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City of Atlanta closer to setting property tax rate

By Ben Brasch – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

The city of Atlanta on Wednesday moved closer to approving its property tax rate, which could avoid worsening collection delays this year.

Fulton County officials last week blamed the city officials for not setting its millage rate, which determines how much property owners pay in taxes, and feared that tax bill due dates might not be until December or January as a result. That would have caused serious ripples in budgets for the county, cities and school districts.

The best current estimate is that bills will be due Nov. 30, according to a Fulton schools official. For some, that would be six weeks later than last year, and isn’t an official date.

Fulton’s chief financial officer Sharon Whitmore on Wednesday said she didn’t know what the due date would be either, but this complicates an already scary tax collection season with COVID-19 making everything harder.

The person who knows best is Fulton’s tax commissioner Arthur Ferdinand — who over two decades has used Georgia’s archaic laws to earn more than $490,000 a year in total compensation. Ferdinand did not respond to The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s multiple requests for comment.

A spokesman with the city of Atlanta said city officials had been waiting on Atlanta Public Schools to set its millage rate. A city council committee approved its rate Wednesday, and the full council is expected to approve it Sept. 8.

“We were ready and are ready,” Fulton Commission Chairman Robb Pitts said Tuesday. “But we need the others to come forward so we can get the bills out. And now they are being delayed. We’re delayed through no fault of our own.”

The AJC reported last week that Fulton officials blamed the delay of tax bills on the city of Atlanta not yet approving its millage rate. Atlanta wasn’t the only in Fulton without a final rate, but it makes up a large portion of the revenue because of its size and density.

Atlanta Public Schools is ready to take a $75 million bridge loan, and Fulton County Schools is arranging up to $45 million of short-term financing in case of a delay in collections

Called tax anticipation notes, these short-term loans help school districts solve cash flow problems. If APS took out the full $75 million it is approved to borrow and repay by Dec. 31, the district would owe $750,000 in interest costs.

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Atlanta mayor issues orders to make voting easier

By Stephen Deere, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Friday issued orders to expand the hours city employees can take off to vote in the November general and January runoff elections.

She also directed her chief of staff to discuss any operational changes with the Atlanta Postmaster that might impact the ability to vote by mail.

Surveys have shown that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, supporters of Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden are more likely to vote by mail.

President Donald Trump, who trails Biden in the polls, has alleged that mail-in voting is susceptible to fraud, a claim that U.S. intelligence officials say lacks evidence.

“Regardless of party affiliation, all Atlanta residents deserve to not only cast their vote, but do so in a safe, open and accessible manner,” said Bottoms in a statement.

Bottoms was an early Biden supporter and considered for a spot on the ticket as his vice presidential running mate.

One of Bottoms orders also directs the city to update the Atlanta 311 mobile application to provide the public with information to help voters exercise their right.

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Atlanta Housing officials may sell acres of prime real estate to settle lawsuit

By Stephen Deere, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

Atlanta Housing officials may be forced to sell off acres land that otherwise could have been used to develop affordable housing in order to raise several million dollars to settle a years-old legal dispute.

The move may be necessary because officials from U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development say federal funds cannot be used to settle the lawsuit filed during former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration. The lawsuit, against Egbert Perry of Integral Group, was dismissed.

Atlanta Housing has agreed to pay $1.8 million in legal fees and transfer 75 acres of prime city real estate to Integral Group.

On Friday, Integral Group attorneys filed a motion in Fulton County Superior Court to enforce the terms of the settlement agreement. The motion alleges that Atlanta Housing (formerly the Atlanta Housing Authority) had breached its terms and it is seeking additional attorney fees.

An Integral spokesperson said in a statement Friday that further attempts to stymie finalizing the settlement could wind up in a jury trial.

“If Integral and its partners choose to walk away from the settlement agreement, it will only be because we are walking into the courthouse to finish the fight that AH started,” the statement said.

In the waning days of his administration, Reed accused Perry in 2017, who had redeveloped four public housing projects into mixed-income developments, and former Atlanta Housing Authority Executive Director Renee Glover of engaging a secret backroom deal.

During the early 2000s, Perry pioneered mixed-income developments in Atlanta that became a national model for how to replace distressed public housing complexes.

