The Georgia Rental Assistance (GRA) Program, is an initiative that began in March 2021 and is focused on assisting individuals, families, and landlords financially. The State of Georgia obtained about $552 million from the United States Treasury's Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

Initially, GRA did not distribute funds to local authorities, and applicants applied through the programs headed by their local municipalities. To further help as many Georgians as possible, the initiative has been scaled up to provide funding to the whole state. GRA is currently supporting renters and landlords in all 159 Georgia counties. Individuals, families, and landlords whose finances have taken a hit during the COVID-19 will have access to funds distributed by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA).

This article will help you dig deeper into what this program is about, how it works, and how you could get help through the rental relief program for the residents of Georgia!

How does the Georgia Rental Assistance Program work?

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs manages the emergency rental program initiative. With a lot to offer, these funds are set out to help you catch up on rent arrears and utility bills.

This program assists families with paying current rent arrears, rental security deposits, and rental fees pertaining to application and screening. Utility bills such as internet services, home energy costs and the arrears are also included. Property managers can get these funds directly from GRA and approved applicants can get assistance for up to 12 months.

What are the qualifications for rental assistance in Georgia?

If you have faced issues with paying rent and utility bills during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be able to apply to the GRA program to reap the benefits and support. According to the DCA, you must fit the following criteria to qualify:

  • Unemployed individuals who have experienced financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The applicant must have experienced a risk of homelessness or housing instability. An eviction notice, rent arrears, or a past due utility notice indicates risk of homelessness.

  • If an individual has a household income that is at or below 80% of the area median income (AMI) they can apply. As suggested by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, you can deduce income eligibility by calculating the household's total income in 2020 or monthly income at the time of application. If you would like to check your eligibility and calculate your AMI, click here

How does rental assistance work?

The Georgia Rental Assistance Program covers current and future rent, as well as utility arrears. This means that GRA grants rental and utility assistance for up to 18 months, covering your past due bills. The program can also be used to cover up to 3 months of future rent.

The GRA won't accept any outstanding bills prior to March 13th 2020, and rent assistance cannot be offered for future payments unless you settle the rent arrears. On the brighter side, utility payments alone, as well as other housing expenses, are now considered for your future support.

How can I apply to this program?

DCA began taking applications for the GRA Program from 8th March 2021.

There are two ways to send in an application. The DCA offers an online application for landlords and renters - to apply for assistance, follow the link here and register an application. Applicants who do not have access to the internet can go the route of paper applications through the mail.

To make an application as a tenant or a landlord click here and find out more about the required documents.

Landlords now will have more access to rental assistance as the program expands across the state. Participation by landlords is strongly encouraged. However, under circumstances where landlords refuse to participate, the Treasury Guidance calls for direct payments to tenants.

Why is there a lag in the distribution of emergency rental assistance funds?

DCA recently spread the rental assistance program across Georgia, to enable tenants to apply for compensation and rental support. As of now, approximately 21,000 households have received rental assistance payments. 65% of the funds were anticipated to be distributed by first-round which was by September 30th. However, by August 31st, only 15% of the funds had been spent.

This delay has lately caused distress to tenants across the state. Although there are no clear answers regarding the delay, the deputy commissioner of housing for DCA mentioned the staffing shortage along with discrepancies in the paperwork from the tenants and their landlords.

Overall, the emergency rental assistance program is all-in-all a great initiative supporting tenants and landlords that have been financially stricken during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the slow distribution of funds, The Department of the Treasury want to be able to distribute funds quicker and support everyone who needs it.

For more information regarding the rental assistance and application, reach out to DCA at rentalassistance@dca.ga.gov or call at 833-827-7368.