Governor

Governor Terry McAuliffe Declares State of Emergency As Winter Storm Approaches

RICHMOND, Va. – Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency today, an action that authorizes state agencies to be ready to assist local governments in responding to the major snow storm that is forecast to hit the Commonwealth starting tomorrow.

In declaring a state of emergency, the governor authorizes state agencies to identify and position resources for quick response anywhere they are needed in Virginia.

“Now is the time for Virginia to get ready for this storm,” said Governor McAuliffe. “This state of emergency declaration will empower the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the Department of Transportation, the Virginia National Guard, and our electric and cable utilities to prepare for a storm that is predicted to create power outages and significant travel challenges across the Commonwealth over the next few days. 

“Just as state government is preparing for this storm, I urge every Virginian to take proper preparations. Prepare to limit unnecessary travel during the storm, have emergency supplies on hand and be ready in the event that power in your area goes out.”

To prepare for the storm:

  • The Virginia Emergency Operations Center has additional response team members to coordinate the state’s response to the storm.
  • The Virginia Department of Emergency Management is coordinating conference calls between the National Weather Service, state agencies and local governments.
  • The Virginia Department of Transportation is treating roads in some parts of the Commonwealth, and crews will be out in full force for snow removal as the storm arrives. Roads with the highest traffic volumes are cleared first.  VDOT has adequate supplies for this storm. 
  • The Virginia National Guard has been authorized to bring up to 300 personnel on state active duty to support emergency response operations.  Virginia Guard personnel will be alerted to begin staging and expect to be in place Wednesday so they are able to rapidly respond if needed.
  • The Virginia State Police will extend shifts and have additional troopers on patrol to expedite response times to traffic crashes and disabled motorists. 

Citizens should:

  • Be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for at least 72 hours, in case roads are blocked and/or there are power outages.
  • A three-day supply of food includes a gallon of water per person per day and food that does not require electricity to prepare it.
  • Have a battery powered and/or hand-crank radio and extra batteries for emergency information.  Listen to local weather forecasts and instructions from local officials.
  • Always run generators outside in well-ventilated areas.  Never use a portable generator in any enclosed or partially enclosed space.
  • Only travel if absolutely necessary.  Roads can become very hazardous very quickly.  Always wear a seatbelt, and know road conditions before you leave.  Road condition information is available 24/7 by calling 511 or going to www.511Virginia.gov
  • Have emergency supplies in your vehicle.  If you are stranded you will need water, food, blankets, flashlight and extra batteries at a minimum. 
  • Avoid overexertion while shoveling snow and cleaning up from the storm, no matter your age or physical condition.  Shoveling snow or pushing a car can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse.
  • If you need help for an elderly or disabled person during the storm, need information on warming shelters or are concerned about an unsheltered individual or family, call 211 or visit www.211virginia.org.  When you call 211, a trained professional will suggest sources of help using one of the largest databases of health and human services in your community and statewide.
  • Get winter weather preparedness information at www.ReadyVirginia.gov and download the new Ready Virginia app for iPhones and Android devices.

Nike Air Force

Governor Northam Announces New Statewide Measures to Contain COVID-19

Includes limit of 25 individuals for in-person gatherings, expanded mask mandate, on-site alcohol curfew, and increased enforcement

RICHMOND—As COVID-19 surges in states across the country, Governor Ralph Northam today announced new actions to mitigate the spread of the virus in Virginia. While the Commonwealth’s case count per capita and positivity rate remain comparatively low, all five health regions are experiencing increases in new COVID-19 cases, positive tests, and hospitalizations.

“COVID-19 is surging across the country, and while cases are not rising in Virginia as rapidly as in some other states, I do not intend to wait until they are. We are acting now to prevent this health crisis from getting worse,” said Governor Northam. “Everyone is tired of this pandemic and restrictions on our lives. I’m tired, and I know you are tired too. But as we saw earlier this year, these mitigation measures work. I am confident that we can come together as one Commonwealth to get this virus under control and save lives.”

Governor Northam shared a new video to update Virginians on the additional steps the Commonwealth is taking to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, which is available here.

The following measures will take effect at midnight on Sunday, November 15:

  • Reduction in public and private gatherings: All public and private in-person gatherings must be limited to 25 individuals, down from the current cap of 250 people. This includes outdoor and indoor settings.
  • Expansion of mask mandate: All Virginians aged five and over are required to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces. This expands the current mask mandate, which has been in place in Virginia since May 29 and requires all individuals aged 10 and over to wear face coverings in indoor public settings.
  • Strengthened enforcement within essential retail businesses: All essential retail businesses, including grocery stores and pharmacies, must adhere to statewide guidelines for physical distancing, wearing face coverings, and enhanced cleaning. While certain essential retail businesses have been required to adhere to these regulations as a best practice, violations will now be enforceable through the Virginia Department of Health as a Class One misdemeanor. 
  • On-site alcohol curfew: The on-site sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol is prohibited after 10:00 p.m. in any restaurant, dining establishment, food court, brewery, microbrewery, distillery, winery, or tasting room. All restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, and tasting rooms must close by midnight. Virginia law does not distinguish between restaurants and bars, however, under current restrictions, individuals that choose to consume alcohol prior to 10:00 p.m. must be served as in a restaurant and remain seated at tables six feet apart. 

Virginia is averaging 1,500 newly-reported COVID-19 cases per day, up from a statewide peak of approximately 1,200 in May. While Southwest Virginia has experienced a spike in the number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases, all five of the Commonwealth’s health regions are currently reporting a positivity rate over five percent. Although hospital capacity remains stable, hospitalizations have increased statewide by more than 35 percent in the last four weeks.

On Tuesday, Governor Northam announced new contracts with three laboratories as part of the Commonwealth’s OneLabNetwork, which will significantly increase Virginia’s public health testing capacity. Contracts with Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, and Sentara Healthcare in Norfolk will directly support high-priority outbreak investigations, community testing events, and testing in congregate settings, with a goal of being able to perform 7,000 per day by the end of the year.

The full text of amended Executive Order Sixty-Three and Order of Public Health Emergency Five and sixth amended Executive Order Sixty-Seven and Order of Public Health Emergency Seven will be made available here

For information about COVID-19 in Virginia, visit vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus.

Governor Northam Signs Sweeping New Laws to Reform Policing in Virginia

Measures ban no-knock warrants, strengthen officer decertification process, limit use of neck restraints

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced he has signed new laws that will significantly advance police and criminal justice reform in Virginia. Governor Northam has been working closely with legislators on these measures since early summer, when the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor led to a national reckoning on racial bias in policing.

“Too many families, in Virginia and across our nation, live in fear of being hurt or killed by police,” said Governor Northam. “These new laws represent a tremendous step forward in rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. I am grateful to the legislators and advocates who have worked so hard to make this change happen. Virginia is better, more just, and more equitable with these laws on our books.”

Governor Northam took action on the following bills that reform policing:

  • Governor Northam signed Senate Bill 5030, sponsored by Senator Locke, omnibus police reform legislation, which incorporates a number of critical reform measures passed by the House of Delegates:
    • House Bill 5099, sponsored by Delegate Aird, prohibits law enforcement officers from seeking or executing a no-knock search warrant. With Governor Northam’s signature, Virginia becomes the third state in the nation to ban no-knock warrants.
    • House Bill 5049, sponsored by Delegate Helmer, reduces the militarization of police by prohibiting law enforcement from obtaining or using specified equipment, including grenades, weaponized aircraft, and high caliber firearms. Governor Northam amended this bill to clarify that law enforcement agencies can seek a waiver to use restricted equipment for search and rescue missions.
    • House Bill 5109, sponsored by Delegate Hope, creates statewide minimum training standards for law enforcement officers, including training on awareness of racism, the potential for biased profiling, and de-escalation techniques. Governor Northam made technical amendments to this bill to align it with Senate Bill 5030.
    • House Bill 5104, sponsored by Delegate Price, mandates law enforcement agencies and jails request the prior employment and disciplinary history of new hires.
    • House Bill 5108, sponsored by Delegate Guzman, expands and diversifies the Criminal Justice Services Board, ensuring that the perspectives of social justice leaders, people of color, and mental health providers are represented in the state’s criminal justice policymaking.
    • House Bill 5051, sponsored by Delegate Simon, strengthens the process by which law enforcement officers can be decertified and allows the Criminal Justice Services Board to initiate decertification proceedings.
    • House Bill 5069, sponsored by Delegate Carroll Foy, limits the circumstances in which law enforcement officers can use neck restraints.
    • House Bill 5029, sponsored by Delegate McQuinn, requires law enforcement officers intervene when they witness another officer engaging or attempting to engage in the use of excessive force.
    • House Bill 5045, sponsored by Delegate Delaney, makes it a Class 6 felony for law enforcement officers to “carnally know” someone they have arrested or detained, an inmate, parolee, probationer, pretrial defendant, or post trial offender, if the officer is in a position of authority over such individual.
  • Governor Northam signed House Bill 5055 and Senate Bill 5035, sponsored by Leader Herring and Senator Hashmi, respectively, which empower localities to create civilian law enforcement review boards. These new laws also permit civilian review boards the authority to issue subpoenas and make binding disciplinary decisions.
  • Governor Northam signed Senate Bill 5014, sponsored by Senator Edwards, which mandates the creation of minimum crisis intervention training standards and requires law enforcement officers complete crisis intervention training.

Governor Northam also took action on the following bills that make Virginia’s criminal justice system more equitable:

  • Governor Northam signed Senate Bill 5018, sponsored by Senator Bell, which allows individuals serving a sentence for certain felony offenses who are terminally ill to petition the Parole Board for conditional release.
  • Governor Northam amended House Bill 5148 and Senate Bill 5034, sponsored by Delegate Scott and Senator Boysko, respectively, which allow for increased earned sentencing credits. The Governor proposed a six-month delay to give the Department of Corrections sufficient time to implement this program.

