May 2020

Information Regarding Economic Impact Payments for Social Security and SSI Beneficiaries with Representative Payees, and People Living in U.S. Territories

 

The Social Security Administration issued an update today about COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments (EIP) to certain groups of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries.  Beneficiaries who have their regular monthly payments managed for them by another person, called a representative payee, will begin receiving their EIPs from the IRS in late May.

Special rules apply to beneficiaries living in the U.S. territories: American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  In general, the tax authority in each territory, not the IRS, will pay the EIP to eligible residents based on information the IRS will provide to the territories.  It is anticipated that beneficiaries in the territories could begin receiving their EIP in early June.

“The Social Security Administration has been working with the IRS to provide the necessary information about Social Security and SSI beneficiaries in order to automate and expedite their Economic Impact Payments,” said Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security.  “While millions of our beneficiaries have already received their EIPs from the IRS, we continue to work hard for those beneficiaries who are awaiting their payment from the IRS.”

For additional information about payments to beneficiaries with representative payees, please refer to www.socialsecurity.gov/coronavirus/#reppayee.

For the territories, people should contact their local tax authority with questions about these payments.  Please note their website may use the term “Economic Impact Payment” or “stimulus payment.”

The eligibility requirements and other information about the Economic Impact Payments can be found here: www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center.  In addition, please continue to visit the IRS at www.irs.gov/coronavirus for the latest information.

Social Security will continue to update the agency’s COVID-19 web page at www.socialsecurity.gov/coronavirus/ with additional information.

To get more Social Security news, follow the Press Office on Twitter @SSAPress.

 

Warner Weekly Wrap Up for May 15th 2020

Happy Friday from the Warner press office. The Senate was once again in session this week, at an appropriate distance, and considered a series of nominations as well as intelligence-related legislation.

 

Here’s your Warner Weekly Wrap-up:

 

 

PAYCHECK SECURITY

 

As the New York Times reported this week, a bipartisan consensus is emerging around a proposal Sen. Warner is supporting to provide relief to Americans who’ve lost their jobs due to the coronavirus. From conservative Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) to self-described Democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and mainstream members like Sen. Warner somewhere in between, support is growing for the idea of putting paychecks in the hands of Americans who have been laid off or furloughed due to the coronavirus.

 

Together with Sanders and Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Warner has released a draft policy white paper proposing a “Paycheck Security Program,” which would effectively guarantee the paycheck of every American furloughed or laid-off worker making under $90,000/year at a business that has suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak. This proposal differs in the details from Sen. Hawley’s proposal and another put forward by a group of House Democrats, but the core idea keeping workers on the payroll, with the federal government paying their salary, rather than unemployment benefits, is largely the same.

 

Sen. Warner took to the floor of the Senate on Wednesday to push for inclusion of a Paycheck Security Program in the next coronavirus relief bill and warned that the U.S. could soon face another economic depression if Congress fails to act.

 

 

Sen. Warner, a longtime advocate for reducing the deficit, acknowledged the potential cost of such a program, but he warned that failure to assist the more than 36 million out-of-work Americans could be even costlier, saying:

 

It will be expensive—and I say this as someone who has spent a long time working on trying to reduce the deficit. But when we compare it to the over $600 billion we’ve spent on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which has only helped one section of our economy—businesses under 500 employees—that’s done nothing for mid-sized businesses with 500-10,000 workers, I think the alternative will be much cheaper. And it will be pennies compared to the damage that will be done if we fail to adequately assist our fellow Americans in this moment of economic crisis.

 

Earlier this week, the House of Representatives released and voted on its initial proposal for the next coronavirus relief bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he does not plan to bring the bill up for a vote, and so the negotiation process continues. Expect Sen. Warner to continue pushing for inclusion of the paycheck security program in an eventual deal.

 

 

HEALTH PRIVACY

 

As the United States looks for a “new normal” in the age of coronavirus, one of the tools experts say will be critical to combatting the spread of COVID-19 is “contact tracing.” It refers to the technique used by public health officials to track who a person infected with a disease has come into contact with, so that they can be quarantined and treated if necessary. For a pandemic on the scale of coronavirus, that will likely involve the use of technologies such as cell phone location data to determine who an infected person may have come into contact with. In April. Sen. Warner raised concerns about reports that the President’s son-in-law and White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner had assembled technology and health care firms to establish a far-reaching national coronavirus surveillance system.

 

This week, as tech companies and public health agencies continue to deploy contact tracing apps and digital monitoring tools to fight the spread of COVID-19, Sen. Warner and a group of his colleagues from the House and Senate introduced the Public Health Emergency Privacy Act to set strong and enforceable privacy and data security rights for health information.

 

After decades of data misuse, breaches, and privacy intrusions, Americans are reluctant to trust tech firms to protect their sensitive health information – according to a recent poll, more than half of Americans would not use a contact tracing app and similar tools from Google and Apple over privacy concerns. The bicameral Public Health Emergency Privacy Act would protect Americans who use this kind of technology during the pandemic and safeguard civil liberties. Strengthened public trust will empower health authorities and medical experts to leverage new health data and apps to fight COVID-19.

 

The Public Health Emergency Privacy Act would:

 

  • Ensure that data collected for public health is strictly limited for use in public health;
  • Explicitly prohibit the use of health data for discriminatory, unrelated, or intrusive purposes, including commercial advertising, e-commerce, or efforts to gate access to employment, finance, insurance, housing, or education opportunities;
  • Prevent the potential misuse of health data by government agencies with no role in public health;
  • Require meaningful data security and data integrity protections – including data minimization and accuracy – and mandate deletion by tech firms after the public health emergency;
  • Protect voting rights by prohibiting conditioning the right to vote based on a medical condition or use of contact tracing apps;
  • Require regular reports on the impact of digital collection tools on civil rights;
  • Give the public control over their participation in these efforts by mandating meaningful transparency and requiring opt-in consent; and
  • Provide for robust private and public enforcement, with rulemaking from an expert agency while recognizing the continuing role of states in legislation and enforcement.