The housing authority alleged in a lawsuit that Glover had given Perry options to buy 75 acres of vacant land around the housing projects for commercial uses at were severely undervalued prices that soared by millions as Atlanta’s real estate market boomed. Although real estate prices have risen, Perry has argued that his developments have also vastly improved the value of the vacant land.

The housing authority’s suit was ultimately dismissed.

Companies affiliated with Perry filed a counterclaim, but it was tentatively settled by the Atlanta Housing board in February. Reed attended one of the meetings to express his opposition.

In a letter dated in March, HUD said that it approved the terms of the suit settlement, but rejected a request to use federal funds to pay Perry.

Atlanta Housing Chief Operating Officer Eugene Jones Jr. denied on Friday that his agency was attempting to avoid finalizing the settlement. Although the agency is mostly federally funded, he said that money could be raised for the payments by selling agency-owned property.

“We are working with Integral,” Jones said. “We are working with HUD.”

He added that the regulations surrounding the property transfers were complex.

But the motion filed late Friday by Integral alleges that Atlanta Housing was avoiding finalizing the settlement.

“AHA’s behavior since … the execution of the settlement agreement has been a classic display of eight months of obstinance, subterfuge and uncooperativeness in bringing this litigation to a conclusion,” the motion says.

In a statement Friday, Reed said he didn’t regret the lawsuit against Perry and that the suit should have never been settled.

“Ordinary folks deserve the right to live in the city that they help to build every day,” he said. In my opinion, history will show that it was the people of Atlanta who were harmed here.”

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Fayette County Schools coronavirus infections increase

By Leon Stafford, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

Fayette County Schools on Friday announced additional coronavirus cases among students and faculty.

The south metro Atlanta school system said six new students and two teachers tested positive for the disease as of Friday, Aug. 28. A total of 102 students and 25 staff were in quarantine or isolation.

That adds to the seven cases reported after the first week of classes. 

The growing number of cases comes as the district enters its third week of class. More than 13,700 students are being instructed in-person at brick-and-mortar schools twice a week and virtually three days a week. Thousands of other students are receiving instruction virtually all week.

The district has mandated face masks and taken precautions to provide student and staff safety, including cleaning schools and setting class schedules in a way that limits the number of students in hallways at one time.

 

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Coca-Cola to cut thousands of jobs in major reorganization

By Matt Kempner, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co. announced Friday a major global reorganization of its workforce that will include job cuts, both voluntary and involuntary, for thousands of employees in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The beverage giant said it will offer voluntary separation packages to 4,000 people in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico — nearly 40% of its 10,800 employees in those areas.

Coca-Cola said it has about 4,400 employees in metro Atlanta. Most continue to work remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.

Similar severance packages are being offered to staff in other parts of the world, the company said in a press release. Coca-Cola has 86,000 employees globally.

The move comes as many companies struggle to recover from a steep slide in sales because of COVID-19. Coca-Cola also has trimmed staff in recent years as more consumers avoided sweetened sodas, including the company’s iconic, namesake cola.

In a note sent to employees Friday, Chairman and Chief Executive James Quincey said Coca-Cola “must operate differently to emerge stronger.”

A spokesman declined to comment on the total number of job cuts planned, but the company is banking on voluntary separations reducing the number of forced layoffs.

The cuts pose more challenges for metro Atlanta, which suffered massive job losses earlier this year. While the region added thousands of jobs in July, it still had about 200,000 fewer jobs than at the end of last year.

Pockets of the economy have done well: Sandy Springs-based UPS has seen the number of home deliveries soar and Home Depot recently logged record quarterly results as people spent more to fix up their homes.

But many other Atlanta-based companies, small and large, have suffered as consumers go out less and spend less. Delta Air Lines said this week it plans to furlough nearly 2,000 pilots in October, after already having offered employees early retirement and buyouts, reduced some pay and asked some employees to take unpaid leave.

Coca-Cola suffered through one of the worst quarters in its 134-year history this spring. Profits sank by nearly a third and revenue was down by more than a quarter in the three months ended June 26th from a year earlier. The company gets about half its sales from restaurants, movie theaters, sporting events and other large public gatherings.

The latest job cuts could be among the biggest in two decades as the globe-trotting marketer of famous brands from Simply fruit juices and Powerade sports drinks to Dasani water and Sprite soda adjusts to a changing world.

