Sep 26 2023
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $700,000 in federal funding for the Hurley Waterline Extension Project. The funding, courtesy of the Appalachian Regional Commission, will be awarded to the Buchanan County Board of Supervisors for the Hurley Waterline Extension Project, improving water access to 97 households in the area.
“For too long members of the Hurley community have relied on private wells, hauling their own water, or purchasing bottled water to meet their household needs,” said the senators. “The completion of this project will finally bring reliable, safe water to Hurley families.”
This funding will mark the completion of a twelve-phase project initiated in 2008 to provide safe, clean water to approximately 1,450 households in the Hurley community. In addition to ARC funds, other federal sources will provide $3,877,220, state sources will provide $1,829,973, and local services will provide $163,165, bringing the total project funding to $6,570,358.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have long supported efforts to improve clean water access across the Commonwealth. Last week, the senators announced over $4 million in federal funding as part of the bipartisan infrastructure law to support local initiatives to protect water quality and public health for Virginia residents.
Warner & Kaine Applaud Nearly $940,000 in Federal Funding to Support Those Recovering from Substance Use Disorder in Southwest Virginia
Sep 11 2023
WASHINGTON– Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $939,669 in federal funding to help people in recovery from substance use disorder rejoin the workforce in Southwest Virginia. The funding was awarded by the Appalachian Regional Commission’s Investments Supporting Partnerships in Recovery Ecosystems (INSPIRE) Initiative, which provides funding across Appalachia to address the substance use disorder crisis.
“In addition to expanding access to substance use treatment programs, it's critical that we're helping individuals recovering from substance use disorders access the resources they need to succeed,” said the senators. “We’re glad this funding will help more Virginians across Southwest Virginia get the job skills and support they need to enter or renter the workforce.”
The funding is distributed as follows:
- $500,000 for the YWCA Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia in Glade Spring to provide access to family resiliency and recovery-to-work supports, including workshops on health and wellness, soft skills and entrepreneurship, personal finance, housing, career coaching, teen and adult parenting, and nutrition and cooking.
- $439,669 for Mountain Empire Community College Foundation in Big Stone Gap to grow their Project Amelioration Program, which helps individuals with substance use disorder in Dickenson, Lee, and Wise counties gain hands-on job training, financial education, and life skills training. The program also offers counseling services, social services, and employment assistance.
Sens. Warner and Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, have long supported those recovering from substance use disorder. The senators announced $1.4 million in federal funding to expand access to mental health care across Virginia.
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.
Warner & Kaine Applaud Over $3.5 Million in Federal Funding to Improve Water Infrastructure in Wise County
Aug 28 2023
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded $3,586,000 in federal funding for the Wise County Public Service Authority to improve the county’s water system. Currently, Wise County’s water system is unable to provide the minimum working water pressure of 20 PSI under Virginia state code. Wise County has a serious need for upgrades to its water system, and this funding will help upgrade the county’s water infrastructure to ensure the system is up to code. The funding will replace approximately 29,120 linear feet of water line and install 12 gate valves, 10 fire hydrant assemblies, and associated water appurtenances.
“Reliable water systems are critical to protect the health of our communities and support businesses in the region,” said the senators. “We’re glad this federal funding will help Wise County upgrade their water infrastructure.”
The funding is awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Department of Rural Development’s Water & Waste Disposal Loan & Grant Program, which provides funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary solid waste disposal, and storm water drainage to homes and businesses in rural communities. In addition to the over $3.5 million grant, Wise County will receive a federal loan of $1,202,000.
Warner and Kaine have long supported efforts to improve infrastructure across the Commonwealth. Last year, the senators announced over $46 million in federal funding as part of the bipartisan infrastructure law to replace lead water lines and ensure safe drinking water throughout Virginia.
WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $25,000,000 in federal funding from the Department of Agriculture awarded to Scott County Telephone Cooperative to deploy broadband and expand access to high-speed internet in Southwest Virginia. Tomorrow, Sen. Warner will join Rural Utility Services Administrator Andrew Berke, members of the LENOWISCO Planning District Commission, and community leaders in Big Stone Gap, VA to celebrate this funding and touch on the importance of bringing high-speed internet to rural communities.
“For almost two decades, dating all the way back to my time as governor, I have stressed the need for access to broadband coverage and high-speed internet in every corner of the Commonwealth, and I was proud to negotiate the bipartisan infrastructure law that has made significant progress on this front,” said Sen. Warner. “Access to fast, reliable, and affordable internet is crucial to ensuring our rural communities grow and thrive, and I’m thrilled that this $25 million investment for Norton, Wise County, and Lee County will help our small businesses, students, and residents stay connected.”
“High-quality internet is crucial to reach services like health care, work, and educational opportunities,” said Sen. Kaine. “Every Virginian, no matter where they live, deserves access to affordable, reliable internet access. I’m glad this funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which I was proud to help pass, will help thousands of Virginians in Norton, Wise County, and Lee County do just that.”
The funding will be used to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network that will provide high-speed internet to more than 17,000 residents, 1,018 businesses, 37 farms and 49 educational facilities in Norton City, Wise County and Lee County Virginia. This funding was awarded though the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program, and funded by the bipartisan infrastructure law (BIL).
Sens. Warner and Kaine have long fought to expand access to broadband in Virginia. Earlier this year, the Senators announced over $1.4 billion in funding for the deployment of broadband throughout the Commonwealth. As a key author and negotiator of the BIL, Sen. Warner also previously secured $65 billion in funding to help deploy broadband and decrease costs associated with connecting to the internet, and Sen. Kaine voted for the BIL to help make the funding possible. As part of that funding, Virginia received $5 million to help make a strategic plan to deploy coverage.
Aug 18 2023
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.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Todd Young (R-IN), today introduced the Motorsports Fairness and Permanency Act, bipartisan legislation that would make permanent a tax classification on depreciating assets for motorsports entertainment facilities. The legislation would allow venues to more effectively plan improvements and make safety updates, bringing additional jobs and positive economic impacts to surrounding communities.
“The Motorsports Fairness and Permanency Act is a simple fix to our tax code that will offer speedways the freedom to make long-term investments and upgrades to their facilities,” said Sen. Warner. “I’m proud to introduce legislation that will improve driver safety, enhance fan experience, and support jobs in our racing communities.”
“Motorsports are engrained in Indiana’s history and culture and play a major role in our state’s economy. This bill will make a simple fix to our tax code to give speedways the ability to make needed improvements, invest in safety, and enhance the spectator experience. I’m proud to support this bill on behalf of the Hoosier motorsports industry and race fans across Indiana,” said Sen. Young.
Since 2004, Congress has codified the definition of a motorsports entertainment complex in the tax code as a temporary provision, most recently extended under the 2020 omnibus and set to expire at the end of 2025. This provision allows racetrack complexes to operate under the understanding that all assets inside the facility depreciate as one over a seven-year period. However, the current uncertainty over whether the provision will be renewed has hindered the ability of track owners to make informed, long-term investment decisions for facility improvements in the future. Should the provision expire, roughly one third of all motorsports assets would be reclassified under the 39-year depreciation period and two thirds would fall under the 15-year period, putting racetracks at a serious disadvantage when compared to other sports and entertainment facilities.
Companion bipartisan legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives in April of this year. The Motorsports Fairness and Permanency Act is supported by the Automobile Competition Committee for the United States (ACCUS), the umbrella organization of auto racing sanctioning bodies in the United States.
“As future investments in capital projects are considered here at Martinsville Speedway, this important legislation provides much needed certainty not only for our facility, but motorsports facilities around the country,” said Clay Campbell, President, Martinsville Speedway.
“The Motorsports Fairness and Permanency Act will help protect jobs and investments in the motorsports industry. We appreciate Senator Warner and Senator Young’s leadership on this important issue,” said Lori Waran, President, Richmond Raceway.
