As Georgia heads toward a pair of runoff elections for U.S. Senate, what happened to basic civility?

As Georgia heads toward a pair of runoff elections for U.S. Senate, what happened to basic civility?

As Georgia heads toward a pair of runoff elections for U.S. Senate, what happened to basic civility?

By David Bass

Where’s the Christmas cheer? 


That’s what I find myself asking as I look at all of the bitter partisan rancor surrounding Georgia’s pair of runoff elections for two U.S. Senate races. Civility has definitely taken a backseat to rage and bitterness this month in the Peach State as we march toward January 5, election day for the runoff (although early voting has already begun).


In the two races, incumbent Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler face challenges from Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. The two races are the most important in recent memory because their outcome will determine whether Republicans or Democrats control the Senate beginning in 2021.


Here’s what’s getting lost amid all the political squabbling: When the dust settles and winners are declared, both sides will need to come together to work on solutions to our country’s challenges. But if we lose our dignity and sense of purpose in an effort to get our candidate elected, that kind of cooperation is far more challenging. Ultimately in that type of scenario, we will have lost regardless of the electoral outcome.


What’s more, it’s important to remember that our problems won’t magically disappear after the January 5 runoff. Thinking so is to believe that elected officials hold the absolute power to solve our problems. They don’t. 


The fact of the matter is that peoples’ lives meaningfully improve locally when neighbors help neighbors. That’s the key: Our neighbors, whom we’re treating so poorly right now in this election fight, will still be there after we know the election results. We’ll still need to love them, help them, to build better neighborhoods, communities, and ultimately a better Georgia.


That is a fundamental value of the team here at the Georgia Center for Opportunity. We put the dignity of people far above temporary election wins. We realize that in-fighting and partisan squabbling hurts people, when we should be looking for ways to cross the aisle to cooperate in an effort to reduce poverty, expand economic mobility, increase access to quality education options for all families, help people succeed in their relationships and families, and connect people with meaningful work.


We must remember the humanity of other people. We must understand that a difference of opinion does not diminish our inherent worth as human beings worthy of respect. We’re encouraging all Georgians to go vote in these crucial runoff elections, but don’t cast your ballot and call it a day. Let’s practice the Golden Rule: Loving our neighbors regardless of their politics and looking for ways to work together to find common solutions to the challenges we face.


In the end, I realize that Christmas cheer is alive and well across Georgia, evident in everyday acts of kindness, charity, and goodwill. We’ll still be helping our neighbors in the weeks leading up to January 5, and we’ll continue helping them in the weeks, months, and years that follow.


Managing Stress | HEALTHY @ HOME

Managing Stress | HEALTHY @ HOME

Managing Stress | HEALTHY @ HOME

As if the holidays weren’t enough, we’re now in the midst of another surge in the Coronavirus pandemic. 2020 has been stressful. Join licensed professional counselor, Janae Combs, as she gives us some practical advice and tips for managing stress in a healthy way.

To learn more about the Healthy @ Home series and see additional videos click here

We are driven by a belief – supported by experience and research- that people from all walks of life are more likely to flourish if they have an intact, healthy family and strong relationships.


To learn more about how the Healthy Families Initiative is active in the community, click here

The Pandemic Doubles the Food Stamp Program Part 2

The Pandemic Doubles the Food Stamp Program Part 2

The Pandemic Doubles the Food Stamp Program

Part 2

By Erik Randolph

It has been said that haste makes waste. Apparently, this saying also applies to legislation.

Back in March with the pandemic looming, Congress quickly passed major legislation to address the pain of the pandemic. It was well known at the time that the quickness by which the pandemic legislation became law would lead to mistakes and inefficiencies. Here is just one of them.

The Food Stamp Cliff

My last blog highlighted the new food stamps rule created by Congress to address the pandemic. I hinted at how it made welfare cliffs worse.

Welfare cliffs, also known as benefits cliffs, show up whenever a loss in benefits exceeds an increase in earnings. These cliffs are disincentives for earning more money and can show up in tax and welfare programs individually or in combination. 

When it comes to the food stamp program, our research shows that normally these cliffs are fickle. Whether a cliff occurs for a family depends on several factors. In some cases, such as when there is an elderly or disabled member of the household, there are no welfare cliffs. However, if the household has no member who is disabled or elderly and especially receives the maximum deductions and allowances, there can be significant cliffs.

Now with the pandemic food stamp program, all households have cliffs—and they are steeper than ever before.

The table below shows the cliffs for households up to six6 persons when no member of the household is disabled or elderly. The benefit amounts stay the same no matter what income a household receives. Therefore, any household over the gross income limit—even just one dollar over the limit—would lose the entire benefit no matter what level of income it had prior to its income exceeding the limit.


Food Stamps Double - Cliff Table 2

Households with an elderly or a disabled member also have cliffs of the same magnitude. However, the gross income level when they hit the cliffs varies depending on the net income calculations, but in every case, these levels would be greater than the gross income limits listed in the table. 

From March 2020 to August 2020, these cliffs were immaterial because the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) received permission from the Federal government to extend eligibility certification for six months. In practice, this meant that those households no longer qualifying for benefits were allowed to stay in the program. 

However, DFCS began processing renewals again in September, and now households gaining in earnings can find themselves faced with the cliffs at the magnitudes displayed in the table.

What was Congress thinking? 

The food stamp changes were part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (P.L. 116-127), which had overwhelming bipartisan support. With the legislation, Congress intended to ensure the physical and financial security of families.

One concern was access to food. Congress wanted to make more food available through the food stamp program. Fair enough. 

However, changing the rule so that every household participating in the program gets the maximum allowable benefit was crude and blunt. It guaranteed steep welfare cliffs across the board. A single-parent household with one child earning $1,868  a month would lose $374 in monthly benefits if the parent received just one dollar more in income. 