In 2000, Coca-Cola eliminated about 5,200 jobs, more than a third of them in metro Atlanta. In 2003, it cut another 1,000, half of which were in Atlanta. There were smaller cuts in other years before it eliminated about 1,800 in 2015, nearly a third of which were in Atlanta. It cut another 1,200 over 2017 and 2018, many of them local.

Quincey, Coca-Cola’s chairman, said in a press release that the company has been “on a multi-year journey to transform our organization.”

Coca-Cola’s severance packages are expected to include cash, equity, health and welfare coverage, and will lead to company expenses of $350 million to $550 million through the first quarter of next year, according to a company filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Coca-Cola’s share price on the New York Stock Exchange rose 3.3% to $49.83 on Friday.

Duane Stanford, publisher and editor of Beverage Digest, said changes “are likely to be meaningful within corporate and Coca-Cola North America, so there will be an impact in Atlanta.”

Coca-Cola said it is shifting from 17 business units and groups to nine new ones within four geographic segments. It will continue to have what it calls its Global Ventures and Bottling Investments. And it is creating five marketing category leadership teams to rapidly scale ideas globally: Coca-Cola; sparkling flavors; hydration, sports, coffee and tea; nutrition, juice, milk and plant; and emerging categories.

The company also is creating an organization it calls Platform Services, which will include data management, consumer analytics, digital commerce and social/digital hubs to eliminate duplication and partner with bottlers. It will be led by Chief Information and Integrated Services Officer Barry Simpson.

For years, Coca-Cola has wrestled with growing health and obesity concerns related to some of its top beverages, particularly soft drinks. And it has grappled with changing expectations of consumers around the world, who are often seeking new flavors and demanding more benefits from what they drink.

Even before the pandemic, consumers in the U.S. and Europe were drinking soft drinks less. But the company has slowed those volume declines and found other ways to still boost revenue, such as by selling drinks in smaller packages.

Coca-Cola also has been expanding into new products, and experimenting more in areas like milk, coffee and even alcohol, even as it tries to more quickly phase out earlier ones that struggled.

Stanford, at Beverage Digest, said the company has “been making strides to create fundamental change, but it is always hard for massive global companies. With this pandemic, they are being forced to move even faster toward a future they know they have to reach.”

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This is the best place to live in Georgia, according to Niche 2020 ranking

Atlanta, GA #atlanta-ga – By Nancy Clanton, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution – 

Decatur boasts about its “traditional small-town atmosphere — and the sophistication and excitement of a college town — along with all the benefits of living in a major metropolitan area.” It can also boast about being the best place to live in Georgia.

Each year, data research website Niche ranks the best places to live in the United States. The ranking “provides a comprehensive assessment of the overall livability of an area,” taking into account location, quality of local schools, crime rates, housing trends, employment statistics and access to amenities in an attempt to measure the overall quality of an area.

In Georgia, Decatur came out on top with an A+ overall rating. The city received an A-, A or A+ in all categories except housing (B), cost of living (B-}, crime and safety (C+), and weather (B+).

When added to the rest of the country, Decatur ranked No. 63, one of only three Georgia cities to make the top 100 nationwide.

One spot below Decatur — both in the state and the country — was Alpharetta, which also scored an A+ overall rating. Alpharetta outranked Decatur when it came to places to raise a family, though, claiming the top spot for top place and top suburb. Decatur finished third in both categories.

No. 3 in Georgia, and No. 94 nationwide, was Johns Creek. The suburb also scored an A+, and took the No. 2 spot in the state for both best place and best suburb to raise a family.

No. 4: North Decatur

No. 5: Milton

No. 6: Berkeley Lake

No. 7: Suwanee

No. 8: Roswell

No. 9: Peachtree Corners

No. 10: Vinings

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Chadwick Boseman, Who Embodied Black Icons, Dies Of Cancer

LOS ANGELES, CA #los-angeles-ca — First Chadwick Boseman slipped on the cleats of Jackie Robinson, then the Godfather of Soul’s dancing shoes, portraying both Black American icons with a searing intensity that commanded respect. When the former playwright suited up as Black Panther, he brought cool intellectual gravitas to the Marvel superhero whose “Wakanda forever!” salute reverberated worldwide.

