Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that Prince William County will be awarded $94,489,915 in federal funding for public transit. The funding was authorized by the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act supported by Sens. Warner and Kaine, and will support operating, administrative, capital, and preventive maintenance costs for Virginia Railway Express (VRE), Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC), and Fredericksburg Regional Transit (FRED).

“We’re pleased to announce this funding to ensure Virginians can continue to rely on safe and reliable public transportation during this ongoing health and economic crisis,” said the Senators. “And as we’ve seen COVID-19 cases gradually increase across the country and in the Commonwealth, these funds will help ensure that our essential workers can continue to get to and from work as safely as possible.”

Through the CARES Act, Congress provided $25 billion for transit agencies to help prevent, prepare, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prince William County received its funding under the FTA’s Urbanized Area Formula Program, which makes federal resources available to urbanized areas and to governors for transit capital and operating assistance in urbanized areas and for transportation-related planning.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Steve T. Descano brought forth two charges against the U.S. Park Police officers involved in the November 2017 shooting of Bijan Ghaisar: 

“As we near three years since two National Park Police officers tragically shot and killed Bijan, it is long past time for the Ghaisars to receive answers about what happened to their son and brother that night. 

In January of 2018, Sen. Warner, along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), pushed the FBI for an update on the status of its investigation into the fatal 2017 shooting. In October of that year, Sen. Warner sent a letter to the head of the National Park Service (NPS) regarding the circumstances under which U.S. Park Police officers engaged with Mr. Ghaisar.

In June of 2019, Sen. Warner along with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) decried the opaque and drawn-out nature of the review in letters to both the FBI and NPS. Two months later, the FBI provided a brief response, leaving many questions unanswered. In October, NPS provided a partial response, which prompted a follow-up letter from the Senators seeking more information.

In November 2019, the Senators pledged to seek greater transparency and formally requested an FBI briefing on its investigation into the shooting – shortly after the FBI concluded its lengthy investigation without fully explain its findings, including why the two officers opened fire on Ghaisar. In February 2020, Sen. Warner voted against the nomination of Katharine MacGregor to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior, and in May, announced that he would place a hold on future Department of the Interior nominees until he receives adequate responses to his questions surrounding the Park Service’s handling of the shooting. In July, Sen. Warner pressed NPS for answers regarding its internal affairs investigation into the killing of Mr. Ghaisar, and the following month, he joined Sen. Grassley in a letter expressing concern over the department’s refusal to answer a number of questions in a briefing.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $19,013,614 from the U.S. Department of Labor for two career and training centers for seniors in Arlington, VA.

“These investments will enhance on-the-job training programs and provide seniors who are currently out of work with an opportunity to earn a paycheck and learn new skills, making them better-qualified candidates for future employment,” said the Senators.

The funding will be awarded as follows:

  • $17,431,229 for the National Council on Aging, Inc in Arlington, VA.
  • $1,582,385 for the National Older Worker Career Center in Arlington, VA.

The funding is made available through the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). SCSEP is a community service and work-based job training program for older Americans. Authorized by the Older Americans Act, the program provides training for low-income, unemployed seniors, to give them the skills they need to re-enter the workforce. Additionally, SCSEP participants will have access to employment assistance through American Job Centers.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (both D-Va.) and Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (Both D-Md.) held a virtual meeting Wednesday with Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld to review the recent, scathing audit from the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC). The senators, all of whom are staunch advocates of federal support for Metro, expressed their frustrations and disappointment at the serious problems described in the safety review.

“We appreciated the opportunity to hear directly from WMATA about its plans for addressing problems at its Rail Operations and Control Center (ROCC) and about certain corrective actions Mr. Wiedefeld has already begun to set in motion. The current problems with the culture and operations of the ROCC that have been highlighted in the WMSC’s safety audit are detrimental to the safety of all who depend on MetroRail and are wholly unacceptable. Also troubling to us is that some of the problems had been previously identified in years past, and they have been allowed to persist without a sufficient, effective response. The challenge now before WMATA’s leadership is not only to fix the disturbing issues within the ROCC, but to demonstrate that its management team has the capability to implement meaningful, lasting improvements in organizational culture and safety. We will be following its performance closely.”

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $7,798,131 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) to develop, expand, and strengthen assistance programs for victims of sex trafficking in Richmond, Fairfax, Alexandria, and Hampton. 

“Community and government-based agencies are on the front lines in the battle against human trafficking,” said the Senators. "We are pleased to announce these critical funds to support communities across the Commonwealth in their effort to end human trafficking.”

The funding was awarded as follows:

  • $1,684,000 for the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services in Richmond, VA.
  • $1,499,911 for the ICF Incorporated, L.L.C. in Fairfax, VA.
  • $588,868 for the Transitions Family Violence Services in Hampton, VA.
  • $2,500,000 for the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Alexandria, VA.
  • $1,000,000 for the National White Collar Crime Center in Richmond, VA.
  • $525,352 for the Virginia Department of Law in Richmond, VA.

In 2016, the Senate passed legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which included a provision championed by Sen. Warner to combat human trafficking in the skies. The Stop Trafficking on Planes (STOP) Act requires airlines to train flight attendants to recognize and report suspected human trafficking to law enforcement.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $35,719,247 in federal funding to support access to safe and affordable housing throughout Virginia, particularly in communities whose households face a higher rate of eviction. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded the funding through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. The funding is part of the $5 billion in supplemental CDBG funding authorized by the CARES Act in March.

 “Too many Virginians are in danger of losing their homes due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus,” said the Senators. “We’re pleased to see significant funding go directly towards supporting affordable housing, and we will continue fighting to ensure people across the Commonwealth get the federal assistance they need.”

 The CDBG program offers annual grants on a formula basis to states, cities, and counties to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and a suitable living environment and expanding economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons.

 The following localities will receive funding through the CDBG program:

 

Recipient                      Amount

Alexandria

$943,356

Blacksburg

$210,594

Bristol

$116,003

Charlottesville

$335,024

Chesapeake

$876,358

Christiansburg

$111,118

Colonial Heights

$104,710

Danville

$228,845

Fredericksburg

$205,866

Hampton

$688,562

Harrisonburg

$326,630

Hopewell

$125,506

Lynchburg

$389,143

Newport News

$971,659

Norfolk

$1,250,901

Petersburg

$189,765

Portsmouth

$426,191

Radford

$74,893

City of Richmond

$1,362,346

Roanoke

$546,786

Staunton

$125,136

Suffolk

$323,149

Virginia Beach

$2,069,846

Waynesboro City

$117,476

Winchester

$182,191

Arlington County

$1,348,826

Chesterfield County

$1,216,799

Fairfax County

$4,850,209

Henrico County

$1,417,098

Loudoun County

$1,448,141

Prince William County

$2,145,011

Virginia Nonentitlement

$10,991,109

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) led Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) in calling on the seven largest internet service providers (ISPs) to do their part to limit the economic and social disruption caused by COVID-19 and help ensure that children are able to meaningfully participate in their education. These letters come as unprecedented numbers of students rely on remote learning to kick off the fall semester due to the ongoing public health crisis. 

In a letter sent to the CEOs of AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, T-Mobile, and Verizon, the Senators called on companies to take concrete measures to suspend limits and fees associated with increased broadband use, which is needed to participate in online courses or remote work. They also called for the companies to expand coverage areas, as the public health emergency has highlighted the devastating impact of the nation’s lingering broadband gaps.

“As a new school year commences, the need to accommodate an unprecedented reliance on data services to provide education continues. We have heard from public schools who express appreciation for internet service options that enable remote learning, but are also concerned with ongoing data limitations and continued lack of service for many households,” the Senators wrote. “In many situations, online learning activities require additional data allowances beyond plans readily available for students. We kindly request that you again take immediate action to help students connect to the online resources they need to learn, including expanding coverage areas and rolling out new service plans that better meet the needs of these families.” 

“With many schools closed and students now relying on the internet to connect with their teachers, instruction materials, and assignments, sufficient data allowances are even more essential for students’ success now and throughout their future. However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced many parents to work from home, increasing their monthly broadband usage,” they continued. “For these crucial reasons, we ask again that you temporarily suspend data caps and associated fees or throttling for affected communities, and work with public school districts, colleges, and universities to provide free, or at-cost broadband options for students whose schools are closed due to COVID-19 and don’t have sufficient access at home. These options are essential for students, regardless of household billing histories. Working with school administrations to facilitate qualification for discounts based on the schools’ personal knowledge may be especially helpful. For example, students qualifying for free/discounted lunches may also prequalify for free/discounted broadband services as well.”