 

 

BROADBAND

 

It’s estimated that more than 20 million Americans continue to lack access to meaningful broadband service, with at least 770,000 Virginians currently unserved. As schools have moved online, this has particularly impacted students

The “homework gap” is experienced by 12 million students in this country who do not have internet access at home and are unable to complete their homework. Research has shown that this gap affects students in both rural and urban areas and disproportionately affects lower-income students and students of color.  Students without internet access at home consistently score lower in reading, math, and science.  This existing inequity has been exacerbated during this current public health emergency as schools suspend in-person classes and transition to remote learning over the internet to protect the health of students, faculty, and staff.

 

This week, Sens. Warner and Kaine introduced the Emergency Educational Connections Act, legislation aimed at ensuring K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity and devices during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Specifically, the Emergency Educational Connections Act would:

  1. Provide $4 billion in federal support for elementary and secondary schools and libraries, including tribal schools and libraries, to provide Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and internet-enabled devices (as well as internet service through such equipment) to students, staff, and patrons;
  2. Allow schools and libraries to continue to use the equipment after the emergency period; and
  3. Ensure schools and libraries prioritize support for those most in need, following the guidelines of the E-Rate program.

 

As the coronavirus pandemic develops, the E-Rate program offers an immediate solution that may help mitigate the impact of this crisis on our most vulnerable families. Additional funding for E-Rate would greatly narrow the homework gap and help ensure that all students can continue to learn.

 

Since the coronavirus outbreak began, Sen. Warner has made broadband access has been a top priority for the coronavirus response. Last month, he urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take immediate action to ensure that individuals all across the country have access to broadband, as more Americans are forced to rely on the internet for telework, telehealth, and online learning amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. In March, Sen. Warner led 17 of his colleagues in sending a letter to the CEOs of eight major internet service providers (ISPs) calling on the companies to take steps to reduce barriers that could prevent customers from using telepresence services for telework, online education, telehealth, and remote support services. Within days, AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, and Cox Communications, as well as a number of smaller ISPs not included on the letter, announced plans to accommodate the unprecedented demand for telepresence services.

 

 

VOTE SAFE

 

Already multiple primary elections have been besieged by public health concerns as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, in Wisconsin, voters experienced long lines and hours-long wait times, after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a court order that would have extended the period for voters to return absentee ballots—forcing many voters to vote in-person at a limited number of polling places. Multiple voters tested positive for COVID-19 after this election.

 

Sen. Warner has long been a leader in the Senate on protecting the right to vote, and now he’s joined Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and U.S. Reps. James E. Clyburn (D-SC) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH) in introducing the VoteSafe Act, legislation to expand voting options and improve the safety and accessibility of polling places across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic

 

The VoteSafe Act would:

 

  • Require states to provide no-excuse mail-in absentee voting for the 2020 elections and guarantee minimum due process protections for these voters;
  • Require states to maintain an early in-person voting period of at least 20 days for the 2020 elections;
  • Authorize $2.5 billion for states to meet their obligations to offer no-excuse absentee voting and early in-person voting; and
  • Provide $2.5 billion in additional discretionary grant funding for states to further improve the safety and accessibility of voting options during the pandemic, including:
    • Ensuring that elections are accessible to individuals with disabilities.
    • Ensuring adequate protections for language minority voters.
    • Ensuring voting access for American Indian, Alaska Native, and rural voters.
    • Implementing and promoting curbside voting.
    • Implementing and meeting a maximum wait time standard or publishing current wait times for voters.
    • Providing for the training and recruitment of poll workers.
    • Improving access to voter registration.

 

 

GRAB BAG

 

  • HEALTHCARE: With the Trump Administration actively pursuing a lawsuit to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act and its protections for pre-existing conditions, Sen. Warner joined the entire Senate Democratic caucus in filing an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in the case, California v. Texas. The lawsuit, which was brought by several Republican Attorneys General and the Trump Administration, is currently pending before the Supreme Court and represents a direct threat to the Affordable Care Act and health care coverage for millions of Americans.

 

  • SUPPORTING COMMUNITIES & FRONTLINE WORKERS: This week, Sen. Warner spoke on the Senate floor about the budgetary challenges facing state and local governments due to the economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak. In his remarks, Warner urged Congress to provide additional financial assistance to states and localities and flexibility in how they use coronavirus relief funds. Warner cautioned that failure to address these budget shortfalls could threaten the jobs of first responders and other public servants on the front lines of the pandemic.

 

  • PROTECTING MINERS: This week Sens. Warner and Kaine joined a bipartisan group of coal state Senators in introducing the COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act which would require the Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) within 7 days of enactment to protect our miners from COVID-19 exposure at the mines. Additionally, the bill would forbid mine operators from retaliating against miners for reporting infection control problems to their employer or any public authority.

 

  • SAVE THE BAY: This week, Sen. Warner joined Chesapeake Bay delegation members in sending a bicameral letter to Bay Watershed Governors urging them to maintain rigorous environmental standards crucial to the health of the Bay, despite the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent decision to relax enforcement of these standards.

 

  • AVIATION JOBS:  Along with his fellow co-chair of the Senate Aerospace Caucus, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Sen. Warner introduced legislation that would create a Private-Public Partnership between the federal government and aviation manufacturers designed to protect the workforce and industry impacted by COVID-19.
  • VACCINES: Today, Sen. Warner joined Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and 38 of their colleagues in introducing a resolution that encourages U.S. engagement with the international community on the COVID-19 response given the Trump Administration’s failure to participate in global summits on vaccines and therapeutics.  The resolution focuses on the indisputable facts that only with concerted global collaboration and coordination can the COVID-19 pandemic be addressed, and that the U.S. has failed so far to participate in a number of key global collaborative efforts on this issue. 

 

  • RUSSIA REPORT: Also today, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, of which Sen. Warner is the Vice Chairman, submitted the fifth and final volume of its bipartisan investigative report into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election to the Office of Director of National Intelligence for classification review. In addition to submitting the full, classified report, and in order to help facilitate the Intelligence Community’s review, we have also submitted what we assess to be a properly redacted, unclassified version of the report, totaling nearly 1,000 pages.

