“We rise in glory as we sink in pride.” ~ Andrew Young Big Heart Park sits between Centennial Olympic Park and the hotel district (one block west of the Westin Peachtree Plaza). Andrew Young’s words ...
Art on the Atlanta BeltLine Live Performances: Saira Raza with 10th Letter, Sanam Studio Dancers & Becky Katz performed live at the BeltLine Reynoldstown stage on Saturday September 19. Their performance of Dandelion’s Voyage was an ...
Electrostatic Sprayers Improve Cleaning Process as Authority Prepares for Increase in Service, Ridership By MARTA MARTA has improved the efficiency of its vehicle and facility cleaning as it prepares for an increase in service frequency and ridership. Delta Air Lines has provided MARTA with 50 electrostatic sprayers to more easily and effectively clean MARTA buses, trains, and rail stations. The electrostatic sprayers disperse disinfectant in a fine mist that clings to and sanitizes surfaces without leaving a residue. The 30 handheld and 20 backpack sprayers are being used by trained MARTA maintenance crews to disinfect vehicles and facilities in a fraction of the time needed for a typical wipe down cleaning. “Delta’s willingness to share best practices allowed us to bypass a lengthy procurement process and gain access to this innovative cleaning technology immediately,” said MARTA General Manager and CEO Jeffrey Parker. “We are grateful to our friends at Delta for this state-of-the-art equipment as we work to protect the health of our customers and employees for the duration of the pandemic and beyond.” “MARTA is an important partner and essential service for our community as thousands of employees and customers regularly utilize its services,” said Mike Medeiros, VP – Global Cleanliness for Delta Air Lines. “That’s why we’re proud to work with the MARTA team to share what we’ve learned about keeping customers and employees safe during travel, including sanitizing surfaces onboard aircraft before every flight and in common areas using electrostatic spraying.” MARTA cleans and sanitizes its entire fleet of approximately 500 buses every evening and disinfects high touch surfaces on 200 buses throughout the day. The electrostatic sprayers accelerate this daily cleaning regimen, allowing bus maintenance crews to complete a 5-minute job in under a minute, resulting in more buses being cleaned during their dwell times in rail station bus loops. The disinfectant mist is attracted evenly to all surfaces inside the bus and dries almost instantly so customers may board immediately after a cleaning. The backpack sprayers are especially useful in cleaning MARTA’s fleet of rail cars every evening as the wearable two-and-a-half gallon tanks eliminate the need for constant refills of disinfectant. This enables rail car cleaners to sanitize a 450 foot, 6-car train in under 20 minutes. Currently rail cars are lightly cleaned while in-service; trash collected, spills cleaned up, and operator cabs wiped down, and the goal is to incorporate mid-day sanitizing with the electrostatic sprayers as rail and cleaning staff schedules allow. MARTA’s 38 rail stations are undergoing deep cleaning that consists of pressure washing, floor scrubbing, and disinfecting. The handheld and backpack sprayers make more frequent daily sanitizing of high touch areas in rail stations such as Breeze machines, handrails, and elevator buttons, easier and more efficient than the standard wipe down method. At its lowest point during the pandemic, MARTA rail ridership was down by approximately 80 percent and bus ridership down by 40 percent, resulting in reduced service and more opportunities to clean. As people return to work and recreational activities resume, MARTA anticipates ridership will increase and having the ability to quickly disinfect vehicles and facilities will be paramount to protecting customers and employees. In addition to the electrostatic sprayers, MARTA is exploring the use of other cleaning technology such as using UV light, HVAC filters, and robotic cleaning machines.