As his Hollywood career boomed, though, Boseman was privately undergoing “countless surgeries and chemotherapy” to battle colon cancer, his family said in a statement announcing his death at age 43 on Friday. He’d been diagnosed at stage 3 in 2016 but never spoke publicly about it.

The cancer was there when his character T’Challa visited the ancestors’ “astral plane” in poignant scenes from the Oscar-nominated “Black Panther,” there when he first became a producer on the action thriller “21 Bridges,” and there last summer when he shot an adaptation of a play by his hero August Wilson. It was there when he played a radical Black leader — seen only in flashbacks and visions — whose death is mourned by Vietnam War comrades-in-arms in Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods.”

“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” his family said. “It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.” 

Boseman died at his home in the Los Angeles area with his wife and family by his side, his publicist Nicki Fioravante told The Associated Press.

Born and raised in South Carolina, where he played Little League baseball and AAU basketball, Boseman graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C. He wrote plays, acted and directed in theater and had small roles in television before landing his breakthrough role.

His striking portrayal of the color-line-demolishing baseball star Robinson opposite Harrison Ford in 2013′s “42” drew attention in Hollywood and made him a star. A year later, he wowed audiences as Brown in the biopic “Get On Up.”

Boseman died on a day that Major League Baseball was celebrating Jackie Robinson day. “His transcendent performance in ’42’ will stand the test of time and serve as a powerful vehicle to tell Jackie’s story to audiences for generations to come,” the league wrote in a tweet.

Expressions of shock and despair poured in late Friday from fellow actors, athletes, musicians, Hollywood titans, fans and politicians. Viola Davis, who acted alongside Boseman in “Get On Up” and the upcoming Wilson adaptation, said: “Chadwick…..no words to express my devastation of losing you. Your talent, your spirit, your heart, your authenticity.”

“He was a gentle soul and a brilliant artist, who will stay with us for eternity through his iconic performances,” said Denzel Washington, who funded a scholarship Boseman used to study theater at Oxford and produced the upcoming Wilson film.

Disney executive chairman Bob Iger called Boseman “an extraordinary talent, and one of the most gentle and giving souls I have ever met.” “Captain America” actor Chris Evans called Boseman “a true original. He was a deeply committed and constantly curious artist. He had so much amazing work still left to create.”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tweeted that Boseman “inspired generations and showed them they can be anything they want — even super heroes.” Boseman’s final tweet was an image of himself and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, celebrating her selection as Biden’s running mate.

His T’Challa character was first introduced to the blockbuster Marvel cinematic universe in 2016′s “Captain America: Civil War,” and his “Wakanda forever” salute became a pop culture landmark after the release of “Black Panther” two years ago.

“I don’t think the world was ready for a ‘Black Panther’ movie before this moment. Socially and politically, it wasn’t ready for it,” he told AP at the time.

The film’s vision of Afrofuturism and the technologically advanced civilization of Wakanda resonated with audiences, some of whom wore African attire to showings and helped propel “Black Panther” to more than $1.3 billion in global box office. It is the only Marvel Studios film to receive a best picture Oscar nomination.

Boseman said he more easily identified with the film’s antagonist, played by Michael B. Jordan, who had been cut off from his ancestral roots: “I was born with some Killmonger in me, and I have learned to T’Challa throughout my studies,” he told AP while promoting the film.

“It’s the place where you start. All African Americans, unless they have some direct connection, have been severed from that past. There’s things that cannot be tracked,” he continued. “You were a product, sold. So it’s very difficult as an African American to connect at some points directly to Africa. I have made that part of my search in my life. So those things were already there when I got into the role.”

The character was last seen standing silently dressed in a black suit at Tony Stark’s funeral in “Avengers: Endgame.” A “Black Panther” sequel had been announced, and was one of the studio’s most anticipated upcoming films.

Marvel Studios paid tribute to the actor on Twitter, saying their “hearts were broken.”

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Tween Wanted In Armed Carjacking In Culver City

CULVER CITY, CA #los-angeles-ca  — Two teenagers and a boy estimated to be about 12 years-old carjacked an SUV from a Culver City dealership at knifepoint, and police are asking for help locating the trio.