“The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery woke Americans to a longstanding problem that has existed for generations—and we know Virginia is not immune,” said Senator Mamie Locke. “These are transformative bills that will make Virginians’ lives better, and I’m so proud to see them signed into law.”

“Today is about progress,” said Majority Leader Charniele Herring. “After generations of work on this issue, we are finally taking steps to hold police accountable and rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. It’s a new day in Virginia.”

Governor Northam also signed measures to support COVID-19 relief. A full list of legislation signed by the Governor from the Special Session can be found here.

Governor Northam Invites Small Businesses and Nonprofits to Apply for Up to $100,000 from Rebuild VA Grant Fund

Program allotted additional $30 million, eligibility expanded

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Rebuild VA, a grant program to help small businesses and nonprofit organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, will expand eligibility criteria and increase the amount of grant money businesses receive.

Rebuild VA launched in August with $70 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Governor Northam is directing an additional $30 million to support the expansion of the program. Businesses with less than $10 million in gross revenue or fewer than 250 employees will be eligible under the new criteria, and the maximum grant award will increase from $10,000 to $100,000.

“We started Rebuild VA to help small businesses and nonprofit organizations navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Governor Northam. “These changes to the program will ensure that we can provide additional financial assistance to even more Virginians so they can weather this public health crisis and emerge stronger.” 

Rebuild VA will now be open to all types of Virginia small businesses that meet size and other eligibility requirements, from restaurants and summer camps, to farmers and retail shops. Businesses that previously received a Rebuild VA grant will receive a second award correlated with the updated guidelines.

Rebuild VA is administered by the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (SBSD) in partnership with the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Virginia Tourism Corporation, and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. Eligible businesses and nonprofits must demonstrate that their normal operations were limited by Governor Northam’s Executive Orders Fifty-Three or Fifty-Five, or that they were directly impacted by the closure of such businesses. In September, the program expanded eligibility to supply chain partners of businesses whose normal operations were impacted by the pandemic. 

Rebuild VA funding may be utilized for the following eligible expenses:

  • Payroll support, including paid sick, medical, or family leave, and costs related to the continuation of group health care benefits during those periods of leave;
  • Employee salaries;
  • Mortgage payments, rent, and utilities;
  • Principal and interest payments for any business loans from national or state-chartered banking, savings and loan institutions, or credit unions, that were incurred before or during the emergency;
  • Eligible personal protective equipment, cleaning and disinfecting materials, or other working capital needed to address COVID-19 response.

For additional information about Rebuild VA and how to submit an application, please visit governor.virginia.gov/RebuildVA.

 

Governor Northam Announces Mid-Atlantic Wind Training Alliance to Build Wind Energy Workforce in Virginia

New College Institute, Centura College, and Mid-Atlantic Maritime Academy will join forces to position Virginia as leader in offshore wind industry training

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced the formation of Virginia’s first offshore and onshore wind workforce training collaborative, the Mid-Atlantic Wind Training Alliance. The program will offer industry required certifications that are critical to the operations and long-term maintenance of wind projects. The Governor made the announcement addressing the 2020 Offshore WINDPOWER Virtual Summit hosted by the American Wind Energy Association.

The New College Institute, which will serve as the host institution, is joining forces with Centura College and the Mid-Atlantic Maritime Academy to create the Mid-Atlantic Wind Training Alliance (the Alliance). This partnership will bring courses certified by the Global Wind Organization and National Center for Construction, Education, and Research wind technician training to onshore and offshore wind projects to Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic region.

“Building a strong wind energy workforce will give the Commonwealth a significant competitive advantage in attracting onshore and offshore wind projects,” said Governor Northam. “There is currently massive potential for offshore wind up and down the East Coast, and we look forward to working with our partners across Virginia and in neighboring states to grow this industry and reap the tremendous economic benefits for our communities, especially those that have been historically disadvantaged.”

The Alliance represents an important first step in what will be a much larger workforce development effort to support the renewable energy industries in Virginia. Course offerings will span a wide variety of wind energy related disciplines and provide students with a customizable portfolio of training options. Programs will range from specific certifications to a year-long wind turbine technician program that bundles several industry-recognized certifications and prepares students to serve as certified installation technicians, inspectors, and maintenance technicians. The Alliance plans to start offering programs in early 2021. 

“Virginia is actively working to welcome new and expanding business in the offshore and onshore wind sector,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “These companies require a skilled workforce to reach their highest potential, and fortunately, because of our deep maritime roots, that workforce is here.”

The wind industry in the United States continues to experience exponential growth, supporting 120,000 American jobs in 2019, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The AWEA also estimates that the wind industry has invested more than $208 billion in wind projects across the country with the capacity to produce at least 109 gigawatts of power to date. Dominion Energy and Avangrid Renewables have nearly 400 offshore wind turbines under development off the coast of Virginia and North Carolina.

“Clean energy jobs in construction and operations will serve as a catalyst for delivering clean, renewable energy to the Commonwealth,” said Josh Bennett, Vice President of Offshore Wind for Dominion Energy. “The formation of the Mid-Atlantic Wind Training Alliance is a critical step to developing a talented offshore wind workforce here in Virginia.”

“As Avangrid Renewables builds the future of clean energy offshore, establishing the workforce that will maintain and operate these projects for decades will be critical,” said Eric Thumma, Interim Vice President of Offshore Wind for Avangrid Renewables. “The Mid-Atlantic Wind Training Alliance will facilitate the development of that workforce and the success of the offshore wind industry.”

“Virginia is taking important steps forward in harnessing the significant economic and job opportunities of American wind power,” said Tom Kiernan, American Wind Energy Association CEO. “Wind turbine technicians are America’s fastest growing career and today’s foresighted move to train additional workers in this field shows that the Commonwealth continues to lead our nation toward a cleaner and more prosperous energy future.”

Located in Martinsville, the New College Institute is a Commonwealth Higher Education Center that partners with industry and academia to provide post-secondary education, industry relevant workforce development and training opportunities in cutting-edge industries.

Centura College has seven education centers across eastern Virginia, including Tidewater Tech, which is home to the largest welding training center in the Commonwealth, with 100 welding booths. Centura is also parent to Aviation Institute of Maintenance, which has 13 aviation technician training centers nationwide and focuses on the repair and maintenance of aircraft including engineering fiberglass and composites.

Located in Norfolk, the Mid-Atlantic Maritime Academy (MAMA) is the largest training center for United States Coast Guard (USCG) certifications on the East Coast. MAMA is certified by the USCG to teach 90 deck and engineering courses that are critical to the safe operation of the United States commercial fleet.

For more information on the Mid-Atlantic Wind Training Alliance, please visit vaoffshorewind.org/workforce.

Governor Northam, VMFA Recognize Healthcare Workers and First Responders with Free Admission to “Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities”

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam and Alex Nyerges, Director and CEO of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), today announced that healthcare workers and first responders can receive free admission to the exhibition Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities on view now through January 18, 2021.

First responders include 911 dispatchers, law-enforcement officers, professional and volunteer firefighters, professional and volunteer emergency medical services personnel, emergency management professionals, search and rescue teams, rescue pilots and divers, the Virginia National Guard, and members of other organizations in the public safety sector.

“Our healthcare workers and first responders have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, working tirelessly to keep our communities safe and healthy over the past seven months,” said Governor Northam. “We are extending this well-deserved ‘thank you’ from the Commonwealth and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and hope those who continue to serve Virginia so ably can experience this special exhibition.”

“VMFA welcomes first responders and all who work in healthcare to take advantage of free admission and this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the wonders of ancient Egypt,” said Nyerges.

Among the nearly 300 objects featured in the exhibition are 250 works recovered from the underwater excavations of the ancient Egyptian cities of Canopus and Thonis-Heracleion. An additional 40 objects were loaned by museums in Egypt. Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities was curated by Franck Goddio, the director of the European Institute of Underwater Archaeology (IEASM) and organized for VMFA by Dr. Peter Schertz, the museum’s Jack and Mary Anne Frable Curator of Ancient Art.

Highlights of the exhibition include a nearly 18-foot-tall, 5.6-ton statue of the god Hapy, the largest stone statue of a god recovered from ancient Egypt, beautiful statues of other gods and rulers of that civilization, and fascinating objects used to celebrate the annual Mysteries of Osiris.

Healthcare workers and first responders should call (804) 340-1405 to make their reservations and show their employee IDs or badges at the Visitors Services Desk when picking up their tickets. One free ticket is available per badge. Reservations for first-available tickets to the exhibition can also be made in person at the Visitors Service Desk. Reservations may not be available on weekends due to heightened visitation on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are scheduled to help limit gallery capacity during the pandemic.

Visitors to VMFA will notice several measures in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 with the well-being of visitors, volunteers, and employees in mind. Masks are required in the museum and disposable masks will be provided to people who do not bring their own. For complete information about the museum’s safeguards please visit the museum’s website at VMFA.museum/covid-19.

Ticket Information
The exhibition is free for VMFA members, children ages six and under, state employees, teachers, healthcare workers, first responders, and active duty military personnel. Tickets to see the exhibition Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities are $20 for adults, $16 for seniors 65+, and $10 for youth aged 7–17 and college students with ID.

Sponsorship Information
Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities is presented by Dominion Energy. In addition to previous exhibition sponsorships, the museum’s Dominion Energy Galleries house one of the strongest public collections of African art in the United States.

Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities is organized by the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology with the generous support of the Hilti Foundation and in collaboration with the Ministry of Antiquities of the Arab Republic of Egypt. The exhibition program at VMFA is supported by the Julia Louise Reynolds Fund. Additional sponsors include The Reverend Doctor Vienna Cobb Anderson, The Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans Exhibition Endowment, Mr. and Mrs. Robert W. Cabaniss, Jr., Sharon Merwin, Capital One Bank, Mrs. Frances Dulaney, Mary Ann and Jack Frable, Virginia H. Spratley Charitable Fund II, Elizabeth and Tom Allen, Lilli and William Beyer, Dr. Donald S. and Ms. Beejay Brown Endowment, Wayne and Nancy Chasen Family Fund of the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond, The Christian Family Foundation, The VMFA Council Exhibition Fund, Birch Douglass, Jeanann Gray Dunlap Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas F. Garner, Jr., Dr. and Mrs. William V. Garner, Hamilton Beach Brands, Inc., Francena T. Harrison Foundation Trust, Peter and Nancy Huber, The Manuel and Carol Loupassi Foundation, Margaret and Thomas Mackell, Deanna M. Maneker, Alexandria Rogers McGrath, McGue Millhiser Family Trust, Norfolk Southern Corporation, Richard S. Reynolds Foundation, The Anne Carter and Walter R. Robins, Jr., Foundation, Joanne B. Robinson, Stauer, Anne Marie Whittemore, YHB | CPAs & Consultants, YouDecide, and two anonymous donors.

About the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia, is one of the largest comprehensive art museums in the United States. VMFA, which opened in 1936, is a state agency and privately endowed educational institution. Its purpose is to collect, preserve, exhibit, and interpret art, and to encourage the study of the arts. Through the Office of Statewide Partnerships program, the museum offers curated exhibitions, arts-related audiovisual programs, symposia, lectures, conferences, and workshops by visual and performing artists. In addition to presenting a wide array of special exhibitions, the museum provides visitors with the opportunity to experience a global collection of art that spans more than 6,000 years. VMFA’s permanent holdings encompass nearly 40,000 artworks, including the largest public collection of Fabergé outside of Russia, the finest collection of Art Nouveau outside of Paris, and one of the nation’s finest collections of American art. VMFA is also home to important collections of Chinese art, English silver, and French Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, British sporting, and modern and contemporary art, as well as renowned South Asian, Himalayan, and African art. In May 2010, VMFA opened its doors to the public after a transformative expansion, the largest in its history.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is the only art museum in the United States open 365 days a year with free general admission. For additional information, call (804) 340-1400 or visit VMFA.museum.

Governor Northam Directs More Than $220 Million in CARES Act Funding to Virginia’s K-12 Schools

All 132 school districts to receive at least $100,000 for COVID-19 preparedness and response

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced a new allocation of more than $220 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars to help K-12 public schools in Virginia. The funding will support COVID-19 preparedness and response measures for the 2020–2021 school year, including testing supplies, personal protective equipment, sanitization, and technology for distance learning. Funding will be distributed to all 132 public school districts using an allocation formula of $175 per pupil based on fall enrollment, with a minimum of $100,000 for each school division. 

“Students, teachers, principals, and parents are going to great lengths to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic amid a new school year, and we must do everything we can to support them,” said Governor Northam. “This additional $220 million in federal funding will give our schools the resources they need to continue operating and provide Virginians with a world-class education, whether safely in person or remotely from home.” 

This funding will supplement $66.8 million provided to Virginia through the federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund and an additional $587.5 million allocated to the Commonwealth in May under the CARES Act. This included $238.6 million from the Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief (ESSER) Fund for K-12 activities. Additionally, the CARES Act provided $343.9 million for higher education through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.

“This funding is critical as we continue to provide safe, high-quality education for Virginia students,” said Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. James Lane. “I am grateful to Governor Northam for his ongoing support of public education—and I can assure you that his funding will immediately be put to good use.”

Governor Northam was one of the first governors in the country to close schools for in-person instruction when COVID-19 began to spread quickly during the 2020 spring semester. Virginia school divisions have been working overtime to adapt during the fall semester, and many continue to face challenges associated with maintaining public health protocols and increased technology needs. In June, the Commonwealth provided guidance for the phased reopening of PreK-12 schools, including guidelines for safely resuming in-person instruction and school activities.

“We applaud Governor Northam’s commitment of more than $220 million in federal CARES Act funding to our public schools,” said Dr. James Fedderman, President of the Virginia Education Association. “COVID-19 has brought huge new challenges for our students and educators, and members of the Virginia Education Association have made clear throughout the pandemic that additional, necessary services require additional funding. This action will help keep our students safe, healthy, and learning.”

“Virginia’s teachers are heroes, and they are doing an incredible job in the midst of this pandemic,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “This funding will help ensure the safety of students, families, and teaching staff, all while providing critical support for our most at-risk students.”

“School divisions, teachers, and families are working overtime for the safety and wellbeing of Virginia’s students,” said Senator L. Louise Lucas. “Whether this funding is used for personal protective equipment, testing, or technology for distance learning, it will help keep our children safe and ensure no student is left behind.”

“This pandemic has disproportionately impacted vulnerable Virginians, including our most at-risk students,” said Delegate Roslyn Tyler. “I am grateful to Governor Northam for this additional support, which will increase access to education for all families—including those who need it most.”

More information on the amount of funding allocated to each school division can be found here.

Virginia Raises a Glass to 32nd Annual Wine Month in October

Virtual Harvest Party celebrations held on October 17

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today invited Virginians to celebrate the richness of Virginia wine and raise a glass to the 32nd annual Virginia Wine Month this October. The oldest wine month in the country, the annual celebration occurs as winemakers traditionally harvest grapes off the vine and prepare their next vintages. This year, the month-long festivities will be held in accordance with social distancing guidelines and culminate with multi-faceted virtual Harvest Party celebrations on October 17. 

Home to 312 wineries, Virginia is now the sixth-largest wine region in the United States. The Virginia wine industry generates an estimated $1.37 billion in economic impact and 8,218 jobs for the Commonwealth and drew more than 2.2 million tourists to Virginia wineries in 2015, according to the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

“Virginia Wine Month is a time to honor the resilience and pioneering spirit that cultivated our world-class wines,” said Governor Northam. “Winemakers are no strangers to uncertainty, and the wine industry has demonstrated its ability to adapt and thrive despite the challenges created by the ongoing pandemic this year. This October, I encourage people across the Commonwealth to join me in celebrating the diversity, distinction, and unique character of our wine and the Virginians who make them.”

Virginia’s diverse landscape means winemakers have learned to listen to the land and craft wines that speak to the grace and grit of the Commonwealth. In recognition of their efforts and the end of the harvest season, the Virginia Wine Board has designated the third Saturday of October as the annual Harvest Party, a home-grown tradition that encourages revelers to gather safely in vineyards, restaurants, open fields, or virtual settings for a feast of Virginia food and wine.

“Nearly 50 years ago, a small group of Virginia winemakers embarked on an endeavor of viticulture, despite skepticism from the global wine community,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “This has yielded not only a thriving economic sector of agriculture and tourism, but also expressive and one-of-a-kind wines. Opening Harvest Party to a number of celebrations, in-person and virtual, allows Virginia wine fans anywhere in the world to join in on the festivities, and I hope to see those in the Commonwealth and beyond join me in raising a glass on October 17.”

Planned Harvest Party activities include virtual and socially distant events at vineyards featuring local food trucks, live music, and more, as well as restaurant-curated cuisine paired with a variety of Virginia Wine. Select wineries will offer “Harvest Party Bundles,” complete with wines and local artisanal foods. In partnership with SevenFifty Daily, a resource on the history and character of Virginia Wine can be found here

Individuals, wineries, restaurants, and retailers celebrating October Wine Month have access to how to-guides, seasonal recipes and wine pairing information and events planned across Virginia. Virginians can participate in a social media sweepstakes to win a virtual guided tasting with a local expert with tasty food and wine pairings included. As wineries begin to reopen, retailers and restaurants are participating in the Virginia Wine Board’s “Toast Our Local Bounty” program, which offers incentives to those creating Virginia Wine displays and by-the-glass and bottle promotions. Those interested in celebrating the richness of the region’s food, wine, and culture can visit the Virginia Wine Month homepage for more information.

To find out more information about Virginia wine and wine travel in the Commonwealth, visit VirginiaWine.org or click here to download the Virginia Wine App.

Governor Northam Announces More Than $8.4 Million to Support COVID-19 Recovery and Response Efforts in Rural Virginia

Funding will help small businesses and community partners with rent relief, equipment purchases

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced more than $8.4 million in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) for 14 projects that will help rural communities across Virginia respond to recover from the public health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Our administration remains committed to investing in rural communities during this unprecedented health crisis and as we work to rebuild Virginia’s economy,” said Governor Northam. “This funding will go a long way to address the immediate needs of Virginia families and provide relief to small businesses, so they are better prepared for economic growth despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic.”

Since 1982, the federally funded CDBG program has been administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Virginia receives funding annually to distribute to small cities, towns, and counties, and funding is allocated among local government applicants through an open submission application process using objective scoring criteria developed in consultation with eligible localities. Large cities and counties receive direct allocation of CDBG resources from the federal government, so the state administered funds must focus on smaller and more rural regions of the state. This year, more than $20.4 million has been distributed to communities across Virginia through the CDBG program.

DHCD reallocated existing CDBG funding to assist with COVID-19 response and recovery activities. Funding can be used for: 

  • Construction or rehab of structures for shelters
  • Testing or equipment manufacturing
  • Training programs for healthcare workers or service industry jobs transitioning to food or pharmaceutical delivery systems
  • Acquisition costs for telework or telemedicine services
  • Job creation or business development for manufacturing of COVID-related materials
  • Business assistance for job training or re-tooling business services to reopen and adapt in a new environment
  • Small business recovery funds for rent/mortgage assistance
  • Personal protective equipment, sanitization, dining equipment, and barrier devices to meet social distancing requirements

“Virginia continues to take an innovative approach in providing resources to assist households and businesses throughout the Commonwealth as they navigate this pandemic,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “From housing to business assistance, this CDBG funding will create healthy and safe ways for Virginians to move forward with recovery efforts.”

