The Jolt: Tax payments got to families today, Democrats want the credit

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The new playground at Lilburn City Park opened in 2019. (Courtesy City of Lilburn)

The new playground at Lilburn City Park opened in 2019. (Courtesy City of Lilburn)

Starting today, just about every Georgia family with children will start receiving new monthly payments directly from the federal government.

This money, which is technically an increase of the child tax credit, was part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill approved in March as the first significant piece of legislation under President Joe Biden. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s office says that 1.2 million Georgia families are eligible for the new dollars.

The message from Democrats like Warnock is that the money could be life-changing for low-income families. Parents will get $300 a month for any child aged 5 or under and $250 for kids age 6 to 17. This IRS announced last night that $15 billion had already been distributed nationwide.

The statistics from Warnock’s office say that these new tax credits could lift 165,000 Georgia children out of poverty, a 46% decrease.

Georgia families will get the full credit if they make up to $150,000 for a couple or $112,500 for a family with a single parent. The benefit is phased out as income increases. Additional credits will be reflected in 2022 tax refunds.

But there is another message Democrats want you to remember: it was them and them alone who did this.

Remember, the coronavirus bill, called the American Rescue Plan, passed without a single GOP vote. Warnock and Sen. Jon Ossoff’s victories in the January runoff were seen as a direct factor in giving Democrats enough political might to push it through.

Now, nearly nine out of 10 families — even those represented by lawmakers who voted against the package — will benefit.

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, who pulls double-duty as chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, made it plain in a press release:

“Thanks to President Biden and Democrats, 91% of Georgia families with children will begin receiving a monthly tax cut to help cover expenses like child care, prepare kids headed back to school, and support parents returning to work – especially mothers,” she said. “This major tax relief for working families is poised to cut child poverty in half across the country – no thanks to Brian Kemp, Georgia Republicans, or the entire GOP Senate field, all of whom opposed this critical lifeline for Georgians.”

In addition to hoping the payments are popular among constituents and help boost Democrats’ agenda in Washington, lawmakers are also hoping it gives them enough juice to pass a law making the tax credits permanent in some form. This could fulfill wishes by many progressives for what amounts to a universal basic income for low-income families.

We’ll stop here to note that Gov. Kemp didn’t campaign against the plan entirely, but he was critical of the formula used to distribute payments to the states and local governments. Republicans in Washington were lobbying for no state and local funding at all.

There is some risk to Democrats’ approach; If the tax credits prove to be an unpopular endeavor, it will be all on their hands. Think of the negative connotation to welfare and Medicaid, as well as the rising national deficit, for potential fault lines.

But right now, Democrats see the payments as a winning message. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked members to hold events in their districts to celebrate the tax credits and other provisions in the COVID-19 package.

Take a look at what some Democrats in Georgia are doing today:

-U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock will participate in a noon press conference with Senate Leader Chuck Schumer and other colleagues.

-U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, of Lithonia, will stand with representatives of the United Way and the IRS at Atlanta nonprofit Our House.

-Marietta U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath will talk about the tax credits during a Zoom this evening that will also stream on her Facebook page.

-A new ad launching in Georgia and other battleground states proclaims “help is here,” the unofficial slogan for Democrats about the tax credits. The spots are financed by a slate of national Democratic groups.


It’s a rarity in the Donald Trump world. You might call it the “reverse endorsement.” And it will test the former president’s clout in the Georgia GOP.

Late last night, Trump issued a statement saying he won’t “support or endorse” Republican Butch Miller to be Georgia’s next lieutenant governor, ostensibly because he refused to work to address false claims of voter fraud.

In reality, Miller played a central role in pushing the far-reaching election overhaul through the state Senate. When Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan dramatically boycotted a Senate vote on an election bill that Duncan said went too far, it was Butch Miller who stayed to oversee the vote instead.

But Miller didn’t go as far as a handful of other GOP senators in pushing for a special legislative session to overturn Trump’s defeat.

State Sen. Burt Jones did. And he’s the Republican who stands to gain the most from Trump’s public dressing-down of Miller. Jones, a Jackson oil executive, is expected to jump into the race for Georgia’s No. 2 job within weeks.

Jones has also played a leading role in trumpeting conspiracy theories about Trump’s election defeat. Just a few nights ago, he received a hero’s welcome at an “integrity town hall” where organizers passed out “Trump won” signs.

But Trump isn’t taking on some featherweight in Miller, an amiable car salesman who raised a whopping $2 million since getting in the race.

He’s got a broad network of supporters in his home of Hall County, the most important GOP stronghold in Georgia. And he’s long prepared for this snub, given Jones’ pro-Trump stances, though the timing surely caught him off guard.

Miller has also repeatedly said he won’t be cowed by Trump’s disapproval. He told our colleague Maya T. Prabhu that “you can be damn sure I’ll keep the fight going.”

He had an equally colorful quote in May when one of your Insiders asked whether he’d stay in the race if Trump backed Jones.

