Governor

Governor Northam Announces Virginia’s Unemployment Rate Falls to 3.8 Percent in September

Unemployment rate has dropped every single month for 16 straight months

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced today that Virginia’s unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent in September, 2.8 percentage points below the rate from one year ago. Virginia unemployment continues to stay below the national rate of 4.8 percent.

In September, the private sector recorded an over-the-year gain of 69,300 jobs and the public sector gained 3,700 jobs, totaling 73,000 new jobs.

“September marks the sixteenth consecutive month Virginia’s unemployment rate has dropped,” said Governor Northam. “People are working, businesses are hiring, and that’s all good news. This consistent progress shows the strength of Virginia’s economy, and we need to keep this momentum going.”

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 2,700 jobs over-the-month. The number of unemployed residents decreased by 8,606 to 159,786. The number of employed residents rose by 4,747 to 4,084,410. In September 2021, Virginia saw over-the-year job gains of 1.8 percent.

“Even with an unemployment rate well below the national average, our administration remains committed to helping those Virginians who are still searching for work,” said Secretary of Labor Megan Healy. “We will continue to work with our workforce development partners to ensure that all Virginians have access to the resources and skills they will need to find a high-quality career in this new job market.”

“Since this time last year, employment in Virginia has increased by more than 70,000 jobs and the unemployment rate has dropped by 2.8 percentage points,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “These numbers are just a few of the latest encouraging signs for the Commonwealth’s economy in a post-pandemic world, and we are optimistic that job growth will continue in the months ahead.”

Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, nine of eleven major industry divisions experienced employment gains. The largest over-the-year job gain occurred in professional and business services, up 23,800 jobs or 3.1 percent. The next largest over-the-year job gain occurred in leisure and hospitality, up 19,300 jobs or 5.9 percent. Trade, transportation, and utilities experienced the third largest over-the-year job gain of 10,500 jobs or 1.6 percent.

For more details, visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website.

Governor Northam Announces More Than $4.4 Million to Revitalize Communities Across Virginia

Grants will support entrepreneurs and boost local economies

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that local business owners and community organizations will benefit from more than $4.4 million in grants for 33 investment projects across the Commonwealth.

These projects will create and support business development, economic recovery, and the redevelopment of industrial and commercial structures.

“This is about renovating old buildings, investing in neighborhoods, and launching new businesses,” said Governor Northam. “These projects will greatly benefit Virginia’s local economies and business owners.” 

The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development administers these important programs, as well as some American Rescue Plan funds.

The Industrial Revitalization Fund leverages local and private resources to redevelop deteriorated structures. This creates more long-term employment opportunities and supports infrastructure and economic revitalization.

Community Business Launch grants help prepare businesses for success. Entrepreneurs can receive training and help with developing business plans.

The Virginia Statewide Business District Resurgence Grant supports historically economically disadvantaged communities and business districts that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

“This funding will expand job growth, nurture entrepreneurial ecosystems, and provide support to communities most affected by the pandemic,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Supporting this funding means supporting the Commonwealth’s small businesses and an economic future that works for all Virginians.” 

2022 Industrial Revitalization Fund Awardees:

VUMAC Adaptive Reuse: Boutique Hotel | $600,000

Town of Blackstone

Blackstone Hotel Partners is rehabilitating a former women’s college into a boutique hotel with 109 rooms, a restaurant, microbrewery, gift shop, and movie theater. The funding will support public improvements, including water and sewer lines, stormwater solutions, sidewalks and curbs, electrical service, and a backup generator for the property. The project is expected to create 25 full-time equivalent positions, 35 jobs in total. 

Hotel Petersburg | $600,000

City of Petersburg

The city of Petersburg will renovate a 65-room hotel that was originally built in 1915. The owner, Tabb Street Development, will operate the facility in conjunction with Retro Hospitality, who has experience with boutique hotels in the region. The project is expected to create 60 full-time and 40 part-time jobs.

Carver Food Incubator and Community Kitchen | $470,000

Culpeper County

The former George Washington Carver Regional High School, located on Route 15 in Culpeper, was constructed in 1948 and served as the regional high school for African American students. Culpeper County is renovating the property to become a cultural, agricultural, and vocational business incubator with educational and research facilities. The funding will support the construction of a commercial kitchen, which will be used as a food business incubator, providing food truck services, a point source for locally grown products, and a community education kitchen. The George Washington Carver Food Enterprises Center will manage the kitchen. The project is expected to create 28-38 full-time positions.

2510 Jefferson Avenue | $250,000

City of Newport News

The city of Newport News will renovate a 1930-building into retail and office space. The Newport News Economic Development Authority acquired this property in June 2020. Since the acquisition, the city has created the Critical Community Improvements Plan, which outlines the plan for the 2510 Jefferson Avenue building. The project is expected to create and/or support 11 full-time positions.

2022 Community Business Launch Awardees:

RDA Dream Launch Entrepreneurship Program | $90,000

City of Danville

The Downtown Danville Association will organize a nine-week business training series, followed by a business plan pitch competition, focused on North Union/Spring Street, a historically Black commercial district adjacent to downtown Danville. Downtown Danville Association and its many partner organizations will focus on business types that serve the North Union neighborhood and will engage in outreach to identify potential entrepreneurs fitting with both the history and future of the area. At completion, the project will train more than 85 entrepreneurs, create or expand three businesses, and create at least five jobs.

Uptown Partnership Community Business Launch | $90,000

City of Martinsville

Uptown Partnership, in partnership with the Advancement Foundation, will host a 12-week business workshop series, followed by a business plan pitch competition, focused on Uptown Martinsville. Uptown Partnership recently completed a retail market analysis in 2021 and will use that information to guide its entrepreneurial outreach strategies, with a specific emphasis on small-scale manufacturing businesses and retail catering to the needs of uptown residents. At completion, the project will create or expand three businesses and create at least five jobs. 

Town of Bedford Business Launch | $65,000

Town of Bedford

The town of Bedford, in partnership with the Advancement Foundation, will host a 12-week series of business planning workshops culminating in a two-week pitch competition, focusing on entrepreneurs seeking to open in Centertown Bedford. Bedford aims to diversify its retail business mix with a focus on small-scale manufacturing businesses that offer retail shoppers the experience of watching products being made. At completion, Bedford will create or expand three businesses and create at least five jobs.

Bristol Community Business Launch | $60,000

City of Bristol

Believe in Bristol will host a six-week business training series followed by a business plan pitch competition, focused on downtown Bristol. Believe in Bristol recently embarked on an assessment of small-scale manufacturers and would like to emphasize the addition of these types of retails to downtown. At completion, Believe in Bristol will create or expand three businesses and create at least five jobs.

Wood Avenue Revitalization | $45,000

Town of Big Stone Gap

The town of Big Stone Gap will host a six-week business training series followed by a business plan pitch competition, focused on Wood Avenue in the historic downtown area of Big Stone Gap. Big Stone Gap will focus on specialty retail and restaurants to fill a critical mass of vacant properties in order to turn around a highly visible area of the community. At completion, the project will create or expand three businesses and create at least five jobs.

Homegrown for Hopewell | $45,000

City of Hopewell

Hopewell Downtown Partnership, in partnership with Virginia State University, will host a six-week business workshop series, followed by a business plan pitch competition focused on downtown Hopewell. Hopewell Downtown Partnership will focus on businesses that will fill gaps in available services for residents and visitors to Hopewell, such as specialty grocery, outdoor recreation outfitters, and/or a small conference center/hotel. At completion, the project will create or expand three businesses and create at least five jobs.

Scottsville Community Business Launch | $40,000

Town of Scottsville

The town of Scottsville, in partnership with the Community Investment Collaborative, will host an eight-week business workshop series followed by a business plan pitch competition, focused on downtown Scottsville. The town of Scottsville recently completed an assessment of its retail and housing market, identifying several retail business categories with opportunity for growth, such as restaurants, general merchandise, grocery, and specialty retail. At completion, the project will create or expand three businesses and create at least five jobs.

2022 Virginia Statewide Business District Resurgence Grant Awardees

“Made in Bristol:” Small-Scale Manufacturing for State Street | $150,000

City of Bristol

Building on its small-scale manufacturing strategic plan, the city of Bristol will initiate a Made in Bristol membership program open to any and all small-scale producers in the Bristol area. Members will have access to training, technical assistance and capacity-building grants specific to the needs of small producers. SWaM businesses will be particularly encouraged to participate. This project seeks to promote stability and growth among existing businesses, providing direct assistance to at least 20 businesses.

North Main Hill Neighborhood Business District Revitalization Program | $150,000

Downtown Danville Association | City of Danville

The Downtown Danville Association will partner with the Danville Regional Foundation and the city of Danville Office of Economic Development to pilot a new neighborhood commercial district revitalization program in historically BIPOC neighborhoods adjacent to downtown, such as North Main Hill. The organization aims to develop an action plan to provide services to an expanded footprint including but not limited to business assistance, marketing, façade improvement programs, and place making rooted in economic inclusion. Upon completion, this will increase access to capital, loans, and grants, increase business training and start-ups, execute at least one resident-driven project, and lay the groundwork for infrastructure improvements such as WiFi hotspots.

Black Entrepreneurial Advancement and Community Opportunity Network (BEACON) Incubator Project | $150,000

New Hill Development Corporation | City of Charlottesville

New Hill Development Corporation, in partnerships with the city of Charlottesville, Community Investment Collaborative, Operation Hope, and the Virginia Department of Health, will develop a business accelerator, commercial kitchen, and co-working space for Black food and beverage entrepreneurs in and around the Starr Hill community of Charlottesville. New Hill CDC  plans to conduct entrepreneur identification and outreach, rent a commercial kitchen, provide culinary business training, conduct a pop-up restaurant event and organize a competitive startup grant program. Upon completion, New Hill CDC  will assist at least 24 businesses, create 10 new businesses, create at least 12 jobs, and build organizational capacity for growing the project even further.

Chamberbrook Arts and Business District Master Plan Activation | $150,000

Real Chances Inc. | City of Richmond

Real Chances Inc., in partnership with the Storefront for Community Design and the FORM Coalition, will conduct master planning and early stage implementation for the Chamberbrook Arts and Business District at the northern gateway into the city of Richmond. Real Chances Inc. will work with design and planning consultants to develop a master plan and architectural pattern book for Chamberbrook, organize pop-up retail and place making projects, offer business start-up training/coaching, and administer business start-up grants. Upon completion, Real Chances will complete a master plan, develop an e-commerce platform, assist five businesses, and improve six commercial buildings in the Chamberbrook district.

