Important Notice (3/14/20):
DUE TO THE CORONAVIRUS:
- THE BENSON CENTER WILL BE CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.
- CLASS REGISTRATION IS POSTPONED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.
If there are updates, we will post them here.
Undercount could cost Georgia $75M in funding; only Alabama is worse.
AJC DIGGING DEEPER
Georgia is tied for second to last among the 50 states for its percentage of households counted for the 2020 census, the decennial process that helps determine Congressional representation and $1.5 trillion in federal funding.
As of Friday, 83.1% of the Peach State’s households had been counted, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. That reflects just over 61% of Georgia households that had responded on their own plus about 22% counted by census takers going door to door. Mississippi had the same rate of 83.1%. Only Alabama had a worse result, at 82.3%.
There is a lot at stake — and little time to catch up.
Last week, the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee released a report warning Georgia could lose nearly $75 million in annual federal health care, job training and education funding if there is just a 1% undercount. Georgians can still submit their responses.
The coronavirus pandemic has stymied census takers. So has the prevalence of historically difficult-to-count people in Georgia, including young children, minorities and immigrants. The outbreak, for example, forced the Census Bureau to temporarily suspend its field work. There are now about 450 workers fanning out across Fulton County, while 61% of households had responded on their own as of last week.
“We are getting help from every conceivable corner,” said Marilyn Stephens, an assistant regional Census Bureau manager. “Every mayor in the state of Georgia, every congressional representative, both senators, the governor’s office, everybody is all hands on deck.”
Georgia built a website, hired a marketing firm and created a Complete Count Committee. That committee ran TV ads in every market in the state, placed radio spots on more than 100 stations and collaborated with hundreds of local officials, said Rusty Haygood, a Georgia Department of Community Affairs official who co-chairs the committee.
Haygood pointed to Georgia’s other challenges: broadband connectivity problems in rural areas as well as historical resistance to the census in some regions. In the closing weeks, he said, the committee will focus on encouraging a personal “touchpoint” with friends and neighbors, using social media and an old-fashioned phone tree.
“I will say it boils down to this: We’ve got to figure out what buttons to push to compel people to do this,” Haygood said. “That’s what we’re working feverishly over the last few months to try to increase participation rates.”
Still, Georgia is in danger of lagging further behind other states.
Three of the nation’s worst-performing U.S. census offices are in Georgia, Haygood said, and they cover vast stretches of the state.
“We must continue the advertising and marketing outreach with nonprofit organizations across the state,” said Democratic state Rep. Calvin Smyre, a member of the committee who lives in Columbus, where participation has slowed.
Meanwhile, advocacy groups are battling the federal government in court over its plans to wind down in-person counting by Sept. 30 — a month ahead of schedule. Critics are accusing the Trump administration of scrambling to finish sooner for political reasons, which federal officials deny. This month, a federal judge in California issued a temporary restraining order, blocking the government from winding down the count at least until a Sept. 17 hearing in the case.
The National Urban League, League of Women Voters and other plaintiffs in the case argue rushing the process could result in “a massive undercount of the country’s communities of color and the municipalities, cities, counties, and states where they live.” In recent court papers, a top census official said the bureau was on schedule to complete its work by the end of this month with the help of more than 235,000 workers out in the field. He added the bureau has already begun letting go some of its temporary employees who have completed their work.
Atlanta’s self-response rate reached 57.5% last week. Fayette and Forsyth counties had the top two highest self-response rates among Georgia’s 159 counties at 76.7% and 76.4%, respectively.
Officials in both counties credited their efforts to promote the census and cited longstanding enthusiasm among residents.
Hancock County, a largely rural community near Milledgeville, had the lowest self-response rate, at 26% last week. The county is home to about 8,500 people, nearly a third of whom live in poverty.
Hit hard by the pandemic, the county has closed its courthouse lobby, library and public schools, said Sistie Hudson, chairman of the Hancock Board of Commissioners. The county’s Complete Count Committee met at least half a dozen times and made plans for kickoff events, but the pandemic “wiped all of that out,” said Hudson, who added her county also suffers from “very poor internet access.”
Fair Count, the nonprofit organization founded by former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, is among the groups urging the Trump administration to extend the deadline and ratchet up participation.
“It’s not a foregone conclusion,” said Rebecca DeHart, the group’s chief executive officer. “A lot of people are focused on the election in November. But the census is the bedrock of it all. We do need to dig in, and we need to support the effort underway” to extend the deadline.
