Today marks the end of 2020, and I know we all are breathing a sigh of relief as 2021 is a sunrise away. As I reflect on this past year and everything that has tested us, feelings of fear, loss and pain are inescapable. The pandemic brought existential challenges for our world and we felt it acutely in our own homes, across our communities, schools, places of worship and in the economy. And the call for racial justice spurred by the continued systemic oppression of Black and Brown people in our country underscored the disparities communities of color continue to face. With crisis, change comes. And with that change I see hope and promise for a better tomorrow all around us.
This pandemic created opportunities for real change, as the shortcomings of our current system were exposed and there is renewed energy to solve the problems in our state. In 2020, GBPI was able to do what GBPI always does best—equip leaders, inspire communities and inform the debate. Over the course of 2020, GBPI made the case for choosing a better way forward, a way that puts people first.
And we saw real policy changes that do just that—such as extending the time for which people can claim unemployment, extending postpartum Medicaid to six months after giving birth and extending child-care subsidies to parents pursuing a Bachelor’s degree. These changes will tangibly improve the lives of Georgia families across the state.
Unfortunately, leaders didn’t always choose right. State leaders responded to the deepening inequities exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic with historic cuts to our state budget. After a rallying cry from all corners of the state, lawmakers restored some cuts—but not enough. Our K-12 public schools, for example, face $950 million in cuts. Services for adults with developmental disabilities, public health and our colleges and universities are dealing with steep cuts as well.
Georgians still struggle with the effects of COVID-19 and need more relief. Before the pandemic, far too many families struggled to thrive. The pandemic recession has likely worsened their circumstances. The newest federal COVID relief package will provide some additional support, but more may be required. To truly recover from this pandemic and prepare for the years ahead, we need lawmakers to make choices that prioritize people, not politics.
We need them to choose new, equitable revenue sources over deep, inequitable budget cuts. Health care for families over unproven tax incentives for big corporations. Protections for the social safety net, instead of barriers that deny Georgians the opportunity to meet their basic needs and achieve their dreams.
GBPI commits to lean into our values and call for bold, anti-racist solutions because it is more critical than ever. We must champion an equitable recovery for Georgians of color and families being paid low wages who suffered the most this year due to no fault of their own. Georgia’s economic outlook for years to come depends on how we ensure that all Georgia families can overcome the ill effects of COVID-19, obtain optimal health and economic security.
Politics have taken up the airwaves for the last few months and I know Georgians are ready to move beyond the election cycle into solving some of the challenges facing our state. No matter the electoral outcome you know, and we know, one thing for certain: Georgians want leaders to choose people-first policies.
You can count on GBPI to be here, joining with the voices of Georgians in every community to call for those policies.
Although I do not know what 2021 will bring, I do know we will have more opportunities to act with uncompromising courage and boldness to protect the well-being of Georgians.
I look forward to standing with you and all Georgians as we carve out a new reality, new opportunities and our people-centered economic vision on these new sunrises that will greet us in 2021.
Here’s to wishing you and yours a healthy, prosperous new year.