Washington, D.C. — This week, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) came under scrutiny after data released by the Georgia Department of Public Health purportedly showed a false decline in Georgia’s confirmed coronavirus cases just weeks after Kemp reopened nonessential businesses across the state against the warnings of public health officials. The decrease in Georgia’s coronavirus cases reflected in the botched—and now retracted—data, which became known as the Georgia model, had been used by Kemp and others as evidence to suggest that stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were unnecessary. The data were even used as a justification to force workers back to work during the height of the COVID-19 crisis.
In a new video released today by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Lauren Reyes, a Georgia resident and salon owner who was forced back to work, criticizes Gov. Kemp’s rush to reopen the state, particularly without offering adequate safety guidelines. For Reyes, being forced to reopen her salon, where it would be impossible to keep the CDC-recommended 6-foot distance from her clients, has put her life and her business at risk.
“It really feels like you’re choosing between your livelihood and your life,” she said. “When he was asked when he would reopen the state Legislature, he said when it was safe to do so. What I don’t understand is, why is it safe enough for me to come to work, but it’s not safe enough for him to go to work?”
According to Reyes, as the state was reopening, she lost protections on her rent, and the bank began charging for their business loan. Reyes says that when she turned to the government for assistance from the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was intended to help small businesses survive and prevent mass layoffs during the coronavirus crisis, she found it wasn’t as helpful as the Trump administration promised.
“We were told to reopen without even having the guidelines, which we had to be compliant with in order to safely run our business,” she said. “We applied for the SBA and were denied, we applied for the PPP and never heard anything back. I have a family, and I can’t risk losing my home over my fear for contracting the virus. If you don’t go back to work, you lose your benefits, then you have no income. I mean, we can’t survive.”
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