According to findings from a Pew Research study, the “homework gap” of students lacking reliable access to internet connectivity or a computer at home is more pronounced among Black, Hispanic and lower-income households. In addition to the toll it takes on individual students and their families, the economic cost of this gap has been identified by McKinsey and Company as having deprived the economy of at least $426 billion between 2009 and 2019.

In their letter, the Senators noted numerous complaints that have come in to their offices from parents and educators who are grappling with usage caps and limited bandwidth, which prevent daily video calls needed to learn and work from home. The Senators also stated they’ve heard of families being deemed ineligible for the new services offered for low-income families due to previous missed payments. 

Sen. Warner has long fought for increased access to broadband in the Commonwealth during his tenure as Governor and during his time in the Senate. In March, Sen. Warner led 17 of his colleagues in urging major internet service providers to take steps to accommodate the incoming unprecedented reliance on telepresence services. After this effort, a number of major internet service providers announced the adoption of practices to better accommodate the use of remote technologies. Earlier this year, Sen. Warner also introduced legislation to help ensure adequate home internet connectivity for K-12 students during COVID-19. He has also pushed the FCC to ensure that millions of Americans are made aware of their eligibility for the FCC’s Lifeline program – the primary federal program charged with helping low-income families obtain broadband and telephone services. 

A copy of the letter is available here and text can be found below.

 

As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic requires returning students across the United States to rely on remote learning and online courses, we write to ask for your assistance to help ensure students can take full advantage of essential education opportunities this fall. In March, we were thankful that your company answered our request to make a range of accommodations and service changes to help Americans shifting to unprecedented levels of online education and telework, including suspending some broadband data limits on a temporary basis. Your decisive and timely actions helped cushion the impacts to families across the nation during the spring months. 

As a new school year commences, the need to accommodate an unprecedented reliance on data services to provide education continues. We have heard from public schools who express appreciation for internet service options that enable remote learning, but are also concerned with ongoing data limitations and continued lack of service for many households. In many situations, online learning activities require additional data allowances beyond plans readily available for students. We kindly request that you again take immediate action to help students connect to the online resources they need to learn, including expanding coverage areas and rolling out new service plans that better meet the needs of these families. Unprecedented numbers of students now rely on remote access for education due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and remote education is only as effective as available internet service. 

Effective remote learning requires capable devices and adequate broadband internet access. The Pew Research Center found in March the “homework gap” of students lacking reliable access to a computer at home is a significant challenge for many students, and even more pronounced for Black, Hispanic and lower income households. With many schools closed and students now relying on the internet to connect with their teachers, instruction materials, and assignments, sufficient data allowances are even more essential for students’ success now and throughout their future. However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced many parents to work from home, increasing their monthly broadband usage.

Our offices have fielded numerous complaints from parents and educators frustrated by usage caps and limited bandwidth, which prevent daily video calls needed to learn and work from home. And those who have no other option find themselves buried in overage fees. In some cases, we’ve learned that eligibility for new services announced for low-income households is barred if that household has missed monthly payments in the past. These predicaments shine a light on our growing digital divide and threaten the education and subsequent futures of our students. In June, McKinsey and Co. reported that this education achievement gap limited the growth of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) by at least $426 billion between 2009 and 2019. The necessary closing of schools during the public health crisis and transition to remote education has exacerbated these gaps.

For these crucial reasons, we ask again that you temporarily suspend data caps and associated fees or throttling for affected communities, and work with public school districts, colleges, and universities to provide free, or at-cost broadband options for students whose schools are closed due to COVID-19 and don’t have sufficient access at home. These options are essential for students, regardless of household billing histories. Working with school administrations to facilitate qualification for discounts based on the schools’ personal knowledge may be especially helpful. For example, students qualifying for free/discounted lunches may also prequalify for free/discounted broadband services as well. 

We look forward to promptly hearing from you about what steps you will take to help limit the economic and social disruption that COVID-19 is posing at this challenging time. We recognize that many broadband providers have experienced significant business growth since the onset of this crisis. We ask that you identify ways to give back to the communities you serve through deployment of expanded service and additional service plans and policies that respond to the concerns we’ve heard from constituents about access, affordability, and data rates.

Containing the health impact of COVID-19 will depend on observance of social distancing measures outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health authorities. But containing the economic and social impact of COVID-19 requires a whole-of-society effort. At this time of great strain on our economic and education systems, we encourage you to do everything you can to cushion the impacts on American families and students. Our offices would be happy to connect you with local education officials and administrators to facilitate this effort.

We appreciate your time and consideration of this matter.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $4,138,947 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help support health centers across the Commonwealth as they continue battling the COVID-19 crisis. 

“We’re thrilled to announce that these federal dollars will go towards supporting Virginia’s health centers as they continue to provide essential care during this pandemic,” said the Senators. 

The funding for health centers was awarded as follows:

  • $280,654 for Eastern Shore Rural Health System in Accomack County, Va.
  • $353,441 for Neighborhood Health in Alexandria, Va.
  • $222,750 for Johnson Health Center in Amherst County, Va.
  • $75,905 for Bland County Medical Clinic in Bland County, Va.
  • $335,491 for Central Virginia Health Services in Buckingham County, Va.
  • $215,250 for Tri-Area Community Health in Carroll County, Va.
  • $222,750 for Portsmouth Community Health Center in Portsmouth, Va. 
  • $224,446 for St. Charles Health Council in Lee County, Va.
  • $282,459 for Rockbridge Area Free Clinic in Lexington, Va.
  • $126,094 for Loudoun Community Health Center in Loudoun County, Va.
  • $40,000 for Southern Dominion Health Systems in Lunenburg County, Va.
  • $240,953 for Martinsville Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness in Martinsville, Va.
  • $207,750 for Free Clinic Of The New River Valley in Montgomery County, Va.
  • $220,818 for Blue Ridge Medical Center in Nelson County, Va.
  • $317,485 for Greater Prince William Community Health Center in Prince William County, Va.
  • $227,936 for Daily Planet Health Services in Richmond, Va.
  • $217,856 for Kuumba Community Health and Wellness Center in Roanoke, Va.
  • $222,750 for Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems in Smyth County, Va.
  • $104,159 for Horizon Health Services in Southampton County, Va. 

This funding was awarded through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Health Center Program, which provides funds to community-based health care providers that provide primary care services in underserved areas. These health centers must meet a stringent set of requirements, including providing care on a sliding fee scale based on ability to pay and operating under a governing board that includes patients.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $8,978,420 in federal funding to help Virginians access affordable housing across the Commonwealth. The funding was awarded through the Housing Choice Voucher Program and authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act supported by Warner and Kaine.

“As housing insecurity continues to rise for many Virginians, now more than ever, Congress needs to offer critical assistance to those in need,” the Senators said. “We’re pleased to announce these federal funds that will go directly towards supporting some of the most vulnerable communities right now.”  

Through the CARES Act, Congress provided $1.25 billion for Tenant-Based Rental Assistance, which funds the Housing Choice Voucher program that helps lower-income families, the elderly, and disabled individuals afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing. This funding includes $400 million for increased subsidy costs and $850 million for administrative and other expenses incurred by public housing authorities (PHAs), including activities to support or maintain the health and safety of assisted individuals and families, and costs related to retention and support of participating owners.