 

  • HARRISONBURG TRANSIT: On Wednesday, Sens. Warner and Kaine applauded $5,445,336 in federal funding for public transportation in Harrisonburg. The funding was authorized by the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act supported by the Senators.

 

 

WEEK AHEAD

 

On Saturday, Sen. Warner will speak via Zoom at a graduation celebration for the UVA Center for Politics. The event is open to press and the public, and you can tune in here at 11:30 AM. On Tuesday, he will participate in a Senate Banking Committee hearing with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell. On Wednesday afternoon, he will hold an outreach call with local leaders from Tazewell County. The Senate will adjourn on Thursday for the Memorial Day recess.

Rep. McEachin Applauds House Passage of the Heroes Act, Benefits for Virginia and Local Communities & Counties

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) today applauded the passage of the Heroes Act, the latest legislation to address the continued public health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19. The legislation provides urgently-needed support for struggling families and essential workers; funds for testing and tracing measures; key support for frontline workers; and strengthened assistance for the American people.

 

The Heroes Act provides the Commonwealth of Virginia and local communities on the frontlines of this crisis with robust, desperately-needed funding to cover coronavirus-related outlays and revenue loss and pay our healthcare workers, police, fire, transportation, EMS, teachers, and other vital workers who keep us safe and are in danger of losing their jobs.

 

“Congress must lead the nation through this crisis with common-sense and compassion,” said Rep. McEachin. “Our lives and the well-being of our communities are threatened if our healthcare, police, fire, EMS, teachers, and other vital workers do not have the support that they need. Passage of the Heroes Act will protect the livelihoods of frontline heroes risking their lives to care for our communities and provide workers and families with relief urgently-needed to weather the COVID-19 pandemic.”

 

Congressman McEachin worked diligently to ensure that the priorities of Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District were included in this legislation, specifically:

  • Coverage for COVID-19 treatment for Medicare beneficiaries;
    • H.R. 6727 introduced by Congressman McEachin holds Medicare beneficiaries harmless for specific COVID-19 treatment services furnished under part A or part B of the Medicare program – (Section 30201)
  • Incentivizing state and local governments to end water shutoffs;
    • The Home Energy and Water Service Continuity follows Congressman McEachin’s May letter to House leadership urging a prohibition of water shutoffs for municipalities and county governments receiving federal COVID-19 relief aid – (Section 190701)
  • Ensuring EPA environmental justice efforts continue during the pandemic; and
    • H.R. 6692 introduced by Congressman McEachin requires the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to continue to carry out certain programs relating to environmental justice, and for other purposes – (Section 190702)
  • Bolstering emergency funding for colleges and universities
    • Following Congressman McEachin’s April letter to leadership requesting increased funding for universities, the Heroes Act includes more than $10 billion to help alleviate burdens associated with the coronavirus for both colleges and students, including $1.7 billion for HBCUs and MSIs, and $8.4 billion for other institutions of higher education – (Division O – Education Provisions and Other Programs)

The Heroes Act also includes a $90 billion fund to support state and local public education, including $2,020,418 for communities across Virginia.  This funding will help maintain or restore state and local fiscal support for elementary, secondary, and public higher education and can be used to meet a wide range of urgent needs, including summer learning, afterschool programs, distance learning, and emergency financial aid for college students, as well as coordination with public health departments to mitigate the spread of disease.

 

In addition to resources for our state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, the Heroes Act provides transformative, far-reaching support to protect the lives and livelihoods of the American people and the life of our democracy.

  • Provides strong support for our heroes by establishing a $200 billion Heroes’ fund to ensure that essential workers across the country receive hazard pay.  
  • Commits another $75 billion for the testing, tracing, and treatment we need in order to have a science-based path to safely reopen our country and helping ensure that every American can access free coronavirus treatment.
  • Puts money in the pockets of workers with a second round of direct payments to families up to $6,000 per household, new payroll protection measures to keep 60 million workers connected with their paychecks and benefits, and extending weekly $600 federal unemployment payments through next January.
  • Supports small businesses by strengthening the Payroll Protection Program to ensure that it reaches underserved communities, nonprofits of all sizes and types, and responds flexibly to small businesses by providing $10 billion for COVID-19 emergency grants through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
  • Ensures further support for Virginians and all Americans, including for:
    • Health security – with COBRA subsidies and a special enrollment period in the ACA exchanges for those without insurance.
    • Workplace security – requiring OSHA to ensure that all workplaces develop science-based infection control plans and preventing employers from retaliating against workers who report problems.
    • Housing security – with $175 billion in new supports to assist renters and homeowners make monthly rent, mortgage and utility payments, and other housing-related costs.
    • Food security – with a 15 percent increase to the maximum SNAP benefit and additional funding for nutrition programs that help families put food on the table.  
  • Protects the life of our democracy with new resources to ensure safe elections, an accurate Census, and preserve the Postal Service. 

 

“We cannot pause while so many families in our communities are struggling,” continued Rep. McEachin. “We have a responsibility to do what is necessary now to protect the health and well-being of all of our communities. With the Heroes Act, House Democrats honor the service and sacrifice of our nation’s heroes and meet the needs of the American people today and through the coronavirus crisis.”

Governor’s Flag Order for the Commonwealth of Virginia

Pursuant to President Trump’s Presidential Proclamation to lower the United States flag, I do hereby order that the flags of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia are to be flown at half-staff over the state Capitol and all local, state, and federal building and grounds in the Commonwealth of Virginia in observance of Peace Officers Memorial Day.
 
I hereby order that the flags shall be lowered at sunrise on Friday, May 15, 2020, and remain at half-staff until sunset.
 
Ordered on this, the 14th day of May, 2020.

Quentin R. Johnson, Ph.D.

 

SVCC’s Ongoing Mission

By Quentin R. Johnson, Ph.D.

A year ago when I accepted the offer to serve as Southside Virginia Community College’s sixth president, the world was a different place. People have commented about what a topsy-turvy year it has been, but I am pleased to have been tasked with a leadership role in such challenging times. There’s no place I’d rather be.