The following projects (among others) will receive CDBG funding:

Brunswick County Small Business Recovery Assistance
$520,000
Brunswick County

Brunswick County will provide recovery assistance to small businesses adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses will be able to apply for up to $5,000 for retooling and technology activities and up to $10,000 for three to six months of rent and mortgage relief. Brunswick County will work with its local partners to assist at least 40 businesses.

Mecklenburg County Small Business Recovery Assistance
$520,000
Mecklenburg County

Mecklenburg County will assist at least 40 businesses that have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses will be able to apply for up to $5,000 for retooling and technology activities and up to $10,000 for three to six months of rent and mortgage relief.

Governor Northam Announces Refinancing Plan to Save Virginia Colleges and Universities More Than $300 Million Over Next Two Years

FAIRFAX—Governor Ralph Northam today announced a higher education refinancing plan that will save Virginia’s public colleges and universities more than $300 million over the next two years. The Commonwealth of Virginia will take advantage of low interest rates by refinancing bonds issued by the Treasury Board of Virginia (TBV) and the Virginia College Building Authority (VCBA), which institutions of higher education use for capital projects. The Governor was joined by George Mason University President Dr. Gregory Washington and state legislators for the announcement at the university’s Fairfax campus.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have tremendous impacts on higher education, including the fiscal health of our colleges and universities,” said Governor Northam. “Families all over the country are taking advantage of record low interest rates to refinance their home mortgages, and we want our public institutions to benefit as well. Refinancing will free up millions of dollars in savings allowing our colleges and universities to make critical investments, meet the needs of Virginia students, and continue offering a world-class education.”

Virginia has successfully avoided cuts to higher education during the pandemic. The Commonwealth has worked hard to maintain its valued AAA bond rating, which has allowed the state to be eligible for these favorable interest rates.

“Our public higher education institutions are critical to Virginia’s success, and we know they are hurting right now,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Janet Howell. “Allowing them to refinance some of their debt is an innovative way to save money when they need it most, and I look forward to supporting the legislative portion of this proposal next session.”

Many Virginia colleges and universities have seen a decline in revenue traditionally used for bond payments. These institutions are also navigating uncertainty regarding in-person learning, with many unsure when or how students will return to campus. Under the Governor’s plan, institutions will make no principal payments on their VCBA bonds through fiscal year 2023. The proposed restructuring would also extend institutions’ payment plans for two years beyond their current schedule, for both VCBA and TBV bonds.

“As stewards of the Commonwealth’s finances, we are always seeking creative solutions to financial issues,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Luke Torian. “Helping public colleges and universities restructure their debt obligations allows them to focus their resources on the pressing needs they face right now as a result of the pandemic.”

As part of his plan, Governor Northam will work with the General Assembly to allow additional flexibility for higher education refinancing during the 2021 General Assembly session.

“Governor Northam is committed to supporting Virginia’s institutions of higher education,” said Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne. “These savings will make a tremendous difference for our colleges and universities as they navigate these challenging times.”

The following savings are expected:

  • Christopher Newport University: $14.4 million
  • George Mason University: $58.3 million
  • James Madison University: $43.7 million
  • Longwood University: $8.2 million
  • Norfolk State University: $8.2 million
  • Old Dominion University: $29.8 million
  • Radford University: $5.1 million
  • Richard Bland College of William & Mary: $320,000
  • University of Mary Washington: $9.3 million
  • University of Virginia: $344,000
  • Virginia Commonwealth University: $23.1 million
  • Virginia Community College System: $9.7 million
  • Virginia Military Institute: $2.8 million
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: $40.1 million
  • Virginia State University: $12.8 million
  • William & Mary: $33.7 million

Governor Northam Announces Expansion of $70 Million Rebuild VA Grant Fund for Small Businesses, Nonprofits Impacted by COVID-19

Eligibility criteria expanded to include businesses that received federal CARES Act funds, supply chain partners affected by closures

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Rebuild VA, the $70 million economic recovery fund launched in August, is expanding its eligibility criteria to allow more small businesses to apply. Businesses that received funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and supply chain partners of businesses whose normal operations were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic are now eligible to receive grants of up to $10,000. Businesses that have received federal funds must certify that they will only use the Rebuild VA grant for recurring expenses and that the grant will not be used to cover the same expenses as the other CARES Act funds.

Rebuild VA, which is administered by the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (SBSD), successfully launched on August 10. SBSD and its program partners, the Department of Housing and Community Development, the Virginia Tourism Corporation, and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, made the decision to expand eligibility criteria after analysis of eligible and ineligible applications received within the first 30 days of the launch.

“When we initially launched Rebuild VA, we focused on reaching the small businesses and nonprofit organizations most in need,” said Governor Northam. “I am deeply grateful for the work of our state agencies to swiftly adjust the parameters of this program so we can assist more Virginia businesses as they weather this health crisis and build back stronger.”

Eligible businesses and nonprofits must demonstrate that their normal operations were limited by Governor Northam’s Executive Orders Fifty-Three or Fifty-Five, or that they were directly impacted by the closure of such businesses. In March, Governor Northam took executive action to protect the health and safety of Virginians, which included limiting operations for food and beverage, non-essential brick and mortar retail, exercise and fitness, entertainment and public amusement, personal care and personal grooming, and private campground and overnight summer camps. Expanded business sectors now eligible to apply for Rebuild VA grants include small hotels and bed and breakfasts lodging facilities along with film companies supporting production in the Commonwealth. Businesses that provide goods or services for those identified in one or more of the eligible business categories previously mentioned are now eligible.

Businesses must also certify that they have not received grant or loan dollars from federal, state, or local CARES Act funded programs, or if they have received CARES Act funding, that they will use the Rebuild VA grant only for recurring expenses. These businesses must also certify that the Rebuild VA funds will not be used to cover the same expenses as other CARES Act funds.

Rebuild VA still requires that businesses and nonprofit organizations must be in good standing, have annual gross revenues of no more than $1.5 million, and have no more than 25 employees.

Rebuild VA funding may be utilized for the following eligible expenses:

  • Payroll support, including paid sick, medical, or family leave, and costs related to the continuation of group health care benefits during those periods of leave;
  • Employee salaries;
  • Mortgage payments, rent, and utilities;
  • Principal and interest payments for any business loans from national or state-chartered banking, savings and loan institutions, or credit unions, that were incurred before or during the emergency;
  • Eligible personal protective equipment, cleaning and disinfecting materials, or other working capital needed to address COVID-19 response.

For additional information about Rebuild VA, expanded eligibility criteria, covered expenses, and how to submit an application, please visit governor.virginia.gov/RebuildVA.

Governor Northam Casts Vote in November General Election on First Day of Early Voting in Virginia

 

 

Reminds voters of options to vote absentee by mail or early in person, urges all Virginians to make a voting plan

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today voted early in person at the Richmond general registrar’s office on the first day of Virginia’s 45-day early voting period.

New laws allow all Virginians to vote absentee by mail, or in person at their local registrar’s office or satellite locations. The Governor signed legislation this year removing a previous provision that required absentee voters to provide a reason for voting early, so any Virginia voter may vote early without providing a specific reason.

“Virginians can be confident their vote is secure, and will be counted,” said Governor Northam. “While the pandemic has made this an unprecedented election year, Virginia voters have several safe and easy ways to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Voting is an essential part of our democracy, and I encourage every Virginia voter to know their options and make a plan for safely casting their ballot.”

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a higher number of Virginians are expected to vote by mail in the 2020 election. As of Thursday, the Department of Elections had received 824,000 requests for absentee ballots by mail. For comparison, 566,000 votes were cast absentee in the 2016 General Election—half by mail.

Virginians have several options for safely casting their ballots for the November General Election.

Absentee by Mail
Beginning today, September 18, Virginia general registrars will mail absentee ballots to voters who request them. Virginians can request a ballot online at elections.virginia.gov. The last day to request an absentee ballot by mail is Friday, October 23 at 5:00 p.m.

All absentee ballots will include a return envelope with prepaid postage. Ballots with a postmark of November 3 or earlier will be accepted until noon on Friday, November 6.

As an additional layer of security, every absentee ballot envelope is required to have an intelligent mail barcode and an election mail insignia. The insignia tells the United States Postal Service that this piece of mail is a ballot and should be prioritized. The barcode lets voters track their ballot once it leaves the registrar’s office—so a voter will know when their ballot has been mailed to them, and when it is delivered back to the registrar. Voters can track their absentee ballot using the absentee ballot look-up tool available here.

Drop-off Locations
Absentee ballots may also be hand delivered to your local registrar’s office or returned to a secure drop-off location, which include any satellite voting location. A list of drop-off locations is available on your county or city’s official website. On Election Day, you can also drop off your completed absentee ballot at any polling place in the county or city in which you are registered to vote.

For voters who prefer to vote in person, there are two options.

Early In Person
Starting today, September 18, Virginia voters can vote absentee in person at their local registrar’s office as Governor Northam did. Voters can simply go to their local general registrar’s office or a satellite voting location identified by the registrar’s office and cast their vote. Voters may use this option through Saturday, October 31—one of the longest early voting periods of any state.

Election Day
The other option is the traditional one: voting in person on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3, at your polling place. Polls will be open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Virginia has allocated federal CARES Act funding to ensure that all election officers have personal protective equipment, and Virginia Medical Reserve Corps volunteers will assist at polling places to ensure social distancing and sanitization measures are followed.

Virginia considers election security to be a top priority and has made significant progress in recent years to ensure a secure election process that places election integrity and voter confidence at the forefront. Additional information about election security in Virginia can be found here.

