Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-VA) celebrated $52.9 million in funding from the federal government for the Petersburg/Richmond region to support job creation and increase American independence from foreign drug manufacturers.

This funding was recently awarded through the Economic Development Administration and funded by the American Rescue Plan, which was supported by the three lawmakers and passed through the Senate by a vote of 50 – 49 and the House by a vote of 220 – 211.

“The American Rescue Plan is the gift that keeps on giving – this time with $52.9 million that will go towards establishing Central Virginia as a hub for pharmaceutical manufacturing. This unparalleled federal investment will help boost American production of essential drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients while creating 21st century jobs for Virginians and tackling our nation’s dangerous overreliance on foreign supply chains for medicines,” said the lawmakers. 

The Virginia Advanced Pharma Manufacturing (APM) and R&D Cluster  –  led by the Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority–  is one of 21 winners of the $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge – the most impactful regional economic development competition in decades. The projects funded as part of this award include expanding a nascent pharmaceutical manufacturing corridor in Central Virginia through investment in new wet lab space, development of critical infrastructure to sustain industrial capacity in Petersburg, and engagement with local business to enhance the regional pharmaceutical supply chain. The project will also catalyze a new partnership between Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia State University to create new pathways for underserved residents to high-quality training and jobs in the pharmaceutical industry.

The Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) is an unprecedented competitive federal grant program that provides each regional coalition with significant investments to tackle a wide variety of projects – including entrepreneurial support, workforce development, infrastructure, and innovation – to drive inclusive economic growth. Each coalition’s collection of projects aims to develop and strengthen regional industry clusters – all while embracing economic equity, creating good-paying jobs, and enhancing U.S. competitiveness globally. Projects span 24 states and include $87 million to two primarily Tribal coalitions and over $150 million for projects serving communities impacted by the declining use of coal.

Sen. Warner helped negotiate portions of the American Rescue Plan and directly advocated for this project. In March, he sat down with the Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority and other pharmaceutical industry professionals for a roundtable discussion on the need to manufacture more prescription drugs in Virginia.

While on Richmond City Council, Sen. Kaine played a major role in the formation and growth of the Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority, served on its board when he was Mayor of Richmond, and appointed board members while he was Governor. In addition to advocating for the American Rescue Plan, which provided the funding for the EDA Build Back Better Regional Challenge, Sen. Kaine specifically advocated for this project to win this grant. He also visited the project’s facilities in Richmond and Petersburg in April of this year.

Rep. McEachin proudly supported the American Rescue Plan and engaged with the Biden administration throughout the BBBRC application and selection process in support of the Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority. He sent multiple letters to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo advocating for this project and held briefings with relevant stakeholders to keep them apprised of developments and receive timely updates.

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 WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that $29,856 in federal funding will be awarded to three credit unions in Virginia. The funding, classified as Digital Service and Cybersecurity grants, will go towards strengthening the credit unions’ cybersecurity systems, acquiring technology that allows employees to work remotely, or implementing digital services for members like mobile or online banking. The grants, awarded through the National Credit Union Administration’s 2022 Community Development Revolving Loan Fund, are specifically designed to support low-income credit unions and underserved consumers.

“Credit unions help ensure all Virginians have access to the financial resources they need to save for their families, buy a home, or start a business,” the senators said. “This funding will directly support these organizations’ operations so that they can continue to reach out to underserved communities in the Commonwealth.” 

The funding is distributed as follows:

  • $10,000 for the Virginia Educators Credit Union in Newport News, VA.
  • $10,000 for RVA Financial in Richmond, VA.
  • $9,856 for the Richmond Heritage Federal Credit Union in Richmond, VA.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have long worked to ensure that underserved communities have better access to financial services. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sens. Warner and Kaine secured funding for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) in pandemic relief packages modeled after Sen. Warner’s Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act.

Most recently, Sen. Warner launched the bipartisan Senate Community Development Finance Caucus to serve as a platform where policymakers can coordinate and expand on public and private-sector efforts in support of the missions of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs).

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WASHINGTON – With Virginians increasingly concerned about violence and crime in their communities, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) and U.S. Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-VA-04) today announced $996,000 in federal funding allocated to Virginia Commonwealth University for gun violence prevention efforts in Richmond. The funding comes through the Department of Justice as part of the Fiscal Year 2022 Byrne Discretionary Grants Program and was secured through the appropriations process by the lawmakers in the FY2022 government spending bill.  

Specifically, the funding will go towards hospital-based crisis intervention for families, friends, and survivors of violence; establishing a data-sharing network for information among law enforcement, health systems, social service providers, and other community partners; as well as evaluation and quality assurance to evaluate the effectiveness of these efforts.

“We need to do everything we can to combat the scourge of gun violence in our communities,” the lawmakers said. “We are proud to have secured funding for this program that will help save lives by implementing strong, evidence-based intervention methods to prevent crime.”

“We thank Senators Warner and Kaine and Representative McEachin for their continued support and commitment as we work with public agencies and community partners to tackle gun violence and other social determinants of health that continue to impact our communities,” said Art Kellermann, M.D., senior vice president for health sciences at VCU and CEO of VCU Health System. “Funding for the Richmond Gun Violence Prevention Framework will be instrumental in reducing the number of injuries related to violence treated in our hospital."

As part of FY2022 appropriations, Congress revived a process that allows members to make Congressionally Directed Spending requests, otherwise known as earmarks, in a manner that promotes transparency and accountability. This process allows Congress to dedicate federal funding for specific projects. Through this process, Sens. Warner and Kaine, along with Rep. McEachin, were able to secure this dedicated funding for the VCU Health System to lead a collaborative gun violence prevention effort with the City of Richmond and other community stakeholders.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been active supporters of increased gun violence prevention measures. Last month, the senators voted in favor of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act – landmark legislation to curb gun violence.

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WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $2,140,321 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for the A.L. Philpott Manufacturing Extension Program (MEP), also known as GENEDGE Alliance, in Martinsville. This funding will help GENEDGE better support small and medium-sized manufacturing companies across Virginia with expanding their reach, growing our manufacturing industry, using high-tech solutions, optimizing their facilities, boosting efficiency, and training and mentoring workers.

