Gwinnett County officials said they are planning to step in to stop county residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic from being evicted from their homes or apartments.

County officials said they plan to use funding from the CARES Act to make past due rent payments for residents in danger of imminent evictions through a new Project RESET Program. The payments will be made directly to landlords and the first phase will focus on 400 active dispossessory filings which are currently pending in Gwinnett County Magistrate Court, and where eviction is imminent.

Court staff has been contacting tenants and landlords to talk to them about how eligibility works and how they can apply for the assistance.

Project RESET is a partnership between HomeFirst Gwinnett, the county’s government and Magistrate Court.

“Project RESET lets us take a strategic and coordinated approach to the needs that have arisen out of COVID-19,” said HomeFirst Gwinnett Director Matthew Elder. “This versatility and coordination will be benchmark best practices for how local governments, courts and nonprofits can work together for large-scale community impact.”

In addition to focusing on active dispossessory filings right now, the new program will also focus on working with tenants and landlords who are in the pre-eviction stage, but have yet progressed to the point eviction paperwork has been filed. This includes cases where a CDC eviction moratorium notice has been filed or a payment plan is being worked on.

Officials said that means Project RESET can be flexible in how it proactively responds to homelessness because it can prevent future eviction filings that are a result of financial hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Project RESET lets us take a strategic and coordinated approach to the needs that have arisen out of COVID-19,” said HomeFirst Gwinnett Director Matthew Elder. “This versatility and coordination will be benchmark best practices for how local governments, courts and nonprofits can work together for large-scale community impact.”

The program was officially launched Nov. 2 and will be available through the end of this year. This program is in addition to CARES Act fund the county has awarded to nonprofit agencies which work with the community and offer various housing assistance and support services to people affected by COVID-19. The county said those agencies will also work with Project RESET so a complete continuum approach to providing assistance will be available to the community.

“We’ve built a resource pipeline to get CARES Act funding directly to tenants and landlords who have been financially impacted by the pandemic,” Chief Magistrate Kristina Hammer Blum said. “Our goal is to bring more social service resources directly into the court system to make them easily accessible by those most in need. This is a solution-based justice model that I am excited to build upon, not just in dispossessory cases, but in all of our court processes.”

County Commissioner Marlene Fosque added, “This is another amazing example of how Gwinnettians partner together to address problems like homelessness and the pandemic. Thanks to U.S. Treasury funds, we are able to reduce the inevitable homelessness problem that would otherwise have a huge negative impact on our community.”

Residents in need of assistance available through Project RESET can get additional information on eligibility and applying for it by calling 770-847-6765 or sending an email to MagistrateCourtProjectRESET@gwinnettcounty.com.

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I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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