Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $1,900,000 in federal funding for three projects in Bland, Stuart, and Lee County, Virginia. The funding, courtesy of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), will go towards building a dental clinic in Bland, investing in downtown revitalization projects in Stuart, and improving water service to 38 homes in Lee County.

“Communities across Virginia have tremendous momentum, ideas, and initiative for projects that will improve their towns and grow their economies, and they often just need the resources to execute them,” said the senators. “We’re thrilled to see federal funding meet clear needs and bring better dental care, water service, and community improvement projects to life to help communities grow and thrive.”

The funding is broken down as follows:

  • $700,000 for the Town of Stuart to implement projects in their downtown revitalization plan by expanding the roof at the Stuart Farmers’ Market and building a 3,200 square foot “mega-deck” downtown to provide handicap accessibility to historic buildings, allow for outdoor programming, and connect the area to surrounding natural resources. Twenty-nine businesses in the area will benefit from this mega-deck.
  • $700,000 for the St. Charles Monarch Waterline Replacement project in Lee County. This project will replace 9,970 feet of aging waterline, install 4 gate valves, and place 1 fire hydrant, which will improve water service for 38 homes.  
  • $500,000 for the Bland Ministry Center and Dental Clinic in Bland. This will support the construction of a dental clinic with seven dental procedure rooms, sterilization space, and x-ray and denture labs. This new clinic will double capacity for dental service in Bland and surrounding counties, serving an additional 3,600 patients within three years and hiring seven additional staff members. 

Sens. Warner and Kaine have long supported efforts to improve clean water access across the Commonwealth, expand access to dental care, and invest in downtown revitalization. Recently, the senators announced over $62 million for water infrastructure upgrades across the Commonwealth, secured $1.25 million to construct a dental clinic in Wise County, and celebrated grants to support economic revitalization. Additionally, the senators are staunch advocates for full funding for the ARC. The bipartisan infrastructure law – legislation strongly supported by both Warner and Kaine – authorized an additional $1 billion for the ARC, allowing it to fund more projects across the Commonwealth.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) sent a letter to President Biden recommending both Patice Holland and Jasmine Yoon to fill one upcoming vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, which will be created when Judge Michael F. Urbanski assumes senior status in July 2024. 

Patice Holland was born and raised in Franklin County and has worked at Wood Rogers Vandeventer Black PLC in Roanoke, Virginia since 2007, having first joined the firm as a law clerk and now serving as a Principal Attorney and chair of the firm’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force. In addition to her practice, she currently serves as substitute judge in the 23rd Judicial Circuit of Virginia. Ms. Holland dedicates her free time to community outreach and serves on nine bar associations in Virginia.

Jasmine Yoon is the Vice President for Corporate Integrity, Ethics, and Investigations at Capital One Financial Corporation. Prior to this role, she served as Interim University Counsel and Associate University Counsel at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, her alma mater. She also worked as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, where she investigated and prosecuted over 80 financial crimes and public corruption cases.

“We are pleased to recommend Ms. Patice Holland and Ms. Jasmine Yoon for the vacancy on the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia, following the decision by Chief Judge Michael F. Urbanski to assume senior status effective July 4, 2024,” said the senators. “Both would serve with great distinction and have our highest recommendation.” 

Warner and Kaine recommended Patice Holland and Jasmine Yoon based on their distinguished records and the assessments of an independent panel of attorneys from across the Commonwealth as well as feedback from numerous bar associations in Virginia. President Biden will now nominate one individual for the position to be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The nomination is subject to confirmation by the full Senate. 

Under President Biden, the senators have confirmed 153 federal judges to the bench, including the Honorable Toby HeytensPatricia Tolliver GilesMichael S. NachmanoffElizabeth HainesJamar Walker, and Robert Ballou for federal courts across Virginia. 

Full text of the letter is available here and below. 

 

Dear Mr. President: 

We are pleased to recommend Ms. Patice Holland and Ms. Jasmine Yoon for the vacancy on the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia, following the decision by Chief Judge Michael F. Urbanski to assume senior status effective July 4, 2024. Both would serve with great distinction and have our highest recommendation. 

Born and raised in Franklin County, Virginia, Ms. Holland has worked at Wood Rogers Vandeventer Black PLC in Roanoke, Virginia since 2007, having first joined the firm as a law clerk to now serving as a Principal Attorney and chair of the firm’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force. In addition to her practice, she currently serves as substitute judge in the 23rd Judicial Circuit of Virginia. Ms. Holland dedicates her free time to community outreach and serves on nine bar associations in Virginia. These experiences give us great confidence that Ms. Holland would make an excellent nominee for this seat.

Ms. Yoon is the Vice President for Corporate Integrity, Ethics, and Investigations at Capital One Financial Corporation. Prior to this role, she served as Interim University Counsel and Associate University Counsel at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, her alma mater. She also worked as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, where she investigated and prosecuted over 80 financial crimes and public corruption cases. These experiences qualify Ms. Yoon for this nomination and we are honored to recommend her.

Ultimately, we believe either of these individuals would secure confirmation from the Senate and serve capably on the bench. We are honored to recommend them to you.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) selected two projects in Virginia as part of the first phase of EDA’s Regional Tech Hubs Program.

The Tech Hubs Program, made possible by the CHIPS and Science Act, bipartisan legislation strongly supported by both senators, aims to strengthen U.S. economic and national security by investing in regions across the country that have the assets, resources, and potential to become globally competitive innovation centers focused on the technologies and industries of the future. Specifically, this U.S. Department of Commerce program brings together diverse public, private, and academic partners into collaborative consortia focused on driving inclusive regional growth. With their existing innovation assets as a foundation, these Tech Hubs are envisioned to build the workforce of the future, enable businesses to start and scale, and deploy and deliver critical and emerging technologies.

In the Richmond/Petersburg region, the Advanced Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Tech Hub was designated as one of 31 inaugural Tech Hubs in regions across the country that show potential for rapid growth in key technology sectors. Led by the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, this consortium will ensure that critical pharmaceuticals are manufactured here in America by employing regional assets, scientific capacities, and public and private investment to accelerate the growth, innovation, and sustainability of the U.S.-based pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. This comes as increasing overseas manufacturing creates supply chain vulnerabilities and difficulties in pharmaceutical quality regulation and monitoring. The designation of the Richmond/Petersburg region as a Tech Hub builds off last year’s award of $52.9 million from the EDA’s Regional Challenge program to the Virginia Advanced Pharma Manufacturing (APM) Cluster, led by the Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority and located in the Richmond/Petersburg region. That award, dedicated to expanding the domestic supply chain for essential medicines and critical active pharmaceutical ingredients, was made possible by the American Rescue Plan that the senators voted for and by the senators’ efforts to advocate directly for the project.

“The CHIPS and Science Act continues to deliver significant wins for Virginia, supporting the creation of an Advanced Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Tech Hub in the Richmond-Petersburg region. I was proud to support this project, which will help make the Richmond-Petersburg region a critical hub for the manufacturing of advanced pharmaceuticals. Today’s announcement will help boost the American pharmaceutical industry while creating 21st century jobs for Virginians,” said Sen. Warner.

“Manufacturing critical medicines, including insulin, in America is good for patients, our workers, our economy, and the stability of our supply chains. That’s why I’ve worked for decades to boost our biotechnology sector in the Richmond region. I helped form and grow the Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority, a leader of this project, while I was on Richmond City Council, served on the Authority’s board while I was Richmond’s mayor, and appointed its board members while I was governor. Now as Senator, I worked to secure funding from the American Rescue Plan for the project and pushed to make this competitive Tech Hub designation possible. I’ll keep working to advance this critical economic development project for Central Virginia,” said Sen. Kaine. 

This designation is part of the first phase of the novel Tech Hubs program that will invest directly in high-potential U.S. regions and aim to transform them into globally competitive innovation centers. Designation is an endorsement of the region’s strategy to supercharge their respective technological industry to create jobs and strengthen U.S. economic and national security. Designated Tech Hubs are now eligible to apply for the next phase of the Tech Hubs Program that will invest between $50 and $75 million in each of 5-10 Designated Hubs. The consortium was selected from 198 applications from regional consortia that include industry, academia, state and local governments, economic development organizations, and labor and workforce partners. The Tech Hubs span regions across 32 states and Puerto Rico and represent a cross section of urban and rural regions.

In the New River Valley and Danville, the Virginia Additive Manufacturing and Applied Materials Strategy Development Consortium was awarded a Strategic Development Grant, which will go towards advancing a regional strategy based in the New River Valley to develop and deploy additive manufacturing system technologies for heavy industry to re-shore manufacturing and to strengthen domestic supply chain resilience. 

“Today’s selection of Virginia’s Additive Manufacturing and Applied Materials Strategy Development Consortium as a Tech Hubs Strategy Development Grant recipient is great news for the New River Valley, Southside, and for the Commonwealth as a whole.  I am proud to have supported this application and look forward to continuing the growth of the regions’ innovation economy,” said Sen. Warner. “The CHIPS & Science Act, which I was proud to author and lead through Congress, continues to bring high-paying, competitive jobs to Virginia.”

“Last month, I visited MELD manufacturing in Christiansburg and saw up close the strength of Virginia’s Additive Manufacturing and Applied Materials Strategy Development Consortium. Today’s exciting announcement by the U.S. Department of Commerce is a recognition of the incredible work Virginians have already accomplished through this partnership, and their great potential for job creation in the future. As Seapower Chair on the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am particularly impressed with how these innovations will enhance our national security. I will continue to do all that I can to support economic development in the New River Valley and applaud the innovators there that keep Virginia at the cutting-edge,” said Sen. Kaine.

Led by the New River Valley Regional Commission, this consortium will leverage the grant to increase local coordination and planning activities to strengthen the region’s capacity to manufacture, commercialize, and deploy technologies critical to U.S. economic and national security. This consortium was selected for a grant from a competitive pool of 181 applications.

