August 2020

Activists Say Bill Ending Police Stops for Pot Odor Is ‘Small Step’ For Marginalized Communities

Advocates

Members of the group Marijuana Justice at a press conference to support the legalization of marijuana in the commonwealth. Photo by Emma Gauthier/CNS.

By Andrew Ringle, Capital News Service

RICHMOND -- The state Senate approved a bill Friday that would prohibit search and seizures based solely on the odor of marijuana. Activists say this is a small step toward ending adverse enforcement against marginalized communities.

Senate Bill 5029, introduced by Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, passed with a 21-15 vote. 

Chelsea Higgs Wise, executive director of Marijuana Justice, a nonprofit pushing for the statewide legalization of marijuana, said her group is excited to see the bill move forward.

“This is a small but important step to decriminalizing Black and brown bodies of being targeted by this longtime policing tool, which was really created by politicizing the war on drugs,” Higgs Wise said.

Black people are more than three times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia compared to white people, according to 2018 data from the ACLU. Even after marijuana was decriminalized in July, Higgs Wise said police stops initiated on the smell of marijuana continue to adversely affect minority groups.

“The odor of marijuana is something that our undocumented community is anxious about because it’s life or death and separation from their families,” Higgs Wise said.

Higgs Wise said there is still “a long way to go” before demands for full marijuana legalization are met, but right now she wants legislators to focus on ending the enforcement of remaining marijuana-related penalties.

Marijuana decriminalization legislation approved by the General Assembly earlier this year went into effect in July. Possession of up to an ounce of marijuana results in a $25 civil penalty, reduced from a $500 criminal fine and 30 days in jail for having up to half an ounce.

Higgs Wise said true reform goes further; clearing records, releasing people jailed for marijuana offenses and eliminating the $25 fine. 

“All of that has to stop to meet the full demand of legalization and fully, truly decriminalizing marijuana and Black and brown bodies in the eyes of the police,” Higgs Wise said.

Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police Executive Director Dana Schrad said the organization opposes the bill. 

“Enacting this type of legislation allows and promotes smoking of marijuana while operating a motor vehicle, which is a fundamental disregard for maintaining a safe driving environment for motorists,” Schrad said in an email.

Other amendments in the bill reduce certain traffic violations from primary to secondary offenses, which Schrad said could make it difficult for officers to issue citations on the road and creates risks for other drivers.

The bill, and another in the House, reduce other traffic penalties from primary to secondary offenses, such as driving with tinted windows or without a light illuminating the vehicle’s license plate.

Claire Gastañaga, executive director of ACLU Virginia, said police have “gotten comfortable” with using the smell of marijuana as a pretext to stop and frisk.

“Occasionally, they’ll find evidence doing that of some other criminal activity, but many times they don’t,” Gastañaga said. “As a consequence, it provides an excuse for essentially over-policing people who have done nothing wrong.”

Gastañaga said the end of the overcriminalization of Black and brown people will come after legislators legalize marijuana and commit to reinvesting equitably in those communities. A resolution approved by the General Assembly earlier in the year directed the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to study and make recommendations for how the commonwealth should legalize marijuana by 2022.

Gastañaga said SB 5029 sends a strong message to the police and the public.

“This would take [away] that pretextual tool for police stopping people on the street, or for demanding to search a vehicle,” Gastañaga said.

The bill needs approval from the House of Delegates and a signature from Gov. Ralph Northam before it can become law, which would take effect four months after the special session adjourns. 

House Bill 5058 similarly aims to end police searches based on the odor of marijuana. The bill, introduced by Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, reported Wednesday from the House Courts of Justice committee by a vote of 13-7.

“A disproportionate number of people pulled over for minor traffic offenses tend to be people of color,” Hope said during the committee meeting on Wednesday. “This is a contributor to the higher incarceration rate among minorities.”

Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano said during Wednesday’s meeting that when people feel they are being targeted by the police, they’re less likely to report crimes or act as witnesses in prosecutions. He said ending such traffic stops is necessary to reform the criminal justice system and make communities safer. 

“Reforming our criminal justice system means bringing back legitimacy to it,” Descano said.

Charges Filed and Arrest Made in July Fatal Accident

From the Original Virginia State Police press release:

On July 23, 2020 at approximately 11:33 PM, the Virginia State Police Communications Center was notified of a motor vehicle crash which had the left lane blocked, of southbound I-95 at the 6 mile marker in Greensville County.
 
Preliminary investigations reveal that Shaketa Denise Williams was traveling southbound in a 2013 Honda CRV when she was struck in the rearby a 2016 Dodge Ram. The impact of the crash caused the Honda to strike the guard rail and spin out of control, causing the Dodge Ram to lose control, overturning in the median. 
 
Ms. Williams suffered non-life threatening injuries, but two of the female passengers, ages 9 and 11 years old, died upon impact. A third 12 year old female was transported to Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center (SRMC) with life threatening injuries and later flown to Virginia Commonwealth University where she later succumbed to her injuries on the 25th of July.
 
The driver of the Dodge Ram, Travis Benjamin Vigil, 49 YOA, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, suffered non-life threatening injuries and was transported to SRMC. 
 
Alcohol was a contributing factor.
 
Upon completion of the investigation and review by the Commonwealth Attorney, arrest warrants(3) were placed on Travis Benjamin Vigil, 49 YOA, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for felony involuntary manslaughter.
 
On August 27, 2020, with the assistant of the United States Marshal Service, Vigil was arrested and taken into custody in Montana. He is currently being held without bond at the Broadwater County Sheriff's Office awaiting extradition back to Virginia.

Virginia Launches 19th Annual Checkpoint Strikeforce Campaign to Curb Impaired Driving

Governor Northam highlights increased enforcement patrols, reminds Virginians to travel safely

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today kicked off the Commonwealth’s 19th annual Checkpoint Strikeforce enforcement and public education campaign to combat impaired driving and prevent alcohol-related injuries and fatalities on Virginia’s roads. Modified to address safety and health concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the period of increased enforcement will take place from August 26 through Labor Day weekend, and resume periodically around key holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Eve.

“This has been a challenging year, and now more than ever, we are all focused on keeping our loved ones safe,” said Governor Northam. “I am asking Virginians to apply the same collective action and shared responsibility that we have harnessed to stop the spread of COVID-19 to reverse the trends of drunk driving. The work of Checkpoint Strikeforce is a critical part of our efforts to reduce the number of fatalities on Virginia’s roads, and the message is simple: if you are old enough to drink, act like it—never get behind the wheel after you have been drinking.”

Last year, nearly one-third (31.9 percent) of traffic fatalities in Virginia were due to alcohol-related crashes, and 18,648 people were convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) in the Commonwealth. During Labor Day weekend alone, Virginia State Police personnel arrested 76 drunk drivers, averaging a DUI arrest every 75 minutes. Checkpoint Strikeforce is a crucial joint effort between public and private partners that works to stop these fatalities through surround-sound persuasion campaigning and high-visibility enforcement that reminds Virginians to get a safe ride after drinking or face arrest.

The Virginia State Police will work through Labor Day weekend as part of Operation CARE, or Crash Awareness Reduction Effort. Operation CARE is a nationwide, state-sponsored traffic safety program that aims to reduce traffic crashes, fatalities, and injuries caused by impaired driving, speeding, and failing to use occupant restraints. Virginia State Police will participate in this program starting at midnight on Friday, September 4, 2020 through midnight on Monday, September 7, 2020.

“Last year, 264 Virginians died on our roadways in alcohol-impaired traffic crashes—but even one death is too many,” said President and CEO of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program Kurt Erickson. “This year, increased patrols will be complemented by an innovative ad campaign that reflects the changes to socializing in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and reminds Virginians that drinking and driving is not only irresponsible, it can be deadly.”

Since the inception of Virginia’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign in 2002, alcohol-impaired traffic fatalities in the Commonwealth have been reduced by more than a quarter (26.2 percent) and the number of alcohol-impaired traffic injuries annually occurring on the Virginia’s roadways have been nearly cut in half (46.3 percent).

The 2020 Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign launch is supported by new research from Lake Research Partners, which last month conducted a survey of Virginia drivers that are most likely to drive after drinking: 21- to 35-year-old males. The research showed that more than half (57 percent) of men surveyed admitted to having driven after consuming a few drinks or being driven by someone who has had a few drinks, despite a strong majority (95 percent) indicating that they believe it is important to make a plan to get home safely. Of the men surveyed, 52 percent said that they have needed a safe ride after drinking more or the same amount this year in comparison to last year, showing the desire to socialize despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to heightened enforcement, Checkpoint Strikeforce is continuing its “Act Like It” advertising campaign. The 30-second ad is an updated version of the spot which debuted in 2018 and was built on public opinion research that shows the campaign’s primary audience strongly agrees (81 percent, with 94 percent agreeing overall) that “people who drink and drive are not acting like responsible adults.” This year’s campaign will also include Spanish-language ads online and on streaming radio. The latest ad can be viewed at ActLikeIt.org.

Video of today’s virtual Checkpoint Strikeforce launch event is available here.

Checkpoint Strikeforce is part of a research-based multi-state, zero tolerance initiative designed to get impaired drivers off the roads using checkpoints and patrols along with education about the dangers and consequences of driving while intoxicated. Virginia’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign is supported by a grant from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to the nonprofit and Falls Church-based Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP).

Bill to establish mental health alert system reports out of House committee

By Andrew Ringle, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- A bill that could reshape how law enforcement responds when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis reported out of the House Public Safety Committee on Tuesday by a vote of 13-9.

House Bill 5043, introduced by Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond, would create teams of mental health service providers, peer recovery specialists and law enforcement to help individuals in a crisis situation. Formally dubbed the mental health awareness response and community understanding services, or MARCUS, alert system, the proposal is in response to ongoing demands of protesters in Richmond.

The proposed system is named after Marcus-David Peters, a 24-year-old high school biology teacher and Virginia Commonwealth University alumnus who was shot and killed by a Richmond Police officer in 2018 while unarmed and experiencing a mental health crisis.

“Out of that, his family, a wealth and host of community advocates and stakeholders came together and really started developing what’s known as the MARCUS alert system, which this bill hopefully will create,” Bourne said during the virtual committee meeting.

The bill would require the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and the Department of Criminal Justice Services to work together to create evidence-based training programs for the care teams so that they know how, Bourne said, “to effectively address, mitigate and de-escalate these situations.”

Bourne hopes the law will ensure that people who are experiencing mental health crises are met with the appropriate resources “and not just being locked up.”

“A mental health professional is going to absolutely take the lead in these situations,” Bourne said. “In lots of cases, the mere presence or sight of a uniform or police vehicle can further exacerbate or further amplify the mental health crisis.”

Princess Blanding, sister of Peters, commended Bourne and his team for spearheading the bill’s progress in the House. She called today’s committee meeting a partial victory, adding “it’s not done yet.”

“We’re very thankful for the work that Del. Jeff Bourne has been doing, and it’s not over,” Blanding said. “He knows he still has a lot of work ahead of him, and he’s up for it. He’s up for that fight.”

During the meeting, Blanding urged the delegates to support the bill and said her brother “absolutely deserved help, not death” on the day of his fatal shooting.

“When a person’s kidneys stop functioning properly, they receive dialysis if needed,” Blanding said. “When a person’s heart stops functioning properly, they receive bypass surgery if needed. But the brain is the only major organ that, when it stops functioning properly, we demonize, we incarcerate, and in the case of so many Black people, death is the final answer.”