Insurance Provider Donates $180,000 to Promote Atlanta’s Economic Stabilization By Metro Atlanta Chamber CareSource, a leading multi-state managed care plan, announced Monday a donation of $180,000 from the CareSource Foundation for the RESTORE ATL Fund, created by the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC). The Fund will support black-owned small and medium-sized businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement was made by Bobby Jones, Georgia market president at CareSource. The RESTORE ATL Fund will provide immediate gap assistance to affected businesses in metro Atlanta through the distribution of grants in the amounts of $5,000-$10,000. The funds can be used for operating expenses including rent, utilities, payroll and other business-related needed. The grants will be reviewed and awarded within two to three weeks of the application deadline of July 6. The Fund builds on the work of MAC’s RESTORE task force, a diverse group of business leaders which aims to provide a blueprint for how metro Atlanta and Georgia might accelerate economic recovery. Applications for the Fund open on Monday, June 22 and will close on Monday, July 6. “While we recognize that this fund will be a small step to restoring our region’s economy, we are proud to build on the work of RESTORE, as well as our understanding of the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on our region’s black community,” said Metro Atlanta Chamber president and CEO Katie Kirkpatrick. “Atlanta has long been known as a place where black entrepreneurs have had success. We want to honor this important part of our legacy and support black-owned businesses. We appreciate the CareSource Foundation for its generous donation as we position our region for the future.” “CareSource’s history of supporting both the health of our members and the surrounding communities made our choice to support small businesses with the RESTORE ATL Fund an obvious decision,” added Jones. “We are proud to support our fellow Georgians through these unprecedented times as a partner of the Metro Atlanta Chamber.” MAC established the RESTORE task force in April to deliver a comprehensive list of policy solutions that federal, state and/or local governments in Georgia can apply to rapidly recover from the economic recession. The group took on this important task while prioritizing the health of Georgia’s families and neighbors, and taking into account the state’s most vulnerable populations. The Dayton-based health plan has pivoted their charitable resources to support both front line health care providers, to meet the variable community needs around social determinants of health and, most recently, to support small businesses in their local markets. Last month, CareSource, in collaboration with the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, announced a program to support Dayton local businesses affected by the economic disruption amid the pandemic. This economic program is being replicated in CareSource’s four additional markets. For more information on the RESTORE ATL Fund please visit: https://www.metroatlantachamber.com/restore-atl-fund About CareSource CareSource is a leading nonprofit multi-state health plan serving government sponsored programs and is nationally recognized as an industry leader in providing member-centric health care coverage. Founded in 1989, CareSource administers one of the nation’s largest Medicaid managed care plans. Today, CareSource offers individuals and families comprehensive health and life services including Marketplace and Medicare Advantage plans. Headquartered in Dayton, Ohio, CareSource serves over 1.8 million members in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia and Georgia. CareSource understands the challenges consumers face navigating the health system and works to put health care in reach for those it serves. For more, visit caresource.com, follow @caresource on Twitter, or like CareSource on Facebook. About the Metro Atlanta Chamber The Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) serves as a catalyst for a more prosperous and vibrant region. To advance economic growth and improve metro Atlanta’s quality of place, MAC is focused on starting, growing and recruiting companies to the 29-county metro Atlanta region. The Chamber is also focused on growing the region’s innovation economy by promoting and strengthening connections to drive Atlanta’s innovation and entrepreneurial culture. MAC is committed to being an active voice for the business community, serving as an advocate for a competitive business climate and telling Atlanta’s story. For more information, visit www.metroatlantachamber.com Media Contacts: Natalie Jones Senior Manager of Marketing, Brand Communications [email protected] ; 404-586-8458 Joseph Kelley Manager, Media Relations [email protected] ; 513-509-8466 This is sponsored content provided by Metro Atlanta Chamber.
Joe Evans, Chairman, The Buckhead Coalition, and Jim Durrett, President, The Buckhead Coalition The irreplaceable Sam Massell announced in January his retirement from the presidency of the Buckhead Coalition, an organization that he co-founded and subsequently led for over three decades. He had the wisdom and forethought in the fall of 2019 to appoint a Succession Committee, chaired by Dave Stockert, that would be tasked with planning the future of the Coalition in a post-Sam environment. When the committee first set about its work in February, COVID was just beginning to be discussed as a health problem in China, stock markets were at all-time highs, and March Madness was just around the corner. As the group proceeded with its work, COVID evolved into a worldwide pandemic and the economy ground to a halt. Stress from the pandemic-triggered unemployment, business losses, school closings, event cancellations, and disruptions to daily life was then ratcheted even higher by tragic killings and social unrest as we haven’t seen since the late 1960s. It was in this environment that the Succession Committee of the Buckhead Coalition decided to take a fresh look at why the organization exists and what its role in the community of Buckhead and the greater community of Atlanta should be going forward. That has led us to forge a closer relationship with the Buckhead CID, Livable Buckhead, and the Buckhead Business Association as a first step in bringing the broader Buckhead community more closely together and to speak with a more coordinated voice. While the Buckhead Coalition was founded to primarily represent the business interests in Buckhead, the events of late have been a profound reminder that business interests and community interests are inseparable. No one can have a prosperous business in a community that does not experience broad-based prosperity. That need for broad-based prosperity does not stop at the delineated boundaries of Buckhead. Buckhead is an interdependent part of Atlanta, and interdependency is a two-way street. We believe that as we become more aware of the challenges in other parts of Atlanta and support our neighbors in addressing them, that the Buckhead community will benefit from broader city-wide support for its own specific concerns. It has come to our attention that there has been recent conversation in social media regarding the establishment of Buckhead as a city separate from the City of Atlanta. In response to a number of inquiries as to the Buckhead Coalition’s position on this, we issue the following statement: The Buckhead Coalition has historically opposed the incorporation of Buckhead into a separate city, and the Coalition leadership would like at this time to reaffirm that stance. Our partnering organizations – the Buckhead Community Improvement District, Livable Buckhead and Buckhead Business Association – share this vision. Now, as much as at any time in our history, we believe Atlantans need to come together across racial, geographic, and economic differences to find common ground and build a more unified community. The Buckhead Coalition is committed to working with City Government to ensure that the businesses and residents of our City are supported with the necessary municipal services and to build a more cohesive, equitable, safe, and prosperous city for all.
By Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, Inc., (ANDPI) NeighborWorks® America, the nation’s leading network of nonprofit community development organizations, is set to release its expanded annual housing and financial capability survey on Thursday, July 16. The 2019 survey found that vast majority of Americans say owning a home increases financial stability, but when it comes to priorities, minorities are more concerned about meeting everyday obligations, bills and paying off debt than putting away funds for a home down payment. Last year’s survey findings include: Overall, black and Hispanic people report more vulnerability and less cash on hand than whites. 21% of black people said their most important financial goal for 2019 is to pay bills and everyday expenses, with 6% ranking saving for a home as their number one financial goal. Among Hispanic people, 20% said paying down credit card debt is their top financial goal for 2019. Eight percent ranked saving for a down payment to buy a home as most important. Eight out of ten Americans are unaware of any programs that provide information about the home buying process. 60 percent of black and Hispanic people say they would be interested in financial planning classes that would help them improve their financial situation compared to 46 percent of all U.S. adults. The 2020 survey to be released later this week was taken in May and will capture the pulse of Americans in light of overlapping crises of the pandemic and the heightened national conversation on racial injustice and inequity. Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, Inc. (ANDP) is part of the national NeighborWorks network, an affiliation of nearly 250 nonprofit organizations located in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. In fiscal year 2019, the NeighborWorks network provided 457,200 housing and counseling services; owned and managed 173,700 rental homes, and created 47,100 jobs. In the last five years, NeighborWorks network organizations have generated more than $34 billion in investment across the country. The NeighborWorks network was founded and is supported by NeighborWorks America, which creates opportunities for people to live in affordable homes, improve their lives, and strengthen their communities. More online at www.neighborworks.org.
By Michael Halicki, Park Pride Executive Director As our world has been thrown into chaos through a public health crisis and with racial injustice at the forefront, parks are among the few places people can go to achieve some semblance of balance, normalcy, and sanctuary. Or, at least that should be the case. Too often, studies have found that disenfranchised neighborhoods lack equitable access to parks and natural areas. Certain historical markers in parks can and do make many Black people and people of color feel uncomfortable and unsafe. And we have seen even more glaring examples of racism taking place in parks recently, like that experienced by Christian Cooper in New York’s Central Park. So, as we think about the need to build a more just and equitable society, local parks are a critical piece of this picture. Everyone deserves a quality park where they live. Parks should be safe, clean, and accessible to all. Parks should reflect each community’s unique character and meet their needs. For over 30 years, Park Pride has been working to make quality parks accessible for all communities. One of the most meaningful ways we do this is through our grantmaking program (made possible with funding from Atlanta’s philanthropic community) which supports park improvements awarded to local Friends of the Park groups and conservancies. The engagement of local communities is a critical component of our grant program; the community, after all, knows best what they need and what park improvements will help them achieve their goals. Beyond the physical changes, successful grant projects strengthen relationships between communities, their parks department, and their elected officials. We are building more than parks. We are building trust. Park Pride has always strived to distribute our grants broadly throughout our service area. The accompanying map shows the distribution of grants awarded within the City of Atlanta from 2004 to the present. The “growth line” (first introduced as part of Atlanta City Design, 2017) demarcates areas of strong or stable growth (above the growth line) and those areas of low or no growth (below the line). It would be a mistake not to acknowledge the racial and economic dimension of the growth line: areas north of the growth line tend to be whiter and include more middle and upper income areas, and areas south of the growth line tend to be middle and lower income areas comprised of higher percentages of Black residents and people of color. The map shows that over the course of our grant program, 65 Friends of the Park groups located north of the growth line received grants from Park Pride totaling $4.3M; and 65 Friends of the Park groups located south of the growth line received grants totaling $4.0M. We know that there is a need for Park Pride to play a larger role in communities with greater economic challenges, and we have a history of raising additional philanthropic dollars to support these communities. Since 2005, Park Pride has raised an additional $4.5M in philanthropic support for park improvements in Atlanta with $4.3M (96 percent) going to parks south of the growth line. Noteworthy examples of this support include Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park on the Westside, Coan Park on the Eastside, and Adams Park and Collier Heights Park in the Southwest. However, conversations that began in “Undoing Racism” workshops (conducted