“The pandemic and war in Ukraine have underscored the importance of supporting domestic manufacturing. We’re excited to announce this funding, which will grow Virginia’s manufacturing industry,” the senators said. “This investment will help ensure small and medium-sized manufacturers have the resources they need.”

GENEDGE is a part of the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) National Network. In Fiscal Year 2021, the MEP National Network generated $26.20 in new sales growth for manufacturers for every one dollar received in federal funding. 

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine issued the following statement applauding the historic $58 million federal transportation investment in the Raleigh to Richmond (R2R) corridor announced today:

“We encouraged Secretary Buttigieg to bring this funding to Virginia because when we invest in state-of-the-art transportation infrastructure, we can boost economic development, create jobs, and improve our quality of life. We’re looking forward to seeing the positive impacts of this funding, and will keep fighting for similar investments to build on the progress we made through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”

Today’s funding is being allocated through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Grant program, which aims to both improve travel times and help currently underserved and minority rural communities access rail service. This funding will help support the R2R corridor’s establishment of 162 miles of high-performance passenger rail service between Raleigh and Richmond. Upon completion of the project, more Amtrak trains will be available between Norfolk and Richmond, and between Richmond and long distance destinations to its north and south.

Sens. Warner and Kaine—who helped pass the Warner-negotiated Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which nearly tripled funding for the CRISI Grant program—previously advocated for this investment given its benefits for Virginia and the entire southeast region.

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine and U.S. Congressman A. Donald McEachin announced $6,355,829 in federal funding for the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority to make improvements to Ettrick Station. The improved station will attract additional train service and approximately 10,050 new riders annually.

“We’re excited the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority is receiving these federal dollars to upgrade the Ettrick Station and improve public transportation in the region,” said the lawmakers. “This funding will help enhance safety, increase ridership, and reduce emissions by taking cars off the road.”

The funding was awarded through the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Grant program. Specifically, this funding will be used to make improvements to the existing station building and upgrade its parking and lighting. It will also go towards the construction of a new 850 feet long platform in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The funding announced today is in addition to $1 million for the station that Warner, Kaine, and McEachin secured in the FY 2022 government funding bill.

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 WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded $1,530,000 in federal funding awarded to school districts across the Commonwealth. The funds were administered through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of two programs: the 2021 American Rescue Plan Electric School Bus Rebates and the annual 2021 Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebates. The funds will go towards the replacement of old diesel school buses with new electric, propane, compressed natural gas, diesel or gasoline buses that will reduce harmful emissions in the environment.

“We are glad to see so many Virginia school districts receive funding to invest in electric school buses and cleaner vehicles,” the Senators said. “This investment will significantly benefit our communities by reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. We look forward to helping Virginia school districts compete for additional funding through the $5 billion clean and electric school bus grant program in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.”  

The funds will be broken down as follows:

  • $900,000 for three school buses for Petersburg City Public Schools as part of the 2021 American Rescue Plan Electric School Bus Rebates.

This new program provides funds to replace old diesel school buses with new, zero-emission electric school buses. The funds are reserved exclusively for school districts in underserved communities, Tribal schools, and private fleets serving those schools.

  • $250,000 for 10 buses for Newport News Public Schools as part of the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebates.
  • $200,000 for 10 buses for Loudoun County Public Schools as part of the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebates.
  • $100,000 for five buses for Carroll County Public Schools as part of the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebates.
  • $80,000 for four buses for Culpeper County Public Schools as part of the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebates.

This program funds the replacement of old diesel school buses with new electric, diesel, gasoline, propane, or compressed natural gas school buses meeting current emission standards.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine today announced $350,000 in federal funding for Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc. (HOME) in Richmond to support fair housing. The funding was awarded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Fair Housing Initiatives Program. Supplemental funding for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program was included in the American Rescue Plan , supported by Senators Warner and Kaine.

“Too many Virginians are denied equal housing opportunities because of illegal discrimination,” said Senator Kaine. “As a former fair housing attorney, I’ve seen how housing impacts a family’s health and financial well-being. I’m glad this funding will help HOME ensure more Virginians have access to safe and affordable housing.”

“Discriminatory practices should never prevent Virginians from accessing affordable and fair housing opportunities,” said Senator Warner. “I am glad to see these funds go towards providing HOME with the resources needed to help more Virginians in need.” 

Specifically, HOME will use the funding for virtual fair housing workshops and enforcement-related activities. HOME will also hold a Fair Housing Pandemic Roundtable and conduct interviews with Virginians who have been evicted or displaced during the pandemic.

As a former fair housing attorney, Kaine represented Virginians who were denied housing due to discrimination. His first case as a lawyer was referred by HOME, and he subsequently worked with the organization on dozens of other cases.

Warner and Kaine have long supported efforts to increase affordable housing and homeownership. In September 2021, Warner and Kaine introduced the Low-Income First Time Homebuyers (LIFT) Act, which would establish a new program to help first-time, first-generation homebuyers – predominately Americans of color – by offering new homeowners a 20-year mortgage for roughly the same monthly payment as a traditional 30-year loan. In October 2021, Warner and Kaine also joined their colleagues in introducing the Downpayment Toward Equity Act of 2021, which would provide federal grants to assist first-generation homebuyers with qualifying expenses toward purchasing their first home, including downpayment costs, closing costs, and costs to reduce the rates of interest.

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 WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today applauded an announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that it will drop a plan to close the Air Traffic Control Tower at Richmond International Airport between the hours of midnight and 5:00 a.m. The decision follows a November 23 letter from the two Senators that urged the FAA to maintain the Control Tower’s current 24/7 operations.