During its 50-year history, SVCC’s mission has focused on serving the regional community through education, outreach, and collaboration. The mission remains unchanged. I am thankful and proud of how the college community has come together to meet COVID-19’s enormous challenges. During the virus-related emergency, SVCC’s staff have been active in seeking opportunities to serve the public in new ways.

Be assured, SVCC is open for business. We are working collaboratively to meet challenges head on. We are collectively doing whatever it takes to serve our students and neighbors. For example, as a service to the community, one of our instructors, Lisa Jordan, has assisted small businesses with their applications for grants. Several faculty members are serving as volunteers to shop for people who are place-bound, and our Campus Within Walls Coordinator, Lisa Hudson, has worked diligently to ensure continued instruction for incarcerated students.

In its mission to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to acquire an educational foundation that develops and extends their skills and knowledge, SVCC has embraced innovative opportunities to serve diverse student groups. Our Career Coaches have been in touch with 2020 graduates from area high schools and have worked diligently to assist high schools in pursuing alternate placement testing options. Students who have elected to stay home rather than return to other institutions across the commonwealth have been welcomed. Financial aid staff continue to work hard to ensure that each student receives the maximum amount of support available, including funds earmarked for students under the CARES Act.

Dr. Dixie Watts Dalton, Dean of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Business, reports that faculty members have adopted an array of technology-enhanced communications, such as live Zoom sessions, utilization of Canvas and Navigate, phone calls, texts, email, and Facebook Messenger. In addition, faculty have put together packets of course materials to be mailed to students without internet access. Also, Dr. Dalton commends instructors who have developed creative solutions in special circumstances. As an example, she explains, “For what is usually a hands-on class, adjunct instructor Katy Clarke created recordings of painting techniques for her art class so that students could watch and listen on their own schedules as they work on their own paintings.”

Dr. Chad Patton, Dean of Career and Occupational Technology, is working closely with his team to develop innovative workarounds to ensure education continues in the online environment. In addition to technical solutions, such as the use of automotive repair and advanced manufacturing simulators, faculty members are working one-on-one with students to ensure success. An example is allowing welding students to complete class projects where they are currently employed and send their work to the instructor for evaluation. Although hands-on labs are not currently permitted, an SVCC taskforce is working very hard to develop best practices to ensure student safety once students can return to our labs.

Dr. Michelle Edmonds, Dean of Nursing, Allied Health, and Natural Sciences who is also serving as Special Assistant to the Vice-President of Workforce and Academics, explains her current strategy, “I pretty much run office hours 24/7. Whenever students write to me by email or text message, I respond right away. If they can send me a picture of their question, I can walk them through it or I can show them another example.”

No one knows for sure what the future holds. If you have questions about any of our classes, academic programs, or short-term FastForward workforce programs which lead to jobs, please give us a call. At SVCC, we are communicating differently and adjusting to working in ways we’ve not worked before, but our strong commitments to the community and to education excellence remain steadfast. We are making every effort to put all hands to the task. Our ongoing mission of community service is too important for us to do anything less.

Dr. Quentin R. Johnson is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the City of Emporia. He can be reached via email at quentin.johnson@southside.edu.

Parker Channing Burke is April 2020 BA Student of the Month

Brunswick Academy is pleased to announce that senior Parker Channing Burke has been chosen as our Student of the Month for April 2020. Parker is the son of Neil and Sidney Burke of South Hill. He has a brother, Brady, who is in the 8th grade. Parker joined Brunswick Academy his 8th grade school year. He selected the Honors Academic Program, BA’s most challenging program, and consistently earned All A Honor Roll and attended the All A’s Head of School Breakfast. He was inducted into the National Honor Society and had the distinction of serving as a Junior Marshall for the 2019 graduation ceremony. He enrolled in dual enrollment courses through SVCC his junior and senior school years. Parker is a 5th year member of the Latin Club and served as Editor his senior year. He is also a 2nd year member of the Scholastic Bowl Team. Parker is ranked 4th in his graduating class and 3rd in the Honors Program.

Additionally, Parker has been actively involved in sports at BA where he was able to pursue his love of basketball and running. He was a 4 year member of the Cross Country team, serving as captain and earning All-Academic Honors this past year. He was a 3 year member of the JV Basketball team and played Varsity Basketball for 2 years. He was awarded Most Improved and received the Coaches Award under both programs. Parker also received the All-Academic Honors award as a senior. He has been an active member of the South Hill United Methodist Church and is a 6 year youth group member active in church missions and retreats. He has volunteered his time with the South Hill Bread Box and has helped supply food to Holly Haven House on Sundays.

Parker has been accepted to Roanoke College, East Carolina University, and University of Virginia at Wise. He is on the waiting list for UVA Charlottesville. Parker has been awarded the Dean’s Award Scholarship from Roanoke College. Although he is currently undecided about where he will attend college in the Fall, Parker plans to complete an undergraduate program in Biology Pre-medicine track with the goal of becoming a Medical Doctor. Congratulations, Parker!

McEachin Announces Support for Farm to Food Bank Enhancement Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) today announced his sponsorship of the Farm to Food Bank Enhancement Act, a bill to expand support for donations of agricultural products to food banks through USDA’s Farm to Food Bank program and cover up to 100 percent of administrative costs for any harvesting, processing, packaging, and transportation costs needed to get produce to food banks.

“Around the country and right here in my district, lines for food banks are inordinately long," said Congressman McEachin. "With unemployment in double digits and rising, many Americans are struggling to find and pay for healthy, fresh food to feed their families. State budgets are cratering, and this legislation will help ensure that food banks have sufficient agricultural foodstuffs for the increasing number of Americans who go to a food bank for help at no costs to localities or states."

 

VCU Health CMH CEO 2020 National Hospital Week Message

To The Editor:

It is with great pride that I want to wish all the team members at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital a happy National Hospital Week. The staff at CMH have been on the front lines of this war on COVID-19. They have tirelessly provided care to members of the communities we serve. Our employees have repeatedly demonstrated their strong commitment to their profession and their care and compassion for our patients has been evident throughout this crisis.

I want to recognize them for all they have been doing and are prepared to do in the future as we work to provide the excellent health care our communities need and deserve. This has been a uniquely challenging time for all of us, but as we celebrate National Hospital Week 2020, I want to publicly thank them for their countless hours of vital and fantastic health care during this crisis.

