As virus spreads in Georgia, a few go home from quarantine

In this Feb. 11, 2020, photo, Georgia Gov.r Brian Kemp speaks in Atlanta. 

ATLANTA - Gov. Brian Kemp signed the fiscal 2020 mid-year budget Tuesday, including a late addition of $100 million to help with Georgia’s response to coronavirus.

The General Assembly passed the $27.5 billion plan covering state spending through June 30 last week shortly before suspending the 2020 legislative session indefinitely because of the coronavirus crisis.

“I applaud the General Assembly’s strong support in these difficult times,” Kemp said in a prepared statement. “Together, we will continue to fight for Georgians to ensure a safe, prosperous future for all.”

The funds addressing the coronavirus emergency will be drawn from the state’s reserves, which stand at a healthy $2.8 billion after plummeting dangerously low during the Great Recession more than a decade ago.

Other than the coronavirus funding, the mid-year budget also includes $132.8 million to reflect enrollment growth in Georgia’s public schools since the General Assembly adopted the original fiscal 2020 budget a year ago.

Lawmakers also added $5 million in grants to help stabilize financially struggling rural hospitals and boosted funding for mental health services by $8.2 million.

The legislature restored some of the spending reductions the governor had recommended in January to help offset sluggish tax revenues. Restored cuts included $4 million to the state’s public defenders and a network of accountability courts formed as part of a criminal-justice reform initiative aimed at providing an alternative to prison for non-violent offenders.

The mid-year budget also put back $1.3 million in cuts to public libraries across the state.

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