Hall County started sending out checks last month for its Emergency Rental Assistance program for renters and landlords whose income was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those eligible for rent assistance included households earning less than 80% of the area’s median income, with those under 50% of area median income prioritized more highly, and those who faced significant costs or loss of employment due to the pandemic. Applicants can find full eligibility requirements here.
The county received federal funding from the U.S. Department of the Treasury for the program. The program’s application opened on April 6 and so far has given out about 15% of its available funds, Financial Services Director Dena Bosten said. The county was granted $6,153,845.20 for the program, and it must give out 65% of funds by the end of September in order to retain funds, Bosten said.
So far the county has received 461 applications. Funds granted vary based on need. The highest amount possible is either $12,500 or 12 months of rent, whichever comes first.
The program is part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which was adopted by Congress last December. Hall County’s eligibility and allocation was based on its population.
Walter Lavender was helped significantly through the program after he lost employment for six months during the pandemic. He started working at La Parrilla Mexican Restaurant in Oakwood three months ago.
“It was really great,” Lavender said. “I was behind, and they stepped in and gave me help. It was a real courtesy and went pretty fast.”
His rent is around $720 per month, and he received about $8,000 from the program, Lavender said, which will cover nearly a year of his rent. The application was easy for him to use, he said.
Christina Pagano, who manages the Columns at Oakwood apartments, said the program was able to help one of her tenants who lost her job during the pandemic. The tenant received enough to cover one month of rent and utilities that she was behind on, plus late fees, and the payment will cover her rent until August.
Pagano helped a tenant apply in mid-April and the tenant received her check on May 26, she said. “It wasn’t complicated at all,” Pagano said.
“Emotionally (the pandemic) wore me out,” she said. “So I’m happy that now we are doing better and very happy that this lady got this assistance, because she’s been a very good tenant since she moved in.”
To advertise the program, the county has placed ads in papers, radio stations, on social media and worked with nonprofits in the area to spread the word but still has work to do to reach their benchmark by the end of September, said Katie Crumley, Hall County’s public information officer.
The program has seen some difficulty matching tenants to landlords, Bosten said. “It’s either we can’t get in touch with the landlord, or they’re not willing to participate,” she said. “So that’s been one thing that’s been challenging for us.”
Crumley said the county is also going to partner with the distributor that sends out property tax bills later this year in order to advertise the Emergency Rental Assistance program to landlords, who receive property tax bills.