Kemp’s No Good, Very Bad Week Before Election Day

November 3, 2022

Hospital Closure, Rental Assistance Halted, Disastrous Rollout of “Kemp Cards”

With just five days until Election Day, Georgians are being reminded exactly why we can’t afford another four years with Brian Kemp in the governor’s office. This week alone, one of only two Level I trauma centers in the Atlanta metro closed for good, the state abruptly halted its rental assistance program, and Kemp’s $350 “Kemp card” assistance program has continued facing a disastrous rollout.

RECAP: What Kemp’s failed leadership has put Georgians through this week:

Kemp’s last-minute stunt to send Georgians $350 faces disastrous rollout: Less than two months before Election Day, Kemp announced he was using funds from Democrats’ American Rescue Plan to send $350 to Georgians — the governor said this was needed because of inflation.

Thousands of Georgians are still having trouble accessing and using the funds. Many have reported their identities have been compromised and funds stolen off the cards. Georgians are reporting that many stores, like Dollar Tree and Walmart, won’t accept the “Kemp cards.”

The “Kemp cards” came after the governor cut off pandemic food stamp support, which was providing 770,000 Georgians about $100 in food support every month. Kemp said that due to a strong economy, people didn’t need extra help.

Axios: Inside the messy rollout of Kemp’s $350 payments to Georgians

  • The rollout of Gov. Brian Kemp’s cash payments to millions of low-income Georgia residents and families has been a mess for many from the outset. For nearly two months Georgians have reported they’ve had transactions declined, cards suspended and even the money stolen before it could be spent.
  • Why it matters: Kemp’s office said the plan — which uses federal COVID aid dollars — was designed to help people “cope” with the pandemic and record inflation. But nearly a dozen recipients have told Axios and AJC reporters the state has struggled with the rollout, leaving many resorting to giving each other advice on social media about how to troubleshoot problems.
  • Separately, two legal experts tell Axios and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the administration of these payments violated federal data privacy regulations — something the state denies.
  • Since the Sept. 20 launch, DHS’ Facebook page has been inundated with tens of thousands of complaints about declined transactions, suspended cards, or stolen funds.
  • The intrigue: Some recipients have complained that the rollout appeared rushed for political gain as money was released in the months ahead of the midterm election.
  • “This is a stunt,” Chanae Forrest, a day care teacher from Newton, claims. “You did this right before election time… You’ve been sitting on this money for how long?”
  • “Everybody I know who was eligible for it had some sort of issue,” she said. “It’s like throwing somebody a life preserver but the line is too short.”
  • What they’re saying: David Super, a lawyer and legal scholar at Georgetown University who has specialized in Medicaid, said the program “clearly violates the privacy protections in the Medicaid law.”

Atlanta Medical Center (AMC) closed down: The closure of one of only two Level I trauma centers in the Atlanta metro area will cause more patients to seek care at Grady Memorial Hospital, putting a strain on the already-underfunded hospital. Patients who can’t receive treatment there could be forced to travel 85 miles to Macon, where the next-closest Level 1 Trauma Center is located.

AMC marks the sixth hospital to close on Kemp’s watch and comes as he doubles down on his refusal to expand Medicaid, which would provide billions in federal funds to support struggling hospitals, extend health coverage to over 500,000 Georgians, and lower the cost of care for everyone, even those with private health insurance.

Under Kemp, 70% of Georgians report struggling with health care costs and our uninsured rate is the fifth highest in the nation.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Atlanta Medical Center closure brings higher costs, risks for Grady

  • Now, with the seismic news that Wellstar Health System is closing the city’s only other safety net hospital, even more patients will be seeking care at Grady, making its need for more funding even more urgent.
  • Gov. Brian Kemp is funneling a one-time $130 million payment [funded by the American Rescue Plan] to the hospital…But not mentioned in the publicity firestorm was that Grady already needed those extra beds and that extra funding.
  • “Clearly, the $130 million covers the capital cost,” Haupert [Grady’s CEO] said in a recent interview. “But that’s not enough.”
  • Much of the concern about the loss of Atlanta Medical Center’s downtown location centers on its emergency room. AMC and Grady’s emergency rooms are the only two in Atlanta certified as a “Level 1 trauma center” capable of treating the most severe injuries.

State ceases rental assistance program without warning: Yesterday, a new report revealed the state abruptly shut down applications for its rental assistance program, “leaving a number of tenants in the lurch.” The news comes after Kemp dragged his feet on distributing rental assistance during the height of the pandemic.

Even though the state received federal funds in 2020 to help Georgians keep a roof over their heads during the pandemic, the state waited nearly a year, until February 2021, to set up a rental assistance program “despite having higher than average historic eviction rates.” As of June 2022, 31,000 tenants out of 114,000+ applications received support. Reporting suggests that the slow speed of Georgia’s rental assistance program led to tenants getting evicted.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: State abruptly halts applications for rental assistance

  • The Department of Community Affairs has abruptly stopped taking applications for its rental assistance program, apparently leaving a number of tenants in the lurch.
  • [S]ome tenants say that they were already approved for assistance, then had that approval removed from the department’s portal, leading housing advocates and tenants to believe the program had ended.
  • “Unlike other states, I don’t think they’ve had any interest in a program that would help build an infrastructure to help people for the long-term,” she said. “From the beginning, their position has been that Georgia never really needed this money.”
  • While the economy has recovered in the past two years and many people have gone back to work, housing remains in short supply, especially for many low-wage workers. 
  • “We had been approved for $1,200 and then I went back and looked at the portal Oct. 27 and suddenly it said we were denied,” said Raneice White of Atlanta. “Our rent is due Saturday and we were kind of depending on the money.”


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