Blanding has spoken at multiple demonstrations in Richmond since protests sparked by the death of George Floyd began in late May, demanding the city fully fund the alert system as well as establish a civilian review board to investigate allegations of police misconduct.

Citing the personal experience of a family member, Del. Carrie Coyner, R-Chesterfield, expressed concern for situations when a victim is endangered by someone experiencing a mental health crisis. She said she supports Bourne’s bill “in concept” but struggles with it from a legal perspective regarding who would respond first in a situation when someone might be harmed.

Bourne said law enforcement have “an absolute, overarching duty to protect people,” and that protection of any victims would necessitate police to respond first, but the mental health team would also be there to address the crisis. Coyner ultimately voted against the bill.

Republican delegates expressed concern over how to fund a statewide system, which will be determined when the bill is before the House Appropriations Committee.

“I’d like for us to think about what we could do to spend this money within our police departments to have somebody there with them that has the ability to be plainclothed and to do this, versus trying to organize different people from different parts,” said Del. Matt Fariss, R-Rustburg.

Bruce Cruser, executive director of Mental Health America of Virginia, spoke during the committee meeting. He said although his organization was not involved with putting forward the legislation, he “fully supports” the goals listed in the bill.

“I think this is an incredible, significant step forward in really addressing the mental health needs of our community,” Cruser said.

Senate Bill 5038, introduced by Sen. Jeremy McPike, D-Woodbridge, also seeks to establish a similar alert system. It has been rereferred to the Senate Finance and Appropriations committee.

Audrey Faye Howell

May 6, 1961-August 24, 2020

Audrey Faye Howell, 59, of Emporia, widow of Marvin Wayne Howell, Sr., passed away Monday, August 24, 2020. She was also preceded in death by her father, Jerry Leonard Draper, Sr. and two brothers, Jerry Leonard Draper, Jr. and Donald Wadell Draper.

Faye is survived by two daughters, Sherry Jarratt (Ron) and Tiffany Byrum (Hunter) and son, Marvin Howell, Jr. (Tiffany); eight grandchildren, Stephanie Powell, Chris Jarratt, Natalie Jarratt, Jordin Jarratt, Logan Howell, Conner Howell, Noah Howell and Isobella Byrum; great-granddaughter, Ma’Kenzie Fox; her mother, Virginia Frances Draper, sister, Barbara Woodard and a number of nieces and nephews.

The family will receive friends 2-8 p.m. Wednesday, August 26 at the home of her son, Marvin Howell, Jr.

The funeral service will be held graveside 11 a.m. Thursday, August 27 at Drewryville Cemetery officiated by the Reverend Jeremy Slagle.

Online condolences may be shared with the family www.owenfh.com.

VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital receives Get With The Guidelines-Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award

The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association recognizes VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital’s commitment to quality stroke care. 

VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital has received the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines®-Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award. The award recognizes the hospital’s commitment to ensuring stroke patients receive the most appropriate treatment according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence. 

VCU Health CMH earned the award by meeting specific quality achievement measures for the diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients at a set level for a designated period. These measures include evaluation of the proper use of medications and other stroke treatments aligned with the most up-to-date, evidence-based guidelines with the goal of speeding recovery and reducing death and disability for stroke patients. Before discharge, patients should also receive education on managing their health, get a follow-up visit scheduled, as well as other care transition interventions 

“VCU Health CMH is dedicated to improving the quality of care for our stroke patients by implementing the American Heart/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines-Stroke initiative,” said Lisa Smith, RN, BSN, CICU, Stroke Program Coordinator at VCU Health Community Memorial “The tools and resources provided help us track and measure our success in meeting evidenced-based clinical guidelines developed to improve patient outcomes.”  

VCU Health CMH additionally received the Association’s Target: StrokeSM Honor Roll award. To qualify for this recognition, hospitals must meet quality measures developed to reduce the time between the patient’s arrival at the hospital and treatment with the clot-buster tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat ischemic stroke  

Further, VCU Health CMH received the Association’s Type 2 Diabetes Honor Roll award. To qualify for this recognition, hospitals must meet quality measures developed with more than 90 % of compliance for 12 consecutive months for the “Overall Diabetes Cardiovascular Initiative Composite Score.” 

“We are pleased to recognize VCU Health CMH for their commitment to stroke care,” said Lee H. Schwamm, M.D., national chairperson of the Quality Oversight Committee and Executive Vice Chair of Neurology, Director of Acute Stroke Services, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts. “Research has shown that hospitals adhering to clinical measures through the Get With The Guidelines quality improvement initiative can often see fewer readmissions and lower mortality rates.” 

According to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, stroke is the No. 5 cause of death and a leading cause of adult disability in the United States. On average, someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke every 40 seconds and nearly 795,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year.

"Time to Wake Up"

The City of Richmond is not united
for its citizens have too many views,
yes the only thing they are sure of
is that they will make the nightly news.
 
It's clear that the tourists are aware
and their presence is sure to drop
allowing protestors to block the main streets
makes even locals afraid to shop.
 
They think by removing monuments
that their history will change
well history shall remain history
so that thought is kind of strange.
 
Yes and changing the names of many schools
is for sure a big charade
this will not help the children having trouble
for to get a passing grade.
 
You can put these children in a 2nd street school
one that has lots of class
yet the ones that can't study because of the name
still most likely will not pass.
 
The leaders are giving in to the protestors
on just about every little whim
still will they help to pay for all of this
the chances are quite slim.
 
Now their schools are rated very low
and the teachers need more pay
yet the city is making history
in much the very wrong way!
 
                         - Roy E. Schepp

COURT APPROVES ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING’S AGREEMENT TO PROMOTE SAFE ABSENTEE VOTING BY MAIL IN NOVEMBER

~ The agreement waives the “witness requirement” for the November election for absentee voters who fear for their health and safety ~

RICHMOND (August 21, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today announced that a federal court has approved a consent decree negotiated by his office that will promote public health and participation in elections by encouraging safe absentee voting by mail in the November election. Under the terms of the approved consent decree, the Commonwealth will accept absentee ballots without the signature of a witness “for voters who believe they may not safely have a witness present while completing their ballot.” The order was approved by Judge Norman K. Moon despite the objections of the Republican Party of Virginia, which intervened in the case and opposed the proposed agreement.

“This agreement is another big win for Virginia voters and for democracy, and it’s another important step in ensuring that we can have free, fair, safe elections this fall despite the challenges presented by the COVID pandemic,” said Attorney General Herring. “Safe voting has been one of my top priorities for the last six months because no one should ever have to choose between their health and their fundamental right to cast their vote.”

In approving the agreement, Judge Moon found that “The same reasons that motivated the Court to approve the parties’ previous consent decree carry even more force today, as the pandemic has resurged.” Attorney General Herring previously reached an agreement, also approved by Judge Moon, to promote safe voting by mail for the June 23rd primaries by allowing for the acceptance of absentee ballots without a witness signature “for voters who believe they may not safely have a witness present while completing their ballot.”

Judge Moon wrote that despite the Republican Party of Virginia’s objections to this commonsense agreement, “every indication before the Court is that the June primary was conducted without the witness signature requirement and without any corresponding increase in voter confusion or election fraud—the RPV has not provided any evidence to the contrary…” He also wrote that “the RPV has not brought forth any evidence that would permit the Court to overcome its presumption of good faith and fair dealing in the settlement negotiations between the Plaintiffs’ and State Defendants—instead, it relies on speculation and circumstantial evidence.”

In a joint brief in support of the agreement, Attorney General Herring and the plaintiffs stated that the agreement advances “the public interests of ensuring access to the ballot, election integrity, and promoting public health during the COVID-19 pandemic, just as did the consent decree approved by this Court for the June 23 primaries.” They asserted that the agreement “reflects sound public health judgment and the need for safe participation in exercising the fundamental right to vote,” and is even more vital given that even more Virginians and Americans have been infected by COVID since the June primaries and the fact that COVID transmission will continue to be a challenge in November.

In explaining the importance of the agreement, Attorney General Herring and the plaintiffs wrote that “many voters in Virginia who live alone are not able to both comply with social distancing protocols and have an individual witness their absentee ballot, and are unable to vote in-person, meaning that they would not be able to cast a vote or have their vote counted in November without this consent decree’s elimination of the witness requirement for these individuals. And this protection of the right to vote will happen without harming election integrity, especially ‘when considering all of the other means of combatting voter fraud integrated into the absentee-voting system.’”

The brief also highlighted the many other safeguards to ensure security on absentee ballots including “a plethora of other Virginia laws [that] ensure proper absentee voting including provision of identifying information, a signed attestation confirming identity, eligibility, and lack of double-voting, and a check of the ballot against the list of ballot requests.”

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Governor Northam Statement on the Passing of Former Lieutenant Governor John H. Hager

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam issued the following statement today on the passing of former Lieutenant Governor John H. Hager.

“John Hager devoted his life to public service, and I admired his love for our country and for Virginia. 

“He served in the Army and worked as a businessman, but he will be remembered as a volunteer, an athlete, an author, and a patriot. 

“I first met John after running for public office, and he helped me learn the job of being Lieutenant Governor. Anyone who worked in Virginia politics quickly learned that John was everywhere, and no one outworked him. He earned victory and knew defeat, and he kept going. John held fast to his principles, and he knew when to reach across the aisle to compromise. Our country misses his example. 

“Most of all, John was a family man. Pam and I send our thoughts and prayers to Maggie, Jack, Henry, and the entire Hager family. 

“I have ordered Virginia state flags to be flown at half-staff for ten days in John’s honor.”

Governor’s Flag Order for the Commonwealth of Virginia

This is to order that the flag of the Commonwealth of Virginia is to be flown at half-staff over the state Capitol and all local, state, and federal buildings and grounds in respect and memory of former Lieutenant Governor John H. Hager.

I hereby order that the flag shall be lowered until sunset, September 2, 2020.

Ordered on this, the 23rd day of August, 2020.

STATEMENT OF U.S. SEN. MARK R. WARNER

~ On the passing of John Hager ~

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement on the passing of John Hager, former Lieutenant Governor of Virginia:

“I’ve known John Hager for more than 30 years and I can attest that John epitomized the very definition of a true public servant. We worked together on the Virginia Health Care Foundation to ensure all Virginians had access to health care. And during my time as Governor, I was proud of the work he did on my Cabinet, serving as the Director of Homeland Security. John was a great Virginian, who, despite the remarkable obstacles he faced in his personal life, was able to persevere and give back to his community. John was a great friend to me and the Commonwealth he served.

“I want to offer my sincerest condolences to Maggie, the boys, and the entire Hager family on their loss. I will miss him greatly.”

Calvin Turner Draper

March 4, 1925-August 20, 2020

Calvin Turner Draper, 95, died August 20, 2020, at his home surrounded by family.

Mr. Draper was a native of Northampton County. He was born, March 4, 1925, to the late Elizabeth Beale Draper and Carlton Wingate Draper.

Mr. Draper served a tour of duty in the U.S. Navy during World War II.  He also joined and retired from the U.S. Army Reserves when he reached the rank of Major.

He retired from the Jackson Fire Department where he served as Chief for many years as well as a NC state fire instructor. He was appointed and served as Postmaster in Jackson, where he served for thirty-five years.

He was a member of Creeksville Baptist Church where he served as deacon, choir member and Sunday School teacher.

