Special Report - COVID-19
April 6, 2020

State Agency Response

All facets of our state government have been working overtime to ensure Georgians receive accurate and helpful information. Our private sectors have also majorly stepped up to the plate in aiding our government. 

Division of Family and Child Services
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Division of Family and Child Services have closed their office lobbies across the state. If you are seeking benefits and services from DFCS during this time, please see the information below:

1. To apply for Food Stamps and Medicaid benefits visit  gateway.ga.gov
2. To download an application visit  https://dfcs.georgia.gov/services
3. For Electronic Benefit Transfers (EBT) go to  https://www.connectebt.com/gaebtclient/ or call 888-421-3281 for updates
4. If you do not have internet access call 
877-423-4746 for help

School Update
Wednesday, April 1, Governor Kemp announced that all schools will be closed for the remainder of the year in an effort to ensure the safety and health of our children. Thank you to our hardworking teachers who have gone above and beyond to assist parents and students during this time.

Stand and be counted! Legally mandated by the U.S. Constitution, the census is an effort to count all people living on American soil for the primary purpose of apportioning political representation in the federal government. Census data are also used for drawing political boundaries for local, state and federal elections. The census also assists federal and state leaders decide where funding is needed for healthcare, schools and infrastructure.

Georgia's 2020 Census campaign -  Every. One. Counts. - led by the state's  Complete Count Committee. Every. One. Counts. is a marketing campaign to secure strong participation by Georgia residents in the 2020 U.S. Census.

Absentee Ballots
All of Georgia's 6.9 million active voters will be mailed absentee ballot request forms for the May 19 primary, a  major push to encourage voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced last Tuesday.

As you know, Georgia elections have been narrowly determined over the past few elections. Nationally, Georgia is now considered a "swing state." Therefore, it is more important than ever for us to vote in order to move our state forward.

This election season will be quite different as COVID-19 will determine whether or not we will be able to have campaign events. If you have questions or concerns about the upcoming election, I encourage you to reach out to me directly!

Georgia Responds
I have had many requests on how citizens can personally help during this time. If you are interested in assisting our efforts, I highly encourage you to check out Georgia Responds. Georgia Responds is our health and medical volunteer program, organized by the GA Department of Public Health, which matches the skills and credentials of medical and non-medical volunteers to lessen the spread of COVID-19.

To volunteer, log on to  https://dph.georgia.gov/georgia-responds and click on the "Register Now" box. Registration only takes a few minutes. Once your skills and credentials are reviewed, you will be notified by a DPH representative who will let you know in what capacity you can be of service. 

Economic Development
Asking our private sector to assist our needs to combat COVID-19! We know how resourceful GA business owners can be. Many have begun transforming their facilities to produce much needed supplies. GA Economic Development is in search of companies and facilities who have the capability to re-purpose their production lines to assist us in fighting COVID-19 by ensuring we meet the demand of needed supplies. If you believe your company or facility can be of help please click here.

Rural Broadband Update
The Department of Community Affairs announces new initiatives to more quickly implement quality access to Rural Broadband. This is great news for those living in the less populated areas of our state. As news changes on the hour, Georgians work from home and schools implement virtual classrooms- access to broadband services is of critical importance to all. 

From the Desk of 
Senator  Ed Harbison

Thursday, April 2, Governor Brian Kemp issued an Executive Order for our entire state to "Shelter in Place." 
After many long conversations with healthcare professionals and state leadership we do believe the short-term sacrifice of sheltering in place and social distancing outside the home is the most efficient way to flatten the curve return to our normal way of life as soon as possible.

I have taken the liberty below to provide with detailed information on how we are working to ensure our Georgia citizens are well looked after during this trying time.

Executive Order

How long does Governor Kemp's Executive Order last?
Governor Kemp's Executive Order is effective starting at 6 PM on Friday, April 3, 2020 through 11:59 PM on Monday, April 13, 2020. 
What businesses and professionals must cease in-person operations and closed to the public during this time?
  • Bars 
  • Nightclubs 
  • Gyms 
  • Fitness centers 
  • Bowling allies 
  • Theaters 
  • Live performance venues
  • Operators of amusement parks Dine in-services at restaurants and private social clubs
  • Estheticians (e.g., waxing, threading, eyelash extensions, cosmetic treatments) 
  • Hair designers 
  • Body art studios (commonly known as tattoo parlors) 
  • Beauty shops and salons (including home beauty shops and salons) 
  • Barber shops (including home barber shops)
  • Cosmetology schools 
  • Hair design schools 
  • Barbering schools 
  • Esthetics schools 
  • Nail care schools
  • Licensed massage therapists 
  • Take-out; curbside pick-up; delivery; and dine-in services at hospitals, healthcare facilities, nursing homes, or other long-term care facilities 
All other entities may continue to operate subject to specific restrictions. Those restrictions vary depending on whether your entity is Critical Infrastructure. 
What is Critical Infrastructure?
Critical Infrastructure: For Critical Infrastructure entities, if your business or organization will continue in-person operations, the state encourages implementation of sixteen (16) requirements.
Non-Critical Infrastructure
If your entity is not Critical Infrastructure, you shall follow the Social Distancing Rule, only engage in Minimum Basic Operations, and meet twenty (20) requirements. The Social Distancing Rule, Minimum Basic Operations, and the twenty (20) requirements.
How does the Order apply to individuals and families?
Basic Rule: All residents and visitors of Georgia are required to shelter in place in their residences from 6 PM on Friday, April 3, 2020 to 11:59 PM on Monday, April 13, 2020. "Shelter in place" means remaining in their residences and taking every possible precaution to limit social interaction to prevent the spread or infection of COVID-19.
Are there exceptions to the Basic Rule?
Y es. A resident or visitor of Georgia is not required to shelter in place if they are:
1. Engaging in Essential Services
2. Working in Critical Infrastructure
3. Engaging in. Minimum Basic Operations
4. Performing Necessary Travel Essential Services means obtaining necessary supplies and services for your household, engaging in activities essential for the health and safety of your household, and engaging in outdoor exercise activities so long as you have at least six (6) feet between people who do not live in your household.
You can go to:
The grocery store;
Medical Appointments;
The Pharmacy;
Pick-up food or have food delivered to your house;
Buy supplies to clean or maintain your house;
You can go outside to exercise;
You can also leave your house in an emergency;
The key takeaway is that you need to stay in your house as much as possible, but we recognize there are circumstances when you will need to leave. Keep those circumstances rare, consolidate trips as much as possible, and use take-out, curbside pick-up, and delivery services whenever possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Necessary Travel means the travel required for someone to conduct or participate in Essential Services, Minimum Basic Operations, or work for Critical Infrastructure. 
How does this order apply to local governments?
No county or municipal government is allowed to have more than ten (10) people gathered in a single location unless there is at least six (6) feet between each person at all times. The Governor's Order supersedes all local ordinances to the extent that they conflict and states that no local ordinance can be more restrictive or less restrictive. At this time, the Governor has deputized local law enforcement to enforce the Order. State law enforcement with P.O.S.T. certification will be charged with enforcement.