by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond) and that have continued through Park Pride’s ongoing work with a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) consultant (Dr. Dietra Hawkins at Both And Partners), indicate that there is more we can do. Changes are needed within the grantmaking program. To date, a hallmark of Park Pride’s grantmaking program has been our matching component, which required communities to leverage our grant dollars to raise additional funds. Since 2004, $9M in Park Pride grant awards (which includes funding $650k in our other jurisdictions) have been matched with nearly $30M from local, public, and private sources, for a total of roughly $40M in community-driven park improvements. However, the structure of our grant program and its matching grant requirement has proven to be a barrier for many communities (a reality that we attempted to circumvent by raising additional philanthropic dollars—the $4.2M referenced above—outside our grant programs to support community-led efforts in under-resourced communities). But now, with the support of our Legacy Grant funder, the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, we have taken the next step to change the structure of the program. Moving forward, we will deploy 1/3 of our grant dollars through awards that waive the matching requirement for Friends of the Park groups in low-income neighborhoods within the City of Atlanta.* Working together with local communities, philanthropic supporters, and government partners, I am confident we can build upon Park Pride’s work connecting communities to their parks and we can do so in ways that are responsive and supportive of considerations of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We will continue to refine our programs and to make them more accessible to communities in each of our jurisdictions. We will also look to diversify our board and staff and explore other ways to make Park Pride more accessible to all communities. Parks present an increasingly crucial opportunity to bring communities together. We invite you to join us in this effort. PS: Presently, the City of Atlanta is working on ActivateATL: Recreation and Parks for All (a Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Master Plan) that prioritizes equity in the plan’s outreach, development and implementation. I would encourage you to take the survey and to attend one or more of the virtual public meetings to ensure your voice is heard. *These neighborhoods will be defined by the Community Development Impact Areas where at least 51 percent of the population are at or below 80% of the Atlanta area median income.
By Operation HOPE For many Americans, navigating the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is overwhelming. We are proud to serve as a financial advocate and intermediary for these affected homeowners, renters, and small business owners in facilitating financial recovery. Since our HOPE Inside Disaster COVID-19 response began five weeks ago, we have provided over 14,500 virtual financial recovery services, including credit and money management coaching, small business counseling and loan application assistance, and mortgage and student loan deferment. Many thanks to our corporate and alliance partners for their ongoing support! Organizations that wish to provide financial or in-kind support to HOPE Inside Disaster may contact Mary Ehrsam, President of HOPE Partnerships, at [email protected] Last week, our response efforts were featured by several mainstream news outlets. On Wednesday, Chairman John Hope Bryant joined host Gayle King on “CBS This Morning” to discuss the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on the financial health of minority communities. Click the video below to watch Chairman Bryant speak on the ongoing work of Operation HOPE and our response to the coronavirus pandemic. Find more resources at www.hopeinsidecovid19.org
Introduction to Global Health Action In 1972, Dr. Ada Fort and Miss Virginia Proctor, two administrators at Emory University’s Woodruff School of Nursing, recruited and inspired a group of leaders from Atlanta’s health, religious, business, and education communities, to establish Global Health Action’s precursor, the International Nursing Services Association (INSA). Founded to help foster healthier communities around the world, INSA initially focused on health education and management training for nurses from developing countries. The idea was to not only improve the participants’ technical skills but, more importantly, to build their administrative and leadership skills enabling them to return to their home countries and multiply their impact within the communities they served. In 1993, the organization’s name was changed to Global Health Action (GHA) to better reflect the organization’s broader purpose and global outreach. Today, GHA builds on this history by linking evidence to policy and practice, expanding the knowledge and effectiveness of in-country health leadership, and by promoting community-driven solutions for addressing barriers to health, both locally and globally. GHA’s programs invest in affected communities with education, resources, and tools for mobilization and sustainable community-led solutions. GHA’s work consists of working alongside communities to identify and address the deeply rooted barriers to health for all. GHA currently is working in the US, the Caribbean, SubSaharan Africa, and Asia. Background 7% of Georgia’s general population have a serious mental illness compared to the population of Georgia’s Correctional Institutions which reports 17% of its population having a serious mental illness. Georgia moved its Pardons and Parole, which had been