One of the things I enjoy most about being a member of the Georgia House of Representatives is to be able to get to know many state employees who faithfully serve you and me in the face of tough budget cutbacks, recessions and public health emergencies.
Their jobs are not glamorous. They're not headline-making. But those folks stick in there every day — like the public health nurse in one south Georgia community who worked 52 days straight without a day off because she wanted to make sure people in her community were able to get tested for COVID-19. She, and others like her in communities throughout Georgia, are still out there doing testing and now giving life-saving vaccines.
People across all of our state agencies, in fact, have managed to keep going day after day no matter what the pandemic has thrown at them. We’ve thanked them, but a recent 90-day extension of the public health emergency has freed up enough federal dollars to give us a welcome opportunity to demonstrate our appreciation to these public servants.
After Gov. Brian Kemp announced that teachers would be getting one-time bonuses of $1,000, we began looking for a way to do the same thing for our other state employees out of the same pool of federal dollars. House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and the governor announced the unexpected bonuses for state employees at a press conference Feb. 11.
The Amended Fiscal Year 2021 budget, which both chambers of the Georgia General Assembly passed the next day, now includes $59.6 million for $1,000 bonuses for 57,159 state employees who earn less than $80,000 annually. I was pleased to see the University System of Georgia quickly follow our lead.
Another highlight of the fifth week of the 2021 legislative session was the announcement of the expansion of rural broadband service across 18 counties in middle Georgia through a new Electric Membership Corporation partnership with Conexon, a full-service fiber broadband provider. This will make high-speed internet available over the next four years to 80,000 homes and businesses that are EMC members. It is the fruit of several years of House efforts to get broadband to underserved rural communities, and I am glad to see it happen.
Thank you for the opportunity to represent District 116. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me at 404-463-2245 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. May God bless you and your family, this wonderful county, our great state, and our nation.