To register to vote or learn more about absentee voting in Virginia, visit elections.virginia.gov/absentee. Answers to frequently asked questions can be found here.

Follow the Department of Elections on Twitter at @vaElect, on Facebook at @VirginiaELECT, and on Instagram at @va_election.

See below for photos of Governor Northam casting his ballot at the Richmond general registrar’s office.

Governor Northam Announces $4 Million to Expand Legal Aid Services for Virginians Facing Eviction

Governor will match $2 million IKEA donation with $2 million from Virginia’s COVID-19 Relief Fund

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced $4 million in funding for the Legal Services Corporation of Virginia, which will support 20 Legal Aid attorneys in providing services to Virginia tenants facing eviction for the next two years. This critical investment comes as thousands of Virginians continue to be at risk of eviction and is supported in part by a $2 million donation from IKEA U.S. Community Foundation. The Governor will match the donation with $2 million from Virginia’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, which was approved by the General Assembly in April.

“Our Commonwealth faced an eviction crisis before COVID-19 arrived in early March, and the ongoing global pandemic is making this problem even worse,” said Governor Northam. “We are deeply grateful to IKEA for this generous donation that, coupled with money from the COVID-19 Relief Fund and other federal resources, will help more Virginians stay in their homes as we fight this virus. In an unprecedented crisis and financial uncertainty, we must be able to get relief to vulnerable populations quickly and efficiently—this additional funding will make that possible.”

IKEA Retail U.S. has stores in Norfolk and Woodbridge and employs approximately 550 Virginians. As part of the company’s efforts to support COVID-19 recovery across the country, IKEA is providing partner states with a donation equal to the amount given to their employees in the form of unemployment benefits. Housing security continues to be a top priority for Virginia amid the ongoing public health crisis, and Governor Northam asked that the $2 million donation from IKEA to the Commonwealth be directed to support eviction relief.

IKEA has continued to follow Governor Northam’s orders to protect the health and safety of both employees and customers. After Governor Northam issued a statewide Stay at Home order, IKEA closed its two Virginia retail locations to keep their staff and customers safe. Now IKEA is giving back to ensure the Commonwealth has the funding to provide essential services and goods to those who need it most.  

“We are appreciative of the ongoing support from the Commonwealth of Virginia, including the unemployment funds paid to our co-workers who were furloughed in the early weeks of the pandemic,” said Javier Quiñones, IKEA Retail U.S. president. “People are the heart of our business, and these unemployment benefits helped IKEA U.S. co-workers during a difficult time. We now have a better understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on our business, and we’ve decided to pay it forward to support the ongoing relief efforts in our local communities.” 

This funding will be matched by $2 million from Virginia’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, which is supported by tax revenue from electronic skill machines. Governor Northam proposed this one-year alternative funding mechanism as a way of providing additional support to small businesses, Virginians who are out of work due to the pandemic, and individuals struggling to stay in their homes.

Although $1.5 million per year for Legal Aid was unallotted from Virginia’s biennial budget, this $4 million in funding will allow for additional support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Legal Aid attorneys play a critical role in eviction diversion in the Commonwealth—Virginia families facing eviction have successful outcomes 72 percent of the time when represented by Legal Aid lawyers, as opposed to just 34 percent without representation.

Governor Northam also established the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP) with an initial $50 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds and proposed an additional $88 million in funding for the Housing Trust Fund over the biennium to prevent evictions and expand affordable housing. Since launching at the end of June, the RMRP has served more than 3,100 households in Virginia, and over 60 percent of the households served have children in the home.

The Legal Services Corporation of Virginia funds and oversees the work of nine regional Legal Aid programs and a statewide support center, the Virginia Poverty Law Center, that provide services to low-income Virginians in every city and county in the Commonwealth.

Watch the video of today’s announcement here.

 

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).

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Governor Northam Launches COVIDWISE Exposure Notification App to Help Contain COVID-19

Virginia is first-in-the-nation to use Apple-Google Bluetooth framework to protect personal privacy

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced the launch of COVIDWISE, an innovative exposure notification app that will alert users if they have been in close contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. Virginia is the first state in the country to design a COVID-19 app using Bluetooth Low Energy technology developed by Apple and Google, which does not rely on personal information or location data. Users opt-in to download and utilize the free app.

“We must continue to fight COVID-19 from every possible angle,” said Governor Northam. “The COVIDWISE exposure notification app gives you an additional tool to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community, while maintaining your personal privacy. I encourage all Virginians to download and use this app, so we can work together to contain this virus.”

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) developed COVIDWISE in partnership with Spring ML using funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The free app is available to download through the App Store and the Google Play Store. COVIDWISE is the only app in Virginia allowed to use the exposure notifications system (ENS) application programming interface (API) jointly created by Apple and Google. Other countries, including Ireland and Germany, have successfully used this technology in similar apps.

“As COVID-19 cases continue to be identified across the Commonwealth, it is important for people to know whether they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the disease,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA. “COVIDWISE will notify you if you’ve likely been exposed to another app user who anonymously shared a positive COVID-19 test result. Knowing your exposure history allows you to self-quarantine effectively, seek timely medical attention, and reduce potential exposure risk. The more Virginians use COVIDWISE, the greater the likelihood that you will receive timely exposure notifications that lead to effective disease prevention.”

COVIDWISE works by using random Bluetooth keys that change every 10 to 20 minutes. iOS and Android devices that have the app installed will anonymously share these random keys if they are within close proximity for at least 15 minutes. Each day, the device downloads a list of all random keys associated with positive COVID-19 results submitted by other app users and checks them against the list of random keys it has encountered in the last 14 days. If there is a match, COVIDWISE may notify the individual, taking into account the date and duration of exposure, and the Bluetooth signal strength which is used to estimate proximity. 

Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will be notified by a VDH case investigator and will be given a unique numeric code. This code is entered into the app by the user and serves as verification of a positive report. Others who have downloaded COVIDWISE and have been in close proximity to the individual who reported as being positive will receive a notice which reads, “You have likely been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.” This is your alert to get tested.

The notice includes the estimated number of days since the exposure and provides several options for taking further action, including contacting a primary care physician or local health department, monitoring symptoms, and finding nearby test locations. The Virtual VDH tab within the app also provides links to online resources and relevant phone numbers.

Anyone who downloads the app has the option to choose to receive exposure notifications, and if a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, it is up to them whether or not to share their result anonymously through COVIDWISE. No location data or personal information is ever collected, stored, tracked, or transmitted to VDH as part of the app. Users have the ability to delete the app or turn off exposure notifications at any time.

Widespread use is critical to the success of this effort, and VDH is launching a robust, statewide public information campaign to make sure Virginians are aware of the COVIDWISE app, its privacy protection features, and how it can be used to support public health and help reduce the spread of the virus.

To learn more about COVIDWISE and the download the app, visit www.covidwise.org.

Governor Northam Declares State of Emergency in Advance of Hurricane Isaias

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today declared a state of emergency in advance of Hurricane Isaias, which is expected to impact parts of coastal Virginia starting on Monday, August 3, 2020. 

“Hurricane Isaias is a serious storm, and current predictions indicate that it may impact parts of Virginia as early as this weekend,” said Governor Northam. “This state of emergency will ensure localities and communities have the assistance they need to protect the safety of Virginians, particularly as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. I encourage Virginians to take all necessary precautions, monitor local weather forecasts, and stay alert.”

A state of emergency allows the Commonwealth to mobilize resources and equipment needed for response and recovery efforts. While the track of Hurricane Isaias is still uncertain, it appears increasingly likely that Virginia could see impacts and therefore must prepare for the possibility of flooding, high winds, and potential storm surge that could come along with a tropical storm or hurricane.

Virginians are encouraged to consult the Virginia Hurricane Evacuation Guide During the COVID-19 Pandemic, which outlines preparedness, response, and recovery actions designed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and protect public health. 

The Virginia Emergency Support Team (VEST) is actively monitoring the situation and coordinating resources and information to prepare for this storm. The Virginia Emergency Operations Center (VEOC) will coordinate preparedness efforts with local, state, and federal officials.

The full text of Executive Order Sixty-Nine is available here.

Recommendations for Virginians  

  • Know your zone. Evacuation may become necessary depending on the track and severity of the storm. Review Virginia’s evacuation zones at KnowYourZoneVA.org. It is important to note that the zone colors have been updated for 2020. Users can enter their physical address in the search bar of the website to view and confirm their designated evacuation zone. If internet or computer access is not available, call 2-1-1 to learn your zone. Residents not residing in a pre-identified evacuation zone should listen to evacuation orders from local and state emergency agencies to determine if and when to evacuate.
  • Prepare an emergency kit. For a list of recommended emergency supplies to sustain your household before, during, and after the storm visit VAemergency.gov/emergency-kit. Given the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, emergency kits should include face coverings and sanitization supplies.
  • Stay informed. Virginians should follow the Virginia Department of Emergency Management on Twitter and Facebook for preparedness updates and their local National Weather Service office for the latest weather forecast, advisories, watches or warnings. Download the FEMA app on your smartphone to receive mobile alerts from the National Weather Service. Power outages are always a concern during weather events—make sure you have a battery-operated radio available so you can still receive life-saving alerts.

For more information about preparing your business, your family, and your property against hurricane threats visit VAemergency.gov/hurricanes and ready.gov/hurricanes. Additional information about preparing for hurricanes during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Governor Northam Urges Virginians to Prepare for Hurricane Season Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Agencies and cabinet members participate in preparedness exercise to test hurricane readiness, plan for disaster response during ongoing health crisis

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam is reminding all Virginians to prepare now as peak hurricane season approaches and the Commonwealth continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier today, the Governor and his cabinet joined state local public safety agencies for a virtual exercise to test Virginia’s hurricane readiness and address the challenges of managing disaster response and recovery efforts during the ongoing health crisis.

