Near-term Responses to Ease COVID-19 Impact on Georgia

Benita M. Dodd

Monday, March 30th, 2020

The Georgia Public Policy Foundation, the state’s first free-market think tank, celebrated its 29th anniversary with a grand celebration January 28 at the Fox Theatre. As Foundation President Kyle Wingfield enthusiastically invited the 300 attendees to return next year to help mark three decades of policy over politics, not a single person in the room had an inkling of what was in store for Georgia in the weeks ahead.

Just a month ago, the Foundation was highlighting the comfortable cushion of the state’s record $3 billion rainy-day fund and urging legislators to keep their 2018 promise of a quarter-point reduction in Georgians’ income tax rate.

Fast forward to today. The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has turned the state, the nation and the world on its collective head. Booming economies that only recently vaguely referenced an “overdue” recession are dealing with the shock and awe of a soaring infection rate, a silent stalker and an uncertain timeline. The economic plummet is unprecedented; the infection’s spread is exponential; and everything is on the table as governments work to stabilize and mitigate the effects.

During this public health emergency, it was encouraging to see a move the Foundation has long championed: Among the first of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive orders was (temporary) removal of some of Georgia’s “certificate of need” requirements that restrict the expansion of  healthcare facilities and services. Another Foundation proposal, to expedite licensing of medical personnel (in good standing) from other states, was also implemented. Telehealth – an area in which the state already is a national leader, also thanks in part to the Foundation’s proposals – has been a boon as Georgia tackles the pandemic. Legislation that took effect in July allows interstate telehealth consultations, and providers are making the most of this opportunity to familiarize patients with safer, affordable doctor-patient interactions in this time of “social distancing.”