WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) joined Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and 13 of their colleagues in calling on Senate Leadership to address the needs of Department of Energy (DOE) National Laboratories in ongoing infrastructure efforts. The network of 17 National Laboratories across the United States advance critical missions for the Department and additional investments in restoring and modernizing National Lab infrastructure will support scientific and economic competitiveness while creating thousands of new, good-paying jobs.
Joining Senator Luján in the letter are Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J).
“As we turn to infrastructure we respectfully request that you include investments in the nation’s scientific infrastructure, including the Department of Energy (DOE) National Laboratories. Funding for maintenance, repairs, and the modernization of National Lab infrastructure will ensure our nation's continued scientific and economic competitiveness; create thousands of high-quality, well-paying construction jobs; and attract the best and brightest scientists to national service.” the Senators wrote.
“Modern, reliable infrastructure at the National Laboratories is critical to support world-class science that provides a strong foundation for the nation’s economic competitiveness, prosperity, and security,” the Senators continued. “Unfortunately, our National Lab network suffers from a maintenance backlog from decades of underfunding that puts the labs’ successful and efficient execution of this mission at risk.”
Full text of the letter is available HERE and below:
Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell,
We appreciate your efforts to advance our nation’s competitiveness, address pressing infrastructure needs, and jumpstart the economy and put people back to work in the aftermath of the current COVID-19 pandemic. As we turn to infrastructure we respectfully request that you include investments in the nation’s scientific infrastructure, including the Department of Energy (DOE) National Laboratories. Funding for maintenance, repairs, and the modernization of National Lab infrastructure will ensure our nation's continued scientific and economic competitiveness; create thousands of high-quality, well-paying construction jobs; and attract the best and brightest scientists to national service. As part of DOE National Laboratory modernization efforts, we also urge you to fund the construction and upgrades of DOE-approved, shovel-ready world-class scientific, advanced energy, and national security facilities at our National Labs.
The DOE maintains a network of 17 National Laboratories that advance the science, technology, energy, environmental, and national security missions of the Department. Although the labs are managed by the DOE, they help find solutions to a broad set of challenges of national importance, ranging from the use of artificial intelligence to improve health services and outcomes for our nation’s veterans to advancing quantum information science that will lead to next-generation communications networks and computers.
Located at National Laboratories and universities across the country are world-class research facilities, including particle accelerators, experimental reactors, isotope reactor, X-ray synchrotron and free-electron laser light sources, fusion and pulsed power facilities, multi-axis X-ray machines that create 3D images of high density explosions, leadership-class supercomputers, and other high precision instrumentation. Modern infrastructure is also needed to support advanced nuclear demonstration projects; the modernization of the electric grid, including energy storage; and nonproliferation, counter proliferation, and counter terrorism missions.
More than 40,000 researchers from academia, industry, and other federal agencies use these unique, world-leading facilities to support their scientific pursuits. During the COVID-19 crisis, our National Labs have provided their expertise and facilities to help overcome the COVID-19 challenge, including the use of DOE’s supercomputers to search for treatments and vaccine therapies, X-ray light sources to understand the virus and identify potential vulnerabilities, unique characterization methods to develop more effective N95 mask filter media, and advanced manufacturing expertise to address the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators.
Modern, reliable infrastructure at the National Laboratories is critical to support world-class science that provides a strong foundation for the nation’s economic competitiveness, prosperity, and security. General-purpose infrastructure, such as office space, laboratory space, storage space, and utilities, forms the backbone of the National Laboratory enterprise and enables DOE’s mission. Unfortunately, our National Lab network suffers from a maintenance backlog from decades of underfunding that puts the labs’ successful and efficient execution of this mission at risk. The average age of DOE facilities is currently 37 years and the average age of the systems that support these facilities (e.g., water, sewage, electrical, roads) is 40 years.
Across the DOE National Laboratory complex, there are shovel-ready infrastructure projects – from utility upgrades to new state-of-the-art research facilities – that could be dramatically accelerated through investment aimed at stimulating the economy and restoring critical infrastructure. As an example, utility systems across several laboratories are failing and require frequent, often costly, repairs. Many utilities and support buildings are rated substandard or inadequate. When necessary maintenance on a facility or utility system that is scheduled or should be performed is postponed, it is referred to as deferred maintenance. DOE’s deferred maintenance backlog has continued to grow. A dedicated, focused investment would go a long way toward recapitalizing and modernizing National Lab infrastructure and would immediately support thousands of high-quality, well-paying jobs. Maintaining, repairing, upgrading, and replacing general-purpose infrastructure would foster safe, efficient, reliable, and Environmentally responsible operations; boost morale of the scientific and engineering workforce at the National Laboratories; and demonstrate our nation’s continued commitment to maintaining the world’s best scientific infrastructure.
Equally important, the U.S. faces increasing competition from our counterparts in Europe and Asia, as they race to build their own state-of-the-art facilities to attract the best minds and lead the world in science and technology. This does not just pose an economic threat to the United States, but also a national security threat. An infrastructure investment would accelerate the construction of world-class facilities and scientific instruments to stay ahead of this competition and make sure the U.S. remains the most secure and most attractive country in the world for scientific discovery and innovation. Thank you for considering these important investments. We look forward to working with you to invest in our nation’s competitiveness and put people back to work by addressing these critical infrastructure needs.
Warner, Rubio, Peters, Portman Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Secure Critical Infrastructure Networks Against Cyber-Attacks
Jul 22 2021
WASHINGTON – U.S. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chairman and Vice Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced bipartisan legislation to help safeguard our nation’s critical infrastructure networks against cybersecurity threats. The bill would require the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to ensure they can better identify and mitigate threats to Industrial Control Systems – the operational technology involved in operating the function of critical infrastructure networks like pipelines, and water and electric utilities. The bill is the Senate companion to legislation introduced by U.S. Representative John Katko, Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Committee that has already passed the House unanimously.