a separate state department, to fall within the Department of Corrections [and renamed it the Department of Community Supervision (DCS)]. Individual counties are adjusting their budgets and personnel to maintain the unique Community Coordinator positions, which are responsible for fostering maximum service provider coordination for returning citizens. According to Mental Health America of Georgia, Georgia’s overall mental health system ranks 34th in the US, and 6 of 10 young persons with clinical depression do not receive treatment. Most of Georgia’s Criminal Justice/Corrections improvements have focused on post-arrest with the exception of Fulton County which has a pilot pre-arrest program. For a jurisdiction to re-orient to a pre-arrest focus, there must be an adequate and integrated behavioral health, physical health and social services infrastructure. Georgia is currently lacking this. The current professional, institutional and general citizenry cultures are not reoriented to a bifurcated focus on restorative justice in the pre- and post-arrest arenas. Solution GHA, National Incarceration Association, Mental Health Alliance, Legal Action Center, Southern Center for Human Rights, Georgia Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Golden Memorial United Methodist Church partnered to conduct the No Health=No Justice series of community conversations (in Atlanta, Douglasville and Macon). The Georgia No Health=No Justice campaign is focused on helping state and local jurisdictions to prioritize health and mental health care as the primary response to decrease incarceration and recidivism in Georgia. As a follow up to the GHA co-sponsored Families Impacted by Incarceration event in April of 2018, and in alignment with the goal to conduct a Health Impact Assessment, GHA and lead partner National Incarceration Association saw this campaign as a strategic opportunity to combine and extend efforts to begin to collect data and generate community level conversations on the impacts of incarceration on families. The Legal Action Center’s No Health = No Justice Campaign, a multi state advocacy and organizing campaign to ground decarceration efforts in ensuring that people are no longer prosecuted and criminalized for their health needs, but are instead provided with real access to care. The campaign highlights the intersection of historic and ongoing racism in the health care and criminal justice systems, directly linking health inequities to the over-criminalization and disproportionate incarceration of Black and Latinx individuals. Together, these forms of discrimination continue to make life difficult and disempowering for many people of color and profoundly affect their communities. Justice means making sure people and communities are no longer criminalized for health-related conditions. Impact The partnership collectively facilitated local audiences of impacted individuals and their families, local organizations providing best practices, service providers (such as Grady Health, River-Edge, Douglas Community Service Board – all of whom are state or county contractors), and government agencies, including Department of Community Supervision, law enforcement, judges, district attorneys and public defenders, along with other community stakeholders. These intimate, highly interactive conversations allowed for honest open dialogue about what is working and where the gaps are in Georgia communities. In all three Georgia counties (Fulton, Bibb, and Douglas), stakeholder participants committed to working together to address the “silos problem” and identified a list of other solutions to improve health and justice in the community. These community-generated suggestions include: Increase and expand training on de-escalation tactics and other mental health crises management for all first responders (law enforcement and emergency personnel) and community supervision officers Create community wellness and safety centers to provide health and behavioral/mental health crisis management services, so law enforcement can escort individuals with immanent needs to appropriate services (diagnostic, treatment) instead of arresting them or burdening hospitals Increase and improve public transportation systems so more people can get to work and to treatment Provide more mental health crisis management training to family members Increase public service announcements (PSAs) to publicize the availability of publicly funded behavioral health services in the community, and to counter stigma/negative public perceptions of behavioral health challenges Fund incentives for persons to become educated in psychiatry in Georgia Colleges and Universities and then remain in Georgia, and to increase training for certification for more peer support specialists and health navigators Increase funding for Community Service Boards to provide prevention and pre-arrest services Increase access to affordable housing for families of incarcerated individuals and for formerly incarcerated people and their families Create strong practitioner coalitions to advocate for these policy changes at the state level Get Involved! In this time of unprecedented need, we ask that you join us at GHA to effect and sustain …
By Paul Donsky The news is dizzying these days, as we face a global pandemic and a recession. It can be hard to make sense of what’s happening. That’s frustrating for all of us, but especially challenging for metro Atlanta leaders who are working to respond to the crises and craft a path forward. Several new data tools from the Atlanta Regional Commission and Neighborhood Nexus put a local focus on the fast-evolving situation while helping to foster greater understanding and better decision-making. Read on.
