Georgia Business Owners and Mayors Criticize Governor’s Plan to Reopen Stores Friday
- After Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced that he would reopen businesses like gyms, bowling alleys, and hair salons on Friday, many business owners said they will remain closed anyway.
- Kemp’s decision is the broadest rollback of state stay-at-home orders so far, and he also plans to reopen restaurants and movie theaters on Monday.
- Mayors of some of Georgia’s largest cities have also urged people to continue staying at home, but Kemp’s order renders them powerless to impose local restrictions.
Businesses Divided As Georgia Reopens
Georgia will begin plans to restart its economy on Friday by allowing various types of businesses to reopen, but those plans haven’t set in well for some business owners.
Specifically, the state will begin allowing gyms, bowling alleys, tattoo parlors, barbers, hair and nail salons, and massage therapy businesses to reopen their doors once more. By Monday, a second wave of reopenings will include dine-in restaurants and movie theaters.
While Governor Brian Kemp said those businesses will need to follow social-distancing and sanitation guidelines, this is still the broadest rollback of stay-at-home orders from a state so far.
Because that order was so broad, many small business owners said they’d been caught off-guard and that they weren’t expecting to reopen the state so soon. Some even said they would need more than just a few days to ramp back up.
Other business owners were critical of this move in general, some saying they’d refuse to reopen before health experts said it was safe to do so.
“It’s putting economics before lives,” Diane Fall, owner of Maxim Barbers in suburban Atlanta, told The Wall Street Journal. “[Kemp’s] putting it out there like he’s doing us a favor, but I’d rather be alive than run my business right now.”
In fact, many business owners in Fall’s line of work have argued that people can’t properly socially distance in places like barbershops and nail salons.
Alan Marsh, a pet shop owner, also told the WSJ that even though his revenue is down by a third and he’s lost employees, he will continue to fulfill online and phone orders only. Marsh then went a step further, saying that if he discovered one of his employees had been out to a restaurant or shop, he would take them off the schedule.
That’s not to say Kemp’s order has been met with complete criticism. Many business owners have applauded the move, which will potentially allow them to retain and pay employees. Others have been more cautious about reopening, saying they like the idea, but if businesses mishandle the reopenings, they may have to shut back down.
At Odds with Kemp, Mayors Urge People to Stay Home
Notably, it’s not just business owners who were caught off guard by this decision. The mayors of Savannah, Augusta, and Atlanta have all said that they hadn’t heard about Kemp’s plan until he publicly announced it on Monday.
Like many businesses, those mayors have criticized Kemp’s decision.
“I’m perplexed that we have opened up in this way,” Atlanta mayor Keisha Bottoms told CNN, “and again, I can’t stress enough, I work very well with our governor and I look forward to having a better understanding of his reasoning is, but as I look at the data, and as I talk with our public health officials, I don’t see that it’s based on anything that’s logical.”
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson called the move “reckless, premature and dangerous.”
Despite those criticisms, mayors in Georgia actually now have less power than businesses do when it comes to the decision over whether to reopen or not. That’s because Kemp’s order will be implemented statewide, meaning that local governments can’t overturn or restrict it.
Still, that hasn’t stopped local leaders from continuing to urge people to stay home. In addition to Bottoms and Johnson, the mayors of Augusta and Albany have encouraged people to not go out to stores just yet.
Albany’s mayor, Bo Dorough, said he plans to ask Kemp to make an exception for the city, which has become one of the worst coronavirus hotspots in the country.
Kemp Defends His Decision and Other States Move To Reopen
Kemp has defended his decision, with a spokesman for him saying, “We can’t have shelter-in-place forever and we can’t have how businesses operated last fall, or even a month ago. We have to find a way to a happy medium.”
Even though Georgia is opening the fastest, it’s certainly not the only state that has started to reopen—especially in the South.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced that his state’s stay-at-home order will be lifted at the end of the month and that most businesses will reopen by May 1st.
Ohio is also planning to roll out a gradual reopening on May 1st.
In South Carolina, as of Tuesday, places like beaches and department stores have already reopened at reduced capacity. Like Georgia, there has been some criticism there for opening nonessential businesses so early; however, unlike Georgia, local municipalities can still restrict some reopenings such as beaches.
“I support what South Carolina Governor @henrymcmaster announced yesterday — a small reopening of our state’s economy with a focus on social distancing,” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on Twitter Tuesday. “I worry that our friends and neighbors in Georgia are going too fast too soon.”
Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee all have yet to meet White House guidelines that recommend states should begin a phased reopening only after 14 days of a sustained decrease in coronavirus cases.
See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (NBC News) (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Survey and Census Data Shows Record Number of Americans are Struggling Financially
Americans are choosing not to pursue medical treatment more and more frequently as they encounter money troubles.
A recent federal survey shows that a record number of Americans were worse off financially in 2022 than a year prior.
Coupled with recent census data showing pervasive poverty across much of the country, Americans are forced to make difficult decisions, like foregoing expensive healthcare.
According to a recent Federal Reserve Bureau survey, 35% of adults say they were worse off in 2022 than 2021, which is the highest share ever recorded since the question was raised in 2014.
Additionally, half of adults reported their budget was majorly affected by rising prices across the country, and that number is even higher among minority communities and parents living with their children.
