Cobb BOC approves social safety net funds from several federal programs

Cobb County government building in article about rental assistanceCobb County government building (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners, the commissioners approved the acceptance of federal funds from three sources for programs intended to help disadvantaged residents.

The items were originally on the consent agenda, which is the portion of the agenda that has been preapproved in work session by the commissioners, but District 1 Commissioner Keli Gambrill requested that three items, listed as 33, 35, and 36 be pulled from the consent agenda for an open vote.

Agenda item 33 was:

To authorize the acceptance of additional federal funding available to local
governments under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Emergency Rental
Assistance 2 – High-Need.

Agenda item 35 was:

To authorize the acceptance and allocation of Federal Fiscal Year 2022 Community
Services Block Grant CARES funds provided by the Georgia Department of Human
Services.

… and agenda item 36 was

To authorize the submission of the Program Year 2022 Annual Action Plan for Cobb
County to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and to accept
grant funding through the Community Development Block Grant, Home Investment
Partnership Act, and Emergency Solutions Grant Program.

Cobb Finance Director William Volckman said, “Item 33, is to authorize the acceptance of additional federal funding available to local governments under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.”

“This is our Emergency Rental Assistance 2, and is classified as high need,” he said. “So we did receive just over $2 million into our bank account for this program. The additional funding that would be available or the allocation to the county is $5,004,811.50. But we have received the $2 million to date. And we’re seeking the appropriation of those funds.”

Gambrill asked, “Bill, can you explain to the audience how these funds will be distributed?”

“Absolutely,” said Volckman. “This is basically a continuing continuation of our rental assistance funds that we have to date. We have five providers currently working through ERA 1 and ERA 2. This is an additional allocation to our ERA 2. This is specifically for rental assistance.”

Gambrill asked, “Just to follow up. This does not obligate the county to provide future funding out of the general fund for rental assistance, correct?”

“That is correct,” Volckman said. “This is again, just a self-contained grant program that we’ve used for rental assistance continuation. There are no general fund dollars at stake here, or any long-term commitments once the grant funds have been depleted.”

Chairwoman Lisa Cupid asked how much had been spent from the rental assistance funds.

Volckman said that $20,742,000 had been spent in ERA 1 funds or 90 percent of the total allocation and that so far $900,,000 of ERA 2 funds had been spent.

A motion was made to approve agenda item number 33, and it passed 5-0.

County Manager Jackie McMorris took the podium for agenda item 35, which was to authorize the acceptance of Community Services Block Grants. McMorris said she hadn’t expected to be speaking about the issue.

“I will say that we have been receiving these funds from CDBG since the 90s,” she said. “We’ve not had any issues or any problems with receiving those funds. The funds are audited on a regular basis. We’ve not had any issues with those. And we’ve been able to do a lot of great things for the residents of Cobb who are the recipients of these funds.”

Cupid then spoke about the agenda item.

“I’ll just provide a little bit of background before I make my motion, which is actually text that’s in the agenda items,” she said. The application requests for these funds were rated on criteria of the thoroughness of the grant application or organization’s prior grant expenditure history, and the organization staff and financial capacity based on the ranking of the applications.”

“The funding recommendations have been distributed to provide social services in the following areas: employment and training services, GED and literacy programs, health services, family and youth development and housing and shelter for homeless families and individuals, including disabled veterans, which I think is fitting considering that we will be we have been honoring our veterans this month,” she said. “I would ask the board please please support the motion for this agenda item to again, I move that we authorize the acceptance of allocation of the federal fiscal year 2022 Community Services Block Grant CARES funds provided by the Georgia Department of Human Services.”

Gambrill said the grants provided by those programs require no match from the county, and that Congress reauthorizes it each year with no guarantee that it will continue or guarantees of funding level.

The motion to approve passed 5-0.

The third of the items taken off the consent agenda was to authorize the submission of the Program Year 2022 Action Plan to HUD and to accept funding from the Community Development Block Grant, the Home Investment Partnership Act, and the Emergency Solutions Grant Program.

McMorris asked the county to approve the item and accept the funds.

“If this funding were reduced or no longer made available, Cobb County would no longer pay for professional services and the operating costs, the programs would be terminated and the employment positions eliminated,” Cupid said.

The motion to approve passed 5-0.

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