“We are glad that the FAA listened to feedback from passenger airlines, cargo carriers, fixed base operators, air traffic controllers, and other stakeholders who all opposed the plan to close the air traffic control tower at night,” said Sens. Warner and Kaine. “A busy commercial service airport like Richmond International needs to have a control tower that is operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expressing concern that the FAA is considering closing the Air Traffic Control Tower at Richmond International Airport between the hours of midnight and 5:00 a.m. In their letter, the Senators highlight the need for the Control Tower to continue to be operational on a 24/7 basis for airport safety.

“The FAA’s analysis should take into account the critical need for the Control Tower to be open at a busy commercial service airport like Richmond International Airport.  For example, airlines often have flights that are scheduled to arrive before midnight but are delayed and land later,” the Senators wrote.

“We urge the FAA to reconsider the proposed closure of the Control Tower between midnight and 5:00 a.m. We also request a briefing on this matter before any further action is taken,” concluded the Senators.

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

The Honorable Stephen M. Dickson

Administrator

Federal Aviation Administration

800 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20591

Dear Administrator Dickson: 

We are writing to express our concern that the FAA is considering closing the Air Traffic Control Tower at Richmond International Airport between the hours of midnight and 5:00 a.m.  With passenger airlines and cargo aircraft taking off and landing at the Richmond Airport and maintenance crews and other workers having to be on, or crossing over, the airfield during these hours, the need to ensure safety requires that the Control Tower continue to be operational on a 24/7 basis. 

On October 1, the FAA’s Safety Risk Management Panel hosted a virtual meeting with Richmond Airport officials and various stakeholders.  We understand that the FAA’s proposal has been met with strong opposition from the Richmond Airport, passenger airlines, cargo carriers, the fixed base operators, the air traffic controllers at the Airport, and other stakeholders.

The FAA’s analysis should take into account the critical need for the Control Tower to be open at a busy commercial service airport like Richmond International Airport.  For example, airlines often have flights that are scheduled to arrive before midnight but are delayed and land later.  The Richmond Airport is also an alternate site when airlines must divert flights from landing at other airports due to weather conditions.  The Control Tower also plays an important role in coordinating early morning flights.  Although the flights might take off after 5:00 a.m., coordination between the pilots and the Control Tower may begin before 5:00 a.m. and, consequently, the Control Tower needs to be available. 

We also urge the FAA to consider the Control Tower’s critical role in directing ground traffic at an airport such as the Richmond International Airport, where airfield maintenance and aircraft re-positioning often occur between midnight and 5:00 a.m. 

In summary, given the above concerns, we urge the FAA to reconsider the proposed closure of the Control Tower between midnight and 5:00 a.m.  We also request a briefing on this matter before any further action is taken.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA), introduced legislation to preserve invaluable local resources and help generate economic activity in the Northern Neck. By officially designating the region as a National Heritage Area (NHA), the Northern Neck National Heritage Area Act would deliver critical federal dollars, encourage public-private partnerships, and assign a specific entity – the Northern Neck Tourism Commission – to help protect the Northern Neck’s natural, cultural, scenic, and recreational resources. 

NPS defines national heritage areas as congressionally designated places where “natural, cultural, and historic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape.” Through their resources, NHAs communicate “nationally important stories” that celebrate the nation’s diverse heritage. Under this legislation, the NHA designation would apply to the land between the Potomac River and Rappahannock River, spanning King George, Lancaster, Northumberland, Richmond, and Westmoreland counties. 

“As many Virginians already know, the Northern Neck is reflective of the Commonwealth’s unique history, with deep connections to eight Algonquian tribes and a number of American statesmen, including James Madison, James Monroe, and George Washington,” said Sen. Warner. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation to help protect the rich history and unique geography of the Northern Neck, and leverage federal dollars to spur long-lasting economic opportunity in the region.” 

“Virginia’s Northern Neck is a source of pride, history, and economic development for the Commonwealth,” said Sen. Kaine. “The beauty and cultural significance of the region attract tourism, strengthening Virginia’s economy and supporting jobs. I’m proud to introduce this piece of legislation to highlight the Northern Neck’s natural beauty and cultural assets, which will bring visitors and economic development.”

“The Northern Neck’s lands and waters showcase a natural beauty unlike any other. As a longtime resident of the Northern Neck, I know our heritage is unique and worthy of preserving,” said Rep. Wittman. “With a history profoundly intertwined with that of the entire nation, it’s only right for us to recognize the Northern Neck as a National Heritage Area. I’m proud to join Senators Warner and Kaine in introducing this bipartisan legislation.” 

The introduction of this legislation follows the completion of the Northern Neck National Heritage Area Feasibility Study. The National Park Service (NPS) – which began conducting this study more than a decade ago – recently concluded that the Northern Neck’s themes, local traditions, and natural and historic resources retain “sufficient integrity and opportunities for public engagement” to be eligible for an NHA designation. 

Under this legislation, and as approved by the NPS study, the heritage area would be managed by the Northern Neck Tourism Commission, which would serve as the NHA’s local coordinating entity. 

This legislation would also make federal funding available to the region and empower the commission to carry out an area management plan, including by:

·         Protecting and restoring relevant historic sites and building;

·         Carrying out programs and projects that recognize, protect, and enhance important resources;

·         Developing recreational and educational opportunities in the area;

·         Establishing and maintaining interpretive exhibits and programs;

·         Promoting a wide range of partnerships among the federal government, state, tribal and local governments, organizations, and individuals; 

·         Increasing public awareness and appreciation for natural, historical, scenic, and cultural resources in the area; and

·         Ensuring that clear, consistent, and appropriate signs identifying points of public access and sires of interest are posted throughout the area

"The Northern Neck has been working together for over 20 years in pursuit of the National Heritage Area Designation.  With designation, the Northern Neck Region will have a greater voice in sharing its stories which contribute to understanding the early origins of our nation. The National Heritage Area Designation recognizes the region for the special place it is, historically, culturally, and for its natural resources. It aligns with the region's tourism strategy as an important economic development driver in this rural area,” said Jerry W. Davis, AICP, Executive Director of the Northern Neck Planning District Commission.    