The funding will be awarded as below:

Recipient                                                                                          City                            Amount

Abingdon Redevelopment and Housing Authority                                 Abingdon                  14,067

Accomack-Northampton Regional Housing Authority                            Accomack                  70,053

Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                  Alexandria                384,750

Arlington County Dept. of Human Services                                         Arlington                   382,489

Big Stone Gap Redevelopment and Housing Auth.                               Big Stone Gap           14,895

Bristol Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                        Bristol                       44,015

Buckingham Housing Development Corp. Inc.                                     New Canton              12,112

Charlottesville Redevelopment & Housing Authority                             Charlottesville           60,969

Chesapeake Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                Chesapeake              273,293

County of Albemarle/Office of Housing                                               Charlottesville           68,308

Covington Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                   Covington                 6,188

Danville Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                      Danville                    202,837

Fairfax County Redevelopment & Housing Authority                             Fairfax                      1,343,712

Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority                                   Franklin                     39,053

Hampton Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                    Hampton                   546,358

Harrisonburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority                              Harrisonburg              118,122

Hopewell Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                   Hopewell                    83,304

James City County Office of Housing                                                 Williamsburg               26,718

Lee County Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                 Jonesville                   60,122

Loudoun County Department of Family Services                                Leesburg                   141,428

Lynchburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                 Lynchburg                102,166

Marion Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                     Marion                       32,611

Newport News Redevelopment & Housing Authority                          Newport News           457,534

Norfolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                    Norfolk                      670,205

Norton Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                    Norton                       13,554

People Inc. of Southwest Virginia                                                   Abingdon                  18,907

Petersburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority                              Petersburg                120,138

Portsmouth Redevelopment & Housing Authority                             Portsmouth               332,279

Prince William County Office of HCD                                              Woodbridge               467,993

Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority                               Richmond                  506,406

Roanoke Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                 Roanoke                    250,704

Scott County Redevelopment & Housing Authority                           Duffield                     28,438

Staunton Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                Staunton                   26,821

Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority                                Suffolk                      158,077

Virginia Beach Dept. of Housing & Neighborhood Pres.                     Virginia Beach          363,274

Virginia Housing Development Authority                                         Richmond                 1,381,408

Waynesboro Redevelopment & Housing Authority                           Waynesboro              46,973

Wise County Redevelopment & Housing Authority                            Coeburn                    90,291

Wytheville Redevelopment & Housing Authority                               Wytheville                17,848

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $1,787,477 in federal funding for fire departments in Virginia through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program. The AFG program supports local fire departments by providing funds for new equipment and training.

“We are pleased to announce this critical funding to support Virginia’s firefighters. We must ensure they are always equipped with the tools and training necessary to keep them safe as they protect us from fires and other dangers in the community,” the Senators said. 

The following Virginia fire departments will receive funding for operations and safety under the AFG program:

  • The Wintergreen Fire Department will receive $203,809;
  • The Warren County Fire and Rescue will receive $725,454;
  • The Fries Volunteer Fire Department will receive $34,077;
  • The Stephens City Fire & Rescue Company will receive $94,285;
  • The Lynchburg Fire Department will receive $88,941
  • Richmond County Fire and Emergency Services will receive $640,909.

The primary goal of FEMA’s AFG program is to enhance the safety of the public and firefighters with respect to fire-related hazards by providing direct financial assistance to eligible fire departments, nonaffiliated Emergency Medical Services organizations and State Fire Training Academies for critically-needed resources to equip and train emergency personnel, recognize standards, enhance operations efficiencies, foster interoperability, and support community resilience.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) introduced legislation to allow for the construction of a new Long Bridge across the Potomac River – a move that would double the capacity of the rail crossing between Virginia and the District of Columbia (D.C). The Long Bridge Act of 2020would authorize the National Park Service (NPS) to transfer to Virginia and D.C. the land needed for the construction of the new commuter rail and pedestrian bridge adjacent to the existing bridge. 

“Adequate rail infrastructure is an essential aspect of our Commonwealth’s economy. It helps ensure fast and convenient transportation for passengers and commuters and facilitates commerce by providing a reliable way to move and ship goods,” said Sens. Warner and Kaine. “This legislation will allow NPS to transfer the needed land to Virginia so that it can build the new Long Bridge and double the amount of rail capacity in this important passageway.”  

“The legislation introduced by Senators Warner and Kaine is a significant milestone in transforming passenger and freight rail service along the East Coast,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “The construction of the Long Bridge is a project of national significance – unlocking the gridlock across the Potomac, expanding rail capacity, creating essential rail redundancy, and supporting economic recovery and growth.”

The existing Long Bridge is one of the most significant choke points along the East Coast. It’s the only rail bridge connecting Virginia to D.C. and serves as the main rail connection between the Southeast and the Northeast for passenger and freight rail, carrying almost 80 CSX, Amtrak and VRE commuter trains per day.  

The construction of the new Long Bridge is at the center of an investment by the Commonwealth of Virginia, which recently reached a landmark $3.7 billion rail agreement with CSX, which includes acquisition of 350 miles of rail and 225 miles of track, and allows Virginia to double VRE and state-supported Amtrak service. Under current law, NPS does not have the legal authority to convey the needed land to Virginia and D.C. without an act of Congress.

This legislation would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to transfer approximately 4 acres of land to Virginia and the D.C. for the construction of rail and other infrastructure relating to the Long Bridge Project. 

U.S. Reps. Rob Wittman (R-VA) and Don Beyer (D-VA) have introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives to facilitate the construction of the new Long Bridge.

The text of this legislation is available here

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) continued to seek answers from the National Park Service (NPS) regarding the killing of Fairfax County resident Bijan Ghaisar by U.S. Park Police (USPP) officers in 2017. For over two years, Sen. Warner has sought transparency into the circumstances surrounding the use of deadly force, the FBI’s review of the case, and the handling of the incident by the Department of the Interior.

“I am deeply disappointed in the lack of actual information provided in your letter, especially considering it took over seven months to receive a response to my original correspondence. The response and recent public comments made by the Department of the Interior raise some additional questions that require further clarification,” wrote Sen. Warner. “One specific aspect of NPS and USPP’s handling of the Bijan Ghaisar case that has not been adequately explained is the status of an internal affairs investigation related to the Park Police officers involved in the incident.”

In his letter, Sen. Warner pointed to contradictory comments from USPP regarding the status of an internal affairs investigation into the officers that were involved in the incident. In response, Sen. Warner requested answers to a number of questions regarding the Department of the Interior’s position on such an investigation: 

  1. Is the Park Service and the Park Police relying on written guidance within the USPP Internal Affairs Unit or elsewhere within NPS when claiming it is the position of the agency that it does not pursue internal affairs investigations while criminal investigations are ongoing or could potentially be forthcoming? If such written guidance exists, I request that you provide my office with a copy of this policy. If no such written policy exists, I ask that you provide a fulsome explanation as to how this became the current position of USPP and NPS, including the legal justification for the agency’s position on this matter. 
  1. Are there previous examples where the USPP Internal Affairs Unit has conducted an internal affairs investigation regarding the use of force by Park Police officers while outside civil or criminal investigations were ongoing or potentially forthcoming? If there are such instances, I request that you provide my office with documentation regarding these investigations and an explanation of how they differ from the situation regarding Mr. Ghaisar.
  1. In the updated USPP General Order on Use of Force policy (#3615), a section is included regarding the reporting of use of force incidents. In this section, it states that an officer “shall immediately report all uses of force beyond Cooperative or Contact controls to an immediate supervisor,” and that “[t]he supervisor shall submit a copy of all reports within 24 hours to the Commander, Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), and the appropriate Division Commander through the appropriate chain of command.” It continues, “[t]he Commander, OPR, shall ensure all use of force incidents are properly investigated,” and provides the OPR Commander authority to assign the Internal Affairs Unit to conduct a thorough investigation of an incident if deemed necessary.[1]

    How do these new reporting requirements compare to the guidelines in place at the time of the Bijan Ghaisar incident? The updated guidelines appear to have no qualifications that would prevent the Internal Affairs Unit from conducting an investigation concurrently with any potential civil or criminal investigation associated with an incident pertaining to the use of force by a Park Police officer. Would these reporting requirements spelled out in the updated General Orders on Use of Force be subjected to USPP’s current stated policy that it does not initiate internal affairs investigations if a criminal investigation is possible, even if the OPR Commander determines an incident is worthy of an internal affairs investigation? 
  1. When the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney makes a formal decision of whether or not to bring criminal charges against the two Park Police officers involved in the shooting of Bijan Ghaisar, what is the anticipated timeline for the USPP Internal Affairs Unit to determine if any violations of USPP policy occurred?

In January of 2018, Warner, along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), pushed the FBI for an update on the status of its investigation into the fatal 2017 shooting. In October of that year, Warner sent a letterto the head of the National Park Service (NPS) regarding the circumstances under which U.S. Park Police officers engaged with Mr. Ghaisar.

In June of 2019, Sen. Warner along with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) decried the opaque and drawn-out nature of the review in letters to both the FBI and NPS. Two months later, the FBI provided a brief response, leaving many questions unanswered. In October, NPS provided a partial response, which prompted a follow-up letter from the Senators seeking more information.

In November 2019, the Senators pledged to seek greater transparency and formally requested an FBI briefing on its investigation into the shooting – shortly after the FBI concluded its lengthy investigation without fully explain its findings, including why the two officers opened fire on Ghaisar. Earlier this year, Sen. Warner voted against the nomination of Katharine MacGregor to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior, and in May, announced that he would place a hold on future Department of the Interior nominees until he receives adequate responses to his questions surrounding the Park Service’s handling of the shooting.

A copy of today’s letter is available here and below.