“Hurricane season brings added challenges this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are committed to ensuring that Virginians know their risks, get prepared, and stay informed,” said Governor Northam. “Our administration remains actively focused on planning for simultaneous emergencies, and we will continue to adjust our plans as needed to protect public health and keep the Commonwealth safe. As our government agencies prepare for the possibility of a complex incident involving a major natural disaster amid virus outbreaks, it is also important that individuals and businesses make sure they are ready as well.”

One of the key statewide coordination efforts is the development of the Virginia Hurricane Evacuation Guide During the COVID-19 Pandemic, which highlights preparedness, response, and recovery actions in the event of tropical weather in coastal areas of the Commonwealth. This year’s guide includes pandemic considerations such as updating kits to include sanitation and personal protective supplies and following public health guidance. The Commonwealth is also preparing to adjust operations to ensure the delivery of critical services while adhering to social distancing guidelines and keeping people safe from storm impacts.

“As public safety professionals, the staff at our state agencies are accustomed to managing multiple issues at once, and are specifically trained in hurricane response,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran. “I have confidence in our preparedness efforts and ask that Virginians also take the time to plan for the hurricane season.”

The traditional Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, and forecasters are projecting an above average season—there have been eight named storms so far this year, and the first hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season made landfall in Texas on July 25.

Virginians know the devastating impacts of hurricanes and tropical storms and recognize these threats are not isolated to coastal areas. High winds, flooding, and tornadoes have also caused significant damages to inland communities. Hurricanes can be unpredictable in terms of timing and scope, and this year, it is particularly vital to prepare for hurricane season in conjunction with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This exercise was extremely beneficial, not only in strengthening our overall hurricane coordination efforts, but in identifying limitations and risks due to COVID-19 and operating in a more dispersed, virtual environment,” said Curtis Brown, State Coordinator at the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. “Understanding how we can enhance our preparedness, especially to support our most at-risk populations, is critical to the success of any disaster response and recovery.”

Governor Northam is calling on all Virginians and those visiting the state to prepare now by knowing your risk, purchasing flood insurance, developing a family communication plan, and making an emergency kit. It’s important to know what to do to protect yourself, your loved ones, your business, and your community.

  • Know your zone. Evacuation may become necessary depending on the track and severity of the storm. Review Virginia’s evacuation zones at KnowYourZoneVA.org. It is important to note that the zone colors have been updated for 2020. Users can enter their physical address in the search bar of the website to view and confirm their designated evacuation zone.
  • Complete a family communication plan. Prepare for how you will assemble and communicate with your family and loved ones. Identify meeting locations and anticipate where you will go. Federal Emergency Management Agency guidance on family communications plans is available here.
  • Check your insurance coverage. Remember, there may be a waiting period for a flood insurance policy to become effective, and be aware that not all hurricane-related losses, such as flooding, are covered under traditional policies. Now is the time to review your coverage and contact your insurance agent for any changes. If you are not insured against floods, talk to your insurance agent or visit floodsmart.gov. If you are a renter, now is the time to ensure you have adequate coverage to protect your belongings.
  • Make an emergency kit. Assemble an emergency kit that includes nonperishable food, water, medication, sanitary supplies, radios, extra batteries, and important documents. Learn more about building an emergency supply kit here.
  • Stay informed. Identify where to go for trusted sources of information during emergencies. Check with your local emergency management office to sign up for alerts that go directly to your phone or email. Be sure to monitor local news for watches and warnings in your area and follow directions of local officials. Power outages are always a concern during weather events—make sure you have a battery-operated radio available so you can still receive life-saving alerts.

There are many resources available to assist with hurricane planning efforts. Learn more about preparing your business, your family, and your property against hurricane threats at vaemergency.gov/hurricanes and ready.gov/hurricanes. Additional information about preparing for hurricanes during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Governor Northam Announces $644.6 Million in Federal Coronavirus Relief Fund Dollars Distributed to Local Governments

Second round of payments completes allocation of funding Virginia received under federal CARES Act, provides a total of $1.3 billion to localities

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that the Commonwealth will distribute $644.6 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding to local governments in its second and final round of allocations. These payments represent the remaining 50 percent of local allocations and do not include $200.2 million that Fairfax County received directly from the federal government. The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) established the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) to provide funding to states and eligible units of local government navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virginia received approximately $3.1 billion as its share of the $150 billion CRF. While the CARES Act does not require that states distribute funding to local governments with populations less than 500,000, the Governor recognizes that cities and counties of all sizes have expenses related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and directed these federal dollars to localities.

“Virginia was one of the first states to provide such a large share of its federal aid directly to local governments,” said Governor Northam. “We are committed to making sure localities of all sizes get the assistance they need to respond to COVID-19 and keep Virginians safe during these unprecedented times.”

Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne sent a memorandum to cities and counties in Virginia on May 12, 2020 outlining the distribution of the first round of allocations to local governments, totaling $644.6 million. Once the second and final round of payments are disbursed, the Governor will have distributed 100 percent of the local allocations the Commonwealth received under the CARES Act, providing a total of $1.3 billion to localities.

“Local governments are responsible for spending the money they receive, and we need them to step up and make sure that these federal dollars are going to the right places,” said Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne. “Localities must be able to demonstrate to taxpayers that they are spending these funds wisely.”

Similar to the first round, the second round of funding will be allotted proportionally based on population. Consequently, the second round of allocations will be equivalent to the amount each locality received in the first round on June 1, 2020. The Secretary of Finance issued an updated memorandum to cities and counties regarding the second and final allocation of federal CRF dollars. The updated memorandum, which includes the distributions by locality, is available here.

To receive the second allocation, localities must submit a new certification form and complete an online survey regarding the use of their CRF dollars. After these two documents are completed and submitted, the Department of Accounts will initiate the transfer of funds to the local Treasurer. Localities can expect to receive the transfer from the State Comptroller within five business days following confirmation of receipt of the completed documents.

The CARES Act requires that CRF dollars only be used to cover costs that (1) are necessary expenditures incurred due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, (2) were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 (the date of enactment of the CARES Act) for the state or government; and (3) were incurred during the period of March 1, 2020 and December 30, 2020.

Current federal rules prohibit state and local governments from using the CRF to replace lost revenues and address significant budget shortfalls. State and local government officials have requested that this restriction be lifted in future stimulus packages, or that additional federal funds are provided to address the loss of state and local revenue.

The Governor previously announced $246 million to support the state’s response to COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, including $205 million in federal CARES Act funds. Governor Northam also allocated an initial $50 million to launch the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program and help Virginians who are unable to pay their rent or mortgage due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Virginia also recently unveiled a $70 million economic recovery fund to assist small businesses and nonprofit organizations whose normal operations were disrupted by the ongoing health crisis.

The Commonwealth has distributed more than $600 million to K-12 schools and higher education institutions and $70 million to assist child care facilities in providing services for essential personnel. Virginia also allocated $85 million in CARES Act funding to support child nutrition programs, and $219 million for the Pandemic EBT program through the Department of Social Services.

 

Governor Northam Signs Legislation to Ease Transitions for Military Families

New laws improve expedited licensure process for military spouses

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today signed legislation to expedite the occupational and professional licensure process for military spouses during a special ceremony that kicked off the quarterly Virginia Military Advisory Council meeting.

Joining the Governor at today’s event at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond were Blue Star Families CEO and Board President Kathy Roth-Douquet, Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Carlos Hopkins, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, State Senator David Suetterlein, Delegate Rodney Willett, and Delegate Carrie Coyner. Watch the video of today’s event here.

“As an Army veteran and as a Virginian, I am committed to ensuring the Commonwealth continues to provide an environment where our veterans and military families can thrive,” said Governor Northam. “Complex rules about license equivalence and the portability of certifications too often result in the unemployment or underemployment of military spouses. This legislation will enable the spouses of the men and women who serve our country to maintain their professional licenses and continue their careers in Virginia with a streamlined and simple process.”

Governor Northam was also joined by representatives of the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, and the Northern Virginia Regional Commission to sign a Regional Intergovernmental Support Agreement that will improve the delivery of resources to their military installations in Northern Virginia. The support agreement strengthens the partnership between the Department of Transportation, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, Marine Corps Installations National Capital Region – Marine Corps Base Quantico, and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall to find opportunities for the use of transportation goods and services throughout the Northern Virginia region.

Virginia’s existing expedited application process for military spouses requires licensing boards to determine if a military spouse’s out-of-state license is equivalent within 20 days and issue an automatic one-year temporary license, affording the spouse the opportunity to begin finding employment immediately upon settling into their new communities. This legislation and process address the issue of portability of the professional and occupational licenses of military spouses.

“Taking care of military families is of the utmost importance to us,” said Delegates Rodney Willett and Carrie Coyner, and Senator David Suetterlein. “We are grateful for the opportunity to assist our service members, their families, and for being able to improve upon Virginia’s existing professional and occupation licensure process. This legislation expands access to transitioning service members, our National Guardsmen, and all of the military spouses of our neighboring states and Washington, D.C.”    

House Bill 967, sponsored by Delegate Rodney Willett and Senate Bill 981, sponsored by Senator David Suetterlein, improve Virginia’s expedited licensure process for the spouses of military service members assigned to installations and residing in the Commonwealth by:

  • Expanding access and eligibility to the spouses of service members in all surrounding jurisdictions;
  • Expanding access to the spouses of National Guardsmen who are active on federal orders to deploy oversees;
  • Expanding eligibility to the spouses of recently transitioned service members; and
  • Granting the Commonwealth’s licensing boards greater authority to determine a substantially equivalent license.
     

“This enhanced process will help our military spouses find employment opportunities quicker and without the stress of worrying if their credentials will carry over to Virginia,” said Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Carlos L. Hopkins. “Implementing innovative ways to support our military families is one of the reasons Virginia continually ranks as one of the best states for service members, veterans, and their families.”

