Safety-net reform discussion in progress Georgia Promise Scholarship advocates Raising Highly Capable Kids program session Collaborative community safety planning Economic empowerment through BETTER WORK Educational opportunity supporters in action Community leaders addressing employment barriers Policy reform meeting on public safety Family stability and well-being empowerment Networking for local job opportunities

2024: A Year of Unique Opportunities to Change Lives and Help Our Neighbors


Key Points

  • Building off our success in 2023, the new year presents unique opportunities to build better lives for our neighbors through the power of work, education, family, and safer communities.

  • Our goal is for 2024 to be the year that safety-net reform takes hold in states across the country, while educational freedom becomes a reality at home here in Georgia as Promise Scholarships finally become a reality.
  • We hope this year will also bring safer communities in big and small cities alike through key public safety reforms.

One word that often comes to mind at the beginning of a new year is “hope.” As 2024 dawns, the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) is working hard to help everyone — especially the poor and disadvantaged — experience the wonder of hope by envisioning a better future for themselves and their loved ones. They can live better. They can become better.

Time and time again, government has proven that it can’t help people escape systemic, generational poverty. While the safety net is important, viewing it as a way of life saps people of their humanity and unfairly limits their potential. The poor deserve to know that poverty is escapable, not just survivable. And they deserve a helping hand to escape.

These solutions come from homes, neighborhoods, and local communities. This is where aspirations and dreams are born. No handout can substitute for this.

With this vision in mind, we will be dedicating 2024 to making positive changes in a few key areas that greatly affect the quality and trajectory of life for those who are most vulnerable. We built significant momentum last year on a range of issues, and that’s setting the stage for even bigger impact this year.

Here’s some of what’s on tap for us in the new year.

Safety-net reform will yield new opportunities

We’re taking on the safety-net system by advancing reforms in Congress, Georgia, and states across the country to create a more humane system that rewards work and creates a bridge to self-sufficiency.

We should look to Utah as an example of a state in the nation that is leading the way on safety-net reforms. The Beehive State’s One Door policy has integrated human services with workforce services and provides citizens with a single program to work through. Welfare becomes work support, and people have a clear path to get the help they need while receiving education, training, and other support to find employment.

This year, working with our Alliance for Opportunity partnership as a platform, we are advancing federal legislation to allow all states to adopt the One Door model—something that federal law currently prohibits. In Georgia, we are working with state policymakers to create a One Door task force so that our state is prepared to implement more holistic safety-net policies, especially when federal law is no longer a barrier. 

On a similar front, we are working to educate lawmakers and the public on the problem of benefits cliffs. Put simply, benefits cliffs are when an individual, family, or household loses more in net income and benefits from governmental assistance programs than it gains from additional earnings. This net loss is a perverse incentive that undermines the natural desire to earn more income. Thanks to GCO’s original research, we are crafting program-specific solutions to reduce benefits cliffs in food stamps/SNAP and childcare assistance. 

These solutions will build off the momentum created in states like Missouri, which became the first last year to address public assistance provisions, breaking ground in reforming safety-net benefits.

Safety-net programs have a role in helping the most vulnerable in our society. Ultimately, reforms are not about making government more efficient. They are about ensuring safety-net progams serve as a bridge, not a barrier, to better opportunities and futures.


Expanding educational opportunity will benefit all students

Could 2024 be the year that—finally—education opportunity is extended to all of Georgia’s students, not just a privileged few?

Our hope is the answer is yes. We’re fighting to give every child in Georgia access to a quality education as the Georgia Promise Scholarship bill comes back for a final vote in the recently convened 2024 legislative session. Promise Scholarships would give parents $6,500 per student per year to find the right education option for their kids. The bill cleared the state Senate in 2023 but stalled in the House. 

Promise Scholarships are the cornerstone of our education agenda in 2024, but they are not the only priority. We are also encouraging lawmakers to expand the ceiling on the tax-credit scholarship, to free up families to transfer students between public schools within districts and in separate districts entirely, and make key improvements to charter school laws.

It’s well past time Georgia caught up with the rapidly growing list of other forward-thinking states that are expanding educational opportunity to all.


Support for parents will strengthen families

This year is an exciting phase for our Raising Highly Capable Kids (RHCK) program, which we launched in 2023 to give communities a better resource for nurturing family stability and well-being.   

RHCK is a 13-week evidence-based parenting program designed to build stronger families by empowering parents with the confidence, tools, and skills they need to raise healthy, caring, and responsible children.

A driving factor of long-term poverty is a lack of connection and supportive relationships, especially at home. That’s why we are prioritizing RHCK. At its heart is a curriculum that teaches the building blocks of healthy child development. In 2024, we’re working with partners and schools to expand RHCK. We believe the program will be a powerful way to give parents, caregivers, and educators tools and support to improve kids’ academic achievement, relationships, and overall success in life.

In 2024, the Georgia Center for Opportunity spearheads transformative initiatives, ranging from safety-net reforms and educational advancements to family support and community safety, all geared towards breaking the cycle of poverty and fostering a brighter, more empowered future for individuals and families.

In 2024, the Georgia Center for Opportunity spearheads transformative initiatives, ranging from safety-net reforms and educational advancements to family support and community safety, all geared towards breaking the cycle of poverty and fostering a brighter, more empowered future for individuals and families.

Key reforms will lead to safer communities

Community violence is another barrier to economic opportunity and healthy communities. Individuals and families can only truly thrive when neighborhoods and streets are safe. 

Through community collaborations with law enforcement, policymakers, and community leaders, we’ll help Georgia cities like Atlanta and Columbus reverse the tide of rising violence that has been damaging the family bonds, work opportunities, and educational pathways needed to break the cycle of poverty.

In Columbus, the Columbus Empowerment Network is leading to crime reductions, and we expect more local policy reforms to be adopted in 2024. While much of the focus on increasing crime rates centers on large metro areas, smaller cities like Columbus are still important and have seen concerning upticks in crime.

Our team is also active in moving forward policy in other states, including California, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Washington State, and Kentucky. In Louisville, for example, our work has helped shape an omnibus crime solution bill, which is expected to pass their state House this year. Louisville is important as a national example because it’s one of the most challenging public safety environments in the country, and solutions that work in this city have a good probability of working elsewhere—including Georgia. 


Breaking down employment barriers will transform generations

For those who struggle in poverty, an upwardly mobile job is often the first and best step toward self-sufficiency. That’s why we will continue to work through our BETTER WORK initiative in Gwinnett County and Columbus to build our local support systems to empower men and women to find work. We’ll also cultivate an environment of community safety where business and job opportunities abound.

In Columbus, a new focus for 2024 will be on partnering with local leaders and law enforcement to keep crime from driving away businesses and job opportunities. Meanwhile in Gwinnett, we’re laser focused on building out our network of employer partners, nonprofits, schools, and other community organizations to provide a bridge to a better life for the disadvantaged. And overall, we will continue our partnership with Jobs for Life as well as our mentor program.

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