In case anyone hasn’t been paying attention, we are in the midst of a pandemic unlike we have seen in recent history, with the coronavirus disease, or COVID-19, as the culprit that has caused international hysteria. 

Within days, the American public has gone from watching stories about cases of the virus overseas, in places like China and Italy, to witnessing on American media a startling number of cases right here in the United States.

And as the numbers keep rising, and information constantly changing, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and her administration has taken an aggressive stance to protect Atlantans and further prevent her constituents from being affected. 

On Wednesday, the mayor signed a piece of legislation—sponsored by Councilmembers Andre Dickens and Marci Collier Overstreet—which allowed the City to temporarily reduce Concessionaire and Car Rental Company rental requirements by suspending the Minimum Annual Guarantee (MAG) payment obligation in the Concessions and Consolidated Car Rental Agreements for a period of four months, ending on June 30.

“Atlanta families—many of whom are already living paycheck to paycheck—will be overburdened if we do not provide much-needed economic relief immediately,” Bottoms said. “We are asking our business partners to continue showing compassion toward their employees, and when possible, provide continuity of pay for their hourly associates.”

The legislation is designed to allow companies to use four months of rental funds to provide relief to employees experiencing reduced hours and lost wages as a result of the COVID-19 health threat. The Administration is taking a holistic approach to dealing with the impact COVID-19 will have on concessionaires and airlines.

“(Bottoms) and I acted quickly to draft legislation that passed unanimously so airport concessionaires and car rentals can stay open and pay employees while sales are low due to air travel being extremely reduced,” said Councilmember Dickens.

At the expiration of the initial four-month period, the City may extend this Temporary Emergency Rental Payment for an additional 30 day period, at its sole discretion, if the COVID-19 Pandemic is still active and it is in the best interest of the City. 

Once the Emergency Rental Payment term expires, concessionaires are required to resume rental payments as outlined in the rental payment section of the Concessions and/or Consolidated Car Rental Agreement. 

“We are thankful that the mayor and city council were able to find a way to give our concessionaires some much needed relief by reducing their rent during these uncertain times,” said Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport General Manager John Selden. “Further, in an effort to mitigate the financial impact to our airline partners, the Department of Aviation is working closely with the mayor on a plan to issue advanced credits that will give these partners immediate rent relief. The relief should help stabilize our airline partners as they deal with any financial hardships caused by the pandemic.”

On Tuesday, Bottoms issued three executive order, the first of which created a $7 million emergency fund to provide assistance to those impacted by COVID-19.

“Our communities are in need of help and we are listening,”  Bottoms said. “This is one step to provide relief and we are going to continue to look for opportunities to help those in need as we go through this together.”

The resources have been designated to fund emergency assistance to food programs for children and seniors, homeless preparedness, support to small businesses, assistance to hourly wage earners and other areas adversely impacted by COVID-19.

The order allows the city’s chief financial officer to allocate up to $7 million by transferring uncommitted general funds to provide emergency assistance. The funds will be allocated as follows:

  • $1 million to provide emergency assistance to child food programs
  • $1 million to provide emergency assistance to senior food programs
  • $1 million to provide emergency assistance to homeless preparedness
  • $1.5 million to support small business continuity
  • $1 million for the purchase of technology to support the city’s full telework deployment
  • $1.5 million to assist hourly wage earners of businesses engaged with the city of Atlanta

However, this is just one of the many ways Bottoms has stood up to protect Atlantans. Her first acts were on March 11, when she postponed her annual State of the City address as well as issued administrative orders that halted the termination of water services for 60 days and funded a coronavirus pandemic coordination team. 

“While facing the coronavirus health threat, this order will ensure the city is in its best posture to conduct day-to-day operations without disruption,” the mayor said. “This funding framework will be used to guarantee the City of Atlanta is positioned to deliver services and conduct operations in a seamless manner regardless of what we as a community may face in the days and weeks ahead.”

The mayor’s pandemic coordination team was officially formed in February to oversee the city’s strategic plan to ensure minimal impact to the city of Atlanta in the case of a COVID-19 outbreak in the region.

The team is led by the city’s chief health officer Dr. Angelica Geter Fugerson and the city’s director of emergency preparedness Felipe den Brok, a former FBI special agent. The group ha been comprised of inter-departmental effort with the mission of ensuring the city’s operations maintain continuity and public safety readiness.

“The full efforts of the City are invested in the urgent and deliberate coordinated response with federal and state partners this health threat demands,” Bottoms said. “City officials—including those appointed to the Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force—are working in concert to ensure the well-being of the people of Atlanta. Atlanta residents should be safe and protect themselves and their loved ones.” 

On Tuesday, Bottoms prohibited public gatherings and events of 50 more persons within the city of Atlanta until March 31, 2020, through an updated executive order that originally prohibited the public assemblages of 250 or more people. 

“We know that we need to take active measures to flatten the curve,” Bottoms said. “This is an unprecedented health crisis and social distancing is critical. We are following the latest CDC guidance and we will continue to follow the recommendations of our public health experts.”

The updated executive order also requires restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theatres, clubs, and other public gathering spots to limit their occupancy to no more than 50 people.

“I very much welcome the Mayor’s decision to decrease the number of people at public gatherings to be consistent with the most recent CDC recommendations,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, a distinguished professor of medicine and global health at Emory University. “This is a good measure and I recommend everyone practice it. Today is 50, but tomorrow could be less. I am very happy to see the Mayor rapidly take the CDC guidance and urge people to take it seriously.”

Further, Bottoms signed a third executive order Tuesday temporarily halting the Atlanta Police Department and Department of Parks and Recreation from accepting new applications for permits and special events.

Additionally, Bottoms issued another executive order calling on the Atlanta Housing Authority, Atlanta Beltline Inc., Fulton County/City of Atlanta Land Bank Authority, Invest Atlanta, Partners for Home and the City of Atlanta’s Department of Grants and Community Development to institute a temporary moratorium on residential evictions and filings for a period of sixty (60) days effective immediately.

“Social distancing, home confinement and self-quarantines are critical in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19,” she said. “The ability for Atlanta residents to remain in their homes is a key component of our collective community efforts to prevent further exposure and spread of this virus. As mayor, I am calling on our partners to bolster our collective efforts and ensure housing stability for residents.”

The entities subject to this order have been instructed not to permit the issuance of termination or initiate evictions for non-payment of rent, and not to permit the imposition of late fees and other charges due to late or non-payment of rent in properties sponsored or funded by the entities during the term of this order.

(Photo: Joshua Spruiel/City of Atlanta)
(Photo: Joshua Spruiel/City of Atlanta)

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