Thousands of Georgians receive pre-holiday rent, utility assistance

Nearly 20,000 Georgians received assistance with rent or utility arrearages through the Georgia Rental Assistance program.  The state’s Department of Community Affairs, which administers the program, reports they have dispersed more than $56 million to qualified tenants and landlords.  Among these funds is $1.3 million for utility assistance.

“Recently, our processing team posted record-setting performances.  In October, we assisted 4,898 families, often processing and paying out more than a million dollars per day to landlords and tenants,” said Christopher Nunn, DCA Commissioner. 

Valerie Simpson, of Catoosa County, was one such tenant.  Simpson was diagnosed with COVID-19 on April 1, 2020.   Simpson’s recovery was slow causing her to eventually lose her job the following July. Simpson, the family’s breadwinner due to her husband’s health, took a few delivery jobs until this past summer when the household savings account was depleted.  “Unfortunately, my husband almost died in 2018 from the flu and pneumonia.  He couldn’t risk being exposed to COVID because of his recovery.  He lost his job due to his medical history,” Simpson said.  “If it had not been for Georgia Rental Assistance, I don’t know where we would be. When I started this process, I didn’t know what it would entail or how long it would take, but I knew it was an option that I had to grab. So, I grabbed on for dear life,” she added.

Simpson said that her utility bills were past due in addition to nearly four months’ rent when she applied for assistance.  She said state associates helped her upload documents and called her landlord to let him know the program was legitimate. “They also called North Georgia Power. They were familiar with the program, and they put my account on hold,” Simpson said.   

Within weeks, Simpson said her landlord received a check for almost $4,000 for past due rent and she was qualified for assistance for the remainder of the year. 

“You think that you are in a tunnel with no light, no one to help you, and you’re trying to get by with a flashlight with low batteries. You keep hitting that flashlight, hoping that it will turn on so you can see your way out,” Simpson said. “You feel like you’re never going to get out and you barely have light to see.  Georgia Rental Assistance turned on all the lights, had people at the end of the tunnel flagging and blowing whistles to let you know that there is a light at the end of this tunnel and how to get out.  I am so thankful for this program,” Simpson added.

The Catoosa County resident was not the only Georgian to breathe a sigh of relief.  Kendra Daniels of Bibb County had a similar story. Before the COVID pandemic, Daniels was a newly promoted manager trainee.  When the schools changed from in-person to virtual learning, Daniels was forced to leave her job to care for her two children and two nieces in her legal custody.   Daniels took a work-from-home job and subsequently went from a $60,000 to $20,000 annual income. 

Daniels said she initially thought the rental assistance program was a hoax until her landlord sent her the state’s website link and offered to help with the necessary documents. The process was easy, according to Daniels.  “I was behind two and a half months on my rent. I felt bad because I have never been in the position of not being able to pay my rent. After receiving assistance, it felt like a big weight was lifted off my shoulders,” Daniels said.

Commissioner Nunn said he and the DCA team are committed to helping qualified renters remain in their homes. “I encourage Georgians in need to apply for assistance with the confidence that we will continue to work diligently to provide up to 18 months of past-due rent and utility payments, regardless of the amount.  I also encourage Georgians to take advantage of the recertification process that allows for future rental assistance,” he said.

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