As we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, some may travel great distances to spend time with family and friends. This Thanksgiving, my husband, daughter, and I will stay in Georgia and settle in for a simple quiet meal and think about all the things for which we are thankful. While we model an attitude of gratitude for our daughter, we will also think about the stark reality many children and families in Georgia are facing this year. Whatever your experience or tradition, what I hope is common across them all is that we pause and offer prayers of thanksgiving.
Where I used to find people oblivious to the plight of disadvantaged and struggling families, I find much more empathy and understanding because so many more of our neighbors or family members have been touched by the economic downturn. Whether it’s the friend who lost their job, neighbor who lost their house, aunt with medical bills she can’t afford, or the parents struggling to feed their kids, we know of someone. The problem has faces and more importantly names. For years I have witnessed the homelessness of many unnamed men, women, and children in Georgia’s capitol city. Every morning during my commute, I see a line of hungry, breakfast-seeking homeless Georgians wrapped around Central Presbyterian Church, ironically, just one block from the Capitol and Atlanta City Hall. Don’t our policymakers and leaders see this too?
I know it’s a work in progress, but how long will it take for relief. Unfortunately, report after report tells us that Georgia faces serious challenges in health, education, and family well-being. For more than 10 years, I traveled the state, spoke with the media, and shared somber news about the state of Georgia’s children and families. Georgia has made gains over time; however, at a snail’s pace.
This year’s State of Working Georgia demonstrates that Georgia’s economy has tanked. Thanks to the Great Recession and the months of “non-recovery”— more than 350,000 Georgians have lost work in the past five years. Georgia is now among the bottom states in job growth. Recent reports also show us that more Georgians are suffering from food insecurity and are dependent upon public programs to feed their children. Despite the stark realities, I’m reminded to be optimistic. Just last week Governor Deal announced a collaborative effort to end child hunger in Georgia for the more than 700,000 children at risk. Thank you! Thank you!
I am thankful for the forward-thinking elected leaders at the state and local level—wish there were more—who look at these reports, see the data in their communities, and act to make things better. I am also thankful for the leaders who acknowledge these challenges and work collaboratively, across party lines, county lines, community lines, to solve them. We need to work together more than ever before and remain committed to advancing the policies that will improve the quality of life for Georgians.
We value partnership at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute and we are thankful for the opportunity to work alongside policymakers, advocates, and concerned citizens to raise awareness and serve as a voice for children, families, and millions of low- to moderate-income working Georgians in the public policy debate. We’re committed to sounding the alarm for Georgia to take a balanced approach to addressing the fiscal challenges and invest in education, transportation, workforce development, public health, and safety—our infrastructure—to ensure real economic development and growth for Georgia’s future.
We have a great deal of work to do; but, I am thankful that we’re doing it with you.