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Decatur will get $8.1 million in COVID-19 relief; CSD will get $2.5 million

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Decatur will get $8.1 million in COVID-19 relief; CSD will get $2.5 million

The boundaries of the city of Decatur. Source: Google Maps

By Zoe Seiler, contributor 

DeKalb County, GA — Cities and counties across the state will receive millions of dollars from the federal government soon through the American Rescue Plan, the Biden administrations COVID-19 relief plan.

Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-4) held a virtual event on Wednesday, April 7, with local, state and federal experts to discuss the recent COVID-19 relief and how the American Rescue Plan will affect individuals, families and small businesses.

“As many of you know the American rescue plan is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill that includes an extension of jobless benefits, another round of direct payments to individuals and households, and money for state and local governments, and an expansion of vaccinations and virus testing programs,” Johnson said.

The direct payments this time around are $1,400 to individuals, including all dependents claimed on a tax return. This round of stimulus checks is not limited to dependents under the age of 17, said Linda Berkman, a Congressional district liaison at the Department of Treasury – Internal Revenue Service.

“Eligible families will get a payment based on all qualifying dependents claimed on the return, including older relatives like college students, adults with disabilities, parents and grandparents.,” Berkman said.

The IRS will use available information to determine if someone is eligible to receive the stimulus check. They will use the 2020 tax return if filed, or the 2019 tax return if a 2020 tax return has not been submitted or processed.

Federal beneficiaries, like those who receive Social Security benefits and benefits through the Veterans Administration, will automatically get a stimulus check if they are not required to file a tax return, Berkman said.

The good news, Berkman said, is that Social Security beneficiaries who don’t file tax returns should have received the stimulus payment through direct deposit on Wednesday, April 7, and those checks will be mailed later this week.

Those who get benefits through the VA will also receive their stimulus payment by direct deposit next week, she added.

In order to get the stimulus check, individuals must file a tax return. If someone didn’t receive the previous stimulus payments or felt they receive the incorrect amount, they must file a 2020 tax return to claim the recovery rebate credit, Berkman said.

Funding for cities and counties

Counties and cities will receive direct payments under the American Rescue Plan. Within Georgia’s fourth Congressional district, counties will receive $258 million. DeKalb County will receive $147.36 million, Gwinnett County will get $181.6 million, Rockdale is set to receive $17.6 million and Newton County will get $21.7 million, Johnson said.

Additionally, Fulton County has been allocated $206.34 million and the city of Atlanta will receive $178.39 million.

In DeKalb County, cities in the Decaturish.com / Tucker Observer coverage area will receive the following amounts through the American Rescue Plan:

– Avondale Estates, $990,000

– Clarkston, $3.98 million

– Decatur, $8.1 million

– Stone Mountain, $1.98 million

– Tucker, $11.47 million

The cities haven’t received their allocations yet and are waiting for direction on how the money can be spent but local leaders are looking forward to the aid. This is the first time cities are directly receiving stimulus money.

The funding provides a tremendous opportunity to invest in communities as they emerge from the pandemic, Decatur City Manager Andrea Arnold said in an email.

Tucker is still weighing what the influx of money will mean for the city.

“We are still gathering information on what the American Rescue Plan will mean for the city of Tucker,” Tucker Mayor Frank Auman told the Tucker Observer. “At this point, our staff is developing priorities and this will certainly be a part of our budget discussions for FY ’22. Our staff did an excellent job in allocating funds from the CARES Act last year and they will be ready to do the same with the American Rescue Plan.”

Cities and counties will be able to spend the American Rescue Plan money over two years which will provide an opportunity to align city, county and school board priorities in a way that ensures equity for the county, County Commissioner Ted Terry said.

“We must address the emergency needs of food and housing assistance, while also shoring up government services that have been impacted by the pandemic, and launch new programs that will fully support our students, teachers and parents as they transition back to the classroom,” Terry said.

Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, along with Johnson, advocated for the passage of the American Rescue Plan. Ossoff and Warnock worked to include direct funding for cities and counties.

“For the first time, this aid will flow directly to localities with populations under half a million,” Ossoff said. “In the CARES Act, the aid went to the state, the Governor’s office, and mostly to the city of Atlanta; smaller localities did not get direct aid. We banded together to fix that to ensure that, not just the smaller cities like Decatur, and Tucker, and Clarkston, but also counties and smaller towns will get this direct support.”

Funding for schools

The school districts will benefit from the relief plan as well. Atlanta Public Schools will receive $193 million, City Schools of Decatur will get $2.5 million and DeKalb County Schools has been allocated $320.6 million.

DeKalb County schools were reluctant to return to in-person learning at first but some students joined their teachers face to face on March 9 in a hybrid learning model, said Vickie Turner, chair of the DeKalb County Board of Education, during the panel discussion.

The district was able to use the previous CARES Act funding to provide personal protective equipment, to ensure all students had the necessary technology for online learning, and to address food insecurity.

DeKalb County schools recently did a study and discovered there is learning loss as a result of the virtual learning space, Turner said.

“As a result of the realization of the learning loss we have, we’ve put in a MOSAIC learning initiative for the summer, so this money would be so beneficial for us to have to get those children up,” Turner said. “So we are going to remediate and accelerate those children that we need to in hopes of reestablishing a more favorable outcome for our children.”

The district is also going to address some inadequacies in its HVAC system with the stimulus money to make sure staff and students feel safe in the schools.

Funding for health care centers and vaccinations

Community health centers are also set to receive funding to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines. MedCura Health, formerly Oakhurst Medical Centers, of Stone Mountain will get about $5.5 million and Recovery Consultants, Inc. of Decatur will receive about $977,000.

“This American rescue plan has enabled us to put up and continue our vaccine program as well as COVID testing in the community right now,” said Jeff Taylor, CEO of MedCura Health, during the panel discussion. “We are providing those services at South DeKalb Mall.”

The medical center hopes to vaccinate as many people as possible, which Taylor said is a large undertaking. MedCura Health is in the planning stages of opening up multiple vaccination sites.

The federal assistance has also helped MedCura Health remain open and operating.

“Many businesses have closed down and one like ours certainly is vulnerable during this time but we are still available to provide primary care services to the community,” Taylor said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is also operating a vaccination site at Mercedes Benz Stadium in partnership with the state, Fulton County and the city of Atlanta.

“We’re committed to the equitable distribution of the vaccine,” said Terry Quarles, recovery division director for FEMA. “Our top priority is to ensure that everyone who wants a vaccination can get one. Expanding this vaccination center allows Atlanta to help make this happen.”

At the stadium 42,000 doses are administered each week, Quarles said.

Emory Healthcare also has a vaccination center at Northlake Mall and two weeks ago reached the milestone of delivering 100,000 doses by providing vaccines to the healthcare community and patients.

While local officials highlighted the vaccination effort, Christy Norman, vice president of pharmacy services at Emory Healthcare, said only about 26% of the eligible population in the state has received one dose and 13.4% has received both doses of the two dose series, which is about 4.3 million people.

“If you look at those numbers compared to the national percentages, the US is at 32.6% of the population receiving one dose and 19% being fully vaccinated,” Norman said. “So Georgia is somewhat, actually second from last currently in the number of individuals being vaccinated per our 100,000 population of eligible individuals.”

Early on in the vaccine rollout there were some delays in reporting vaccine data which impacted the vaccine allocations the state received but those issues have been reconciled, Norman said.

“Now it’s a matter of getting the doses that the state is receiving out to our community,” Norman said. “So vaccines are one thing, vaccinations are another and there are many community partners as well as health systems who are doing their part to support the state and delivering to our population.”

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