State Rental Assistance Program Expands Eligibility

Posted By: Denise Mcclary Community , Government Affairs , Industry ,

State Rental Assistance Program Expands Eligibility

Since applications opened in March 2021, the Georgia Rental Assistance (GRA) program has distributed millions on behalf of renters and landlords, where possible, to bring past-due rent and utility balances current for those that experienced hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic. Based on evolving federal guidance, the GRA program will expand eligibility to include renters that receive a monthly federal subsidy, such as Housing Choice Voucher. Only the renter’s portion of rent will be eligible for reimbursement and subject to existing program guidelines and limitations.
 
Who qualifies for assistance?
This program, made possible through the $552 million of U.S. Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance funding, is available to all who meet the following criteria:
  • NEW: Renter households that receive a monthly federal subsidy (e.g. Housing Choice Voucher, Public Housing, Project Based Section 8). Program eligibility is limited to the renter’s portion of the rent.
  • Qualified for unemployment benefits or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19; and
  • Demonstrates a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability through having an eviction notice or past-due rent notice; and
  • Has a household income at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) with priority given to:
    • Renter households below 50 percent of the AMI OR
    • Renter 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 Income Limits Documentation” and then select your State and County.  
 
What about the eviction moratorium?
The CDC Eviction Moratorium has been extended until June 30, 2021, meaning that no one should be evicted solely for non-payment of rent until that date. For more details about the CDC Eviction Moratorium, please visit the Georgia Legal Aid website.
 
What documents do I need to complete the GRA Tenant Application?
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.
Proof of Identity
Can include:
  • Driver’s license
  • Government-issued photo identification
  • U.S. Military photo ID
  • Tribal photo ID
  • Passport
Verification of Income
Annual Income Documentation
Acceptable supporting documentation for renter households seeking assistance based upon the household’s 2020 annual income:
  • 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)
  • 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
Monthly Income Documentation
If the applicant is seeking assistance based upon the current household monthly income, the household must provide income verification for at least the most recent two months (60 days) leading up to application submission, and eligibility must be redetermined every three months for the duration of the assistance.
 
Acceptable supporting documentation for the monthly income option includes:
  • Documents evidencing monthly income (e.g., wage statement, interest statement, unemployment compensation statement),
OR
 
In addition to the above, for the monthly income option, documentation for monthly income for the two months leading up to application submission may also include:
  • If employed, pay stubs, third party verification from the employer, or a letter from their employer indicating reduced pay
  • 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, alimony
  • TANF, SSI or other supplemental income programs that are limited to households with incomes below 80 percent of AMI (or a comparable poverty threshold)
  • 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
  • Bank statements
  • 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
Note:
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 certification that they still reside in the rental unit for which the assistance is being applied and confirmation of this from their landlord
  • Mobile homes are eligible for rent arrearages on the unit being rented.
Note:
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.
 
If individual circumstances prevent applicant from providing 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 the unit, or other reasonable documentation as determined by DCA.
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
  • A past-due rent notice or
  • A past-due utility notice
Acceptable documentation of rent and utility arrears may include the most recent past-due bill, an eviction 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
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:
  • 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
Which jurisdictions in Georgia does GRA cover?
During the initial rollout of this program, GRA anticipates covering all jurisdictions with the exception of the following jurisdictions that received direct funding:  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. If you are in one of these jurisdictions, you may wish to contact your local government for more information. If the 12 non-GRA jurisdictions exhaust their rental assistance funds, DCA will provide information on GRA coverage eligibility in those areas.  Please continue to check the GRA website for updates. 
 
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. Under special circumstances, a household may be able to request an exception to the 12-month limit, if the maximum limit of $15,000 has not been met. Arrearages (past-due payments) may only be applied back to March 13, 2020.
 
Who can I contact for more information?
For more information, email rentalassistance@dca.ga.gov or visit the GRA website here.