 17-years old or under.

Current income (average over last 60 days annualized) must be at or below 80% AMI. Income includes all adult (18 years and older) household members and unearned income attributable to a minor.  The number of household members should include individuals who reside full-time, with no other place of residence.

Income that should NOT be included would include wages of children under the age of 18, foster care income, adoption assistance, and income for a live-in aide.  Earnings in excess of $480 for each full-time student in the household unless they are the head of household or spouse are also excluded.

Verification of Renter Status

Tenant Applicants must submit:

  • Lease agreement that has been signed by both parties must be submitted in its entirety as part of the initial application OR
  • Households without a current signed lease (such as those renting under a month-to-month arrangement) should provide a signed Statement of Delinquent Rent certification from the landlord must be provided stating that they still reside in the rental unit for which the assistance is being applied and confirmation of amount owed
  • Mobile homes are eligible for rent arrearages on the unit being rented. If the mobile home is owned by the applicant, rent arrearages may not be requested for the lot being rented.

Note:

If circumstances prevent applicant from providing the requested documentation, applicant may provide evidence of paying utilities for the residential unit, an attestation by a landlord who can be identified as the verified management agent of the unit, or other reasonable documentation as determined by DCA.

Assistance under this program is not allowed for households residing in a hotel, motel, temporary lodging, or a boarding house at this time.  Lease-purchase and rent to own units are ineligible for assistance in addition to housing cooperatives.

Verification of COVID-19 Hardship

Tenant Applicants must submit:

To qualify for assistance one or more of the individuals within the household must either have qualified for unemployment benefits OR have experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due, directly or indirectly, to COVID-19, which the applicant must document in writing.  Applicants who can verify unemployment can move to the next eligibility section.

In determining and documenting that one or more individuals experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due, directly or indirectly, to COVID-19 applicant is requested to provide a formal statement (attestation) that must be submitted within the application portal, describing the income reduction or significant hardship. 

Verification of Risk of Experiencing Homelessness or Housing Instability

 

The household must also be able to demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability to qualify. Acceptable documentation for this can include the following:

  • An eviction notice or
  • A past due rent notice
  • A past due utility bill

Acceptable documentation of rent and utility arrears may include the most recent past due bill, an eviction or late notice, a PDF or screenshot of an online payment portal, or a letter or email from a landlord to a tenant.

What documents will a Landlord need to provide to complete the GRA Landlord Application?

Landlords will need the following types of documents/items (e.g., copies, pictures, screenshots, etc.) along with their signed, fully completed application. The online application will specify the actual documents required.

Proof of Identity

 

Must be provided by individual submitting application.

Can include:

  • Driver’s license
  • Government-issued photo identification
  • U.S. Military photo ID
  • Tribal photo ID
  • Passport or passport card

Proof of Ownership

Can include:

  • Warranty Deed
  • Tax Record
  • Insurance Binder

Note:

If applicant is a Property Management Company or Legal Representative, applicant must also attach documentation showing authorization to act on behalf of the property owner:

  • Authorization Agreement Contract/Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)/Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)

Financial Documentation:

Includes:

  • Completed and signed IRS W-9 Form
  • ACH Direct Deposit form

Tenant Information:

Includes:

  • Signed Statement of Delinquent Rent certification from the landlord must be provided stating that tenant (applicant) still resides in the rental unit for which the assistance is being applied and providing confirmation of total amount owed

Lease or documentation proving tenant still resides in unit if month to month agreement

Who is not eligible?

  • Renter households that have incomes above 80% of Area Median Income
  • Renter households that cannot show a COVID-19 hardship or risk of homelessness or housing instability through an eviction notice or past due rent statement
  • Renter households that receive a monthly federal subsidy (e.g. Housing Choice Voucher, Public Housing, Project Based Section 8) where the tenant rent is adjusted according to changes in income may not receive GRA assistance

Which jurisdictions in Georgia does GRA cover?

In addition to the state, the following jurisdictions received GRA assistance:  Atlanta City, Augusta-Richmond County Consolidated Government, Chatham County, Cherokee County, Clayton County, Cobb County, DeKalb County, Forsyth County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Hall County, and Henry County. During the initial rollout of this program, the State of Georgia may assist eligible households in some of the above referenced local governments that received an allocation until those programs become operational.  As programs in those jurisdictions become operational, DCA will no longer assist households located in them.  As individual jurisdictions exhaust funding under this program, potential applicants in those communities may submit applications to DCA for assistance, subject to funding availability.  If a potential applicant is in one of these jurisdictions, they will need to contact their local government for more information on the status of the local program.  Applicants are not eligible to receive assistance from more than one jurisdiction for the same time period.  The electronic application portal will be updated on the status to respond to applicants accordingly

How much rent can you pay?

Recipients of assistance may receive up to 12 months of rental and utility arrears, which includes a maximum of three months of future rental assistance if needed, and funding is available, to ensure housing stability.  The amount of assistance for each household is limited to $15,000, and the amount of forward rent is limited to 3 months at this time.  The payment of existing housing-related arrears that could lead to eviction of the tenant is prioritized before any future assistance can be provided, and no assistance with future rent can be provided unless the arrearage is also addressed. Total months included in arrearage will be factored into total 12 months of assistance.  Applications for future rent payments, where no back rent is owed at the time of application, are not being accepted at this time. No arrearages may be addressed prior to March 13, 2020, which was the date that the federal emergency declaration was issued. 

Who can I contact for more information?

For more information, visit the DCA website here