 

July 24, 2020

The Honorable David Vela

Acting Director

National Park Service

1849 C Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20240 

Dear Acting Director Vela: 

Thank you for the letter, sent June 3, 2020, which aimed to respond to a letter Senator Grassley and I sent to you on November 1, 2019, that raised serious questions regarding the National Park Service’s (NPS) and United States Park Police’s (USPP) handling of the Bijan Ghaisar case. While I appreciate that you responded, I am deeply disappointed in the lack of actual information provided in your letter, especially considering it took over seven months to receive a response to my original correspondence. The response and recent public comments made by the Department of the Interior raise some additional questions that require further clarification.

One specific aspect of NPS and USPP’s handling of the Bijan Ghaisar case that has not been adequately explained is the status of an internal affairs investigation related to the Park Police officers involved in the incident. In response to my question regarding the status of a potential internal affairs investigation, you replied that “the National Park Service (NPS) does not typically comment on the substance or specific aspect of such reviews before they are complete,” and “[w]e can confirm that the Department has begun evaluating next steps in the context of pending cases and possible criminal action by the Fairfax County Prosecutor’s Office.” However, on May 20, 2020, a representative for USPP commented, “no internal affairs investigation of this case will begin until after a decision is made by Fairfax on filing criminal charges.”  While other questions remain surrounding the Department’s handling of Bijan’s shooting, I have a number of specific questions regarding the Department’s position on a potential internal affairs investigation.

1.           Is the Park Service and the Park Police relying on written guidance within the USPP Internal Affairs Unit or elsewhere within NPS when claiming it is the position of the agency that it does not pursue internal affairs investigations while criminal investigations are ongoing or could potentially be forthcoming? If such written guidance exists, I request that you provide my office with a copy of this policy. If no such written policy exists, I ask that you provide a fulsome explanation as to how this became the current position of USPP and NPS, including the legal justification for the agency’s position on this matter.

2.           Are there previous examples where the USPP Internal Affairs Unit has conducted an internal affairs investigation regarding the use of force by Park Police officers while outside civil or criminal investigations were ongoing or potentially forthcoming? If there are such instances, I request that you provide my office with documentation regarding these investigations and an explanation of how they differ from the situation regarding Mr. Ghaisar.

3.           In the updated USPP General Order on Use of Force policy (#3615), a section is included regarding the reporting of use of force incidents. In this section, it states that an officer “shall immediately report all uses of force beyond Cooperative or Contact controls to an immediate supervisor,” and that “[t]he supervisor shall submit a copy of all reports within 24 hours to the Commander, Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), and the appropriate Division Commander through the appropriate chain of command.” It continues, “[t]he Commander, OPR, shall ensure all use of force incidents are properly investigated,” and provides the OPR Commander authority to assign the Internal Affairs Unit to conduct a thorough investigation of an incident if deemed necessary.  

How do these new reporting requirements compare to the guidelines in place at the time of the Bijan Ghaisar incident? The updated guidelines appear to have no qualifications that would prevent the Internal Affairs Unit from conducting an investigation concurrently with any potential civil or criminal investigation associated with an incident pertaining to the use of force by a Park Police officer. Would these reporting requirements spelled out in the updated General Orders on Use of Force be subjected to USPP’s current stated policy that it does not initiate internal affairs investigations if a criminal investigation is possible, even if the OPR Commander determines an incident is worthy of an internal affairs investigation? 

4.           When the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney makes a formal decision of whether or not to bring criminal charges against the two Park Police officers involved in the shooting of Bijan Ghaisar, what is the anticipated timeline for the USPP Internal Affairs Unit to determine if any violations of USPP policy occurred?

Thank you for your attention to the questions outlined above. Should you or your staff have any questions regarding this request, please contact my staff.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) applauded the House passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill he championed that would address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at National Park Service (NPS) sites across the country and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). With the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this bipartisan bill will help create more than 100,000 jobs across the country and stimulate local economies that rely on outdoor tourism industry. In June, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan legislation and with today’s passage in the House of Representatives, the bill will now head to President Trump’s desk for his signature.

“In passing the Great American Outdoors Act, the House has reaffirmed Congress’ bipartisan commitment to preserving America’s irreplaceable natural and historic resources for future generations. The House vote clears the final hurdle to getting this bill to the President’s desk, closing a years-long effort to address the mounting deferred maintenance costs that have accumulated at national parks across the Commonwealth and the country,” said Sen. Warner. “After the economic devastation we’ve seen come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is another tool in the toolbox to help stimulate our nation’s struggling economy and create up to 110,000 additional infrastructure-related jobs. I am grateful for all those who contributed to this process. I look forward to the President quickly signing this momentous legislation into law, which could create 10,000 new jobs in the Commonwealth, help preserve vital tourism for communities, and ensure that future generations of Americans will continue to experience and take advantage of America’s historical and natural treasures.”

Congressional passage of the bill comes nearly three years after Sen. Warner’s initial effort to provide relief to national parks in Virginia, where the maintenance backlog currently sits at $1.1 billion dollars.

In June, the National Park Service released a report that estimated that an average of 40,300 direct jobs and 100,100 direct and indirect jobs would be supported nationally by the Restore Our Parks Act if passed as part of the Great American Outdoors Act. In Virginia, it is estimated that 10,340 jobs would be created or supported as a result of Sen. Warner’s push to address the national parks backlog. 

In addition, a recent NPS study highlighted the financial impact national parks sites have on Virginia’s economy. Last year, 22.8 million individuals from around the world visited national parks in Virginia, spending $1.2 billion. Additionally, national parks in Virginia helped support 17,300 jobs and contributed over $1.7 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy. Because of the economic impact national parks have on communities across the country, more than 800 organizations have pledged their support for the Great American Outdoors Act.

Sen. Warner’s effort to address the maintenance backlog began in March 2017, when he worked with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to introduce the National Park Legacy Act, which would have eliminated the NPS maintenance backlog by creating a thirty-year designated fund to take care of maintenance needs at visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds, as well as transportation infrastructure operated by NPS such as the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Arlington Memorial Bridge. That same year, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced its own proposal, drawing heavily on the initial proposal from Sens. Warner and Portman. However, the Administration proposal – which was introduced in the Senate as the National Park Restoration Act by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME) – would not have established a dedicated funding stream for NPS maintenance.

In March 2018, after extensive negotiations among Sens. Warner, Portman, Alexander, and King, the bipartisan group introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, a bipartisan consensus proposal endorsed by the Trump Administration, to invest in overdue maintenance needs at NPS sites. The bill would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and allocating existing revenues from onshore and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury, not exceeding $1.3 billion each year for the next five years. In February 2019, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Restore Our Parks Act and, the bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November.

In March 2020, following the President’s announcement that he would back the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act as well as full and permanent funding for LWCF, Sen. Warner, along with Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Portman, King, Alexander, and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced the Great American Outdoors Act, which would provide $9.5 billion over five years to the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education to address the deferred maintenance backlog at these agencies. The legislation would also provide permanent, mandatory funding for the LWCF, which provides states and local communities with technical assistance, recognition, and funding to help preserve and protect public lands. Virginia has received approximately $368.5 million in LWCF funding over the past four decades to help protect dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails and more.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate voted 80-17 to take up the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill championed by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) that would permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at National Park Sites (NPS) across the country. The bipartisan legislation includes Sen. Warner’s Restore Our Parks Act, which would help tackle the $1.1 billion in deferred maintenance at Virginia’s parks and create up to 10,340 jobs in the Commonwealth alone. Today’s procedural vote – known as a “cloture vote on the motion to proceed” – sets up the bill for a final up-or-down vote in the Senate later this week.

“We are one step closer to passing this critical bill that would preserve our cherished national parks and help create jobs in the Commonwealth during this time of economic crisis. For years, I have been sounding the alarm about urgently-needed repairs to our trails, buildings, roads, and bridges that have been ignored for too long,” said Sen. Warner. “If Congress continues to delay addressing these infrastructure challenges, our local communities will be at further risk of losing out on important tourism dollars on top of the economic challenges they are currently facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With Virginia’s national parks supporting more than 16,000 jobs and contributing $953 million dollars in value added to our economy,that’s a loss we just can’t afford. After clearing an important first step on this bipartisan bill today, we’re now closer than ever to making sure our bipartisan solution to the parks backlog becomes law.”