Entrepreneurial Support Hub for Businesses on Williamson Road Corridor | $150,000

Williamson Road Area Business Association | City and County of Roanoke and County of Salem

Williamson Road Area Business Association (WRABA) will develop a new shared workspace/incubator adjacent to WRABA’s existing space to serve a multi-lingual, multinational population of highly-motivated entrepreneurs hoping to open businesses along the Williamson Road corridor. WRABA plans to complete its facility buildout, execute start-up business training, and install public artworks that communicate the purpose of the hub.

Waynesboro Renaissance | $116,000

Waynesboro Economic Development | City of Waynesboro

Building on the city’s strategy to support small business recovery downtown and create a path to a Waynesboro renaissance, funding will be used for façade improvement grants, business training and technical assistance, marketing/promotions, and a downtown housing study. This project will assist businesses in historically economically disadvantaged communities, drive traffic to existing businesses in their historic main street, and prepare the area for new investment.

757 Makerspace - Peninsula Expansion | $100,000

Economic Development Authority of the City of Hampton | City of Hampton

A spin-off of the successful 757 Makerspace in Norfolk, this project creates access to the same resources North of the James and expands access to these resources closer to innovators affiliated with NASA, Langley AFB, Newport News Shipbuilding, VIMS, Hampton University, William & Mary, and all of their suppliers. This project will be executed in partnership with Hampton Public Schools’ vocational/technical programs, including BIPOC students and their families. Through the StartWheel online platform, they will promote entrepreneurial activities and early-stage startup businesses in the area.

B-Cubed Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Expansion | $100,000

City of Harrisonburg and County of Rockingham

The city of Harrisonburg, as part of a multi-partner effort called B-Cubed (Black- and Brown-owned Business) Growth Program, will support next stage growth and adaptation of its Bricks and Clicks business retention program to focus on the needs of underserved entrepreneurs who will benefit from more coaching, larger grants to overcome undercapitalization, and less instruction in institutional settings. The B-Cubed Growth Program will assist 30 businesses and provide 30 grants.

Expansion of Bloom Co-Working Space and Incubator | $100,000

Partnership Development Foundation | City of Portsmouth

The Partnership Development Foundation will support the expansion of the Bloom coworking and incubator space in Portsmouth, which will provide local startups and micro-companies targeted resources and educational programming to grow into successful businesses. Bloom is currently providing subsidized space and services for small-business owners to help them recover and pivot as necessary. This space will target Portsmouth small businesses and veterans, minorities, persons with a disability, and women. This incubation and co-working space seeks to increase the availability of co-working space, increase the revenue of associated businesses and individuals, and increase job creation.

Filling Street Level Vacancies in Arts and Culture District | $100,000

Venture Richmond | City of Richmond

Venture Richmond will identify and fill vacant or underutilized retail storefronts along the Broad Street section of Richmond’s Arts and Culture District damaged during the social uprisings of the summer of 2020 and recruit existing small, women, and minority (SWaM) and immigrant-owned businesses to fill vacancies in the district. Building and business owners will be eligible for façade improvement grants from the city of Richmond. New start-ups will be eligible for business training and mentoring through the Metropolitan Business League and grants for specific reimbursable expenses. 

We Care Recovery and Small Business Resiliency | $100,000

Metropolitan Business League | City of Richmond and County of Henrico

The Metropolitan Business League (MBL) will expand the capacity of its existing “We Care” recovery and resiliency project in order to provide relief funds for small businesses impacted by COVID-19 and social justice demonstrations. Through this program, MBL provides direct grants, financial counseling, technical assistance, and corporate training to businesses in the Richmond metropolitan region, directly serving Black and Brown business owners in low- to moderate-income areas.

Childcare Business Support in the Historic Triangle | $100,000

Inner Peace Coalition Inc. | City of Williamsburg and County of James City

Inner Peace Coalition Inc., in partnership with James City County Department of Social Services, will provide business support services to small, woman-, minority- and immigrant-owned businesses in the Historic Triangle area, with an emphasis on businesses providing child care services. Inner Peace Coalition Inc. plans to conduct outreach, training and ongoing mentorship to new and existing business owners. The organization will train at least 150 entrepreneurs and create at least two new businesses.

Small Scale Developer Education and Activation | $95,000

Hopewell Downtown Partnership | City of Hopewell

Hopewell Downtown Partnership (HDP) will train a cohort of small, woman, and minority developers to tackle projects in Hopewell, update Hopewell’s retail market analysis, and create a new business investment guide. Hopewell Downtown Partnership plans to organize a series of small-scale real estate development trainings, including advanced training and coaching for owners with active projects that are ready to begin right away. Hopewell Downtown Partnership will train 120 small-scale developers, including at least 30 of whom will be small, woman, and minority developers benefiting from scholarships.

Lawrenceville Merchants Assistance Program | $88,000

IDA of Brunswick | County of Brunswick

The IDA of Brunswick will provide SWaM retail merchants with technical assistance and mentoring, joint marketing opportunities and the development of a shared e-commerce platform for Brunswick County merchants and makers, with an emphasis on Lawrenceville. This project will leverage existing entrepreneurial initiatives to provide additional impact.

Southeast Commercial District Business Assistance | $86,000

Newport News Economic Development Authority | City of Newport News

The Newport News Economic Development Authority (NNEDA) will support existing small business growth and entrepreneurship in the southeast commercial district, a historically underserved and disadvantaged area of Newport News. In partnership with the Women's Empowerment Development, NNEDA plans to offer hands-on technical and financial assistance to small businesses in the community as well as distributed commercial locations within the broader Southeast Community.

Strategic Plan for Inclusion of Fifth Street Corridor in Downtown Lynchburg Association Service Area | $64,000

Downtown Lynchburg Association | City of Lynchburg

Downtown Lynchburg Association (DLA) will conduct a strategic action plan to expand DLA’s service district to include Fifth Street, a historically Black commercial district. Downtown Lynchburg Association plans to follow up its strategic planning with place making projects such as murals, interpretive signs, and beautification along with enhanced supportive services for Fifth Street businesses and property owners.

Southeast Community Commercial District Strategic Action Plan | $50,000

City of Newport News

Womens Empowerment Development Inc., (WED), in partnership with the city of Newport News Economic Development Authority (NNEDA), will develop a strategic action plan for the Southeast Community in the historic Jefferson Avenue and Chestnut Avenue commercial districts. WED will conduct an assessment of potential gaps and opportunities to support the business ecosystem and to provide an inclusive framework for community-driven, comprehensive revitalization and vitality, entrepreneurship readiness, and start-up SWaM business support services.

B-Force Accelerator | $50,000

Black Brand | City of Portsmouth

Black Brand will expand capacity of the existing microenterprise assistance, B-Force Accelerator program. This expansion will provide technical assistance and training workshops to early stage minority business owners to increase their ability to access capital, scale up, increase revenue, decrease expenses, and develop a professional network.

Gainsboro Neighborhood Business Assistance Program | $50,000

City of Roanoke

The city of Roanoke will complete a needs assessment for merchants in the Gainesboro commercial district. The results of the assessment will inform program design for grant and technical assistance in the historically underserved neighborhood commercial district adjacent to downtown Roanoke. 

Welcome Back to Business | $50,000

South Hill Chamber of Commerce | Town of South Hill

The South Hill Chamber of Commerce will develop a public space for outdoor dining and events, façade improvement program, business technical assistance and training, and the development of a marketing campaign to draw customers to the central business district. This program seeks to expand the availability of business support services to historically disadvantaged business owners in the community. The South Hill Chamber of Commerce will serve 30 businesses, improve 10 downtown businesses, and provide assistance to ten historically disadvantaged businesses through this initiative.

Commercial Real Estate Rehabilitation Incentive Enhancements | $50,000

Town of South Hill

The town of South Hill seeks to further capitalize existing façade improvement funds for building owners and offer reimbursable grants for business interior buildout projects. This project will directly support 10 building improvement projects and will include outreach and engagement to ensure the inclusion of traditionally underserved business owners in these initiatives while leveraging existing business incentives to create a more resilient business district.

Start Smart Education for Early Stage Low and Moderator Income Entrepreneurs | $10,000

BizWorks | County of Chesterfield

BizWorks Enterprise Center will organize and host a series of small-scale business startup classes and mentoring focused on low- and moderate-income residents of the Route 1 corridor of Chesterfield County. BizWorks Enterprise Center plans to conduct extensive outreach to nearby residents. Biz Works will offer business training and mentoring and host a business plan competition. BizWorks Enterprise Center will train 30 students, retain and strengthen 10 businesses, create at least five jobs, and generate $50,000 in loans.

Governor Northam Announces Efficiency Efforts Have Saved Virginians $1 Billion in Energy Costs

Virginia is the second state to achieve this milestone

RICHMOND—Governor Northam today announced Virginia has reached more than $1 billion in energy savings through the Virginia Department of Energy’s Energy Savings Performance Contracting Program. More than 30 states have similar programs, and Virginia is only the second state to accomplish this milestone.

“Achieving this impressive level of energy savings shows that Virginia is ready and poised to be a national leader on clean energy,” said Governor Northam. “Energy efficiency is one of the most cost-effective ways to meet energy needs. These savings are a huge win for sustainability and reaching our ambitious clean energy goals.”

Virginia Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Performance Contracting Support program was created in 2001. Through the program, state agencies, higher education facilities, and other public bodies enter into a contract with an energy services company to significantly reduce energy costs through one or more conservation or operational measures. The cost of the project must equal the projected savings. The program has helped save $1,011,581,170 in energy costs since it was created.

“Working closely with state agencies, local governments, utilities, and the private sector, Virginia Energy has administered this important program, helping Virginia establish itself as a national leader in the expansion of energy efficiency,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “These efforts and others are part of Virginia’s commitment to clean energy, and I commend Virginia Energy and those that worked with the agency for meeting this outstanding goal.”

“This significant milestone shows what we can accomplish when our public bodies work together with our vendor community to achieve common goals,” said Secretary of Administration Grindly Johnson. “Through innovative contracting, strategic management and collaboration, we’re able to once again show why Virginia is a leader in business and energy efficiency.” 