The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) 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 invests in communities and supports regional collaboration in order 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) announced $16,395,565.20 in federal funding, courtesy of the Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program, awarded to the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC) to deploy broadband and expand access to high-speed internet throughout Virginia.

The funding will be used to construct approximately 130 miles of new fiber to build eight open-access middle mile fiber segments, the physical high-capacity fiber optic cables needed to connect internet service providers to larger data centers and local networks, which will support service for residential and business customers and provide critical broadband connectivity to 32 industrial and business park sites in 12 Virginia localities across Central and Southside Virginia.

“Access to high-quality, high-speed internet is crucial in the 21st century,” said the senators. “We are proud to have played a key role in creating and passing legislation that continues to deliver substantial funding to Virginia in order to achieve universal broadband coverage across the Commonwealth.”

“We are absolutely thrilled and deeply honored to be a part of this transformative project, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our electric cooperatives, ISPs, and other telecom providers,” said Tad Deriso, President & CEO of MBC. “The substantial infrastructure investment in middle mile fiber by the NTIA and GO Virginia represents a remarkable triumph for rural Virginia, as it paves the way for significant strides in bridging the digital divide and attracting more economic development investments to the region. MBC has a proven track record of executing fiber infrastructure projects on time and within budget, and we eagerly anticipate collaborating with our funding partners, our telecom provider customers, and the communities involved to make this project a resounding success.”

Details on the eight middle mile fiber segments are as follows:

  • The South Hill to Kenbridge segment will improve the capacity of the fiber route that supports the marketability and feasibility of the Kenbridge Commerce Center site in Lunenburg County as well as residential and business customers along the route.
  • The Blackstone to McKenney segment will support additional broadband capabilities at Fort Barfoot, a Virginia Army National Guard installation near Blackstone, VA for future rapidly mobilized national security operations and the expanding federal and private contractor workforce.
  • The Dinwiddie to Prince George segment will enable fiber connectivity for industrial, business, education, and biotech/pharmaceutical clusters in Dinwiddie County, Prince George County, and the City of Petersburg.
  • The MAMaC in Greensville County segment supports economic development in Greensville County by providing diverse fiber to enhance the marketability of the 1,600 acre MaMaC Megasite in Greensville County.
  • The Heartland Innovative Technology (HIT) Park in Prince Edward County segment will provide new diverse fiber to the recently established Heartland Innovative Technology Park.
  • The Sussex Mega Site in Sussex County segment will create middle mile fiber diversity for the Sussex County Mega Site, enhancing the site’s marketability for advanced manufacturing.
  • The Heartland Innovative Technology (HIT) Park to Cumberland segment will provide a diverse fiber route from HIT park to the north, to tie into other fiber backbone routes that extend to Ashburn, Culpeper and Charlottesville.
  • The Shannon Hill Regional Business Park in Louisa County segment will provide diverse fiber to the 700-acre Shannon Hill Regional Business Park for the park’s targeted industries of manufacturing, data centers, biotechnology, and logistics and distribution.

The Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program provides funding to expand and extend middle mile infrastructure to reduce the cost of connecting areas that are unserved or underserved with current broadband infrastructure. The program was created by the bipartisan infrastructure law (BIL). 

Sens. Warner and Kaine have long fought to expand access to broadband in Virginia. Last month, Sen. Warner visited Big Stone Gap to celebrate $25 million in funding for the deployment of broadband in Southwest Virginia. These announcements come in addition to over $1.4 billion in previously announced funding for the deployment of broadband throughout the Commonwealth as a result of the bipartisan infrastructure law. 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (D-VA) announced the inclusion of key Virginia priorities in the Senate’s Fiscal Year 2024 draft funding bills. All 12 bills were passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on a bipartisan basis.

“We are proud to announce that the Senate’s draft government spending legislation for Fiscal Year 2024 includes critical funding that will keep the government open, back record investments in infrastructure and U.S. competitiveness, uplift rural and underserved communities, support servicemembers and military families, provide assistance to miners suffering from black lung disease, and support key industries that are central to Virginia’s economy. We’re also proud to have secured more than $111 million for specific community projects all throughout Virginia as we work to ensure our federal budget meets Virginians’ needs. We hope that our colleagues in the House of Representatives will negotiate in good faith in order to reach a compromise on a final deal that includes funding for these important priorities,” said Sens. Warner and Kaine.

As part of the Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations process, members of Congress were able to work with the communities they represent to request funding for local community projects, otherwise known as earmarks, in a manner that promotes transparency and accountability. This process allows Congress to dedicate federal funding for specific projects in Virginia. The Senators worked to secure more than $111 million for community projects across the Commonwealth. In addition to battling for these priorities, the Senators will work to ensure funds obtained by Virginia House members also remain in the final spending bills. 

More information regarding specific projects in Virginia that will receive Congressionally Directed Spending is available below:

  • For projects in Northern Virginia, click here.
  • For projects in Central Virginia, click here.
  • For projects in the Shenandoah Valley, click here.
  • For projects in Southwest Virginia and Southside, click here.
  • For projects in Hampton Roads, click here.
  • For projects that impact communities in multiple regions across the Commonwealth click here.

 
The following list includes many provisions championed by Sens. Warner and Kaine on behalf of Virginia that were included in the 12 government funding bills: 

Boosting Local Economies: Includes $200 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission and $20 million for the Southeast Crescent Regional Commission to support their work to build economic partnerships, create opportunity, and foster economic development.  

Implementing the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022: Includes $11 billion to implement the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, championed by Sens. Warner and Kaine. Funding will allow the U.S. to keep pace with China and other competitors in scientific fields that can power the economy, such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, microelectronics, clean energy, and advanced communications. Sen. Warner first introduced the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act in June 2020 along with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).  

Implementing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA): Provides full funding for numerous transportation programs authorized in the IIJA, including $29.5 billion for the National Highway Performance Program, $3.1 billion for the Highway Safety Improvement Program, $245 million for the Rail-Highway Grade Crossings Program, $14.3 billion for the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, and $2.4 billion for the Bridge Investment Program. Sen. Warner was a lead author and negotiator of the IIJA.  

Strengthening Transportation and Recreation Infrastructure: Provides $150 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and $45 million for the Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program, which supports multi-purpose trails. 

Making Our Communities Safer: Provides $732 million – a $32 million increase from Fiscal Year 2023 – for Violence Against Women Prevention and Prosecution programs to prevent violence and better support survivors. This legislation also includes over $534 million for Community Oriented Policing Services to support state and local law enforcement and communities in developing comprehensive, evidence-based violence intervention and prevention programs based on partnerships between community residents, law enforcement, local government agencies, and other community stakeholders. This includes efforts to address gang and gun violence and improve school safety.

Support for Missing Persons Program: Includes $1 million to help with the nationwide implementation of the Ashanti Alert system. In 2018, Sen. Warner secured unanimous Senate passage of the Ashanti Alert Act, legislation that created a new federal alert system for missing or endangered adults between the ages of 18-64. The bill was signed into law on December 31, 2018. 

Investing in Children: Provides $8.7 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which provides financial assistance to help low-income families access child care. This is $700 million more than Fiscal Year 2023. The bill also includes $12.3 billion, $300 million more than Fiscal Year 2023, for Head Start, the national school readiness program. In July, Sens. Warner and Kaine urged the White House to provide additional funding to help stabilize the child care industry. In April, Sen. Kaine introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act, legislation that would help ensure families can find and afford child care by expanding access to more high-quality options, stabilizing the child care sector, and helping ensure child care workers taking care of our nation’s kids are paid livable wages. The bill also includes $15 million for the Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health program – a program that Sen. Kaine reauthorized via bipartisan legislation.  

Making Higher Education More Affordable: Provides a $250 boost to the maximum Pell Grant in the 2024-2025 school year, raising the maximum award to $7,645. The bill also includes over $1 billion, an increase of $5 million, for programs to strengthen Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions.

Supporting K-12 Education: Provides over $18.5 billion for Title I-A grants, which supports school districts with low-income students. This is $175 million more from Fiscal Year 2023. The bill also provides over $5 billion for the primary Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Special Education State grant program, an increase of $175 million from Fiscal Year 2023. In July, Sen. Kaine reintroduced the IDEA Full Funding Act, legislation that would ensure Congress fulfills its commitment to fully fund IDEA through regular, mandatory increases in spending.

Investing in Affordable Housing: Includes $1.5 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which provides fundingto state and local governments for housing construction, and $3.3 billion in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), which can be used to support affordable housing, community development, and economic development. Also includes $3.9 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants (HAG), to help families and individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Sens. Warner and Kaine are strong advocates for affordable housing funding each year.

Supporting Nutrition Programs: The bill includes $6.3 billion – a $615 million increase from Fiscal Year 2023 – for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to ensure over 6 million women, infants, and children can access adequate nutrition. It also fully funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to serve an estimated 42 million people per month – with no new restrictions on eligibility – and fully funds the Child Nutrition Programs to help serve an estimated 5 billion lunches and 2.6 billion breakfasts to kids across the country. 

Fighting Global Hunger: Provides $1.8 billion for the Food for Peace program and $248.3 million for the McGovern-Dole Food for Education program, while the State and Foreign Operations bill provides a $691 million increase in funding for humanitarian assistance programs, including increased investments in addressing global hunger and enhancing food security.  

Preventing and Treating Substance Use: Provides $5 billion – an increase of $125 million over Fiscal Year 2023 – for opioid treatment and prevention. This includes $40 million for the Substance Use Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Services Block Grant; $20 million for the State Opioid Response grants; $10 million for the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program; and $20 million for NIH opioid research programs. 

Fighting the Flow of Fentanyl: Includes $719 million to improve the detection and seizure of fentanyl and other narcotics at ports of entry with new technology and personnel. Invests $105 million in new resources to disrupt transnational criminal organizations and stop fentanyl and illicit drugs at their source. Sens. Warner and Kaine are both cosponsors of the Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence (FEND) Off Fentanyl Act, a sanctions and anti-money laundering bill targeting the illicit fentanyl supply chain. Earlier this year, Sens. Kaine and Joni Ernst (R-IA) led bipartisan legislation to direct increased federal attention to fentanyl trafficking by utilizing the tools of the Department of Defense and involving Mexico as an active partner to combat the fentanyl crisis. That legislation was included in the Senate-passed National Defense Authorization Act.