According to police, the attack happened at Mike Miller Toyota at 9077 Washington Blvd., Thursday night at 7 p.m. The teens got into a blue, two-door 2020 Toyota CHR with Culver City Toyota paper plates and attempted to steal the vehicle from the parking lot, the Culver City Police Department reported.

An employee confronted the three and was nearly stabbed.

When confronted by the employee, one of the suspects — a male approximately 18 years old — pulled out a knife and began to “violently slash at him several times, nearly striking him,” according to a police statement.

The employee was able to back away, and the suspects drove away in the vehicle westbound on Washington Boulevard and out of sight, according to police.

One suspect was described as a Latino male approximately 18 years old who was last seen wearing a baseball hat, a white T-shirt, blue shorts and a tattoo of three dots under his eye.

The other suspect was described as a male approximately 18 years old who was last seen wearing a blue sweatshirt and black pants.

The boy, approximately 12 years old, was last seen wearing a black T-shirt and black shorts.

Culver City police asked anyone with information regarding the carjacking to call them at 310-253-6300.

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Hundreds gather in East L.A. to mark anniversary of Chicano Moratorium

Los Angeles, CA #los-angeles-ca – Hundreds of people gathered in East Los Angeles on Saturday for a series of rallies marking the 50th anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium.

The Aug. 29, 1970, event started as a peace march and rally protesting the disproportionate death toll of Mexican American soldiers in the Vietnam War. But the day turned violent when sheriff’s deputies stormed Laguna Park and tried to disperse protesters with tear gas and clubs. Three people were killed, including Times journalist Ruben Salazar.

The 1970 rally, which was the biggest gathering of Mexican American demonstrators in U.S. history to that point, is recognized as a pivotal moment in the Chicano civil rights movement. Organizers of this year’s event point out that the issues highlighted — including racial injustice and law enforcement brutality — remain painfully relevant today.

Participants met Saturday at Atlantic Park and then planned to march to Laguna Park, which has since been renamed Salazar Park, for a second rally.

Before the march, about 15 Brown Berets from around the country formed a circle in the park as speakers reflected spontaneously on the meaning of the commemoration.

“It’s a continuation, not a celebration,” said L.A. native Lukas Tekolotl. “We are fighting for the same thing. That means we’re not doing something right. We’re not being effective. We have to look back.”

Sara Aguilar, 42, from Whittier, has taken to the streets annually for the Women’s March and most recently the Black Lives Matter movement. But as a Latina and a recent member of the Brown Berets, she couldn’t miss the Chicano Moratorium March.

Alongside her were Brown Berets from across the country: Houston, Chicago, Oregon, Fresno, Colorado and beyond.

She grew up in East L.A., and she hasn’t seen much progress since her youth.

“I don’t think much has changed as far as being treated equally or as a woman,” she said. “That’s why we’re still out here today. It’s not only a celebration but a continuation of our fight.”

She remembers, as a little girl in school, being “taught that I can’t speak Spanish and that I needed to learn English.

“I’m here to get back to my roots and fight for a future that’s different for the children.”

Kalpulli Tlaltekuhtli, an East L.A. ethnic dance group, performed in Aztec costumes with feathered headdresses and mandatory face coverings.

Rafael Avitia, co-chair of La Mesa Brown Berets, said the term “Chicano” encompasses all Indigenous people.

“We’re going to march and reassert who we are. La Gente de Aztlan [the people of Aztlan].”

Those gathered are protesting continued killings by both Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and Los Angeles police officers, as well as racism against the Latino community by the current presidential administration, according to a news release from Centro Community Service Organization.

Several other marches, forums and movie screenings examining the impact of the Chicano Moratorium will also take place this weekend. They include:

What: A march and socially distant car caravan hosted by the 50th Chicano Moratorium Committee along Whittier Boulevard to the site of the Silver Dollar Bar & Cafe for an outdoor performance of Teatro Urbano’s play “The Silver Dollar” and a program at Ruben F. Salazar Park.

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday

Where: 50th Chicano Moratorium car caravan meets at 10 a.m. and departs 11 a.m. from Gregg Road and Whittier Boulevard; the group’s march meets at 10 a.m. at Atlantic Park, 570 S. Atlantic Blvd., Los Angeles. Caravan and march will stop at 4945 Whittier Blvd. (now Sounds of Music) for “The Silver Dollar” performance on the way to Ruben F. Salazar Park, 3864 Whittier Blvd., Los Angeles.