Sen. Warner, Sen. Kaine, and Rep. Wittman have long advocated for the designation of the Northern Neck as a National Heritage Area. Last year, the lawmakers penned a letter requesting an update from NPS on the area’s feasibility study, following apparent delays in its release.

The text of this legislation is available here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today applauded $21,649,505 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Treasury to support and advance business ownership among minority entrepreneurs in Virginia. The funding was awarded through the CDFI Rapid Response Program (RRP) – a program established and funded by a record $12 billion investment in Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) that Sen. Warner authored and successfully fought to include in the December COVID-19 relief legislation. 

“As a former entrepreneur and venture capitalist, I know that the kind of opportunities that once allowed me to succeed are often out of reach for Black and brown folks, who due to historic and systemic inequities often lack the credit history or banking relationships needed to access capital. To make matters worse, these inequalities have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had disproportionate effects on minority and low-income communities,” said Sen. Warner. “This funding will provide critical resources to Virginia’s CDFIs, which specialize in supporting underserved communities. I’m thrilled to know that these dollars are now headed directly to Virginia to support key priorities including small businesses, affordable housing, and access to consumer financial services. This funding marks a successful first step towards ensuring the recovery is felt by all communities.”

As negotiated by Sen. Warner, the $12 billion investment in CDFIs and MDIs includes $3 billion in grants to be delivered through the CDFI Fund. The nearly $22 million awarded today is part of the first $1.25 billion tranche of that $3 billion in grant funding. These federal dollars will be distributed among 18 Virginia CDFIs – the financial institutions most connected to the Commonwealth’s minority communities – and will ultimately go towards supporting affordable access to credit for Virginians in Black, Latino and low-income communities. 

The funding will be distributed as follows:

Appalachian Community Capital Corporation

Christiansburg

 $1,826,265

ARN CAPITAL, LLC

Fredericksburg

 $200,000

Business Seed Capital, Inc.

Roanoke

 $200,000

Capital Impact Partners

Arlington

 $1,826,265

Community Business Partnership

Springfield

 $997,000

Community Investment Collaborative

Charlottesville

 $360,000

Democracy FCU

Alexandria

 $1,826,265

DuPont Community Credit Union

Waynesboro

 $1,826,265

ECDC Enterprise Development Group

Arlington

 $1,278,385

Freedom First Federal Credit Union

Roanoke

 $1,826,265

People Incorporated Financial Services

Abingdon

 $1,400,000

Peoples Advantage Federal Credit Union

Petersburg

 $1,826,265

Piedmont Housing Alliance

Charlottesville

 $279,000

RVA Financial Federal Credit Union

Richmond

 $1,826,265

Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, Inc.

Roanoke

 $375,000

Virginia Community Capital, Inc.

Richmond

 $1,826,265

Virginia Community Development Fund, Inc.,

Richmond

 $1,750,000

The Virginia Foodshed Capital

Charlottesville

 $200,000

 

Total:

 

 

$21,649,505

The COVID-19 crisis has only served to exacerbate the existing economic challenges faced by Black and brown Americans. Throughout this crisis, thousands of minority-owned small businesses have closed for good, in part due to difficulty securing bank loans and accessing assistance such as the Paycheck Protection Program. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that while overall small business ownership in the U.S. dropped 22 percent between February and April 2020, Black and Latino ownership dropped by 41 percent and 32 percent, respectively. Unemployment rates for Black and brown Americans have also been consistently higher than that of White Americans.

To combat the hemorrhaging of jobs and economic opportunities during the pandemic, Sen. Warner in July teamed up with then-Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), and a bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act in order to strengthen the financial institutions that serve communities of color and increase lending to minority-owned businesses and lower-income borrowers. The effort secured endorsements from the Black Economic Alliance, the NAACP, the National Bankers Association, the National Urban League, the Center for Responsible Lending and a host of other advocacy organizations and civil rights groups. Sen. Warner was later able to secure provisions from the bill in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, which was signed into law on December 27, 2020, providing an unprecedented $12 billion in funding for lenders that predominantly operate in underserved communities.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner joined U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo in announcing that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $1.1 million CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant to the County of Alleghany, Covington, Virginia, for trail improvements along the Jackson River and to bolster the local tourism economy. This EDA grant, to be matched with $600,000 in state funding, is expected to create more than 30 jobs.

“Virginia’s abundance of outdoor recreation activities such as hiking and fishing are at the heart of the Commonwealth’s tourism industry,” said Senator Mark Warner. “With the weather getting warmer and more families taking trips to visit the Commonwealth’s scenic views, I’m pleased to announce these funds to make necessary improvements that will help create jobs and attract more tourism dollars to our communities.” 

“President Biden is committed to getting our tourism sector back up to speed and Americans back to work,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “This EDA investment in the County of Alleghany will aid in the reopening of the local tourism economy and will retain critical tourism, hospitality, and manufacturing jobs in the state.”

“The Economic Development Administration plays an important role in supporting community-led economic development strategies designed to boost coronavirus recovery and response efforts,” said Dennis Alvord, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. “This EDA investment will allow for completion of the Jackson River Scenic Trail and the addition of outdoor amenities, which will bolster tourism in Virginia, providing new jobs and economic opportunities.”

“Virginia is home to some of the nation's most beautiful parks, trails, and rivers,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “I’m grateful for this investment in Alleghany County, which will support tourism in the region and boost our quickly-recovering economy.” 

“I am pleased to see this CARES Act funding go toward improvements along the Jackson River,” said Senator Tim Kaine. “This vital investment will help tourism rebound and spur economic activity in Alleghany County.”

This project is funded under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (Public Law 116-136), which provided EDA with $1.5 billion for economic assistance programs to help communities prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus. EDA CARES Act Recovery Assistance, which is being administered under the authority of the bureau’s flexible Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) program, provides a wide range of financial assistance to eligible communities and regions as they respond to and recover from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. 