By Eric Tanenblatt, Edward Lindsey, Elmer Stancil, Dan Baskerville, Samuel Olens, Sharon Gay and Crawford G. Schneider, Dentons After a COVID-19 induced hiatus the General Assembly returned to Atlanta for a two week sprint to Sine Die. While the main focus was passing a budget under significant revenue shortfalls the General Assembly was able to pass several other pieces of legislation including a historic hate crimes bill, surprise billing restrictions and two constitutional amendments among others. Now that the 2020 session has officially ended legislators will start ramping up for what is sure to be a contentious election season. 1. Budget The Georgia General Assembly temporarily adjourned in March without fulfilling its one constitutional obligation — passing a budget. They completed that task as the 2020 special session closed, a day before the start of the new fiscal year. Gov. Brian Kemp promptly signed the budget for Fiscal Year 2021 on Tuesday June 30th finalizing the state’s $26 billion spending plan which includes about $2.2 billion in cuts. Some highlights of the updated budget include: K-12 PUBLIC EDUCATION $950 million cut from the Quality Basic Education program, the formula used to calculate state spending for K-12 public education $142 million added for enrollment growth and teacher training $8.8 million added to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement HIGHER EDUCATION $242 million cut to schools in the University System of Georgia and $36 million cut to schools in the Technical College System of Georgia 12 percent cut to Adult Education 11 percent cut to agricultural programs including the Cooperative Extension Service $11 million in cuts to Dual Enrollment expected from the 30-hour cap and limits on courses students can take created in HB 444 $1 million added to the REACH Georgia scholarship program, a needs-based mentoring and scholarship program; all other state-funded scholarships will see a 10 percent cut BEHAVIORAL HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES $91 million cut to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities budget $22.7 million cut to child and adolescent mental health services, including prevention programs and supported education and employment services $7.2 million cut to adult mental health services, including cuts to core behavioral health services, reductions in peer workforce training and services and cuts to housing vouchers for people with mental illnesses $5.7 million cut to adult substance abuse services, mostly for funds that would expand residential treatment services COMMUNITY HEALTH Total state funding increased by $178 million, mostly to account for higher projected growth for Medicaid $19.7 million added to provide six months of Medicaid coverage for new mothers; this coverage extension must still receive federal approval $12 million added to increase funding available for Rural Hospital Stabilization grants PUBLIC HEALTH $8.2 million in cuts to the Department of Public Health budget Funding restored for grants to local health departments $2.3 million reduction in funding for trauma center readiness and uncompensated care HUMAN SERVICES $34 million cut to the Department of Human Services (DHS) budget $46 million cut in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds $3.7 million in cuts to vacant positions in child welfare $3 million in cuts to vacant positions at the state office for DHS 2. Hate Crimes Bill On Friday June 26th, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a hate-crimes measure into law. As such, Georgia is no longer on the ever-shrinking list of states without hate crime legislation. The law allows for enhanced criminal penalties to be levied against those who target their victims on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, sex, national origin, religion, or physical or mental disability. The bill cleared the final hurdle after Senate leaders abandoned efforts to treat police officers as a protected class. The Hate Crimes Bill passed the legislature on a wave of public support led by Georgia’s most significant businesses and political leaders. The Dentons Public Policy team played a leading role in the effort as lobbyists for the Anti-Defamation League. 3. Safe Harbor Bill Georgia will join a short list of states that are proactively protecting businesses from civil liability related to the COVID-19 virus. Senate Bill 359 passed both houses of the state legislature and now awaits the signature of the Governor. The liability legislation would let Georgia businesses and hospitals waive liability for coronavirus-related claims so long as they post certain warning signs except in cases where the entity is found to have committed “gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm.” 4. Fee Dedication This November, Georgia voters will decide on a constitutional amendment that would give lawmakers the power to require fees be spent for the purpose that they were originally dedicated. This issue is often referred to in the context of tire fees. If you buy a new tire in Georgia, there’s a $1 fee that gets tacked onto the bill, called the Scrap Tire Management Fee. It’s supposed to go toward cleaning up illegal tire dumps in the state and other recycling and trash programs. But often, lawmakers have directed more than $50 million from the