“The trend over the last decade to interconnect, automate, and in some cases bring online industrial controls has introduced significant cyber vulnerabilities, attack vectors and even potential systemic risk,” said Senator Warner. “The federal government needs to understand these risks and help our critical infrastructure sectors prepare for and defend against these threats, and this bill takes a good step forward in doing that.”
“As made clear by the recent attacks on Colonial Pipeline and SolarWinds, we need to do more to protect American critical infrastructure and industries from cyber-attacks,” said Senator Rubio. “Bad actors, often based in China or Russia, will stop at nothing to take advantage of any vulnerability in U.S. infrastructure. We need to strengthen our cyber defenses to more quickly detect and prevent these targeted attacks on our most critical industries.”
“As foreign adversaries and the criminal organizations they harbor continue to target our critical infrastructure systems, it is essential we work to protect these networks from attacks that can lead to significant harm to the American people,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan, commonsense bill will help shore up the defenses of critical infrastructure networks and address vulnerabilities in products and technologies that help operate them.”
“Attacks like the one against Colonial Pipeline show the real-world implications that cyberattacks against critical infrastructure can have,” said Senator Portman. “CISA’s role to play in supporting critical infrastructure owners and operators is crucial. I am pleased to join my bipartisan colleagues in introducing this bill to ensure CISA can better defend against threats and increase the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure.”
Critical infrastructure companies in the United States have seen a stark rise in cyber-attacks. Earlier this year, hackers breached the network of a major oil pipeline forcing the company to shut down over 5,500 miles of pipeline – leading to increased prices and gas shortage for communities across the East Coast. Prior to that, malicious cyber actors took control of a Florida wastewater treatment plant's computer system that allowed hackers to temporarily tamper with Americans’ water supply. These attacks, and others, highlighted the urgent need to secure critical infrastructure systems from foreign adversaries and criminal organizations who are relentless in their pursuit to exploit vulnerabilities and infiltrate networks.
The DHS Industrial Control Systems Capabilities Enhancement Act directs CISA to lead federal efforts to better identify and respond to threats against Industrial Control Systems and the critical infrastructure networks they help operate. The legislation also requires CISA to provide technical assistance to public and private sector entities on how they can work to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities in their operational technology systems. The bill would also ensure CISA shares information on cyber threats with users of Industrial Control Systems and provides a briefing to Congress on its ability to protect these critical systems. Finally, the legislation would require the Government Accountability Office to produce a report on its implementation and CISA’s capabilities to fulfill this mandate.
Following SolarWinds & Colonial Hacks, Leading National Security Senators Introduce Bipartisan Cyber Reporting Bill
Jul 21 2021
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Vice Chairman of the Committee, and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), a senior member of the Committee, today led several colleagues in introducing bipartisan legislation requiring federal agencies, government contractors, and critical infrastructure owners and operators to report cyber intrusions within 24 hours of their discovery. The legislation is in part a response to the hack of IT management firm SolarWinds, which resulted in the compromise of hundreds of federal agencies and private companies, and the May 2021 ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline, which halted pipeline operations temporarily and resulted in fuel shortages along the Atlantic seaboard of the United States, as well as a recent onslaught of ransomware attacks affecting thousands of public and private entities.
Under existing law, there is currently no federal requirement that individual companies disclose when they have been breached, which experts have noted leaves the nation vulnerable to criminal and state-sponsored hacking activity. The bipartisan Cyber Incident Notification Act of 2021 would require federal government agencies, federal contractors, and critical infrastructure operators to notify the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) when a breach is detected so that the U.S. government can mobilize to protect critical industries across the country. To incentivize this information sharing, the bill would grant limited immunity to companies that come forward to report a breach, and instruct CISA to implement data protection procedures to anonymize personally identifiable information and safeguard privacy.
“It seems like every day Americans wake up to the news of another ransomware attack or cyber intrusion. The SolarWinds breach demonstrated how broad the ripple effects of these attacks can be, affecting hundreds or even thousands of entities connected to the initial target,” said Sen. Warner. “We shouldn’t be relying on voluntary reporting to protect our critical infrastructure. We need a routine federal standard so that when vital sectors of our economy are affected by a breach, the full resources of the federal government can be mobilized to respond to and stave off its impact.”
“Cyberattacks against American businesses, infrastructure, and government institutions are out of control. The U.S. government must take decisive action against cybercriminals and the state actors who harbor them. It is also critical that American organizations act immediately once an attack occurs. The longer an attack goes unreported, the more damage can be done. Ensuring prompt notification will help protect the health and safety of countless Americans and will help our government track down those responsible,” Sen. Rubio said.
“Having a clear view of the dangers the nation faces from cyberattacks is necessary to prioritizing and acting to mitigate and reduce the threat,” said Sen. Collins. “My 2012 bill would have led to improved information sharing with the federal government that likely would have reduced the impact of cyber incidents on both the government and the private sector. Failure to enact a robust cyber incident notification requirement will only give our adversaries more opportunity to gather intelligence on our government, steal intellectual property from our companies, and harm our critical infrastructure. I urge my colleagues to pass the Cyber Incident Notification Act of 2021, which is common sense and long overdue.”
In addition to Sens. Warner, Rubio and Collins, the legislation is co-sponsored by Senate Intelligence Committee members Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Burr (R-NC), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), James Risch (R-ID), Angus King (I-ME), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bob Casey (D-PA), Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), along with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.