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration (www.eda.gov)
The U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) mission is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded the Biden administration for increasing the amount of federal dollars that Virginia will receive for five emergency projects across the Commonwealth. By adjusting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s federal cost share from 75 percent to 100 percent, the Biden administration will help deliver an additional $22,915,050 in federal funding to cover the cost of communicating COVID-19 warnings and guidance to Virginians and procuring and utilizing medical supplies and equipment to combat the virus.

“COVID-19 created an immediate threat to the health and safety of our country requiring emergency response and protective measures. We thank the Biden administration for recently adjusting the federal cost share to help the Commonwealth manage, control, and reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” said the Senators. “As Virginians continue to wear a mask, social distance, and get tested and vaccinated, we remain committed to ensuring that the Commonwealth has the necessary tools and procedures to continue to tackle this health crisis.”

The following projects will receive funding as listed below:

Recipient

Location

FEMA Share Previously 

 

Cost Share Adjustment

Fairfax County

Fairfax

$5,147,564.33

$1,715,854.77

City of Alexandria

Alexandria

$3,675,732.45

$1,225,244.15

Virginia Department of Emergency Management

Richmond

$50,773,516.83

$16,924,505.61

Centra Health

Lynchburg

$4,285,914.02

$1,428,638.00

Virginia Department of Emergency Management

Richmond

$4,862,422.42

$1,620,807.47

Total: 

 

$68,745,150.05

$22,915,050

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that Virginia will receive $79,907,625 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support 26 community health centers across the Commonwealth. The funding – which was made possible through the American Rescue Plan – will be awarded beginning in April by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

“For the past year, our community health centers have been on the front lines of providing care to our most vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 crisis,” said the Senators. “Thanks to the congressional passage and eventual signing of the American Rescue Plan, we are now able to provide these critical federal dollars so that our community health centers can continue to provide lifesaving care to the folks who need it the most.”

The funding for the 26 community health centers will be awarded as follows:

Recipient

City/Town

Award Amount

Neighborhood Health

Alexandria

$7,893,875

Blue Ridge Medical Center Inc.

Arrington

$1,861,750

Bland County Medical Clinic Inc. 

Bastian

$1,595,375

Free Clinic of the New River Valley, Inc. 

Christiansburg

$1,492,000

Piedmont Access to Health Services Inc. 

Danville

$3,666,625

Clinch River Health Services Inc. 

Dungannon

$950,375

Harrisonburg Community Health Center, Inc. 

Harrisonburg 

$3,441,625

St. Charles Health Council Inc. 

Jonesville

$3,021,125

Tri-Area Community Health 

Laurel Fork

$1,990,750

Loudoun Community Health Center

Leesburg

$3,976,500

Rockbridge Area Free Clinic 

Lexington

$1,629,000

Johnson Health Center 

Lynchburg

$4,305,625

Martinsville Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness 

Martinsville

$1,435,875

Highland Medical Center 

Monterey

$822,750

Central Virginia Health Services, Inc. 

New Canton

$8,864,625

Peninsula Institute for Community Health, Inc. 

Newport News

$4,659,500

Eastern Shore Rural Health System, Incorporated 

Onancock

$5,704,750

Portsmouth Community Health Center, Inc. 

Portsmouth

$2,767,125

Daily Planet Inc. 

Richmond

$2,259,375

Richmond, City of 

Richmond

$2,991,625

Kuumba Community Health & Wellness Center, Inc. 

Roanoke

$2,461,625

Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems, Inc. 

Saltville

$3,039,750

Stony Creek Community Health Center 

Stony Creek

$889,500

Southern Dominion Health Systems, Inc.

Victoria

$2,379,875

Horizon Health Services, Inc. 

Waverly

$1,159,250

Greater Prince William Area Community Health Center, Inc. 

Woodbridge

$4,647,375

Health centers will be able to use these funds to support and expand COVID-19 vaccination, testing, and treatment for vulnerable populations; deliver needed preventive and primary health care services to those at higher risk for COVID-19; and expand health centers’ operational capacity during the pandemic and beyond, including modifying and improving physical infrastructure and adding mobile units. 

###

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will receive $14,052,640.77 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)'s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support the operation of the Virginia COVID Information Center (VCIC) in scheduling vaccinations and providing timely and accurate COVID-19 general information in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Agency (CDC) guidelines. 

“We are pleased to announce this funding to help Virginians pre-register for and schedule vaccinations,” said the Senators. “As vaccine production ramps up, we remain committed to expanding Virginia’s vaccination capacity so that all eligible workers and residents can get their shots as soon as possible.” 

Sens. Warner and Kaine strongly supported the recent passage of the American Rescue Plan, which included $7.5 billion in funding for the CDC and public health departments to expand vaccine distribution and administration. 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is supporting two major projects designed to increase the reliability of rural electric utility systems in Virginia. The Senators today announced two low-interest loans of $25 million to the Northern Neck Electric Cooperation in Warsaw, Va., and $16 million to the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative in Palmyra, Va., through the Electric Loan Program, which targets rural regions where capital is limited to finance infrastructure upgrades, create jobs, and improve rural electric customers' operations in Virginia. 

“We applaud this investment in Virginia’s rural communities,” said the Senators. “These low-interest loans will help improve reliability for local residents and businesses, which in turn strengthens our entire economy.”

The $41 million in funding will be disbursed to the following electric cooperatives in Virginia:

  • $25,000,000 in loans to the Northern Neck Electric Cooperation in Warsaw, VA to build and improve 40 miles of electrical line, fund smart grid projects, and make system improvements. Northern Neck Electric Cooperation will also use the funding to install 45 miles of fiber-optic communication lines.
  • $16,000,000 in loans to the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative in Palmyra, VA to build and improve 27 miles of electrical line, fund smart grid projects, and make system improvements.

 ###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $4,000,000 in federal funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority to help expand access to and improve the quality of mental health and substance abuse programs.

“Over the course of the pandemic, we have seen an increased demand for mental health and substance abuse services,” said the Senators. “We are glad to announce that this funding will provide increased support to expand access to mental health and substance abuse services and treatment in Richmond.” 