I am proud to be part of the family that is CMH strong!

Sincerely,

W. Scott Burnette

CEO

VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital, South Hill, Virginia

 

(Editor's Note: Your letters may not always reflect the views of Emporia News. Letters to the Editor may be sent to news@emporianews.com and must include your name. Letters that may be considered inflamitory in nature will not be published. Do not include profanity, racial ephitets, lewd, demeaning or disparaging comments. Letters may be edited for space, clarity and/or grammar.)

AMID COVID-19, WARNER, ALEXANDER INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO HELP RURAL HOSPITALS STAY OPEN

~ Bill would help direct more Medicare reimbursement payments to at least 14 Virginia hospitals ~

~ Legislation comes as Virginia hospitals face “massive” revenue shortfalls amid COVID-19 crisis ~

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure rural hospitals in Virginia can keep up with the cost of providing care amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The Fair Medicare Hospital Payments Act would help curb the trend of hospital closures in rural areas by making sure hospitals are fairly reimbursed for their services by the federal government. This legislation comes at a crucial time as hospitals in Virginia continue to lose needed revenue despite playing an essential role in serving their communities and providing lifesaving care during the biggest public health crisis in a century.

 

“The current payment policy has long placed some of Virginia’s most rural hospitals at a disadvantage and made it more difficult to provide quality care in communities that need it most,” said Sen. Warner. “The COVID-19 public health emergency has made it more important than ever to do everything we can to support our rural hospitals and this legislation is absolutely critical in doing that.”

 

“Last year, the Trump Administration updated the formula that determines how much Medicare will reimburse hospitals for patient care, taking into account, among other things, the cost of labor in that geographic area – called the Medicare Area Wage Index. And because of this change, Alan Levine, who leads Ballad, announced a $10 million investment in pay increases to nurses. However, these changes are temporary and will expire in three years, and many hospitals are concerned that hospital reimbursements could revert to the lower rates,” said Sen. Alexander. “Given COVID-19 impacts on rural hospitals, any changes that lower reimbursement would have significant impact. Tennessee has the second highest rate of hospitals closures in the country, with 13 hospitals having closed since 2010, and this is, in large part, due to lower reimbursements. This legislation will help keep up with the cost of providing care and help curb the trend of Tennessee rural hospital closures by setting an appropriate national minimum for the Medicare Area Wage Index.”

 

The Medicare Area Wage Index, a formula used by Medicare to reimburse hospitals, is much lower for states like Virginia and Tennessee, due to the fact that the formula is based on labor costs, which vary across the country. This flawed formula often results in disproportionately low Medicare reimbursement payments to hospitals in rural and low-wage areas.

 

Specifically, the legislation would establish an appropriate national minimum (0.85) for the Medicare Area Wage Index and ensure that rural hospitals are paid for the care they provide, while preserving the existing reimbursements for urban hospitals. This legislation would also help ensure fairness in reimbursements for hospitals across the country – including the many hospitals that are facing closures in rural areas – and fix severe and disproportionate disadvantages that unfairly penalize hundreds of communities and hospitals across the United States.

 

At a minimum, 14 Virginia hospitals would benefit from this legislation, with the number of beneficiaries growing in future years. The 14 hospitals that would immediately benefit include:

 

Locality:

Hospital:

Buchanan County

Buchanan General Hospital

Franklin

Southampton Memorial Hospital

Galax

Twin County Regional Hospital

Halifax County

Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital

Mecklenburg County

Community Memorial Hospital

Norton

Norton Community Hospital

Pulaski County

Lewisgale Hospital Pulaski

Russell County

Russell County Hospital

Smyth County

Smyth County Community Hospital

Tazewell County

Clinch Valley Medical Center

Tazewell County

Carilion Tazewell Community Hospital

Washington County

Johnston Memorial Hospital

Wise County

Lonesome Pine Hospital

Wythe County

Wythe County Community Hospital

 

According to the American Hospital Association, Medicare accounts for about 43 percent of reimbursements for hospitals nationally, underscoring the role that Medicare payments play in keeping hospitals open and functioning – particularly in Virginia’s underserved and economically-struggling regions.

 

In addition to Sens. Warner and Alexander, the legislation was introduced by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Doug Jones (D-AL), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Tim Kaine (D-VA), David Perdue (R-GA) and Richard Shelby (R-AL).

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Governor Northam Announces Phase One Guidelines to Slowly Ease Public Health Restrictions

Phase One will begin no sooner than Friday, May 15

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam signed Executive Order Sixty-One and presented a detailed framework for the first phase of the “Forward Virginia” plan to safely and gradually ease public health restrictions while containing the spread of COVID-19. The Phase One guidelines will be implemented when the data meets the public health criteria outlined by the Commonwealth. The new executive order modifies public health guidance in Executive Order Fifty-Three and Executive Order Fifty-Five and establishes guidelines for Phase One.

The Governor’s phased approach is grounded in science and data and includes mitigation strategies to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus through enhanced safety practices. The plan allows localities to consider delaying implementation of Phase One guidelines based on local conditions.

“I am proud of the millions of Virginians who have stayed home and helped to flatten the curve, but our work is not done,” said Governor Northam. “These guidelines represent one step forward in a gradual process, establishing the necessary modifications to business operations to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure for employees and customers. When we move into this first phase, it will be important for Virginians to act cautiously—especially our most vulnerable populations, the elderly, and those with underlying medical conditions.”

Under Phase One, the Commonwealth will move to a Safer at Home strategy, which continues the ban on social gatherings of more than 10 people and maintains recommendations for social distancing, teleworking, and wearing face coverings. All businesses should make modifications to maintain six feet of physical distancing, increase cleaning and sanitization of high contact surfaces, and provide enhanced workplace safety measures. 

Retail establishments will be allowed to operate at 50 percent occupancy, restaurant and beverage establishments may offer outdoor dining at 50 percent occupancy, personal grooming services may begin operating with one patron per service provider, and fitness centers may offer outdoor exercise services. Campgrounds may also begin taking reservations for short-term stays.