He was predeceased by three sisters, Blanche Galloway, Margaret Conner, Geraldine Draper, a brother John Draper, son, Douglas Draper, and beloved fur companion, Sandy.

Survivors include his wife Judy Draper, son, Calvin Draper (Betsy), two daughters, Brenda Byrum (Joe), Donna Newsome (Glenn). Two stepsons, David Strickland (Becky), Kent Wiggins (Charlene), a stepdaughter, Trudy Hatcher (Donald).  He was blessed with ten grandchildren, Chris Glover (Barbara), Brian Glover (Denna), Sheila Glover, Lisa Glover, Mike Barnes (Kari), Steve Barnes, Crystal Davis (Jason), Emily Ligon (Brian), Kelli Wyatt (Lance), and Allison Draper. He also had five step-grandchildren, Christina Hebert (Ashley), Lindsay Johnson (Rich), Brittany Strickland (Caleb), Shannon Wiggins, and Matthew Wiggins.

He was also survived by sixteen great grandchildren, Christie Glover (Payton), Will Glover (Caroline), Logan Glover, Madison Glover, Savannah Beltrami, Lucas Barnes, Karlie Barnes, Conner Barnes, Deborah Barnes, Alec Barnes, Chelsea Barnes, Cheyenne Davis, Jaxon Davis, Matthew Ligon, Charles Maxwell Ligon, Sydney Wyatt and one great-great grandchild, Carlie Doyle and four step-great grandchildren, Philip Johnson, Phoebe Johnson, Lane Christo, and Everett Hebert. Mr. Draper also had a special caretaker, Phyllis Bracy.

Rev. Andy Sloan and Pastor Matt Ledbetter will conduct a graveside service Sunday, August 23, 2020 at 1:00 pm in Creeksville Baptist Church Cemetery.

Due to Covid 19 restrictions you are requested to share a memory and sign the online register at www.askewfs.com. Social distancing is also requested at the graveside.

Virginia Receives Approval to Expand Access to Health Care through State-Based Exchange

Federal approval puts Commonwealth on path to full state exchange by 2023

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia has been approved to proceed with a state-based health insurance exchange. Approval from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services allows Virginia to take over some functions of its current federal exchange beginning with open enrollment this November, and puts the Commonwealth on a path to full control by 2023.

“This approval could not come at a more critical time as we continue to battle COVID-19,” said Governor Northam. “The Trump administration is doing everything possible to gut the Affordable Care Act and kick families off their health insurance, and a state-based exchange will give Virginia the autonomy we need to expand access to care and reduce premiums. As governor and as a physician, I will never stop fighting for affordable, high-quality health care.”

By establishing the Virginia Exchange, the Commonwealth can implement policies to better address costs. The state will be able to work directly with insurance companies to meet the health coverage needs of all Virginians purchasing coverage, including small employers. Virginia will also be able to provide more targeted outreach and enrollment services and extend the time Virginians have to enroll in coverage, if needed. These strategies will expand access to health care and help increase overall affordability.

Increasing access to health care has been a top priority of the Northam administration. More than 452,000 Virginians have enrolled in new health care coverage since 2018, when Governor Northam successfully fought to expand Medicaid in Virginia. The expansion of Medicaid has proven a critical lifeline for Virginians during this health pandemic, with more than 125,603 Virginians, including 41,272 children, enrolled in Medicaid since the COVID-19 state of emergency was declared in Virginia on March 12 of this year.

The letter from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is available here.

Social Security Expedites Decisions for People with Severe Disabilities

Agency Adds to Compassionate Allowances List

Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced five new Compassionate Allowances conditions:  Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumors, GM1 Gangliosidosis - Infantile and Juvenile Forms, Nicolaides-Baraister Syndrome, Rubinstein-Tybai Syndrome, and Secondary Adenocarcinoma of the Brain.  Compassionate Allowances is a program to quickly identify severe medical conditions and diseases that meet Social Security’s standards for disability benefits.

“Social Security’s top priority is to serve the public, and we remain committed to improving the disability determination process for Americans,” said Commissioner Saul.  “Our Compassionate Allowances program gets us one step closer to reaching our goals by helping us accelerate the disability process for people who are likely to get approved for benefits due to the severity of their condition.”

The Compassionate Allowances program quickly identifies claims where the applicant’s condition or disease clearly meets Social Security’s statutory standard for disability.  Due to the severe nature of many of these conditions, these claims are often allowed based on medical confirmation of the diagnosis alone.  To date, more than 600,000 people with severe disabilities have been approved through this accelerated, policy-compliant disability process.  Over the last decade, the list has grown to a total of 242 conditions, including certain cancers, adult brain disorders, and a number of rare disorders that affect children.  

The agency incorporates leading technology to identify potential Compassionate Allowances and make quick decisions.  When a person applies for disability benefits, Social Security must obtain medical records in order to make an accurate determination.  Social Security’s Health IT brings the speed and efficiency of electronic medical records to the disability determination process.  With electronic records transmission, Social Security is able to quickly obtain a claimant’s medical information, review it, and make a determination faster than ever before.

For more information about the program, including a list of all Compassionate Allowances conditions, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.

To learn more about Social Security’s Health IT program, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/hit.  

People may apply online for disability benefits by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov.

To create a my Social Security account, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

 

Governor Northam Proposes Voter Protection Measures Ahead of November General Election

Additional budget amendments address evictions, broadband, historical sites, and dam safety

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced proposals to expand access to voting for the November 3rd General Election amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The measures were unveiled by the Governor during a virtual Joint Meeting of the House Appropriations, House Finance, Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees, and will be considered by legislators during the special General Assembly session set to begin this afternoon.

“As we continue to navigate this pandemic, we must take additional steps to make it easier to vote, not harder,” said Governor Northam. “With these measures, we will protect public health and ensure Virginians can safely exercise their right to vote in the November election. Whether you put your ballot in the mail or vote in-person, voting will be safe and secure in our Commonwealth.

Governor Northam is putting forward three proposals aimed at addressing challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring all Virginians have safe and fair access to access to the ballot box for the November 3rd General Election.

  • Prepaid postage: Governor Northam’s proposed budget sets aside $2 million for prepaid return postage on all absentee ballots sent out for the November 3rd General Election.
  • Drop off boxes and drop off locations: The Governor’s proposal includes language expressly permitting localities to use drop boxes or implement drop off locations for Virginians who choose to vote absentee, under security standards to be set by the Virginia Department of Elections.
  • Absentee cure process:  This measure will ensure Virginians’ voting rights are protected by allowing them to fix an error on their absentee ballot. Currently, Virginians who make an error are not able to fix that error and therefore their ballot may be discarded. Many Virginians will be voting absentee for the first time this November, and this language will help ensure Virginians’ votes are counted.

The Governor’s proposed budget also includes funding for measures to reform policing; teach a more accurate version of Virginia history; expand safe, affordable housing; increase access to high-speed broadband; provide resources for urgent dam safety; and support Virginia’s public Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Additional information and presentations on the Governor’s proposed amendments to the 2020-2022 Biennial Budget can be found here.

Governor Northam’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

Good morning, Chairman Torian, Chairwoman Howell, Chairwoman Watts, Speaker Filler-Corn, Leader Saslaw, members of the General Assembly, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for the privilege of speaking with you this morning.

We’d rather all be together in person today, but in these times, we are being safe, and relying on technology. I want to thank our IT team for making the technology work.

I would like to recognize Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring, First Lady Pam Northam, and members of our Cabinet and staff. 

I am here today to update you on the Commonwealth’s revenues for the fiscal year that ended on June 30. 

This is a late-August tradition in Virginia, but this is no ordinary year. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives, our economy, and our budget. So I am also here to discuss actions I am proposing for the special session that begins today.

First, I want to discuss the latest efforts to fight the virus in Virginia. Overall, our daily case numbers seem to be trending slightly downward, which is a good thing. We’re now averaging around 15,000 tests a day, and our percent positivity is around 7 percent. These are positive trends, and we continue the work to increase testing and reduce the spread of the virus. We also continue reaching out to communities in need. For example, we’ve distributed more than 542,000 masks and 460,000 bottles of sanitizer to 40 localities through the Health Equity team.

The fact that we are doing this event virtually today speaks to the precautions we all are taking, and must continue to take.

***

Let’s turn to our economy. Last December, I stood before you to outline an ambitious and progressive budget that took Virginia in a new direction that the people demanded. That budget was built on revenues that were good, steady, and growing. This was possible because Virginia boasted a strong economy before the pandemic. We had near-record low unemployment, a stable budget, and strong financial reserves. 

So during the regular session, we worked together to craft a forward-looking budget that made generational investments in areas that had been underfunded. It advanced equity like never before, and cared for people who need help. Our budget included investments in early childhood education, tuition-free community college, public schools, affordable housing, our environment, state employees, and the largest reserve balance in state history. 

But even as we finalized the details of that plan, we could see that the pandemic was going to impact our revenues and our budget. What we didn’t know was how deep or long-lasting the impact might be.

We suspected it would be painful. And we were right. The United States continues to show recessionary trends. And it’s different from past economic downturns. This time, the cause is not an underlying problem in the economy, as we saw in 2008 when the housing market collapsed. No one could have foreseen that a pandemic would push the world into a recession. So there is no roadmap for how to get out of it. 

As a physician, I know the only way to solve our economic crisis is to solve our health crisis first. Our economy was booming before the pandemic, and it can fully rebuild only when this virus is behind us. This means that as we make budget decisions, this week and into the next session, we must keep in mind that we can’t know what is going to happen with the pandemic, when a vaccine will be available, or how much longer this will go on. 

So we need to follow the oath that doctors lead with: First, do no harm.

As we begin this special session, it’s important that we all make choices that preserve our financial options, especially for the period from now until the regular session in January. It’s also important to remember that every state is dealing with similar problems. No one has been immune to this crisis.

But states have handled it differently. Other states have slashed services, laid off workers, or furloughed employees to save money. Georgia cut nearly $1 billion from its education funding, while New Jersey is borrowing $10 billion to pay its bills. That’s half our general fund budget. Let me say that again—that’s half our budget.

We can all be very proud to say that in Virginia, we have been able to avoid cutting services or laying off large numbers of state workers. This is no accident. It is the result of taking thoughtful actions, and making prudent decisions. In the first few weeks of the pandemic, we put a freeze on hiring. We limited travel, and froze discretionary spending for state agencies. These actions contributed to unspent balances of $500 million.

At the reconvened session in April, my team worked with you to “unallot” most of the two and a quarter billion dollars in new spending that we had planned in the budget. We agreed that we would return to these important investments, once time had given us a better understanding of how this pandemic would affect our revenues. We also agreed not to make the draconian cuts that some called for. This would have hurt Virginia’s ability to serve people, and it would have slowed down our recovery. These decisions gave us a head start on the budget work we must do now and throughout the fall, and into the next regular session. I’ll talk more about that in a moment. 

Before we turn to that, it’s important to acknowledge that we have multiple ways to fund Virginia’s COVID response—not just our general fund. We have the COVID-19 Relief Fund, funded by a new tax on the so-called “gray machines.” We created this fund last session, and we set it up to last one year. It has a clear mission: to help pay for Virginia’s COVID response.

Another source is the federal CARES Act funding—approximately $3.1 billion. We have deployed this money strategically and prudently. We are allocating nearly 45 percent of it to local governments—roughly $1.3 billion. We have allocated more CARES Act dollars to localities than many other states, and we have done so more quickly. We know they are our partners, and they need help.