During the pandemic, the U.S. Census Bureau has reported that more than a third of Americans were suffering from symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The most recent COVID-19 package negotiated by Sen. Warner and supported by both senators included $4.5 billion in mental health and substance abuse services. It also included additional funding for suicide and childhood trauma programs. 

The funding was awarded through the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) Expansion grant program, which seeks to increase access to and improve the quality of community mental and substance use disorder treatment services through the expansion of CCBHCs.

 ###

 

WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), joined by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), introduced the Healthy Food Access for All Americans (HFAAA) Act. The legislation aims to expand access to affordable and nutritious food in areas designated as “food deserts” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).                                                                                       

“Today, too many Americans lack access to fresh nutritious and healthy foods. Unfortunately, that reality has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, which has made it even more difficult for working families to seek out and afford healthy foods,” said Sen. Warner. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill that will serve as an important tool to combat food insecurity in our communities.”

“Over the past year, we have seen unprecedented need at food banks as Kansans line-up seeking access to nutritional food,” said Sen. Moran. “Even while living in the breadbasket of our nation, food insecurity affects far too many Kansans, a need that has only increased during COVID-19. This bipartisan legislation, which would incentivize food providers to establish and renovate grocery stores, food banks and farmers markets in communities that traditionally lack affordable, healthy and convenient food options, is now more important than ever during this pandemic.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made routine tasks like going to the grocery store difficult for millions of Americans—especially for families who live in a food dessert and have to travel an extended distance to access healthy foods.” said Senator Casey. “No one in America should be burdened by a simple trip to the grocery store. The bipartisan Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act would provide critical support to expand access to healthy food in underserved communities,” said Sen. Casey.

“Many Americans living in rural communities—including those in West Virginia—have difficulty accessing fresh and nutritious foods. I’m proud to reintroduce this legislation, which will go a long way in helping to improve access to groceries and healthy foods across West Virginia and make it easier for businesses and non-profit organizations to serve our rural communities,” said Sen. Capito.

According to recent data from USDA, nearly 40 million Americans live in food deserts, areas defined to be without grocery stores within one or more miles in urban regions, and ten or more miles in rural regions. In Virginia alone, there are more than one million individuals living in food deserts. Studies have shown that Americans who live in communities with low-access to healthy food options are at higher risk for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Additionally, according to USDA’s own study, people of color are more likely to reside in a food desert.

In an effort to eliminate food deserts in the U.S., the Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act would provide incentives to food providers to expand access to healthy foods in these underserved communities and reduce the number of food deserts nationwide.

Specifically, the Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act, which defines a grocery market as a retail sales store with at least 35 percent of its selection (or forecasted selection) dedicated to selling fresh produce, poultry, dairy, and deli items – would spark investment in food deserts across the country that have a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher, or a median family income of less than 80 percent of the median for the state or metro area. It would grant tax credits or grants to food providers who service low-access communities and attain a “Special Access Food Provider” (SAFP) certification through the Treasury Department. Incentives would be awarded based on the following structure:

  • New Store Construction – Companies that construct new grocery stores in a food desert will receive a onetime 15 percent tax credit after receiving certification.
  • Retrofitting Existing Structures – Companies that make retrofits to an existing store’s healthy food sections can receive a onetime 10 percent tax credit after the repairs certify the store as an SAFP.
  • Food Banks – Certified food banks that build new (permanent) structures in food deserts will be eligible to receive a onetime grant for 15 percent of their construction costs.
  • Temporary Access Merchants – Certified temporary access merchants (i.e. mobile markets, farmers markets, and some food banks) that are 501(c)(3)s will receive grants for 10 percent of their annual operating costs.

The Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act boasts the support of numerous organizations, including Feeding America, the National Grocers Association, Share Our Strength, and Bread for the World.

“Feeding America commends Senator Warner for confronting the unfortunate fact that the burdens faced by the 40 million Americans living with hunger are even worse for those who live in food deserts. Our network of 200 member food banks understands that areas without affordable, healthy food options have higher rates of food insecurity exacerbated by the lack access to adequate transportation to the nearest food pantry or grocery market. Feeding America supports the Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act and believes it is a critical step to give nonprofits and retailers support to increase food access in underserved areas,” said Kate Leone, Chief Government Relations Officer at Feeding America. 

“The National Grocers Association embraces Senator Warner’s efforts to remove the obstacles faced by grocers looking to expand access to nutritious food for rural and urban communities without a supermarket,” said Molly Pfaffenroth, Senior Director of Government Relations at National Grocers Association. “Independent community grocers are the heartbeat of the areas they serve and historically are leaders in reaching out to those most in need of better food options. Communities are stronger both physically and economically when they have better access to healthy food, so we look forward to working with Congress on this important bipartisan legislation.”

“To end childhood hunger in America, we must ensure that low-income families, have equitable access to healthy, affordable food options no matter their zip code or circumstances. Ending food deserts will help more families put food on the table and help children get the nutrition they need to grow up healthy and strong. Share Our Strength supports The Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act and thanks Sens. Warner, Moran, Casey, and Capito for their leadership on this issue,” said Billy Shore, Founder and Executive Chair of Share Our Strength. 

“Bread for the World is once again excited to see a bipartisan effort to address food deserts and improve access to nutritious food in low-income areas across America.  With 1 in 6 Americans and 1 in 4 children experiencing food insecurity during this pandemic, this legislation is desperately needed. Bread for the World thanks Senators Warner, Moran, Casey and Capito for introducing this bill to reduce hunger in communities and improve health across the country,” said Heather Valentine, Director of Government Relations of Bread for the World. 

Companion legislation will soon be introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH) and A. Donald McEachin (D-VA).