Places of worship have had a 10-person limit and have been allowed to hold drive-in services allowed. In Phase One, drive-in services may continue, and services may be held inside at 50 percent capacity. Specific guidelines for religious services can be found here.

Many of the restrictions put in place by Executive Order Fifty-Three will remain in place in Phase One. Entertainment and public amusement venues will remain closed and beaches will continue to be open only for exercise and fishing. Childcare centers remain open for children of working families. Overnight summer camps will remain closed in Phase One.

See more about the changes in Phase One below:

Phase One guidelines for specific sectors are available here or at virginia.gov/coronavirus/forwardvirginia.

View the graphs and slides from the Governor’s presentation here

The full text of Executive Order Sixty-One and Order of Public Health Emergency Three is available here.

VSU OFFERS NEW AGRICULTURE STUDIES SCHOLARSHIPS

Congressman David Scott Secures Federal Funding for 1890 Land-Grant Agriculture Scholarships

Virginia State University, VA - Virginia State University has announced a new scholarship program specifically for students who major in food and agricultural sciences. The aim of the scholarship program is to help build a highly skilled workforce that aligns with the USDA’s strategic goals of promoting rural prosperity and economic development. The program will provide full and partial scholarships to food and agricultural sciences undergraduate student majors in VSU’s College of Agriculture.

Rep. David Scott (Georgia’s 13th congressional district) introduced the bill with support from other members of Congress. Funding for VSU’s 1890 Scholarship Program comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which recently awarded more than $14 million to provide scholarships at the nation’s 19 historically black 1890 land-grant colleges and universities, including VSU. In fiscal year 2020, each institution received $752,632.

“Virginia State University is grateful for this award that will help us build on our land-grant mission of producing highly educated and skilled professionals to work in the food and agriculture industry,” said Dr. M. Ray McKinnie, Dean/1890 Administrator at the VSU College of Agriculture. He added that nationally there are more career opportunities in food and agriculture than there are graduates to take advantage of the opportunities. “Rep. Scott and USDA have demonstrated our nation’s commitment to cultivating diverse leaders who are equipped to address and solve emerging challenges in these evolving fields of food and agricultural sciences.”

The VSU College of Agriculture offers Bachelor of Science degree programs in three departments: Agriculture, Family and Consumer Sciences and Hospitality Management. Only students in those programs or who have been accepted to VSU College of Agriculture will be considered for the scholarship program. Among other criteria, students applying for the scholarship must be U.S. citizens, have and maintain a minimum cumulative 3.0 grade point average and intend to pursue a career in the food and agricultural sciences.Additional information and application for the VSU 1890 Scholarship Program can be found at http://www.agriculture.vsu.edu/1890-scholarship-program.php.

Virginia State University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, marital status, disability, age, sexual preference, political affiliation or any other bias prohibited by Virginia or federal law. Virginia State University is fully accredited by The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate, masters and doctorate degrees.

Rep. McEachin Thanks Emporia Constituent Mia Moore for Providing Childcare During Pandemic

RICHMOND, V.A. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) today continued his Thank-A-Neighbor program by highlighting the work of Mia Moore, Owner of CareKids Childcare Center in Emporia. Ms. Moore has continuted to provide childcare to parents who are still working,and has been flexible with families experiencing financial burden. She has also been assisting in providing meals for students in the Emporia-Greensville area while schools have been closed.

“I am very grateful that people like Ms. Moore are so willing to share their resources with people in their communities,” said Congressman McEachin. “Many families are facing tough decisions during this time, and I am thankful that Ms. Moore has been able to keep the doors of CareKids Childcare Center open, so that our essential workers know that while they are at work, their children will be taken care of. ” 

“I’ve been in situations where I needed help. I’m blessed now in many ways. So, anytime I’m ini a position to bless somebody else, I choose to do that simply because I know there are people who are in situations and they just need help,” said Mia Moore, Owner of CareKids Childcare Center. “Being able to help others is a blessing to me.” 

Congressman McEachin launched the Thank-A-Neighbor program in early April to celebrate residents of Virginia’s fourth congressional district who are going above and beyond to help others during the COVID-19 pandemic. Constituents of Congressman McEachin can nominate someone for Thank-A-Neighbor by emailing VA04.Projects@mail.house.gov

Downtime and Updates for Emporia News

On Tuesday, May 5th I had a notice on the site that there were two security updates for modules on Emporia News. One was for the text editor that I use and the other was for a module called "Spamicide."

Just as I usually do, I ticked the checkboxes beside each of these and clicked the download and install button and waited for the message that the operation had completed. Once finished, I checked the site, added what few articles I had and went to bed.

On Wednesday I logged in to add a few press released and was faced with a blank page. I assumed that Telpage must have been working on the server and checked again on Thursday morning. When the screen was still all white, I checked a few more browsers and discovered it was a HTTP 500 error and emailed Telpage. The resposne was quick. Everything else on that server worked fine, but he rebotted the server just in case. Must be a coding error.

Here I am a few hours later, I have narrowed the error to the Spamicide update, and have installed an updated version of the content management system that I use. In addition, I have added and customized a new theme that I hope you all will like.

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ROANOKE ROBOCALLERS TO PAY $300,000 BACK TO CONSUMERS

~ Attorney General Herring reaches settlement with Adventis Inc., Skyline Metrics LLC, which operated as OnceDriven among other names, and owner Bryant Cass for alleged illegal robocalling and deceptive sales tactics ~

RICHMOND (April 29, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has reached a settlement with two Roanoke-based telemarketing companies, and Roanoke resident Bryant Cass, for illegal robocalling and deceptive sales practices. Attorney General Herring filed suit against the two companies and Cass last summer, alleging that they made hundreds of thousands of unsolicited robocalls nationwide pitching car selling services to people who listed cars for sale on Craigslist, Autotrader.com, or similar sites. As part of the settlement agreement, Cass will pay $300,000 in restitution that will go back to consumers who were affected by his telemarketing, sales or refund practices. Additionally, Cass has been banned from engaging or participating in telephone solicitations for five years and has been permanently banned from illegal telemarketing and robocalling. The companies have ceased operations and are no longer in business.
 