We have used these dollars to deliver basic services, and help people make it through. This means helping food banks, helping people pay their rent or mortgages, helping small businesses stay in business, helping people get the PPE they need, and a whole lot more. These actions have helped people. And they have kept this problem from being much worse.

So as we turn to the numbers, we all need to understand that the fiscal situation is serious in the Commonwealth, just like in every state. Virginia ended the 2020 fiscal year on June 30th with a $234 million shortfall in general fund revenue collections. While this is significant, it was less than projected, and we still saw an overall revenue increase of 2 percent over fiscal year 2019.

You will recall that some were calling on us to cut $3 billion from the last three months of the last fiscal year. We should be proud that this was not necessary. Looking forward, we now project that we’ll have $2.7 billion less than we expected in general fund revenue for the coming biennium. We feared worse. But this still requires serious and thoughtful budgeting and planning.

The drop in revenue was enough to trigger a reforecast of our economic outlook. The Joint Advisory Board of Economists and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Revenue Estimates have reviewed these numbers, and they have agreed on a revenue forecast that is recessionary.

This new forecast forms the basis of the budget we are presenting to you in the special session. Secretary Layne and our finance team will present the details in a few minutes.

***

Before we go into that, it’s important to remember where we are in the calendar, the budget cycle, and the pandemic response. In just four months, I will be back before you to present amendments to this budget. In fact, as soon as this special session wraps up, we will immediately begin that process.

In the budget cycle, we are only about six weeks into the fiscal year. Decisions that we make today will affect everything that happens throughout the rest of the two-year budget cycle. And this matters because we don’t know how long the pandemic will go on. Scientists offer a realistic hope that an effective vaccine will be developed in the coming months. Once that happens, it will take time to deploy and help Virginians gain that protection from the COVID-19 virus. We don’t know how long that will take either.

So I encourage all of us to follow a few guideposts for this session:

Number one: “cash is king.” That’s true for our family budgets, especially right now, and it’s true for government budgeting too. We need to preserve the liquidity that will enable us to operate the government, deliver services, and pay our bills. 

Number two: Don’t use one-time money to fund expenses that re-occur every year. If you receive an inheritance, and you spend it all today, you’ll have nothing tomorrow. This is common sense, and it’s also something the rating agencies reiterate with us every time they reaffirm our AAA Bond Rating.

Number three: When you DO have one-time money available, the right course is to invest in the future.

And finally, number four, we need to preserve financial options.

***

So let’s turn to specifics. You know that education has always been my top priority. For me, this meant a major expansion of early childhood education, and it meant tuition assistance and creating free community college for people going into high-need fields. I appreciate you endorsing these goals in the final budget you passed.

You will recall that we chose to “un-allot” these new investments earlier this year, once the pandemic hit. In the budget I present to you, I am choosing not to reinstate spending on my own top priorities. To be clear, I am doing this for one reason alone: To preserve our financial options so that we can make it through this pandemic. I need to be equally clear about the priorities we share: 

  • Teachers and state workers still need and deserve a raise. 
  • We need to invest more in behavioral health. 
  • The cost of tuition is still a major impediment.
  • And it remains important to invest in our transportation system, and in access to affordable health care.

We all share these priorities, and we will return to them in January, when the time is right. Just as our revenues now look better than we predicted when the pandemic began, we expect the December reforecast to show additional improvement about 16 weeks from now.

But for that to happen and allow us to return to these shared priorities, our economy must show improvement. For that, we need our businesses, large and small, to survive. I talk to CEOs and business leaders regularly, and many of them are facing real challenges. For example, airline travel has dropped 90 percent—that affects all the downstream businesses that supply that industry, many of which are based here in Virginia. Every time a business closes, people lose jobs, and communities lose part of their economic fabric. The pandemic is making businesses at every level rethink how they operate, which could create new opportunities for states looking to bring new business in.

Last year, we were all proud that CNBC named Virginia the best state in which to do business. We are still the best state for business, and as we move forward, we need to remember that keeping employers and jobs here will form the foundation of our economic recovery.

I fully intend to implement and carry out the progressive budget that you and I wrote together this past winter. It’s the right thing to do, and it reflects commitments we made to the people of Virginia.

But we have a crisis before us, so I am sending you a budget and legislation to address this crisis and the issues it has shined a spotlight on. This package will help people stay in their homes, with $88 million to combat evictions and expand affordable housing. This includes funding the eviction diversion pilot program, and making an historic $85 million investment into the Virginia Housing Trust Fund. Keeping people in their homes during this pandemic is a public health priority. That’s why we also created the Rent and Mortgage Relief Program, and it’s why we’ve previously allocated money to help people experiencing homelessness. 

This package will help bring more people online—to go to school, go to work, and get connected. It means $85 million for the infrastructure to expand access to broadband and high-speed internet. People in cities, small towns, and rural areas need this. Here’s why: 200,000 K-12 students, and 60,000 college students in Virginia lack access to broadband at home. This is long overdue, and as many schools prepare to start the school year virtually, their students need Internet access to participate.

This package will reform policing. It continues the reforms we began earlier this year, when we increased the felony larceny threshold, decriminalized simple possession of marijuana, began expanding eligibility for parole, and ended driver’s license suspensions that kept people from driving long after they finished their sentences. Now, it’s time to address the use of excessive force. Start training law enforcement officers better and more consistently, with more input from the community. It means civilian review panels, with real skills and standards. It means increasing diversity in the Virginia State Police, so troopers better reflect the communities they serve. And it means that when an officer goes rogue, they’re out of the profession, de-certified.

The package I’m presenting you reaffirms that we need to continue to make it easier to vote, not harder. Voting is fundamental to democracy. Thanks to legislation we passed in the regular session, photo ID is not required at the polls, and Election Day will be a state holiday. And any Virginia voter can vote early with “no excuse” absentee ballots—meaning you can vote early without having to give a reason.

Now, we need to help people vote safely. That means secure boxes to drop off your ballot, in addition to the standard postal service delivery. If you put your ballot in the mail, the state will pay the postage. All you have to do is turn on the TV to see why this is so important, but please know this: the Department of Elections is already working to prepare to start mailing ballots in just four weeks. For these reforms to matter in November, we must make them now. I ask you to move quickly to pass this budget, because the stakes are high for our country. To be clear, voting will be safe and secure in Virginia. Your mailed-in ballots will be counted. Virginia will take every action necessary to protect the vote.

***

When people vote, change happens. Virginians voted last fall, they demanded change, and we started delivering. But change doesn’t come only at the ballot box, especially when people are hurting. We’ve seen that this summer, across America and here in Virginia, as people took to the streets with a message that’s both simple and profound: Change faster.

So I’m sending you a package that lifts up Virginia’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, funds important cultural sites, and says to the world: This is American history. This package means more students visiting important sites. It means more historic sites and highway markers to tell a broader story. It’s time for Virginia to tell the whole story of American history, and I ask you to approve this package. 

And finally, my budget proposes investing $15 million for dam rehabilitation projects that can’t wait, along with other actions to preserve Virginia’s environment. We saw just this weekend across Virginia how important those infrastructure investments are. We had so much rain that 150 homes below a dam in Chesterfield had to be evacuated, and another dam near Pocahontas State Park would have failed had it not recently been upgraded.

Flooding in other communities, like Staunton and Hampton Roads recently, also speak to the fact that water management needs cannot wait. We must be responsible stewards of both the state’s money, and its infrastructure. Luckily, we are not starting from scratch. We have a base budget in place, and it would still allow us to operate the government, even if we made no changes in the coming months.

 We also have several options to fund COVID needs: federal CARES Act dollars, the gray machine funding, and our general fund budget. Additional needs for testing, PPE, and food security will require a large portion of the CARES Act dollars that remain. And as tax revenue from the gray machines starts to come in, I look forward to working with you to decide how we can best spend these dollars.

***

My friends, my fellow Virginians, these past few months have been an incredibly difficult time for literally everyone around the world. People have lost jobs. They’ve lost their businesses. Too many have lost their lives. Everyone is worried about what the future holds, and too many leaders are fanning the flames of anxiety. We need to change that too, and we will.

Here in Virginia, we need to plan for the long term, take actions that invest now, and preserve options for what we all hope is a brighter future. We have been making wise decisions throughout this pandemic, and I have faith that Virginia will again propel forward when this pandemic ends. I am proposing a budget and legislative package to make that happen, and I look forward to working with you all to pass these proposals. Thank you.

VCU Health CMH Presents 2020 Nursing Awards

Milagros Silverman, the Dee McMillan Nurse Care Partner Award recipient; Erin Truman, RN, the Alice Tudor Professional Nurse Award recipient; and Gloria Grinan, LPN, the Carol Love Licensed Practical Nurse Award recipient.

The Professional Development Council of VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital recently recognized three extraordinary people.  One of the council’s goals is to offer recognition to nurses and nurse care partners for their continual commitment to excellence.

VCU Health CMH first gave out these awards on Nurses’ Day, May 6, 2009 and this tradition has continued and grown stronger each year.  This year the Professional Development Council of VCU Health CMH received numerous nominations, a testament to the many dedicated professionals among the hospital’s staff.  This year’s awards were given to three incredible individuals, whose impact and contributions to nursing at VCU Health CMH have been tremendous.   

The three original awards were named after three special people, Dee McMillan, Carol Love and Alice Tudor. These women embodied the values that are respected in nursing: hard work, diligence, kindheartedness, compassion, knowledge, loyalty and support.      

The Dee McMillan Nurse Care Partner Award is named after the late Dee McMillan, who was a true nurse partner for many nurses and nursing staff at VCU Health CMH. She was a person who wore many hats when she worked within the organization. Dee demonstrated commitment in her work and a kindhearted attitude toward everyone she met. This award is presented each year in her memory as the Dee McMillan Nurse Care Partner Award.

This year’s recipient of the Dee McMillan Care Partner Award is Milagros Silverman.  Milagros has been employed at VCU Health CMH for nine years.  She leads the way for others and always makes sure that patients are safe throughout her shift. If she knows that a patient is on fall risk, she is often seen watching the patient closely and ready to assist right away if the at risk patient tries to get out of bed. Milagros strives to be her best and wants everyone in the unit to do the same. She never complains and always has a smile on her face. She is a preceptor and trains other Care Partners in a professional and welcoming manner. She goes above and beyond without hesitation to assist her peers, the patients, family members, and others in any way that she can. Milagros demonstrates relationship based care every day with her caring attitude and always puts the patient first.

Carol Love, LPN, was awarded the first LPN Award from the Professional Development Council of VCU Health CMH in 2009 for her leadership, commitment, caring attitude, demonstration of professionalism, and contribution to the Practical Nursing Program.  Thereafter, the award was named the Carol Love Licensed Practical Nurse Award in her honor, and is given each year to an LPN, for their exemplary contribution to nursing at VCU Health CMH.

The recipient of this year’s Carol Love Licensed Practical Nurse Award is Gloria Grinan, LPN.  Gloria has been employed at VCU Health CMH for thirty years.  She is described as a team player and will jump in and help out whenever needed. She willingly shares her expertise with other team members. She is an educator to team members and shares her tricks of the trade. Gloria treats her patients as if they were her own family with her quiet caring attitude. She always exhibits integrity in her nursing practice and is dressed to impress each day, uniform always pressed, presenting herself in a very professional manner. Her professionalism is evident in her community with her church involvement and assistance with health fairs. Gloria is an inspiration to team members, patients and families, the community, and her church family. At VCU Health CMH, she is well respected and treats everyone as if they are her family. She is always willing to go the extra mile and help anyone in need.