"Motorsports entertainment complexes use the seven-year period afforded by the Motorsports Fairness and Permanency Act to reinvest in their facilities and organizations to create jobs, make safety improvements, and enrich the surrounding economies, most of which are in rural areas like VIRginia International Raceway (VIR) is to Halifax and Pittsylvania Counties,” said Connie Nyholm, Owner & CEO, Virginia International Raceway. “As a result of our investment and year-round operations, VIR has already attracted eighteen businesses to its campus and over 600,000 visitors annually through its gates."
“Motorsports is a big economic engine in Indiana and the many racing facilities around the Hoosier state create and support thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of investment each year. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is proud to be the world’s largest sporting venue with nearly 235,000 permanent seats around our 2.5 mile, 114 year old facility. Investing in our infrastructure and our customer experience is a constant emphasis and this legislation is beneficial to our planning and execution of projects and upgrades that our fans expect when the visit the Racing Capital of the World,” said Doug Boles, President, Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“The Motorsports Fairness and Permanency Act impacts everyone at all levels of Indiana motorsports. And it treats everyone fairly. Regardless of the size of the racetrack, or the type of racing that fans enjoy there, we all need certainty to continue investing in improvements that help drive the local economy and improve the sport. Thanks to Senators Young and Warner for their leadership on this important Act,” said Reece O'Connor, President, Kokomo Speedway.
A copy of the bill text is available here.
Warner & Kaine Applaud Nearly $500,000 to Kickstart Project to Grow Appalachia's Non-timber Forest Market
Jun 29 2023
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 NTFPs – helping 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.
Warner Calls on State Department to Address Problems with Passport Renewal Processing Ahead of Summer Travel
Mar 30 2023
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.
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.
Warner & Kaine Applaud Nearly $12 Million in Federal Funding to Help Revitalize Land and Create Jobs in Coal Communities
Mar 10 2023
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.
Warner & Kaine Applaud Senate Confirmation of Robert Ballou for U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia
Mar 07 2023
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after the Senate voted to confirm Judge Robert Ballou to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia:
“Judge Ballou brings decades of experience both trying and deciding cases in the Western District of Virginia. We’re proud to have recommended him to President Biden and are confident he’ll continue his service to Virginians by upholding the law fairly and impartially.”
Judge Ballou has served as a Federal Magistrate Judge in the Western District since 2011. Prior to joining the bench, he spent twenty-three years in private practice. He tried fifty cases before juries over that period of time. On the bench, he has overseen a wide variety of federal civil and criminal matters, conducted dozens of misdemeanor criminal trials, and several civil jury trials. He has also dedicated time and attention to the Veterans Court and the prisoner pro se docket. A native of Roanoke, Judge Ballou received undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Virginia and has practiced law in both Richmond and Roanoke.
In August 2021, Warner and Kaine sent a letter to President Biden recommending Judge Ballou for the vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia following Judge James P. Jones’ decision to take senior status. Warner and Kaine recommend individuals for judicial vacancies based on their distinguished records and the advice of an independent panel of attorneys from across the Commonwealth. President Biden announced his nomination of Judge Ballou in July 2022.
Last week, the Senate confirmed Sens. Warner and Kaine’s recommendation for the Eastern District of Virginia, Jamar Walker. With both Walker and Ballou confirmed, all vacancies on Virginia District Courts are filled.
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:
- What are the state and Federal disability benefits that coal miners and their families can receive as a result of black lung?
- What challenges have miners and their families faced in obtaining black lung disability benefits, including but not limited to recoupment?
- 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.
Feb 23 2023
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.” 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.
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) along with Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA-09) urged the Army Corps of Engineers to act quickly to finalize the Buchanan County Consolidated School Relocation Project, a project that would relocate and consolidate the existing Hurley High School and Buchanan County Career, Technology & Higher Learning Center from their existing locations in a floodplain onto one campus in Grundy, Virginia.
