There are two exciting pieces of news out of Atlanta this week.
On Wednesday, October 14, Governor Brian Kemp announced that up to $1.5 billion in Coronavirus Relief Funds from the CARES Act would be allocated to repay borrowing for the Georgia Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. This repayment will prevent a massive increase in state and federal unemployment taxes, which is vital to the future of Georgia small businesses. This amount is based on an estimate by the Georgia Department of Labor (“DOL”) to respond to the impact of COVID-19 on Georgia’s labor force. This allocation will save the average Georgia employer $350 per employee!
This transfer will prevent what would likely have increased unemployment tax rates for Georgia employers to at least triple the current rates. In addition to this allocation, Governor Kemp has committed up to $400 million of the Coronavirus Relief Funds for FEMA grants, Georgia National Guard expenses, continued hospital staffing increases, and state COVID-19 response expenses. Previously, Governor Kemp has allocated $113 million of CARES Act funds to Georgia nursing homes, $105 million in GEERS funds to support student connectivity and education, and $371 million in direct support to local governments for COVID-19 related expenses. These investments in our communities will be felt by all Georgians, from those on the front lines to those who are at higher risk for COVID-19 to those who own small businesses across the state.
In other positive news, Governor Kemp announced on Thursday, October 15, that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has approved Georgia’s submitted healthcare plan. This plan, called Georgia Pathways and Access, will provide access to health insurance for hundreds of thousands of Georgians for the first time and reduces costs for millions of Georgians statewide. Additionally, this plan will lower the uninsured rate in our state, providing access to preventative healthcare for many who currently do not have that benefit. This new program will increase competition in the insurance marketplace, lower insurance rates, and improve Georgians’ experience when shopping for an insurance plan. CMS has completed its review of Georgia’s 1332 waiver request (Georgia Access) and is working with the state and federal partners to finalize the terms and conditions for approval.
I was proud to vote for Senate Bill 106, the “Patients First Act,” during the 2019 Session, sponsored in the House by Representative Jodi Lott, R.N., from Augusta. The Patients First Act authorized the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) to submit a waiver request to the United States Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services by June 30, 2020. SB 106 also authorizes Governor Kemp to submit a Section 1332 innovation waiver proposal, or multiple thereof, to the United States Secretaries of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Treasury by December 31, 2021. Significant legislation such as SB 106 demonstrates the commitment of the Georgia House Republican Caucus to expanding access to quality healthcare across the state.
Thank you all for allowing me to represent Georgia House District 159. It is truly an honor to work for you and this great state. If you have any feedback, do not hesitate to call (404) 656-5052, email, or engage on Facebook. If you would like to receive email updates, please visit my website to sign up for my newsletter or email me.
Jon Burns represents District 159 in the Georgia General Assembly, where he serves as the House majority leader.