Info: chicano-moratorium-com or Chicano Moratorium Facebook page.

What: “Remembering the Life and Death of Ruben Salazar,” a 40-minute virtual panel discussion followed by a 40-minute Q&A session, hosted by the National Assn. of Hispanic Journalists, will be moderated by Associated Press reporter Russell Contreras with photojournalist Monica Almeida; L.A. Times staff writer Esmeralda Bermudez; University of Texas journalism professor Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez; Dawn Garcia, director of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University; and filmmaker Phillip Rodriguez, director of “Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle,” and more.

When: 10 a.m. Saturday

Info: Register at nahj.org/events.

What: A virtual screening of the Phillip Rodriguez-directed documentary “Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle” with opening remarks by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and actor-producer Edward James Olmos, followed by a live discussion and Q&A with Rodriguez, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, Univision “Edición Digital California” anchor Yarel Ramos, grassroots network Mijente co-founder Neidi Dominguez, author and educator Myriam Gurba and L.A. Times staff writer Daniel Hernandez.

When: 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday

Info: Register at chicanorebellionreconsidered.splashthat.com or USC Annenberg events page.

Cost: Free

What: A Brown Berets march, speeches, reception and performance of Teatro Urbano’s play “The Silver Dollar” at an outdoor theater on the site of the Silver Dollar Bar & Cafe, where journalist Ruben Salazar was killed.

When: 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Meet between 3 and 4 p.m. at 4945 Whittier Blvd., Los Angeles, site of the Silver Dollar, now Sounds of Music. (Some participants will meet between 1 and 3 p.m. at Belvedere Park and march to the Silver Dollar site.) After speeches and performance, march departs Whittier Boulevard location for Belvedere Park and outdoor theater at East Los Angeles Library, 4837 E. 3rd St., Los Angeles. Reception will follow.

Info: brownberet.us/upcoming-events or facebook.com/brownberetnational

What: Webinar series hosted by the 50th Chicano Moratorium Committee with activists, artists and others taking part in discussions, short screenings and performances. Hosted by Lupe Carrasco Cordona, Carlos Montes, Benjamin Prado and Sol Már.

When: 5 to 6:30 p.m. daily through Sunday, all day Saturday

Info: chicano-moratorium.com, 50th Chicano Moratorium Facebook events page or live streaming from co-chair Lupe Carrasco Cardona’s Facebook page or Ethnic Studies Now Coalition Facebook page, with past seminars viewable in the video section of mentioned Facebook pages.

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Six months into pandemic, unemployed struggle and hope

Atlanta, GA #atlanta-ga – In a chef’s world, what counts is expertise — a deft hand with a sharp knife, years of knowledge, an eagerness to learn and most of all, a talented, sensitive, creative palette.

“Kitchens are totally merit-based,” said Chris Hughes. “Chefs and hourly cooks are only promoted based on accomplishments. The most common mistake a novice chef makes is not understanding kitchen hierarchy and how they fit into that structure.”

That sophisticated structure — and all the jobs that accompany it — unraveled when the pandemic arrived. It still hasn’t fully returned.

“In this field, looking for work is frightening. Who in my industry is doing well?” said Hughes, who was chef de cuisine — the second-ranking chef — at a midtown restaurant but hasn’t worked since April.

From the first reported U.S. coronavirus death Feb. 29, Georgians cycled quickly from blissful ignorance to a fearful shutdown of many businesses and then to a hopeful reopening and attempted return to normal.

Optimists had predicted a rapid, “V-shaped” recovery but most signals show slow growth — and some warn of an economy that will be indefinitely constricted.

The damage is uneven. Much of white-collar Georgia is prospering, especially tech and finance jobs that can be done anywhere. But much blue-collar work depends on personal service like at restaurants or groups of people gathering for business conferences, sports or concerts.

Nearly a half-million jobless Georgians are jostling for about one-quarter that number of openings. Some were briefly rehired at their former jobs, only to be let go again. Some, like Hughes, were furloughed and then finally laid off.

Meanwhile, the rent or mortgage is due, food costs money and jobless benefits have been slashed. Under a new program, unemployed Georgians are expected to start receiving $300 in weekly federal funds sometime in September. That’s half what they received under an earlier program that expired in late July, and the new funding might only last a few weeks.