Addressing Long COVID Needs: Includes $10 million for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to support access to comprehensive, coordinated, and person-centered care, particularly for underserved, rural, vulnerable, or minority populations that are disproportionately impacted by the effects of Long COVID. Also includes $5 million for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to establish a network of Long COVID Centers of Excellence that can gather, develop and disseminate data regarding evidence-based treatment; educate and train providers on best practices; conduct outreach to affected populations and community organizations; and coordinate access to care. Sen. Kaine has been a strong advocate for helping individuals with Long COVID, including by leading the bipartisan Long COVID Support Act with Sen. Todd Young (R-IN).

Supporting Rural Health: Includes a $12 million increase for Rural Health programs. This includes a $10 million increase in the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program and a $2 million increase for the Rural Health Outreach program, which supports projects that demonstrate new and innovative modes of outreach in rural areas. Also includes $5 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to establish an Office of Rural Health. Sen. Kaine supported the establishment of this office as a cosponsor of the Rural Health Equity Act, and led a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee in FY23 requesting this funding.

Addressing the Maternal Mortality Crisis: Includes an increase of $10 million for the Implementing a Maternal health and Pregnancy Outcomes Vision for Everyone (IMPROVE) Initiative to combat alarming rates of maternal mortality, as well as an increase of $2.5 million for programs to improve health outcomes during and after pregnancy and reduce disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes. Also includes $110.5 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions Safe Motherhood and Infant Health programs, which is a $2,500,000 increase from fiscal year 2023 and more than $1.7 billion for the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which is a $10,000,000 increase from fiscal year 2023. Sen. Kaine led a bipartisan letter to the Appropriations Committee asking for robust funding for these programs.

Pandemic Preparedness: Includes $3.67 billion for the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR). This includes a $20 million increase for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to support the advanced development of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics and devices for potential serious public health threats, and $75 million to establish a new program in manufacturing and production to ensure that critical resources including medical countermeasures and ancillary supplies are manufactured in the United States. 

Increasing Funding for Pediatric Research: Provides $12.6 million to further fund the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act—legislation championed by Sens. Warner and Kaine and named after a child from Loudoun County who died from a brain tumor in 2013. 

Supporting the Refugee Resettlement Program: Includes $133 million for refugee settlement to meet the goal of 125,000 refugee admissions for Fiscal Year 2024. 

Expanding Home Energy Assistance: Includes $4.075 billion – an increase of $75 million from Fiscal Year 2023 – for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides assistance to low-income households to help heat or cool their homes. Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for lowering energy costs and have consistently advocated for robust funding for LIHEAP. 

Expanding High-Speed Internet Access: Includes $98 million for the USDA’s ReConnect Program to expand access to high-speed broadband to remote underserved areas. Sens. Warner and Kaine have been vocal advocates for expanding broadband. As Governors and Senators, Sens. Warner and Kaine have long supported expanding broadband access in Virginia. During the pandemic, they secured significant funding for broadband through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Sens. Warner and Kaine also joined a bipartisan letter to Senate leadership requesting this funding earlier this year, and Sen. Warner personally secured billions of dollars for broadband expansion in both the American Rescue Plan and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. 

Increasing Military Pay and Compensation: Fully funds the 5.2 percent pay raise for servicemembers, while providing $29.6 billion for housing and $8.4 billion for subsistence – including BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) and BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence—food for servicemembers not living in government quarters).

Economic Support for Underserved Communities: Provides $341 million for the U.S. Department of the Treasury Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund. Sens. Warner and Kaine requested this funding. Sen. Warner has led efforts in Congress to support CDFIs through legislation including the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act and the creation of the bipartisan Senate Community Development Finance Caucus.  

Small Businesses: Provides $1.2 billion to the Small Business Administration to help small businesses thrive. This funding will support SBA’s lending programs, which increase access to capital for small businesses, as well as their entrepreneurial development programs, which include services that help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, such as the Small Business Development Center and Women’s Business Centers networks.

Addressing Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Delays and Customer Service Issues: Includes $12.3 billion for the IRS, which will enable it to continue to update ancient computer systems, improve customer service, and reduce wait times for refunds and other services. Sens. Warner and Kaine have consistently pushed the IRS to address poor customer service and severe delays within the department.  

Support for Miners: Includes $12.19 million for Black Lung Clinics. Sens. Warner and Kaine have actively worked to secure benefits for miners and their families suffering from black lung disease. In July, Sens. Warner and Kaine reintroduced the Relief for Survivors of Miners Act, which would ease restrictions to make it easier for miners’ survivors to successfully claim benefits. In June, the Senators also urged the Biden Administration to issue new silica standards to protect miners across America – a push that helped contribute towards the release of those standards.

Restoring the Chesapeake Bay: Includes $93 million for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program, the primary federal program that coordinates Chesapeake Bay restoration and protection efforts throughout the Bay watershed.

Strengthening Our Ports: Provides $1.2 billion for the Maritime Administration (MARAD), including $213 million for the Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP), which supports the buildout and modernization of our nation’s ports including the Port of Virginia.

Advancing Scientific Discovery: Includes $8.43 billion – an increase of $330 million from Fiscal Year 2023 – for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science. DOE’s Office of Science sponsors basic research in the physical sciences and supports 22,000 researchers at 17 national laboratories across the country, including Jefferson Lab in Newport News, Virginia.

Protecting our Courts: Provides $11.4 million to improve security of the Walter E. Hoffman Courthouse in Norfolk, Virginia. Sen. Kaine visited the Hoffman Courthouse in 2020 to observe the serious security vulnerabilities firsthand and the Senators have been fighting to enhance its security ever since. The Senators last wrote to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) in January 2023 to push for the long delayed security measures.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded $490,647 in federal funding to Virginia Tech for the planning of a project to accelerate forest farming and grow the non-timber forest product (NTFP) industry in Central Appalachia.

“We’re glad to see these federal dollars go towards supporting Appalachian Sustainable Development in its efforts to make Southwest Virginia and Central Appalachia a leader in the NTFP market. This project will cultivate a generation of new forest farmers in Southwest Virginia and help grow a sustainable stock of NTFPshelping create new economic development opportunities for the region,” the Senators said.

“I strongly believe that the key to transforming Appalachia’s economic vitality can be found in vision and collaboration across state lines. I’m encouraged by the way our newest ARISE grantees have come together to forge plans that will greatly increase workforce development and business ventures in ways that will positively affect the entire region,” said Gayle Manchin, the Appalachian Regional Commission’s Federal Co-Chair.

This planning grant will be utilized by Virginia Tech and its two partners – Appalachian Sustainable Development in Duffield, Va. and Mill Creek Creative in Floyd, Va. – to help jumpstart a plan to accelerate Appalachia’s forest farming industry and grow the market for non-timber forest products in Central Appalachia. This includes medicinal plants, edible products such as mushrooms and honey, ornamental products like garlands and burl, and landscape products like mulch. Funding will be used to establish a plan that examines the economic viability of individual and collective forest farming business ventures across Southwest Virginia and Central Appalachia, creating a roadmap for programs and services to deliver a broad spectrum of market-centered opportunities for Appalachian residents and localities. In addition to ARC funds, local sources will provide $327,093 in matching funds, bringing the total project funding to $817,740.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong supporters of Appalachian Sustainable Development’s efforts to grow the NTFP market. Sen. Warner personally advocated for this planning grant.

This funding was awarded through the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)'s Appalachian Regional Initiative for Stronger Economies (ARISE) initiative, which aims to drive large scale, regional economic transformation through multistate, collaborative investments.

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WASHINGTON – With summer just around the corner, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) has seen a steady rise in requests for assistance regarding passport applications and renewals. Many constituents are expressing frustration caused by prolonged and unexplained delays as to the status of their travel documents. Today, Sen. Warner sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken to ensure that the State Department is taking proper steps to clear the passport backlog and fulfill renewal requests.

Specifically, Sen. Warner wrote to Sec. Blinken regarding the now-closed Online Passport Renewal (OPR) System, which received more than 500,000 requests from August 2022 to February 2023. The online system has been unable to keep up with demand, leaving travelers scrambling to replace their passports at the last minute. In addition to costly delays, many constituents who filed to renew their passports online are receiving little to no information on the progress being made with applications regardless of how well in advance of planned travel their requests were filed, leaving many in limbo waiting for their documents.

“In an increasingly online age, I welcome the ability for my constituents to renew their passports through a secure paperless process,” wrote Sen. Warner. “However, the OPR system seems to be fraught with significant errors that have caused Virginians headaches, stress, and unfortunately in some instances, delayed or missed travel. Simply put, the service my constituents have received is unacceptable.”

In his letter, Sen. Warner posed a series of questions to better understand how the State Department plans to address the backlog:

  • How does the agency’s handling of passport applications submitted online differ from those that are filed through traditional processes, either by applying at a Passport Acceptance Facility in person or by U.S. Mail?
  • How does the agency determine the assignment of OPR applications to their Passport Agencies across the country? How does this compare to the assignment of traditional applications received?
  • What is the current average processing time of an application submitted through the OPR process compared to those submitted through the traditional process? Please indicate the processing time for applications submitted under both expedited and routine processing.
  • Does agency data reflect that some Passport Agencies are more successful in processing OPR applications timely than others? If so, what does the agency believe is the source of this imbalance, and how is the agency addressing this problem?
  • Members of my staff have been told by Passport Agency officials that “technical issues” can at times impede the processing of an OPR application and that officials must transfer the application into the traditional system for final processing. Can you further explain these technical issues and what steps the agency is taking to fix these issues?

Sen. Warner’s constituent casework team works daily to help Virginians with a variety of federal agency needs, including help with passport renewal. Constituents experiencing any problems with new passport applications or passport renewals through both online and traditional applications can reach out to Sen. Warner for assistance through his website, available here.