Last week, the National Park Service released a report that estimated that an average of 40,300 direct jobs and 100,100 direct and indirect jobs would be supported nationally by the Restore Our Parks Act if passed as part of the Great American Outdoors Act. In Virginia, where the maintenance backlog currently sits at more than $1.1 billion dollars in overdue projects and surpasses that of every state except for California and the District of Columbia, it is estimated that 10,340 jobs would be created or supported as a result of Sen. Warner’s push to address the national parks backlog.

Today’s vote comes more than three years after Sen. Warner wrote and introduced the first comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to provide relief to national parks across the country. In March 2017, Sen. Warner teamed up with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to introduce the National Park Legacy Act, which would have eliminated the NPS maintenance backlog by creating a thirty-year designated fund to address maintenance needs at visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds, as well as transportation infrastructure operated by NPS such as the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Arlington Memorial Bridge. That same year, the U.S. Department of Interior announced its own proposal, drawing heavily on the initial proposal from Sens. Warner and Portman. However, the Administration proposal – which was introduced in the Senate as the National Park Restoration Act by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME) – would not have established a dedicated funding stream for NPS maintenance. (In an attempt to address overdue maintenance needs at national parks nationwide, the Administration has also unsuccessfully pressed to dramatically increase entrance fees.)

In March 2018, after extensive negotiations among Sens. Warner, Portman, Alexander, and King, the bipartisan group introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, a bipartisan consensus proposal endorsed by the Trump Administration, to invest in overdue maintenance needs at NPS sites. The bill would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and allocating existing revenues from onshore and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury, not exceeding $1.3 billion each year for the next five years. In February 2019, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Restore Our Parks Act and, the bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November.

In March 2020, following the President’s announcement that he would back the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act as well as full and permanent funding for LWCF, Sen. Warner, along with Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Portman, King, Alexander, and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced the Great American Outdoors Act, which would provide $9.5 billion over five years to the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education to address the deferred maintenance backlog at these agencies. The legislation would also provide permanent, mandatory funding for the LWCF, which provides states and local communities with technical assistance, recognition, and funding to help preserve and protect public lands. Virginia has received approximately $368.5 million in LWCF funding over the past four decades to help protect dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails and more.

A list of organizations in support of the Great American Outdoors Act can be found here

A full list of deferred maintenance needs at Virginia’s national parks can be found here

###

WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), spoke on the Senate floor about the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill championed by Sen. Warner that would permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at National Park Service (NPS) sites across the country. The bipartisan legislation includes Sen. Warner’s Restore Our Parks Act, which would help tackle the $1.1 billion in deferred maintenance at Virginia’s parks and create up to 10,340 jobs in the Commonwealth alone. Yesterday, the bill cleared a key procedural hurdle– known as a “cloture vote on the motion to proceed”  by a vote of 80-17, setting up the bill for a final up-or-down vote in the Senate later this week.

In his remarks on the Senate floor, Sen. Warner said: “This represents one of the largest investments in the infrastructure of our national parks in the over 100-year history of the National Park Service. In addition to preserving our national treasures for future generations to enjoy, this legislation will also create tens of thousands of jobs across the country and provide a positive economic impact for gateway communities that depend on our national parks. A recent study by the National Park Service indicates that the Great American Outdoors Act will support over 100,000 jobs and contribute $17.5 billion in total economic output through funding deferred maintenance projects at the Park Service. In Virginia, over 10,000 jobs could be created by eliminating the maintenance backlog at Park Service sites.”

Background on the Great American Outdoors Act: 

Last week, the National Park Service released a report that estimated that an average of 40,300 direct jobs and 100,100 direct and indirect jobs would be supported nationally by the Restore Our Parks Act if passed as part of the Great American Outdoors Act. In Virginia, where the maintenance backlog currently sits at more than $1.1 billion dollars in overdue projects and surpasses that of every state except for California and the District of Columbia, it is estimated that 10,340 jobs would be created or supported as a result of Sen. Warner’s push to address the national parks backlog.

The Senate’s action on this bill comes more than three years after Sen. Warner wrote and introduced the first comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to provide relief to national parks across the country. In March 2017, Sen. Warner teamed up with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to introduce the National Park Legacy Act, which would have eliminated the NPS maintenance backlog by creating a thirty-year designated fund to address maintenance needs at visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds, as well as transportation infrastructure operated by NPS such as the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Arlington Memorial Bridge. That same year, the U.S. Department of Interior announced its own proposal, drawing heavily on the initial proposal from Sens. Warner and Portman. However, the Administration proposal – which was introduced in the Senate as the National Park Restoration Act by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME) – would not have established a dedicated funding stream for NPS maintenance. (In an attempt to address overdue maintenance needs at national parks nationwide, the Administration has also unsuccessfully pressed to dramatically increase entrance fees.)

In March 2018, after extensive negotiations among Sens. Warner, Portman, Alexander, and King, the bipartisan group introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, a bipartisan consensus proposal endorsed by the Trump Administration, to invest in overdue maintenance needs at NPS sites. The bill would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and allocating existing revenues from onshore and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury, not exceeding $1.3 billion each year for the next five years. In February 2019, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Restore Our Parks Act and, the bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November.

In March 2020, following the President’s announcement that he would back the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act as well as full and permanent funding for LWCF, Sen. Warner, along with Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Portman, King, Alexander, and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced the Great American Outdoors Act, which would provide $9.5 billion over five years to the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education to address the deferred maintenance backlog at these agencies. The legislation would also provide permanent, mandatory funding for the LWCF, which provides states and local communities with technical assistance, recognition, and funding to help preserve and protect public lands. Virginia has received approximately $368.5 million in LWCF funding over the past four decades to help protect dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails and more.

A list of organizations in support of the Great American Outdoors Act can be found here.  

A full list of deferred maintenance needs at Virginia’s national parks can be found here.

  

The full text of Sen. Warner’s remarks as prepared for delivery appears below: 

Mr./Madam President, I rise today to join my colleagues in support of the Great American Outdoors Act.

This historic legislation represents the most significant investment in our public lands in a generation… and a job-creating investment in our outdoor economy.

The Great American Outdoors Act will provide up to $9.5 billion over five years to address the deferred maintenance backlogs at the National Park Service, and other federal land agencies. This bill also finally provides full and mandatory for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). It has been a long road getting to this point, but I am thrilled we are finally considering this important, job-creating legislation.

Years of chronic underfunding has forced the Park Service to defer maintenance on countless trails, buildings, and historic structures – as well as thousands of miles of roads and bridges. Today, the National Park Service faces a deferred maintenance backlog of $12 billion. Over half of all Park Service assets are currently in desperate need of repairs. In Virginia alone, the deferred maintenance backlog sits at over $1.1 billion… more than any other state but California and the District of Columbia. 

To address this growing problem in Virginia and across the country, Sens. Portman, King, Alexander, and I introduced legislation – the Restore Our Parks Act – that would provide $6.5 billion to the Park Service to reduce its maintenance backlog utilizing unobligated energy revenues. In March, our bill was combined with Sen. Gardner and Sen. Manchin’s LWCF legislation to form the Great American Outdoors Act.

This bill on the floor today will provide up to $6.65 billion over five years to repair our national parks. That’s enough to address more than half of the current deferred maintenance backlog and completely fund the highest-priority deferred maintenance projects within the agency. This represents one of the largest investments in the infrastructure of our national parks in the over 100-year history of the National Park Service.

In addition to preserving our national treasures for future generations to enjoy, this legislation will also create tens of thousands of jobs across the country and provide a positive economic impact for gateway communities that depend on our national parks.

A recent study by the National Park Service indicates that the Great American Outdoors Act will support over 100,000 jobs and contribute $17.5 billion in total economic output through funding deferred maintenance projects at the Park Service. In Virginia, over 10,000 jobs could be created by eliminating the maintenance backlog at Park Service sites. And I want to give a few examples of how this legislation will create jobs and help preserve our natural heritage in my home state.

Here in the National Capital Region, the George Washington Memorial Parkway—which is managed by the National Park Service—has over $700 million in deferred maintenance. Matter of fact, anyone who travels on that road knows that north of the T.R. Bridge, we actually had a sinkhole appear in the parkway within the last year—an enormous safety threat as well as an inconvenience to the traveling public. Our legislation would help rebuild this critical transportation route between Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland… reducing traffic and creating jobs.

In Virginia, we’re blessed with a number of historic battlefields. The Richmond National Battlefield Park has over $5 million in deferred maintenance. And the nearby Petersburg National Battlefield has nearly $9 million in deferred maintenance. Our legislation would help preserve these important pieces of our heritage, while also supporting the local economies.