“The relocation of Hurley High School and the Buchanan County Career Center will provide a safe and reliable facility for the communities of Grundy and Hurley, Virginia,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter. “Recent significant rainfall events in Buchanan County have showed that time is of the essence to complete this critical consolidation and relocation project. We urge USACE to prioritize finalizing the Buchanan County School Relocation Contract as quickly as possible so this critical project can get underway.”
Due to consistent, severe flooding in Buchanan County – including two recent flooding events in 2021 and 2022 – USACE has implemented flood risk management measures in the county since the early 2000s. In August 2003, USACE approved a conceptual level Detailed Project Report package for the Buchanan County Nonstructural Project that identified Hurley High School and Buchanan County Career Center as “feasible for floodproofing by means of a ‘ringwall.’”
In 2019, the Buchanan County Nonstructural Project received significant supplemental appropriations to complete flood risk management activities pursuant to the Disaster Relief Act of 2019. Given the lapse in time, a USACE review determined that a ringwall for the high school was no longer feasible and relocation was the most viable solution. The Buchanan County Board of Education then submitted plans to relocate the career center to the same location as the high school, which was supported by a 2021 Supplemental Environmental Assessment produced by USACE.
In their letter, the lawmakers highlighted the elongated approval process, and requested quick action finalizing a project that is vital for Southwest Virginia.
Full text of the letter is available here and below.
Dear Assistant Secretary Connor:
We write today concerning the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Consolidated School Relocation Project, which is part of the Buchanan County Section 202 Nonstructural Flood Damage Reduction Project. The purpose of this project is to relocate and consolidate the existing Hurley High School and Buchanan County Career, Technology & Higher Learning Center from their existing locations in a floodplain onto one campus in Grundy, Virginia. We respectfully request that USACE act swiftly to finalize the Buchanan County Consolidated School Relocation Project, which is essential for our constituents in Southwest Virginia.
Over the decades, the community of Buchanan County has faced a number of severe flooding events – including two recent significant rainfall events in 2021 and 2022 that resulted in Major Disaster Declarations. As a result of these recurring flooding events, USACE has implemented flood risk management measures in Buchanan County since the early 2000s. In August 2003, USACE approved a conceptual/feasibility level Detailed Project Report package for the Buchanan County Nonstructural Project that identified Hurley High School and Buchanan County Career Center as “feasible for floodproofing by means of a ‘ringwall.’”
In 2019, the Buchanan County Nonstructural Project received significant supplemental appropriations to complete flood risk management activities pursuant to the Disaster Relief Act of 2019. Given the lapse of time, USACE was able to examine the feasibility of onsite nonstructural flood protection for Hurley High School and the Buchanan County Career Center. Following this review, USACE determined that the nonstructural floodproofing options for the high school were not feasible and converting to the nonstructural measure of acquisition by relocation was the most viable solution for providing flood protection. Although the ringwall was confirmed feasible for the career center, the Buchanan County Board of Education submitted alternative plans to relocate the career center to the same location as the high school, which was supported by a 2021 Supplemental Environmental Assessment produced by USACE.
It is our understanding that the Great Lakes & Ohio River Division transmitted the Draft Consolidated School Relocation Agreement Contract to USACE headquarters on October 26, 2022 for review and comment. At the request of USACE headquarters, we understand the Huntington District Office drafted a Letter Report and detailed responses to comments and questions posed by USACE headquarters intended to supplement the 2003 Detailed Project Report and document the considerations leading to the updated decision to achieve the most cost effective and implementable plan. We understand the Letter Report and additional materials were transmitted to the Great Lakes & Ohio River Division for review on January 13, 2023, approved, and then transmitted to USACE headquarters on January 23, 2023 for final review. It is now our understanding that USACE headquarters is in the final stages of reviewing the Buchanan County Consolidated School Relocation Contract.
