Each week as I sit down to share thoughts and updates with you during the COVID-19 crisis, I search for an overriding thought or emotion to describe the past few days. In the past, I have felt sadness and fear, hope and encouragement, frustration and even outrage. So, how do I feel this week?
I am disappointed in our state’s leadership, specifically Governor Kemp. His mishandling of the coronavirus is costing Georgians their health, their lives, and their livelihoods. After dragging his feet behind 37 (!) other governors in declaring a shelter in place order, Governor Kemp rushed to open businesses with high levels of personal contact all while our first responders complained of a lack of personal protective equipment and the state ranked among the worst in testing for the virus.
Meanwhile, I get emails and phone calls every day from constituents who have lost their jobs but can’t access unemployment, who are struggling to keep their businesses afloat but can’t get answers on small business loans, and from medical professionals who are terrified of an impending influx of COVID-19 cases. This state cut its budget to the lowest possible levels and refused to expand Medicaid. Now, when Georgians desperately need a safety net, there’s none to be found.
Have we flattened the curve in Georgia? I highly doubt it, but there’s no way to definitively know as we are still behind in testing and the state’s data appears unreliable. Do hospitals have capacity for more cases? Yes, outside of the hardest hit counties, most hospitals can still accommodate COVID-19 patients, assuming the rate of admittance doesn’t suddenly grow. Meanwhile, of the 28,000+ positive COVID-19 cases in Georgia, about 10% are healthcare workers. We owe it to those frontline workers to keep cases low and keep hospital beds empty.
Even with the state’s shelter in place order lifted for all but the elderly and medically fragile, it’s incredibly important to continue staying home as much as possible. Avoid non-essential errands, keep physical distance from those outside your household, continue washing hands and disinfecting surfaces. I also wholeheartedly encourage you to heed the CDC’s latest recommendation – wear a face mask when you leave the house.
As of Sunday night, May 3rd, 2020, there are 28,671 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Georgia. 1,179 people have died from COVID-19. In the past week, we’ve added 5,021 cases, for an increase of 22%, and 265 deaths, for an increase of 29%.
The Georgia COVID-19 Daily Status Report is available here.
Governor Kemp’s executive order for opening of retail businesses
Who must continue to Shelter in Place?
When will the Georgia General Assembly resume?
The Georgia General Assembly remains in suspension, but June 11 is a potential date to resume. This week, Speaker Ralston sent a letter to members of the House stating that in-person committee hearings will resume on May 19. Ralston added that no action can be taken on legislation until session resumes again in June. The committee meetings will be to discuss legislation and hear testimony.
Why is it so important to get the legislature back in session? One word – budget. The General assembly must pass a balanced budget before June 30 (the state’s fiscal year begins on July 1). While this process was daunting back in January, it feels nearly impossible now. With the costs associated with addressing the COVID-19 crisis combined with plummeting tax revenue and high unemployment, we face needing to cut agency budgets by 14% across the board. This will have a tremendous impact on our schools, infrastructure, already-fragile health care system, universities, and social services.
City of Atlanta Town Hall
Join me and other elected representatives from the City of Atlanta for a Virtual Town Hall on May 14, 2020, 6:00 – 7:00 pm.
RSVP here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_uVtVQKEiSpqUjrBYGx5sug
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. 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.
When this is all over, 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