The big news last week was Governor Kemp’s executive order that allowed certain businesses to resume operations. This order has raised lots of questions and concerns. Frankly, I believe it is too early for many of these businesses to open as it will be nearly impossible to follow CDC guidelines while performing services. Many experts think Georgia is at least a week away from reaching peak COVID-19 cases, and our lagging testing means we can’t even trust that data to be accurate. Experts recommend waiting 14 days after reaching peak cases before reopening businesses. We are nowhere near that point. Georgia continues to have one of the lowest testing rates in the nation – less than 1% of Georgians have been tested, compared to 4% in New York and Louisiana.
To avoid a new spike in cases, it’s imperative for Georgians to continue staying home as much as possible, avoid non-essential errands, stay at least six feet away from others, and diligently wash hands and disinfect surfaces. I also strongly encourage wearing a mask if you must go out – science shows this both protects you and those you encounter. My family continues to stay isolated – we have groceries delivered, worship on Sundays via online church, and work and attend school from home.
The new executive order has caused lots of confusion. I’ll try to clarify what Governor Kemp’s order really means for Georgians.
Which new entities can engage in Minimum Basic Operations?
Gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, estheticians, their respective schools, and massage therapists could resume operations on Friday, April 24, 2020. Restaurants, dining rooms of private social clubs, and theaters can open on Monday, April 27, 2020. Bars, nightclubs, amusement park ride operators, and live performance venues will remain closed through at least May 13, 2020.
What are Minimum Basic Operations?
All businesses and organizations are subject to the Minimum Basic Operations restrictions which mitigate the exposure and spread of COVID-19. Some of these measures include screening and evaluating workers who exhibit signs of illness, requiring workers who exhibit signs of illness to not report to work, enhancing sanitation of the workplace as appropriate, and requiring hand washing or sanitation by workers.
Businesses are expected to prohibit gatherings of workers during working hours, permit workers to take breaks and meals outside, and implement teleworking or staggered shifts for all possible workers. Work spaces should be arranged to keep workers at least six feet apart, and meetings should be held virtually. Workers should be discouraged from sharing any equipment, and they should not be required to use PIN keypads or other shared surfaces.
How does this Executive Order apply to places of worship?
Holding in-person services at places of worship is allowed, but services must be held with strict social distancing protocols. Nothing prevents a place of worship from hosting an in-person service, and the state will not stand in the way of these efforts. However, online, call-in, or drive-in services remain the best options to mitigate potential exposure to coronavirus.
Is the Governor’s Shelter in Place Order still in effect?
The Shelter in Place Order is still active and expires at 11:59 PM on April 30, 2020 for most Georgians. Medically fragile and elderly Georgians should plan to continue sheltering in place through at least May 13, 2020.
How can Georgia reopen when there’s a shelter in place?
This is one of the most frustrating elements of the new executive order – and the answer is that I just don’t know. My recommendation is to continue to stay home as much as possible. I’m grateful to the many businesses in our district that are choosing to stay closed or with limited operations until more evidence shows it’s safe for employees and clients.
As long as businesses comply with CDC guidelines, why shouldn’t they open?
Right now, we continue to see problems with the supply chain of masks, cleaning supplies, and hand sanitizer. If businesses cannot keep these items in stock, they will not be able to operate safely. In some cases – like tattoo parlors or nail salons – it’s hard to imagine how services can be provided while remaining physically distant!
If you are asked to return to work, know your rights!
In the last week, over 5000 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported, and over 200 new deaths. Here are the latest statistics, from Monday, April 27th, at noon.
Ensuring fair and safe elections has never been more important than now. I’m grateful for Fair Fight Action for their endorsement.
Unemployment benefit update
New eligibility requirements allow workers to collect full unemployment benefits even if their weekly wages rise to $300, up from the previous wage exemption of $55 per week. Those making more than $300 per week can still earn a pro-rated amount. More information is available here:
SBA Loan update
Additional Funding Notice: The SBA will resume accepting Paycheck Protection Program applications from participating lenders on Monday, April 27, 2020 at 10:30am EDT.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program provides unemployment benefits to those not ordinarily eligible for them. This includes individuals who are self-employed, gig workers, 1099 independent contractors, employees of churches, employees of non-profits, or those with limited work history who do not qualify for state unemployment benefits.
Information on how to apply is available here:
Voting deadline update
The date for the primary election has been moved to June 9th, 2020. This will be the election for the Presidential Preference Primary, as well as the primary for state and local races. You should have received an absentee ballot request form in the mail last week. If you did not receive an absentee ballot, you can request one here: https://sos.ga.gov/index.php/Elections/absentee_voting_in_georgia
You must fill out that form and return it by mail, fax, email (as an attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org), or in-person to the Fulton County Board of Registrar’s Office:
130 PEACHTREE ST SW SUITE 2186
ATLANTA, GA 30303-3460
If mailing your absentee ballot request form, you must attach postage!
Once you receive your ballot, it must be submitted no later than the close of polls on Election Day. Delivery can be either U.S. first class mail or hand delivered by the voter. If mailing, you should affix postage to the ballot envelope; however, ballots without postage will still be counted. Ballots received after the polls close cannot be counted.
Sample voting ballots are now available when you log into your My Voter Page:
The Georgia COVID-19 Hotline is 1-844-442-2681.
The Georgia COVID-19 Emotional Support Line is 1-866-399-8938.
- Find a food bank in your area here.
- Find food assistance programs near you here.
- Student meal pick up locations by school-district here.
Resources for Service Workers
- Food service workers can find assistance from The Giving Kitchen here.
- Domestic workers can access emergency assistance funds here.
- Access at-home learning resources from Georgia Public Broadcasting and the Georgia Department of Education here.
Small Business Resources
- Small businesses can apply for SBA emergency loans here.
- SNAP Benefits for all current recipients have been extended through June 2020.
- Apply for SNAP benefits here.
- The Georgia Department of Labor is providing online access to unemployment services, partial claim access for employers and other reemployment services.
- File unemployment and other claims here.
- File unemployment for those not normally eligible for unemployment here, through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
If you haven’t already, please browse my website, betsyforgeorgia.com.
As your Representative, your concerns are important to me. Please contact me at email@example.com or 404-656-0116 with questions, concerns, or solutions you may have regarding legislation or other happenings in District 54.
To stay updated, follow me on Twitter and Facebook, and follow the Georgia House of Representatives @GAHouseHub on Twitter. Additionally, in-depth information regarding current bills, Georgia’s annual and supplemental budgets, committee meetings, and livestreams from the General Assembly can be accessed via www.legis.ga.gov.
I encourage you and your family to visit our State Capitol and my office, where all constituents are welcome. I look forward to connecting with you!
My office is located at:
18 Capitol Square, SW
409-B, Coverdell Legislative Office Building
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.
Representative Betsy Holland
GA House District 54