The Alice Tudor Professional Nursing Award is named after Ms. Alice Tudor, a CMH professional registered nurse. Ms. Tudor always presented with a professional appearance at work, her demeanor was an example of how a professional registered nurse should behave around their co-workers, patients and families. For more than 50 years, nurses looked up to Ms. Tudor and what she stood for as a professional nurse. This award is presented to a Registered Nurse each year in her honor as the Alice Tudor Professional Nurse Award.

The recipient of this year’s Alice Tudor Professional Nurse Award is Erin Truman, RN.  Erin has been employed by VCU Health CMH for four years. She is a role model for Relationship Based Care. Through her actions, Erin exemplifies positive relationships with our patients and our team that generate a positive work environment.  Erin is respected by her team and has emerged as a leader serving as a Preceptor and in other leadership roles. She has a professional, friendly demeanor that facilitates communication with team members. She has a strong relationship with our provider team who look at her as partner in care delivery to our patients. They respect her opinions and work together collegially to obtain the best outcome possible for the patients. Erin promotes professional growth and contribution to change by continuing to be open to learning and taking on new challenges, all while being a role model for others. She represents her unit by serving on several hospital-wide committees such as the Patient Experience Committee. She also takes pride in her own professional growth as she is continuing her education and has obtained a Medical Surgical Nurse Certification.  Erin is a professional nurse with a caring spirit.

All 2020 Nursing Award recipients were nominated by their peers or their manager. Each one has demonstrated care and compassion to patients and families and exemplifies excellence in nursing practice and leadership.

Lucille Slagle Taylor

January 27, 1927 - August 19, 2020

Lucille Slagle Taylor, age 93, passed away August 19, 2020 while in the care of Greensville Health and Rehabilitation. She was preceded in death by her husband Irvin Taylor. She is survived by her daughter, Romine Braswell and husband Dennis; son J.H. Taylor and wife Delia; granddaughters Candy Gordon and husband, Keith and Alison Phillips and husband, David; great-granddaughter Caitlyn Gordon and great-grandsons Barker and Taylor Phillips.  She was the daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. James Henry Slagle, and was also preceded in death by brothers Andrew Slagle, Lawrence Slagle, David Slagle and Parker Slagle, and sisters Mildred Prince, Helen Prince, and Mable Loftis. She is survived by sisters Edna Newsome, Marion Wright, Nell Prince, Lorine Bradley, and Lily Ruth Mitchell as well as numerous nieces and nephews.

A graveside service officiated by Pastor Larry Walczykowski will be held at Greensville Memorial Cemetary on Friday, August 21, 2020 at 11 am for immediate family.  Any monetary contributions can be made in her memory to Word of Life Assembly of God, 707 Brunswick Avenue, Emporia, VA 23847. 

Online condolences may be left at echolsfuneralhome.com.

 

Five Reasons to Use "My Social Security"

By Jacqueline Weisgarber, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Richmond, Virginia

There are countless reasons why you can benefit from using your personal my Social Security account.  Here are five that highlight why opening an account today can help you and the people you love.

Saving you time

There’s no need to leave your home when using the features of my Social Security.  You may think you need to speak with a Social Security representative to check your application status, set up or change direct deposit, or request a replacement Social Security card.  All you have to do is log in or create an account at www.ssa.gov/myaccount.  

Security

When you open an account, it prevents someone else from possibly creating an account in your name.   And, we use the two-step authentication to verify you are the one logging in to your account.  Your personal information is very important to us.  You can access your personal information safely and securely using my Social Security

Reassurance

Did you know you can see your entire work history with your personal my Social Security account?  This allows you to verify if your employers reported your earnings to us correctly.   This is very important.  Accurate wage reporting will ensure you get the benefits you earned when you begin receiving benefits.

Planning for your Future

Retirement planning is essential for a secure future.  The Retirement Calculator lets you enter the age or date when you expect to begin receiving benefits to generate an estimated benefit amount. If you enter your estimated future salary amount, that will be included when calculating the estimated benefit amount.   You can also view your estimated disability benefit on the Estimate Benefits page.

Control

A personal my Social Security account gives you the control to conduct your Social Security business wherever and whenever you want without needing to speak with a representative.  You can check the status of your claim, get an instant proof of benefits letter or copy of your SSA-1099, and more. And people in most states can request a replacement Social Security card.  Check out www.ssa.gov/myaccountand put yourself in control.

SBA Veterans Small Business Advisory Committees to Host Virtual Public Meetings Sept. 2 and 3

 

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development (IATF) and Advisory Committee on Veterans Business Affairs (ACVBA) will hold virtual public meetings on Sept. 2 and 3 respectively via Microsoft Teams.

“Now more than ever, it is critical for our veteran small business advisory committees to discuss challenges faced by the veteran small business community and how we can expand the resources available to them,” said Larry Stubblefield, Associate Administrator for the Office of Veterans Business Development. “We look forward to hosting our committee meetings virtually, supporting and advocating for this important and underserved population.”

The IATF will meet on Wednesday, Sept. 2, from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. (EDT) via this Microsoft Teams meeting link.

The ACVBA will meet on Thursday, Sept. 3, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (EDT). The meeting will be two separate sessions with a lunch break in between.

  • Part 1 (morning session) – 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. EDT – Meeting link
  • Part 2 (afternoon session) – 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT– Meeting link.

Public comments and questions are strongly encouraged to be submitted in advance by Aug. 28 to veteransbusiness@sba.gov or (202) 205-6773. During the live event, attendees will be in listen-only mode and may submit additional written questions via the Q&A chat feature in Microsoft Teams. For technical support, please visit the Microsoft Teams support page. Transcripts will be available after both meetings at www.sba.gov/ovbd, under the “Federal Advisory Committees” section.

The IATF meeting will include committee member updates from the Departments of Defense, Labor, Treasury and Veterans Affairs, General Services Administration, Office of Management and Budget, North Carolina Military Business Center, and Student Veterans of America.

Committee members will also receive updates from the Vocational Readiness and Employment program and the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance programs.

The ACVBA meeting will include remarks from ACVBA chairwoman Fran Perez-Wilhite as well as updates on the Veteran Business Project.  Topics discussed during the meeting will include SBA’s veterans’ programs, women-owned small business federal contracting program, the 8(a) Business Development program, VA’s Center for Verification and Evaluation’s verification process, the VR&E program and GSA’s sam.beta.gov changes.

Committee members will also hear about lessons learned from the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program.

Virginia Takes Historic Steps to Secure a Clean Energy Future

Governor Northam ceremonially signs landmark Virginia Clean Economy Act, legislation to drive new investment in solar, energy storage

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today celebrated Virginia’s once-in-a-generation progress on clean energy by ceremonially signing historic legislation that accelerates the Commonwealth’s transition to a carbon-free future. The Governor signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which establishes bold energy efficiency standards and provides a pathway for new investments in solar, onshore wind, offshore wind, and energy storage. Additional legislation signed by the Governor advances shared solar and energy storage programs, and dramatically transforms the rooftop solar market.

“We are at a pivotal moment to secure an affordable, clean energy future in Virginia,” said Governor Northam. “Together, these pieces of legislation put the Commonwealth in position to meet the urgency of the climate crisis, and lead the transition to renewable energy in a way that captures the economic, environmental, and health benefits for all Virginians. And these bills also send a strong, clear message about the broader impacts of pollution that must be considered when choosing our energy resources.”

For the first time in the Commonwealth, the Virginia Clean Economy Act establishes a mandatory renewable portfolio standard to achieve 30 percent renewable energy by 2030, a mandatory energy efficiency resource standard, and the path to a carbon-free electric grid by 2045. The bill also declares that 16,100 megawatts of solar and onshore wind, 5,200 megawatts of offshore wind, and 2,700 megawatts of energy storage are in the public interest. This provides a pathway for clean energy resources to be constructed, while ensuring that the investments are made in a cost-effective way. The Virginia Clean Economy Act protects customers with a program that helps reduce electricity bills and brings energy efficiency savings to low-income households.

The Governor also ceremonially signed legislation directing the State Corporation Commission to determine when electric utilities should retire coal-fired or natural gas-fired electric generation facilities, and how utility customers should pay for this transition.

Governor Northam signed additional legislation to support new investments in solar energy, including the Solar Freedom bill, which will help grow the rooftop solar market in the Commonwealth. Another bill he signed establishes a shared solar program, allowing communities to receive credit for the solar energy they generate through a subscriber system. With a minimum requirement of 30 percent low-income customers, this program will enable Virginians to reap the benefits of generating solar energy on their homes. The Governor also signed a legislation that will build an energy storage market in Virginia.

Learn more about the clean energy legislation passed during the 2020 General Assembly session here.

Watch the video of today’s bill signing ceremony here.

McEachin, Davis, Watson Coleman Introduce Legislation to Protect Patients from Increased Prescription Drug Costs During COVID-19 Pandemic

Legislation Would Delay Implementation of 2021 NBPP

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04), Congressman Rodney Davis (IL-13), and Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) introduced a bipartisan bill to protect patients from increased out-of-pocket prescription drug costs during the COVID-19 pandemic. H.R. 7647, the Preserving Patient Savings on Drug Costs Act, stops insurers from instituting costly copay accumulator programs by delaying the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) 2021 Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameter (NBPP) rule from going into effect until a year after the COVID-19 public health emergency has lifted.

“Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle agree: there shouldn’t be additional barriers to access lifesaving and much-needed prescription drugs, especially in the middle of a pandemic,” said Congressman McEachin. “As households across the country continue to navigate the COVID-19 crisis, we must do more to support those who depend on copay assistance to offset soaring prices at the pharmacy counter and ensure prescriptions remain accessible to all patients who need them.”

“Making prescription drugs more affordable for everyone is one of my top priorities and a bipartisan goal shared by our fellow lawmakers in Congress,” said Rep. Davis. “Patients should not face even more financial barriers to receiving the drugs they need to stay healthy, especially during this pandemic, and particularly for those with chronic conditions who are vulnerable to COVID-19. I’m proud to join Congressman McEachin and Congresswoman Watson Coleman in introducing this bipartisan legislation so we can provide financial relief and promote the health of patients while this pandemic continues.”

“In a time where the cost of lifesaving and critical medications are a challenge for so many families, we can’t afford to remove one way that consumers can keep their costs down,” said Rep. Watson Coleman. “We’re in the midst of a pandemic, with families who’ve lost work and are struggling just to make ends meet. Now is not the time to add new healthcare costs to their plates, and I’m proud to work alongside my colleagues to make sure we fix this.”

Historically, when a patient has utilized cost-sharing assistance at the pharmacy counter, the amount has counted towards a patient’s deductible and maximum out-of-pocket limit, thereby lowering patient’s overall out-of-pocket spending. In June, HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar, II finalized the 2021 NBPP rule, reversing that policy and allowing health insurers to omit certain prescription drug coupons from counting toward a patient’s deductible and out-of-pocket limit. The AIDS Institute recently released a report showing that health plans on the individual market in 33 states and the District of Columbia have widespread use of copay accumulators, reinforcing that the proposed changes would lead to increased financial burdens on patients across the United States.