“After years of talk about how our nation needs a real public-private partnership for better cybersecurity, we finally have concrete and critical action -- the introduction of the bipartisan Cyber Incident Notification Act of 2021. We can't track, or have any hope of stopping, foreign or domestic sources of cyber maliciousness unless we can find out about cyber problems quickly. This bill goes a long way in starting to solve the problem,” said Glenn Gerstell, former National Security Agency (NSA) General Counsel.
“It's encouraging to see continued bipartisan Congressional recognition of CISA’s critical role as the front door for industry to engage with the U.S. government on cybersecurity,”said Chris Krebs, former Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
“This bill significantly advances the discussion around the need for mandatory notification of significant cyber activity to provide greater common situational awareness, better defend networks, and deepen our understanding about the scale and scope of the threat,” said Suzanne Spaulding, former Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary for Cyber and Infrastructure Protection.
A copy of the legislation is available here.
WASHINGTON – As many Virginians adapt to life with a new pet in the wake of the pandemic, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) is requesting more information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding a recent decision to temporarily suspend the importation of dogs from countries with heightened risk for rabies. In a letter to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, the senator commended the CDC for working to keep animals and people safe, while also encouraging the agency to develop eventual plans to lift the ban, which has placed a strain on military and U.S. diplomatic families who own dogs.
“I understand this decision was prompted by several factors relevant to the pandemic, including a recent lack of facilities for quarantining dogs safely and a disruption to vaccination programs for animals and people. I applaud the agency for acting quickly to ensure that the canine rabies virus variant—which has been eradicated in the U.S. since 2007—is not reintroduced,” wrote Sen. Warner. “While I believe the decision was necessary, as reported cases of COVID-19 continue to decline with vaccination efforts underway, I also encourage the agency to develop plans to eventually lift the importation ban while still ensuring the health and safety of dogs in the aftermath of the public health emergency.”
“The temporary ban has been a cause for concern for the many U.S. diplomatic and military families who live in Virginia. While I know these families can be considered for a waiver, your agency’s website says these approvals are advanced ‘on an extremely limited basis,’ and this onerous application process has left pet owners scrambling to find a solution,” he continued. “I respectfully ask that the CDC work with Congress to find long-term solutions to this problem, specifically focusing on the following areas: the pandemic’s disruption on vaccination programs for animals and people, the lack of safe animal quarantine facilities in the U.S., the surge in breeders cutting corners due to the increasing demand for pets brought on by the pandemic, and the unique impact the ban has had on diplomatic and military families.”
On July 14, the CDC temporarily suspended the importation of dogs from 113 countries classified as high risk for dog rabies. This was due, in part, to a significant 2020 increase in the number of imported dogs that were denied entry into the United States from high-risk countries. Due to reduced flight schedules, dogs denied entry are facing longer wait times to be returned to their country of departure, leading to illness and even death in some cases.
In the letter, Sen. Warner also asked the CDC to proactively engage in conversations and listening sessions with stakeholders that will be impacted by this ban, including rescue groups, representatives of U.S. diplomatic and military families, and other interested parties.
Sen. Warner, a dog owner, has been an advocate for dogs in Virginia and throughout the country. In 2019, he wrote to the Department of State, raising alarm about reports that the Department sent highly-trained bomb-sniffing dogs to foreign partner nations without proper follow-up, resulting in the death of at least ten dogs from largely preventable illnesses.
A copy of the letter is available here and below.
Dear Director Walensky:
I write today regarding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) recent decision to suspend the import of dogs from high-risk countries for canine rabies and inquire about the agency’s future plans related to this suspension.
I greatly respect the CDC’s acute attention toward keeping both animals and people safe in its decision to limit the importation of dogs as the deadly COVID-19 virus continues to spread throughout the United States. I also appreciate the temporary nature of the suspension, and I hope to work with the CDC to limit the threat of rabies spreading in the U.S. while still protecting the rights of responsible pet owners.
I have, however, heard from many of my constituents with questions and concerns about the CDC’s decision to suspend dogs from 113 countries with heightened risk for rabies, which went into effect on July 14, 2021. I understand this decision was prompted by several factors relevant to the pandemic, including a recent lack of facilities for quarantining dogs safely and a disruption to vaccination programs for animals and people. I applaud the agency for acting quickly to ensure that the canine rabies virus variant—which has been eradicated in the U.S. since 2007—is not reintroduced.
While I believe the decision was necessary, as reported cases of COVID-19 continue to decline with vaccination efforts underway, I also encourage the agency to develop plans to eventually lift the importation ban while still ensuring the health and safety of dogs in the aftermath of the public health emergency. The temporary ban has been a cause for concern for the many U.S. diplomatic and military families who live in Virginia. While I know these families can be considered for a waiver, your agency’s website says these approvals are advanced “on an extremely limited basis,” and this onerous application process has left pet owners scrambling to find a solution.
I respectfully ask that the CDC work with Congress to find long-term solutions to this problem, specifically focusing on the following areas: the pandemic’s disruption on vaccination programs for animals and people, the lack of safe animal quarantine facilities in the U.S., the surge in breeders cutting corners due to the increasing demand for pets brought on by the pandemic, and the unique impact the ban has had on diplomatic and military families. I would also encourage that, in finding long-term solutions to this problem, the CDC proactively engages in conversations with stakeholders that will be impacted by this ban, including rescue groups, representatives of U.S. diplomatic and military families, and other interested parties. In this vein we would recommend that the agency holds listening sessions with stakeholders impacted by the ban to better understand the needs of these communities and to ensure that any long-term solutions best serve the needs of both the CDC and the impacted communities.