scrap tire fee to Georgia’s general fund, according to the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG), which is Georgia’s county association. The same can be said about the fee that the state collects at landfills. The money is intended for hazardous waste site cleanup, but according to the ACCG, about $100 million from that fund has ended up in the general fund in the past 10 years. The constitutional amendment, if approved by voters, would give lawmakers the power to specifically dedicate certain tax dollars to specific uses. 5. Sovereign Immunity In addition to the constitutional amendment on fee dedication, Georgians will also vote on whether to make it easier to sue the state and local governments under a proposed constitutional amendment given final passage Tuesday by the state House. The lawmakers were reacting, in part, to a state Supreme Court decision that state and local governments can only be sued if they have waived a legal doctrine called sovereign immunity. The amendment would allow Georgians to sue in state court to protect their …
By United Way of Greater Atlanta Nearly 500,000 children in Greater Atlanta live in communities that lack the basic opportunities and resources that all children and families need to thrive. These communities are in zip codes where the majority of residents are people of color. These are also communities where COVID-19 hit hardest, exposing the health and economic disparities resulting from years of disinvestment and structural racism. The current spotlight on these disparities and recent civil unrest has created new momentum to address racial inequities and an opportunity to convert the moment into a turning point for advancing deep and widescale changes. In response, United Way of Greater Atlanta has created the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund to tackle the systemic issues underlying the correlation between race and zip codes, place and equity. “The urgency for racial equity embedded in this historic moment requires innovative strategies coupled with courageous action,” said Nathaniel Smith, Founder and Chief Equity Officer for the Partnership for Southern Equity. “The establishment of the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund adds significant momentum towards the realization of a more just and inclusive Greater Atlanta. The journey towards racial equity for current and future generations is a difficult path to follow. It is encouraging to witness United Way’s decision to choose a path seldom taken by our local civic leadership. I encourage others to choose this pilgrimage with us.” United Way’s Board of community volunteers made the decision to match the first $1 million in donations to the fund to demonstrate their strong belief in the importance of its charter and its consistency with United Way’s Child Well-Being mission: to ensure that every child has the opportunity to reach his or her potential. Since 2016, United Way of Greater Atlanta has been laser focused on addressing the reasons why Greater Atlanta sits at the bottom of the list of U.S. cities in terms of opportunity for social and economic mobility. A 2019 Bloomberg report named Atlanta “the capital of U.S. inequality” for the second year in a row. “Zip code should not be destiny,” has been a guiding force for the organization’s homelessness, human trafficking, early learning, and workforce development priorities. “The correlation between race, zip codes and its effect on child well-being makes it critical for United Way to address place and racial equity strategically,” said Katrina D. Mitchell, Chief Community Impact Officer at United Way of Greater Atlanta. “The decisions and actions we make today will significantly shape the future. It is our vision that this fund will invest in structural solutions to catalyze effective, long-lasting change, address the root causes of racial inequity and prioritize hope, healing, and care during an unprecedented time.” Funds will be invested in organizations in Greater Atlanta that are primarily focused on racial inequity challenges in their communities and on a regional level. Priority will be given to organizations: Led by (executive leadership, staff, board) and focused on Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities most directly impacted by structural racism That are leading policy and advocacy efforts that intersect with on-the-ground civic engagement that is focused on people of color That prioritize youth voices and take a multi-generational approach Working on or adjacent to Racial Justice Efforts Fund investments will be guided by an advisory committee and will utilize a racial equity impact analysis to aid in grant decisions. Raphael Bostic, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta (FRBA), and United Way of Greater Atlanta Board member, is a key supporter of the new fund and its timeliness. As Bostic said in an essay for a recent FRBA report, “Systemic racism is a yoke that drags on the American economy. By limiting economic and educational opportunities for a large number of Americans, institutionalized racism constrains this country’s economic potential. This country has both a moral and economic imperative to end these unjust and destructive practices.” To donate to the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund, click here.