Since 2001, Virginia Energy has completed 271 energy efficiency projects: 166 for public bodies, 50 for state agencies, and 55 for higher education systems. The average project value was $3.7 million. Annually, Virginia Energy completes projects totaling an average of $50.5 million. To learn more about the program, click here.

“The General Assembly and Virginia Energy saw the rewards of energy efficiency improvements early—creating an avenue to facilitate those improvements through our agency in 2001,” said Virginia Energy Director John Warren. “Our team has spent many hours visiting localities throughout the Commonwealth to ensure successful projects, and the results speak for themselves. We are excited to see what the results of the next 20-years of work will be as more public bodies realize the benefits of the program.”

This announcement comes on Energy Efficiency Day, designated annually on October 6 and celebrated by a nationwide network of energy efficiency groups and businesses. More than 80,000 Virginians work in the energy efficiency sector in high-skilled, good-paying, clean energy jobs that cannot be outsourced.

Governor Northam Celebrates New Virginia Department of Energy

New name for team leading Commonwealth’s transition to clean economy

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced on October 1st that the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy is now the Virginia Department of Energy (Virginia Energy). The name change was passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Northam in April 2021. It became official today, October 1st, 2021.

“Virginia is all-in on clean energy,” said Governor Northam. “We've passed one of the most sweeping clean energy laws in the country, and we are transitioning our electric grid to 100 percent clean energy. These are exciting changes, and they mean new jobs, new investment, cleaner air, and a stronger economy.”

The agency's name change and reorganization follows the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act. The 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 2050. 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 legislation also changed the former Division of Energy to Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency and the former Division of Mined Land Reclamation to Mined Land Repurposing.

“The Virginia Department of Energy has a long history of working with partners across the energy sector and across government at all levels in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Collaboration between the agency and these partners will be critical to meeting the climate goals that are so important to all of us. This change reflects the agency’s mission to support clean energy programs and energy infrastructure development.”

The Virginia Department of Energy was reorganized to increase the agency’s focus on clean energy in January 2021. Resources were shifted toward development opportunities associated with the repurposing of previously mined sites. Projects include those in the solar energy, agriculture, recreational, cultural, and industrial sectors.

“This agency will continue to provide a high level of service to our traditional customer base, while enhancing the communities we serve,” said Virginia Energy Director John Warren. “The well-timed clean energy movement has allowed us to respond and realign our staff, enabling us to work on new initiatives while keeping our continued customer service.”

The agency’s new website went live today at energy.virginia.gov. Staff emails will also reflect the change, as their domain names will now be “@energy.virginia.gov.”

Virginia Energy was created in 1985 as the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. At that time, the agency mostly served the mining industries, ensuring the safety of coal, mineral, gas, and oil workers and environmental compliance at each site. It also housed the state’s energy office, which has expanded significantly after the passing of the Virginia Clean Economy Act in 2020.

Virginia Energy has nearly 200 employees across the Commonwealth, with offices in Big Stone Gap, Charlottesville, and Richmond. The agency serves as the U.S. Department of Energy’s Virginia State Energy Office and manages state-based clean energy policy and deployment initiatives. Virginia Energy serves as the regulatory agency for coal and mineral mining, as well as natural gas production. Federal grants are administered by Virginia Energy staff to reclaim historic mines through the Abandoned Mine Land program. It also houses Virginia’s Geology and Mineral Resources program.

Clean energy means jobs, a strong economy, and a future for our children.

Governor’s High School Voter Registration Challenge Starts Today

Schools across Virginia set goal to register 65 percent of eligible voters

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced the start of Virginia’s sixth annual Governor’s High School Voter Registration Challenge.

“Our democracy depends on voting, and it should be as easy as possible,” said Governor Northam. “Our landmark 2021 Voting Rights Act of Virginia makes voting easier and more accessible. This challenge helps ensure young people have the resources they need to become active and civic-minded citizens for life.”

The Governor’s High School Voter Registration Challenge encourages schools to register as many of their voting-age population as possible. High schools that register at least 65 percent of their eligible senior class will receive a congratulatory certificate from the Governor. The annual competition, created in 2016, is the result of a collaboration between the Office of the Governor, the Secretaries of Administration and Education, the Virginia Department of Elections, and the League of Women Voters of Virginia.

The Governor’s Challenge helps high schools comply with a 2020 law that requires Virginia public high schools to facilitate voter registration during the school day. Students born on or before November 2, 2003 can register to vote in this year’s November 2nd general election.

“We are always excited to be a part of this event,” said Secretary of Administration Grindly Johnson. “This contest is a great way to introduce the next generation of Virginia voters to the electoral process. We hope that it continues to encourage students to be enthusiastic about making their voices heard and contributing to our democracy.”

There are many ways to register to vote. Volunteers or local election officials will provide voter registration opportunities for students in public and private high schools. Virginians are automatically registered when they access services at a Department of Motor Vehicles office or on the DMV website. Additionally, Virginians can register to vote by submitting paper applications to their local general registrar by mail, in person, or by completing the online form on the Department of Elections’ website.

“We remain committed to assisting high schools throughout the Commonwealth in meeting their obligations to register qualified students, whether in person or virtually,” said League of Women Voters of Virginia President Deb Wake. “We believe each qualified high school student who registers to vote is given a strong start to exercising and understanding their valuable rights as a citizen of Virginia. We encourage high schools to give students an opportunity to register before the October 12 deadline for the November 2nd general election.”

Resources to help schools educate and register students are available through the Department of Elections and the League of Women Voters of Virginia. Schools participating in the Governor’s Challenge can get credit for each student who registers to vote via the Department of Elections’ Citizen Portal by using their school’s unique URL that can be found on the League of Women Voters of Virginia website. For more information, contact Janet Boyd, Voter Services Director for the League of Women Voters of Virginia, at HSVRChallenge@lwv-va.org.

The Governor's Challenge will conclude in the last week of April 2022.

Virginia Launches Expanded Train Service from Downtown Richmond to Washington, D.C., on to New York and Boston

New Amtrak train is first step in statewide rail expansion program

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced the launch of expanded rail service from Richmond to the Northeast corridor. The Amtrak Northeast Regional Route 51 will now offer early morning service from Main Street Station, getting travelers from Downtown Richmond to Washington D.C. when the workday begins or to New York for a lunchtime meeting. The new train is the first expansion of service under Governor Northam's Transforming Rail in Virginia program to significantly expand rail infrastructure throughout the Commonwealth. 

Governor Northam celebrated the milestone this morning from the tracks at Main Street Station as the first train departed at 5:35am. 

“If you've ever been stuck on I-95, you know we can't pave our way out of congestion,” said Governor Northam. “This new train offers quick, reliable service from the Commonwealth's capital to Washington, D.C., connecting our two cities and making it easier for thousands of Virginians to get to work in the morning. Virginia is leading the nation in expanded access to high-performance rail—and I look forward to many more milestones ahead.” 

The newly expanded service has stops at a variety of destinations in the Northeast corridor. Travelers can choose from three daily departure times, two in the morning and one in the evening.

“Originating more trains from Main Street Station will connect our vibrant capital city to Washington D.C. and population centers along the East Coast,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine.  “This extension will bring trains closer to where people live and work, expanding access and economic opportunity.” 

The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority supports four Northeast Regional routes. Service originates in Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, and Roanoke. These routes allow passengers to travel to cities along the East Coast without needing to change trains.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, service to and from Richmond’s Staples Mill Station was suspended in March 2020,” said Virginia Passenger Rail Authority Executive Director DJ Stadtler. “Today’s resumption of this service, which includes the extension to Main Street Station, marks the return to pre-pandemic service levels in Virginia.”

Main Street Station is a National Historic Landmark located in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom district. It is served by Amtrak, GRTC, RVA Bike Share, and Megabus. The station’s Virginia Welcome Center is stocked with information about local and statewide tourist destinations.

Amtrak service was restored to the station in 2003. The train shed opened in 2018 as a 47,000 square foot event space. This station serves a variety of transportation needs. Most recently, a Pulse bus rapid transit service stop was added at the entrance.

“We are pleased to partner with Virginia to bring additional Amtrak service to the Main Street Station,” said State Supported Services at Amtrak Vice President Ray Lang. “As people feel comfortable traveling again, we are honored that our customers trust us on their journey as we are excited to welcome them onboard.”

“CSX is proud to partner in this Transforming Rail in Virginia initiative, which is enhancing passenger and freight rail service from the Commonwealth of Virginia into the District of Columbia,” said CSX Vice President Tammy Butler. “This is just the first step in creating safer, more efficient service while easing congestion in the region.”

Tickets are now available for purchase. Amtrak worked with a medical director and partnered with the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health to ensure proper health and safety protocols were implemented.

Transforming Rail in Virginia is a $3.7 billion program to expand and improve passenger, commuter, and freight rail in Virginia. It will connect the Northeast and Southeast corridors in America’s national rail network. In partnership with CSX, Amtrak, and VRE, Virginia is constructing a new Long Bridge over the Potomac dedicated to passenger and commuter rail. 386 miles of rail right-of-way and 223 miles of track were acquired, and more than $1 billion was invested for additional rail infrastructure.

Over the next ten years, these investments will result in nearly hourly Amtrak service between Richmond and Washington. Amtrak service will also be enhanced for Newport News and Norfolk. VRE services will increase by 75 percent along the I-95 Corridor and weekend service will be added.

Governor Northam Announces Major New Produce Packing Facility in Brunswick County

Partnership and facility to help former tobacco farmers seize fast-growing market for organic vegetables

RICHMOND—Governor Northam today announced Southern Virginia Vegetable Packing, LLC has partnered with Brunswick County Industrial Development Authority to construct a new, 45,000 square-foot, $4.2 million produce processing and packing facility.

Old Dominion Organic Farms, a member of Southern Virginia Vegetable Packing, will operate the facility. Over the next three years, 40 new jobs will be created and the facility is expected to process nearly $24 million Virginia-grown vegetables, approximately 80 percent of which will be certified organic. The new facility will support more than 22 farmers located in Amelia, Brunswick, Dinwiddie, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Prince George, and Surry Counties during its first season.

“As the Commonwealth’s largest and oldest industry, agriculture is an integral part of Virginia’s economic wellbeing—especially in rural areas,” said Governor Northam. “I commend the members of Southern Virginia Vegetable Packing and all of the public and private sector partners who have made this project a reality. They have set an example for how we can all work together to support Virginia agriculture and the communities that rely on this important industry.”