For years, the U.S. had strict quarantine and rabies vaccination procedures in place that proved highly effective in keeping animals in the U.S. safe from rabies. As we continue to adapt our ways of life in the aftermath of the pandemic, I look forward to your partnership in tackling these issues.
I appreciate your time and attention to this matter. I look forward to working together to ensure the health and safety of Americans and their pets.
Jul 21 2021
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Angus King (I-Maine), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Todd Young (R-Ind.) issued the following statement:
“We have made significant progress and are close to a final agreement. We will continue working hard to ensure we get this critical legislation right—and are optimistic that we will finalize, and be prepared to advance, this historic bipartisan proposal to strengthen America’s infrastructure and create good-paying jobs in the coming days. We appreciate our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and the administration, working with us to get this done for the American people.”
Statement of Senate Intel Chair Mark R. Warner on U.S., NATO, and EU Allies and Partners Publicly Attributing Microsoft Hack to Chinese State-Sponsored Actors
Jul 19 2021
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following after the U.S., European Union, and NATO allies and partners publicly attributed the Microsoft hack to Chinese state-sponsored actors:
“Today’s news makes clear: state-sponsored cyberattacks that threaten our national security and economic stability will be traced and found. Cyberattacks aren’t a uniquely American problem; our allies are also grappling with a barrage of cyberattacks coming from our foreign adversaries. It’s why I have long called for building international cyber norms to confront our shared cyber vulnerabilities and why I’m pleased to see joint recognition from our NATO and EU allies about this threat. I applaud the Biden administration for publicly exposing the actions of these Chinese state-sponsored actors, pursuing diplomatic cooperation on these threats and for taking additional steps to bolster our cyber defenses. As we take these first steps in an international effort to confront these challenges, there’s still more work to do to address our cyber vulnerabilities.”
Senators Introduce Bicameral, Bipartisan Bill to Help Students 'Reverse' Transfer Credits from Four-Year Universities to Community Colleges
Jul 19 2021
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Mike Braun (R-IN) along with Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to remove an unnecessary bureaucratic obstacle preventing many students from receiving the degree or certification they have rightfully earned. The Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act of 2021 would facilitate the “reverse transferring” of college credits – the process of transferring credits from a four-year institution to a two-year institution in which a student was previously enrolled to identify whether they earned enough credits along the way to receive a degree.
“This much-needed bill would help to eliminate an unnecessary hurdle for students who’ve worked hard and paid for their studies,” said Sen. Warner. “In a competitive job market, this bipartisan bill will help more Americans claim the degree or credentials that they have rightfully earned.”
“A four year college is not the only path to prosperity in this country, and community colleges are a vital and economical part of our education system. Removing needless roadblocks on the path to attaining a degree from these institutions is overdue. I’m happy to join this measure to allow students to get associates degrees and certifications they’ve earned,” said Sen. Braun.
“Our education system has to support different paths to a successful career,” said Sen. Hickenlooper. “Many students who graduate high school never get a four year degree. Making it easier to recognize the work students have already done is a no-brainer.”
Companion legislation has also been introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Joe Neguse (D-CO), Rep. John Curtis (R-UT), and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX).
“We must ensure every student is provided a pathway to education that fits their goals and career path,” said Rep. Neguse. “This legislation ensures that students can receive credit and earn an associate’s degree or short-term certificate regardless of where they completed their coursework, breaking down barriers for better paying jobs for students who are unable to finish at a four-year institution. Reverse transfer will be a meaningful step for millions of students to increase college affordability and access.”
“I am pleased to join Representative Neguse in introducing the Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act. Utah is home to great schools with many students who begin their education at a community college and finish at a university,” said Rep. Curtis. “This bill will improve data sharing between higher education institutions by allowing a student to continue earning credits towards an Associate’s degree at community college, even after transferring to a university, boosting student earning potential and student retention.”
“There is no single or correct path to higher education,” said Rep. Castro. “As students face increasing tuition costs and student loan debt, it is clear that many students are starting their post-secondary academic goals at community colleges. In my district, Alamo Colleges is the largest provider of higher education in South Texas and proves that two-year programs are critical in preparing students for success beyond their hallways. The Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act will allow these students to easily transition to four-year universities, like the University of Texas at San Antonio in my district, with an associate’s degree as well as the skillset to finish their studies and successfully enter the workforce.”
The National Student Clearinghouse, an educational nonprofit that verifies enrollment data, has identified over four million individuals that have completed enough credit hours at a four-year institution to be eligible for an associate’s degree, but instead withdrew without a degree or certificate. Facilitating the practice of reverse transfer would ease students’ access to credentials they have already earned and better provide for the demands of the future economy.
The Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act of 2021 would amend the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to create a new exemption for the sharing of student education records between higher education institutions. The bill would also allow for the sharing of credit data between post-secondary institutions for the sole purpose of determining whether a student earned an associate’s degree or certificate during the course of their studies. Currently, FERPA requires students to give their institutions proactive permission to determine whether they have earned enough credits to be awarded a degree or certificate.
The Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act of 2021 has the support of numerous organizations, including the Virginia Community College System, American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers, American Association of Community Colleges, and Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, among others. For a complete list, click here.
“AACRAO believes this legislation is an important step that will enable institutions to increase educational attainment, and ultimately salaries, for millions of in individuals,” said Melanie Gottlieb, Interim Executive Director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers (AACRAO). “The additional FERPA exception proposed represents a responsible means of sharing student information between a student's 4-year and 2-year institutions in a way that both protects student privacy and supports the completion agenda.”
