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FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Forsyth County residents struggling to make rent or utility payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic could soon get some relief. The county is slated to receive $7.35 million through a federal assistance program that will aid renters facing utility shutoffs or eviction.

The $25 billion Emergency Rental Assistance program will aid applicants who qualify for unemployment that have been directly impacted by the pandemic, including those who have experienced reduced income, incurred “significant costs” or experienced a financial hardship. Applicants must demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability and have a household income at or below 80 percent of the “area median income.”

Forsyth County is one of 10 counties, along with the City of Atlanta, set to receive the federal dollars. There are approximately 12,000 households who rent in the county.

The program, which will go live March 8, does not aid in mortgage payments.

Aid will cover past due rent and utility bills and provides for payment up to one year after the time of application. County officials are still working on a possible aid cap per applicant. Some other jurisdictions have put a maximum allotment of $5,000 per applicant.

The county has partnered with United Way of Forsyth and The Place of Forsyth, which will accept applications and collect documentation for the program. A call center will also be established with bilingual representatives. Up to 10 percent of the county’s allocation can be used for administrative services.

Aid will be distributed directly to landlords and utility companies, a move the county said could prevent some potential fraud. It also gives the county some wiggle room if stipulations of the program are changed.

The program was put on the fast-track after being signed into law in December, and Forsyth County Director of Finance Rebecca Whitmire said she expects some of its regulations to change in the weeks ahead.

County Manager Kevin Tanner said payments can be sent directly to applicants, but sending dollars to directly to landlords and utility providers gives Forsyth County somewhat of a safety net if regulations change.

Forsyth County was eligible to join the rent assistance program because its population exceeds 200,000 residents. Residents in Atlanta and Augusta-Richmond, Chatham, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Hall and Henry counties are eligible for their own share of the federal aid, with disbursements to each area based on population.

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