During Governor Northam's administration, the Commonwealth has brought in a record-breaking $48.2 billion in capital investment and created over 91,500 new jobs, including over $8.4 billion and 21,500 jobs in distressed communities.

Since 2001, the price and volume of tobacco sales in Virginia have decreased by nearly half, forcing many Southern Virginia farmers to find new markets or close down their operations. By contrast, the market for organic produce has boomed over that same period, with annual growth frequently exceeding 10 percent. Southern Virginia Vegetable Packing is taking advantage of this market opportunity by leveraging its existing land and labor assets, investing in organic certification, and partnering with farmers across the region to provide wholesalers with a stable and abundant supply of organic and conventional produce. 

Over the next five years, Southern Virginia Vegetable Packing expects to make more than $60 million in produce sales, with $42 million being returned directly to individual farmers. A non-profit has been created to assist prospective farmers with growing these crops and obtaining organic certification, so they too can participate in this market.  

“Embracing innovation and exploring new opportunities in agriculture is key to the growth and prosperity of rural communities,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “I am pleased that Brunswick County’s first Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development award is being used to partner with Southern Virginia Vegetable Packing to create new markets and support local farmers and producers with creative ways to maintain and grow their farming operations.”

“Access to a facility that provides efficient packing, cooling, and distribution of vegetables for local farmers will create access to markets previously unavailable to them,” said Jordan Brandon of Old Dominion Organic Farms. “This was the key component farmers were lacking to capitalize on the land, equipment, labor, and farming experience they already possess.”

The Brunswick County Industrial Development Authority and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services worked closely with Brunswick and the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission to secure the project for the Commonwealth. The architectural and engineering work needed to move the project forward was supported through a $35,000 Planning Grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund awarded in June to Brunswick and Lunenburg Counties. To assist the county in securing this project for Virginia, Governor Northam awarded Brunswick’s Industrial Development Authority a $400,000 Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Facility Grant, the county’s first-ever Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development award.  The project is also supported by a $500,000 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission.

“The Brunswick County Board of Supervisors is excited to see this project come to fruition as it capitalizes on our existing agricultural community, aligns with our Board Vision 2035 to create new business opportunities, and will result in more job creation for our citizens,” said Brunswick County Board of Supervisors Chair Dr. Barbara Jarratt Harris. “We look forward to a continued partnership with the Brunswick County Industrial Development Authority, the Brunswick County Agriculture Task Force, and other stakeholders to redefine our niche and help our agriculture industry thrive in new markets.”

“Three years ago, the Industrial Development Authority convened an Agricultural Task Force comprised of state and local leaders in agriculture, education, business, and economic development to leverage our farming heritage to create a new vision for development in the county,” said Industrial Development Authority of Brunswick Chair Gloria Meneweather-Woods. “This project is an outgrowth of that vision, and I sincerely thank the task force for their leadership. While there is still much to do, we know collaborative efforts like this offer us a pathway to continued success.”

“I am delighted that this project will draw on the farming expertise and experience of local folks in this effort to supply fresh, wholesome food to Virginians,” said Senator Frank Ruff.

“Supporting our local farmers and producers is every bit as important now as it has always been for our region,” said Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission member Delegate Roslyn C. Tyler. “This facility will enable local farms to reach new customers and pursue new wholesale opportunities that will increase profitability and help ensure that these farms remain operational for generations to come. This is a big win for agriculture in our region and I’m pleased the Commission chose to support this important project. I look forward to seeing construction get underway on this new facility as soon as possible.”

The Northam administration has funded an historic number of projects through the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development fund. As of today, 109 businesses have received Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development grants, investing nearly $10 million in businesses all over the Commonwealth, helping them create more than $1 billion in new investment, nearly 3,500 jobs, and over $1 billion in commitments to purchase Virginia-grown products.

Governor Northam Appoints Ann Jennings as Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources

Appointment announced ahead of Chesapeake Bay Executive Council set to meet October 1 in Virginia Beach

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today appointed Ann Jennings as the new Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources.

“Virginia’s water and air are cleaner today because we have made historic investments in Virginia's natural resources over the past four years,” said Governor Northam. “We have secured more funding for the Chesapeake Bay than any previous administration. We are all-in for clean energy, with the country's largest offshore wind development rising off the coast of Virginia Beach. We are breaking new ground in coastal resilience and environmental justice. Ann Jennings has been a leader in this work, and as Secretary, she will make sure Virginia continues this momentum.”

Jennings has served as the Deputy Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources with primary responsibility for the Chesapeake Bay. She also has served as the Virginia Director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tri-state legislative commission created to advise the General Assemblies of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia on matters of Bay-wide concern.

The appointment comes as the Chesapeake Executive Council prepares to meet in Virginia Beach next week. The Council includes the governors of the six watershed states, the mayor of the District of Columbia, the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, and the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The panel establishes the policy direction to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay.

Before joining state government, Jennings served as the Virginia Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Her career also includes work as a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Originally from Virginia Beach, Jennings received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Virginia Tech and a master’s degree in wildlife and fisheries sciences from Texas A&M University. She is a graduate of the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute and the Sorensen Institute’s Political Leaders Program.

Matt Strickler, the outgoing Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources, is pursuing new opportunities where he will continue his excellent work of protecting our nation’s resources. He began working with the Governor in 2008 as a legislative assistant in the office of then-state Senator Northam. Strickler had served on the cabinet since Governor Northam took office in 2018. 

“We will miss Secretary Strickler, and wish him well in his future endeavors,” said Governor Northam. “I want to thank Matt for all that he has done for the people of the Commonwealth while serving in this administration. His work to clean up Virginia’s air and water over the last four years has directly benefited the health, wellbeing, and lives of all who reside here.”

Governor Northam Announces New Grant Program Supporting Local Food and Farming Infrastructure

Local governments can apply for grants to support farmers markets and small-scale agricultural facilities October 1 through November 15

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced a new grant program designed to support equitable and sustainable local food systems for small-scale agricultural producers, farmers markets, and food hubs. It is a new component of the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund.

This Infrastructure Program competitively awards matching grants of up to $25,000 in partnership with local governments for community infrastructure development projects that support local food production and sustainable agriculture. Special reduced match requirements are available to projects in economically distressed localities, underserved communities, or for those benefiting multiple small-scale producers.

“Ensuring equitable access to healthy and affordable food for all Virginians has always been a priority of this administration,” said Governor Northam. “One of the best ways we can do this is by partnering with local governments to make strategic investments in our local food systems.  The local infrastructure created by this new program will enable Virginia’s small-scale farmers and food producers to thrive, grow local economies, and improve food access.”

“One of the greatest strengths of Virginia agriculture, the Commonwealth’s largest private sector industry, is its diversity,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “I am pleased that the new Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Infrastructure Program provides another economic development tool for localities. These resources make funding accessible to communities that need it most and benefit farmers and producers, as well as our local food systems.”

Delegate Sam Rasoul’s House Bill 2068 created this grant program during the 2021 General Assembly session. The legislation authorizes the Governor to award grants of up to $25,000 to political subdivisions.

The reimbursable grants are primarily for capital projects at new and existing food hubs, farmers markets, commercial kitchens and other value-added facilities such as those for the processing and packaging of meats, dairy products, produce, or other Virginia-grown products. Small farmers, food producers, local food systems advocates and others interested in building their community’s local food and farming infrastructure are encouraged to learn more about the program and work with their localities to identify and develop suitable projects.

Applications for this funding can be submitted October 1 through November 15. Final award announcements will be made no later than December 31 of this year.   

“The Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Infrastructure program, with its focus on supporting local food and farming, benefits both our communities and farmers,” said Delegate Rasoul. “The money spent with local farmers and growers stays close to home and is reinvested with the businesses and services in our communities.”

The new Infrastructure Program joins two other the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development funded programs, all of which are administered by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The Facility Grants Program is a Governor’s discretionary economic development incentive for new and expanding facilities that, in addition to creating new jobs and investment, add value to Virginia-grown products. The Planning Grants Program funds a wide range of activities that support agriculture and forestry-based industries more broadly and is designed to empower localities to develop creative solutions tailored to their unique needs.

Additional information about the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Infrastructure program is available here. Questions about the program and upcoming application workshops should be directed to Jennifer.Perkins@vdacs.virginia.gov.

Governor Northam Announces Virginia’s Unemployment Rate Drops for 15 Straight Months, to 4.0 Percent in August

 

Virginia outpaces the nation in economic recovery

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 4.0 percent in August, 3.0 percentage points below the rate from one year ago.

The labor force increased by 5,550 to 4,247,321, as the number of unemployed residents decreased by 7,678 to 168,515. The number of employed residents rose by 13,228 to 4,078,806. In August 2021, Virginia saw over-the-year job gains of 2.2 percent. Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continues to be below the national rate of 5.2 percent.

“Virginia’s economic recovery continues to outpace the nation," said Governor Northam. “Our unemployment rate remains well below the national average and has fallen consistently every month for the past fifteen months. More people are working and businesses are continuing to flock to our Commonwealth—even with the ongoing threat of COVID-19. I'm proud of our roaring economic growth, and I look forward to seeing these trends continue."

“This month’s declining unemployment rate is made possible through the hard work and determination of Virginia’s workers and employers, who are the true champions of economic recovery in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Labor Megan Healy. “While we have more work to do, we can all be proud of how far we've come.”

“The overall trend in the unemployment rate we see is very encouraging, as the number of jobs being added to payrolls across Virginia continues to increase,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “The trends are clear—businesses are hiring and folks are getting back to work.”

In August, private sector employment increased by 1,500 jobs to 3,208,700, and employment in the public sector gained 9,000 jobs to 704,500. Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 10,500 jobs in August. Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, nine of eleven major industry divisions experienced employment gains. The largest over-the-year job gain occurred in leisure and hospitality, up 37,100 jobs or 12 percent. The next largest over-the-year job gain occurred in professional and business services, up 20,600 jobs or 2.7 percent. Trade and transportation experienced the third-largest over-the-year job gain of 16,600 jobs or 2.6 percent.

For a greater statistical breakdown, visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website.

Governor Northam Encourages Virginians to Celebrate Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month

Month proclaimed in recognition of contributions of Hispanic and Latino Virginians

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today proclaimed September 15 to October 15 as Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month.

“As we mark 53 years of commemorating National Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month, Pam and I encourage all Virginians to join us in celebrating the important history and enduring contributions of the Hispanic and Latino community throughout Virginia and our country. They enrich our communities by sharing their vibrant culture and heritage.

