Policy Update: What will schools look like in the fall? | VIDEO

Policy Update: What will schools look like in the fall? | VIDEO

Policy Update: What will schools look like in the fall? | VIDEO

GCO’s Vice President of Public Policy, Buzz Brockway is joined by GCO’s Jamie Lord to discuss the Georgia Governor’s suggestions for returning to school in the Fall. While these are merely suggestions, and schools will be able to choose their plans by district, these new guidelines paint a picture of what school in Georgia could look like in light of Coronavirus.

Reopening Isn’t About Haircuts, It’s About Relieving Human Suffering

Reopening Isn’t About Haircuts, It’s About Relieving Human Suffering

Reopening Isn’t About Haircuts, It’s About Relieving Human Suffering

Georgia recently began the long process of reopening its economy in the wake of what it is hoped will be the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beginning in late April, certain categories of businesses were allowed to open in Georgia, including restaurants and barber shops. The encouraging news is that infection rates have not spiked and, instead, are flattening and even declining.

Many are concerned that we’re moving too early, too fast — and that safety will take a back seat. That worry is understandable. The toll of the virus in suffering and loss of life is indescribable, as thousands of families are affected in ways they will never forget.

On the other side, many are clamoring for even quicker action to get people back to work.

In truth, both sides have it right. Our first priority should be health. Clearly, that trumps all. But a key aspect of health is not just avoiding a virus, but the full spectrum of human well-being and flourishing. And to achieve that, we can’t afford to remain on lockdown much longer.

We clearly know the economic devastation wrought by the virus: About half of low-income households have reported job or wage loss due to the coronavirus. These job losses could be felt for years as families struggle to get back on their feet — or are never able to at all, plunging them into poverty.

The toll is real. I’m thinking of young moms like Jessica (not her real name to protect her identity), who had been living in her car with her small child as a result of work cutbacks and being evicted. Stories like this one are countless.

But what about the toll on mental health and general well-being? The picture is beginning to emerge, and it’s not pretty. In fact, we are facing a public mental health crisis.

recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that more than half of U.S. adults (56 percent) report that worry related to the coronavirus outbreak has caused them stress-induced symptoms like insomnia, poor appetite or overeating, or frequent headaches or stomach aches.

That’s only the beginning. We have also seen the effects of social isolation in a 1,000 percent increase in calls to distress hotlines in April alone.

Rates of substance abuse and suicide will doubtless skyrocket. One analysis predicts that if the United States reaches Depression-era level unemployment rates, we could see 18,000 additional suicides and additional overdose deaths of 22,000.

The Well Being Trust recently released a report estimating the pandemic could lead to 75,000 additional “deaths of despair” from drug and alcohol abuse and suicide.

During this lockdown, people are missing the ingredients that make for a flourishing life: community, relationships, purpose and belonging. And the truth is that, for many Americans, a major way they experience these benefits is through a job. It’s where we find community, socialize and discover a sense of meaning.

A job is about so much more than just a paycheck.

We know that human beings function best when they are involved with meaningful work. Until this point, the dialogue on reopening has largely focused on “essential” vs. “non-essential” jobs.

But every job is essential for the person who holds it. And not just from a financial standpoint: It’s one key gateway to what makes life meaningful for many of us.

Protecting public health and getting people back into their jobs and communities are not mutually exclusive priorities. We can, and must, do both. We can be sensitive to loss of life and human suffering during this pandemic.

But we also must acknowledge the pain of those whose means of surviving economically has been shattered.

Lawrenceville creates a center to help vulnerable residents during COVID-19 | 11 ALIVE

Lawrenceville creates a center to help vulnerable residents during COVID-19 | 11 ALIVE

Lawrenceville creates a center to help vulnerable residents during COVID-19 | 11 ALIVE

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — Lawrenceville’s response to the coronavirus is now up and running, offering short-term emergency assistance to residents.


City council members, alongside Lawrenceville Mayor David Still, approved an agreement with Impact46, Inc. to create the Lawrenceville Response Center (LRC) at the April 27th meeting…


The center is a partnership between the city, Impact46, the Lawrenceville Housing Authority, the Georgia Center for Opportunity, the Lawrenceville Co-Operative MinistryHomeFirst Gwinnett and other non-profits.


