Cobb renters may get millions more in federal assistance, with the county’s governing board poised to reallocate CARES Act money as the deadline to spend it fast approaches.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act provided trillions of dollars to individuals, businesses and local governments, including $132 million for Cobb County.
Since that money landed in the county’s bank account in April, the Board of Commissioners has allocated all but $5 million. Early this month, recipients detailed to the board how much they had spent.
But with a federally mandated Dec. 31 deadline to spend that money — a deadline some organizations and county departments said they won’t be able to meet — the board will have to decide where it should go.
On Tuesday, the board will decide whether to give a combined $5 million to two organizations it had tapped to administer rental assistance programs for people impacted by the coronavirus. Of that $5 million, just under $4 million would come from money returned to the county by organizations that cannot spend it before year’s end.
Nonprofit HomeFree USA was chosen in September to administer $2 million in rental assistance. Under the assumption the average renter would need up to $4,800, the program approved by commissioners was expected to help about 400 people.
More than 3,500 people have applied, however, and a HomeFree representative told the board it would need $6.6 million to help everyone who has applied.
An agenda item for the board’s Tuesday meeting would instead give $4 million to HomeFree. The county estimates that amount will allow the nonprofit to help another 1,600 people.
Another nonprofit, Star-C, was chosen in May to administer $1.5 million in rental assistance for tenants facing eviction.
Star-C has spent almost $800,000 to date on 509 families, according to county documents. But it expects to run out of money in early November, and is asking for another $918,000, an amount that could help 520 families, it estimates.
In other business, county finance director William Volckmann is asking the board to transfer about $300,000 to the Parking Deck Facilities Fund and $150,000 to the Law Library Fund.
Both transfers would come from the county’s general fund, which had $475 million, according to the adopted budget for the 2020 fiscal year.
Government stay-at-home orders imposed this spring, as well as “the rapid decline of activity in and around the Marietta Square and the Cobb Judicial Complex” has hammered both funds, Volckmann wrote in his ask.
Whether the pandemic will ultimately batter the county’s general fund as well is still an open question, Volckmann added.
“On the date of this agenda, the County cannot predict with any meaningful certainty the particular nature or extent of the adverse impact that the Pandemic, the resulting economic ramifications, the federal and State responses thereto or any other related factors will have on the operation and financial condition of the County,” he wrote.