“I’m really pleased my team and I were able to shut down this illegal robocall operation and help consumers get their money back from this scheme,” said Attorney General Herring. “Unfortunately, robocalls continue to be an everyday occurrence for most Virginians, and many times they can not only be annoying but dangerous, potentially scamming people out of hundreds or thousands of dollars. I will continue to do everything I can to protect Virginia consumers and find ways to stop illegal robocallers, especially those operating in Virginia.”
 
Attorney General Herring filed suit against Adventis Inc., Skyline Metrics LLC, which operated as OnceDriven, Longwood Industries, The Big Lot!, Autohopper, and Auto Marketing Systems, and Cass in June 2019 alleging that the businesses used automated equipment to pull telephone numbers from websites, make hundreds of calls a day – even to numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry – and leave prerecorded voicemails in which Cass used fake names like “Peyton” or “Brian” to pitch car selling services for a “small fee” with a “money back guarantee.” If people called back, they reached a telemarketing boiler room in downtown Roanoke, where trained salespeople worked off a scripted pitch to make sales.
 
Attorney General Herring also alleged that, from 2014 to 2017 alone, Cass and his companies made 586,870 unsolicited telemarketing calls just to Virginia area codes.
 
The Complaint also alleged that the companies enticed people to pay $289 for online car sales services through deceptive claims like these:
  • We have “buyers in your area” or buyers looking for “vehicles like yours,” regardless of whether the companies actually had such buyers
  • We also pre-screen buyers for financing to “make sure they are serious and they have a plan for paying you.” In fact, there was no such pre-screening
  • “We have a Money Back Guarantee!” If you sell your car on your own, “you’re eligible for a refund in the first 45 days.” In fact, refunds were hard to get, and Mr. Cass instructed employees to limit the number of refunds given, even to customers who took all the steps to qualify for a refund
 
Under the terms of the settlement, Adventis Inc., Skyline Metrics LLC, and Bryant Cass agreed to the following:
  • Restitution totaling $300,000 to be paid to consumers affected by the telemarketing, sales, or refund practices alleged in the Complaint
  • Civil penalties and attorneys’ fees totaling $8,708.02
  • A permanent ban from illegal telemarketing and robocalling, including bans on using automatic dialing systems or pre-recorded voice messages, calling numbers on the do-not-call registry, failing to honor do-not-call requests, failing to include a three-day right to cancel, and from violating the Virginia Consumer Protection Act or any of the federal or state telemarketing laws the Attorney General enforces.  These prohibitions apply to all calls, not just calls to Virginians
  • Cass is barred from engaging in or participating in telephone solicitations or assisting others in engaging in telephone solicitations for a five-year period
 
Attorney General Herring’s lawsuit was part of “Operation Call it Quits”, a coordinated federal and state law enforcement crackdown on robocallers and illegal telemarketers. This major crackdown on illegal robocalls included 94 actions targeting operations around the country responsible for more than one billion calls pitching a variety of products and services, including credit card interest rate reduction services, money-making opportunities, and medical alert systems.
 
In 2019 alone, Virginians received at least 1.56 billion robocalls. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Virginia was the 8th highest state in the nation for Do Not Call Registry complaints with 178,717 complaints in 2019. Additionally, Virginians made more than 125,000 complaints to the FTC about robocalls alone, up from more than 118,000 complaints in 2018. Americans received at least 58.5 billion robocalls in 2019, an increase of 22% from 47.8 billion robocalls in 2018.
 
Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section has recovered more than $323 million in relief for consumers and payments from violators. The Section has transferred more than $55 million to the Commonwealth’s General Fund, and following a major reorganization and enhancement in 2016 the Section has been even more effective in fighting for Virginia consumers.
 
Attorney General Herring has the following tips for Virginians to help manage robocalls:
  • Don’t answer calls from numbers you do not recognize
  • If it’s an unwanted robocall, hang up
  • Don’t press any numbers. This could lead to even more calls, even if the robocall claims you can press 1 to speak to a live operator or press a number to get your number off the calling list
  • Register your home and mobile phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the number you wish to register
  • Report robocalls to the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov. Federal and state law enforcement officials have access to the complaints filed through the National Do Not Call Registry
  • Contact your phone service provider and ask about available robocall-blocking technology
  • Consider using mobile apps or other features that may already be built into your phone to block robocalls
 
Consumer victims seeking additional information about the settlement can contact Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section:

 

 

 

VCU Health CMH to Resume Elective Procedures and Clinic Visits

During this unprecedented time we have been caring for emergent patients daily and now we are prepared to slowly phase in elective procedures again as well as in-person clinic visits,” said W. Scott Burnette, CEO, VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital.

We've taken these steps to keep you safe   

  • We are testing every patient for COVID-19 before undergoing surgery, so our teams can take the proper safety measures to care for them and keep others safe. In addition, we are testing all patients before admission to the hospital.  

  • We continue using telehealth for patient appointments and to communicate with patients both before and after their surgery.   

  • We screen everyone for coronavirus symptoms at our entrances and encourage everyone who enters our facilities to wear a mask. If you do not have one, we will provide one.  

  • We have extra hand-washing stations, robust cleaning and disinfecting protocols for our rooms and equipment, and protocols for treating patients with coronavirus symptoms in designated areas to minimize the spread of COVID-19. 

Some postponed surgeries already taking place 

We are already performing select surgeries and procedures for cancer and infection that were delayed due to COVID-19 and are urgently needed.

Our hospitals and emergency rooms are clean and safe -- don't postpone care 

Emergency rooms across the United States are seeing a decrease in visits due to fears of the virus. Paralleling a national trend, from March 20 - April 20, VCU Medical Center saw a 37% decline in patients seeking emergency care for stroke compared to the same time last year. Delaying care can put you at risk of further damaging your health.

“When we resume elective surgeries and postponed procedures, we want safety as our top priority. Therefore, we will be re-introducing those services gradually,” said Dr. Ike Ibe, Vice President of Medical Affairs at VCU Health CMH.