“Throughout this month, we honor and celebrate the hard work and dedication of our Hispanic and Latino men and women who have contributed greatly to the success of our Commonwealth. Hispanic and Latino Virginians continue to make great strides in public office and civil rights issues, supporting the fight for justice and equality for all, and successfully advocating for the historic passage of language access and of protections for all immigrants regardless of citizenship status.

“We acknowledge their deep-rooted history and foundation in our country and in our Commonwealth. We highlight their leadership in business and education, and their service in the fight against COVID-19 as healthcare and frontline workers. We recognize the dedication of our public servants as teachers and government employees. We commend the service of Hispanic and Latino men and women in the military protecting our democracy and freedom.

“The stories of Hispanic and Latino people are woven into the fabric of our communities. I invite all Virginians to participate in virtual and other safe celebrations of Hispanic and Latino heritage taking place in communities around the Commonwealth. Hispanic and Latino history is Virginia’s history.”

The text of Governor Northam’s Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month proclamation can be found here in English and here in Spanish.

Governor and First Lady Northam shared a video message with Virginians during Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month. Watch the video here.

Governor Northam Announces Service Center Metals to Invest $101.7 Million in Prince George County, Creating 94 New Jobs

Manufacturing company to construct two new facilities, increase production capacity

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Service Center Metals, a manufacturer of aluminum extrusions, will invest more than $100 million to expand in Prince George County. The company will construct two new facilities, an aluminum extrusion plant and a Compact Remelt plant, in Crosspointe Centre. The facilities will increase production capacity to meet customer demand. Virginia successfully competed with Tennessee for the project, which will create 94 new jobs.

“Service Center Metals has experienced tremendous success in Prince George County over the past two decades, and an investment of this magnitude is extremely significant for the region,” said Governor Northam. “The advanced manufacturing sector is strong in Virginia and has played an important role in helping the Commonwealth achieve the Best State for Business title. We look forward to the expansion of Service Center Metals and its continued success in the Commonwealth.”

Service Center Metals, founded in 2002, began its operations in Prince George County in 2003 and has since evolved into a top aluminum extrusion and billet company. Service Center Metals produces aluminum rods, bars, shapes, and tubing, all of which are shipped to metal service centers across the United States. The company is vertically integrated with two plants on its 30-acre campus in SouthPoint Business Park. Its flagship extrusion plant has two state-of-the-art presses, and its Compact Remelt plant, the world’s largest horizontal billet casting plant, recycles scrap and produces aluminum logs for extrusion presses. The new facilities will be constructed to mirror the existing SouthPoint Business Park plant.

“We are proud that Service Center Metals will expand its production capabilities in the Commonwealth with the construction of two new facilities and the creation of 94 new, well-paying jobs,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Securing a competitive project of this caliber demonstrates that Virginia’s strategic location, competitive operating costs, and first-rate workforce provide unparalleled advantages to businesses. We look forward to supporting Service Center Metals in its next phase of growth in Prince George County.”

“The Commonwealth of Virginia and Prince George County have both played significant roles in catapulting Service Center Metals from a Greenfield startup in 2002 into the North American benchmark for safety and productivity today,” said Service Center Metals President and Chief Executive Officer Scott Kelley. “Our next expansion will be the largest in our history, adding significant capacity to both our billet casting and extrusion operations that will further satisfy our customers’ needs. Virginia’s excellent business climate, including its business-friendly regulatory environment, and access to a world-class workforce, was significant in our site selection process. As the saying goes, ‘there’s no place like home,’ and we’re proud and excited to be expanding in Virginia.”

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Prince George County to secure the project for Virginia. Governor Northam approved a $350,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist Prince George County with the project. The Governor also approved a performance-based grant of $900,000 from the Virginia Investment Performance Grant, an incentive that encourages continued capital investment by existing Virginia companies. Service Center Metals is eligible to receive state benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program, administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Funding and services to support the company’s employee training activities will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.

Governor Northam Grants Posthumous Pardons for ‘Martinsville Seven’ 70 Years After Unjust Executions

With today’s act, Governor Northam has granted more pardons than previous nine governors combined

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today granted posthumous pardons for the Martinsville Seven, a group of young Black men executed by the Commonwealth for alleged rape of a white woman in 1951. While these pardons do not address the guilt of the seven, they serve as recognition from the Commonwealth that these men were tried without adequate due process and received a racially-biased death sentence not similarly applied to white defendants.

With today’s action, Governor Northam has granted a record-breaking 604 pardons since his term began—more pardons than the previous nine governors combined.

“This is about righting wrongs,” said Governor Northam. “We all deserve a criminal justice system that is fair, equal, and gets it right—no matter who you are or what you look like. I’m grateful to the advocates and families of the Martinsville Seven for their dedication and perseverance. While we can’t change the past, I hope today’s action brings them some small measure of peace.”

Frank Hairston Jr. (18), Booker T. Millner (19), Francis DeSales Grayson (37), Howard Lee Hairston (18), James Luther Hairston (20), Joe Henry Hampton (19), and John Clabon Taylor (21) of Martinsville were executed in 1951 on charges of raping a white woman. Prior to abolishing the death penalty earlier this year, Virginia had executed more people than any other state—and studies have shown that a defendant is more than three times as likely to be sentenced to death if the victim of a crime is white than if the victim is Black. From 1908 to 1951, all 45 prisoners executed for rape in Virginia were Black men. In 1977, the Supreme Court ruled that imposing the death penalty for rape was cruel and unusual punishment. 

Governor Northam’s pardons recognize the unjust, racially-biased sentences these men received, as well as the disturbing lack of due process in their trials and convictions. All members of the Martinsville Seven were convicted and sentenced to death within eight days, and each defendant was tried by juries made up entirely of white men. Some of the defendants were impaired at the time of arrest or unable to read the confessions they signed, and none had attorneys present during their interrogation. Governor Northam made the announcement in a Richmond meeting with descendants of the Martinsville Seven.

“Pardons should not have to be a part of the process to ensure a fair and equitable justice system, but unfortunately that’s been case for far too long and I’m happy we have a Governor that believes in using his clemency powers to right the wrongs and provide second chances,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson. “Governor Northam is committed to criminal justice reform, and has made it a priority to thoroughly review and act on pardon petitions. We’re seeing the results today.”

To date, Governor Northam has granted a record-breaking 604 pardons and acted on over 2,000 pardon petitions. The large number of pending petitions is a result of an influx received by the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth under the Northam administration, coupled with the thousands of petitions that were already pending review when former Governor Terry McAuliffe took office in 2014.

In May, Governor Northam announced new steps to streamline the pardon process, including increased staff, a redesigned pardons website, and a new petition portal that allows electronic tracking submission and tracking of pardon requests.

The pardon grant for the Martinsville Seven is here.

Governor Northam Announces Artifacts for New Time Capsule

New handmade capsule will replace capsule in Lee Monument Base

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced the artifacts for the new time capsule, crafted by Richmond sculptor Paul DiPasquale. The capsule will be placed in the concrete pedestal of Richmond’s Lee Monument.

Historians believe a copper time capsule was placed in the cornerstone of the Lee pedestal on October 27, 1887. Records from the Library of Virginia suggest that 37 Richmond residents, organizations, and businesses contributed about 60 objects to the capsule, many of which are believed to be related to the Confederacy.

The statue itself will be removed on Wednesday. On Thursday, the original time capsule will be removed and handed over to the Department of Historic Resources. This new time capsule will be put in its place in the statue’s base, as that will remain for the time being. Should it be removed later, the time capsule will be buried nearby.

“This monument and its time capsule reflected Virginia in 1890—and it’s time to remove both, so that our public spaces better reflect who we are as a people in 2021,” said Governor Northam. “The past 18 months have seen historic change, from the pandemic to protests for racial justice that led to the removal of these monuments to a lost cause. It is fitting that we replace the old time capsule with a new one that tells that story.”

The new capsule was crafted by Paul DiPasquale who also created Richmond’s Arthur Ashe monument and Virginia Beach’s King Neptune statue.

“The 1887 capsule we will remove this week offers us an incisive bite of time when the Lee Monument was erected. Now in 2021, this capsule gives future Virginians artifacts of the tectonic transition that has happened to us,” said DiPasquale. “The pedestal marks the past and has a new message for the future: we, all of us, are the New Virginia.”

Artifacts for the new time capsule were suggested by members of the public, and narrowed down to 39 final choices by a committee that included historians from the Richmond region’s leading historical and cultural museums and members of Governor Northam’s cabinet. The committee included:

  • Heather Anderson, Community Engagement Coordinator at Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia
  • Alaysia Black Hackett, Deputy Chief Diversity Officer
  • Jamie Bosket, Chief Executive Officer of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture
  • Christy Coleman, Executive Director of Jamestown Yorktown Foundation
  • Rita Davis, Former Counsel to the Governor
  • Grindly Johnson, Secretary of Administration
  • Julie Langan, Director of the Department of Historic Resources
  • Bill Martin, Director of The Valentine
  • Jennifer McClellan, Senate of Virginia, District 9
  • Pamela Northam, First Lady of Virginia 
  • Alex Nyerges, Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
  • Atif Qarni, Secretary of Education
  • Scott Stroh, Executive Director of Gunston Hall
  • Andrew Talkov, Senior Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture
  • Sandra Treadway, Librarian of Virginia
  • Janice Underwood, Chief Diversity Officer 

The 39 artifacts are intended to reflect the cultural moment in Virginia’s, and the nation’s, history. In the past year and a half, Virginia has faced a global pandemic and a deep reckoning with racism. Protests for racial justice, sparked by the death of George Floyd, led to the removal of statues originally placed to memorialize those who fought to continue a way of life that enslaved other human beings. The artifacts are a snapshot of that moment in time, capturing both the protests of last year and the pandemic. They include a vaccination card, a photo of a Black ballerina in front of the statue, a Black Lives Matter sticker, a face mask, and a poem written in Unified English Braille. A full list of time capsule artifacts is here.

"In the midst of demonstrations and reclaiming space, my photo of Black ballerina at America's largest Confederate statue made national headlines in June 2020, surprising and inspiring viewers," said photographer Marcus Ingram, whose photo will be included in the time capsule. "I am thrilled to have my print, my piece of history, be included in the new time capsule that aims to represent the Virginia of today. I am hopeful that future generations will see my photograph and understand what we stood up for."