“Virginia’s community colleges prepare students for in-demand jobs that respond to the marketplace and employers,” said Glenn DuBois, Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System. “The Reverse Transfer Act is a welcome approach that will benefit students from every race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic group. Communication will be facilitated, obstacles removed, and processes improved between community colleges and four-year institutions. I applaud Senator Warner and Senator Braun for their bipartisan approach in working across the aisle to advance this legislation that will increase affordability, accelerate degree completion, and lead students to upward mobility.”
“Too many struggling students leave universities burdened with debt and without degrees: disproportionately, they are low-income and students of color. Yet, many have enough credits to earn a career pathway certificate or an associate’s degree at NOVA. Unfortunately, there is no ‘reverse transfer’ system that makes it possible to turn these hard-earned credits into valuable college credentials. Senator Warner’s ‘reverse transfer’ proposal would be transformational. Students could earn degrees and certificates, opening the door to high-demand, sustaining wage careers that would secure their financial futures and grow the high-skilled workforce. It’s a true win-win,” said Anne M. Kress, PhD, President of Northern Virginia Community College.
“Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC) in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia enthusiastically endorses the proposed ‘Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act.’ This act will allow students to easily earn degrees and other credentials at community colleges by transferring credits earned at four-year institutions. Earning additional credentials will make the individuals more competitive in the modern workforce,” said Dr. John A. Downey, President of Blue Ridge Community College. “Many students currently transfer to four-year institutions without completing their associate degrees or certificates. Offering a reverse transfer option will encourage those students to become graduates of their community college. Completion will show employers that these students are lifelong learners who continue to improve their education. BRCC encourages all parties to support this important piece of legislation to improve our workforce.”
“Virginia Western Community College is delighted to support the bipartisan Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act to help students achieve their goals of a college degree through reverse transfer. This bill removes the roadblocks that deter students from pursuing reverse transfer and will help colleges make the process of credential attainment more accessible. Additionally, this bill will benefit students, employers, and our communities by helping students realize the credentials needed for employment,” said Dr. Robert Sandel, President of Virginia Western Community College.
A copy of the bill text is available here.
Statement of U.S. Sen. Mark Warner on Plans to Relocate Afghan Interpreters and Translators With Special Immigrant Visas (Siv) to Fort Lee
Jul 19 2021
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following after the Biden administration announced plans to relocate thousands of Afghan interpreters and translators with special immigrant visas (SIV) to U.S. Army base Fort Lee in Petersburg, Va.:
“Virginia has a long history of standing up for our military, and those who have risked their lives for our country. For two decades, thousands of Afghans have put their own lives and safety in danger in order to work with U.S. and allied personnel to fight Al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, ISIS and other terrorist groups. Their efforts contributed to the decimation of Al Qaeda and its ability to attack the U.S. homeland. I applaud the President and his administration for acting to help bring these individuals to safety, and encourage further swift action to help the thousands of other Afghans and their family members who remain at risk because of their support for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.”
Last week, Sen. Warner sent a letter to President Biden urging the administration to act swiftly in ensuring the safety of Afghans who have worked closely with U.S. intelligence in the country as American forces withdraw from Afghanistan.
Warner, Northam Announces Virginia to Invest $700 Million in American Rescue Plan Funding to Achieve Universal Broadband by 2024
Jul 16 2021
ABINGDON— U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner and Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia plans to invest $700 million in American Rescue Plan funding to expedite the deployment of last-mile broadband infrastructure to unserved areas and close the digital divide within the next three years. This proposal will accelerate the Governor’s 10-year goal for achieving universal internet access from 2028 to 2024, with the majority of connections obligated within the next 18 months. In May, Governor Northam and General Assembly leaders released a joint statement outlining shared priorities for allocating the $4.3 billion in federal funds available to the Commonwealth from the American Rescue Plan.
The Governor made the announcement at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon and was joined by U.S. Senator Mark Warner, State Senator Janet Howell and Delegate Luke Torian, who chair the General Assembly’s money committees, and State Senator Jennifer Boysko and Delegate Roslyn Tyler, who lead Virginia’s Broadband Advisory Council. Governor Northam also reported that the Commonwealth has successfully bridged half of the digital divide, with an estimated 233,500 unserved locations remaining.
“With telehealth and telework becoming permanent staples across the nation, access to broadband is more critical than ever,” said U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner. “Earlier this year, I was proud to help deliver more than $3.7 billion dollars in direct fiscal relief for the Commonwealth through the American Rescue Plan, including hundreds of millions of dollars for broadband. I’m hopeful that my friends in the General Assembly will use $700 million of that funding to expand access to broadband, thereby creating economic opportunity and ensuring that every Virginian can meaningfully participate in our 21st century economy.”
“It’s time to close the digital divide in our Commonwealth and treat internet service like the 21st century necessity that it is—not just a luxury for some, but an essential utility for all,” said Governor Northam. “The pandemic has reinforced how important high-quality broadband is for the health, education, and economic opportunity, and we cannot afford to leave any community behind. With this historic $700 million investment, universal broadband is now within our reach. I am grateful to Senator Warner for fighting to include this funding in the American Rescue Plan, which will be key to the success of local connectivity efforts and to ensuring every Virginian has affordable, reliable, and equitable access to high-speed internet.”
Since 2018, the Commonwealth has awarded approximately $124 million in broadband grants and connected over 140,000 homes, businesses, and community anchors. Governor Northam and the General Assembly made historic investments—$50 million in 2020 and an additional $50 million in 2021—in the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI), a public-private partnership that provides targeted financial assistance to extend broadband service to areas currently unserved by a provider. With this $700 million allocation of federal dollars and continued state investment, the Commonwealth has the necessary resources to meet the tremendous demand from localities and broadband providers and close the digital divide in Virginia.