Sen. Warner has been a strong advocate of expanded access to food assistance for families in the Commonwealth amid the COVID-19 crisis. He has put pressure on the USDA to formally authorize Virginia’s request to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Online Purchasing Pilot Program, successfully pushed USDA to waive a requirement that made it more difficult for families to receive USDA-reimbursable meals, and secured a USDA designation that allows food banks to distribute food directly to Virginia families in need while limiting interactions between food bank staff, volunteers, and recipients. In August, Sen. Warner also successfully pushed for USDA to extend critical food waivers to help make sure students have access to nutritious meals while school districts participate in distance learning. The COVID-19 relief package signed into law in December provides $13 billion in nutrition assistance, including a 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits. Last month, Sen. Warner introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation that allows federal government to pay all costs to states to partner with restaurants and provide food to vulnerable populations.

Bill text for the Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act can be found here. A summary of the bill can be found here.

 

Population of Virginians by city or county living in food deserts as defined in this bill*

Accomack: 4401

Albemarle: 3765

Amherst: 10217

Augusta: 11919

Bath: 4731

Bland: 3901

Botetourt: 7792

Brunswick: 8041

Buckingham: 8400

Campbell: 8756

Caroline: 3278

Carroll: 4767

Charlotte: 12586

Chesterfield: 38638

Culpeper: 18511

Cumberland: 10052

Dinwiddie: 12196

Essex: 8026

Fairfax: 11213

Floyd: 9102

Franklin: 25439

Grayson: 5277

Halifax: 27851

Hanover: 4243

Henrico: 39618

Henry: 22130

Highland: 2321

James City: 4014

King and Queen: 3881

Loudoun: 3869

Mecklenburg: 17632

Montgomery: 32249

Nelson: 5696

Nottoway: 9783

Orange: 4934

Patrick: 11262

Pittsylvania: 23119

Prince Edward: 10624

Prince George: 8543

Prince William: 55128

Rappahannock: 7373

Rockbridge: 15873

Rockingham: 11530

Scott: 7959

Shenandoah: 9068

Smyth: 3913

Southampton: 7958

Spotsylvania: 21803

Stafford: 12818

Sussex: 6377

Tazewell: 12740

Warren: 14335

Wise: 9566

Wythe: 6773

Bristol: 13982

Buena Vista: 6650

Charlottesville: 6616

Chesapeake: 33605

Covington: 3098

Danville: 15545

Franklin City: 8582

Fredericksburg: 8988

Hampton: 38928

Harrisonburg: 9016

Hopewell: 12120

Lexington: 7042

Lynchburg: 29886

Manassas: 7678

Manassas Park: 6248

Martinsville: 6166

Newport News: 38292

Norfolk: 62583

Petersburg: 22639

Portsmouth: 11862

Radford: 12260

Richmond City: 62381

Roanoke City: 39950

Salem: 10424

Suffolk: 9752

Virginia Beach: 27205

Waynesboro: 5240

Williamsburg: 4138

Total: 1,186,877

*The most recent year for which data is available is 2017.

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $1,879,967 in federal funding to help Virginians in 19 localities reduce their dependency on federal assistance and rental subsidies. The funding, awarded through the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will help connect Virginia families to public and private resources that help them increase their earned income and transition to more stable housing.

“These funds will empower Virginia families by providing educational opportunities, job training, and counseling to help them make lasting progress towards economic independence,” said the Senators. “We applaud the Department of Housing and Urban Development for taking this approach to give Virginians the tools they need to increase their income and move up the economic ladder.”

The funding will be distributed as follows:

  • Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority: $78,659;
  • Bristol Redevelopment & Housing Authority: $49,627;
  • Chesapeake Redevelopment & Housing Authority: $167,400;
  • City of Roanoke Redevelopment & Housing Authority: $151,470;
  • City of Virginia Beach Department of Housing: $56,347;
  • Loudoun County: $74,080;
  • Danville Redevelopment & Housing Authority: $24,818;
  • Fairfax County Redevelopment & Housing Authority: $152,078;
  • Franklin Redevelopment & Housing Authority: $60,000;
  • Hampton Redevelopment & Housing Authority: $60,152;
  • Harrisonburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority: $35,103;
  • Hopewell Redevelopment & Housing Authority: $72,000;
  • James City County Office of Housing & Community Development: $28,500;
  • Newport News Redevelopment & Housing Authority: $112,031;
  • Norfolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority: $360,000;
  • Portsmouth Redevelopment & Housing Authority: $226,656;
  • Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority: $72,000;
  • Suffolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority: $52,368;
  • Waynesboro Redevelopment & Housing Authority: $48,638.

The FSS program helps HUD-assisted families increase their earned income and reduce their dependency on federal assistance and rental subsidies. Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) work in collaboration with a Program Coordinating Committee (PCC) to secure commitments of public and private resources for the operation of the FSS program, to develop the PHA’s FSS Action Plan (the FSS policy framework), and to implement the program.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation will receive $14,420,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)’s Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Grant Program. This funding will go towards replacing an existing double-track rail bridge with two new double-track rail bridges, expanding passenger rail capacity in the Washington, D.C. to Richmond, VA corridor.

“We’re pleased to announce these federal funds to make much-needed improvements on rails and bridges that will increase efficiency and reliability for this rail system,” said the Senators. “These improvements will also help local industries transport freight and bolster economic development opportunities in the region.”

The Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Grant Program provides funding for capital projects within the United States to repair, replace, or rehabilitate qualified railroad assets to reduce the state of good repair backlog and improve intercity passenger rail performance. 

###

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.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with Reps. A. Donald McEachin (D-VA) and Morgan Griffith (R-VA), demanded answers from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) regarding reports of troubling conditions at Virginia facilities amid the COVID-19 crisis. Expressing frustration with Director Michael Carvajal’s failure to respond to a letter from earlier this year, the lawmakerspressed for answers concerning an ongoing lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and diminished quality of life for incarcerated individuals. 

“Nearly four months ago, we sent you a letter detailing the significant risks and challenges COVID-19 posed to the health and safety of staff, incarcerated individuals at FCC Petersburg and USP Lee, and the surrounding communities. We remain deeply concerned that the conditions within those facilities have failed to improve – and in many ways, appear to have deteriorated,” the lawmakers wrote. “One area of particular concern is the continued lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). According to employees at FCC Petersburg, both staff and incarcerated individuals are forced to re-use supplies and masks, which presents serious health and safety risks. Given the close quarters and frequent person-to-person interaction, correctional staff and incarcerated individuals are especially vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. Lack of PPE also creates additional risk of community spread outside the facilities. Relatedly, we have learned from facility staff that showers are restricted for individuals incarcerated at FCC Petersburg, a policy which further exacerbates sanitation and hygiene issues during a global pandemic.”