The relocation of Hurley High School and the Buchanan County Career Center will provide a safe and reliable facility for the communities of Grundy and Hurley, Virginia. Recent significant rainfall events in Buchanan County have showed that time is of the essence to complete this critical consolidation and relocation project. We urge USACE to prioritize finalizing the Buchanan County School Relocation Contract as quickly as possible so this critical project can get underway.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to working with USACE to advance this important project for Buchanan County, Virginia.
Warner and Kaine Reintroduce Legislation to Designate Blue Ridge Music Center Amphitheater After Former Rep. Rick Boucher
Jan 26 2023
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) reintroduced legislation to formally designate the Blue Ridge Music Center’s outdoor amphitheater the “Rick Boucher Amphitheater” after former Congressman Rick Boucher.
“We are deeply appreciative of Congressman Boucher’s commitment to public service, and his continued work for Southwest Virginia,” the Senators said. “We can think of no better way to honor his years of public service than by dedicating this treasured music center, which he championed during his years in office, after him.”
Former Rep. Boucher, an Abingdon native, represented Southwest Virginia’s ninth congressional district in the House of Representatives from 1983 to 2011. Rep. Boucher was an early supporter of the development of the Blue Ridge Music Center and continued to advocate for the project throughout his tenure. He also served as the Chairman of the U.S. House Energy Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet as well as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality while in Congress.
Located in Galax, VA, the Blue Ridge Music Center is home to a visitor center, outdoor amphitheater, indoor interpretive center, and museum that highlights the historical significance of the region’s musical culture. Last August, Sen. Kaine toured the center and performed at Midday Mountain Music.
The legislation passed the Senate on December 23, 2022 but did not pass the House of Representatives before the end of the 117th Congress. The legislation would need to pass both the Senate and the House of Representatives this Congress (118th Congress) to be enacted.
Full text of the legislation is available here.
Jan 13 2023
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.
Sens. Warner & Kaine Applaud Senate Passage of Their Legislation to Designate Blue Ridge Music Center’s Amphitheater After Former Rep. Rick Boucher
Dec 23 2022
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement in celebration of the Senate passage of their legislation to formally designate the Blue Ridge Music Center’s outdoor amphitheater the ‘Rick Boucher Amphitheater’ after former Congressman Rick Boucher. Now the legislation heads to the House of Representatives for passage before going to the President for signature.
“We are deeply appreciative of Congressman Boucher’s many years of public service for the people of Southwest Virginia,” the Senators said. “One of his many contributions to his community was supporting the creation of this treasured music center, and the passage of this legislation helps ensure his legacy is recognized for generations to come.”
Former Congressman Boucher, an Abingdon native, represented Southwest Virginia’s ninth congressional district in the House of Representatives from 1983 to 2011. Rep. Boucher was an early supporter of the development of the Blue Ridge Music Center and continued to advocate for the project throughout his tenure. He also served as the Chairman of the U.S. House Energy Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet as well as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality while in Congress.
Located in Galax, VA, the Blue Ridge Music Center is home to a visitor center, outdoor amphitheater, indoor interpretive center, and museum that highlights the historical significance of the region’s musical culture.
Warner & Kaine Announce Over $700,000 in Federal Funding for Economic Development in Southwest Virginia
Nov 12 2022
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 Richlands, VA 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.
Warner & Kaine Announce Nearly $700,000 in Federal Funding for Flood Recovery & Broadband in Southwest Virginia
Nov 10 2022
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $682,479 in federal funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for projects in Carroll County and the towns of Hurley and Whitewood. The funding will go toward expanding access to broadband and supporting recovery efforts following devastating flooding in Buchanan County.
“We are proud to announce these investments in Southwest Virginia,” said the Senators. “This funding will help rebuild homes that were devastated by flooding and bring critical infrastructure to rural communities by expanding access to high-speed internet.”