“Military spouses were hobbled before COVID-19, and our research forecasts that military spouse unemployment and underemployment rates could climb upwards of 30 percent and 77 percent, respectively, as we emerge from this public health and economic crisis,” said Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO of Blue Star Families. “That’s why the expansion of Virginia’s expedited licensure policy is so key—it removes a critical barrier to military spouses working in the fields of their training. We are grateful to Governor Northam and the Virginia legislature for taking action on this important issue.” 

According to the United States Department of Labor, more than 34 percent of all military spouses in the labor force require an occupational or professional license. The Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation and the Department of Health Professions administer the process of granting professional licenses for all professions regulated under Title 54.1 of the Code of Virginia. Additional information about the licensure process for military personnel and their spouses is available here.



Virginia Adopts First-in-the-Nation Workplace Safety Standards for COVID-19 Pandemic

In the absence of federal guidelines, newly adopted workplace safety rules will help protect Virginia workers from the spread of COVID-19

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced the adoption of statewide emergency workplace safety standards in response to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. These first-in-the-nation safety rules will protect Virginia workers by mandating appropriate personal protective equipment, sanitation, social distancing, infectious disease preparedness and response plans, record keeping, training, and hazard communications in workplaces across the Commonwealth. The actions come in the absence of federal guidelines.

“Workers should not have to sacrifice their health and safety to earn a living, especially during an ongoing global pandemic,” said Governor Northam. “In the face of federal inaction, Virginia has stepped up to protect workers from COVID-19, creating the nation’s first enforceable workplace safety requirements. Keeping Virginians safe at work is not only a critical part of stopping the spread of this virus, it’s key to our economic recovery and it’s the right thing to do.”

Newly adopted standards require all employers to mandate social distancing measures and face coverings for employees in customer-facing positions and when social distancing is not possible, provide frequent access to hand washing or hand sanitizer, and regularly clean high-contact surfaces. In addition, new standards require all employees be notified within 24 hours if a coworker tests positive for the virus. Employees who are known or suspected to be positive for COVID-19 cannot return to work for 10 days or until they receive two consecutive negative tests. 

The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Safety and Health Codes Board voted today to approve an emergency temporary standard on infectious disease prevention after Governor Northam directed the creation of enforceable regulations in May. These temporary emergency standards will remain in effect for six months and can be made permanent through the process defined in state law.

“As a top state for workforce development, it should be no surprise that Virginia is also the first in the nation to establish such a robust set of emergency workplace safety regulations,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “Our workers are our greatest asset, and I am confident that these temporary standards will provide Virginians with the peace of mind they need to return to work and fuel the Commonwealth’s economic recovery.”

“Keeping Virginia’s economy moving forward has never been more important, and keeping our workers safe is critical to sustained economic recovery,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “COVID-19 is unfortunately going to continue impacting our everyday lives, and these regulations will provide for safer, more predictable workplaces for Virginians.”

“The Commonwealth’s new emergency workplace safety standards are a powerful tool in our toolbox for keeping Virginia workers safe and protected throughout this pandemic,” said C. Ray Davenport, Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry. “Many employers have already enacted these evidence-based practices, and we are committed to working collaboratively with those who have not to ensure they are in compliance with the new emergency temporary standard.” 

The emergency temporary standards, infectious disease preparedness and response plan templates, and training guidance will be posted on the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry website at doli.virginia.gov. Workers who feel unsafe in their workplace can file a formal complaint with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration here.

Virginia Issues Year-End Revenue Report

Total General Fund revenue collections increased 2.0% over prior year, but $236.5 million below official forecast

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia ended fiscal year 2020 with a deficit of approximately $236.5 million in general fund revenue collections. While the shortfall was expected due to the impacts of COVID-19 on the state’s economy and budget, it is smaller than anticipated, and overall, revenues increased 2.0 percent over fiscal year 2019.

“COVID-19 has created both a health crisis and an economic crisis, and we have to box in this virus before we can fully address its fiscal impacts,” said Governor Northam. “While I am pleased that our revenue shortfall is less than initially expected, we know this pandemic will continue to negatively affect our state’s finances as long as this virus is with us. We must all keep taking steps to protect public health so we can continue our economic recovery and ensure the Commonwealth remains on strong financial footing.”

Total revenue collections rose by 2.0 percent in fiscal year 2020, behind the forecast of 3.1 percent growth. The main drivers of the revenue shortfall were payroll withholding and sales taxes—these two sources contributed $351.5 million to the deficit. Nonwithholding income tax payments—mainly from 2019 tax returns—were on target and income tax refunds contributed positively to the bottom line revenues by $146.3 million. Total revenues were $3.1 billion in June, a 26.7 percent increase, as the due date for payments from individuals and corporations was extended to June 1. 

“While this is good news as it relates to the final fiscal year 2020 projected shortfall, I am concerned that payroll withholding fell 2 percent and retail sales declined by 7 percent for the months of April, May, and June contributing to a $496.5 million shortfall in the fourth quarter,” said Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne. “We were helped by prior year income tax payments and current year payroll withholding and sales tax revenues not falling as much as initially anticipated.  But the fact remains, the Commonwealth has had a significant contraction in jobs and those effects on payroll withholding and the ability for consumers to spend is an obvious concern going forward into fiscal year 2021 for the state budget.” 

In reviewing the State Comptroller’s report on the preliminary revenue shortfall, the Commonwealth will conduct an interim forecasting process with an updated economic and revenue outlook for fiscal years 2021 and 2022. These forecasts will be released on August 18 at the Joint Money Committee meeting.

Analysis of Fiscal Year 2020 Revenues
Based on Preliminary Data

  • Total general fund revenue collections, excluding transfers, fell short of the official forecast (Chapter 1283) by $236.5 million (1.1 percent variance) in fiscal year 2020.
    • The 30-year average general fund revenue forecast variance is plus or minus 1.6 percent.

  • Payroll withholding and sales tax collections, 85 percent of total revenues, and the best indicator of current economic activity in the Commonwealth, finished $351.5 million or 2.1 percent behind the forecast.
    • Payroll withholding growth of 3.0 percent was behind the forecast of 4.7 percent growth.

    • Sales tax collections increased 3.5 percent as compared to the annual forecast of 7.4 percent.

    • Fourth quarter results show that payroll withholding fell 2.0 percent and sales tax revenues fell 7.0 percent.

  • Nonwithholding income tax collections finished the year in line with expectations, down 4.3 percent. 2019 tax year final payments due June 1 were ahead of expectations; however, estimated payments due in June for 2020 were below expectations.
  • Individual income tax refunds were a positive to the forecast, as the average check size did not increase. Tax refunds were $146.3 million below expectations and is a positive to the bottom line.

  • Corporate income tax collections increased 7.2 percent for the year, behind the annual forecast of 9.3 percent mainly due to the lower than expected payments in the April to June period.

  • A complete analysis of all final receipts for revenue sources, including transfers, will not be available until the Joint Money Committee meeting on August 18.

Governor Northam Launches Rent and Mortgage Relief Program to Assist Virginians Facing Eviction or Foreclosure

 
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today launched the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP), which will provide $50 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding for households facing eviction or foreclosure due to COVID-19. RMRP will provide short-term financial assistance on behalf of households in the form of rent and mortgage payments.
 
“Expanding access to safe, affordable housing has been and will continue to be a top priority of my administration, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” said Governor Northam. “The Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program will help Virginians experiencing financial instability as a result of this unprecedented health crisis by preventing evictions and foreclosures and keeping Virginia families safely in their homes as we battle this virus.”
 
The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will administer the $50 million program through a variety of partners, including nonprofit organizations and local governments, which will receive upfront funds that they will distribute on behalf of eligible households. Individuals and families receiving funding will also be connected to housing counseling and receive other technical assistance.
 
Eligible households must demonstrate an inability to make rent or mortgage payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Monthly rent or mortgage must be at or below 150 percent Fair Market Rent (FMR), and eligible households must have a gross household income at or below 80 percent of area median income (AMI).
 
“Safe, stable housing is essential for public health,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “As we continue to secure funding for rent and mortgage assistance, this $50 million investment will serve the most vulnerable Virginians while providing a roadmap for future relief.”
 
To ensure RMRP funding assists households most in need, the program will complete targeted outreach to communities of color across Virginia. Before the pandemic, analysis from RVA Eviction Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University found that minority communities had higher eviction rates, even after controlling for income, property value, and other characteristics. The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a disproportionate impact on people of color.
 
“DHCD delivers programs through our partners that are closest to the Commonwealth’s communities, and our team is deeply appreciative of the local and regional network that has rapidly developed this program to assist in meeting this critical housing and health need,” said DHCD Director Erik Johnston. “We urge all tenant advocates, landlords, lenders, philanthropy, local governments and faith communities to partner with your local program providers to ensure that these funds stretch as far as possible to Virginians most in need of this assistance.”
 
The program will also give precedence to households without other federal and state eviction or foreclosure protections. From June 29 to July 20, priority will be given to households with current gross incomes equal to or below 50 percent of AMI. After July 20, households with current gross incomes at or below 80 percent of AMI will be also be included. In addition, households with an unlawful detainer action dated prior to June 8 will be given top consideration.
 
To identify the local RMRP administering organization for a household and to conduct a self-assessment for eligibility, visit dhcd.virginia.gov/eligibility or call 211 VIRGINIA by dialing 2-1-1 from your phone. Tenants and homeowners are encouraged to know their rights and responsibilities and pay their rent and mortgages on time if they are able. Visit StayHomeVirginia.com for additional information and resources.
 