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

Dear Secretary Blinken:

I write today to express my concern and frustration with the State Department’s Online Passport Renewal (OPR) system. 

The OPR system opened to the public in a pilot status in August 2022, and the agency reports it received more than 500,000 applications before they system closed in February 2023. During that time, many Virginians participated in utilizing this system to submit their passport renewals. Since the start of 2023, my office has received a significant increase in requests from Virginians who are experiencing considerable delays in the processing of their renewal applications filed through the OPR system prior to its closure. In many cases, my constituents filed well in advance of their travel date and paid for expedited processing. That said, the applicants still faced delays and, in some cases, ultimately needed to physically travel to a Passport Agency, often the day before their scheduled travel, in order to have their passport issued.

In an increasingly online age, I welcome the ability for my constituents to renew their passports through a secure paperless process. However, the OPR system seems to be fraught with significant errors that have caused Virginians headaches, stress, and unfortunately in some instances, delayed or missed travel. Simply put, the service my constituents have received is unacceptable. Therefore, I ask that you please address the following questions:

1.      How does the agency’s handling of passport applications submitted online differ from those that are filed through traditional processes, either by applying at a Passport Acceptance Facility in person or by U.S. Mail?
2.      How does the agency determine the assignment of OPR applications to their Passport Agencies across the country? How does this compare to the assignment of traditional applications received?
3.      What is the current average processing time of an application submitted through the OPR process compared to those submitted through the traditional process? Please indicate the processing time for applications submitted under both expedited and routine processing.
4.      Does agency data reflect that some Passport Agencies are more successful in processing OPR applications timely than others? If so, what does the agency believe is the source of this imbalance, and how is the agency addressing this problem?
5.      Members of my staff have been told by Passport Agency officials that “technical issues” can at times impede the processing of an OPR application and that officials must transfer the application into the traditional system for final processing. Can you further explain these technical issues and what steps the agency is taking to fix these issues?

My office has been told that the agency is experiencing “an unprecedented volume of early demand for passports this year.” I commend officials at Passport Agencies across the country for their tireless work in adjudicating millions of passport applications each year. However, it appears that the OPR system’s flaws are directly inhibiting this effort, and I look forward to understanding how the agency will address existing challenges and improve the system for future use.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), joined by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), John Boozman (R-AR), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), and Roger Wicker (R-MS), reintroduced the Save Rural Hospitals Act - legislation to help curb the trend of hospital closures in rural communities by making sure hospitals are fairly reimbursed for their services by the federal government.

First introduced in 2020 as a response to the record number of rural hospitals that closed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, 33 nationwide since 2020, the Save Rural Hospitals Act would amend the flawed Medicare Area Wage Index formula that has disproportionately harmed rural and low-income hospitals. Currently, many hospitals in rural areas lack the resources available to those in more populated areas to offer competitive salaries. Due to those salary differences, rural hospitals receive lower reimbursements from the federal government, which contributes to their lack of resources and perpetuates a harmful staffing crisis.  

The Save Rural Hospitals Act would establish a national minimum of 0.85 for the Medicare Area Wage Index, which is used to adjust a hospital’s overall payment from the Medicare program on the basis of geographic differences in labor costs, to ensure that rural hospitals receive fair payment for the care they provide. In Virginia alone, 16 hospitals across the Commonwealth would benefit from this floor being put in place.

“Rural hospitals across the country and the Commonwealth of Virginia are struggling to recruit and retain quality health care professionals,” said Sen. Warner. “This legislation aims to ensure that all hospitals are able to deliver appropriate care by attracting employees and compensating them fairly for their lifesaving work – regardless of where they are located.”

“As I speak with Tennessee leaders and medical professionals, rural health care is a top priority. By establishing an appropriate national minimum to the Medicare hospital area wage index, we can help ensure rural hospitals have the resources to recruit and retain quality health care professionals. I’m pleased to join Senator Warner in this bipartisan effort,” said Sen. Blackburn.

The Save Rural Hospitals Act would offer a permanent fix to Medicare’s unfair Wage Index, which is harming rural and low-income hospitals. Earlier this year, Sens. Warner, Blackburn and a bipartisan group sent a letter to CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure requesting a four-year extension of the current Low Wage Index Hospital Policy, which serves as a temporary fix, raising the payments of hospitals in the bottom wage index quartile.

“Rural hospitals must have the capacity to recruit and retain high-quality professionals to serve their communities,” said Beth O’Connor, Executive Director of the Virginia Rural Health Association. “The Save Rural Hospitals Act by Senators Warner, Kaine, and Blackburn will help ensure the Commonwealth’s rural hospitals can continue to do just that.”

“The unfortunate reality is that the survival of many rural hospitals is financially endangered – nearly 200 have closed across the U.S. since 2005, including two in Virginia. Protecting rural hospitals is vital to the health and well-being of people in less populated communities across the Commonwealth and the United States so they can access essential medical services whenever they need them,” said Sean T. Connaughton, President and CEO of the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association. “We applaud Senator Warner for sponsoring legislation, the Save Rural Hospitals Act, that recognizes the challenging conditions facing many rural hospitals and offers a common sense approach to appropriately adjust reimbursement rates so hospitals aren’t unfairly penalized under an outdated payment methodology that fails to account for current realities.”

“As hospitals across Tennessee face unprecedented financial and workforce challenges, I applaud Senator Blackburn for her leadership on critical legislation to address the flawed area wage index that has strained Tennessee hospitals for decades. Currently 73 percent of Tennessee hospitals are below the floor the Save Rural Hospitals Act would establish. This legislation will help to level the playing field and ensure patients across Tennessee have access to the care they need.”  Dr. Wendy Long, President and CEO, Tennessee Hospital Association

“In the struggle to provide health care access, rural hospitals are on the front line nationwide for large numbers of our most vulnerable citizens,” said Alan Levine, Executive Chairman and CEO of Ballad Health, an integrated delivery system in the Appalachian Highlands of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. “The Save Our Rural Hospitals Act will fix long-standing problems in Medicare payment policy which has underpaid rural hospitals year after year, leaving many struggling financially or at worst, closing. This bill recognizes that rural hospitals are increasingly having to recruit nationwide for nurses and other staff in short supply, and Medicare’s Area Wage Index adjustments must account for that.”

A copy of the bill text is available here.

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded $11,740,000 in federal funding to reclaim abandoned mine lands (AML) in Virginia – an effort that will strengthen coal communities by promoting economic opportunity and address hazards that threaten the long-term health and wellbeing of Virginians and their communities.

“This significant investment will support Virginia’s mining communities by creating good-paying jobs through repurposing abandoned, unsafe lands,” the Senators said.

Virginia has one of the highest number of high-priority AML problem sites in the United States. This funding will go towards closing dangerous, abandoned mine shafts, reclaiming unstable slopes, improving water quality, and restoring water supplies damaged by mining. The projects will eliminate dangerous environmental conditions and pollution caused by past coal mining, including by remediating abandoned mines that are leaking methane – a key contributor to climate change. Through these projects, hazardous lands can be reclaimed into recreational areas and targeted for other economic redevelopment uses like advanced manufacturing and renewable energy deployment.

This funding comes on top of over $22 million in fiscal year 2022 funding for Virginia’s AML cleanup efforts made available as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law negotiated by Sen. Warner and supported by Sen. Kaine.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), joined by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), and John Fetterman (D-PA), urged the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to evaluate the adequacy of black lung benefits to meet the income and health care needs of disabled miners and their families. In a letter to Comptroller General of the United States Gene L. Dodaro, the Senators explained that the study is critical to informing policy aimed at helping coal miners and their families in the Appalachian region. 

“Many recipients of black lung benefits are living month-to-month on limited and fixed incomes,” the Senators wrote. “Though this has historically been true, many miners sick with black lung disease who are applying for benefits today are contracting the disease at a much earlier age. These benefits, therefore, are not just supplementing an early retirement—they are replacing an income for many years that may need to support children and a household, aging or sick parents, and college and retirement.”

Decades ago, Congress established the Black Lung Benefits Act in conjunction with the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 to provide monthly compensation and medical coverage for coal miners who develop black lung disease and are totally disabled as a result. However, many miners and their families have been subjected to drawn out legal challenges after being awarded black lung benefits. Frequently, these benefits are appealed by employers and, if the benefit determination is overturned, recipients must pay back the money. In some cases, these challenges have taken years to resolve, causing undue stress to families that rely on these benefits to survive.

The Senators continued, “We have also heard from miners’ attorneys that almost all of the miners and families that they represent raise the fear of repayment with them and it frequently deters these families from using any of their interim benefits that they desperately need, regardless of how strong their respective cases are because they cannot afford to take the risk of being forced to repay a large sum of money. Since these cases can last for so long, many miners die from black lung disease before they are able to confidently spend their benefits without fear of a future repayment.”’

 

To help ensure that adequate benefits are provided, the senators are requesting a study that answers the following questions:

  1. What are the state and Federal disability benefits that coal miners and their families can receive as a result of black lung?
  2. What challenges have miners and their families faced in obtaining black lung disability benefits, including but not limited to recoupment?
  3. How do these benefits affect the health and financial well-being of miners and their families, and what, if any, changes are needed?

Last year, Sens. Warner, Kaine, Casey, Brown, and Manchin introduced The Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act, legislation to make needed updates to the Black Lung Benefits Act to ensure Congress is fulfilling its commitment to the nation’s coal miners. To help fulfill those promises, in August of 2022, Congress approved a permanent extension of the black lung excise tax to fund the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund (BLDTF) that provides health insurance and a living stipend for those impacted by black lung as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.

"The UMWA has been at the forefront of battling black lung disease for more than fifty years. Enacted by Congress in 1969 as part of the Federal Mine Health and Safety Act, the black lung benefits system has been helpful to thousands of miners and their families. But more needs to be done. The cost of living has dramatically increased since 1969, miners are contracting the disease at younger ages and there are more severe forms of the disease. This GAO study will bring important answers on how to improve the benefit system so that all miners and their families receive the benefits they deserve,” said Cecil E. Roberts, International President of the United Mine workers of America.

