ATLANTA (AP) — Gov. Brian Kemp said Monday he will spend up to $1.2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief in payments of $350 each to more than 3 million Georgians who benefit from Medicaid, subsidized children’s health insurance, food stamps, food or cash assistance. attendance.
Payments will begin in September, said Katie Byrd, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office.
The move comes on top of Kemp’s proposals last week to spend $2 billion on state surplus, split between property tax refunds and a second round of income tax refunds, if voters elect him to a second term in November over Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams. Those separate plans would require legislative approval next year.
Monday’s announcement will put money in the hands of less wealthy Georgians in the months before nationally-watched elections in a hotly contested swing state. those are the voters whom Abrams has been tailoring his economic platform. She too backs another round of income tax rebateslike the ones Kemp has already pushed, but he has been arguing that Georgia also needs to do more to invest in long-term expansions of health, education and small business assistance to try to create a less unequal economy.
However, Kemp appears to be betting that handing over cash now will outweigh the promise of future improvements. Under Georgia state law, he alone controls how billions in federal COVID-19 aid are spent, meaning he can dole out money even as he criticizes Democratic President Joe Biden and Abrams for inflation and high spending.
The governor again said his reason for handing out cash was to help people pressured by higher prices, even though economists agree such spending worsens inflation by pumping more cash into the economy to drive up prices of goods. and services.
“This assistance will help some of Georgia’s most vulnerable citizens cope with the continuing negative economic impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency and the highest inflation in 40 years caused by the disastrous policies implemented by the Biden administration. ,” Kemp’s office said in a statement.
Kemp has cited the same reason for Repeated suspensions of state gasoline and diesel taxes since March, a measure that has cost the state more than $800 million in lost tax revenue. Abrams has asked Kemp to guarantee a suspension of fuel taxes until the end of the year.
Abrams has repeatedly accused Kemp of hypocrisy for taking credit for federally funded benefits while badmouthing Biden. Abrams spokesman Alex Floyd in a statement Monday called the move another one of Kemp’s “election year vote-buying schemes.”
While Kemp is increasing the incomes of the poorest Georgians now, finished a monthly increase of at least $95 in food stamp benefits in late May when he ended the state of emergency for COVID-19 in Georgia. His administration has also behind in the distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money meant to prevent evictions.
“The reality is that Brian Kemp is refusing to expand Medicaid, has cut food assistance amid rising prices, and has failed to fully implement federal rental assistance, leaving too many Georgians dispossessed,” he said. Abrams spokesman Alex Floyd in a statement. “Now, in the middle of a re-election campaign, he is taking money to stage more political stunts. Kemp’s PR stunt is too little too late.”
The state Department of Human Services said on its website that beneficiaries will receive payment automatically, but urged people to update their contact information on a state website that manages health and welfare benefits. The state said people who receive food stamps and cash welfare benefits will not receive the money on the same debit card that receives those benefits, but it did not immediately respond to questions about how the money will be sent.
Only people registered by July 31 will get the money. Anyone who signed up later or dropped out of programs early is not eligible. If someone benefits from multiple programs, they will only receive one $350 payment, but separate payments will be made to all benefiting household members, meaning a single parent with two children will receive $1,050, for example.
Georgia had 2.3 million people on Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program in April, according to the most recent federal figures, while in May it had 1.59 million people on food stamps.
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