Governor Northam Prohibits Congregating in Bars, Stresses Caution As Virginia Moves to Phase Three

With cases rising in other states, Virginia will maintain current restrictions on bar seating, congregating

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that bar seating will remain prohibited in restaurants as the Commonwealth moves into Phase Three at midnight tonight. While key health indicators in Virginia are improving, the Governor made clear that he is taking a cautious approach and is prepared to implement tighter restrictions if needed.

To reduce the likelihood of patrons gathering in bar areas without observing social distancing guidelines, bar seating and congregating areas of restaurants will remain closed except for those passing through. Restaurants may use non-bar seating in the bar area, as long as a minimum of six feet between tables is provided.

“I am watching what is happening in other states—we are taking a cautious approach as we enter Phase Three and maintaining the current restrictions on bar areas,” said Governor Northam. “In Virginia, our hospitalization rates have fallen, our percentage of positive tests continues to trend downward, and we are conducting more than 10,000 tests each day. We want these trends to continue, but if our public health metrics begin moving in the wrong direction, I will not hesitate to take action to protect the health and safety of our communities.”

Virginia is currently averaging more than 10,400 tests per day—exceeding Governor Northam’s goal—and hospitals continue to report ample supplies of personal protective equipment. The percentage of positive tests has dropped to six percent from a high of 20 percent in mid-April. The number of Virginians hospitalized with a positive or pending COVID-19 test has declined significantly over the past several weeks, and more than 1,200 contact tracers are presently working throughout the Commonwealth.

Despite these positive trends, Governor Northam is monitoring increases in several states, and taking proactive steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Virginia. Governor Northam also continues to remind Virginians that they are safer at home, especially if they are high-risk or vulnerable. All Virginians must continue to comply with the statewide face covering requirement in indoor public spaces, and Virginians are strongly encouraged to:

  • continue teleworking if possible
  • wash hands regularly
  • maintain six feet of physical distance when outside of home
  • get tested immediately if you have COVID-19 symptoms

     

Executive Order Sixty-Seven and Order of Public Health Emergency Seven is available here. Read the order in Spanish here.

Sector-specific guidelines for Phase Three can be found here. View this document in Spanish here.

Visit virginia.gov/coronavirus/forwardvirginia for more information and answers to frequently asked questions.

Governor Northam Announces 20 New State Historical Highway Markers Highlighting Black History

Markers include student winners from Governor’s Black History Month Historical Marker Contest

RICHMOND––In recognition of Juneteenth, Governor Ralph Northam today announced 20 newly approved state historical highway markers that address topics of national, state, and regional significance in Virginia’s African American history. The Virginia Board of Historic Resources approved the markers at its public quarterly meeting on June 18. Five of the 20 new markers were suggested by students across the Commonwealth in the Governor’s inaugural Black History Month Historical Marker Contest.

“The Commonwealth’s storied past is complicated and painful, but it is important to step up and tell a more inclusive story.” said Governor Northam. “As we elevate Juneteenth, celebrating and acknowledging the contributions of our Black communities and history is a critical and imperative step forward––especially through historical markers that are highly visible across Virginia.”

On Tuesday, Governor Northam announced Juneteenth as a paid state holiday and proclaimed the day in observance across the Commonwealth.

“We have overlooked or dismissed the important contributions of Black Virginians for far too long when telling Virginia’s history,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “That’s why Governor Northam proclaimed Juneteenth a state holiday, and why the Department of Historic Resources remains committed to the preserving and proclaiming Black history. These markers are important and highly visible symbols of our efforts to ensure historic justice and address inequities across the Commonwealth.”

The forthcoming markers highlight people, places, or events tied to African American civil rights, education, health, or Civil War and Reconstruction-era history.

“The purpose of the highway marker program is to educate the public by presenting an objective and truthful version of history,” said Director of the Department of Historic Resources Julie Langan. “It is past time for Virginians to more fully understand and appreciate the experiences and many contributions of African Americans who shaped the Virginia of today. Yesterday’s actions by the Board of Historic Resources couldn’t be more timely or fitting.”

The markers about matters of national consequence include:

  • “Stingray Point Contraband” (Middlesex County) tells of six enslaved men who fled potential impressment into the Confederate army during the Civil War.
  • “Barbara Rose Johns (1935-1991)” (Prince Edward County) notes that at age 16, Johns led a student walkout to protest conditions at Farmville’s segregated and “vastly inferior” Robert Russa Moton High School. The resulting NAACP lawsuit seeking to end segregation, Davis v. Prince Edward, was the only student-initiated case consolidated into U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education (1954), in which the court ruled public school segregation unconstitutional.
  • “Calvin Coolidge Green (1931-2011)” highlights Green’s leadership in integrating New Kent County. His efforts resulted in the 1968 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Green v. New Kent Co., which determined that localities must swiftly integrate public schools and hastened school desegregation nationwide.
  • “Wyatt Tee Walker (1928-2018)” recalls that this Petersburg pastor served as chief of staff for several years to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The first full-time director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Walker helped organize major civil rights protests including the Birmingham (Alabama) Movement and the March on Washington.

The Barbara Johns and Wyatt Tee Walker markers resulted from the Black History Month Historical Marker Contest that Governor Northam announced in February. The contest encouraged schools to feature a different African American historical marker each day of February, provided teachers with resources to guide history discussions, promoted Black History Month events around the Commonwealth, and initiated a competition for students to submit ideas for new historical markers to the Virginia Department of Historical Resources. Over 285 students submitted ideas, including more than 60 students who suggested a marker be erected for Barbara Johns.

"As the leaders of tomorrow, it is critically important for students to develop a deeper understanding of Black history in the Commonwealth over the past 400 years," said Secretary of Education, Atif Qarni. "The Black History Month Historical Marker Contest gave students and educators alike an opportunity to research local heroes, and celebrate the incredible contributions Black and brown individuals have made to Virginia history. I am so proud of the educators and students who are helping us tell a more complete Virginia story through their participation in this contest."

Three other markers submitted by students were approved:

  • “Camilla Ella Williams (1919-2012)” spotlights this Danville native, an operatic soprano, who became the first African American woman to secure a contract with a major opera company in the United States. An international touring soloist, she performed in Danville to raise funds for civil rights demonstrators, and sang the national anthem at the March on Washington before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
  • “Ona Judge (ca. 1773-1848)” (Fairfax County) recalls this woman born into slavery at Mount Vernon. After George Washington became president, Judge escaped during one of Washington’s many extended residences in Philadelphia to perform his presidential duties. She successfully resisted Washington’s attempts to recover her and ultimately married and raised a family in New Hampshire.
  • “Sergeant William H. Carney (1840-1908)” born into slavery in Norfolk, later gained his freedom and settled in Massachusetts around 1856. In 1863, he enlisted in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment and fought at Fort Wagner near Charleston, South Carolina. In May 1900, he received the Medal of Honor for his actions while experiencing heavy fire and serious wounds during the battle, which the 54th led.

In addition to the Johns and Green markers, three others center on advances in education for African Americans, focusing on specific schools. The “Campbell County Training School” and “Prospect School” (Scott County) were built with plans and funds provided by the Julius Rosenwald Fund, one of the most successful programs to support universal schooling for Black students during the Jim Crow era. Long before the Rosenwald initiative, one of the first African American schools in Shenandoah County opened in Strasburg by 1875. After a fire destroyed the school in 1929, the county built a new one, “Sunset Hill School.”

Two markers relay stories about African Americans in the pre-Civil War era. “The African Preacher (ca. 1746-1843)” recalls the African-born John Stewart, who ended up enslaved in Nottoway County. After becoming a licensed Baptist preacher, known for his “wisdom and oratory” and community leadership, Stewart so impressed his white neighbors that they contributed to purchasing his freedom. “Spy Hill African American Cemetery” discusses a burial ground in King George County that emerged by the mid-1800s with the graves of enslaved plantation laborers.

Post-Civil War, Reconstruction history grounds five markers. Two of those signs—“Little Zion Baptist Church” (Orange County) and “Westwood Baptist Church” (City of Richmond)—speak to the statewide trend during Reconstruction of African Americans exercising newfound autonomy to establish churches separate from white congregations. 

Three markers recount places that arose during Reconstruction. One sign for the City of Richmond, “Central Lunatic Asylum,” and one for Dinwiddie County, “Central State Hospital Cemetery,” discuss the origins and burial ground of Central State Hospital, the nation’s first stand-alone mental hospital for Black patients. The settlement of emancipated African Americans in the northern Shenandoah Valley’s Clarke County is the subject of “Bristow,” a community that originated in 1869, one of about 20 county villages emancipated people established or settled in.   

The only documented lynching of a black woman in Virginia, where more than 100 lynchings were recorded between 1877 and 1950, is relayed in the marker “Charlotte Harris Lynched, 6 March 1878” (Harrisonburg).

Twentieth-century history is the domain of two markers. “Burrell Memorial Hospital” tells about the founding in 1915 of the Roanoke area’s first hospital for Black patients. “John Chilembwe (ca. 1871-1915)” is about the leader of the first major African uprising against colonial authorities in present-day Malawi. A British Official Commission later asserted that a main cause of the revolt resulted from Chilembwe’s education in the United States, at Lynchburg’s Virginia Seminary.

The full text of the markers is available here.

“This is another win for the Commonwealth,” said Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer Dr. Janice Underwood. “To move Virginia forward, it is vital that we prioritize telling a more complete narrative of our story. The extraordinary individuals represented in these markers are Black lives that mattered. In real time, we are building a road map for the country as millions across the nation reflect about Black oppression and the systemic reforms necessary for healing, reconciliation, and racial equity.”

Virginia’s historical highway marker program, which began in 1927 with installation of the first markers along U.S. 1, is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,600 official state markers, most of which are maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), except in those localities outside of VDOT’s authority.

More information about theo Department of Historic Resources' Historical Highway Marker Program is available here.

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