Read the full article here

Reopening Responsibly

Reopening Responsibly

Reopening Responsibly

Fully Reopening Georgia’s Economy Safely

As stories continue to mount on the impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic on individuals and communities, the Georgia Center for Opportunity recognizes the need to come together as communities. This is already happening with social distancing becoming the new norm. The next step is for businesses, workers and patrons to begin to take the responsibility on themselves to provide safe environments. With the guidance of health experts, Georgia has the opportunity to be an example of how responsible individuals can come together to combat a common threat.


Recommendation for a Governor’s Task Force

On April 21, 2020, a day after Governor Brian Kemp outlined steps to safely reopen Georgia’s economy, the Georgia Board of Cosmetology and Barbers issued guidelines on how its licensees may resume operations while looking after public health and safety. This step sets an example for other industries so that all Georgians can get back to work again in a safe and successful manner.

The task for reopening the economy is uncharted territory complicated by the fact that Georgia has 233,500 employer-based establishments, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau. There are not only differences between industries, but operations and practices can vary widely among business firms within industries. While we can rely on licensing boards and other government agencies to develop guidelines within their purviews, the complexity of the economy demands more.

The Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) believes that the only way the Governor’s initiative to reopen the economy can be successful is if business leaders, employees, and customers innovate and adapt to operations under the new circumstances. The best solutions will bubble up from individuals at the local level who will develop practical solutions to safely resume activity. While we all properly look to the Governor for his leadership, success will depend on how each member of the community responds. Local heroes will rise to the occasion in their own ways and set an example for us to follow.

Therefore, GCO recommends a process to help facilitate the Governor’s directive for reopening the economy. The hope is that it will allow the economy to operate under a restricted environment until it is possible to return to full functioning without concern for public health, such as having the population protected with a Covid-19 vaccine or a medication available that is both safe and effective against the virus.

To help ensure the success of reopening the economy, GCO recommends the Governor establish a task force to invite business leaders to submit guidelines specific to their industries. The Governor can use these industry-specific guidelines produced by this process to help him make further decisions on how to effectively and safely bring Georgia’s economy fully back. Furthermore, by making the guidelines available publicly, it will help others determine the best ways they, too, can resume activities safely.


Role of the Task Force

The proposed task force will notify business leaders of the opportunity to set up teams for their industry. These teams will draw up guidelines on how businesses in their industry will resume operations in a safe manner, consistent with CDC guidelines and other guidance provided by the Commissioner of Public Health.

The task force may initiate contact with business leaders and invite other industries to form teams. Businesses are responsible for writing the guidelines. In other words, the task force will not write the guidelines. Its job is to facilitate the process and to assist where needed. This approach relies on innovation and the resilience of individuals that have been the hallmark of American prosperity. It also recognizes that the best solutions rise up from individuals at the local level.

The members of the task force should be state officials and key government staff of the Governor’s choosing, and the Governor may elect to appoint private citizens to participate in the task force as well. For example, among those the Governor chooses for the task force may include the economic development commissioner, the labor commissioner, key staff from the Governor’s office, an economic advisor, and perhaps a well-known business leader.


Infectious Disease Guidance

Under the proposal, the Commissioner of Public Health plays a critical role. Business leaders, employees, and customers need good and trustworthy information to help them make good decisions. Therefore, the Commissioner will provide guidance, including forwarding CDC information, on how to stop the spread of infectious disease. It is important to formalize her role in this process so that her team can be fully engaged in providing guidance to businesses, employees, and customers.

The information provided by the Commissioner will be crucial to the business teams, allowing them to develop their industry-specific guidelines. As new information and technologies on stopping the spread of infectious disease become available, the commissioner will provide updates. These updates will enable the industry teams to modify their guidelines appropriately.

In turn, small and large businesses alike can use the guidelines to devise practices and protocols on how they can resume operations safely.


Industry Teams

Business leaders will volunteer their time and are expected to put together their own teams of experts to devise the guidelines. When the proposed guidelines are ready, they simply submit them directly to the task force.

Under this proposal, businesses are free to form their own teams and submit their proposals even if they were not approached by a member of the task force.