“Localities and broadband providers have stepped up over the past three years and helped the Commonwealth connect thousands of unserved Virginians,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “With today’s announcement, large regional projects that achieve universal service can be funded across the Commonwealth without delay.”
Because Governor Northam prioritized broadband expansion well before the pandemic, Virginia is on track to be one of the first states in the country to achieve universal broadband service. In 2019, the Governor worked with the General Assembly to establish a pilot program that promotes collaboration between localities, electric utilities, and internet service providers to connect unserved areas to high-speed internet. In just two years of the pilot program, Virginia’s utility companies have helped connect more than 13,000 homes and businesses across the Commonwealth. Earlier this year, Governor Northam signed bipartisan legislation that makes the pilot program permanent.
“The Commonwealth continues to prioritize funding for universal broadband access and I’m encouraged to see these investments coming ahead of schedule,” said Senator Janet Howell, Chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee. “This appropriation of federal dollars will go a long way towards supporting the investments that the Commonwealth has already made to bridge the digital divide.”
“Funding for broadband is more critical now than ever,” said Delegate Luke Torian, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “We must continue to ensure that all citizens of the Commonwealth have access to quality internet access.”
“The Broadband Advisory Council has long prioritized funding to reduce the cost of broadband access and connect unserved Virginians,” said Senator Jennifer Boysko, Chair of the Broadband Advisory Council. “With this investment of American Rescue Plan dollars, we will greatly accelerate our progress.”
“I have lived in a rural area my entire life and I know that the Commonwealth benefits as a whole when we lift up all communities,” said Delegate Roslyn Tyler, Vice Chair of the Broadband Advisory Council. “This investment will have a tremendous impact on countless Virginians and allow our communities to prosper and grow.”
Bipartisan Leaders of Senate Intelligence Committee Urge President to Prioritize Safety of Afghan Intelligence Partners
Jul 15 2021
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Vice Chairman of the Committee, today sent a letter to President Biden, asking the administration to ensure the safety of Afghans who have worked closely with U.S. intelligence in the country.
“For two decades, thousands of Afghans have risked their lives to work with intelligence professionals from the United States and other NATO countries to fight Al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, ISIS and other terrorist groups. Their efforts contributed to the decimation of Al Qaeda and its ability to attack the U.S. homeland,” the Senators wrote. “Given the increasingly precarious security situation in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s direct targeting of Afghan partners to the United States, we ask that you pursue a set of options to keep these Afghans safe, including approving Special Immigrant Visas, evacuations to a third country, and/or priority admission under the U.S. Refugee Admissions program.”
“Currently the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program offers one avenue for our Afghan allies, but its timeline – a years-long process with thousands in the pipeline – does not align with the pace of withdrawal and the rapid deterioration in security. While we urge you to expedite this program and stand ready to provide additional resources for a faster processing timeline, we also ask that you consider the other evacuation options listed above,” the Senators added. “Further, we ask that you consider whether there is sufficient capacity at U.S. facilities to process applications from those Afghan personnel who have made our efforts possible over the last two decades, or whether there is – given the rapid pace of withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan – sufficient capacity to evacuate our Afghan partners quickly as needs arise.”
Concluded the Senators, “Abandoning these individuals, who have provided essential support to our intelligence community in Afghanistan, would send a damaging message to our allies and potential partners about the United States’ reliability and trustworthiness. It would also be a stain on our national conscience.”
A copy of the letter is available here, and the full text appears below.
Dear President Biden:
As your administration conducts its withdrawal of military personnel from Afghanistan, we ask that you ensure the safety and security of Afghans who have worked closely with our intelligence agencies and partners.
For two decades, thousands of Afghans have risked their lives to work with intelligence professionals from the United States and other NATO countries to fight Al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, ISIS and other terrorist groups. Their efforts contributed to the decimation of Al Qaeda and its ability to attack the U.S. homeland.
Given the increasingly precarious security situation in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s direct targeting of Afghan partners to the United States, we ask that you pursue a set of options to keep these Afghans safe, including approving Special Immigrant Visas, evacuations to a third country, and/or priority admission under the U.S. Refugee Admissions program.
Currently the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program offers one avenue for our Afghan allies, but its timeline – a years-long process with thousands in the pipeline – does not align with the pace of withdrawal and the rapid deterioration in security. While we urge you to expedite this program and stand ready to provide additional resources for a faster processing timeline, we also ask that you consider the other evacuation options listed above.
Further, we ask that you consider whether there is sufficient capacity at U.S. facilities to process applications from those Afghan personnel who have made our efforts possible over the last two decades, or whether there is – given the rapid pace of withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan – sufficient capacity to evacuate our Afghan partners quickly as needs arise.
Abandoning these individuals, who have provided essential support to our intelligence community in Afghanistan, would send a damaging message to our allies and potential partners about the United States’ reliability and trustworthiness. It would also be a stain on our national conscience.
We stand ready to support your effort to ensure these Afghan partners are protected.
Jul 14 2021
WASHINGTON – With the COVID-19 delta variant on the rise, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) introduced legislation today to promote federal worker safety and ensure that employees and their families are well informed about COVID-19 protective measures in the workplace. The Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act – named after a Virginia federal worker who passed away from COVID-19 complications – would require federal agencies to publish and communicate their COVID-19 safety plans, setting a precedent for increased agency transparency around critical safeguards.
Joining Sen. Warner in introducing this legislation are U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). This bicameral legislation was also introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and passed by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on May 13, 2021. It now awaits a vote on the House floor.
