Ballot: Georgians need American Rescue Plan funds used on well being care, schooling
A new poll examines how the people of Georgia want the state to spend its $ 4.9 billion on the American bailout plan.
Governor Brian Kemp appointed three committees in June to evaluate proposals and recommend how best to use the funds from the US bailout plan. While the committees focused on water and sanitation infrastructure, broadband infrastructure, and the economic impact of COVID-19, a recent poll shows Georgians want lawmakers to consider health care and education issues.
The University of Georgia School of Public Affairs poll research center conducted the poll, and the Georgia Budget and Policy Center analyzed and published its findings this week.
The state expects to receive about $ 4.7 billion in flexible federal aid that could help offset some of the $ 1.2 billion budget cuts in the state’s education system, GBPI senior policy analyst Danny Kanso said.
The president’s US rescue plan provides for an additional $ 500 million in direct aid to Georgia cities and counties and $ 300 million in infrastructure funding.
“Georgians want us to use whatever funds we have to support measures that will accelerate our recovery and bring prosperity far into the future,” said Kanso. “That means extra funding for K-12 schools, students living in poverty, funding for college students who can’t afford tuition, Medicaid expansion, direct payments to those who need it most, and like us look forward to maintaining new income from these investments in the future. “
Georgia is one of 12 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid yet, and the state had the third highest uninsured population before the pandemic.
Medicaid’s expansion alone would cover nearly 500,000 Georgians and create tens of thousands of jobs, Kanso said.
“Our state could get between $ 1.4 billion and $ 1.9 billion in additional upfront incentives to expand Medicaid,” he said. “This funding would more than cover the cost of expansion, leaving additional funds available to meet the core needs of our healthcare system and to make long-overdue investments.”
However, an expansion of Medicaid in Georgia is unlikely as Republican state officials and lawmakers have refused to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act option to expand insurance for adults living in poverty. Kemp has instead offered the federal government its own partial expansion plan, which is under review by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Biden government has already rejected aspects of the proposal, suggesting the plan will not receive federal approval.
GBPI officials say providing a path to better health care would not only facilitate access to health care in general, but also address the racial gaps exposed and exacerbated by the pandemic.
“We know that in the Georgia gap, about 36% of the people in the Georgia gap are black and 22% are Latinx,” Laura Harker said when the US bailout plan was proposed. “About 60% of the people in the coverage gap are colored people. It’s a big difference that expanding Medicaid would help improve access for people of color in our state. “
The poll shows that the overwhelming majority of Georgians have expressed the need for real and, most importantly, targeted assistance to those who need it most, Kanso said. This means investing in the core areas of health, education and additional direct economic support with the help of aid funds, as well as restoring budget cuts.
While the US bailout offers the state an unprecedented opportunity, federal funding alone will not sustain a lasting recovery, Kanso said.
He suggested looking for new sources of income like the tobacco tax and cutting special interest breaks like the film tax credit.
“We can keep this income and use it for what is most needed in our entire state,” he said.
Some of the funding for education will go to school transportation, for which funding has fallen from around 50% to 20%, said Caitlin Highland, director of strategic communications at GBPI.
“And especially when school districts are underfunded anyway, especially when these schools are facing additional challenges,” said Highland. “We think this is a missed opportunity to support our local schools and the Georgians here clearly agree as over 66% of the people are supportive or supportive of this as well.”
This story comes through a reporting partnership with GPB News on The Current, a nonprofit newsroom that covers the state of Georgia.