The Preserving Patients Savings on Drug Costs Act would delay the 2021 NBPP rule until a year after the COVID-19 health emergency is lifted, allowing more time for patient input and discussion on the negative impact of copay accumulator programs.“Now is not the time to allow insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers to make it harder for people to get the medications they need to stay healthy.

The COVID-19 pandemic is already increasing financial stress for millions; people living with and at risk of HIV, hepatitis and other chronic conditions cannot face additional cost burdens for accessing their medications,” says Rachel Klein, Deputy Director of The AIDS Institute. “This legislation is extremely important to ensure that patients who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 are not put at even greater risk to their health or their financial security.”

The legislation builds on a March letter led by Reps. McEachin, Davis, Watson Coleman and Joyce signed by more than 70 Members of Congress to Secretary Azar expressing strong opposition to the 2021 NBPP rule.

“We thank Reps. McEachin and Davis for their continued leadership on this issue. They continue to be a strong voice for patients living with chronic conditions in Congress, and we encourage other Members of Congress to sign on as cosponsors of this legislation,” says Michael Ruppal, Executive Director of The AIDS Institute. 

Governor Northam Announces GO Virginia Funding to Support Economic Recovery, Regional Workforce Development, and Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

Four regional projects awarded more than $5.5 million in grants

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Growth and Opportunity for Virginia (GO Virginia) will award more than $5.5 million to support projects that will help address economic and public health challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The four regional projects and one statewide competitive project receiving funding are focused on strengthening the health sciences workforce pipeline, advancing new renewable energy ventures, and developing a regional services network for entrepreneurs.

Three of the approved projects were funded through the new GO Virginia Economic Resilience and Recovery Program, which is designed to support activities that mitigate the economic impact of the ongoing public health crisis, create or sustain much-needed capacity to support business and industry, and facilitate safe reopening strategies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on unprecedented challenges for businesses, and Virginians in every corner of the Commonwealth continue to demonstrate resilience and ingenuity in navigating this health crisis,” said Governor Northam. “These projects represent tremendous opportunities for regional collaboration with resources dedicated to our economic recovery, while staying true to the GO Virginia mission of creating quality jobs and driving positive growth.”

The nine GO Virginia regional councils have developed Growth and Diversification plans and strategies organized around their own unique resources and assets. Initiatives that advance these strategies are key in strengthening each region’s economy and provide critical framework for each region’s response to the economic effects of COVID-19. The grant awards will leverage an additional $7,732,043 in non-state sources to assist with economic diversification and recovery efforts throughout Virginia. The board also approved a new policy that defines the permitted use of Tobacco Regional Revitalization Commission Funds as matching funds for GO Virginia projects. This new policy will go into effect for projects submitted between July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.

“Since its inception, the GO Virginia program has prompted many important regional partnerships,” said Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “In light of the economic impacts of COVID-19, stakeholders and localities in every region are coming together quickly and building off this foundation to create thoughtful initiatives that support their businesses and will help those individuals affected connect with much needed employment opportunities.”

“GO Virginia has created a foundation over the past three years that is allowing regions to rapidly develop high-impact solutions for near-term economic challenges while also focusing on longer term goals and objectives,” added GO Virginia Board Vice Chair Ben Davenport. “This smart new way of thinking is critical as Virginia moves forward through this crisis and beyond.”

Since the program began in 2017, GO Virginia has funded 114 projects and awarded approximately $37.5 million to support regional economic development efforts. More information can be found about the GO Virginia program can be found here.

2020 ROUND TWO REGIONAL GRANT AWARDS

GENEDGE – Retooling Virginia Manufacturers for Strategic Industries
All GO Virginia Regions
$2,950,000

GENEDGE will expand the capabilities of existing Virginia manufacturers to develop sustainable ongoing revenues in the areas of personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as other medical equipment and supplies. This imitative will help manufacturers diversify markets and product offerings in response to federal initiatives that support re-shoring critical and strategic sectors, intentionally reducing sourcing risk.

Virginia Tech Workforce Training and COVID-19 Response
Region 2: Alleghany, Botetourt, Craig, Giles, Montgomery, Pulaski, and Roanoke counties, and the cities of Covington, Radford, Roanoke, and Salem
$500,000

The Office of the Vice President for Health Sciences and Technology at Virginia Tech will receive a follow-on GO Virginia grant to increase capacity at the two newly established laboratories in Blacksburg and Roanoke to allow for COVID-19 testing over a one-year period and develop an internship pipeline for full time positions.

Bridge to Recovery
Region 3: Amelia, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Greensville (Region 4), Halifax, Henry, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Patrick, Pittsylvania, and Prince Edward counties, and the cities of Danville, Emporia (Region 4), Farmville, and Martinsville
$925,000

The Southern Virginia Regional Alliance and the Virginia Growth Alliance are leading a comprehensive and collaborative approach with a coalition of economic developers, chambers of commerce, and localities to provide technical assistance and subsidize support to key business sectors during the pandemic and help prepare them for the recovery steps ahead.

Offshore Wind Supply Chain Hub Development
Region 5: Isle of Wight and Southampton counties, and the cities of Chesapeake, Franklin, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach
$529,788

The Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance, in partnership with the Port of Virginia, the Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy, Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Old Dominion University, and local chambers of commerce, will build an offshore wind supply chain by targeting and attracting suppliers to establish operations in the region.

Startup Shenandoah Valley
Region 8: Augusta, Bath, Clarke, Frederick, Highland, Page, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Warren counties, the cities of Buena Vista, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Staunton, Waynesboro, and Winchester, and the towns of Front Royal and Strasburg
$628,953

The Staunton Creative Community Fund will kick start a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem that will deliver dedicated staff, partnerships with regional assets, workspaces, connections to mentorship, and access to capital to companies with a high potential for growth and success.

Ladies of the Lake Donate to Cancer Care

Committed, caring and fun. That’s the way Ken Kurz, Director of Marketing and Development for VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital, described a group of women who are continually making a difference for cancer patients at the Hendrick Cancer & Rehab Center in South Hill.

“They just bring a smile to everyone’s face when they stop by,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt that they always bring a check to benefit our Cancer Care Fund, but their smiles are infectious and they work so hard to help us care for our patients.”

The group presented a $1,000 check to Kurz and Teresa Collins, Director of the Radiation and Medical Oncology Department at CMH, recently for the fund.

“These ladies have enriched the lives of our cancer patients, through their selfless acts of kindness. Their commitment and dedication to our cancer population is phenomenal! When I think of these ladies, the following quote by Brene Brown comes to mind, "Compassion is not a virtue -- it is a commitment. It's not something we have or don't have-- It is something that we choose to practice," said Collins.

The VCU Health CMH Cancer Care Fund was started by the CMH Foundation and generous donors to help patients in our community who are dealing with cancer.

According to Collins, often during treatment, many patients may lose their insurance or face other financial toxicity issues like being unable to work, which makes nausea and pain medications very difficult to afford.

The Cancer Care Fund is designed to help offset the cost of these medications.

As patients visit the Hendrick Cancer Center/Solari Radiation Therapy Center daily for chemotherapy and/or radiation services the distance a patient travels can become costly; this fund can also assist with these travel expenses.

Each case is thoroughly evaluated by the cancer care team, to determine exactly what assistance is needed, and if the Cancer Patient Care Fund is an appropriate resource.

Support for the Cancer Care Fund can give these patients a hand, and also give them peace of mind, knowing that the inability to cover these costs will not stand in the way of their treatment.

When a need is identified, patients are carefully screened by the oncology social worker and Director of Oncology to determine need and to assure that these funds are used in the way donors intended.  Our oncology social worker does extensive research to identify grants or other resources which may be available for the patient on top of looking at the Cancer Care Fund. 

If you are interested in donating to the VCU Health CMH Cancer Care Fund you can call (434) 447-0857 or visit vcu-cmh.org.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING OUTLINES PRIORITIES FOR CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND POLICING REFORM AHEAD OF SPECIAL SESSION

~ Slate of priorities includes measures he has advocated for years and additional steps to reduce brutality and abuses of authority, and increase transparency, accountability, justice, and equality ~

RICHMOND —Ahead of the upcoming special session of the General Assembly, Attorney General Mark R. Herring today outlined his priorities for criminal justice and policing reforms that will reduce brutality and abuses of power by law enforcement, increase transparency, accountability, justice, and equality, and address disparities throughout the criminal justice system from policing to re-entry.

“Virginia cannot have different systems and standards of justice depending on the color of a person's skin,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “Ours must be a Commonwealth where justice, equality and opportunity are guaranteed for each and every person, no matter where they live, what they look like, how they worship, who they love, or how much money they have.

“We know that African-Americans and Virginians of color experience the criminal justice system differently at every level from policing through prosecution and into re-entry. It is documented and undeniable. That’s a hard thing to admit, but it’s even harder to experience. It means that we are failing in one of our most foundational responsibilities as a country and a Commonwealth: to ensure that all men and women are truly treated equal.

“This moment has given us an opportunity like none I can recall in my lifetime to truly focus on how we create a criminal justice system that meets our public safety goals in a way that ensures justice and equality for all. Those of us who have been frustrated by the pace of change in previous years now have the benefit of open minds and a broader recognition of the change that is needed in this country to ensure that Black lives matter, and that the criminal justice system is oriented around justice and safety, not simply control or oppression.”

In the upcoming special session, Attorney General Herring will be supporting the following measures:

Police Reform:

  • Enable the Attorney General of Virginia to conduct “pattern and practice” investigations
  • Modernize, standardize, and elevate the rigor of police training
  • Department of Criminal Justice Services should be required to develop within the year a new basic training curriculum in conjunction with the Office of Attorney General
  • Current law enforcement officers must have 21st century policing skills included in their annual in-service training curriculum
  • Make it easier to remove bad officers from the law enforcement profession
  • Expand police decertification criteria to include misconduct, not just criminal convictions.
  • Establish a more robust database of officer discipline, terminations, and decertification.
  • Ban rehiring of officers who are fired for misconduct or excessive force, or who resign during an investigation into misconduct or excessive force.
  • Create a “duty to intervene” for law enforcement officers.
  • Ban or limit dangerous, unnecessary, and potentially deadly police tactics
  • Empower localities to establish citizen review panels
  • Require the use of body worn cameras by all law enforcement officers
  • Require law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to engage an independent agency or Commonwealth’s Attorney to conduct investigations and make prosecutorial decisions

Criminal Justice Reform:

  • Cash bail reform
  • Expanding opportunities for record expungement and simplifying the process
  • Continued momentum toward legal, regulated adult use of cannabis and resolve past convictions

“For many months now, I have been waiting for a response from the Trump Administration’s Department of Justice to my request for an independent investigation into one of my local police departments. But for the return receipt requested signature card, I didn’t even receive an acknowledgement to my letter. If the federal government isn’t going to provide this oversight when police departments may be violating citizen’s rights, then there needs to be a state backstop that can conduct these necessary investigations. It is for these reasons, I will introduce a bill in the Special Session of the General Assembly to enable the Attorney General of Virginia to conduct “patterns and practices investigations of local police departments,” said Senator Louise Lucas.

“Since 2017 the Trump Administration’s DOJ has refused to address systemic failures and investigate possible unconstitutional practices in law enforcement agencies. With that in mind, the Attorney General needs to have the authority to investigate and resolve patterns or practices of unconstitutional policing, such as use of excessive force, illegal searches, or biased policing,” stated Delegate Alfonso Lopez. “This legislation finally gives the Attorney General the authority to investigate, subpoena, and bring appropriate actions in court to ensure compliance with constitutional policing standards.” 