Virginia Department of Health and Governor Northam Recognize August as Immunization Awareness Month

(Richmond, Va) – On Thursday, August 26, Governor of Virginia Ralph Northam and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) joined Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to celebrate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). NIAM is an annual observance held in August to highlight the importance of immunization for people of all ages. ImmunizeVA, a statewide coalition of immunization stakeholders, received the Governor’s Proclamation in recognition of the month. Governor Northam was also joined by mascots of various Virginia colleges and universities to hype up and help spread awareness among families in their respective communities. 

In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation to align Virginia’s immunization requirements with the CDC’s ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) recommendations. Including previously required immunizations, all children in Virginia will need immunizations to protect against Rotavirus, Meningitis, HPV, and Hepatitis A. Without them, students may not be able to start school on time and children may not be able to attend daycare. For families of school-aged children, now is the time to get these required vaccines.

“Back to School is a great time for students of all ages to visit their pediatrician,” said Governor Ralph S. Northam, M.D., a pediatrician. “During these check-ups, babies, children and adolescents can receive their routine immunizations to ensure we have a healthy school year. It is also a good idea for everyone eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to get the life-saving shot.”

In Virginia, VDH provides free childhood immunization through the Virginia Vaccines for Children’s program. Families can find providers at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/immunization/vvfc/locatevvfcprovider/ or can visit their local health department to access these free resources. 

“COVID-19 disrupted both in-person learning and routine well-child visits for Virginian children over the last year and a half,” said Dr. Avula, Virginia’s State Vaccination Coordinator. “The CDC’s immunization ordering data shows a 14% drop in 2020-2021 compared to 2019, and measles vaccine ordering is down by more than 20%. Especially now, it is critical that children receive their immunizations so we don’t overwhelm our health systems with the co-circulation of illness.”

The Virginia Department of Health wants to reiterate that having a trusted health care provider  makes it easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Regular medical visits help families and caregivers understand and monitor their child’s growth and development, manage illness and preventative care, and keep up with their immunization schedule. 

“Misinformation around vaccines can be really difficult to navigate, but your child’s pediatrician or family medicine doctor is ready and equipped to answer your questions and explain the science behind immunizations,” said Dr. Tiffany Kimbrough, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, and a mother of two young children. “As providers, we are here to partner with you to address concerns and keep your children healthy.”

Lastly, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination is available for children ages 12 and up. It’s safe, free and effective. As your student goes back to school, be sure to identify and monitor your locality and school division’s COVID-19 protocols. For more information on COVID-19 in Virginia, visit the VDH Coronavirus website. Anyone age 12 or older can find free vaccination clinics near them by visiting Vaccinate.Virginia.gov or by calling 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users may call 7-1-1).

Governor Northam Announces Grants to Replace 83 Diesel School Buses with Clean Alternatives

More than $10.5 million awarded to 19 school districts

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced more than $10.5 million in funds from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust, administered by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, to replace 83 diesel school buses with electric and propane buses in 19 school districts across Commonwealth.

By providing funds for clean school buses, the Department of Environmental Quality will help Virginia achieve clean energy goals, reduce air pollution, and mitigate climate change. The grant that provides the money for this initiative came from a Trust funded by the Volkswagen settlement that is working to reduce emissions and support environmental programs.

“We all benefit from transitioning away from diesel school buses and investing in clean alternatives for our transportation system,” said Governor Northam. “I know how important clean air is for children’s health. Since I took office, the Commonwealth has been focused on transforming the electric grid, developing clean energy resources, and addressing the climate crisis through initiatives that allow Virginia to invest in a clean and healthy future.”

Governor Northam announced the launch of the $20 million program in May 2021 to help transition school buses away from diesel and toward cleaner fuels like electricity and propane. The program’s investments in clean alternatives, which are intended to reduce harmful vehicle pollution, have helped accelerate an equitable transition to a cleaner economy for all Virginians.

“It is encouraging to see how successful the funds from the Volkswagen settlement have been in supporting clean alternatives for transportation,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “We have been clear that Virginia's environment is a top priority. I am proud that this settlement is being used to support important causes, like providing clean, safe, and healthy transportation for children going to and from school.”

The attorney general's office announced a settlement with Volkswagen in 2016 that committed $2.7 billion to environmental mitigation. This settlement has provided the funding for many eco-friendly initiatives across the Commonwealth. The attorney general's negotiations of this settlement secured resources for environmental causes for many years to come, and reinforces Virginia’s commitment to a clean economy.

“The Northam administration has remained committed to fighting the impacts of climate change and finding solutions that help Virginians every day,” said Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “Replacing aging and dirty buses is not only better for the health of school children, it also saves school divisions tens of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of a bus and helps advance Virginia’s clean energy goals.”

“Virginia’s investments in electrifying the school bus fleets is an important and critical part of our comprehensive approach to reducing pollution,” said Department of Environmental Quality Director David Paylor. “Collectively, the replacement of these school buses is calculated to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10,000 tons per year, and will save one million gallons of diesel fuel, equivalent to removing 2,000 cars from the road.” 

As part of this round of funding, Southampton County will receive $530,000 for two electric busses.

In September 2019, Governor Northam directed $20 million from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust to support new initiatives aimed at deploying electric school buses across the Commonwealth.

“Many of our families struggle to make ends meet,” said Halifax County Public Schools Director of Transportation Tammy Lacks Moore. “These funds will enable us to replace 10 diesel buses without raising taxes on our already burdened population, all while making sure we are doing everything we can to help improve our community.”

“The clean bus award will make a powerful impact for Essex County Public Schools and advance our transition to an electric fleet,” said Essex County Public Schools Transportation Supervisor Crystal Blowe. “This is a wonderful opportunity for Essex County students to ride the bus to and from school in an emissions free environment.”

“We are proud to set an example for our students and show that we are intently working towards, and contributing to, a brighter environmental future,” said Augusta County Public Schools Director of Transportation Terry Lafon. “With these funds, we will be doubling our fleet of electric buses and replacing 1996 and 1997 diesel buses, which will immediately benefit riders with a major reduction in both noise pollution and carbon fuel emissions.”

“Being selected to receive funds for 10 propane buses expands our ability to provide safe, reliable, and clean transportation for our students who deserve nothing but the best,” said Newport News Public Schools Director of Transportation Shay Coates. “As a major organization within our community, we feel we must set the example in protecting our environment.”

The Department of Environmental Quality is responsible for distributing Virginia’s share of $93.6 million from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust by investing in a diverse range of technologies that provide cost-effective, near-term emission benefits coupled with zero-emission technologies that provide long-term benefits. 

To date, approximately $62 million has been awarded for innovative projects including electric transit, school and shuttle buses, electric equipment at the Port of Virginia, and the development of a statewide electric-vehicle charging network.

The Department of Environmental Quality will begin accepting applications in October for an additional round of funds for public school districts to purchase more propane or electric school buses. Sign up here to receive updates on funding opportunities.

Additional information on the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust and efforts to reduce air pollution in Virginia is available on the Department of Environmental Quality’s website.

Governor Northam Announces Virginia’s Unemployment Rate Dropped to 4.2 Percent in July

Rate outpaces the country—Virginia added 144,000 jobs over 12 months across nearly every economic sector

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 4.2 percent in July, which is 3.7 percentage points below the rate from one year ago. The labor force expanded by 7,818 to 4,241,686, as the number of unemployed residents decreased by 7,595. The number of employed residents rose to 4,065,473, an increase of 15,413. In July 2021, Virginia saw over-the-year job gains of 3.8 percent. Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continues to be below the national rate of 5.4 percent.

“Our administration is focused on creating an economic climate that will help Virginia’s workers and businesses thrive,” said Governor Northam. “The impressive gains in payroll employment and the downward trend of unemployment rates continue to show the strength and resiliency of our economy and our workforce as we recover from the pandemic. Virginians have shown great resolve over the last year and a half, and it is evident in the numbers we are seeing in this report.”

Virginia has once again been named America’s “Top State for Business” by CNBC. This achievement, paired with the data in this report, shows how Virginia has created a strong business environment.

“The continued decline in Virginia’s unemployment rate and the increase in payroll employment are all signs of a strong job market,” said Secretary of Labor Megan Healy. “We believe that workers will continue to re-enter the labor force and that the strong job market will continue in the coming months. Governor Northam and his administration remain committed to working with businesses and workforce development partners to ensure that every Virginian has the help and resources they need to find work.”

“It is exciting to see the unemployment rate in the Commonwealth significantly lower than it was at this time last year,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “As our labor force keeps growing month-over-month, we are very optimistic about what the future holds for Virginia’s businesses.”

In July, the private sector recorded an over-the-year gain of 134,100 jobs, while employment in the public sector gained 9,700 jobs. Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 2,300 jobs over-the-month. Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, ten of the eleven major industry divisions experienced employment gains. The largest over-the-year job increase occurred in leisure and hospitality with 46,000 new jobs, a 15.5 percent increase. The next largest over-the-year job increase occurred in professional and business services with 30,000 new jobs, a 4.0 percent increase. Trade, transportation and utilities experienced the third largest over-the-year job increase of 27,300 jobs, a 4.3 percent increase.

For a greater statistical breakdown visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website at vec.virginia.gov.

Governor Announces Historic Enrollment in Early Childhood Education Programs

New early childhood investments are spurring greater enrollment in preschool programs

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that increased investment in Virginia’s two largest state-funded preschool programs is expected to result in historic enrollment for the upcoming school year. The Commonwealth has authorized $151.6 million to Virginia Preschool Initiative and Mixed Delivery in fiscal year 2022, a $60.9 million increase from the previous school year and more than twice the investment made in fiscal year 2018. As a result, the Virginia Department of Education’s Virginia Preschool Initiative and the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation’s Mixed Delivery Preschool Grant Program anticipate serving more than 25,000 three and four-year-olds this fall, as employers reopen and students safely return to in-person instruction.

Federally funded early childhood programs are also now open to more families in Virginia than ever before. Families earning up to 85 percent of the state median income with young children are temporarily eligible for Virginia’s Child Care Subsidy Program thanks to HB 2206 sponsored by Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn, which Governor Northam extended last month. The program is serving more than 20,000 children, which is 94 percent of its pre-pandemic total. Federal Head Start and Early Head Start Programs are funded to serve 14,463 children this school year and all sites are working towards full in-person enrollment by January 1, 2022.

