Learn4Life’s State of Education 2021 reveals a concerning trend: metro Atlanta students experienced interrupted learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Eighth grade math proficiency dropped 14 points from the 2018/19 academic year to the 2020/21 academic year. Reading proficiency has also declined since the 2018/19 academic year, reversing progress made in the year prior to the pandemic. Teacher burnout has exacerbated challenges in education, making it likely that learning loss will have lasting effects and be difficult to reverse.
Emsi Burning Glass recently released a report analyzing the shifting trends in rural and urban job postings. They found:
- 3 of the top 10 counties in the nation with the highest growth in job postings were in Georgia. Madison, Putnam, and Franklin Counties ranked 2nd, 4th, and 5th, respectively.
- 90% of the top 50 counties with the highest growth in job postings were rural.
- Rural jobs have experienced major growth in high-tech skills.
- Remote work has allowed for traditionally urban opportunities to move outside of urban areas.
- Job growth in rural areas has supported wage growth.
The Nonprofit Finance Fund surveyed 1,100 nonprofit leaders about the impact of the last two years on their organizations.
- 71% of survey respondents saw an increase in service demand during the pandemic
- Almost twice as many Black-led organizations (49%) were impacted a great deal by the events surrounding the murder of George Floyd versus all organizations (28%)
- 88% of nonprofits changed the way they work
- 51% think changes are permanent
- The top three staffing challenges were employing enough staff to do all the work (55%), offering competitive pay (51%), and staff burnout (36%)
Read the full findings of NFF’s 2022 State of the Nonprofit Sector report.
Both the pandemic and higher prices have increased reliance on nonprofits. The Atlanta Community Food Bank’s (ACFB) President and CEO Kyle Waide said, “The current challenges that we’re all experiencing with higher prices, for gas, for food, for supplies, are causing demand for food assistance to increase and it’s making it more expensive and more challenging for the food bank to respond to that demand.” With high inflation and increasing demand for their services, ACFB’s food costs are 30% higher this year than last year.
Atlanta recently conducted its annual “Point in Time” count to evaluate the number of homeless individuals in the city. The count was canceled in 2021 due to the pandemic, but 3,240 people were counted in the city of Atlanta in 2020. The official numbers for the 2022 count will not be released until later in the year, but recent trends have shown that the pandemic may have worsened homelessness. Recently, more people have been sleeping outdoors rather than in shelters. In Atlanta, there are 2,800 beds available in shelters, but many individuals have turned down a bed due to COVID-19 concerns. Another new trend has emerged: there are more individuals that are newly homeless than ever before. There is some good news, though. As many as 700 previously homeless individuals were able to secure stable housing with pandemic-relief funding.
Takeaway: Reducing homelessness in the wake of the pandemic will rely on improved housing aid and policy as well as creative sheltering options to safely house individuals.
Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education (GPEE) recently released their report listing the top ten issues to watch in 2022. The report highlights the lasting effects of the pandemic on education, especially for Georgia’s most vulnerable populations including students of color, low-income youth, rural residents, workers lacking postsecondary training, and adults caring for children and elders. GPEE is focusing on equity as the state recovers from the pandemic, and the list of ten issues to watch serves as a starting point for GPEE’s goal of ensuring 65% of GA’s residents aged 25-64 will hold a postsecondary credential by 2032. The ten issues are:
- Equity – Shifting Mindset and Strategy
- Unfinished Instruction – Equity through Acceleration
- Non-Academic Barriers – The School’s Role
- Improving School Culture – The Imperative of School Leaders
- Funding – School Transformation on a Deadline
- Accountability – What’s the Future?
- Early Learning – Protecting Investments in Early Learners
- Revamping the Teaching Profession – A New Moonshot
- Workforce Readiness – A Strategy that Pays Off
- Rural Transformation – From the Inside Out
The Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) is one of the newest restaurant associations in the US. The GRA was created 19 years ago to advocate, educate, and create awareness about restaurants in the state. The Georgia restaurant industry is the second largest public sector employer with more than half a million workers in nearly 19,000 locations. GRA’s President & CEO, Karen Bremer, recently spoke to Metro Atlanta CEO about supporting the restaurant industry during the pandemic. Karen remarked that the pandemic initially devastated restaurants, but they have adapted to stay open while keeping employees and customers safe. Further, the GRA has advocated for pandemic-relief legislation at the state and federal level to keep Georgia’s restaurant industry thriving.
In the last few weeks, the number of COVID cases rose by 153%, hospital admissions rose 62%, and deaths from COVID rose 27% according to Amber Schmidtke’s latest COVID Digest. Additionally, the number of positive PCR tests rose from 5.7% to 32.6%. Cases and hospitalizations are rising for all age groups, but individuals aged 18-29 have had the sharpest increase in cases and hospitalizations. Metro Atlanta leads the current surge in cases whereas previous surges, such as the Delta wave in August-September 2021, had a greater proportional effect on rural areas. The current surge has been exacerbated by individuals gathering to celebrate the holidays, and cases are expected to continue increasing throughout January. This will likely strain hospitals which are already struggling due to lack of staffing.
Takeaway: Stronger public health measures, including improved vaccination and booster rates, will be necessary to curb the current rise in COVID-19 cases.