At Shenandoah National Park, one of the crown jewels of the National Park Service, the maintenance backlog sits at $90 million. Our legislation will put people to work on these overdue repairs…including to Skyline Drive and stretches of the Appalachian Trail… which are at the heart of Virginia’s outdoor tourism industry.

As you head Southwest, the Blue Ridge Parkway has accumulated over $508 million in deferred maintenance needs. That’s over $1 million per mile of the Parkway. The Great American Outdoors Act will put Virginians to work on these repairs… so visitors can continue to appreciate the beauty of the Appalachian Highlands and support the local economy.

I’ll give one final example: Colonial National Historical Park, which is home to Historic Jamestown and Yorktown Battlefield. At this park containing some of our country’s most significant sites, there are deferred maintenance needs totaling over $433 million. With this legislation, the wait on these repairs is over. We’re going to create jobs and make sure this important part of our history is around for years to come.  

In addition to securing up to $9.5 billion to address the maintenance backlog at our public land agencies, the Great American Outdoors Act provides full, mandatory funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. LWCF is the most important tool the federal government and states have to conserve natural areas, water resources, and cultural heritage, and to expand recreation opportunities to all communities.

Over the past four decades, Virginia has received over $368 million in LWCF funding that has been used to protect critical places in the Commonwealth like Rappahannock River Valley and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuges and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. With full funding for LWCF, we will be able to conserve additional critical lands in the Commonwealth and provide more recreation opportunities for Virginians from the coalfields to the Chesapeake Bay and everywhere in between.

In closing, I urge my colleagues to support this historic legislation that will help restore our national parks and public lands, create tens of thousands of jobs across the country, and expand recreation opportunities for millions of Americans.

Thank you, Mr./Madam President. I yield back. 

 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded $720,441 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to assist Loudoun County, the City of Manassas, and the City of Norfolk in responding to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. The federal funding was made possible through the FY2020 Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) program, which was authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act supported by Sens. Warner and Kaine.

“Right now, we need to make sure that our local governments can continue to count on the resources they need to keep combating this crisis,” said the Senators. “That’s why we’re glad to know that this federal funding will be used to support additional supplies in Loudoun, Manassas and Norfolk.”

The funding will be distributed as follows:

  • $114,472 for Loudoun County
  • $41,306 for the City of Manassas
  • $564,663 for the City of Norfolk

CESF funding may be used to help purchase equipment – including law enforcement and medical personal protective equipment – or supplies, such as gloves, masks, and sanitizer. It can also be used to pay for overtime, hiring, training, or travel expenses – particularly those related to the distribution of resources to the most impacted areas. The funding can also be used to address the medical needs of inmates in state, local, and tribal prisons, jails, and detention centers.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded $309,729,392 in federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide economic relief to 47 airports across the Commonwealth. 

“The COVID-19 crisis has affected every aspect of our economy and our airports are no exception. In fact, the necessary precautions we have taken to slow the spread of the virus have hit our airports especially hard,” said the Senators. “That’s why we’re glad to know that airports across Virginia will be able to count on some economic relief so that they can continue critical safety projects. These funds will also help make sure that once this crisis is over, airports can safely resume serving Virginians and individuals traveling in and out of the Commonwealth.”

The CARES Act, which was supported by Sens. Warner and Kaine, includes $10 billion in funds for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP) to provide relief for eligible U.S. airports affected by the prevention, preparation, and response surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding will be distributed as follows:

 

Locality

Airport Name

Funding Amount:

Abingdon

Virginia Highlands

$69,000

Arlington

Ronald Reagan Washington National

$85,708,037

Ashland

Hanover County Municipal

$30,000

Blacksburg

Virginia Tech/Montgomery Executive

$69,000

Brookneal

Brookneal/Campbell County

$1,000

Charlottesville-Albemarle 

Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport

$6,279,972

Chesapeake

Chesapeake Regional

$69,000

Chesapeake

Hampton Roads Executive

$69,000

Chesterfield

Richmond Executive-Chesterfield County

$69,000

Culpeper

Culpeper Regional

$30,000

Danville

Danville Regional

$69,000

Dublin

New River Valley

$30,000

Dulles

Washington Dulles International

$143,395,227

Farmville

Farmville Regional

$30,000

Front Royal

Front Royal-Warren County

$30,000

Halifax

William M Tuck

$20,000

Highland Springs

Richmond International

$18,814,584

Hillsville

Twin County

$20,000

Hot Springs

Ingalls Field

$20,000

Isle of Wight

Franklin Regional

$30,000

Jonesville

Lee County

$20,000

Leesburg

Leesburg Executive

$69,000

Louisa

Louisa County/Freeman Field

$30,000

Luray

Luray Caverns

$30,000

Manassas

Manassas Regional/Harry P Davis Field

$157,000

Mattaponi

Middle Peninsula Regional

$30,000

Melfa

Accomack County

$30,000

Moonlight

Emporia-Greensville Regional

$1,000

Newport News

Newport News/Williamsburg International

$4,135,878

Norfolk

Norfolk International

$19,847,270

Orange

Orange County

$30,000

Quinton

New Kent County

$30,000

Richlands

Tazewell County

$20,000

Roanoke

Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional/Woodrum Field

$20,709,748

Smyth (County)

Mountain Empire

$30,000

South Hill

Mecklenburg-Brunswick Regional

$30,000

Spencer

Blue Ridge

$69,000

Stafford

Stafford Regional

$30,000

Suffolk

Suffolk Executive

$30,000

Sutherland

Dinwiddie County

$30,000

Tangier

Tangier Island

$20,000

Tappahannock

Tappahannock-Essex County

$30,000

Timberlake

Lynchburg Regional/Preston Glenn Field

$6,647,475

Warrenton

Warrenton-Fauquier

$69,000

Weyers Cave

Shenandoah Valley Regional

$2,652,201

Winchester

Winchester Regional

$69,000

Wise

Lonesome Pine

$30,000

CARES Act funding will allow airports to meet ongoing needs including retaining workers, managing operation and maintenance, and paying for cleaning supplies in the midst of severe financial challenges brought on by COVID-19. Sens. Warner and Kaine have long fought for increased investments to infrastructure, including for Virginia’s airports, and have pushed back against the Trump Administration’s suggested budget cuts to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) led a bicameral letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in support of the National Park Service’s (NPS) grant application for $102 million in federal funds to reconstruct nearly eight miles of the northern section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP).

The George Washington Parkway serves as a major commuting route for residents of Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., facilitating the travel of more than 33 million vehicles per year. Since the north end of the Parkway’s completion in 1962, the roadway has been in need of repair due to large increases in traffic.

“The proposed project will address serious deterioration of the GWMP and implement needed safety improvements to protect motorists. If funded, the Park Service plans to repave nearly eight miles of road along the GWMP, repair stormwater management systems to prevent erosion at drainage outfalls; and rehabilitate two historic, scenic overlooks. The project also includes replacing guardrails, repairing walls, constructing new curbs, and building emergency turnarounds,” wrote the members of Congress.

In their letter, the members of Congress underscored the need for urgent safety improvements on the Parkway following a recent sinkhole that shutdown large portions of the roadway. 

“In 2019, several portions of the GWMP were closed to address emergency repairs relating to a culvert pipe failure and a large sinkhole that took nearly three months to complete. Both repairs resulted in significant disruption and displacement of motorists along a heavily traveled section of the GWMP. Improvements to the Parkway are needed to prevent similar disruptions from occurring and ensure the safety of our constituents who utilize this roadway on a regular basis,” they continued.

Sen. Warner was joined on the letter by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and U.S. Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Don Beyer (D-VA), Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) and U.S. Del. Eleanor Norton Holmes (D-DC).

A copy of the letter is found here and below.

 

Dear Secretary Chao,

We write today in support of the National Park Service’s application to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program seeking funding to rehabilitate the northern section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP). The GWMP North Section Rehabilitation Project aims to reconstruct a heavily used 7.6-mile section of the Parkway from Spout Run Parkway to Interstate 495.

The GWMP is a scenic and historic roadway that serves as a memorial to George Washington and connects Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. The Park Service first completed the northern section of the GWMP in 1962, utilizing the most up-to-date engineering methods of the time to maximize the lifespan of the roadway. However, in the nearly fifty years since completion, traffic on the Parkway has increased exponentially as the population of the region has burgeoned. Today, the GWMP facilitates the travel of more than thirty-three million vehicles per year, with the northernmost section experiencing the heaviest traffic.