The funding is distributed as follows:
- $582,479 to Carroll County for the Pipers Gap Fiber Project to install 8.2 miles of fiber to expand wireless broadband and fiber in the area. The Pipers Gap Fiber Project is expected to expand access to 402 households that currently do not have high-speed internet.
- $100,000 to United Way of Southwest Virginia, Inc. for the Hurley-Whitewood Disaster Recovery Project to help the towns of Hurley and Whitewood recover from multiple devastating flooding events. The Hurley-Whitewood Disaster Recovery Project will assist 129 households with disaster relief and constructing or rehabilitating 50 homes.
ARC is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments, including Virginia, with a mission to build community capacity, strengthen economic growth, and bring the Appalachian region into socioeconomic parity with the nation. Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for a fully funded ARC that can increase employment and economic opportunities for those living in Appalachia.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have pushed for federal assistance following the August 2021 flooding in Hurley and July 2022 flooding in Whitewood. In October 2021, they successfully pushed the President to issue a Major Disaster Declaration for the Commonwealth of Virginia and Buchanan County. In September 2022, Sens. Warner and Kaine successfully urged President Biden to issue a Major Disaster Declaration for Buchanan and Tazewell Counties following the July 2022 flooding.
Oct 17 2022
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
Sep 30 2022
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (D-VA) along with Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA-09) issued a statement after President Biden formally approved the Commonwealth of Virginia’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration in response to the severe flooding event in Southwest Virginia on July 13, 2022. This declaration triggers the release of Public Assistance in the affected areas, while the Commonwealth’s request for Individual Assistance remains under review.
“We are pleased that the federal government has taken this crucial step to aid recovery efforts in Buchanan and Tazewell counties,” said the lawmakers. “We will continue pushing for Individual Assistance and all resources needed to help residents rebuild following this devastating flooding.”
Today’s announcement comes after Sens. Warner and Kaine and Rep. Griffith urged President Biden to issue a Major Disaster Declaration earlier this month.
Sep 22 2022
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $2,067,003 million in federal funding for three projects to improve water service in Southwest Virginia.
“Reliable, up-to-date water infrastructure is critical for the health and safety of our communities,” said the Senators. “We are glad to see these federal funds go towards necessary improvements in underserved communities in order to ensure dependable service.”
The funding is broken down as follows:
- $1,000,000 for the Project Jonah Water and Sewer Improvements to provide water and sewer service improvements in Tazewell, VA.
- $525,000 for the Upper Clip Mountain – Phase II Water Project to extend public water service in unserved areas in Scott County, VA.
- $542,003 for the Ocoonita – Miller Smyth Chapel Interconnect Project to connect two separate water supply systems in order to provide greater reliability of water supply in Lee County, VA.
This funding was awarded through the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). The ARC is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 423 counties across the Appalachian region.
Warner, Kaine & Griffith Push Federal Government for Assistance With Flooding Disaster in Southwest Virginia
Sep 12 2022
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (D-VA) along with Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA-09) wrote a letter to President Biden, formally requesting the approval of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration and federal assistance for individuals affected by the extreme and devastating rainfall event that occurred on July 13, 2022. This request includes Individual and Public Assistance for Buchanan County, Public Assistance for Tazewell County, and Hazard Mitigation for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“This extreme storm event dropped seven inches of rain on eastern Buchanan County and northwestern Tazewell County within several hours, which resulted in flash flooding that damaged waterlines, transmission lines, roads, bridges, homes, and businesses. The joint preliminary damage assessment found that this severe storm event destroyed 37 homes and caused significant damage to 54 other properties in Buchanan County,” wrote the lawmakers. “This major storm event comes less than a year after the community of Hurley, Virginia – located in Buchanan County – experienced a devastating rainfall event that resulted in heavy flooding, landslides, and mudslides that destroyed 31 homes and resulted in major damage to 27 other properties, along with extensive damage to other public and private infrastructure.”
