State lawmakers are pushing for Congress to release $500 billion in federal funds to help prop up state budgets in Georgia and across the U.S. amid the coronavirus-prompted economic downturn.
In a letter Monday, top budget-writing lawmakers in the General Assembly formally asked the state’s congressional delegation to back the $500 billion relief package for state governments, echoing calls by a handful of governors last month for the same amount.
State agencies are already being asked to slice their budgets by 14% ahead of expected revenue shortfalls in Georgia of between $3 billion and $4 billion, as state lawmakers scramble to draft a budget for the 2021 fiscal year before a July 1 deadline.
The revenue decline has been fueled in part by drastic slowdowns in economic activity seen at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the Port of Savannah and the Georgia World Congress Center, according to the letter.
Additionally, around 10% of the state’s workforce primarily in the hospitality and food-service industries has filed for unemployment benefits in recent weeks, marking an extraordinary uptick in out-of-work Georgians.
“As one of the 10 largest state economies in the nation, we are experiencing an unprecedented fiscal shock as the world stands still,” reads the letter.
It was signed by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia.
Facing such large budget cuts, state agencies will almost certainly experience painful impacts that could result in scaled-back services and layoffs.
Critics of the 14% cut in spending have called for state lawmakers to instead raise revenues via taxes and by ending certain tax exemptions.
Agency heads have been ordered to submit budget-reduction proposals by May 20, around the time lawmakers are set to resume in-person committee meetings.
The General Assembly is poised to resume the 2020 legislative session in mid-June with the budget as the main focus.