"The black lung benefits system was created over fifty years ago and since its creation has served as a lifeline for so many mining families," said Rebecca Shelton, Director of Policy for Appalachian Citizens' Law Center. "But a lot can change in fifty years. We know that the cost of living has increased, that more miners have severe forms of the disease, and that miners are getting sick at younger ages. This GAO study asks critical questions to determine whether the benefits system is still adequately serving families in spite of these and many other changes and will ensure that the benefits system continues to serve mining families as it was meant to."

“Miners disabled by black lung deserve more than what they are currently receiving — $738 per month even for those with total disability,” said Appalachian Voices Legislative Director Chelsea Barnes. “We believe this GAO study will show that black lung disability benefits should be significantly increased to meet the needs of miners who are no longer able to work and provide for their families as a result of this debilitating disease.”

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

Dear Comptroller General Dodaro,

Thank you for your continued partnership with Congress and the Federal government to help ensure government works effectively and efficiently for our constituents. We write to request that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct a study to evaluate the adequacy of black lung benefits to meet the living and health care needs of disabled miners and their families. We believe such a report is critical to informing policy aimed at helping coal miners and their families in the Appalachian region. 

Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, commonly known as black lung disease, is a fatal, incurable condition caused by long-term exposure to coal dust in and around coal mines. The U.S. Department of Labor has estimated that black lung has killed more than 76,000 people since 1968. However, the number of miners with black lung is likely much higher, given the difficulty in and hesitancy about getting diagnosed within mining communities.

In 1972, Congress passed the Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA) to provide monthly benefits to disabled miners and eligible surviving family members of coal miners whose deaths were due to black lung disease. Benefits are either paid for by the coal mining company or the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund but the claims process is arduous and often takes many years, even decades. Miners and their families or survivors apply for and rely on these benefits for health care and as a source of income once they are disabled. 

Currently, federal black lung benefit rates are set at 37.5% of the base salary federal employees in grade GS-2, step 1. These employees are on the second lowest pay grade for federal employees.  Therefore, a miner without any dependents or a survivor of a miner, for instance, receives approximately $4.24 per hour, $738 a month, or about $8,856 annually, even if they prove total disability or death due to pneumoconiosis. Considering that the federal minimum wage is set at $7.25 per hour, disabled miners receive nearly half this amount in Black Lung disability benefits.

Anecdotally, we have learned that black lung benefits are a primary or sole source of income for many families. Many recipients of black lung benefits are living month-to-month on limited and fixed incomes. Though this has historically been true, many miners sick with black lung disease who are applying for benefits today are contracting the disease at a much earlier age. These benefits, therefore, are not just supplementing an early retirement—they are replacing an income for many years that may need to support children and a household, aging or sick parents, and college and retirement. We have also heard from miners’ attorneys that almost all of the miners and families that they represent raise the fear of repayment with them and it frequently deters these families from using any of their interim benefits that they desperately need, regardless of how strong their respective cases are because they cannot afford to take the risk of being forced to repay a large sum of money. Since these cases can last for so long, many miners die from black lung disease before they are able to confidently spend their benefits without fear of a future repayment.

The purpose of the Black Lung Benefits Act is to provide benefits, in cooperation with the States, to coal miners who are totally disabled due to pneumoconiosis and to the surviving dependents of miners whose death was due to such disease. To help ensure that adequate benefits are provided to coal miners and their dependents in the event of their death or total disability due to pneumoconiosis, we request a study that describes:

1.       What are the state and Federal disability benefits that coal miners and their families can receive as a result of black lung?
2.       What challenges have miners and their families faced in obtaining black lung disability benefits, including but not limited to recoupment?
3.       How do these benefits affect the health and financial well-being of miners and their families, and what, if any, changes are needed?

Ensuring that benefits are sufficient to meet the economic and health care needs of mining families has always been critical, and we appreciate your consideration of this request.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) led more than a dozen senators from both parties in urging for the extension of a policy that allows rural hospitals to continue delivering quality care to their communities. In a letter to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the senators formally requested a four-year extension of the Low Wage Index Hospital Policy, which allows hospitals in rural areas to compete for, and retain, high-quality staff by increasing reimbursements to hospitals in rural areas with lower overall wages. Without action, Medicare payments to these hospitals will reduce after September 30, 2023.

In their letter, the lawmakers pointed out that extenuating circumstances, including the COVID-19 pandemic, have not allowed for adequate evaluation of the Low Wage Index Hospital Policy. They argue that extending the policy will allow CMS to better assess its impact on the benefiting hospitals ability to recruit and retain health care staff.

“Unfortunately, due to disruptions in the marketplace caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have not had the opportunity to see the true impact of the Low Wage Index Hospital Policy envisioned by CMS,” the Senators wrote. “Extending the Low Wage Index Hospital Policy for four additional years will allow hospitals and the agency to better understand the policy’s true impact in a more normal environment.”

In addition to Sens. Warner and Blackburn, the letter was signed by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Joe Manchin (D-WV), John Boozman (R-AR), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), James Lankford (R-OK), Tim Scott (R-SC), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Katie Boyd Britt (R-AL).

Sens. Warner and Blackburn are also the lead sponsors of the Save Rural Hospitals Act, which would establish an appropriate national minimum to the Medicare Area Wage Index to ensure that rural hospitals receive fair payment for the care they provide, while preserving the existing reimbursements for urban hospitals. The legislation, which was introduced in the last several Congresses, will be reintroduced in the 118th Congress.

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

Dear Administrator Brooks-LaSure:

Thank you for your continued commitment to ensuring all health care providers have the resources they critically need to provide quality health care to Medicare beneficiaries. We write to you regarding the Medicare hospital area wage index (AWI) in the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS). Specifically, we urge you to include a four-year extension of the Low Wage Index Hospital Policy, also known as the Lowest Quartile Adjustment (LQA) policy, in the upcoming Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 IPPS rule.

In August 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) first included a four-year AWI adjustment to bottom quartile hospitals as part of the FY2020 IPPS (CMS-1716-F). At the time, CMS stated that the policy “reflected a common concern that the current wage index system perpetuates and exacerbates the disparities between high and low wage index hospitals.”[1] To address this concern, CMS increased the wage index for hospitals with a wage index value below the 25th percentile. The additional assistance has been a valuable lifeline for more than 800 hospitals in 23 states throughout FY2020, FY2021, FY2022, and now FY2023.

Unfortunately, due to disruptions in the marketplace caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have not had the opportunity to see the true impact of the Low Wage Index Hospital Policy envisioned by CMS. Extending the Low Wage Index Hospital Policy for four additional years will allow hospitals and the agency to better understand the policy’s true impact in a more normal environment. In its original August 2019 rule, CMS appeared to acknowledge that more time may be needed to implement the policy when it stated, “this policy will be effective for at least 4 years.” We applaud CMS for that foresight and encourage it to extend the policy for four additional years.

The continuation of this critical policy will allow hospitals to recruit and retain health care staff and protect access to care for millions of Americans.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Ahead of a key deadline today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) is calling attention to a challenge submitted by the Virginia Office of Broadband to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), pointing to a significant number of locations in Virginia that are currently incorrectly reported on the most recent FCC broadband coverage map.

In November, after a sustained push from Sen. Warner, the FCC released a new map with their best estimates of broadband coverage across the country. Once finalized, the FCC map will help determine how broadband funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the bipartisan infrastructure law negotiated and written by Sen. Warner, will be allocated to states. Sen. Warner asked Virginians to review the released draft map to ensure it accurately reflected current broadband conditions at their address, and encouraged residents submit a challenge to the FCC if the information was incorrect. Virginians must submit their challenges by today, January 13, 2023 to ensure that they are adjudicated prior to the allocation of IIJA funding.

In addition to individual challenges submitted, the Virginia Office of Broadband has submitted a bulk challenge of locations currently reported as served but found to be unserved, based on the office’s analysis. In a letter to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, Sen. Warner highlighted the need for the map to accurately reflect the current state of broadband coverage in Virginia and asked the FCC to carefully consider Virginia’s submitted challenges.

“In partnership with Virginia Tech, the Virginia Office of Broadband found that there are approximately 358,000 locations in Virginia that are reported on the new map as being served when, in fact, they currently lack access to broadband. Given that the funding provided to states by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program is calculated based on the number of unserved locations in each state, it’s important that the number of unserved locations is accurately calculated,” Sen. Warner wrote in the letter. “I hope that you will carefully review the challenges submitted by individual Virginians as well as the bulk challenge submitted by the Virginia Office of Broadband. I appreciate your attention to this important issue and thank you for your efforts to close the digital divide.”   

Regarding Virginia’s submitted challenges, Dr. Tamarah Holmes, Director of the Office of Broadband at the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, said today, “The number of locations in Virginia the FCC thinks are unserved directly affects the amount of money Virginia will receive under BEAD. We plan to challenge hundreds of thousands of locations we believe are incorrectly reported as served in the FCC's map, potentially securing additional funding for Virginia and allowing the Commonwealth to achieve universal access in Virginia.”

Sen. Warner has long fought to expand access to broadband in Virginia. During negotiations for the bipartisan infrastructure law, Sen. Warner secured $65 billion in funding to help deploy broadband, increase access, and decrease costs associated with connecting to the internet. The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, created and funded through this landmark legislation, provides $42.45 billion to expand high-speed internet access by funding planning, infrastructure deployment and adoption programs in all states and territories. An accurate map will play a critical role in ensuring that this funding is used efficiently.

 

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Chairwoman Rosenworcel,

I write today to urge the Federal Communications Commission to give all due consideration to the challenges to the FCC’s new national broadband map submitted by the Virginia Office of Broadband. Ensuring that the new map is as accurate as possible is critically important to closing the digital divide and providing access to affordable, reliable broadband to every single American.

