Bringing It Home
Back in May, we celebrated our collective efforts at “flattening the curve,” but the virus is spiking again. And today, as we celebrate the 4th of July without parades, it has hit me especially hard that the COVID-19 virus is not going away anytime soon. Its path of destruction has brought about not only a health emergency, but an economic crisis as well.
Over the last few months, I’ve received hundreds of emails from people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic and are struggling to get the support that our government promised them. An estimated tens of thousands of Georgians who qualify for unemployment have not received the benefits they needed months ago to pay rent and buy food. My constituents have told me they call the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) hundreds of times each day, hoping someone will eventually answer the phone. They send desperate emails into an abyss, while they face the imminent threat of eviction, the pain of hunger, and a growing fear for their very survival.
Here is one example of a constituent’s situation: “Seven weeks and no payment. I’ve done everything they asked, and 1,000s of calls and emails with no response. I’m about to lose everything. Single mom, no food, and down to the last $10 with no family to help.” I emailed the GDOL on her behalf, and I’m told someone will call her. I checked with the mom two weeks later to see if she got that call. She didn’t.
Is this who we are? Is this government’s breach of contract acceptable?
This week, I’ve made some progress. Through the Senate Budget & Evaluation Office, we reached out to the Labor Commissioner, and got GDOL to design a spreadsheet that allows Senators and their administrative staff to document the calls and emails they get, downloading the information to the appropriate GDOL department each day. It’s working — last night another one of my constituents told me she got her benefits! Waiting since the end of March, she knew there was an error in her application, but previously neither she nor her employer could communicate with the GDOL to get it fixed.
This is an important step that can make all the difference for hundreds of people, but there are thousands who still need help. We can scale this up by bringing in the National Guard to answer GDOL phones and emails, directing them to the correct departments, just as our Senate staff have been doing. I will continue to work with my fellow Senators to put pressure on the GDOL Commissioner and the Governor to move this action forward.
We must keep working to help our neighbors find economic stability so they can thrive.
But if we don’t also work to win in November, things may get even worse for families like that single mom.
Last week, over 100 of you donated to my campaign — thank you! If you haven’t yet donated, and are able to, please consider that now is the time.
Even if you have never donated to a campaign before, your support will mean one more yard sign or extra postcards to help us defend this seat.
This pandemic has shown that no one is safe from COVID-19 or its impacts on our health, our communities, and our economy. We must be a safety net for each other. Do what you can to help make sure we can help those who need it most now and after November.