“We have also received numerous reports related to other declining conditions at FCC Petersburg. It is our understanding that access to outdoor recreation, exercise facilities, and phones have been reduced due to the pandemic. We recognize the importance of limiting large group gatherings, and that coordinating these activities can present logistical, health, and safety challenges. However, it is imperative that correctional facilities find new ways to maintain and support a healthy quality of life for incarcerated individuals during this crisis,” they continued. “We have also heard disturbing reports that the food the incarcerated individuals are receiving has declined significantly in both quantity and quality, including being served spoiled food. Such conditions are unacceptable.” 

In Virginia, there are two federal correctional institutions in operation, including the U.S. Penitentiary in Lee County and the Petersburg Federal Correctional Complex. Correctional officers at Virginia’s facilities are responsible for approximately 4,144 incarcerated individuals. 

In their letter, the four members of Congress also raised concern with reports that correctional staff at FCI Petersburg continue to be denied a lunch break despite working shifts as long as sixteen hours – an issue originally raised in the lawmakers’ May 21st letter. Calling this “unacceptable and dangerous,” they encouraged Director Carvajal to institute a nation-wide break policy in order to address correctional staff’s basic needs.

Additionally, they expressed dismay regarding the transfer of incarcerated individuals between facilities, highlighting that at least one person with a positive case of COVID-19 was transferred to USP Lee. The lawmakers noted that this this lapse in judgment could result in an entirely preventable COVID-19 outbreak inside the prison, endangering staff, inmates and local communities. 

The members of Congress have advocated for vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 crisis. Earlier this year, they requested answers from Director Carvajal regarding issues at the Virginia facilities. Sen. Warner also joined his Senate colleagues in a letter to BOP and the three largest private prison operators inquiring about any policies and procedures in place to manage a potential spread of COVID-19.

Additionally, Sen. Warner and Kaine have urged the Trump Administration time and time and time again to cease the inter-state transfer of people held at immigration detention facilities during the public health crisis. 

Full text of today’s letter is available here or below.

 

Dear Director Carvajal:

We write to reiterate our serious concerns about the health and safety of staff and individuals incarcerated at Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) Petersburg and United States Penitentiary (USP) Lee, the two federal correctional facilities in Virginia, and to express our severe frustration at your failure to respond to our letter from May 21, 2020. After speaking with employees and the families of individuals incarcerated at both facilities, it is clear that the situation is worsening. According to figures shared with our offices, there are over 200 incarcerated individuals and at least 12 staff who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus at FCC Petersburg. 

Nearly four months ago, we sent you a letter detailing the significant risks and challenges COVID-19 posed to the health and safety of staff, incarcerated individuals at FCC Petersburg and USP Lee, and the surrounding communities. We remain deeply concerned that the conditions within those facilities have failed to improve – and in many ways, appear to have deteriorated.  

One area of particular concern is the continued lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). According to employees at FCC Petersburg, both staff and incarcerated individuals are forced to re-use supplies and masks, which presents serious health and safety risks. Given the close quarters and frequent person-to-person interaction, correctional staff and incarcerated individuals are especially vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. Lack of PPE also creates additional risk of community spread outside the facilities. Relatedly, we have learned from facility staff that showers are restricted for individuals incarcerated at FCC Petersburg, a policy which further exacerbates sanitation and hygiene issues during a global pandemic. 

We have also received numerous reports related to other declining conditions at FCC Petersburg. It is our understanding that access to outdoor recreation, exercise facilities, and phones have been reduced due to the pandemic. We recognize the importance of limiting large group gatherings, and that coordinating these activities can present logistical, health, and safety challenges. However, it is imperative that correctional facilities find new ways to maintain and support a healthy quality of life for incarcerated individuals during this crisis. We have also heard disturbing reports that the food the incarcerated individuals are receiving has declined significantly in both quantity and quality, including being served spoiled food. Such conditions are unacceptable.   

Further, as we detailed in our letter nearly four months ago, correctional staff at FCC Petersburg continue to be denied a lunch break, despite reportedly working shifts as long as sixteen hours. This is unacceptable and dangerous. We once again encourage you to institute a break policy—not only at the Petersburg facility, but at the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) facilities across the nation—that more appropriately responds to correctional staff’s basic needs. 

Additionally, we are particularly dismayed to learn that, despite our concerns, BOP is transferring individuals to facilities without a record of COVID-19 cases. A group of individuals was recently transferred to USP Lee, which included at least one person with a positive case of COVID-19. Such transfers are a potentially deadly lapse in judgment. USP Lee is one of the largest employers in Lee County, Virginia, and not only could this transfer result in an entirely preventable outbreak inside the prison, it is also dangerous for the public health of local community members.   

Finally, your failure to respond to our serious concerns is further heightened by the recent announcement from the BOP that facilities will allow visitations to resume in early October. While we agree that resuming visitations is incredibly important for incarcerated individuals and their families, proper protocols must be in place and followed to ensure the health and safety of the incarcerated individuals, their families, and the surrounding communities. We urge you to take all available steps to ensure vitiations can resume as soon as possible while preserving the health and safety of visitors, staff, and incarcerated individuals.

Given the magnitude of the worsening conditions at USP Lee and FCC Petersburg, we demand an immediate response to how BOP is addressing our concerns by no later than October 5, 2020. As COVID-19 continues to present a significant health challenge at FCC Petersburg and USP Lee, and the surrounding communities, we are committed to working with you to address the needs of incarcerated individuals and correctional staff. 

We appreciate your attention to these important issues impacting our constituents and look forward to your prompt response. 

Sincerely,

###

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

###

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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