New GBPI Poll Shows Georgians Want American Rescue Plan Dollars to Support Health, Economic Recovery, Education

Georgia will receive $4.9 billion in federal emergency relief and infrastructure funding as part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP). This money is meant to be used to support Georgians as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. State leaders are currently exploring the best ways to spend these funds.

Targeted investments to bolster education outcomes, provide economic assistance to families and increase access to health care and broadband can help address racial inequities in our state and foster recovery and prosperity for all Georgians. Investing in families now will help them for years to come.

GBPI recently conducted a survey through the University of Georgia’s School of Public Affairs Survey Research Center to ask Georgians how they would like the state to spend the nearly $4.9 billion in emergency funding available.

Some highlights of the poll include:

  • Georgians’ top priorities for the relief funds include investing in health care and economic support, particularly income support for families with low incomes or the elderly, and many believe funding should go to education
  • A plurality of respondents believe the money should be allocated through the full appropriations process, not determined by the governor
  • Many Georgians want policymakers to use funding to restore the steep budget cuts enacted over the past few years

Our fact sheet details several key policies that received broad support.

You can read the full poll results below.

Question 1: Federal legislation known as the American Rescue Plan, or ARP, was passed earlier this year with the goal of helping Americans recover from COVID-19. The ARP includes over $4.9 billion in federal funds (about 18 percent of the current state budget) to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Georgia. Of the following, what should be the top priority for these funds?

Question 2: Governor Kemp has stated that he will appoint three committees to advise his office on how to allocate the state’s federal pandemic relief funding. Should the state manage the relief effort directly out of the governor’s office or would you prefer the funds be appropriated as part of the annual budget process carried out by the state legislature?

Question 3: Governor Kemp has created three committees to determine how to use the ARP funds. The committees will work on (1) broadband access, (2) water and sewer infrastructure and (3) the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Do you think the governor should look at using the funding to support other priorities as well?

Question 4: Which of the following additional priorities should be funded? [Asked of those who answered Yes in Q3]

Question 5: Georgia is authorized to spend the American Rescue Plan funds from now through December 31, 2024. Should state leaders invest more resources in addressing immediate economic needs or use most funding to cover one-time expenses in infrastructure that are not necessarily related to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as upgrading water and sewer infrastructure?

Question 6: The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a federal benefit that reduces the amount of income tax owed by low- to middle-income tax filers. Thirty states have created their own versions of the EITC to further reduce the amount of income tax low- and middle-income residents pay. Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose using American Rescue Plan funds to create a state-level Earned Income Tax Credit for Georgia?

Question 7: The American Rescue Plan authorizes states to use federal funds to make direct cash payments to Georgia families. Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose using federal aid from the American Rescue Plan to make direct payments to Georgia families?

Question 8: Which of the following would you prefer for direct cash payments? [Asked of those who answered “Strongly support” or “Somewhat support” in Q11]

Question 9: Georgia is among the eight states that do not provide additional money to K-12 public schools that serve students from low income families. Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose providing an additional funding boost using American Rescue Plan funds for K-12 schools to assist students from low income families?

Question 10: Should state leaders use a portion of federal funding from the American Rescue Plan to strengthen Georgia’s health care workforce through increased scholarships, loan repayment programs and other incentives?

Question 11: The Georgia Department of Human Services helps administer programs like cash and food assistance to families with low incomes. It also manages programs for child welfare, adoption services and foster care. Together, state funding for these programs has been cut by $14 million. Should a portion ARP funds be used to better fund programs meant to support children and families with low incomes?

Question 12: Should state leaders use a portion of federal funding from the American Rescue Plan to fund a work-study program that provides internship slots and other work-based learning opportunities for college students and recent graduates?

Question 13: Lawmakers cut Georgia’s budget in 2020 and many of those cuts will be made again this year, including cuts to K-12 public education, higher education and health care programs and services. Should the state use available funding from the American Rescue Plan to restore these cuts?

Question 14: Based on the state’s education funding formula, Georgia has fully funded K-12 education only twice in the past 18 years. Currently, the state is set to cut $393 million in its education funding formula from last year. Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose using American Rescue Plan funds to bring K-12 spending up to the full funding level based on the state formula?

Question 15: State funding for the cost of K-12 transportation, which includes expenses like bus driver salaries and new buses, has fallen from 50 percent of the total to less than 20 percent. The bulk of K-12 transportation funding is now provided by local school districts. Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose the state increasing its share of K-12 transportation funding using American Rescue Plan funds?

Question 16: Medicaid provides health care coverage to families with low incomes. Due to the American Rescue Plan, if the state acts to expand its Medicaid program to cover an additional 500,000 Georgians, it will receive an up-front bonus of $1.4 to $1.9 billion in federal funding. Such an expansion would require the state to also provide a share of the funds, which is estimated to be $250 million annually. With these facts in mind, should Georgia expand Medicaid?

Question 17: Last year, the state was forced to make budget cuts due to the pandemic. This year, Georgia is on course to collect more tax revenues than the state is budgeted to spend. Part of this surplus will automatically be added to the state’s $2.7 billion rainy day fund reserve, the savings account the state can use when tax collections are lower than expected. Outside of the rainy day fund, how should lawmakers allocate the remainder of the surplus funds?

Question 18: The American Rescue Plan is temporary; any funding for the previously mentioned programs will not be long term. Long-term state investments in health, education and other programs for Georgia families require new sources of revenue from taxes and fees. Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose the state raising new tax revenues in order to pay for such programs and services in the long-term?

You can sell the full poll results here.

The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute Poll was conducted July 21-24, 2021 and included a total of 1,042 (unweighted) Georgia registrants. The survey was administered by the School of Public and International Affairs Survey Research Center at the University of Georgia and relied on an online panel from Dynata Corporation.

Respondents were sent an electronic invitation allowing them to voluntarily opt-in and participate in the survey. Respondents who reported they did not currently live in Georgia or who were not registered to vote were screened out. Interviews were conducted in English. The survey results were weighted using iterative proportional raking in order to ensure the sample was representative of the voting age population in terms of race, sex, age and education.

The calculated margin of error for the total sample is +/-3.0 points at the 95 percent confidence level. This would mean that if 50 percent of respondents indicate a topline view on an issue, we can be 95 percent confident that the population’s view on that issue is somewhere between 53.0 percent and 47.0 percent. The margin of error including design effects is +/-3.4 points at the 95 percent confidence level. The survey design effect was calculated using the standard formula reported by the AAPOR.

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