In 2021, I was proud to help negotiate the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which provides $65 billion to increase broadband availability and affordability across the United States. In order to ensure that funding is spent effectively, Congress determined that the allocation of broadband funding should be based on the new FCC map created as a result of the Broadband DATA Act. That legislation required the FCC to change how it maps broadband access, providing more granular, location-specific information instead of the previous map’s census-block level data. This endeavor is incredibly complex, and I appreciate the efforts of you, your colleagues, and the FCC staff to develop this new map.

As you have said, the success of this effort depends on stakeholder engagement. To that end, I have encouraged Virginians to review the new map and submit location and availability challenges if they believe information is incorrect. Furthermore, the Virginia Office of Broadband has been conducting their own analysis of the new map. In partnership with Virginia Tech, the Virginia Office of Broadband found that there are approximately 358,000 locations in Virginia that are reported on the new map as being served when, in fact, they currently lack access to broadband.

Given that the funding provided to states by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program is calculated based on the number of unserved locations in each state, it’s important that the number of unserved locations is accurately calculated. I hope that you will carefully review the challenges submitted by individual Virginians as well as the bulk challenge submitted by the Virginia Office of Broadband. I appreciate your attention to this important issue and thank you for your efforts to close the digital divide.

            Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $703,900 in federal funding for communities throughout Southwest Virginia in order to boost economic development and upgrade old and out-of-date equipment used for critical public services. The funding is awarded through two programs within the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development division, which aims to support economic development and essential services that improve quality of life in rural communities.

“We are glad to support investments that will spur economic development and fund much needed equipment for public works,” the Senators said. “These grants will help to ensure that Virginia’s rural communities have equipment they need to safely and effectively serve residents, from trash collection and construction to providing community safety services and well-maintained gathering spaces.”

Awarded through the USDA Rural Business Development Grants:

  • $250,000 to the Town of Hillsville, VA to assist with the completion of the fifth phase of the Southwest Virginia Farmers Market, including pavement, curb, and gutter.
  • $105,000 to the Town of RichlandsVA to create a revolving loan fund that will serve as a recruitment and retention tool for micro- and small businesses.

Awarded through the USDA Community Facilities Direct Loan & Grant Program

  • $200,000 to Grayson County for the purchase of two sanitation vehicles to replace older vehicles that are unreliable and in need of costly repairs.
  • $93,700 to the Town of Coeburn for the purchase of a backhoe to be used by the public works department. 
  • $50,000 to Alleghany Highlands Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Covington, VA for the purchase of two fourteen-passenger vehicles, which will help replace older, unsafe vehicles.
  • $5,200 to the Town of Boones Mill for the purchase of a law enforcement vehicle to replace an older, unsafe vehicle in need of costly repairs. 

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $4,165,000 in federal funding for four economic development projects in Southwest Virginia.

“We are excited to support this investment in Southwest Virginia’s economic development. These funds will create jobs, increase recreational opportunities, improve public health, and make necessary advancements for Virginia’s underserved communities as we continue to support increasingly diverse local economies,” the Senators said.

The funding is broken down as follows:

  • $1,500,000 to Appalachian Sustainable Development for the Food Sector Workforce Development in Central Appalachia Project to address new opportunities and challenges facing agricultural producers and food processors across Southwest Virginia.
  • $1,500,000 to the New River Valley Regional Commission for the New River Water Trail Expansion Project to construct or improve four public launches along the New River Water Trail in Fairlawn, VA.
  • $665,000 to Henry County for the Dick & Willie Passage Trail 6A Completion Project to complete the last mile of an existing gap in the D&W Trail in Henry County, VA.
  • $500,000 to St. Mary’s Health Wagon for the Expansion of Dental Services for Central Appalachia Project to facilitate education and training of new dental professionals in Clintwood, Virginia.

This funding was awarded through the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)'s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative. This initiative provides grants to communities that have been affected by severe job losses in the coal industry and the changing dynamics of America’s energy production.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for a fully funded ARC that can increase employment and economic opportunities in Appalachia 

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WASHINGTON – Last week, Sen. Warner hit the road, making 14 stops across Southwest and Southside Virginia to highlight a wealth of accomplishments from a session of Congress that he believes “will be looked back upon as one of the most productive years – literally – since the 1960s.”

From Wise to Washington to Wythe, and everywhere in between, Sen. Warner met Virginians, talking to kids about biscuits and civic engagement… to education leaders about access to high-speed internet… and to residents and volunteers about the devastation caused by flooding in Buchanan County. He also toured revitalization efforts in downtown Danville…  sat down with community leaders to discuss manufacturing expansion opportunities in New River Valley… and even exchanged famous recipes with Russell County’s very own Linda Skeens, who won an astounding number of ribbons at the Virginia-Kentucky State Fair earlier this year. Rumor has it that Ms. Skeens has even agreed to include Sen. Warner’s tuna melt recipe in her upcoming cookbook.

Sen. Warner also proudly delivered millions in federal funding for very worthy projects that seek to improve access to rural health and dental care, as well as tackle food insecurity and substance use disorder. He also discussed and answered questions pertaining to some major accomplishments out of Washington, including his landmark infrastructure law, his law to restore American technological leadership and manufacturing of semiconductors, and President Biden’s recent signing of the Inflation Reduction Act, which lowers prescription drug costs, closes tax loopholes for billionaire corporations, and provides financial security for miners by extending the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund excise tax at a higher rate.

Bristol Herald Courier: Senator Warner's visit to Wise County Health Wagon is worth $1.25 million

WISE, Va. – U.S. Sen. Mark Warner looked around the most quiet Wise County Fairgrounds Monday and remembered more hectic times.

Warner, D-Va., returned to the fairgrounds – longtime host site of Remote Area Medical clinics -- to formally present $1.25 million to the Health Wagon for construction of its new dental clinic.

“The reason why this fairgrounds is so special, it was 2002 – the first year I was governor – and I’d heard about what you guys were doing here,” Warner said prior to the check presentation. “I remember dentists from all over the commonwealth, but who was going to show up? It ended up being thousands and thousands of people – not only Southwest Virginia but from Michigan, from Florida – driving for days just to come here and get dental assistance.”

Warner returned many times, brought each of his children to help volunteer and had his Senate staff members come from across the state to volunteer so they better understood the issues.

“The memories I have are of hot days, 60-70 chairs at once where people were being taken care of,” he said. “One of the things that was so typical of Southwest was it was people caring for people. No matter how much crummy stuff was going on in the country or around the world, you could not come to the whole effort and not come away with a belief in the basic goodness of people.”

Similar efforts – on a lesser scale -- are underway at the fairgrounds for much of this week. About 100 military personnel and volunteer dentists and other health care providers are offering free health care, X-rays, dental care and vision screenings. Similar to RAM, the event is the Move Mountains medical mission. Appointments are required, but there is no charge for care.

“What’s happening at the fairgrounds is great. It is not a permanent, long-term solution,” Warner said. “

The $1.25 million in Congressionally designated spending will go toward construction of the Health Wagon’s new dental clinic, now being built in Wise.

[…]

Martinsville Bulletin: Stuart hospital to reopen in 2023; two mobile health units coming to Patrick Co. soon

The Stuart hospital that closed in 2017 has an aggressive timeline of being reopened in 2023 with the help of a bipartisan effort between Virginia officials and a $600,000 check to better the health care available in Patrick County with the addition of two mobile medical units.

Pioneer Community Hospital of Patrick in Stuart closed in 2017 after filing for bankruptcy in 2016 due to financial hardships. A crowd of over 30 people gathered to hear the official announcement of the reopening.

“At this time last year, we were a county that didn’t have a hospital or even one on the horizon and had extremely limited means of providing adequate health care to our citizens, tourists and local businesses,” Patrick County Director of Economic Development Sean Adkins said. “Fast forward to today, and we stand at the site of our future Foresight Hospital of Patrick County opening in 2023.”

[…]

“This is a team effort,” Warner (D-Va.) said. “Patrick County is a special place … Getting these hospitals reopened is an enormous, enormous challenge and what your delegate [Virginia Delegate Wren Williams (R-9th District)] did, the process … was expedited. This would not be happening anywhere near this time without his good work.”

“Over the last 25 years, there have been close to a thousand rural hospitals that have closed across America,” Warner said. “And there have been virtually none that have reopened … There will be federal hurdles that we’ve got to go over … This is a very aggressive timeline … But the idea of getting this hospital reopened by 2023, ambitious, but you’ve got our commitment that we’ll do our part in the federal stage.”

[…]

Coalfield Progress: Senator talks health care, brings funding

WISE — U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and state Sen. Todd Pillion discussed the area’s dental services, insulin prices and black lung benefits Monday when visiting The Health Wagon’s Move Mountains Medical Mission.

Roughly 100 Army, Navy and Air Force medical personnel were on site to render medical service as part of an Innovative Readiness Training program.

Warner thanked the troops for protecting the country, which involves providing medical assistance to those in need, he said.

Health Wagon CEO Teresa Tyson said dental work has seen the highest demand, with more than 1,600 procedures performed since the start of the mission, Aug. 15.

The General Assembly recently improved the reimbursement rates for dentists providing Medicaid services for the first time in 17 years, said Pillion, and this momentum needs to continue.

Warner later presented Health Wagon officials a $1.25 million check to build a new dental office, which is currently under construction. Warner and U.S. Sen Tim Kaine secured the money through Congress' member-directed funding policy.

Warner said insulin prices need to be capped and that if the Democrats win the majority in the November congressional elections, the effort to achieve this will be renewed.

The $35 cap on insulin copays for Medicare beneficiaries should extend to everyone, Warner said.

While mentioning the exponentially increasing rate of black lung in young miners, Warner said the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act establishes black lung benefits on a permanent basis.

The act includes a permanent extension of the Black Lung Excise Tax, which is the only revenue source for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.

The News & Press: Putting points on the board, Warner touts string of legislative victories

RICHLANDS, Va. – U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D – Va.) came to Richlands Monday on the heels of a string on legislative victories that has transformed a stalled Democratic agenda to a series of accomplishments the senator could tout to constituents.