“Access to high quality early learning is critical for children’s development, and the Commonwealth’s investment in early childhood education is a major reason Virginia was named the best state to do business for the second year in a row,” said Governor Northam. “Increasing school readiness is more important than ever as we recover from the pandemic, and this historic commitment puts us one step closer to offering a great start for all Virginia children.”

Since 2018, First Lady Pamela Northam has traveled over 10,000 miles to nearly 200 schools and early childhood programs along with staff from the Virginia Department of Education, Virginia Department of Social Services, and members of the General Assembly. Her engagement with parents, educators, business leaders, and other stakeholders led to legislation and investments in early childhood education from the General Assembly in fiscal years 2021 and 2022. Mrs. Northam’s 2021 Back to School Tour kicks off August 18 and 19 with eight stops in Southwest Virginia.

“We’re excited to get back on the road to meet children and families who now have access to quality in-person early learning programs for the first time thanks to these transformative investments,” said First Lady Pamela Northam. “This is also a chance to thank the superhero educators who have adapted to provide safe and supportive environments for our littlest learners to thrive.”

The Virginia Department of Education became the single point of accountability and oversight for all publicly funded early childhood programs in Virginia thanks to new laws that took effect July 1, 2021. Its new Division of Early Childhood Care and Education brings together 120 full time employees, many of whom transitioned from the Virginia Department of Social Services, to focus on increasing access to high-quality, publicly-funded early childhood care and education programs. Recent data from the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program showed that 52 percent of Virginia’s kindergarteners ended the school year still needing support to build foundational skills in literacy, math, self-regulation, and/or social skills.

“We know that 90 percent of a child’s brain development occurs before the age of five, so high quality early childhood education programs are a key strategy to increasing student achievement from kindergarten to after graduation,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane. “A unified approach across all early learning settings is more important than ever as we emerge from the pandemic and equip the next generation of students to succeed in the 21st century workforce.”

More than 23,600 students across 126 school divisions are projected to be served by Virginia Preschool Initiative classrooms in the 2021-2022 school year. This compares with approximately 18,000 total children served by Virginia Preschool Initiative programs in 124 divisions before the pandemic. Thirty-seven school divisions will serve a combined total of about 1,600 three-year-olds in their Virginia Preschool Initiative classrooms. This is the second year of a pilot program to provide young learners with multiple years of preschool experience to prepare them for success in kindergarten and beyond.

Nearly 1,500 three- and four-year-olds will be served by the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation’s Mixed Delivery Grant Program across 45 localities. This compares to 239 children in 9 localities from 2020-2021.

$151.6 million has been authorized to Virginia Preschool Initiative and Mixed Delivery for the fiscal year 2022. This is a $60.9 million increase from the previous school year, and more than twice the investment made in fiscal year 2018.

Head Start and Early Head Start funding will serve more than 14,400 children in Virginia this school year.

More than 20,000 children were participating in Virginia’s Child Care Subsidy Program as of August 16, 2021. This is a 51 percent increase from March 2021, meaning an additional 7,325 children are served through expanded eligibility. $316.3 million from the 2020 federal relief dollars were invested in Virginia’s early childhood system. As a result, 95 percent of licensed and regulated child care and early education programs are now open and serving children in person.

The Child Care and Development Block Grant received $793 million of additional American Rescue Plan dollars approved by the General Assembly in August 2021.

Find more information on the Virginia Preschool Initiative here.
Find more information about the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation and the mixed-delivery grant initiative here.
Learn more about eligibility expansion for the Child Care Subsidy Program, and to apply, click here.
To learn about Head Start and Early Head Start contact your local school division.
To help address workforce shortages in child care, qualifying child care businesses may qualify for up to $500 “Return to Earn” bonuses for new hires without a match requirement.

Governor Northam Announces Public Health Order to Require Universal Masking in K-12 Schools

Order reinforces state law SB 1303

RICHMOND—Governor Northam today announced a Public Health Emergency Order requiring universal masking in all indoor settings in Virginia’s K-12 schools. This order reinforces current state law, which requires Virginia schools adhere to mitigation strategies outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As of July 28, CDC guidelines include universal masking for all students, teachers, and staff. SB 1303 was passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the General Assembly earlier this year.
 
“We all share the same goal of keeping our schools open and keeping our students safe,” said Governor Northam. “That’s why the General Assembly passed this law with overwhelming bipartisan support. This Public Health Order makes it very clear that masks are required in all indoor K-12 settings, and Virginia expects all schools to comply. I’m grateful to the work of the General Assembly and the Health Department, and I look forward to a safe start to the school year.”
 
73 percent of all adults in Virginia have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. As of August 10, 40.3 percent of 12-15 year-olds in Virginia and 51.7 percent of 16-17 year olds in Virginia are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Children under 12 are not yet eligible to receive any available vaccination, which is one reason CDC updated its guidance to recommend universal masking in all K-12 schools. Masks are a proven tool to reduce in-school transmission, even in communities with high levels of spread. 
 
“We know that masking is an effective tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19, particularly among children who are not yet eligible for vaccination,” said Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norm Oliver. “As cases rise in our communities, universal masking and other mitigation measures will ensure our schools continue to be the safest place for Virginia’s children.”
 
“The vast majority of school districts have chosen to follow the CDC and keep their school communities safe,” said State Superintendent Dr. James Lane. “Universal masking has worked in school settings across Virginia for the past year and a half, and it remains a critical part of our safety protocols. I’m grateful to Governor Northam and Dr. Oliver for this order, which will ensure uniformity across all school districts and keep students safely in their classrooms—no matter where they live in Virginia.”
 
In addition to this Public Health Order, Governor Northam has dedicated significant resources to improve the safety of K-12 schools. On Tuesday, Governor Northam signed House Bill 7001, which provides a total of $500 million to improve ventilation and air quality in public schools. Ventilation systems clean and disperse air, decreasing the risk of various airborne illnesses including COVID-19.
 
In 2020, Governor Northam directed $492 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to public schools and PreK-12 state-level education initiatives. This year, Virginia received approximately $939 million in ESSER II funds under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act of 2021. Additionally, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III funds directly allocate $1.9 billion to school divisions, with an additional state set aside of $211 million.
 
The Public Health Emergency Order is available here.

Governor Northam Announces $111 Million Investment to Make College More Affordable for Virginians

New funding commitment supplements $833 million going directly to Virginia higher education institutions through American Rescue Plan

BLACKSBURG—Governor Ralph Northam today visited Virginia Tech where he announced that Virginia plans to use $111 million in American Rescue Plan funding to increase access to financial aid for low- and moderate-income undergraduate students. The proposal designates $100 million for public higher education institutions through the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia, and $11 million for private institutions eligible for the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant program.

“The economic uncertainty of this pandemic has led many to question whether a college degree was still an affordable reality,” said Governor Northam. “Our Administration has worked hard to make higher education accessible to every Virginian, and this targeted investment is a significant stride towards that goal. Increasing access to financial aid will help create more equitable pathways to opportunity and put a world-class education within reach of even more students.”

“In order for Virginia to be the best-educated state in the nation, we must continue to invest in financial aid and improve access to affordable higher education,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “It is critical that we dedicate federal relief funds to build on our past investments in financial assistance and bolster our education and talent pipelines.”

This proposed investment supplements more than $833 million that will be made available to Virginia colleges and universities through the American Rescue Plan Act’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III. These funds will be received directly by institutions of higher education and must be used for financial assistance for students as well as for qualifying institutional purposes.

“Virginia’s colleges and universities rank amongst the top in the nation, and we must do everything in our power to ensure that all Virginians have equitable access to these institutions, regardless of wealth or income-level,” said Senator Mamie Locke, Chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee. “I am proud of the work that we have done in recent years to address the affordability of higher education. The dedication of these federal funds continues those efforts and is particularly impactful during these challenging times for students.”

The Governor’s proposal also commits $10 million to enhance the Online Virginia Network, which facilitates online coursework and degrees from George Mason University, Old Dominion University, James Madison University, and community colleges.

“Over the last year, we saw students delay or pause their pursuit of higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Delegate Betsy Carr, Chair of the House Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee. “This funding signals our dedication to ensuring that students in need of financial aid are able to access it, especially as we confront the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Today, we are following through on our commitment to Virginia’s students and investing not simply in financial aid but in the Commonwealth’s future,” said Delegate Chris Hurst, member of the House Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee. “This funding will open the doors for higher education to low- and middle-income Virginians across the Commonwealth.”

“Higher education faced numerous challenges over the past 16 months and it was an especially difficult time for our students,” said Timothy Sands, President of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. “For many who were already facing financial strain, the impact of COVID-19 threatened to push their higher education dream out of reach. We are grateful to the Governor and General Assembly for these additional funds to support financial aid at this critical time, and for their continued investment in the future of our students and the Commonwealth.”

In May, Governor Northam and General Assembly leaders released a joint statement outlining shared priorities for allocating the $4.3 billion in federal funds available to the Commonwealth from the American Rescue Plan. Throughout this week and in advance of the August 2nd special session, Governor and legislative leaders are highlighting proposals for allocating these funds and have announced $250 million for school modernization and air quality improvements in school buildings, $411.5 million to reduce water pollution and increase access to clean water, $935.6 million to replenish the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and accelerate critical upgrades to the Virginia Employment Commission, and $485 million to strengthen Virginia’s behavioral health system.

Governor Northam Awards Funding to 15 Projects Addressing Food Insecurity in Underserved Communities

Grants will support initiatives aimed at expanding food retailers, increasing access to fresh produce

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that 15 projects across the Commonwealth will receive a total of over $620,000 in the inaugural round of Virginia Food Access Investment Fund (VFAIF) grants. The Governor made the announcement at an event with Richmond Food Justice Alliance, which will receive funding to support a new mobile food market with Shalom Farms.

First launched in 2020, the VFAIF provides grants between $5,000 and $50,000 to support business development, construction, rehabilitation, equipment upgrades, or expansion of grocery stores, small food retailers, or innovative food retail projects that increase food access in underserved communities. VFAIF follows the Equitable Food-Oriented Development model of using food and agriculture to create economic opportunities and healthy neighborhoods in historically marginalized communities.

“Hunger and food insecurity are a reality for too many Virginia families, and the pandemic has only underscored the urgency of this crisis,” said Governor Northam. “At its core, the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund is about addressing the root causes of low food access and increasing equity and justice in our local food systems. I am pleased to see the innovation and dedication of businesses and organizations who are helping to advance our shared goals of building strong, resilient food supply chains in historically marginalized communities and making fresh, nutritious food available to Virginians in every corner of our Commonwealth.”