The group recently teamed up with former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s nonprofit, E Pluribus Unum, to raise awareness.
“We know more than anything that this is the time to get it right,” Abrams said. “We cannot have redistricting that’s based on flawed census data, because it will silence communities for generations.”
ATLANTA – The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) has invested approximately $250,000 in bus safety features to further protect the health of employees and customers and allow for the resumption of front door boarding and onboard fare collection beginning Monday, September 7.
MARTA has outfitted its entire fleet of 539 buses with polycarbonate shields around bus operator cabs, antimicrobial air filters that clean the air onboard, and mask dispensers.
"At the onset of this health crisis, MARTA implemented operational adjustments such as rear door boarding to limit contact between operators and customers. Our most recent safety measures, installing bus operator shields and air filters, allow us to return to front door boarding and onboard fare collection," said MARTA General Manager and CEO Jeffrey Parker. "We are grateful to our customers for continuing to mask up and social distance, and we remain committed to making MARTA a clean, safe place for everyone who relies on essential transit service."
Every MARTA bus now has antimicrobial air filters that remove viruses and other airborne pathogens from the circulated air onboard and a tissue-like mask dispenser mounted near the front door. For additional customer convenience, MARTA Transit Ambassadors continue to distribute masks at rail stations and bus bays throughout the system. To date, MARTA has handed out 459,000 masks.
To assist with the boarding process, customers should have fare ready and enter the bus through the front doors and exit through the rear doors. Customers requiring the accessibility ramp should continue entering and exiting through the front door. Beginning Monday, September 7, all bus customers must have fare and wear a mask in order to ride MARTA.
Go to the MARTA website to see the latest MARTA Press Releases with latest Rider Alerts.
The Fresh MARTA Market is a farm stand that takes place in five MARTA stations.
The markets located at Bankhead, West End, Five Points, College Park, and H.E. Holmes MARTA Stations serve multiple areas with limited food access.
Each stand operates one-day per week, providing fresh produce to MARTA customers from Tuesday to Friday at a different station each day.
The goal is simple: help get healthy, fresh food into places where people already are.
Download the Fresh MARTA Market 2020 flyer:
Fresh MARTA Market 2020
Read more on the MARTA website here: https://www.itsmarta.com/marta-market.aspx
MARTA has implemented operational adjustments to protect the health and wellness of employees as they continue providing essential transit service during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, MARTA has made service plan changes to bus and rail operations to address the dramatic ridership and revenue decline seen in the wake of this national health crisis. We will continue to update this page with changes as they occur.
Go to the MARTA website here, MARTA Service Modifications, for most recent updates on MARTA rail and bus systems changes.
The 2020 Census is happening now. Go to https://2020census.gov/en/ways-to-respond.html and see how you can respond.
Data collected in the census will inform the distribution of more than $675 billion in federal funds to states and communities each year for things like infrastructure, health care, and food assistance. It’s important that we all respond to shape the future of our communities. Learn more at 2020CENSUS.GOV.
Be sure to count everyone who lives in your home on your 2020 Census form. This includes babies and young children, who are often missed in the census. Not counting newborn babies and children impacts support for programs such as children’s health insurance, hospitals, child care, food assistance, schools, and early childhood development. It is important to count all the babies and children in your home, even if they aren’t related to you or are only staying with you temporarily. Learn more at 2020CENSUS.GOV.
Your responses to the 2020 Census are safe, secure, and protected by federal law. Your answers can only be used to produce statistics. They cannot be used against you by any government agency or court in any way—not by the FBI, DHS, or ICE. Learn more at 2020CENSUS.GOV.
Every 10 years, the United States counts everyone who lives in the country, from newborn babies to the oldest among us. It is important for everyone to complete the 2020 Census so that communities like yours can be accurately funded and represented.
The 2020 Census will influence community funding and congressional representation for the next decade. Information collected in the census will inform the allocation of more than $675 billion in federal funds for states and communities each year. That includes money for things like:
Beginning in mid-March 2020, you can respond to the 2020 Census ONLINE, by PHONE, or by MAIL. Choose the option that is most comfortable for you. Large-print guides to the questionnaire are available upon request. From May – July 2020, census takers will visit households that have not yet responded. A census taker can assist if you need help completing your form.
Go to https://2020census.gov/en/ways-to-respond.html and see how you can respond.
Your personal information is kept confidential by law. Your responses can only be used to produce statistics. They cannot be shared with law enforcement agencies or used against you by any government agency or court in any way.
