(The Center Square) – Members of a Georgia legislative panel said Friday they plan to push for a second deadline extension for entities to apply for federal aid.
Georgia must divide more than $8.1 billion in direct aid from the latest COVID-19 relief package. The state is accepting applications for more than $4.8 billion in funding. State government entities, local governments, businesses and nonprofits have until Oct. 31 to apply for the aid.
Sen. Donzella James, D-Atlanta, said some governments and organizations might not meet the deadline.
"I would hope to see a second window for applications because many people were not able to meet the October 31 deadline," James said Friday during the Senate Interstate Cooperation Committee meeting. "It's my hope that we will be able to see that everyone get the assistance that they need and deserve."
The latest federal COVID-19 relief plan, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), was signed into law in March by President Joe Biden. The $1.9 trillion package includes about $17 billion for Georgia. It earmarked funding for fiscal relief for state and local governments, education, housing, food assistance and additional funding for grant programs. The committee has held a series of public hearings since March to allow Georgians to voice their concerns and recommendations for the funding.
Georgians initially had 30 days to apply for the aid. However, Gov. Brian Kemp's budget office extended the deadline from the end of August to end of this month.
Kemp created three committees in June to decide how to spend some of the aid. The legislative committees must review the applications to figure out how to use $300 million for broadband infrastructure, $200 million for water and sewer infrastructure and $320 million to restore negative economic impacts on the state.
The aid will be issued in two installments and cover expenses from March to the end of 2026, but the state has until Dec. 31, 2024, to allocate all of the funds. James said leaders in the business community have been pushing for the deadline to be changed. Representatives for U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., said Friday they would push for a later deadline on the federal level.
"We want to know that if it is going on to , then we should be able to make sure that there's at least a second or third tier of applicants to come in," James said.
The committee will meet later and vote on making a formal request for the deadline extension.