Special Report - COVID-19
April 28, 2020

Latest News

Unemployment Benefit Update

Governor Brian P. Kemp and the Georgia Department of Labor are partnering to ensure Georgians understand their unemployment options as the state begins the safe reopening of businesses. The DOL has issued an emergency rule that increased the earnings exemption amount from $55 to $300 a week without reducing an employee's weekly benefit amount. Under the ruling, if a business opens back up slowly and their employees are returning to work with reduced hours, employers can continue to file employer-filed partial claims on behalf of their employees.
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Increased Testing for COVID-19
Our state has been hard at work, partnering with various public and private entities to ensure Georgia has adequate testing resources. Per Governor Kemp's last conference, Augusta University will take a leadership role in expanding coronavirus testing statewide.
Augusta University  and  Augusta University Health System  will work in partnership with the Georgia Department of Public Health and Georgia National Guard to coordinate centralized scheduling for Georgia's nearly 50 COVID-19 specimen point of collection sites. As of now, Georgians are still required to get a referral and meet certain criteria before they receive testing. However, with the number of sites increasing daily, this requirement may change in the future.

2020 Legislative Session
Discussions are now in progress to determine when the 2020 legislative session will resume. Session, which was suspended March 13 amid COVID-19 concerns, will come to order prior to the July 1 date of our new fiscal year. 

Passing a balanced budget is the only constitutional obligation we have during any given session.  We are waiting to ensure we receive as many financial reports as possible to address funding for the upcoming year, considering budget changes and needs resulting from COVID-19. We are hopeful to receive our start date within the coming days.

From the Desk of 
Senator  Ed Harbison

Monday, April 20, Governor Kemp  announced plans  to begin reopening our state's economy. While reports show that Georgia has passed the "Peak" of the curve and is headed in the right direction, we ask that you remain cautious during this time. 

Unfortunately, this virus will continue to be a threat until we have "herd immunity" through a vaccine, which will likely not be available until sometime next year.
Below, we have taken the liberty out lining the executive orders, along with more detailed information. We will continue to send updates as received.

Executive Order

Reopening Georgia

Who, what, when, where and how?
Hospitals can resume elective surgeries.
Friday, April 24:
Hair salons, barber shops, gyms/fitness centers, bowling alleys, massage therapists, nail salons, estheticians, and tattoo/body art parlors
State Board of Cosmetology Guidelines
Salon/shop owners and managers should use the  OSHA "Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19"  as a guide for reopening. Below are some of the top-level guidelines for salon and spa operators to follow. The complete list of guidelines are available here on the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers' website. 
Monday, April 27
Theaters, Private Clubs, Restaurant Dining Rooms may re-open with strict social distancing, minimum basic operations rules, and sanitation enforced.
Here is a list of other notable guidelines restaurants must try to meet in order to reopen:
  • Allowing only ten patrons per 500 square feet in dining room, waiting area, bar area
  • No self-service drink, utensil, or condiment stations
  • Encouraging the use of disposable menus
  • Discontinuing salad bars and buffets
  • Thoroughly sanitizing tables and any other commonly used items by guests
  • Using rolled silverware and no presetting of tables
  • Limiting parties to no more than six people per table
  • Encouraging reservation-only
  • Posting signs at the entrance stating no one is allowed in the restaurant who is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or a fever over 100.4
  • Using contactless pay options when possible
  • Providing hand sanitizer or additional hand-washing stations for staff and patrons
  • Not allowing people to congregate in waiting areas
  • Prioritizing takeout and delivery over dine-in service when possible 
Churches/places of worship can resume in person worship services following strict social distancing guidelines- however under phase one guidelines drive in/ live streaming services advised.
Thursday, April 30
Shelter in Place order still in place- will expire at 11:59pm Thursday, April 30 for most Georgians.
Wednesday, May 13
Shelter in Place advised for medically fragile and elderly Georgians through May 13th.
What will remained closed?
Amusement parks, entertainment venues, and night clubs will remain closed. Concerts/large events still prohibited.
Schools will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year- distance/digital learning is ongoing.