ATLANTA - Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia House Speaker David Ralston Monday announced the next step in state Republican leadership’s commitment to prioritize public safety.

The state will offer one-time $1,000 bonuses to nearly 81,000 police officers, firefighters and other emergency responders throughout Georgia, Kemp said during a news conference inside the state Capitol. The $100 million initiative comes in addition to $25 million in bonuses Ralston proposed in July for a smaller group of sworn law enforcement officers.

Brian Kemp

Gov. Brian Kemp

The governor and speaker said Georgia’s first responders have weathered tremendous hardships in the last 18 months dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and a loss of respect for law enforcement that accompanied the national “defund the police” movement sparked by some street protesters last summer.

“We know it’s never been harder to wear a badge,” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. “We want to ensure our officers know we appreciate their service and sacrifice.”

Kemp said police and fire departments and other emergency response agencies will be able to apply to the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget for grants that will pay for the bonuses between Oct. 1 and the end of the year. The funds will come from Georgia’s $4.8 billion share of federal COVID-19 relief.

The money will go to all eligible public safety officers and first responders, including police and sheriff’s department employees, parole and probation officers, prison and jail guards, emergency-medical technicians and paramedics, criminal investigators, court bailiffs, fish and game wardens, 911 dispatchers and evidence processors with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The $25 million in law enforcement raises Ralston proposed during the summer is part of a $75 million allocation the speaker is requesting to bolster public safety and mental health services in Georgia.

Ralston acted to make public safety a priority in the aftermath of a crime wave that has driven up murder rates and other violent crime in Atlanta, other Georgia cities and across the nation. State House and Senate committees have been holding hearings to examine the reasons for the uptick in crime and what can be done to address it.

Kemp announced in July that he planned to add crime legislation to this year’s special legislative session being held primarily to redraw Georgia’s congressional and legislative district lines.

But crime did not appear on the agenda last week when Kemp called for the special session to start Nov. 3. Lawmakers instead are expected to consider the governor’s proposals during the 2022 regular session beginning in January.

The General Assembly approved one-time $1,000 bonuses earlier this year for teachers and state employees who earn less than $80,000 per year.

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