This year’s Metro Atlanta Speaks (MAS) survey, the largest public opinion survey in the Atlanta region, showed that 23.9% of respondents reported receiving food from a food bank compared to 17.9% of respondents in 2020. United Way’s 2-1-1 call data, however, found that fewer people were calling to request information about food pantries in 2021 than at the start of the pandemic. Calls about food pantries peaked in March 2020 at 2,255 calls. Comparatively, food pantry calls averaged around 700 calls per month in 2021. This could indicate that many families were concerned about needing to use a food pantry after the initial shock of the pandemic, but actually continued to need assistance over one year into the pandemic.
Takeaway: The increased use of food banks in 2021 indicates the need for a more aggressive approach to addressing income inequality.
A recent Eviction Lab analysis monitoring more than 30 cities across the country found that eviction filings increased after the CDC moratorium ended in August but remained lower than pre-pandemic levels. Atlanta was not one of the cities included in the Eviction Lab analysis, but data from the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Atlanta Region Eviction Tracker show that Atlanta also followed this trend. The five core metro Atlanta counties averaged 7,500 evictions during the moratorium compared to 10,000, on average, in the three months since the moratorium ended. Comparatively, there were around 13,000 evictions during the same time span in 2019. Eviction tracking data might not tell the whole story, though. Eviction trackers can only monitor cases filed in court. Displacement due to lease expiration, illegal evictions, or other informal methods may have become more common since the start of the moratorium, especially for undocumented individuals who wish to remain out of the court system.
Takeaway: Emergency rental assistance and awareness efforts should target renters vulnerable to informal evictions.
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion has decreased by 4% during the past year. The pandemic has likely contributed to this decrease since students have had limited social support from peers and school staff to help them navigate the complex financial aid process. The drop in completions was especially pronounced in high-poverty schools which completed 27% less applications than other schools. FAFSA completion increases postsecondary enrollment from 55% to 90% and increases postsecondary persistence by 4% per $1000 in financial aid. Low-income students are disproportionately missing out on these benefits (Learn4Life).
Takeaway: Building capacity and opportunities for postsecondary enrollment and financial aid support should be prioritized in economically disadvantaged schools.
Recently, the US government announced that deaths due to drug overdose surpassed 100,000 during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the largest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12 month period. It is estimated that 19 in 100,000 people in Georgia died from an overdose, ranking the state 39th in overdose death rate. The Appalachian region suffered from the highest rate of overdose deaths (Washington Post).
Takeaway: It is necessary to increase access to overdose antidotes as well as improve substance abuse prevention and treatment programs.
“Experts say the lack of counselors is impacting students now and could have implications for a proposal to raise the age when students must attend school from 16 to 17 that is under consideration by the Georgia Senate Study Committee on the Age of Mandatory Education…The mandated counselor-to-student ratio in Georgia is currently one counselor to every 450 students. The best practice ratio recommended by the American School Counselors Association is one counselor to every 250 students.” – Fresh Take Georgia
Takeaway: Focusing on retention and compensation for frontline social sector employees should be a high priority.
“Rents have risen dramatically in 2021 in metro Atlanta and Black households are spending the largest portion of their income on rent in comparison to other races. According to a new analysis by Zillow, rent affordability for all renters in metro Atlanta is 29.2%, which is almost a full percentage point over 28.4% in 2019. The average rent is $1,827 as of August, which is up 20.4% year over year and up 3% month over month. Black households in the Atlanta area are spending 31.4% of their income on rent. In comparison, Latinx are paying 30%; whites are paying 27.2%; and Asians are paying 23.1%.” (CBS46, Zillow)
Takeaway: Emergency rental assistance programs and funding should prioritize Black and Hispanic communities
Based on the covid-19’s impact and national demographic and demand trends, the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (N4A) urges leaders to consider the following principles in policymaking:
- People want to age safely in their homes and communities.
- Health happens in the home and community.
- We are only as strong as our caregivers.
- Community infrastructure is a critical component of healthy aging.
- We are all stakeholders in an aging nation.
Despite active COVID-19 cases in secured detention facilities more than doubling between March and mid-December (among youth and staff), the number of youth being detained are on the rise. Black and Latino youth represent an increasingly larger share of the detained population. [report] (The Annie E. Casey Foundation)
A new study finds that an additional 90-100K Georgia children could be covered by CAPS subsidies over the next three years, allowing thousands of parents to continue and advance in their work and education, if the following are enacted:
- Under the current setup of CAPS at 50% of the state’s median income (SMI), an additional $198million would cover almost all families who can and want to take advantage of CAPS, realizing that the bar set is very restrictive in its current state.
- Increasing the SMI to 85% (in line with federal recommendations) would cover thousands of additional families and fill a major gap in workforce development for return-to-work parents among others. This can be done for an additional $340 million.
(Metro Atlanta Chamber, GSU’s Georgia Policy Labs)
The racial gap in liquid assets makes Black and Hispanic families more vulnerable to income fluctuations. When faced with a job loss, Black and Hispanic families have to cut spending more dramatically than White families. Upon the arrival of a tax refund or other stimulus, Black and Hispanic families have to spend it more quickly. Listen to the MAX Workforce Solutions presentation or read the full report (JPMorgan Chase Institute)
“In the next week, we expect the new administration to raise the ceiling on refugee arrivals, increase capacity for refugee processing overseas and implement other immigration policies to support the world’s most vulnerable… Our mission over the next few years is to quickly increase our capacity to welcome and serve newly arrived refugees so that we can provide safety to those who need it the most. We cannot rebuild the resettlement program alone. Refugee resettlement has always been a community effort. In the coming months…we will be asking you, our partners and supporters, to help us by making financial contributions, donating furniture and basic needs items to help us build up our inventory and registering to volunteer.” (New American Pathways)