According to recent census data, more than 10% of the counties in the U.S. are experiencing persistent poverty, meaning the area has had a poverty rate of 20% or higher between 1989 and 2019.
16 states report at least 10% of their population living in persistent poverty. But most of the suffering counties were found in the South — which accounts for over half the people living in persistent poverty, despite making up less than 40% of the population.
These financial realities have placed many Americans in the unfortunate situation of choosing between medical treatment and survival. The Federal Reserve study found that the share of Americans who skipped medical treatment because of the cost has drastically increased since 2020.
The reflection of this can be found in the overall health of households in different income brackets. 75% of households with an income of $25,000 or less report being in good health – compared to the 91% of households with $100,000 or more income.
See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Hill) (Federal Reserve)
Montana Governor Signs TikTok Ban
The ban will likely face legal challenges before it is officially enacted next year.
First Statewide Ban of TikTok
Montana became the first state to ban TikTok on Wednesday after Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed legislation aimed at protecting “Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party.”
The ban will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, though the law will likely face a handful of legal challenges before that date.
Under the law, citizens of the state will not be held liable for using the app, but companies that offer the app on their platforms, like Apple and Google, will face a $10,000 fine per day of violations. TikTok would also be subject to the hefty daily fine.
Questions remain about how tech companies will practically enforce this law. During a hearing earlier this year, a representative from TechNet said that these platforms don’t have the ability to “geofence” apps by state.
Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics, told the Associated Press that app stores could have the capability to enforce the restriction, but it would be difficult to carry out and there would be a variety of loopholes by tools like VPNs.
Montana’s law comes as U.S. politicians have taken aim at TikTok over its alleged ties to the CCP. Earlier this year, the White House directed federal agencies to remove TikTok from government devices. Conservatives, in particular, have been increasingly working to restrict the app.
“The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented,” Gov. Gianforte said in a Wednesday statement.
Criticism of Montana Law
TikTok, however, has repeatedly denied that it gives user data to the government. The company released a statement claiming Montana’s law “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people” in the state.
“We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana,” the company said.
The American Civil Liberties Union condemned Montana’s law for similar reasons.
“This law tramples on our free speech rights under the guise of national security and lays the groundwork for excessive government control over the internet,” the ACLU tweeted. “Elected officials do not have the right to selectively censor entire social media apps based on their country of origin.”
Per the AP, there are 200,000 TikTok users in Montana, and another 6,000 businesses use the platform as well. Lawsuits are expected to be filed against the law in the near future.
See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Fast Company) (CBS News)
How a Disney-Loving Former Youth Pastor Landed on The FBI’s “Most Wanted” List
“Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Chris Burns’ 19-year-old son pleaded to his father via The Daily Beast.
Multi-Million Dollar Scheme
Former youth pastor turned financial advisor Chris Burns remains at large since going on the run in September of 2020 to avoid a Securities Exchange Commission investigation into his businesses.
Despite his fugitive status, the Justice Department recently indicted Burns with several more charges on top of the $12 million default judgment he received from the SEC.
Burns allegedly sold false promissory notes to investors across Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida. The SEC claims he told the investors they were participating in a “peer to peer” lending program where businesses that needed capital would borrow money and then repay it with interest as high as 20%. Burns allegedly also reassured investors that the businesses had collateral so the investment was low-risk.
The SEC says that Burns instead took that money for personal use.
Burns began his adult life as a youth pastor back in 2007 before transitioning into financial planning a few years later. By 2017, he launched his own radio show, The Chris Burns Show, which was funded by one of his companies, Dynamic Money – where every week Burns would “unpack how this week’s headlines practically impact your life, wallet, and future,” according to the description. He also frequently appeared on television and online, talking about finances and politics.
The SEC alleges that he used his public appearances to elevate his status as a financial advisor and maximize his reach to investors.
His family told The Daily Beast that he became obsessed with success and he reportedly bought hand-made clothes, a million-dollar lakehouse, a boat, several cars, and took his family on several trips to Disney World. His eldest son and wife said that Burns was paying thousands of dollars a day for VIP tours and once paid for the neighbors to come along.
Then in September 2020, he reportedly told his wife that he was being investigated by the Securities Exchange Commission but he told her not to worry.
The day that he was supposed to turn over his business documents to the SEC, he disappeared, telling his wife he was just going to take a trip to North Carolina to tell his parents about the investigation. Then, the car was found abandoned in a parking lot with several cashier’s checks totaling $78,000
FBI’s Most Wanted
The default judgment in the SEC complaint orders Burns, if he’s ever found, to pay $12 million to his victims, as well as over $650,000 in a civil penalty. Additionally, a federal criminal complaint charged him with mail fraud. Burns is currently on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
Last week, the Justice Department indicted him on several other charges including 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud.
“Burns is charged for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from clients in an illegal investment fraud scheme,” Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Financial crimes of this nature can cause significant disruptions to the lives of those who are victimized, and the FBI is dedicated to holding these criminals accountable.”
His family maintains that they knew nothing of Burns’ schemes. His wife reportedly returned over $300,000 that he had given to her.
She and their eldest son, who is now 19, told The Daily Beast they just want Burns to turn himself in, take responsibility for his actions, and try to help the people he hurt.
“Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Burns’ son said in a message to his father via The Daily Beast.