In the area of police reform, Attorney General Herring will be actively working to ensure passage of the following bills and policies:

Enable the Attorney General of Virginia to conduct “pattern and practice” investigations of law enforcement agencies to identify and put a stop to unconstitutional practices, such as patterns of excessive force, illegal searches, biased policing, or other unconstitutional practices. For decades the U.S. Department of Justice was a reliable partner in identifying and ending unconstitutional policing practices, often through negotiated agreements for reforms, called “consent decrees,” in cities such as Chicago, Baltimore, and Ferguson, MO. Under the Trump Administration the DOJ has explicitly walked away from this responsibility, making it more important for state attorneys general to have this important tool. In June, Attorney General Herring asked Congress to expand federal law to give him and other state attorneys general clear statutory authority to conduct patterns and practice investigations. The U.S House of Representatives included this authority in the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act” which passed the House on June 25, 2020.

Modernize, standardize, and elevate the rigor of police training to include mandatory training on implicit bias, racial bias, crisis intervention, de-escalation, hate crimes, violence interruption, and other 21st century policing skills. Because of the immense power placed in the hands of law enforcement officers, the Commonwealth must treat the law enforcement profession as a highly-skilled and specialized field that requires both proper training and high standards.

In order to ensure proper, 21st century training for Virginia law enforcement officers:

  • The Department of Criminal Justice Services should be required to develop within the year a new basic training curriculum in conjunction with the Office of Attorney General that includes implicit bias, racial bias, crisis intervention, de-escalation, hate crimes, violence interruption, and other 21st century policing skills.
  • Current law enforcement officers must have 21st century policing skills included in their annual in-service training curriculum. In 2015, Attorney General Herring sponsored a series of five regional “train-the-trainer” conferences to promote the wider adoption of implicit bias training, de-escalation, and other 21st century policing skills. The training officers from more than 50 law enforcement agencies participated, then went back to their departments and taught their colleagues, making this one of Virginia’s largest-ever investments in 21st century policing skills.

Make it easier to remove bad officers from the law enforcement profession. The Commonwealth should hold its law enforcement officers to the highest standards because they are empowered to make life-and-death decisions and other serious decisions that could dramatically affect the life of a Virginian. Virginia must therefore ensure that it removes from the profession any individuals who prove themselves unworthy or incapable of bearing such responsibility.

Virginia should:

  • Expand police decertification criteria to include misconduct, not just criminal convictions. Currently an officer may only lose their law enforcement officer certification for a criminal conviction. Misconduct that may not rise to the level of criminal conduct must be a basis for decertifying officers.
  • Establish a more robust database of officer discipline, terminations, and decertification. If an individual has proven they are not capable of exercising law enforcement authority in a safe, fair, impartial, and constitutional way, they should not be able to conceal that information from a department or simply switch departments and continue their career.
  • Ban rehiring of officers who are fired for misconduct or excessive force, or who resign during an investigation into misconduct or excessive force. No law enforcement officer should be able to hide behind a resignation to avoid accountability and continue their career when they have shown they may not be capable of serving in law enforcement.
  • Create a legal obligation for “duty to intervene” for law enforcement officers when they see another officer using excessive force, when it’s safe to intervene, and regardless of intervention they must immediately report the incident to their supervisors.
  • Ban or limit dangerous, unnecessary, and potentially deadly police tactics like chokeholds, strangleholds, and no-knock warrants.
  • Empower localities to establish citizen review panels with necessary investigative authority and, where possible, provide state-level support.
  • Require the use of body worn cameras by all law enforcement officers to ensure a complete and accurate account of any citizen-officer interactions.
  • Require law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to engage an independent agency or Commonwealth’s Attorney to conduct investigations and make prosecutorial decisions on officer-involved incidents that may constitute criminal conduct, including use of force or killings by law enforcement officers.

Attorney General Herring will also be working for the passage of the following bills and policies to strengthen our communities and reduce racial and economic disparities through reform of Virginia’s criminal justice system:

  • Cash bail reform. Attorney General Herring has long supported significant reforms to Virginia’s cash bail system which, in its current form, can lead to unjust outcomes where dangerous people with money can go free while nonviolent people sit in jail for days, weeks, or months because they can’t afford to pay bail. This can cause a person to lose their job, housing, and support systems. Attorney General Herring will be pushing for Virginia to move away from the use of cash bail as its default for low level offenses and instead expand pretrial services that have proven to be effective and cheaper.
  • Expanding opportunities for record expungement and simplifying the process. Attorney General Herring has also advocated for expanding record expungement opportunities and simplifying the process to build a more just and fair criminal justice system and to address the disproportionate burden that criminal convictions place on African Americans and people of color. Virginia is one of the nation’s least forgiving and most restrictive states for individuals who have earned the opportunity to have old convictions and charges expunged from their records. While many other states have some form of a “Clean Slate” law, the Commonwealth appears to be one of just ten states that does not offer any sort of judicial “record closure” for any adult convictions, nor does it offer any automatic expungement for those who are eligible for expungement. This means that a relatively minor charge or conviction, like marijuana or alcohol possession, can become a permanent stain that limits a Virginian’s job, educational, and housing opportunities.
  • Continued momentum toward legal, regulated adult use of cannabis and resolve past convictions. During the 2020 General Assembly Session, Attorney General Herring helped successfully decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, but believes Virginia needs to continue on to full legal, regulated adult use as quickly as possible, because the social and human costs of prohibition fall disproportionately on African Americans and people of color. In 2018, there were nearly 29,000 marijuana arrests, and the Virginia Crime Commission found that from 2007 to 2016 46% of all individuals arrested for first offense marijuana possession were African American, despite being just 20% of Virginia’s population.

In addition to these policing and criminal justice reform priorities, Attorney General Herring supports measures that require officers to deescalate situations, and to better utilize specialized resources instead of police officers to respond to non-public safety situations, such as addiction, a person experiencing homelessness, or a mental health crisis.

Social Security - 85 Years of Serving People Like You

By Jacqueline Weisgarber, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Richmond, Virginia

We take pride in having provided vital benefits and services to this great nationfor 85 years.  America has a diverse population with a variety of needs.  With our diverse population in mind, we’ve created webpages that speak directly to groups of people who may need information about our programs and services.  These pages are easy to share with friends and family or on social media.  Here are just a few that might speak to you or someone you love.

We proudly serve wounded warriors and veterans.  They made sacrifices to preserve the freedoms Americans treasure.  Many of them do not know they might be entitled to disability benefits from Social Security.  Share our resources with them to make sure they get the benefits they deserve. www.ssa.gov/people/veterans.

Social Security plays an important role in providing economic security for women.  Nearly 55 percent of the people receiving Social Security benefits are women.  With longer life expectancies than men, women tend to live more years in retirement and have a greater chance of exhausting other sources of income.  A woman who is 65 years old today can expect to live, on average, until about 87, while a 65-year-old man can expect to live, on average, until about 84.  Also, women often have lower lifetime earnings than men, which usually means lower benefits.  Women need to plan early and wisely for retirement and we’re here to provide valuable information to help.  Share this page with someone who needs this information and may need help planning for their golden years. www.ssa.gov/people/women.

Do you know someone who is just starting their career?  Now is the best time for them to start preparing for retirement.  The sooner they begin to save, the more they’ll have at retirement.  Share this page with a young worker you know. www.ssa.gov/people/earlycareer.

These are just a few webpages that are tailored to a specific group’s needs.  If you didn’t see your own, check out our People Like Me home page at www.ssa.gov/people.

Virginia Companies Increase Exports through Commonwealth’s Two-Year Business Acceleration Program

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that 10 companies across the Commonwealth have graduated from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s (VEDP) Virginia Leaders in Export Trade (VALET) Program. VALET, which now has over 300 graduated companies, assists Virginia exporters that have firmly established domestic operations and are committed to international exporting as a growth strategy.

“Lending its proven, extensive set of resources to Virginia exporters, the VALET Program positions companies to thrive in the global marketplace,” said Governor Northam. “This program continues to be an important catalyst for driving export sales and private sector investment—and the Commonwealth’s economy is stronger as a result. We congratulate these 10 Virginia companies on the success they have achieved in the last two years, and their commitment to international growth during these unprecedented and challenging times.” 

The graduating companies are:

  • Dynamis, Inc., Fairfax County
  • FoxGuard Solutions, Inc., Montgomery County
  • Huntington Ingalls Industries Technical Solutions Division, City of Virginia Beach
  • Innerspec Technologies, Inc., Bedford County
  • Line Power, City of Bristol
  • New Ravenna Acquisition LLC, Northampton County
  • Parabon NanoLabs, Inc., Fairfax County
  • Spectra Quest Inc., Henrico County
  • STR Software Company, Chesterfield County
  • SYNEXXUS Inc., Arlington County
     

VALET is a two-year international business acceleration program that provides participating companies with international sales plan development services, assistance from a team of experienced international service providers, international business meetings with potential partners, educational events, and customized market research. There are currently 45 companies participating in the VALET program. More information on the VALET Program is available here.

“Virginia is one of the most competitive states in the nation for exporting, and VEDP’s International Trade team contributed greatly to our standing,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “From Bristol to the Eastern Shore, it’s exciting to see such a diverse group of companies across the Commonwealth working to grow their international sales, which will bring jobs and capital investment in Virginia.”

“VEDP is committed to assisting Virginia companies in growing their international sales, which is more important than ever in this time of economic recovery,” said VEDP President and CEO Stephen Moret. “We are proud of the continued success of the VALET program and its participants, who not only experience sales growth while in the program, but also learn valuable lessons about pursuing international sales that they can carry forward. The impact of the jobs and investments these companies contribute in every region of the Commonwealth cannot be overstated.”

Virginia exports over $35 billion in goods and services annually. Exports of the Commonwealth’s products and services are critical to growth, supporting more than 257,000 jobs and generating $2 billion in annual tax revenue. VEDP offers numerous programs to assist Virginia companies with selling into the global marketplace and has a network of international market research consultants covering more than 70 countries around the globe.

SBA Announces New Reduced 504 Loan Debenture Rates

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Small Business Administration announced the updated interest rates for the 504 Loan Program offered by Certified Development Companies (CDC). Small businesses can now apply for the lowest interest rates since July 2018 as the program is now allowing 20 and 25-year interest rates at 2.214% and 2.269%, respectively.

“These are very encouraging terms and very supportive of our nation’s goal to bounce-back from COVID-19,” said William Manger, SBA Chief of Staff and Associate Administrator for the Office of Capital Access.  “CDCs” are the driving force behind the 504 Loan Program. The longer terms and low interest rates support and encourage entrepreneurs to step outside of the box and look at real investments. We are pleased that the 504 Loan Program continues to show double-digit year-over-year growth, especially in these extraordinary times.”

Small businesses looking for information on how to expand their business’s real estate or improve their working capital should visit: https://www.sba.gov/brand/assets/sba/sba-lenders/504-Loan-Fact-Sheet-Borrower-Version.pdf

The 504 Loan Program is an SBA business loan program authorized under Title V of the Small Business Investment Act of 1958, 15 U.S.C. 695 et seq.  The core mission of the 504 Loan Program is to provide long-term financing to small businesses for the purchase or improvement of land, buildings, and major equipment, to facilitate the creation or retention of jobs and to support local economic development.  Under the 504 Loan Program, loans are made in conjunction with private sector lenders to small businesses by CDCs, which are certified and regulated by the SBA to promote economic development within their community.