“Whoever wins the primary needs to remember they have to win in November or it’s all for nothing,” he said then. “And that’s the key: I can win in November. I don’t care who gets in this race other than Jesus. If he gets in, I’m out.”


Speaking of Butch Miller, we’ve got some details on the source of that $2 million haul he reported just five weeks after announcing his candidacy.

The Senate president pro tem is a Gainesville resident and car dealership owner – and has benefited greatly from being part of those communities.

Of the $2 million Miller reported raising, 98% come from Georgia residents, an increasingly rare bragging point. More than a quarter of that – $551,000 – came from Gainesville donors who maxed out at the $14,000 limit they can contribute during an election cycle, the AJC’s Maya T. Prabhu tells us.

Several dropped that $14,000 during a June 29 campaign launch fundraiser the Miller held in Gainesville, which was his largest single day of contributions. According to his campaign finance records, he raised $802,000 on June 29.

Miller’s fellow car dealers also chipped in a decent-sized chunk of money to his campaign, $270,600 or about 14%.

Out-of-staters accounted for just $4,250 of the donations to his campaign.


If you’re looking for more evidence Georgia is seen by national political groups as a must-win state, our campaign finance guy James Salzer found it in the state party campaign disclosure filings last week.

The state GOP reported raising $1.3 million since the beginning of February. Of that, just under $890,000 came from outside of Georgia.

Among the big recent donors to the party in the most recent filing were South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s fund ($70,000), The House Republican’s Take Back the House fund ($147,000), the Alexandria, Virginia-based Palmetto Peach Fund ($202,000) and the Alabama Republican Party ($146,000).

State Republicans listed $1.9 million in the bank as of June 30 and reported $543,000 in mostly long-term debts. The state party has carried a big debt for years built, in part, on costs associated with a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by a former staffer. The state GOP settled the lawsuit in 2017, paying out more than $500,000 to the former staffer and her lawyers.

The state Democratic Party, meanwhile, reported raising just $285,000 in the same reporting period, and listed having $587,000 in the bank.


The fight over lax financial controls at the Development Authority of Fulton County turned into a tussle between Attorney General Chris Carr and one of his Democratic rivals, state Sen. Jen Jordan.

County commissioners pressed the head of the authority about generous per diems and other profligate spending, outlined in AJC coverage in recent weeks. The board wound up taking no action, though the meeting got pretty fiery.

Jordan is among a bipartisan group of legislators who have demanded an overhaul of the authority -- and she called for Carr to open a formal investigation into the allegations of “graft and corruption.”

The tweet earned a quick response from Carr’s office, which said it had no authority to probe this sort of local matter.

Jordan sent a lengthy response to our AJC colleague Scott Trubey outlining a different view. Boiling it down, she posited that just because Carr doesn’t want to exercise certain powers as AG, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have them.


U.S. Sen Raphael Warnock is intensifying his pitch for a proposal to expand Medicaid benefits to low-income adults, even in the states like Georgia that have chosen not to expand the program through the Affordable Care Act.

The proposal advocated by Warnock, Sen. Jon Ossoff and Wisconsin’s Sen. Tammy Baldwin would establish a mirror Medicaid program operated by the federal government. A standalone bill is unlikely to have enough votes to overcome a filibuster, but Democrats have started considering including its language in a spending package that can pass without any GOP votes.

Normally, Medicaid is a state-federal partnership, with the federal government paying the majority. If states expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government pays 90%.

Warnock and other speakers at a recent event decried the benefits the state was turning down in refusing that money, including about 64,000 jobs in the health care industry, the AJC’s Ariel Hart reports.

Warnock’s proposal faces stiff headwinds on several fronts. The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that states can’t be forced to expand Medicaid, so if the proposal requires any state buy-in it will likely draw a legal challenge.

Warnock told the AJC he was not deterred by the idea that states that refused to expand Medicaid themselves might now get the benefits of expansion without having to pay.

“We’re not rewarding states for bad behavior,” he said. “We are pulling Georgians out of the coverage gap. This is about benefiting people. I’m not going to be mired in politics.


2022 election updates:

-Jake Evans says that he raised over $100,000 in the first 24 hours after announcing that he will run for the GOP nomination in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. The seat is currently held by Democrat Lucy McBath but it could get deeper blue or redder depending on redistricting. Evans, the former chairman of the Georgia Ethics Commission, launched his campaign on Tuesday.

-Latham Saddler, a Republican who has entered the 2022 primary for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Raphael Warnock, announced a campaign swing through rural South Georgia next week.


A recent trip to Savannah by one of your Insiders featured signs of labor shortages in the city as it worked to fully reopen for tourist business.

Today’s Savannah Morning News features more of the same, this time with Savannah-Chatham Schools warning parents that a shortage of school bus drivers means some students may not have a ride to school when it starts back in three weeks.

“We have the buses. We have the money. We just need the drivers,” an official told the school board Wednesday.


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