“Civil servants should not have to sacrifice their lives to serve their country, as was the tragic case for Chai Suthammanont, a kitchen worker at Marine Corps Base Quantico who passed from COVID-19 complications,” said Sen. Warner. “The Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act will help ensure that federal agencies have workplace safety plans in place to protect public servants as they continue to provide essential government services and assistance. This bill will also set an important precedent for increased transparency so that agencies are better prepared to publish and disseminate safety plans in a future emergency.”
“No one should have to fear for their life or safety while working, especially during this pandemic,” said Sen. Kaine. “We must ensure that every federal workplace implements comprehensive plans to protect federal workers. I’m proud to introduce this legislation to keep employees and their families informed and safe during these unprecedented times.”
“Federal workers continue to be on the front lines of this pandemic and deserve a safe workplace,” said Sen. Cardin. “As the nation’s single largest employer, the federal government should set the standard for making the workplace safe for everyone so that workers can continue to meet their missions for the American people.”
“No one should have to pick between their life and livelihood. Our federal employees work tirelessly to provide vital services to the American people. This legislation will help ensure that their safety is a priority, so these dedicated civil servants can continue to assist Americans day in and day out,” said Sen. Van Hollen.
“The frontline federal employees that have reported to work throughout this ongoing pandemic deserve gratitude, protection, and support. With the emergence of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus, we must recognize and act on the risks these workers face during this health emergency. There’s no reason why civil servants should have to worry about whether their work environment is safe enough for them to carry out their duties. This legislation is a step in the right direction to ensuring that federal employees are not left in the dark with regard to workplace safety,” said Sen. Brown.
Chai Suthammanont – a kitchen staff worker at a childcare facility on Marine Corps Base Quantico – died from coronavirus-related complications in May of 2020 after being exposed to COVID-19, likely in the tight kitchen space he shared with additional staff. Confusion and uncertainty regarding best practices and agency policies, as well as a general lack of communication with federal workforce staff, likely contributed to his death.
Nearly fourteen months after Chai’s death, the delta variant – a highly contagious strain of COVID-19 – has continued to spread at an alarming rate among unvaccinated individuals, putting the Commonwealth at risk for another deadly COVID-19 surge. The legislation introduced by the senators today would require federal agencies to develop the kind of workplace safety plan that could have reduced Chai’s potential exposure to COVID-19.
“COVID-19 is still with us. While infection and death rates have thankfully dropped dramatically from the devastating numbers we had earlier this year, we cannot be complacent. New variants and slowing vaccination rates mean workers are still at risk. We thank Senator Warner for his leadership in ensuring our federal workers and their families are safe,” said Juley Fulcher, Worker Health and Safety Advocate, Public Citizen.
“As federal agencies prepare to reopen buildings to full capacity and phase out the incredibly successful policy of maximum telework, Sen. Warner's effort to ensure federal employees feel safe at work is well-timed. The Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act sends a strong message to agency leaders that employee safety is paramount and that civil servants deserve a work environment that incorporates the lessons learned from the pandemic and protects federal workers as they continue to serve the American people,” said Tony Reardon, National President, National Treasury Employees Union.
“The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers applauds and thanks Senator Warner for reintroducing this much needed legislation, as it will help to ensure that federal workers returning to work will have the information necessary to feel that they are entering a safe workplace. We are hopeful that Congress will approve this legislation and send to President Biden for his signature,” said Matt Biggs, Secretary-Treasurer/Legislative Director, IFPTE.
“The National Federation of Federal Employees is proud to support the Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act in honor of Mr. Suthammanont, who passed away due to COVID-19 after exposure to the virus in his workplace. This bill is necessary to ensure the safety of all federal employees who answer the call to serve their country during this pandemic and any future crises,” said Randy Erwin, National President, NFFE.
“The coronavirus pandemic has exposed serious shortcomings in federal agencies’ development and dissemination of protocols for ensuring the health and safety of employees and visitors to federal facilities. This legislation would require all federal agencies to establish plans to protect employees and visitors from the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure the continuity of operations in the event of a surge in cases – and ensure these plans are posted online and communicated to employees. I applaud Senator Warner for reintroducing this legislation as a companion to the House bill introduced by Congressman Connolly. Having clear and easily accessible safeguards in place at the start of this pandemic would have saved many lives and failing to do so now continues to put workers and the public in danger,” said American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley.
According to this legislation, any workplace safety plan disseminated by a federal agency must include:
- Procedures for testing, contact-tracing, and vaccine administration for federal employees, along with other mitigation efforts, including cleaning protocols, implementation of occupancy limits, and efforts to ensure proper mask-wearing, social distancing, and individual hygiene at worksites.
- Efforts to protect employees who travel for their official duties or who work outside of federal office buildings.
- Safety and health requirements for visitors to federal facilities.
- Contingency options and workplace flexibilities for those at high-risk of contracting the coronavirus, or who live in a household with individuals at high-risk.
- Protocols for vaccination, including leave policies for individuals who experience severe side-effects as a result of vaccination.
- Efforts to ensure continuity of agency operations, including contingency plans should there be a surge in coronavirus cases.
- Applicable Inspector General Hotline information that employees can use to report instances when agencies do not follow the plan.
Text of this legislation is available here.