The COVID-19 Health Equity Dashboard, developed by Emory University, allows users to compare counties within the same state, aggregating key metrics that tell a story of a community’s social and economic health. By Emory University Although COVID-19 has swept across the entire country, its burden has not been spread equally. Some communities—particularly those with a large minority population—suffer high infection rates, hospitalizations, and deaths. To shine a light on the virus’ differential impact, researchers at Emory University have developed the COVID-19 Health Equity Dashboard. “Our goal was to go beyond describing COVID-19 incidence in communities. We wanted to fill in the gaps about the interplay between the health outcomes and the underlying social determinants and other vulnerabilities, such as diabetes and obesity,” says Shivani A. Patel, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of global health at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health who leads the team that developed the dynamic dashboard. On the homepage, users can see a snapshot of COVID-19 deaths across the country. Selecting a state brings up a map displaying COVID-19 mortality by county. Drilling down, users can select a county to see how it compares to the rest of the state and to the country in average daily cases and deaths, and in social characteristics, such as percentage of residents who are African-American, percentage who live in poverty, percentage who are obese, percentage who have diabetes, and more. The dashboard allows users to compare counties within the same state, aggregating key metrics that tell a story of a community’s social and economic health. For each state, dashboard users can select a COVID-19 outcome measure—total, average, or per-100,000 cases COVID-19 cases or deaths—and a social determinants measure—household income, population density, percentage African American, among others. The result is side-by-side color-coded maps that allow users to visualize the relationship between the virus’s health impact and social determinants of health at a county level. Going forward, Patel and her team plan to parse that data into a sub-county level to see how communities within the country are being impacted differently. In Georgia, for example, Patel is working with the Georgia Department of Public Health to break down COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths by demographic categories, such as race, age, and neighborhood. “We see this as an evolving resource for a variety of audiences, including policy makers, public health practitioners, researchers, and maybe even clinicians,” says Patel. “This dashboard could help officials assess whether local response to COVID is equitable across communities, and tailor response accordingly. It will provide quick access to data to decide where it’s feasible to open business back up and where it’s not. Where should testing sites be located? When a vaccine becomes available, which populations should be prioritized? “There is no one-size-fits-all approach to combat this pandemic,” Patel continues. “To predict how it will unfold and to prepare for the future, it’s critical to understand the underlying risk factors that lead to higher incidence and mortality.” This is sponsored content.
By Blythe Keeler Robinson, President and CEO, Sheltering Arms It’s been a year like no other. In the midst of a global pandemic, child care centers and schools across the country shut their doors with three months left in the school year. Although everyone’s circumstance is different, families and educators alike have done their best to navigate this unprecedented time to keep children engaged through remote learning. Now that summer is officially here, there is the added concern of the “summer slide,” an unsettling notion for many parents, especially those whose little ones are entering Kindergarten in the fall. According to a new study by EmpowerK12, metro Atlanta students have fallen behind in math and English since schools closed and lessons have moved online. Parents are now trying to figure out what can be done to minimize the loss. Learning experts believe that one of the best things parents can do is engage with their children – in particular, helping them cultivate reading habits and asking questions before, during and after reading time. The reality for some, though, is that they are exhausted with demands from work, children and the overall weight of the pandemic. Many are still facing challenges that make learning support next to impossible. There are households that still do not have access to the internet or devices for children to view and participate in online activities. Some working parents simply can’t provide the time or guidance needed. And there is a population of parents who are just trying get through this very difficult time, and learning loss is not top of mind. Childcare centers and schools are doing what they can to use summer months to make up for lost time. Sheltering Arms reopened our doors on June 22 to welcome children back. In addition to our summer enrichment program, we offer a summer transition program, funded through the Department of Early Care and Learning, to help children prepare for Kindergarten. Other organizations in the city have programs in place that can curb learning loss: the Atlanta Summer Program Leaders Collective offers virtual STEAM and literacy camps for children as young as Pre-K; United Way’s Learning Spaces offers a plethora of short video lessons online for children up to age five; and the Atlanta Speech School provides free video-based lessons through Cox Campus. Experts say it is difficult to predict how missing months of school could impact student achievement. In the fall, Sheltering Arms will be conducting a general observation to establish a baseline for COVID-related learning loss. However, the focus will be on assessing where our children are academically, socially and emotionally, finding out what their COVID experience has been, making sure they are psychologically safe with a ready-to-learn mind frame, and then, tailoring our early learning curriculum to meet them right where they are. We all want to see our city’s children thrive, especially during these times. Knowledge is power. We can do our part to empower and support families by sharing information and connecting them to resources that could help them overcome some of their most urgent and overwhelming needs. This may be what frees them up so they can shift their focus to ways they can be more of a support for children at home. It takes a village…and it starts one step at a time.