[…]

He said the major infrastructure bill has money that should allow 98% of Southwest Virginia homes to have high speed internet at a rate of less than $35 per month by 2024-2025.

Warner said miners and their families now have Black Lung benefits guaranteed thanks to legislation introduced by him and Joe Manchin.

He said the U.S.  is going to do what Canada and other countries do and use the power of negotiation to bring down the cost of medicine.  Warner said the hope is to get the cost of insulin below $35 for senior citizens right away and eventually for everyone.

[…]

Warner spoke with State Senator Travis Hackworth about the need for affordable housing. Hackworth said the area from New River Valley down has a projection of 10,000 new jobs but the biggest drawback is the need for affordable housing.

[…]

He said the people of Ukraine have given him hope and restored his faith that we have the best system of government.

“The people In Ukraine have said we will sacrifice our lives to have the kind of system you have. The right to vote, the right to a free press and the right to disagree with each other,” Warner said.

 

Bristol Herald Courier: Warner aims to bring microchip production back to America

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner made stops in Marion and Wytheville Tuesday on a three-day tour of Southwest and Southside Virginia to talk with community leaders.

Among the topics at the forefront of the conversation were the state of the manufacturing industry, improving Virginia’s infrastructure and Warner’s CHIPS bill.

At both stops Warner touted the recent passing of what he called a “once in a generation infrastructure law.”

“What does that mean for Virginia? It means $8 billion for our road system… it means rail all the way to Christiansburg, and I’m committed as long as I have this job to making sure that rail system goes all the way to Bristol. It means money for all the airports… It means resources for water and sewer.”

The package also includes $65 billion to improve broadband access, an effort Virginia has already begun to tackle.

[…]

Warner also discussed his bill to increase semiconductor production in the U.S., saying the supply chain issues with the chips are a contributing factor to high inflation, particularly with the price of vehicles.

“We have tens of thousands of cars that American auto companies have made,” Warner said. “They are sitting in lots in Michigan and Ohio and can’t get to market because we don’t make enough semi-conductor chips.”

Thirty to 40 years ago, Warner said, the U.S. made about 40% of all semiconductor chips in the world.

“Now we make 12%,” Warner said.

He said the U.S. doesn’t make the cutting-edge chips used in advanced technology, airplanes or satellites.

“They’re made in China. They’re made in Taiwan. And I can assure you, as the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, it is a national security risk if we don’t bring that semiconductor manufacturing back to this country,” Warner said.

[…]

Richmond Times Dispatch: Chesterfield, Henrico, 2 other Va. localities vie for semiconductor chip sites

Hadis Morkoc, a professor of electrical engineering and physics, led a tour Thursday at VCU’s Virginia Microelectronics Center for a group that included Sen. Mark Warner.

Four local governments — including Chesterfield and Henrico counties — are pitching potential sites for large semiconductor chip factories to take advantage of a new federal law that dangles billions of dollars of incentives to return manufacturing of the critical microelectronic component to the United States.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., one of the principal authors of the CHIPS + Science Act that President Joe Biden signed into law on Aug. 9, convened a roundtable discussion in Richmond on Thursday to showcase sites that the state is marketing to attract big investments by manufacturers eager to take advantage of $40 billion in new federal subsidies for domestic production of semiconductor chips.

“I think Virginia is going to be very competitive,” Warner said in an interview after the meeting and a tour of the Virginia Microelectronics Center at Virginia Commonwealth University. “But we have to realize that certain states at this point are a bit ahead.”

“We’re going to have to put up incentive packages that are frankly much larger than we have in the past,” he said, citing competition from states such as Ohio, Texas, Arizona and New York.

The 90-minute meeting included big county delegations led by Chesterfield County Administrator Joe Casey and Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas as well as representatives for other potential semiconductor chip manufacturing sites in Pittsylvania County, outside of Danville, and Chesapeake in southeastern Virginia.

[…]

Virginia Business: Va. officials woo chip manufacturers

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and state and local economic development officials are vying to attract semiconductor chip manufacturing facilities to four Virginia industrial sites as the commonwealth gears up to fight for a piece of the financial pie from sweeping federal legislation that promises to ramp up chip production in the U.S.

Representatives of Chesterfield, Henrico and Pittsylvania counties and the cities of Chesapeake and Danville joined with Warner, Virginia Economic Development Partnership President and CEO Jason El Koubi and Micron Technology Inc.’s senior vice president and general counsel, Rob Beard, Thursday during a meeting at Virginia Commonwealth University to discuss how to make Virginia more competitive. Officials from VCU and Virginia Tech also attended the meeting, which was closed to the press and public.

The meeting coincided with President Joe Biden issuing an executive order Thursday to kickstart the $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act, calling for swift implementation of a component of the bill that provides $52.7 billion in funding for domestic semiconductor manufacturing and research. Biden’s executive order establishes an interagency steering council to coordinate implementation of that funding, co-chaired by National Economic Director Brian Deese, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Alondra Nelson, the acting director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

[…]

It was initially introduced in 2020 in an earlier form by Warner, Virginia’s Democratic senior senator, and Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn; the act was passed by Congress this summer and Biden signed it into law on Aug. 9.

According to the Semiconductor Industry Association, the U.S.’s share of global semiconductor manufacturing capacity has decreased from 37% in 1990 to 12% today because other nations have been outpacing the U.S. in investing in the industry.

As chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Warner has been outspoken about the need for domestic chip manufacturing. It’s a refrain he returned to Thursday as he toured labs at VCU’s C. Kenneth and Dianne Harris Wright Virginia Microelectronics Center.

“We’ve seen over the last 30 years, America dominated this industry to now … we only make about 12%,” Warner said. “And America, on the manufacturing side, we don’t make any of the cutting-edge chips.”

‘In the hunt’

Several sites in Virginia offer the space needed for the potential manufacture of semiconductors, which can require up to 1,000 acres, Warner said. A likely location for a new plant could be found in rural Southern or Southwestern Virginia.

[…]

While there may be shovel-ready sites to lure manufacturers, those locations alone might not be enough.

New York, Texas, Arizona and Ohio have “really raised the bar in going after semiconductors,” Romanello said.

To compete, Virginia needs to offer greater incentives.

“One of the things I think Virginia is going to need to do is both have sites prepared but also be willing to put more resources into these packages if we’re going to be competitive,” Warner said, citing New York’s corporate subsidy of up to $10 billion in tax credits for “green” semiconductor manufacturers over a 20-year period, enacted on Aug. 11, among other states’ incentives.

[…]

Beyond attracting the major chip manufacturers, officials told Virginia Business they’re looking at the entire semiconductor manufacturing ecosystem, which includes the supply chain for components and related materials. And that provides even more opportunities, El Koubi said.

“We are both looking at opportunities for Virginia to attract the semiconductor [fabrication] opportunities themselves for large semiconductor plants, but we’re also looking at ways to cultivate the ecosystem, building on Virginia’s existing strengths in the semiconductor space,” he said.

Those strengths include close to 30 companies in the semiconductor industry — providing production, equipment testing, construction and other services — and an advanced manufacturing and related industries workforce numbering almost 350,000.

Warner wants to see Virginia increase its capacity to manufacture the tools and equipment that go onto the “fab floors.” That’s a niche that has not yet been co-opted by Asian countries that otherwise dominate the semiconductor industry.

[…]

Danville Register & Bee: Swinging through Danville, Warner tours downtown, praises growth

Sen. Mark Warner made a stop in Danville on Wednesday afternoon, where he toured the River District and dropped by a few businesses.

Warner’s visit was part of the Democrat’s three-day swing through Southwest and Southside Virginia, which included a visit to Stuart before he came to Danville and then headed to South Boston.

During a meeting with about 20-25 community leaders after his walk with officials downtown, Warner praised the growth that has taken place in the River District.

He pointed out how empty downtown was several years ago and the resurgence of the River District since then, when “warehouses didn’t have a lot in them.” Now there are numerous locally owned businesses, including restaurants, retailers and other establishments.

“There are great things happening in a lot of communities across Virginia,” Warner told officials in the former Pepsi Building next to the Danville Science Center. “I don’t think there’s anything on a per-capita basis that is close to what you guys are doing here.”

Danville is attracting more people from other areas to come live here, he added.

“Sixty percent of the people coming into the community are not from the community...” Warner said.

He also pointed out Averett and Danville Community College in the city. With a one-bedroom unit renting for $1,100 in the River District and “you’re all full up is really an enormous, enormous accomplishment,” Warner said.

“I want to, you know, give you all the credit,” Warner said. “I hope that the community at large recognizes [that].”

He also referred to the decline of tobacco and textiles in the late 90s and early 2000s, which culminated in the closing of Dan River Inc.

“Very few communities got whacked as hard as Danville did,” Warner said.

City leaders, including the mayor, economic development director and others, led Warner on a tour of downtown on a hot August day. Stops included Ma’s Cakes and Moss Mountain Outfitters on Main Street, The Bee Hotel on South Union Street and Knitting Mills Lofts on Lynn Street.

During the meeting with leaders after the walk downtown, Warner said cooperation between Danville and Pittsylvania County is one factor that has made the community special.

“We’re stronger combined than separated,” he said, adding that it is the model that can enable a lot of other communities around Virginia to perform better.

Warner also touched upon national issues during his meeting with local officials.

Everybody should have access to high-speed, affordable internet, Warner said, challenging local leaders to get training for the region’s workforce to meet that need. About 750,000 broadband installers will be needed across the country, he said.

Danville needs a pop-up training center for that, he said.

“I think that’s going to be an opportunity there,” Warner said, adding that Virginia also needs to get a microchip manufacturing site.

[…]

Gazette Virginian: Warner calls Southside ‘the comeback region’ in South Boston stop

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner spoke to a crowd of about 50 local leaders, professionals and residents Wednesday afternoon at the SOVA Innovation Hub in South Boston.

The visit was one stop on the senior senator from Virginia’s multi-community tour of Southside.