Hovering over every decision is fear of a virulent disease. While there has been some progress, the coronavirus has killed more than 5,200 Georgians thus far. The state also has one of the highest infection rates in the country.

All of which puts the pressure on people like Hughes, who is 49 years old and wondering whether his industry will recover enough to make room for him again. He is a long way from his first job as a sportswriter in Macon, and he’s not going back to that. It’s just that he is interviewing for positions that are lower in the restaurant hierarchy, less prestigious and lower paying than his pre-pandemic job.

He and his girlfriend bought their Oakland City home in February. And while her work as a realtor has kept the lights on, it’s only a temporary solution.

“When it gets to September and October, that’s when you have to start getting creative,” he said. “Do I have another reinvention in my back pocket? I don’t know.”

That question would have seemed overly dramatic, even a little while ago.

Hughes didn’t even file for unemployment at first in April, when he was furloughed from an Italian restaurant. “I thought, surely we’ll be back to work in May.”

Instead, when the eatery reopened in May, the owners took a look at the world post-shutdown, brought back half the staff and laid off the rest, including Hughes.

And Hughes understood — it’s an upscale restaurant. “That’s a style not really conducive to takeout. It doesn’t translate to putting the pasta in a box and driving it home and throwing it in the microwave.”

In the past three months, the state has added 294,700 jobs — a spectacular number in normal times. Unfortunately, that growth represented only 55% of the jobs lost in March and April. And as the coronavirus continued to spread, the rebound has slowed.

Much of the shortfall in hiring has been in sectors that depend on consumer spending. In a sign that the pain could continue, the Conference Board reported Wednesday that its U.S. index of consumer sentiment fell to a six-year low.

Some experts have called it “a 90% economy,” hampered by a lingering uncertainty about the virus, global trade and government policy. For some companies, that means retaining staff, but continually adjusting hours as demand ebbs and rises.

During the shutdowns, the average American work week dropped to 34.1 hours, then rose quickly to 34.7 in May as many businesses reopened, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But in the next two months it dipped to 34.5 hours.

“When my hours were reduced, that was a big deal,” said Miranda Gore, 36, of Woodstock, who does title reviews for a mortgage company. “Then I had to take time off when the schools closed.”

She didn’t realize at first she was eligible for the pandemic unemployment benefits, and by then she was in trouble, she said. “When you have a reduction in income, that has a spiraling effect.”

She needed help paying rent in June and July. One month from Catholic Charities, the other from St. Vincent de Paul.

She’s getting by now, but it’s like wobbling along a tightrope in fear of the wind.

“Right now, we are back at 40 hours a week and that’s awesome,” she said. “But we are all waiting with fingers crossed.”

Data from Yelp collected earlier in the summer showed that more than half the supposedly temporary closures of spring were now considered permanent. Bankruptcies are rising, including manyicons of retail.

Cory Sontag, 44, of Athens did logistics for big events — work that evaporated in March, he said. “That is not coming back.”

He considers himself lucky. A single father, he has managed to dramatically cut expenses by living in a home owned by his family. “If I had to pay a mortgage, right now I would be panicked.”

He says he doesn’t want to be trapped into thinking that the pre-pandemic world — and his career — will return to the way it used to be. He’s talking with friends about online businesses, about finding something to sell that wouldn’t require a large investment. But he doesn’t know what.

Still, it’s important to accept change, look for opportunities and make plans, he said. “So when the dust settles, I don’t want to be standing in the same place I am now.”

For Hughes, the unemployed chef, it remains unclear if he’ll be able to return to his old industry.

As of mid-August, 24% of metro Atlanta’s restaurants and more than half the bars were closed, according to Womply, a software firm that tracks business spending. Many other sectors also weren’t back to pre-pandemic levels, although they weren’t hit as hard, Womply reported.

Like many chefs, Hughes loves dining out. But now that’s an indulgence he and his girlfriend cannot afford — which, ironically, is the kind of consumer caution that is chilling the hospitality business he depends on.

Hughes also says he does not have health insurance. He had hoped that if he kept working at his previous restaurant he would get it, and says his former employer had promised to give it to him, before he was furloughed and then laid off.

‘My one regret,’ he said.