“Our constituents in Buchanan County are still grappling with the aftermath of this devastating storm event, which resulted in a Major Disaster Declaration, and are now forced to respond to this debilitating storm event. Many residents in Buchanan County remain displaced from last year’s extreme rainfall event and are already facing another uprooting of their lives,” they continued. “The impact of these two natural disasters within a calendar year has severely stressed the resources and capabilities of the Commonwealth of Virginia and Buchanan County. We hope you consider this cumulative impact on this community as you review the Commonwealth’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration.”
In their letter, the lawmakers noted the particular need for Individual Assistance for Buchanan County and its residents, who have withstood multiple natural disasters within a year. The Administration’s approval of a Major Disaster Declaration would provide a surge of federal resources and support, allowing Virginia to more quickly respond to and recover from the direct and indirect consequences caused by July’s storm.
Sens. Warner and Kaine and Rep. Griffith have been pushing for federal assistance since the devastating floods of August 2021. In October 2021, they sent a bipartisan letter to President Biden to express their strong support for former Virginia Governor Ralph S. Northam's September 30th request for a Major Disaster Declaration for the Commonwealth of Virginia and Buchanan County. Later that month, the President approved Virginia’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration, which provided Public Assistance for Buchanan County and Hazard Mitigation for the Commonwealth of Virginia. However, on October 29, the Administration issued a formal denial of Governor Northam’s request for Individual Assistance for Buchanan County. In December 2021, Sens. Warner and Kaine and Rep. Griffith sent a letter to President Biden asking his administration to approve an appeal that would grant federal assistance to individual residents in and around Hurley, Virginia. Despite these efforts, Virginia’s appeal was ultimately denied in January 2022.
Today’s letter comes after Sen. Warner visited Buchanan County on August 22 and Sen. Kaine and Rep. Griffith visited Buchanan County on August 26 – all to see the impacts of the flooding and hear from impacted Virginians.
A copy of the letter can be found here and below.
Dear President Biden:
We write today to express our strong support for Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration for the Commonwealth of Virginia, including the counties of Buchanan and Tazewell, following the extreme and devastating rainfall event that occurred on July 13, 2022. The Governor has requested Individual and Public Assistance for Buchanan County, Public Assistance for Tazewell County, and Hazard Mitigation for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
On July 13, 2022, Governor Youngkin declared a state of emergency in the Commonwealth following severe flooding that occurred that morning. This extreme storm event dropped seven inches of rain on eastern Buchanan County and northwestern Tazewell County within several hours, which resulted in flash flooding that damaged waterlines, transmission lines, roads, bridges, homes, and businesses. The joint preliminary damage assessment found that this severe storm event destroyed 37 homes and caused significant damage to 54 other properties in Buchanan County.
This major storm event comes less than a year after the community of Hurley, Virginia – located in Buchanan County – experienced a devastating rainfall event that resulted in heavy flooding, landslides, and mudslides that destroyed 31 homes and resulted in major damage to 27 other properties, along with extensive damage to other public and private infrastructure. Our constituents in Buchanan County are still grappling with the aftermath of this devastating storm event, which resulted in a Major Disaster Declaration, and are now forced to respond to this debilitating storm event. Many residents in Buchanan County remain displaced from last year’s extreme rainfall event and are already facing another uprooting of their lives. The impact of these two natural disasters within a calendar year has severely stressed the resources and capabilities of the Commonwealth of Virginia and Buchanan County. We hope you consider this cumulative impact on this community as you review the Commonwealth’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration.
A Major Disaster Declaration would ensure the full availability of federal resources to support the Commonwealth’s efforts to guarantee public safety and rapid recovery from the direct and indirect effects of this significant storm event. Federal assistance – particularly the issuance of Individual Assistance – is needed in Buchanan County to help our constituents recover and rebuild following multiple natural disasters.
We thank you for your consideration of Governor Youngkin’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration. We look forward to working with you, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and other relevant federal agencies to ensure the Commonwealth of Virginia has the resources available to support our constituents following this tragic event.
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.
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.”