Sade Braden has six kids, works two jobs and is about to be evicted from her metro Atlanta apartment. The 33-year-old mother caught COVID-19 in July, forcing her to miss months of work as an emergency-room accountant at Emory University Hospital. She’s one of thousands of Georgians who have staked their housing on $710 million that the federal government has given the Peach State to help people pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But Georgia’s state government, responsible for distributing most of the federal aid, is one of the slowest in the nation at doing so. 

Nearly five months later, Braden still hasn’t heard from either the state, city or county officials whom she reached out to for help with her application – leaving her in a bind for how to keep a roof over her kids’ heads while she works 12 hours a day to catch up on missed rent.

“It’s not fair to the people that actually need the help,” said Braden, who lives in DeKalb County and whose children range from ages 5 to 15. “I’m from Georgia and I’ve always kept a roof over my head. But right now, we just need help.”

Georgia is on the clock to dole out $552 million the federal government has given the state’s Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to help thousands of struggling residents pay their rent. DCA officials had paid out just $57 million of that to applicants between April and mid-December this year – rounding out to a 10% clearance rate more than 8 months into the program. Many applicants have waited two to three months or more to receive their approved payments. At the same time, DCA has spent about $11 million on administrative costs to run the program, equaling around 16% of the total amount spent so far from DCA’s share of rent-assistance funds.

Roughly 258,000 Georgian households had fallen behind on their rent as of Oct. 1, according to data from the National Equity Atlas. To date, DCA has distributed payments to 8,500 local tenants and landlords, officials said, with another roughly 33,000 approved households still waiting to receive $200 million in approved payments by mid-November. That month, U.S. Department of the Treasury officials notified DCA that Georgia could lose a chunk of its unspent rent funding, leaving potentially up to between $35 million and $120 million on the table that could otherwise benefit some 7,000 to 25,000 local households in need of help, according to Federal Reserve Bank estimates.

  • With 258,000 households behind on rent as of Oct. 1, the $552m rounds out to roughly $2,100 per household, assuming all households are behind because of COVID-19. 

  • The average approved payment is $6,300 payment, according to DCA officials – which rounds out to roughly $1,000 spent per approved payment on administrative costs.


Part II: Lag Times Frustrate Georgians