ATLANTA Georgia House lawmakers want more money to invest in public health and nursing homes, saying the state needs to spend more money to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Home Funds subcommittees on Tuesday proposed changes to the current year’s budget, an annual ritual that’s in the fast lane in 2021 amid fears the pandemic could disrupt the General Assembly session. The whole house could vote on the changes on Thursday. The Senate would then consider the changes.
House lawmakers are proposing to add nearly $ 34 million to the state Department of Health after Governor Brian Kemp did not propose any new spending from state funds but instead relied on federal support for coronavirus for the time being.
“I think the pandemic has uncovered critical staffing needs in the Department of Health and federal funding has been used where we have been able to, but we still need to deploy some government funding,” said House Appropriations Health subcommittee chairman Butch Parrish, a Republican from Swainsboro.
The moves don’t suggest new government spending, so the state’s bottom line is $ 26.6 billion. However, the proposals move the money by moving savings that were often made due to vacant employee positions or blocked programs.
Republican Kemp had already proposed adding $ 567 million back to the state’s K-12 funding formula and giving more money to universities and colleges. The House subcommittees ratified these steps on Tuesday.
Of the public health money, $ 18 million would be used to upgrade and replace the computer system that tracks vaccinations across the country. That system, the Georgia Registry of Immunization Transactions and Services, has been in the spotlight in recent days as the state struggled to keep up with the number of coronavirus vaccines being administered by health care providers.
The state would also allocate $ 286,000 to strengthen the leadership of the Department of Health, including hiring a chief medical officer, an assistant commissioner, and a chief data officer. The department has repeatedly complained about how it publishes data during the pandemic and has subcontracted much of its public data presentation.
Public health would also receive an additional $ 15.4 million to increase support for the AIDS drug relief program, which provides HIV / AIDS drugs to people on low incomes.
Also, under the House of Representatives’ proposal, Georgia would spend $ 19.3 million more on subsidizing nursing homes.
“Occupancy has decreased significantly in the Qualified Care Centers, resulting in large lost revenue and higher costs related to wages, hazard payments, overtime, PPE, cleaning and testing supplies,” said Parrish.
Members of the House of Representatives approved plans proposed by Kemp to shift funds in the state prison and juvenile justice system to allow guards to increase by 10% from April 1.
Kemp had already proposed spending tens of millions of one-time cash on new vehicles, but the House upped the ante by proposing $ 38.6 million to buy around 500 new school buses nationwide.
Some of the moves have been to restore funds that were cut by lawmakers in June when they feared revenue would be worse. Many agencies have cut around 10%. The House proposes to allocate $ 8.1 million to agricultural and research units at universities, which are heavily reliant on government funding as they have no students paying tuition. The house would also return money for the judicial system operating budgets and set aside new money to attract forensic pathologists to perform autopsies for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
A new 10-bed emergency facility for mentally challenged adults with mental health problems would open with $ 1.8 million in federal funds.
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