As of Friday, January 29, we successfully completed legislative day eight of 40. Last week we picked up the pace as several House committees held their first meetings, both virtually and in-person, to begin the process of vetting proposed legislation.

In addition to our regularly scheduled meetings our House Appropriations subcommittees were hard at work, passing their respective portions of the Amended Fiscal Year 2021 (AFY 2021) budget. Once finalized, the supplemental budget was sent to the House Rules Committee, the bill’s final stop prior to a full House floor vote. Thursday, January 28, brought passage to House Bill 80, the AFY 2021 budget, which has now been sent to the Senate for review.

2021 AMENDED FISCAL YEAR BUDGET

During the 2020 legislative session, the original Fiscal Year 2021 budget was set using a revenue estimate of $25.9 billion, which reduced funding for all state agencies in preparation for pandemic revenue decline. Fortunately, our state’s economic outlook greatly improved given that state businesses were allowed the option to safely reopen. Subsequently, the House’s version of the AFY 2021 budget was increased by $654.3 million, or 2.4 percent, compared to original projections. Below find a quick highlight of budget changes for the AFY 2021.

K-12 EDUCATION

Like past years, the largest expenditure in the state budget goes towards K-12 education, designating 43.4 percent, of the state’s general funds to educating our children.

•Restores 60 percent of the reduction made in the original projections to the QBE formula.

•$41 million for a midterm adjustment to the QBE formula despite a 2 percent, decline in student enrollment due to the pandemic.

•$144.6 million in federal funds for the Department of Early Care and Learning for the Child Care and Development Block Grants.

Higher Education

•$70.1 million to the University System of Georgia (USG) that was not included in the original 2021 budget.

•Restores $8.1 million, or 60 percent, to the USG programs, such as the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Medical College of Georgia Hospital/Clinic, among others.

•$3.5 million in new funding for enrollment growth at the Technical College System of Georgia.

Health

As the state continues the fight against COVID-19, the House has prioritized funding to support our public health agency as well as other health-focused initiatives.

•$18 million for the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) to replace and modernize its outdated equipment and improve overall infrastructure.

•$285,997 for DPH to hire essential leaders to help navigate the agency’s COVID-19 response.

•$1 billion from federal relief packages to support the DPH in laboratory capacity, COVID-19 vaccine preparedness and public health crisis response.

•$19.3 million to increase the Medicaid growth allowance for skilled nursing centers.

•$1.8 million for the Patients First Act and the state’s 1115 Medicaid waiver, effective July 1, 2021.

•$15.4 million to support the increased utilization of the AIDS Drug Assistance Program during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Human Services

•$130 million in federal relief funds for human service agencies used for a variety of pandemic response-related grants.

•$1.7 million in FMAP savings for a new 10-bed behavioral health crisis center to specifically serve Georgians with a mental health diagnosis and/or an intellectual or developmental disability.

•$4.7 million to the DHS to anticipate an increase in Medicaid services resulting from the Patients First Act.

•$176,500 for the Georgia Multi-Agency Alliance for Children (MAAC) to provide educational services to more than 80 foster children, in addition to the more than 1,700 children already served through this program.

Criminal Justice & Public Safety

•$427,000 to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) for recruitment and retention of medical examiners.

•$223,600 for the GBI to expand the state’s gang database.

•$100 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for public safety agencies to assist in response to the pandemic.

Economic Development & Transportation

•$20 million for the OneGeorgia which will greatly assist rural areas to address broadband needs that are specific to each rural community.

•$25.7 million in CARES Act payments to the Atlanta-region Transit Link Authority.

•$410.8 million in CARES Act funding for the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Airport Aid program.

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

Sadly, many Georgians have experienced unemployment since the start of the pandemic which has greatly overwhelmed resources within the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL). There for, we are glad to report an allocation of $60 million in federal funding for GDOL to address workforce issues resulting from increased workloads.

While we are pleased the AFY 2021 successfully passed the House, we now turn towards the Senate and await their changes and recommendations. In the meantime, we will now begin to further delve into the “Big Budget,” also known as the full 2022 Fiscal Year budget.

COVID-19

As of Friday, January 29, the State of Georgia has administered over two-thirds of shipped doses of COVID-19 vaccine at 67.13 percent, outpacing the national average of 56.66 percent.

"This marks an important milestone in Georgia's vaccination efforts but make no mistake: we are not letting up," said Governor Kemp. "We will continue to work diligently alongside providers and public health facilities across the state to administer this life-saving vaccine quickly and effectively. Together, we will beat this virus and ensure a safe and swift return to normal for the people of Georgia."

As of 6 p.m. on Friday, January 29, Georgia's vaccination numbers were as follows:

•887,399 total doses administered.

•+70,329 doses reported since Thursday, January 28.

•67.13 percent administered of total doses shipped.

To view the Georgia Department of Public Health's COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard, click here.

Please be on the lookout for my Capitol Connection Newsletter as I will continue to update you weekly throughout the session. I promise to continue my work in representing our conservative values. If you have any questions or concerns, my door is always open. You can also email me directly with questions or concerns regarding legislation. Thank you for the tremendous honor of allowing me to serve our home. Until next time...

Chris Erwin serves District 28 in the Georgia House of Representatives, which includes Banks County.

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