Innovation Hub staff treated Warner to a brief tour of the facility, as the crowd waited for the senator’s comments.

“I have known him for 30 years; he’s been a consistent friend of Southern Virginia,” South Boston Mayor Ed Owens said as he introduced the senator. “He’s one of the smartest businessmen I’ve ever met.”

Warner expressed his admiration for Southside leaders and the community at large for their collective accomplishment of economic revitalization.

“There is no part of the state that is more ‘the comeback region’ than Southside Virginia, and that has required grit, determination — lesser communities would have thrown in the towel,” Warner said.

Warner focused on the accomplishments of Congress this year, suggesting that 2022 has been one of the most significant congressional terms since the civil rights era.

“I think this last year in the United States Congress will be looked back upon as one of the most productive years, literally since the 1960s,” he said.

Warner further added that bipartisanship has figured into the equation of the successes he sees in legislative action this year focusing on the infrastructure bill among other efforts.

[…]

Bristol Herald Courier: Biscuit complaints bring Warner to Ridgeview Middle School

CLINTWOOD, Va. - It was complaints about bad biscuits that brought Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) to Ridgeview Middle School Monday.

Last school year, Ridgeview seventh-grade teachers April Hay and Portia Fletcher noticed their teenage students were not eating breakfast.

“Especially boys, when they are not eating, something is wrong. I started questioning them about why they were not eating and they said, ‘Well, we don’t really like it,’” Hay said. “It was whole wheat instead of the white wheat, and they were just not eating it.”

The director of food services suggested Hay write a letter to the senator about the issue. Hay took the suggestion a step further and worked with Fletcher to turn petitioning the government for better biscuits into a writing assignment.

“We went through the writing process to learn how to write a letter,” Hay said. “We sent those to the senator and I got a call one day from Richmond about it.”

Senator Warner’s office said Warner had seen and read the letters and wanted to help. The first response came last year in the form of breakfast from Hardee’s for the class from Warner. Then representatives from Warner’s office said the senator wanted to come meet the students in person about their project.

“We thought maybe we would get a nice letter or something from the senator,” Hay a teacher for 25 years said. “We never expected this much. This has been the highlight of our careers.”

So on the first day of the school year for Dickenson County, Warner met with the now eighth-grade class to say hello and answer questions, including a query asking if he has any aspirations beyond being a U.S. senator, which would be a run for president. After explaining he felt like he was in a good place to get things done for Virginia as senator, Warner did not reveal any potential presidential run to the auditorium full of eighth graders.

“I’m not sure that is in my future,” Warner said. “I don’t think it probably is in my future.”

Warner also met with area school superintendents and county officials discussing a variety of topics such as broadband access, mental health assistance for students and the issues surrounding teacher shortages.

Warner said he fears the recent controversies surrounding school boards would dissuade citizens from running for office leaving seats vacant in the future.

“I can’t think of a job that’s got less perks or upside and more grief. School board members have always been citizens who care about their community and I just worry that sometimes people’s anger and frustration have gotten so awful at some of these school board meetings around the country that people will just say, ‘I’m done,’ and that would be a huge loss not just to our education system, but to our democracy,” Warner said.

Bristol Virginia Schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Perrigan was one of the local school officials in attendance at the event. He said Warner has always been a big supporter of the public school system.

“Senator Warner, even back when he was governor, has always been a huge supporter of public education,” Perrigan said. “Obviously, at the federal level he doesn’t have the same opportunities that he did when he was governor, but he is always willing to listen and willing try to find a solution.”

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $1,200,000 in federal funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for Henry County. This funding will go towards improving 3,550 linear feet of Reservoir Road and updating gravel roadways to meet Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) standards. The project will support the creation of 400 new jobs, help leverage approximately $188 million in private investments, and improve access to the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre, a development for advanced manufacturing.

“We’re pleased that more infrastructure dollars are headed to Henry County,” the senators said. “This project is another key investment in creating jobs, connecting people to local industry, and making our roads safer and stronger for decades to come.”

In addition to the ARC funds for this project, Henry County will provide $445,000, bringing the total to $1,645,000.

ARC is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments that innovates and invests to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in 423 counties across the Appalachian region. Since 1965, ARC has invested $4.5 billion in approximately 28,000 economic development projects across Appalachia, attracting over $10 billion in matching project funds. 

### 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) applauded an announcement from the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) that it has selected a location for a new Southside outpatient clinic for veterans in Hampton Roads. The 196,000-square-foot outpatient facility will be constructed on a 25-acre parcel of land on the Chesapeake Regional Hospital campus and is the result of a successful bipartisan effortoriginally spearheaded by Sen. Warner in 2016 to approve 28 overdue Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility leases, including another outpatient clinic in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

“This new outpatient facility is long-overdue in a region with one of the fastest-growing veterans populations in the country, and where veterans often battle traffic and long wait times to access the care they’ve earned,” said Sen. Warner today. “After years of delays, I’m pleased that a site for this new VA clinic in Southside Hampton Roads has finally been selected, and look forward to working with local and federal officials to make sure that it opens its doors as soon as possible.” 

High demand has often meant long wait times for care at VA medical facilities in Hampton Roads, where enrollees are expected to increase by 44 percent over the next 20 years, and outpatient workload is expected to increase by more than 70 percent. Sen. Warner has been pushingunder three different presidents to get the long-planned Southside clinic up and running to alleviate demand in the region. While the veteran population in Virginia is predicted to grow more than two percent over the next several years, enrollees at the Hampton VA are expected to rise approximately 16 percent within the same timeframe.

During his time in the Senate, Sen. Warner has fought to reduce wait times for veterans in Hampton Roads. In 2015, confronted with wait times that were three times the national average, Sen. Warner successfully urged the VA to send down a team of experts to address the problem. He also succeeded in getting the Northern Virginia Technology Council to issue a free report detailing how to reduce wait times.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $1,169,961 in federal funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for three organizations across Southwest and Southside Virginia that are supporting individuals suffering from substance use disorder. 

“Over the course of the pandemic, we have seen an increased demand for substance abuse treatment,” said the Senators. “We are glad to announce that this funding will provide increased support to those struggling with addiction in Southwest and Southside Virginia.”

The following organizations will receive funding as listed below: 

  • Piedmont Regional Community Services Board in Martinsville, Virginia will receive a grant of $498,961 to increase the number of recovering individuals in Martinsville and Henry County and expand the program that currently serves Patrick County.
  • LENOWISCO in Duffield, Virginia will receive a grant of $371,000 to develop a substance abuse recovery ecosystem and remove barriers to obtaining employment.
  • Western Virginia Workforce Development Board in Roanoke, Virginia will receive a grant of $300,000 to develop and enhance the recovery ecosystem in Alleghany, Craig, and the City of Covington.

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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.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $3,910,184 in Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) funding for communities in Southwest and Southside Virginia. The funding, awarded through ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative, will go towards addressing substance-use disorders, improving broadband connectivity, strengthening rural economies and improving local infrastructure. 

“We are thrilled that these federal dollars will go help fund some of the top priorities for communities in Southwest and Southside Virginia,” said the Senators. “As the COVID-19 crisis continues, it’s essential that we keep bolstering rural economies, ensuring internet reliability, and supporting some of the most vulnerable Virginians.”

“POWER grants are playing a critical role in supporting coal-impacted communities in the Appalachian Region as they recover from COVID-19 by building and expanding critical infrastructure and creating new economic opportunities through innovative and transformative approaches,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas. “Projects like this are getting Appalachia back to work.”

The funding will be awarded as below:

  • $1,494,000 for the New River/Mount Rogers Workforce Development Area Consortium Board in Radford, Va. to tackle the substance-use disorder problem by coordinating the healthcare sector and the economic development and workforce sector to build a recovery ecosystem.
  • $793,500 for St. Mary’s Health Wagon in Wise County, Va. to establish a substance-use disorder treatment program using medication-assisted treatment.
  • $50,000 for LENOWISCO to develop a strategic plan to establish a fiber network in a 13-county region throughout Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
  • $39,744 for the Center for Rural Development to create a Rural Leaders Institute for Southwest Virginia.
  • $32,940 for the New River Valley Regional Commission to develop a plan to boost tourism and job growth by cultivating the natural assets around the New River.
  • $1,500,000 for Henry County, Va. to make utility improvements to provide a natural gas pipeline to the Commonwealth Crossing Business Center.

ARC is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian region. Its mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia and help the region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation. ARC’s POWER Initiative targets federal resources to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $2,271,091.11 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to repair damages to Ringgold Rail Trail and Sandy Creek Bridge from overland and waterway flooding in Pittsylvania County

“The damage to Ringgold Rail Trail and Sandy Creek Bridge caused by tropical storm Michael in Pittsylvania County in 2018 has had lasting impacts for residents, travelers, and commuters in the region. The federal funds will help shoulder the cost of repairs,” said the Senators. “Investing in repairs to these historic sites will ease the burden on Virginia residents and strengthen our Commonwealth.”

The funding was awarded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and authorized under Section 406 of the Robert T. Stafford Act. 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC)’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) had awarded $1,282,917 in federal funding to promote entrepreneurship, startup creation, innovation, and commercialization in Martinsville and Blacksburg. 

“This funding is another step in the right direction, helping to boost startups through investments in technology, health, and life sciences,” said the Senators. "By supporting these programs and giving them the tools they need to be successful, we can help spur entrepreneurialism and job creation across the Commonwealth.”

The funding was awarded as follows:

  • $300,474 for the Patrick Henry Community College’s IDEA: Innovate, Design, Engineer, Accelerate (IDEA) to Support Entrepreneurial Growth and accelerate company growth in its rural service region through building the resources and capabilities of the IDEA Center in Martinsville, VA.
  • $982,443 for Valleys Innovation Council's Growing our Innovation Ecosystem: Scaling the Success of the Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program (RAMP) project to support scalable startups in technology and health and life sciences in Roanoke and Blacksburg, VA.

EDA grants are awarded through a competitive process based upon the application’s merit, the applicant’s eligibility, and the availability of funds. 

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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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