GEMA to provide Personal Protective Equipment for Cobb poll workers

absentee ballot drop boxBallot drop at the South Cobb Government Center (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

According to a press release from the office of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency has agreed to ship Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including masks, face shields, gloves, and disinfecting wipes directly to Cobb County officials for use by poll workers.

Cobb County has had more difficulty recruiting poll workers this election cycle because of concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

Janine Eveler, the Director of Elections and Registration for Cobb County told the Courier in a phone conversation, “We always had some issues. Recruiting was just dwarfed by what we experienced with COVID-19 recruiting. We’re severely understaffed.”

The shipment was requested by Raffensperger due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His office sent a message to county elections officials soliciting requests for PPE late last week.

153 counties submitted requests

Cobb county asked for 1,600 masks, 850 face shields, 217 pairs of gloves, and 100 boxes of disinfectant wipes.

Shortly after the request was made, GEMA/HS said they would be able to fulfill the requests and would ship the requested PPE directly to Cobb county election officials for use on election day.

“In-person voting remains an important way for Georgia voters to access the ballot so I am doing whatever I can to make that experience safe and easy,” said Raffensperger in the press release. “I want to thank GEMA for their past and continued support of elections in Cobb county and across Georgia with much-needed personal protective equipment. This will enable our poll workers and local officials to provide safe and secure ballot access to the millions of in-person voters expected in November.”

The Courier spoke with Lisa Rodriguez Presley, the External Affairs Supervisor for GEMA, who said that the funds for the PPE are available as part of the federal government’s CARES Act.

The press release from the Secretary of State’s office described PPE that was distributed to counties earlier in the year:

Earlier this year, GEMA/HS provided 84,000 masks, 290,000 gloves, and hand sanitizer for county elections officials ahead of the June 9 election. The Office of the Secretary of State coordinated the order and distributed it to county elections officials.

In addition, before the June 9 elections, the Secretary of State’s office purchased and distributed 35,000 masks, hundreds of thousands of gloves, 27,500 bottles of hand-sanitizer, and 60,000 stylus pens for voters to use when they voted. The Secretary of State’s office also provided $3,000 dollar grants to Georgia’s counties to purchase additional PPE on their own.

CARES Act

Officials expect the number to be three times as high in November, according to the press release.

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