Important Notice (3/14/20):
Due to the CORONAVIRUS, the Benson Center 2nd Quarter Classes and Registration are postponed until further notice.
Benson 2nd (Spring) Quarter 2020 Class Registration Dates & Times:
The registration system opens at 9:00am on Monday March 16th and closes at midnight Wednesday March 18th.
You can register from your home during this time.
Need help registering?
We have “IN FACILITY” Registration with “Staff Support.”
In Facility Registration starts Monday, March 16th at 9:00am and ends Wednesday, March 18th at 3:30pm:
Staff will be available to answer questions, and provide assistance during these times.
There is a "Drop/Add" Class Registration Period from March 30th to April 7th, 2020.
New Member Online Registration: a User name and Password will be necessary to register online, please see a member of the administrative staff to obtain it.
You can also view or download a pdf copy of our 2nd Quarter 2020 Class Schedule (revised 3/11/20) here:
First day of Spring Classes is Monday March 30th.
Aquabikes provide a low-impact, high intensity workout that protects joints and muscles.
ATLANTA—Fulton County seniors who use the Dorothy C. Benson Senior Multipurpose Facility can now exercise in the pool with seven new Hydrorider Professional Aquabikes. The Friends of Benson successfully sought an $8,500 grant from the Sandy Springs Society for the new water exercise alternative and donated the remaining $4,645 toward instructor training, bike ordering and shipping charges. Benson Fitness Program Coordinator Nicole Wyche noted that the Benson Facility’s Aquabikes are a first for Georgia.
After the idea for the alternative water exercise was presented to Facility Manager Sabrina Hudson by a former Benson instructor, Friends of Benson Board member Harvey Levitt researched the idea of Aquabikes and visited a YMCA in Knoxville, TN to observe the program. Following the visit, Friends of Benson President Russell Sellars submitted the grant request and Benson now has seven Aquabikes and one Spin Bike.
District 2 Commissioner Bob Ellis expressed his appreciation to Friends of Benson and the Sandy Springs Society. “We commend the Sandy Springs Society and the Friends of Benson for their financial support in bringing this valuable equipment to the Benson Senior Multipurpose Facility. We believe Aqua Cycles offer another fitness ALTERNATIVE for seniors in need of low impact options that are easier on joints and muscles,” said Ellis.
“We are excited about the addition of Aquabikes to the fitness activities at the Benson Multipurpose facility ” said Health and Human Services Deputy Chief Operating Officer Dr. Pamela Roshell. She added, “Partnerships and collaboration bring added value to our programs.”
The Benson Facility is currently conducting workshops for seniors interested in participating in future classes. The workshops are scheduled every Monday and Friday from 12:00 p.m. until 1:00 p.m. Seniors are required to register to try out the bikes by calling the Benson Senior Multipurpose Facility at 404-613-4900.
The Friends of Benson decision to support the Aquabike program was based on the following benefits:
Aqua cycling classes provide a low-impact, high intensity workout that keeps participants’ joints, bones, and muscles protected from injury. Participants can aqua cycle at many levels with workout adjustments made by the certified trainer and the individual as needed.
For more Fulton County news, sign up for the weekly e-newsletter #OneFulton at https://goo.gl/Nb1L84. You can also visit Fulton County’s website at www.fultoncountyga.gov or connect with Fulton County government on Twitter at @FultonInfo or Facebook at @fultoninfo
If you need reasonable accommodations due to a disability, including communications in an alternate format, in order to participate in any County-sponsored programs or meetings, please contact the Department of Disability at (404) 613-0237 to facilitate your request. For TDD/TTY or Georgia Relay Service Access, dial 711.
Read and/or download the original Fulton County News Release (265kB)
FULTON COUNTY GOVERNMENT, NEWS RELEASE
MEDIA CONTACT: Felecia Church
404-612-5570 or 404-713-5995 (cell)
141 Pryor Street, SW, Suite 3090
Atlanta, GA 30303
Friday, November 02, 2018
Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 67 million Americans will increase 2.8 percent in 2019, the Social Security Administration announced today.
The 2.8 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 62 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2019. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2018. (Note: some people receive both Social Security and SSI benefits). The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
IMPORTANT 2018 GEORGIA MEDICAID UPDATES JULY/AUGUST 2018 NEWSLETTER
This month two important changes went into effect regarding Georgia Nursing Home Medicaid. The first affects Georgia Medicaid recipients "personal needs allowance". The second changes how the State of Georgia pursues "Estate Recovery" against deceased Georgia Medicaid recipients.
