This is the eighth Friday Facts edition to focus on the coronavirus pandemic across the nation and in Georgia. View previous editions here. View the Foundation’s near-term proposals here. Share your ideas: Email us at email@example.com.
Quotes of Note
“The kind of city that we in the West like, the sort of jostling city where everybody is packed together and we carouse late at night … like London, Paris, Sydney and San Francisco, are all far more vulnerable. The cities are going to have to reinvent themselves, and places like New York in particular. These pandemics are going to keep happening.” – Joel Kotkin
“Many policies that would be unthinkable in regular times have become commonplace in recent weeks, and we do not want to unduly interfere with the important efforts of state and local officials to protect the public. But the Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis.” – William Barr, U.S. Attorney General
“As we look to move out of the current health and economic crisis, American technology leadership will be critical for us – and for the entire world. Fast and reliable Internet like 5G will be critical to allowing us to be connected to our families, communities, and businesses in good times and bad – and will help us create new jobs and industries for the future.” – Ken Blackwell
Policy proposals: The Foundation has proposed a series of policies for near-term relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as principles to guide and oversee policy reforms and an Issue Analysis tackling fiscal policy considerations for Georgia.
Shutdowns: Gov. Brian Kemp announced Thursday that Georgia now is 12th in per-capita testing for COVID-19 out of the 23 states with a population of at least 5 million. Georgia businesses are reopening, with precautions. The public health emergency for the state lasts until June 12, an effort to protect the elderly and medically vulnerable.
Extension: The Georgia Department of Revenue extended income tax filing and payment deadlines to July 15, as did the IRS. Vehicle registrations that expire between March 16 and June 14, 2020, are being extended through June 15.
Tax revenues decline: State net tax collections declined nearly 36% in April, or $1.03 billion, over April 2019, when collections totaled $2.87 billion. Year-to-date, net tax collections totaled $19.23 billion, about $680 million (3.4%) less than the previous fiscal year, when net tax revenues totaled $19.91 billion. Much of the decline can be attributed to the filing extensions (See above.): Individual income tax return payments decreased by $830.9 million, or 88.9%, over last year; vehicle tag and title fee collections dropped 43% and title ad valorem tax collections declined 30.7%.
Legislature: The House Appropriations Committee held a Zoom hearing Thursday that was streamed lived and included an update by State Economist Jeffrey Dorfman. Among his revelations that reflect the toll of the pandemic: Toll revenues declined 90% in April. One-third of the state’s workforce has now filed for unemployment. Vehicle sales have declined 52%. First-quarter corporate profits had been expected to increase 4% but declined 13%; the second quarter is expected be the worst, with a 36% drop in profits. Online retail shopping has increased 17%.
Jobs: Since the middle of March (week ending March 21), the Georgia Department of Labor reports, it has processed 1,369,421 regular initial unemployment claims, more payments during the pandemic than in the past four years combined.
‘New normal’: Twenty-one states from Georgia to Ohio to Idaho have let some businesses reopen, The Wall Street Journal reports, typically with restrictions. These include requiring masks or limiting the number of customers. Industry Week shared a list of back-to-work protocols for businesses to consider as they reopen.
Jobless claims: The Georgia Department of Labor has issued over $1.7 billion in combined state and federal unemployment benefits in the past seven weeks. Since the week ending March 21, 2020, almost 1.6 million regular initial unemployment claims have been filed, with 778,330 qualified to receive benefits; 518,000 have already received their first payment.
Litigation mitigation: The National Federation of Independent Business has issued a set of “Liability Protection Principles,” to protect small businesses from the threat of unfounded lawsuits as they begin to reopen. An NFIB survey showed nearly 70% of small business owners are concerned about liability claims increases; only 6% are not at all concerned. Among the principles: The workers’ compensation system should be the exclusive vehicle employees who suffer serious physical injury from COVID-19 at work use to adjudicate their claims.
Status report: For the state’s daily COVID-19 report, visit the Department of Public Health website link here. The report is updated daily at noon and 7 p.m.
A cautionary tale: Reopening Georgia doesn’t mean the pandemic has ended, cautions Dr. Gary Voccio, director of Public Health for Northwest Georgia, in Hometown Headlines: “As we reopen our communities, we expect to see an increase in virus transmission. We hope we’ll also see, as we saw at the beginning of the pandemic, people changing their behavior to wisely continue to protect themselves and, more importantly, unselfishly help protect others, especially those at highest risk of complications and death – older adults and those with severe underlying health conditions.” Read his commentary here.
Fair hearing: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has announced Title IX protections for victims and accused in sexual misconduct cases, “to restore due process in campus proceedings to ensure all students can pursue an education free from sex discrimination.” The regulations now define sexual harassment, including sexual assault, as unlawful sex discrimination; holds schools accountable for failure to respond equitably and promptly to sexual misconduct incidents and ensures a more reliable adjudication process that is fair to all students.
YouTube: Visit the Foundation’s YouTube channel to view recent Policy Briefing events, which were streamed live on Zoom amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here for “The End of Socialism?” Click here for “A Second Chance Month Celebration.” Click here to view Benita Dodd and Eric Wearne discussing hybrid schools.
May 19: Register for “Brexit: The Good, the Bad and the Messy,” a Policy Briefing Event with Andrew Staunton, British Consul-General in Atlanta, Zilvinas Silenas, President of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) and former President of the Lithuanian Free Market Institute, and Georgia Public Policy Foundation President Kyle Wingfield. (Wingfield was a Brussels-based correspondent for The Wall Street Journal before moving to Atlanta.) This event was postponed as a result of COVID-19 and will be a Zoom event. There is no charge, but registration is required. Register here.
This month in the archives: In May five years ago, the Foundation published, “Replace Mandatory State Licensing with Voluntary Certification, Study Says.” It noted, “Certification promotes safety and quality by letting customers choose according to their needs and budgets. … Second, certification promotes economic growth, especially in poor communities, by not pre-emptively pricing poor individuals out of entrepreneurship but letting them compete. Third, certification leads to more affordable services, with prices being kept lower as more businesses are able to compete for customers.”
Visit georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “School Choice Can Help Ease Georgia’s Looming Fiscal Issues,” by Marty Lueken and Benjamin Scafidi.
Have a great weekend and a Happy Mother’s Day!
Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd
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