One of the first actions of the task force should be to establish a central website with easy access and easy navigation to all industry guidelines and announcements. In addition, the website should provide links to guidance from the Commissioner of Public Health and the names of the industry team members to facilitate communications. This website should go online as soon as possible


Responsible Society Reaction

Reopening the economy is extremely important. The livelihoods of Georgians are dependent on it. Moreover, a strong economy is the best policy against poverty, and we certainly do not want to thrust more Georgians into poverty. Therefore, we must find ways to safely resume activity within the current environment. Georgia can be an example to the nation, but its success depends on how we as individuals respond and innovate.

Lawrenceville creates a center to help vulnerable residents during COVID-19 | 11 ALIVE

Meet 5 Chicago Tech Companies on the COVID-19 Front Lines | BUILT IN CHICAGO

They’re looking into 3D-printing N95 and N80 masks. They’re providing medical professionals with personal protective equipment made in-house. They’re distributing fanny-packs stuffed with medical supplies to healthcare providers. 

Tech companies across the nation are stepping up in the face of the novel coronavirus, and Chicago businesses are no exception…


We are joining forces with the Georgia Center for Opportunity to provide support to those who have been economically impacted by COVID-19 in the Greater Atlanta area. This partnership combines the power of Solve’s technology with GCO’s “Hiring Well, Doing Good” program to connect un- and underemployed people with the resources, training and job opportunities they need in order to regain stability through employment. 


Read the full article here

Fully Reopening Georgia’s Economy Safely

Fully Reopening Georgia’s Economy Safely

Fully Reopening Georgia’s Economy Safely


Today, the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) released the following recommendations for governments and schools to adopt to safely return to normal during the COVID-19 crisis. These recommendations come on the heels of President Trump’s announcement that states should begin reopening the economy at their own pace beginning May 1st. GCO will be releasing further recommendations in the near future.

1. Establish a Georgia Task Force on the Economy and Education

We encourage state leaders to put together a task force on reopening the economy. This task force will invite business leaders to submit industry-specific guidelines on how they will operate safely in a restrictive environment until the threat is over, such as when a vaccine is found. These business leaders will receive guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Georgia’s Commissioner of Public Health. Gov. Kemp can then use these guidelines to loosen restrictions in a safe manner. In addition, GCO recommends that the governor consider modifications to his shelter-in-place order to allow people to shop, a vital step for businesses to rebound successfully.

Second, we recommend another task force providing advice to families and school districts on facilitating remote learning. This task force should also create a plan and timetable for the safe return to brick-and-mortar schools in a restrictive environment. We also recommend that school systems develop a plan to ensure students are caught up on schoolwork they might have missed. Additionally, school systems should prepare for COVID-19 outbreaks during the 2020-2021 school year and be ready to return to remote learning when and if that occurs, including a plan to assist students with limited internet access and limited access to appropriate technology.


2. Tap Into Civil Society Resources

Now is the time for civil society to work with government to plan out the reopening of our economy. Workers are being hurt because of forced closures, and we must focus particularly on individuals in vulnerable sectors of our society who could be working now but are unable. Our small businesses are hurting, too. A recent survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported that one-in-four small businesses are on the brink of closure and half are considering a temporary shutdown.

In this environment, civil society is more important than ever through nonprofits, community organizations, and churches. We recommend the state of Georgia tap into these resources through coalitions such as GCO’s Hiring Well, Doing Good initiative that matches local businesses with workers.


3. Working with Neighboring States

We are seeing positive examples of other states forming regional coalitions to fight the coronavirus. The Georgia government should consider working with neighboring states. For example, the Port of Savannah is close to the South Carolina border, and many people work at the Port and live in the Palmetto State. It would make sense for these two state governments to coordinate reopening this area at the same time.

Quote from GCO President and CEO Randy Hicks

“We are in unprecedented times, and we recognize the suffering from those affected directly by the disease, but also by those impacted by the mass closure of our economy, schools, and way of life. The time has come to create actionable items for reopening Georgia. No recovery plan is without risk, but we must weigh the risk and rely on health and business professionals to do so. Now is the time for everyone to come together to explore solutions that protect our neighborhoods and respond to community needs.”