Georgia’s economy is still swaying from the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession. It has been more than a year since the first coronavirus case was discovered in the United States, and thousands of Americans are still dying from the virus every week. Small businesses are closing permanently, and workers are enrolling in unemployment insurance (UI) or leaving the workforce altogether. Congress and President Joe Biden must act bravely – otherwise things will continue to get worse. The country must defeat the virus and help the struggling families in Georgia.
As of December 2020:
- 93,000 fewer Georgians were employed than in February 2020 – an employment deficit of 2 percent. The employment of low-wage workers has continued to decline. Employment fell 18 percent for Georgians earning less than $ 27,000.
- The number of government and local government employees in Georgia has decreased by 27,300 since February 2020. To endure the pandemic, Georgia needs state and local staff for contact tracing, vaccinations, employment agency staff, support for children returning to personal school, and other pandemic-related needs. Laying off these workers will only prolong the pandemic and recession.
The emergency sick leave regulations expired in late 2020, meaning Georgians must make the choice to stay home to protect their families or employees and to keep their wages.
Economic conditions in Georgia are starting to deteriorate
- Claims for the traditional user interface showed that 27,200 Georgians filed new claims in the week ending Jan. 23 – 400 percent more than the state’s average number of weekly claims in 2019.
- At the end of January, the total number of Georgians receiving traditional UI payments stood at 150,000, up over the fall. Week-to-week enrollments have been volatile due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Georgia and the challenges the UI system has faced in resuming benefits following the delays by Congress in signing the unemployment benefit extension in December .
- 250,000 Georgians are still enrolled in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – two programs that provide a user interface to self-employed, independent contractors and part-time workers, and extend the length of an unemployed right to assistance – It there is a risk of financial ruin if the benefits expire.
An overwhelming percentage of Georgians support bold incentives
Recent polls show that residents of the state are 20 points ahead of President Biden’s aid package.
Without further government assistance to overcome working class families until widespread vaccination enables more normal economic activity, it is almost certain that the Georgian economy will contract again, causing unnecessary suffering and hardship for hundreds of thousands of Georgians. To ensure minimal disruption to the Georgian economy, Congress and President Biden should immediately put the following reasonable guidelines in place.
- To assign $ 4.7 billion to the state of Georgia and $ 3.6 billion to local government agencies within. Earlier proposals for relief would have provided funds to cover the associated revenue shortfalls Georgia and many cities and counties in the region are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. State aid was excluded from the aid bill passed by Congress in December, and further inaction will force state and local governments to cut services and lay off public health and education workers.
- Provide $ 4.4 billion for schools in Georgia safe to open again. Additional support is needed to repair ventilation systems, reduce class sizes, buy personal protective equipment, hire support staff, and ensure that the most vulnerable children do not fall behind their peers. The safe reopening of schools means that those who have left work due to care needs can also re-enter.
- Extension of the federal unemployment benefit until 2021. 250,000 Georgians are at risk of losing unemployment benefits if the PUA and PEUC expire. This would harm vulnerable families who are struggling to make ends meet and cut the crucial consumer spending that supports Georgian businesses. Additional weekly payments of $ 400 are critical to keeping the state’s consumer economy alive.
- Increase the child tax credit to $ 3,000 per child, provide an additional $ 600 per child under 6 years of age, fully refund, and extend the minimum age to 17 to support caregivers 1 million eligible children in Georgia. Expanding on this scale would earn the poorest 60 percent of Georgians an additional $ 2.9 billion.
- Improve financial support for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Even before the pandemic-triggered recession, the uninsured rate in the United States had increased. Therefore, increasing market premium subsidies to the 410,000 Georgians already receiving financial assistance and expanding assistance to thousands of low-income and middle-class families would help ensure Georgians’ access to health care and improve their financial security.
- Raise the federal minimum wage from $ 7.25 to $ 15 within five years. A minimum wage of $ 15 would raise not only 1.6 million Georgians – 35 percent of the state workforce – but also an additional $ 5.8 billion in total state wages and even more economic activity. An increase in the minimum wage would also reduce the amount of federal, state, and local dollars spent on assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
- Extension of the federal moratorium on evictions and foreclosures. 2.9 million Georgians – 38 percent of the state’s adults – have defaulted on basic household expenses, and protection from eviction and foreclosure would prevent a widespread financial crisis. It would also expand aid to renters and small landlords and help provide housing for 520,000 Georgians at risk of homelessness.
- Provide another round of direct reviews. The first round of direct controls reached 5 million Georgians in June 2020 and provided the state with $ 8.4 billion in purchasing power. Additional checks for $ 1,400 would raise $ 7.4 billion for the poorest 60 percent of Georgians, a group whose average annual income is only $ 28,600.
With the labor market shrinking in December 2020 and a report on dismal jobs coming out in January, it is clear that more help will be needed through the recession through 2021. Congress and President Biden need to work quickly to ensure that working class families across the country can make ends meet as the vaccination process continues. Otherwise it would be disastrous for working class families in Georgia.
Ryan Zamarripa is the Assistant Director of Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress. Lily Roberts is the executive director for economic policy at the center.