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)
In a new fact sheet from the National Women’s Law Center, we’ve learned that:
- Women represented 111% of the 140,000 net jobs lost in December (men gained 16,000)
- More than 2 in 5 of the 12.1 million women’s jobs lost between February and April have not yet returned
- The overall unemployment rate among women (6.3%) masks even higher rates for Black women (8.4%), Latinas (9.1%), 20- to 24-year-olds (9.3%), and women with disabilities (11.4%)
Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education (GPEE) released its “Top 10 Issues to Watch in 2021” report, which includes:
- Equity – the imperative for recovery to success
- Funding – essential for achieving equity
- Early learning – the foundation for an inclusive economic recovery
- Delivery of instruction – new approaches to learning
- Teachers – professionalism, pay, and preparation
- Accountability and assessments – the opportunity to rethink and get it right
- Parent engagement– positioning families as partners
- Post-secondary completion – a pathway to prosperity
- Georgia’s workforce pipeline – creating equitable access and opportunities
- Reinventing education in Georgia – a call for leadership and collaboration
Through the first two phases of the CDC/Census Bureaus household pulse survey (April–December 2020), symptoms of depression and anxiety are on the rise, especially among Black, Latino, and multiracial individuals. (National Center for Health Statistics)
“The food banks are responding to an unrelenting 50% increase in demand for food,” said Danah Craft, executive director of the Georgia Food Bank Association, which works with food banks around the state. “And it has grown in the last 60 days.” About 40% of the people coming for help now have never had to look for support before, she said. (WABE)
According to a regional tracker, the percent of telehealth diagnoses for mental health conditions is more than three times higher than the same time last year, likely due to both increased demand for MH services and increased supply/accessibility of telehealth options. (FAIR Health)
“There has been speculation this year that more office tenants will increase their office space to promote social distancing. [Cushman & Wakefield Head of Economic Analysis & Forecasting Rebecca] Rockey said she doesn’t agree with that point of view and that Cushman & Wakefield doesn’t have any evidence that upsizing is being driven by social distancing measures.” (Bisnow)