In 2020, Governor Northam signed House Bill 1509, sponsored by Delegate Delores McQuinn, and Senate Bill 1073, sponsored by Senator Jennifer McClellan, creating the Virginia Food Access Investment Program and Fund. The VFAIF program supports the Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger, a unified set of goals and strategies to prioritize food security during the current public health emergency and beyond. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 850,000 Virginians were food insecure, including 250,000 children. Rates increased by approximately 20 percent during the ongoing public health crisis, with an additional 150,000 Virginians experiencing food insecurity. 

“I have spent many years advocating for equity in providing healthy and affordable food options to all citizens of the Commonwealth,” said Delegate Delores McQuinn. “This investment program is a great start to address the ongoing challenge of food insecurities that have been so prevalent in this period of social and economic deficit. I am grateful to the Governor for his leadership and commitment to addressing food inequities across Virginia.”

In addition to supporting equitable food access in food deserts, the program works to increase the availability of fresh, healthy foods. VFAIF projects include a food retail component that accepts federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and offers the Virginia Fresh Match nutrition incentives program. Virginia Fresh Match doubles the value of SNAP benefits for fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets, increasing access to healthy foods and supporting local farmers. 

“Studies have proven time and again that people in areas without access to fresh food are disproportionately affected by negative health consequences, including obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure,” said Senator Jennifer McClellan. “Not only does the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund help alleviate this disparity, it pushes investment into historically underserved communities that have often struggled to access capital.”

“Addressing food insecurity has been and continues to be a priority for the Northam Administration,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “The Virginia Food Access Investment Fund achieves three important goals of providing access to healthy and nutritious fruits and vegetables while also investing in local economies and supporting Virginia agriculture.”

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services provides technical assistance and works with applicants in developing projects. The VFAIF application can be accessed through the VDACS website.

The following projects are receiving funding in the inaugural round of Virginia Food Access Investment Fund grants:

Beans and Rice, Pulaski County
$50,000

This project will support a fresh food mobile market that will operate four days per week with stops determined in partnership with area churches, community members, and local governments, including the Pulaski County Department of Social Services, to ensure maximum benefit to food insecure residents.

Browntown Farms, Brunswick County
$50,000

Funding for Browntown Farms will support a multi-purpose facility with cold storage, aggregation of local produce, and “barn to door” online ordering and delivery service.

Doña Fer Grocery Store, Rockingham County
$22,046

This project will fund a new cooler and repair an existing cooler at a small grocery store serving the Latinx community in Harrisonburg to meet the customer requests for more fresh foods, including milk, meat, and produce.

FRESHFARM, Fairfax County
$50,000

FRESHFARM will establish new fresh food mobile markets in food insecure areas of Northern Virginia in partnership with the Virginia Farmers Market Association. These markets will generate revenue for family-owned farms in Virginia and expand a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program for SNAP users.

Henry’s Marketplace, Scott County
$25,000

Funding for Henry’s Marketplace will support expanded retail space, coolers, and local produce sales, as well as a new outdoor market and community event space featuring local artists and musicians.

Honaker Wholesale, Russell County
$25,000

Honaker Wholesale is a small grocery and general goods store in rural Russell County, where additional grocery options are at least a 25-minute drive away. Funding will support the purchase of a new walk-in cooler enabling volume purchases and the storage of fresh products, lowering costs, and increasing the availability and variety of fresh food to customers. 

Jon Henry General Store, Shenandoah County
$25,000

Located in New Market, Jon Henry General Store is one of the only food retailers offering a produce box CSA-style program for SNAP/EBT customers that provides access to fruits and vegetables while also leveraging the Virginia Fresh Match program. Funding will support expanded cooler capacity and enable an expansion of this program.

Norfolk Food Ecosystem, City of Norfolk
$50,000

Funding will support a new fresh food market in the underserved St. Paul’s community of Norfolk to increase access to fresh food, serve as a Fresh Food Pharmacy, offer health education, and provide information about how to access SNAP and Virginia Fresh Match.  

Northside Food Access Coalition, City of Richmond
$50,000

Northside Food Access Coalition is a community-led organization that aims to increase fresh food access along the Brookland Park corridor in Richmond. This project will convert an existing community-owned building into a cold storage facility and a new hybrid farmers’ market CSA program serving the more than 35,000 area residents, 56 percent of whom experience low food access.

Project GROWS, City of Staunton
$46,642

Project GROWS will operate a mobile market to increase fresh food access in a number of underserved communities in Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County. Market locations will include elderly and fixed-income communities, low income housing complexes, and afterschool programs.

Richmond Food Justice Alliance and Shalom Farms, City of Richmond
$49,000

This project is a collaboration between the non-profit organizations Richmond Food Justice Alliance and Shalom Farms, and will support a community-led process to inform the establishment of pop-up markets in the Mosby Court, Fairfield, and Creighton Court neighborhoods in Richmond. Skills development and entrepreneurship opportunities will be available for neighborhood residents, centered around community wealth-building and increased access to fresh food.

River Street Market Education, City of Petersburg
$50,000

River Street Market Education is the non-profit arm of Petersburg’s River Street Market. This project seeks to establish youth-led mobile markets and to create more local purchasing opportunities at existing Petersburg farmers’ market. VFAIF will support this project by providing needed cold storage infrastructure for food aggregation and retail distribution. 

Surry Marketplace, Surry County
$50,000

This project will support the establishment of a new grocery store in Surry County, which currently lacks a market, and will feature an online ordering platform and delivery service, workforce development, and increased access to fresh food.

Tommy T’s Marketplace, Brunswick County
$25,000

Tommy T’s Marketplace will address an identified food desert in Lawrenceville by transforming a vacant convenience store into a multi-purpose retail facility with an emphasis on providing healthy, fresh food options. Funding will support infrastructure, hiring local community members, and a mobile market component. 

Youth Earn and Learn, City of Norfolk
$50,000

Youth Earn and Learn is a non-profit that takes a multi-pronged approach to increasing food security, including through youth-led mobile markets and entrepreneurship training, local sourcing of fresh produce, and business literacy. This project expands a proven youth and community development model which focuses on job training and skills development to benefit historically marginalized youth and underemployed residents in the Norfolk area.

Governor Northam Announces Launch of New African American History Course

16 Virginia school divisions to participate during 2020-2021 academic year

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that students in 16 Virginia school divisions will be able to increase their understanding of African American history by participating in a new high school-level elective course this academic year.

“Black history is American history, but for too long, the story we have told was insufficient and inadequate,” said Governor Northam. “The introduction of this groundbreaking course is a first step toward our shared goal of ensuring all Virginia students have a fuller, more accurate understanding of our history, and can draw important connections from those past events to our present day.”

On August 24, 2019, Governor Northam directed the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to collaborate with Virtual Virginia, WHRO Public Media, and committees of history teachers, historians, and history professors to develop a new African American history course for high school students. Now complete, the full-credit course surveys African American history from precolonial Africa through today. It introduces students to key concepts in African American history, from early beginnings in Africa through the transatlantic slave trade, the Civil War, Emancipation, Reconstruction, the Civil Rights era and to the present. Students will learn about African American voices, including many not traditionally highlighted, and their contributions to the story of Virginia and America.

The 16 school divisions offering the course this year include:

  • Alleghany County
  • Amherst County
  • Arlington County
  • Carroll County
  • Charlottesville
  • Chesterfield County
  • Covington
  • Franklin County
  • Henrico County
  • Henry County
  • Loudoun County
  • Norfolk
  • Portsmouth
  • Prince William County
  • Suffolk
  • Winchester

The course will challenge students to explore primary and secondary sources documenting the African American experience. The content includes opportunities for students to develop the skills and attributes known as Virginia’s Five C’s (critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, and citizenship) as they connect what they have learned to local history and issues.

Students will be expected to do the following by the end of the course:

  • Identify and understand the African origins and developments of the Black experience in North America;
  • Evaluate how African Americans have shaped, contributed, and have been shaped by the institutions, policies, and laws established by federal, state, and local governments;
  • Evaluate and interpret the various paths of civic responsibility that led to quests for equality, justice, and freedom for individuals and communities facing barriers and oppression based on race, class, and gender; and
  • Analyze and understand how the institution of slavery in the United States shaped beliefs about race and the supremacy of one race over another and influenced America’s economy and politics.

The course also includes a capstone project requiring students to conduct independent research on a question or problem of their choosing and to demonstrate a deeper understanding of African American history.

“We can expect young Virginians to understand the enduring impacts of systemic racism only when they fully understand both the oppression experienced by African Americans and their significant contributions to STEM, the arts, education, law, and advocacy,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “As a history teacher, I know that this course is long overdue and is a first step toward telling a more inclusive story about the past and how it has shaped the present.”

VDOE curriculum specialists developed a curriculum map for the course and provided suggested content for extended exploration. WHRO then designed the online version of the course using content developers and reviewers selected by VDOE.

“WHRO is proud to have partnered with the Commonwealth to produce this historic and significant course,” said President and CEO of WHRO Public Media Bert Schmidt. “We have been supporting education since 1961 by delivering online, new, and on-air services. The African American history course is a welcome and important addition to our educational offerings.”

Members of Governor Northam’s Commission on African-American History Education in the Commonwealth provided comments and guidance during the development process. Commission members from Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University, University of Richmond, and Virginia Commonwealth University assisted with in-depth reviews of proposed content.

In July, Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. James Lane notified school divisions of the opportunity to present the new elective during the 2020-2021 academic year. Some divisions will begin instruction this fall, while others following block schedules will present the course during the spring semester.

“I want to thank the division superintendents and teachers who stepped forward and volunteered to be part of this watershed moment in the history of public education in our state,” said Dr. Lane. “I also want to thank all of the educators around the Commonwealth who participated in the development of this course for their dedication to historical accuracy and equipping young Virginians with the comprehensive and accurate story of our past.”

The teachers presenting the course will receive professional development and support throughout the year. The training will focus on building content capacity, developing a deeper knowledge of African American history, strengthening culturally responsive instructional practices, and the use of anti-biased/anti-racist education practices. Educators will also collaborate in the development of resources and materials for future use as the course expands to additional school divisions.

 

Subscribe to RSS - Governor