State closing rental help office

ALBANY, Ga. — A state office that serves as the conduit between the state and federal government and those with low-to-moderate income levels says that a major restructuring is under way that will result in the closure of some offices — including one in Albany.

Dennis Williams, the deputy commissioner for Rental Assistance with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, said Tuesday that DCA has decided to close the Albany Rental Assistance office.

While Williams says that those who are currently receiving what is commonly known as Section 8 benefits likely won’t see any changes in their service, Albany staffers who work in the office are in jeopardy.

“There’ll be no change in services. We have shifted the workload to a regional office in Waycross,” Williams said. “The participants in Albany or the Albany area who are used to seeing people come to their home, will still see those ... We have given Albany employees the option to relocate or to consider commuting, but there will also be RIFs (reductions in force) throughout DCA.”

Williams said that the federal government is already stripping funding from DCA and that he’s been put on notice that the rental assistance program will receive $1 million less this year than it did in 2010.

“So, we had an option,” Williams said. “We either had to cut funding for the Section 8 program, which would’ve impacted those low- to moderate-income households who receive assistance, or we could try and restructure things internally and find places to cut ... so that’s what is being done.”

Williams is hopeful that if any state employees are cut from the Albany office, that a new program being administered through the city’s Department of Community and Economic Development and the Albany Housing Authority will provide possible employment opportunities for them.

City Manager James Taylor said that the city has been in discussions with DCA about the city’s new tenant-assistance program with the housing authority, but added no promises have been made.

“We understand their concerns and certainly understand their situation with having to deal with reduced funding levels and whatnot,” Taylor said. “We’ve made them no promises about having any open opportunities for their employees but if something comes open, many of the folks in that office have skills that may be of use.

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” Taylor said.