Gov. Brian Kemp gives a briefing on the state's COVID-19 response.

Gov. Brian Kemp gives a briefing on the state's COVID-19 response.

Gov. Brian Kemp is asking the Georgia General Assembly to appropriate $100 million from the state’s rainy day fund to aid health officials and emergency responders working to combat coronavirus in the state.

In a letter sent to House and Senate appropriations leaders, Kemp said he was raising the state’s revenue by adding $100 million from the Revenue Shortfall Reserve (RSR) and subsequently requesting the amended fiscal year budget appropriate that $100 million into the governor’s emergency fund.

“Today I have asked House and Senate leadership for $100 million in emergency funds to address the rise of coronavirus cases in our state and assist GEMA and DPH in their response efforts,” Kemp said in a statement.” I am requesting this funding out of an abundance of caution to ensure that we have all of the necessary medical personnel, equipment, and supplies to keep Georgians healthy and safe in the weeks ahead. I look toward to working with lawmakers to secure this appropriation, and I deeply appreciate their support in this time of need for communities across Georgia.”

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The RSR balance is at $2.8 billion and has grown since the Great Recession, and Kemp said the decision to tap into the fund was not one made lightly, considering his request that state agencies cut spending in this fiscal year and next.

“However, the spread of coronavirus represents an immediate and unforeseen threat to the state,” he said. “Asking agencies to further reducing spending at this late point of the fiscal year in order to redirect resources to coronavirus response could hamper the governmental activities on which we rely to combat this threat.”

Kemp also asked that any of the $100 million not spent on coronavirus response would be returned to the RSR.

House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) said in a statement he fully supports Kemp’s request for the additional $100 million to address any coronavirus-related needs, and that he is committed to ensuring adequate resources are available. Ralston also expressed confidence in the federal, state and local personnel working to combat what the World Health Organization has now deemed a “pandemic.”   

At least six cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed by federal testing, with several more cases awaiting final confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One person has been voluntarily transferred to an isolation camp at Hard Labor Creek State Park in Morgan County, a Cherokee County resident with COVID-19 who could not isolate at their primary residence and is not in critical condition.

The General Assembly is still in session and House and Senate leaders have not indicated they will suspend proceedings.

Tuesday, the state House announced it was suspending its page program and cutting down on the number of guests allowed onto the House floor, but would keep the House gallery open to the public. The Senate is monitoring developments and is planning for business as usual.