The proposed project will address serious deterioration of the GWMP and implement needed safety improvements to protect motorists. If funded, the Park Service plans to repave nearly eight miles of road along the GWMP, repair stormwater management systems to prevent erosion at drainage outfalls; and rehabilitate two historic, scenic overlooks. The project also includes replacing guardrails, repairing walls, constructing new curbs, and building emergency turnarounds. 

In 2019, several portions of the GWMP were closed to address emergency repairs relating to a culvert pipe failure and a large sinkhole that took nearly three months to complete. Both repairs resulted in significant disruption and displacement of motorists along a heavily traveled section of the GWMP. Improvements to the Parkway are needed to prevent similar disruptions from occurring and ensure the safety of our constituents who utilize this roadway on a regular basis.

This project will rehabilitate and improve a critical link in the National Capital Region’s transportation network while preserving the historical and cultural characteristics that make the Parkway one of the most scenic roadways in the country. These proposed improvements will improve the safety of visitors while extending the life of the GWMP. In addition, work on the north section of the Parkway will address a significant portion of the National Capital Region’s $1.9 billion dollar deferred maintenance backlog, which includes over $717 million for the GWMP alone. 

We understand the INFRA grant program is highly competitive and we appreciate your consideration of the project. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about our request.

Thank you again for your consideration. 

Sincerely, 

###

WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) was joined by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Steve Daines (R-MT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Angus King (I-ME), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Jon Tester (D-MT) in announcing a path forward for the Restore Our Parks Act – legislation championed by Sen. Warner to address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at national parks across the country. Yesterday, the President announced that he would back the bipartisan legislation, as well as full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). For nearly three years, Sen. Warner has led the effort to provide relief to national parks in Virginia, where the increasing maintenance backlog currently sits at more than $1.1 billion dollars and surpasses that of every state except for California and the District of Columbia.

“We’ve been working on the parks legislation for the last four-plus years, and as Rob mentioned, it has broad bipartisan support,” said Sen. Warner. “We’ve got a nearly $12 billion backlog. In my state, Virginia, it is more than $1 billion dollars of that backlog. And we’re not only talking about trails and bridges. Anybody who lives in the national capital region – you commute on G.W. Parkway, you can see the deteriorated state of that road. That is one of those assets that we have deferred maintenance on.”

He continued, “Deferred maintenance is simply a bill put off. We’re going to provide in this legislation $6.5 billion dollars – so about 50 percent of those needs we’ve met. Once this bill gets implemented and put into law, it will put 100,000 Americans to work on this restoration – 10,000 in Virginia.”

The Restore Our Parks Act, which has been praised by key stakeholders, would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and allocating existing revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury, not to exceed $1.3 billion each year for the next five years.

In November, the Restore Our Parks Act was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and sent to the Senate floor, where it awaits approval.

A full list of deferred maintenance needs at Virginia’s national parks can be found here.

A link to the full press conference is available here.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, in a hearing on the reauthorization of funding for our nation’s surface transportation, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA) stressed the importance of continuing the federal government’s investment in the safety and viability of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). In the hearing, Sen. Warner noted WMATA’s role in helping ensure adequate federal government functions. He also highlighted the need for WMATA during national events, as well as the essential role it plays in promoting tourism of our nation’s capital.

“The federal government literally runs on Metro,” said Sen. Warner. “Close to 40 percent of Metro’s riders during rush hour are federal employees and that is critically important to the functioning of our government. WMATA also serves a critically important role in terms of the continuation of government in the event of a disaster. If we ever have to deal with an evacuation similar to what we dealt with post-9/11, the burden falls on Metro.”

He continued, “The local jurisdictions have stepped up, and as I’ve mentioned, the federal government couldn’t function without Metro. The federal government has got to do its share.”

Sen. Warner has introduced the Metro Safety, Accountability and Investment Act, which would renew the federal funding commitment to Metro, provide critical safety reforms, and strengthen oversight of WMATA for an additional ten years, at an annual level of $150 million, matched by funding from Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. The bill also includes an additional $50 million per year in federal funds that is tied to safety, oversight, and governance improvements and requires WMATA to enact certain reforms in order to receive the extra $50 million.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $94,523,140 in federal funding to support access to safe and affordable housing throughout Virginia. This funding from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was awarded through four grant programs – the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, the HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) program, the Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program, and the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program.

“We are very glad to see nearly $95 million dollars go towards supporting access to affordable housing for folks with the highest need in localities throughout Virginia,” said the Senators. “We will continue fighting for grant opportunities that help promote accessible housing in the Commonwealth, including the Community Development Block Grant Program, which the President has proposed eliminating in next year’s budget.”

The funding will be awarded as below.

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program provides annual grants on a formula basis to states, cities, and counties to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and a suitable living environment, and expanding economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons:

Recipient

Amount

 

Alexandria

$1,141,608

Arlington County

$1,410,969

Blacksburg

$534,243

Bristol

$270,304

Charlottesville

$419,367

Chesapeake

$1,173,205

Chesterfield County

$1,464,122

Christiansburg

$105,791

Colonial Heights

$105,797

Danville

$880,085

Fairfax County

$5,960,799

Fredericksburg

$196,004

Hampton

$999,391

Harrisonburg

$534,269

Henrico County

$1,729,959

Hopewell

$210,670

Loudoun County

$1,414,208

Lynchburg

$714,865

Newport News

$1,308,649

Norfolk

$4,510,021

Petersburg

$632,301

Portsmouth

$1,614,295

Prince William County

$2,695,308

Radford

$179,253

Richmond

$4,561,838

Roanoke

$1,795,505

Staunton

$352,891

Suffolk

$480,588

Virginia Beach

$2,056,051

Virginia Nonentitlement

$18,711,859

Waynesboro city

$193,941

Winchester

$227,149

 

Total CDBG:

 

$58,585,305

The HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) program helps to expand the supply of decent, affordable housing to low- and very low-income families by providing grants to states and local governments to fund housing programs that meet local needs and priorities:

Recipient

Amount

 

 

Alexandria

$585,127

Arlington County

$763,647

Blacksburg

$616,181

Charlottesville

$644,752

Chesapeake

$541,217

Chesterfield County

$603,376

Danville

$268,392

Fairfax County

$2,141,854

Hampton

$535,029

Henrico County

$919,624

Lynchburg

$424,288

Newport News

$768,487

Norfolk

$1,271,867

Portsmouth

$429,589

Prince William County

$939,588

Richmond

$1,609,365

Roanoke

$676,053

Suffolk

$386,943

Virginia Beach

$1,071,400

Virginia Nonentitlement

$10,662,286

Winchester

$594,194

 

Total HOME:

 

$26,453,259

The Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program provides annual grants to state, local, and private entities to assist people in quickly regaining stability in permanent housing after experiencing a housing crisis and/or homelessness. In addition to rapid re-housing and homelessness prevention, the ESG program also provides limited funding for street outreach as well as for improving the quality and number of emergency homeless shelters:

Recipient

Amount

 

 

Fairfax County

$492,880

Henrico County

$147,484

Norfolk

$385,289

Prince William County

$229,582

Richmond

$392,068

Roanoke

$152,376

Virginia Beach

$175,778

Virginia Nonentitlement

$3,008,913

 

Total ESG:

 

$4,984,370

 

The Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program provides housing assistance and related supportive services to local units of government, states and non-profit organizations for projects that benefit low-income persons medically diagnosed with HIV/AIDS:

 

Recipient

Amount

 

 

Richmond

$1,336,130

Virginia Beach

$1,939,442

Virginia Nonentitlement

$1,224,634

 

Total HOPWA:

 

$4,500,206

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $47,220,892 in federal funding to support public housing and workforce development programs in 26 localities across Virginia. The funding was awarded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Job Plus Initiative and Public Housing Capital Fund programs.

“It’s important for every Virginian to have the opportunity to secure stable housing and employment,” the Senators said. “We’re pleased that these federal funds will help ensure more Virginians have access to affordable homes and upward mobility.”

The Jobs Plus Initiative program develops locally-based, job-driven approaches to advance employment outcomes and increase earnings for residents of public housing.

The Capital Fund provides federal funding for the development, financing, and modernization of public housing developments.

