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Metro Atlanta communities left off of Kemp’s committees to allocate federal aid


Months after President Joe Biden signed into law a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief American Rescue Plan bill, Georgia is finally focusing its attention on how to use its allocation of the funds in the Peach State.

Gov. Brian Kemp has tapped what he calls a “bipartisan group” of Georgia lawmakers, state agency heads and other state officials to assist him in determining how to spend $4.8 billion in funds allocated to Georgia.

In a planned statement, Kemp said, “These committees will ensure federal coronavirus relief dollars are allocated strategically across our state and address one-time funding needs in these three key areas.” However, some are concerned that Gov. Kemp is playing politics with the federal funds from the Biden administration based on who he has appointed and who he has not. The communities that comprise Metro Atlanta are the largest in the state, yet they were virtually overlooked by Kemp in participating on any of these committees. Only two of the 20 lawmakers Kemp appointed are from metro Atlanta counties, and not one is from Atlanta. Many say Kemp could not see beyond his public feud with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to appoint the person who heads the largest city in the state or anyone else from metro Atlanta.

Democrats named to the panels include Georgia Rep. Calvin Smyre of Columbus, the longest serving member of the House, and State Sen. Freddie Powell Sims of Dawson. House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, and Senate Appropriations Chairman Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, will serve on all three committees.

Of the 14 – 18 members assigned to each committee, two Democrats will serve on the Economic Impact Committee and two will serve on the Broadband Infrastructure Committee. One Democrat will serve on the Water and Sewer Infrastructure Committee, which speaks little to bipartisanship on Kemp’s part. Not only is metro Atlanta being excluded from the “big table”, but some also say Kemp is ensuring that Democrats and other metro Atlanta leaders have little to no say in how the federal money is spent in Georgia. With him coming up for re-election in 2022, some say his partisan handling of this could come back to bite him in the form of voters being turned off with federal funds being used as a political football.

Kemp says the committees will focus on broadband expansion, water and sewer infrastructure, and ways to mitigate the economic fallout from the pandemic and state agencies, local governments, industries and nonprofits will be eligible to apply for the funds. In addition to funding infrastructure projects and responding to COVID-19, the funds can be used for making direct payments to Georgians, providing aid to small businesses, and extra pay for “essential workers.” Expanding high-speed internet access, especially in rural Georgia, has been a topic of discussion at the Gold Dome, with no viable way for lawmakers to pay for it. These federal funds could be used to spur that action around the state.

The committees will accept applications at opb.georgia.gov from August 1 to August 31. Grants will be announced the week of October 18 but are subject to change based on guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department. Committee recommendations will be subject to approval by Gov. Kemp.

As part of the federal relief package, Georgia has received the first half of the money and will get the second half next year. The committees are as follows:

Economic Impact Committee

Alex Atwood, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Administrative Services

Gerlda Hines, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Resources

Pat Wilson, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development

Jeffrey Dorfman, State Economist and University of Georgia professor

Robyn Crittenden, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Revenue

Tim Lowrimore, State Forester

Brian Marlowe, Deputy Commissioner for rural Georgia

Terry England, R-Auburn House Appropriations Chairman

Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia Senate Appropriations Chairman

Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire House Ways and Means Chairman

Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus

Rep. Josh Bonner, R-Fayetteville

Rep. John LaHood, R-Valdosta

Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford

Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Ellenwood

Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome

Broadband Infrastructure Committee

Russell McMurry, Transportation Commissioner

Jannine Miller, Transportation Planning Director

Christopher Nunn, Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs

Teresa MacCartney, Interim Chancellor of the University System of Georgia

Greg Dozier, Technical College System Commissioner

Shawnzia Thomas, Executive Director, Georgia Technology Authority

Richard Woods, State School Superintendent

Eric Toler, Executive Director, Georgia Cyber Center

Michael Nix, Executive Director, Georgia Emergency Communications Authority

Frank Smith, Deputy Executive Director, State Properties Commission

House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn

Senate Appropriations Chairman Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia

Rep. Clay Pirkle, R-Ashburn

Rep. Patty Bentley, D-Butler

Rep. Jodi Lott, R-Evans

Sen. Bo Hatchett, R-Cornelia

Sen. Harold Jones, D-Augusta

Senate Majority Whip Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega

Water and Sewer Infrastructure Committee

Chris Carr, Attorney General

David Dove, Executive Counsel to Kemp

Mark Williams, Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources

Rick Dunn, Director of the Environmental Protection Division

Kevin Clark, Executive Director of the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority

John Eunice, Deputy Director, EPD

Andrew Pinson, Georgia Solicitor General

James Capp, Watershed Protection Branch Chief, EPD

Wei Zeng, Water Protection Program Manager, EPD

Terry England, R-Auburn House Appropriations Chairman

Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia Senate Appropriations Chairman

Rep. Dominic LaRiccia, R-Douglas

House Agriculture Chairman Robert Dickey, R-Musella

Sen. Russ Goodman, R-Cogdell

Senate Agriculture Chairman Larry Walker, R-Perry

Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, D-Dawson


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