The action also favored wealthier participants. A four-person household with $2,839 in monthly income gets $680, which is exactly the same amount received by a four-person household with no income despite being more vulnerable. 


Four Person Household Food Stamp Benefits

Congress did not have to be so crude and blunt in its approach. Just as easily, Congress could have simply increased the maximum allotment. This action would have spread out the extra funding across all incomes more evenly among the participants. 

Congress could have also been more daring by simultaneously increasing the gross income limit, making any potential cliffs less severe.

The dilemma 

Perhaps Congress chose not to consider these two easy alternatives because key members believed it would be too difficult to roll back the enhanced benefits once the pandemic is finally over. 

There is probably some truth to this fear. However, we do not escape the political difficulty. My next blog will focus on the coming food stamp crisis. 

If you have experience with the food stamp cliff, we would like to hear from you. Be sure to let us know in the comments below. 


Erik Randolph is Director of Research at the Georgia Center for Opportunity. This blog reflects his opinion and not necessarily that of the Georgia Center for Opportunity.


Based on the most recent 2015 data, this report provides an in-depth look at the welfare cliffs across the state of Georgia. A computer model was created to demonstrate how welfare programs, alone or in combination with other programs, create multiple welfare cliffs for recipients that punish work. In addition to covering a dozen programs – more than any previous model – the tool used to produce the following report allows users to see how the welfare cliff affects individuals and families with very specific characteristics, including the age and sex of the parent, number of children, age of children, income, and other variables. Welfare reform conversations often lack a complete understanding of just how means-tested programs actually inflict harm on some of the neediest within our state’s communities.

The Pandemic Doubles the Food Stamp Program Part 1

The Pandemic Doubles the Food Stamp Program Part 1

The Pandemic Doubles the Food Stamp Program

Part 1

By Erik Randolph

The monthly spending for food stamp benefits in Georgia nearly doubled since before the start of the pandemic. Surprisingly, only 45.3 percent of the increased spending is due to increased participation. The remaining 54.7 percent is due to enhanced benefits.

Congress Makes a New Food Stamp Rule

On March 18th, the U.S. Senate passed H.R. 6201 that the U.S. House of Representative passed just four days prior. President Donald J. Trump signed the bill that same day, making the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (P.L. 116-127) the second federal law to address the looming pandemic. 

The food stamp provisions in the law suspended work and work-training requirements and allowed states to request waivers to give recipients the maximum allotment for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the official name of the food stamp program. 

Along with all other states, Georgia requested and received a pandemic-SNAP waiver—P-SNAP for short. P-SNAP lasts as long as there is a declared health emergency by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the waivers are renewed on a monthly basis.

Here is what it means in practice: Currently, all households of the same size receive the exact same food stamp allotment. An eligible single mom with one child receives $374 a month in food stamp benefits, the same amount as every other eligible two-person household in Georgia, no matter what income the household earns. It does not matter if the single mom has no income or makes $22,400 annually, which is just below the gross income limit. She still receives $374 each month in benefits. 

Likewise, an eligible four-person household currently receives $680 each month no matter if the household has no income or $34,000 in income, which is also just below the gross income limit.

During normal times, DFCS calculates net income of the household by subtracting several deductions and allowances from a household’s gross income. Then, to determine the amount of the benefit, DFCS subtracts 30 percent of the calculated net income from the maximum allotment. 

Benefits and Costs 

The number of Georgia households participating in the food stamp program was 626,808 in February 2020. As of September, that total was 905,949 households—a 44.5 percent increase. The number of persons participating increased from 1,342,624 to 1,862,486 for a 38.7 percent increase. 

The regular issuance of food stamp benefits followed the increase in household participation. It increased from $163,247,601 to $236,170,166—a 44.7 percent increase. Although the average fluctuated as much as $10.58 on a month-to-month basis, the average household benefit was $260.44 in February compared to $260.69 in September, which are almost identical. 

However, P-SNAP enhanced the size of the payments to the participants. When combined with the regular issuance, the total benefits in September were $324,169,118 for a 98.6 percent increase, increasing the average household benefit to $357.82. Note that these numbers do not include $100,385,379 for free and reduced price school lunches in September that were funneled through the Electronic Benefit Transfer cards that are used to issue the food stamp benefits. 

Pandemic doubles food stamps image (2)

Was this the Best Way to Do it?

Note that Congress did not allow the states to expand the number of participants beyond the normal eligibility criteria for the program. The P-SNAP benefits of $581,085,040 spent since March were spent on those who would have normally qualified for the benefits.

Consequently, the households who benefited the most from the extra funding were those households with the higher incomes just under the eligibility limits. My next blog will show in greater detail how P-SNAP caused the welfare cliff to jump in magnitude.

In the meantime, if you have an opinion on whether this was a fair way to allocate extra funding for food stamps, be sure to let us know in the comments below.


Erik Randolph is Director of Research at the Georgia Center for Opportunity. This blog reflects his opinion and not necessarily that of the Georgia Center for Opportunity.

Nonprofit organization offering free job training to Columbus residents | WTVM-9

Nonprofit organization offering free job training to Columbus residents | WTVM-9

Nonprofit organization offering free job training to Columbus residents | WTVM-9

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) – As many continue to deal with unemployment, a local nonprofit has created a program to help people wanting to get back to work.


Under the Hiring Well, Doing Good program, the Georgia Center for Opportunity is offering something free called ‘Marketing Yourself’ training. The training is offered virtually and in person.


The goal is to help people who may have trouble finding good employment. The training includes what employers care about, mastering interviews, showing your strengths, and dressing for success….

Full story and video available at WTVM-9