 

“We want to assure our patients and their families that it is safe to come to the hospital, and we ask them not to ignore health symptoms that can become major health issues if left unchecked,” Ibe added.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING FIGHTS DISCRIMINATION IN HEALTHCARE DURING COVID-19

~ Coalition of 24 attorneys general are urging the Trump Administration to not finalize a rule change that would eliminate protections against discrimination for women, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ community, and other vulnerable populations ~

RICHMOND (May 1, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has joined a coalition of 24 states in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging it not to finalize its proposed rule during COVID-19 that would allow discrimination in providing healthcare. The “Nondiscrimination in Health and Health Education Programs or Activities” (Section 1557 Rule) is an antidiscrimination provision that prohibits discrimination in healthcare based on gender, race, ethnicity, sex, age or disability. If finalized, the proposed changes to this provision would seriously undermine the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) critical anti-discrimination protections at a time when they are most needed to help address the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“No one should ever be afraid of being discriminated against by a healthcare provider, especially during a national health crisis,” said Attorney General Herring. “Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected communities of color in Virginia and around the country, exacerbating the racial and ethnic disparities in our healthcare system. We cannot allow the Trump Administration to make it easier for healthcare providers to discriminate against their patients.”

The proposed rule would roll back anti-discrimination protections for communities of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, those with limited English proficiency, and people with disabilities by undermining critical legal protections that guarantee healthcare as a right. Data shows that the COVID-19 pandemic is already exacerbating racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare that the ACA attempted to address, particularly in states that have not expanded Medicaid. Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted, and recently more than 100 national and local organizations signed on to an open letter to the healthcare community about how COVID-19 may pose an increased risk to the LGBTQ population. HHS itself has long noted that discrimination within the healthcare system contributes to poor coverage and health outcomes, and exacerbates existing health disparities in underserved communities. Individuals who have experienced discrimination in healthcare often postpone or forgo needed healthcare, resulting in adverse health outcomes.  
 
In the letter, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that moving forward with this rule change in the midst of this unprecedented healthcare crisis will create unnecessary confusion and administrative burdens for state agencies, healthcare providers, and patients at a time when the healthcare system is battling to save lives. Data suggests that increased access to healthcare could assist with prompt COVID-19 detection and increase early treatment, which helps diminish spread of the disease. For these reasons, the coalition warns the Trump Administration that making this major regulatory change in the midst of the current crisis is not only irresponsible, it is potentially deadly.

 

Joining Attorney General Herring in sending this letter are the attorneys general of California, Massachusetts, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Governor Northam Announces Expansion of Payment Relief for Student Loan Borrowers

Borrowers are encouraged to contact their loan servicer immediately

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia has secured relief options for more than 200,000 Virginians with privately held student loans. The payment relief is the result of a new initiative by Virginia and several other states to work with the major private student loan servicers to expand on protections for federal student loan borrowers through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“Virginians are facing unprecedented hardships as a result of this ongoing public health crisis, and student loan borrowers should not have to deal with the added pressure of how they are going to make their loan payments,” said Governor Northam. “This initiative will provide an important financial lifeline and repayment flexibility to Virginia residents who were not eligible for relief under the CARES Act.” 

The federal CARES Act provided much-needed relief for students with federal loans, including the suspension of monthly payments, interest, and involuntary collection activity until September 30, 2020. However, millions of student loan borrowers with loans made by private lenders and federal loans not owned by the U.S. Government were left out. 

Under this initiative, Virginians with commercially-owned Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) loans, Perkins loans, or privately held student loans who are struggling to make their payments due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will be eligible for expanded relief. Borrowers in need of assistance must immediately contact their student loan servicer to identify the options that are appropriate to their circumstances. Relief options include:

  • Providing a minimum of 90 days of forbearance

  • Waiving late payment fees

  • Ensuring that no borrower is subject to negative credit reporting

  • Ceasing debt collection lawsuits for 90 days

  • Working with borrower to enroll them in other borrower assistance programs, such as income-based repayment

These options will provide short-term relief for borrowers with significant changes in their income, which is advisable over the option of non-payment which can lead to default. Borrowers should note that these solutions will impact the terms and conditions of the loans. Before exercising these options, carefully consider the impact of the interest that accrues during the 90-day forbearance and how it will extend the repayment schedule for the loans.

“Borrowers did not have a choice in whether their FFEL loans were held by the federal government or by the commercial lender, and yet 65 percent of all FFEL loans are not eligible for the CARES Act relief,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “The principle of equity demands that we provide relief for all federal borrowers, regardless of whether the federal government or a commercial lender backs the loan.”

The Office of the Qualified Education Loan Ombudsman at the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) is responsible for helping Virginia student borrowers understand their rights and responsibilities. The Student Loan Advocate serves as a liaison between student loan borrowers and loan servicers or other agencies, helping them explore repayment options and aiding in the resolution of complaints against loan providers.

“As a result of this collaboration with servicers, lending institutions for privately held loans, and several other states, we are pleased to expand the relief options for Virginia’s student loan borrowers who are struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Virginia’s Student Loan Advocate Scott W. Kemp.

Other states in the initiative include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, and Washington.

Private student loan servicers providing relief include:

  • Aspire Resources, Inc.
  • College Ave Student Loan Servicing, LLC
  • Earnest Operations, LLC
  • Edfinancial Services, LLC
  • Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corporation
  • Lendkey Technologies, Inc.
  • Higher Education Loan Authority of the State of Missouri (MOHELA)
  • Navient
  • Nelnet, Inc.
  • Scratch
  • SoFi Lending Corp.
  • Tuition Options, LLC
  • United Guaranty Services, Inc.
  • Upstart Network, Inc.
  • Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority (UHEAA)
  • Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC)

Borrowers can visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid or call Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243 or 1-800-730-8913 (TDD) to determine the types of federal loans they have and who their servicers are. Borrowers with private student loans can check their monthly billing statements for contact information. Borrowers can also file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau here.

Borrowers experiencing trouble with their student loan servicer or looking to better understand the implications of these relief options are encouraged to contact Virginia’s Student Loan Advocate at studentloan@schev.edu or (804) 786-2832.

For additional information about relief options for federal loan borrowers, visit schev.edu/studentloan.

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