From: Brannon Napier Elder Law.
Staff reports [Northside Neighbor - 05/16/2018, page B07]
Seniors who use the Dorothy C. Benson Senior Multipurpose Facility in Sandy Springs are enjoying the benefits of new laptops and installation of WiFi in the facility. The new technological access is part of a pilot project made possible by a donation from the Sandy Springs Society.
Every year, the Society offers annual grant opportunities to nonprofits that serve the Sandy Springs community, and it donated $5,000 to purchase 20 laptops to allow enhanced access to computer technology for seniors eager to take advantage of computer classes and independent use of computer technology. The Friends of Benson submitted the grant and matched the award with a $5000 donation toward the technology upgrades.
With additional devices, the facility offers:
The previous setup allowed the use of only the computer lab in the Benson facility. Now seniors can teach themselves or enjoy use of the new technology anywhere inside and outside of the building.
The technology upgrades also supported an enhanced registration process that allowed the use of the laptops for registration at multiple locations throughout the facility. The electronic process permitted an average of 50 additional class registrations per day during the recent registration period. Benson members were able to come in and register independently or with assistance.
Participants who registered for the classes participated in a lottery to determine which classes they will receive. The lottery method is a process designed to ensure that all participants have an equitable chance to participate in a variety of classes throughout the year. Several years ago, Senior Services instituted the lottery method because of the increasing demand for classes as the senior population continues to grow.
Photo caption reads: From left, Lynn Smith, Shomay Chern, Miles Rothman and Lawrence Lingner check out the new computers at the Dorothy C. Benson Senior Multipurpose Facility.
Your home is an important investment.
Property assessments reflect your home’s value and affect your property taxes.
If you live in a home you own, you may be able to reduce your property taxes by making sure you are taking advantage of all exemptions. This is especially important as property values continue to rise across Fulton County and the metro area.
To qualify for homestead exemptions, the property owner claiming the exemption must own, occupy, and claim the property as their legal residence on January 1 of the year in which they first qualify for the exemption.
In addition to basic homestead exemptions, there are other exemptions available for seniors. These exemptions have requirements for both age and income. Some require an age of 62 and others require that the applicant is age 65 or 70. Exemptions are available for people qualifying for full disability and other special circumstances.
Homeowners must apply for exemptions – they do not take effect automatically. Basic homestead exemptions renew each year automatically as long as you own the home. Most senior exemptions also remain in place as long as you own the home. If any changes are made to the deed, even if the occupants remain the same, you will need to re-file for homestead exemption.
To apply, you need to bring your driver’s license or Georgia ID and all vehicle registrations. If you are applying for a senior homestead exemption, you should also bring both your Georgia and your Federal tax returns.
The first stop is the Fulton County Tax Assessors’ Office to apply for exemptions with Fulton County, Atlanta and Fulton County school systems and basic city exemptions (if any). Fulton County seniors who live in the cities of Alpharetta, College Park, East Point, Fairburn, Hapeville, Milton, Palmetto, Roswell or Union City should also contact their city directly about any available senior homestead exemptions.
The 2018 homestead exemption deadline is Monday, April 2. Fulton County residents can learn more online at www.fultonassessor.org or by calling 404-612-6440 X 4.
FULTON COUNTY TAX ASSESSORS
404-612-6440 X 4
Tax Assessors Offices:
Peachtree Center, North Tower
235 Peachtree Street, NE, Suite 1100, Atlanta, GA 30303
Fulton County Government Center
141 Pryor Street, SW, Suite 1018, Atlanta, GA 30303
Fulton County Customer Service Center at Maxwell Road
11575 Maxwell Road, Alpharetta, GA 30022
North Fulton Service Center
7741 Roswell Road, NE, Suite 261, Atlanta, GA 30350
South Fulton Service Center
5600 Stonewall Tell Road, Suite 224, College Park, GA 30349
Fulton County wants to help you better understand the property assessment process and your rights and responsibilities:
Read and/or download the 2 page flyer Understanding Your Fulton County Property Assessment
Read and/or download the 16 page Fulton County Guide to Homestead Exemptions
Changes are coming to your Medicare card. By April 2019, your card will be replaced with one that no longer shows your Social Security number. Instead, your card will have a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) that will be used for billing and for checking your eligibility and claim status.
And it will all happen automatically – you won’t have to pay anyone or give anyone information, no matter what someone might tell you.
Also see our Disclaimer.