For questions about the 504 Loan Program, please contact:

Linda Reilly
Chief, 504 Loan Program
202-205-9949
Linda.reilly@sba.gov(link sends e-mail)       

VCU Health CMH Team Member of the Month for July 2020

Being nice is a habit that comes naturally to Ashton Carter, cardiac monitor tech at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital.

And when people say nice people finish last, just tell them they are wrong. Ashton finished first in voting for the July STAR Service Team Member of the Month at CMH.

Ashton was nominated by April Hayes and Tracy Evans in Acute Care for her kindness and professionalism.

A co-worker of Ashton said, “I was sitting one on one with a patient and she (Ashton) was the only person who checked on me and relieved me. She is always smiling and eager to help. If it’s a task she can do, she does it, or will find someone to help. She is a perfect representation of CMH.”

Mellisa A. Black DNP, RN, MS, CCRN, NE-BC, said, “Ashton is a role model for STAR Service. She is always ready to do whatever it takes to make sure our team and patients get the best care.”

Ashton moved from the CMH Family Dental Clinic to her current position as a cardiac monitor tech.  She made this move to pursue more education to reach her goal one day, which is to be a respiratory therapist.

“It is easier to work my class schedule around three 12-hour shifts,” she said with her ever-present smile. “But it (the new job) also proved to me that what I wanted to be really is a respiratory therapist.”

Originally from Buffalo Junction, Ashton has been at CMH for nearly two years. She and husband, Nick, are expecting a son in December.

Besides her STAR pin and award, Ashton gets a special parking tag that allows her to park wherever she chooses for the month of August and a $40 gift card.

Others nominated in July were Dr. Indu Shivaram from Pulmonology and Lyda Ingram, an Emergency Department tech.

Crater Community Hospice: Caregiving as a team

Millennials and Gen Xers are using strategies that might benefit family caregivers of all ages.

Nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s now find themselves “in the sandwich.” They serve as primary support people for an aging parent. Plus, they have children who are still at home or at least financially dependent.

One of their strengths is spreading the workload. A recent report shows that millennial and Gen X family members use technology to support their elder caregiving. They also embrace more of a team approach than their older caregiving peers do. Take a page from their playbook. To better share your load, consider these ideas:

  • Weekly or monthly team check-ins. Use phone, text, email, or video conferencing. Report about doctor visits. Share observations and concerns. Discuss issues that need to be handled. Create a joint caregiving calendar on Google or use an online platform such as LotsaHelpingHands.com or CaringBridge.org.
  • Whole-picture support. Ease the primary caregiver’s total load, not just tasks related to Mom or Dad. For instance, someone might mow the primary caregiver’s lawn. Or take on a child-related need.
  • Trade off duties. Life happens! Perhaps one person usually drives Dad to the doctors. If they have a big work project due, someone else can take on transportation for a while.
  • Provide breaks. Primary caregivers need time off—to preserve marital harmony or simply re-center. This is especially important if the aging parent lives with the primary caregiver. Other family members might invite Mom or Dad for a visit. Or could chip in to treat the primary caregiver to an evening out. A weekend getaway.
  • Help takes many forms. It can be financial, physical, or emotional. One person may have less time but more money. For another, it may be natural to call Mom or Dad regularly to provide social and emotional support.

Lee Recognized for Service on VCU Health CMH Board of Directors

John Lee (right) is pictured here receiving a plaque from W. Scott Burnette, CEO, VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital, in appreciation for his nine years on the CMH Board of Directors.

VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital recently acknowledged John Lee’s three terms of service on the hospital’s board of directors, including the past year as board chairman. The hospital’s bylaws limit service on the Board to three consecutive terms and each term is for a three-year period.  W. Scott Burnette, CEO, VCU Health CMH, recognized Lee for volunteering his service to the organization and presented him with a commemorative crystal award at the board’s June meeting.

"As a member of the CMH Board of Directors, John has been a vital part of the many positive changes that have occurred at CMH over the past nine years.  From chairing the committee that led to our affiliation with VCU Health, to building a new hospital; John, among other dedicated members of the board, has helped lead the board through these grand achievements of our hospital.  We are fortunate to have people like John, that volunteer their time, and put tremendous effort into making our community a better place," said W. Scott Burnette, CEO, VCU Health CMH.

Lee commented on his tenure on the board, stating, “Serving on the VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital board of directors has been a highly gratifying and educational experience, and I am very proud to have been a part of the hospital’s considerable accomplishments in the past nine years. Our affiliation with VCU Health was a game changer for our hospital and the quality of care offered to this region, and the board’s efforts to seek out and secure an affiliate was challenging work, but in the end incredibly gratifying, especially now after they have proven themselves to be worthy partners, time and time again.”

VCU Health CMH is a community-owned nonprofit hospital providing health services for the south-central region of Virginia and portions of northern North Carolina, offering quality, state-of-the-art health care in a safe, convenient, patient friendly environment. Since 1954, the hospital’s employees, physicians, volunteers and board of directors have supported the organization’s mission of providing excellence in the delivery of health care.

Today, VCU Health CMH has a new hospital with 70 private patient rooms and a long term care facility with an additional 140 beds, providing a wide array of in-patient services, including acute care and long-term care along with many outpatient programs such as home health, hospice and many others. Since its inception, the hospital has grown to be one of the area’s largest employers with more than 800 employees, more than 100 volunteers and 177 providers, representing 26 medical specialties, on staff.

“It’s been and honor and privilege to serve on the board and to work with my fellow directors and Scott and his capable team at the hospital. All of them are highly dedicated and work diligently to provide high quality health care, with desirable options, at a contemporary, state of the art facility…I’d say we’re doing all that successfully. Serving our community on the VCU Health CMH board has been a great opportunity for me to give back to my community, and I wish them continued success,” Lee added.

Lee is President and CEO of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative and EMPOWER Broadband, Inc. in Chase City. Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) proudly powers over 31,000 homes, farms and businesses in the counties of Brunswick, Charlotte, Greensville, Halifax, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Pittsylvania, Southampton, and Sussex in Virginia and portions of Granville, Northampton, Person, Vance, and Warren counties in North Carolina.  It is headquartered in Chase City and has district offices in Chase City, VA, Emporia, VA, Gretna, VA, and Bracey, VA.

"Is it Fair"

In traveling one sees lots of things
that to most I'm sure amaze
yet you wonder how their pets feel
on these overheated days.
 
Now you're traveling down the freeway
or a scenic tour there and about
well you may be enjoying all you take in
but your pets would like to get out.
 
Well of course its an inconvenience
yet you knew of this ahead
they didn't need to make this journey
for you could have left at a shelter instead.
 
Yes I'm sure you’d get an earful
if your pets could only talk
most would like to decide for themselves
when to get up, lay down or walk.
 
Now their not always ready to eat and drink
just because that's what you say
yet you're responsible and have to try
for from home you're now miles away.
 
Yes do yourself a favor of sorts
no matter what you may hear
give your pets a vacation too
and leave them at home next year.
                         - Roy E. Schepp

VCU Health CMH Announces New Board Directors & Officers

    

Cindy Pecht  (left) was first appointed to the CMH Board in 2002.  She is a past Vice-Chairman and past Treasurer of the Board, and serves on a number of hospital committees, including three at VCU Health System in Richmond.  Cindy resides in Lawrenceville, VA, where she is a fourth-generation beer wholesaler and owner of Pecht Distributors, Inc.  Pecht currently serves as Chairman of the Lawrenceville Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals.  She is also active in the Lawrenceville Rotary Club and Brunswick Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. Cathy Palmer (below left)is a Pathologist and since 2003 has been the Laboratory Medical Director at CMH.  She joined the Pathology Department at VCU as Assistant Professor in 2016.  She attended medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine and did her Anatomic and Clinical Pathology residency at VCU, finishing in 2000.  She has previously held the position as the Director of Medical Affairs at CMH and is currently involved in leadership of the medical staff at CMH including work with Medical Staff Quality Improvement, Grand Rounds (Continuing Medical Education), Tumor Board (Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference), and as Chair of CMH Credentials Committee.  Outside of VCU Health CMH, she is the Regional Commissioner, and Virginia Assigning Commissioner for the College of American Pathologists, for laboratory accreditation.  

Don Bright (below right) is the President at Meherrin River Forest Products in Alberta Virginia.  He has held this position since 2011.  He is also a graduate of Virginia Tech University.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill is pleased to announce the newest members of the CMH Board of Directors. Governed by 10 citizens of its service area and four representatives of VCU Health, the 14-member board of directors is comprised of both medical and non-medical individuals representing a wide array of businesses and professions. These dedicated volunteers along with VCU Health and CMH Administration share a fundamental belief that local communities are in the best position to identify and meet local health care needs.  

The CMH Board of Directors represent our service areas of Brunswick, Lunenburg, and Mecklenburg counties.  In general, each member serves three consecutive three-year terms; however, there is a provision for them to serve longer when necessary.  The Board sets policy, oversees the financial well being of the hospital and is responsible for long-range planning.  In addition and most importantly, the Board is responsible for oversight of the quality, safety and service levels that patients receive at CMH and for approving the appointment of physicians and other licensed providers as members of the Medical Staff.   

New members joining the Board during the June meeting were:  Dr. Cathy Palmer, Pathologist and Laboratory Medical Director at VCU Health CMH and Don Bright, President at Meherrin River Forest Products.    

The officers of the CMH Board of Directors for this year are:  Chairman, Ms. Cindy H. Pecht representing Brunswick; Vice-Chairman, Mr. William E. “Billy” Wells, Jr. representing Mecklenburg; Treasurer, Mr. Jay Stafford representing Lunenburg, and Secretary, Mr. Paul Neimeyer with VCU Health. 

“The Board is committed to continuing and expanding the availability of quality health care services in the region.  We deeply appreciate the wonderful people who make VCU Health CMH a great hospital, and we are grateful for the strong support CMH receives from the VCU Health System in Richmond.,” said Chairman Pecht. 

Other Board Members include: Clint Clary representing Brunswick; Cecil Shell representing Lunenburg; Kendele Underwood and Billy Wilkinson representing Mecklenburg; and Mr. Ron Clark, Dr. David Chelmow, Ms. Melinda Hancock and Dr. Tom Yackel representing VCU Health.  Legal Counsel is provided by Mr. Paul Neimeyer with VCU Health; Dr. Desi Rimon represents the CMH medical staff as the Chief of Staff and Kenny Pitts represents the CMH Auxiliary as the Auxiliary President. 

The CMH Board of Directors volunteer their time and expertise to assure that our community, nonprofit hospital remains on a strong course for the future.  These Directors generously give of themselves, their time, experience and skills and in turn to their community to ensure that VCU Health CMH continues to enhance the health and well-being of the citizens of Southside Virginia and Northern North Carolina. 

Pecht also stated, “We are in the midst of what is certainly one of the most challenging times in our hospital’s 66-year history.  It is truly awe-inspiring to see the dedication and bravery shown by the medical staff, senior leadership team, and each and every employee of VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital as they protect and provide care for the community during a pandemic.  I am humbled to serve as Chairman of the Board of this extraordinary organization.”

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