The Virginia housing authorities that received funding from the Jobs Plus Program are listed here: 

City                                                          Virginia Housing Authority Recipient                                Amount

PORTSMOUTH

Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority

$2,300,000

 

The Virginia housing authorities that received funding from the Capital Fund are listed here:

 

City                                                          Virginia Housing Authority Recipient                                Amount

ABINGDON

ALEXANDRIA

Abingdon Redevelopment & Housing Authority

Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$70,754

$1,907,939

BRISTOL

Bristol Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$930,998

CHARLOTTESVILLE

Charlottesville Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$960,618

CHESAPEAKE

Chesapeake Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,261,470

COEBURN

Wise County Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$459,136

DANVILLE

Danville Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,202,845

DUFFIELD

Scott County Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$219,382

FRANKLIN

Franklin Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$168,040

HAMPTON

Hampton Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,583,634

HOPEWELL

Hopewell Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$888,611

JONESVILLE

Lee County Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$146,191

LEBANON

Cumberland Plateau Regional Housing Authority

$615,483

LYNCHBURG

Lynchburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$926,987

MARION

Marion Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$573,088

NEWPORT NEWS

Newport News Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$4,295,157

NORFOLK

Norfolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$7,978,621

NORTON

Norton Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$515,977

PETERSBURG

Petersburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$930,090

PORTSMOUTH

Portsmouth Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,628,891

RICHMOND

Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$11,547,123

ROANOKE

Roanoke Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$3,702,478

SUFFOLK

Suffolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,161,115

WAYNESBORO

Waynesboro Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$453,879

WILLIAMSBURG

Williamsburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$263,260

WYTHEVILLE

Wytheville Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$529,125

 

 

###

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $2,056,299 in federal funding to support the development of 11 housing units in Frederick County to provide affordable housing to lower-income elderly households. The funding, available through the Section 202 program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), will allow older adults to live independently while also receiving supportive services.

“We are pleased that these federal funds will provide support for affordable housing in Frederick County,” said the Senators. “These new housing units will help improve the quality of life for older adults in the community.”

The Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program provides capital advances to finance the development of housing for low-income elderly residents. The program expands the supply of affordable housing with supportive services for the elderly such as cleaning, cooking, and transportation.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and 28 of their Democratic Senate colleagues in requesting updates on the Administration’s response to the outbreak of Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and information on the steps being taken to keep families safe.

This letter comes on the heels of an announcement by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), which earlier today ruled out Novel Coronavirus in two of three Patients Under Investigation, who met both clinical and epidemiologic criteria for the coronavirus. Test results for a third individual from Northern Virginia are expected to be received later this week.

“We write to express concern about the rapidly evolving 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), to urge your continued robust and scientifically driven response to the situation, and to assess whether any additional resources or action by Congress are needed at this time. A quick and effective response to the 2019-nCoV requires public health officials around the world work together to share reliable information about the disease and insight into steps taken to prevent, diagnose, and treat it appropriately,” wrote the Senators.

They continued, “Unfortunately, the 2019-nCoV outbreak follows troubling proposals from the Trump Administration to cut the budgets of core public health programs at home and abroad. Yet, outbreaks like this serve as a solemn reminder of the need for an unwavering commitment to global health security and the need for strong public health programs worldwide.”

Despite repeated calls by the Trump Administration for cuts to public health programs, the December budget deal backed by Sens. Warner and Kaine increased funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its Infectious Disease Rapid Response Reserve Fund, which provides the agency with an immediate source of funding to prevent, prepare for, or respond to an infectious disease emergency either at home or abroad.

Sen. Kaine has introduced the Saving Lives Through Better Data Act, bipartisan legislation to modernize public health data infrastructure so clinicians, state health departments, and the CDC can work together more quickly and seamlessly to identify and respond to health threats like the coronavirus.

In their letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Senators also requested that the Department provide information regarding the severity of the disease, the country’s capacity to diagnose cases, the steps being taken to prepare U.S. health care workers, the screening systems in place at U.S. airports, the status of a novel coronavirus vaccine, and more.

In addition to Sens. Warner, Kaine and Murray, the letter was signed by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Jack Reed (D-RI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Angus King (I-ME), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

 

Dear Secretary Azar,

We write to express concern about the rapidly evolving 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), to urge your continued robust and scientifically driven response to the situation, and to assess whether any additional resources or action by Congress are needed at this time. A quick and effective response to the 2019-nCoV requires public health officials around the world work together to share reliable information about the disease and insight into steps taken to prevent, diagnose, and treat it appropriately.

Chinese health officials confirmed the first case of 2019-nCoV in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. Since then, the case count has exploded in China, with nearly 3,000 confirmed cases as of the writing of this letter. At least 80 people have died. Cases have now been confirmed on four continents. On January 21, the first U.S. case was confirmed in Washington state, where state and local public health officials quickly responded with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A second U.S. case was confirmed in Chicago on January 24. Subsequently, CDC confirmed two cases in California and one in Arizona, bringing the total U.S. case count to five. Airport screening procedures have been put in place to screen all passengers arriving in the U.S. from Wuhan. In Wuhan, and across China, officials have enacted travel restrictions and canceled planned festivals to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Even with these steps, the case count in China is expected to continue to rise, along with additional cases in the U.S. and around the globe. The World Health Organization is monitoring the situation closely, but has determined it is too early to formally designate this as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. A quick, robust, and comprehensive approach to this outbreak is critical, while also remaining aware that, according to CDC, “the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV to the general American public is considered low at this time.”

Unfortunately, the 2019-nCoV outbreak follows troubling proposals from the Trump Administration to cut the budgets of core public health programs at home and abroad. Yet, outbreaks like this serve as a solemn reminder of the need for an unwavering commitment to global health security and the need for strong public health programs worldwide.

We recognize the situation is evolving quickly and appreciate the information you have already provided. We ask you keep us apprised of developments as they occur, including any information related to the following questions:

1)      What can Congress do to fully support the U.S. Government response to this outbreak?

2)      How many HHS officials are currently engaged in the 2019-nCoV response domestically and abroad and in what capacities?

3)      What is HHS's best current judgment about the clinical severity of this disease? 

4)      What is the current domestic diagnostic capacity? How many facilities across the country are able to diagnose 2019-nCoV?

5)      What is currently known about the risk 2019-nCoV poses to health care workers? How is CDC communicating with U.S. health care facilities to ensure providers remain healthy and safe? What additional guidance is being supplied to health care providers?

6)      How many passengers have been screened by the airport screening procedures that are in place at American airports? How many potential cases have been identified as a result of this screening? Are there any planned changes to airport screening procedures?

7)      What progress has been made on the development of a 2019-nCoV vaccine?

Thank you for your attention to this urgent issue.

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in support of Virginia’s joint application with Amtrak for matching funds to improve passenger rail service.

Following a recommendation by the National Surface Transportation Board to retire many existing railcars, some of which are over 40 years old, Virginia is pushing for funding under DOT’s Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Program to help modernize Amtrak’s fleet and improve ride quality for Virginians. 

“Maintaining and repairing current equipment is costly in terms of both safety and efficiency. New railcars will provide safer, better, and more reliable mobility,” the Senators wrote in their letter to DOT Secretary Elaine Chao. “This funding, in conjunction with Virginia's numerous high priority passenger rail projects, will help make state-sponsored service a more reliable and pleasant transportation alternative.”

Virginia is one of 17 states and regional authorities to fund the state-sponsored Amtrak business lines of service, which account for nearly 50 percent of total Amtrak ridership nationwide. In FY2019, nearly one million individuals used the Amtrak Northeast Regional service, the highest number of riders recorded in the Commonwealth’s history. Stops along the Northeast corridor include Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, and Roanoke.

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

 

Dear Secretary Chao:

We write to express our support for the Commonwealth of Virginia's application, submitted jointly with Amtrak, for funding under the U.S. Department of Transportation's 2019 Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Program.

The Commonwealth is leading efforts, not only with Amtrak but also with 16 other states, to procure new railway vehicles to replace its aging stock.  The National Surface Transportation Board has recommended that many existing railcars be retired, some of which are over 40 years old.  Maintaining and repairing current equipment is costly in terms of both safety and efficiency.  New railcars will provide safer, better, and more reliable mobility.  This funding, in conjunction with Virginia's numerous high priority passenger rail projects, will help make state-sponsored service a more reliable and pleasant transportation alternative.

Virginia is one of 17 states and regional authorities to fund the state-sponsored Amtrak business lines of service, which account for nearly 50% of total Amtrak ridership nationwide.  Currently, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation administers state funding for six daily Amtrak Northeast Regional round trips, originating in Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, and Roanoke, connecting Virginians to stops along the Northeast Corridor.  In federal Fiscal Year 2019, over 924,000 individuals used the service - the highest number in the Commonwealth's history.  Pending award of this grant and action by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, Virginia is prepared to commit an additional $15 million in state funding and $32.5 million in Amtrak revenues to the project.

Please give full and fair evaluation to this project, which will benefit the safety and comfort of the travelling public.

Sincerely,

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