On Eve Of Historic Child Tax Credit Payments Starting, Warner & Kaine Applaud Monthly Checks To Virginia Families
Jul 14 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, on the eve of the historic Child Tax Credit payments beginning for 39 million families across the nation, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement applauding the new monthly payment to millions of U.S. households. Starting July 15, eligible parents will begin receiving automatic monthly payments for the next six months of $250 for every child aged 6 to 17 and $300 for every child under 6. The American Rescue Plan, which both Warner and Kaine voted for, made these payments possible. An estimated 1.6 million children across Virginia will benefit from the expanded child tax credit, including 249,000 children in the Commonwealth who are currently in poverty. The expansion will lift 85,000 Virginia children out of poverty.
“The pandemic has taken a devastating toll on families across the Commonwealth, exacerbating the challenges that low- and middle-income families face,” said the Senators. “In response, Democrats expanded the Child Tax Credit and instructed IRS to make advance payments as part of the American Rescue Plan. These monthly payments will make a huge difference in the lives of families in Virginia and across the nation by providing low- and middle income parents with money to help pay for necessities like food, housing, and health care. We are proud to have supported this expansion, which will cut child poverty in half and improve lives across the Commonwealth.”
To qualify for the monthly Child Tax Credit payments, families must have:
- ·Filed a 2019 or 2020 tax return and claimed the Child Tax Credit on the return; or given their information in 2020 to the IRS to receive the Economic Impact Payment using the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool; and
- ·A main home in the United States for more than half the year (the 50 states and the District of Columbia) or file a joint return with a spouse who has a main home in the United States for more than half the year; and
- ·A qualifying child who is under age 18 at the end of 2021 and who has a valid Social Security number; and
- ·Made less than certain income limits: households earning less than $75,000 for single filers, $112,500 for heads of households, and $150,000 for joint filers.
Warner and Kaine urge eligible Virginia families to make sure they receive their checks by visiting the IRS website to ensure they are enrolled. Most families who are eligible will not need to do anything to receive these payments; IRS will use the information they have on file to automatically deposit the funds into their bank account or through a mailed check.
If you believe you are eligible but have not filed a tax return for 2019 or 2020, please file your return or register for payments as a non-filer to automatically receive your monthly payment. For more information, click here.
WASHINGTON — Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced the Intelligence Community Workforce Agility Protection Act of 2021 (S. 2341) with fellow committee members Vice-Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jim Risch (R-ID), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Tom Cotton (R-AR). Currently, active duty members of the military can deduct certain moving expenses from their federal taxes, but that benefit does not extend to intelligence community professionals. The Intelligence Community Workforce Agility Protection Act would expand the treatment of moving expenses to employees and new appointees in the intelligence community who must relocate pursuant to a change in assignment.
“Like the men and women of our armed forces, our intelligence community professionals go to extraordinary lengths to serve and protect their country,” Warner said. “They often uproot their lives to go serve where they are needed – no matter where that may be. This commonsense legislation will ensure that these brave Americans are not forced to pay out of pocket for the costs of their relocations.”
“We ask a lot from the men and women who serve our nation, especially those in the intelligence community,” Rubio said. “Extending this benefit to those who sacrifice so much in defense of our nation is common sense.”
“The work done by the men and women of our Intelligence Community is vital to our national security,” Burr said. “This commonsense benefit will allow us to continue building an agile and vibrant IC workforce.”
“This legislation won’t take away from our active duty military men and women, but it will return this benefit to those serving in the intelligence community,” Sasse said. “These men and women work hard to keep our country safe, the least we can do is make sure they have this benefit.”
“Members of the intelligence community devote their lives to serving our country and they deserve our support,” Gillibrand said. “Enabling the intelligence community to deduct moving expenses from their federal taxes is a simple, but important, provision that honors their dedication.”
“The men and women in our nation’s intelligence community work incredibly hard to keep our country safe,” Blunt said. “This bill helps address one of the significant challenges that comes with a career in the intelligence community and I’m proud to support it.”
“Rank and file Intelligence professionals do the hard work to keep our country safe from foreign threats,” Wyden said. “It’s common sense to provide this benefit that other national security professionals receive to IC workers.”
Warner, Colleagues Call On Inter-American Commission On Human Rights to Complete Investigation of Death of Cuban Political Reformer Oswaldo Paya
Jul 07 2021
WASHINGTON – Ahead of the ninth anniversary of Cuban political reformer Oswaldo Payá’s suspicious death, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA), along with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) urged the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to advance its efforts on this case without further delay. In 2013, Durbin sent a letter to previous Commission Executive Secretary Emilio Icaza originally urging the Commission investigate Payá’s suspicious death. Subsequent letters urging continued attention were sent in 2014 and 2016.
“We hope the Commission’s unique role in such matters will help advance such an accounting and continue to stand ready to assist with this important matter,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Tania Reneaum Panszi, newly appointed Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
In 2002, Payá started the Varela Project that sought greater political freedom in Cuba through a peaceful petition drive and referendum process as allowed for in the Cuban constitution. Not only did the Cuban government reject the historic effort and brazenly change the constitutional provision allowing such public avenue for change, but also began a decade of shameful harassment of Payá and his movement.
In July 2012, this persecution culminated in his car being rammed from behind by a tailing government vehicle, resulting in the death of Payá and fellow passenger and youth activist Harold Cepero. The Cuban government has yet to provide a credible explanation, accounting, or justice for this tragic incident.
Full text of the letter is available here and below:
Dear Secretary Panszi:
Congratulations on your recent appointment to lead the Commission – a timely selection amid troubling democratic and human rights backsliding in Latin America. In 2013, several of us sent the included letter to previous Commission Executive Secretary Emilio Icaza urging the Commission investigate the suspicious death of Cuban political reformer Oswaldo Payá. With the ninth anniversary of this troubling event soon approaching and a refusal of the Cuban government to allow or provide for a credible investigation into the matter, we once again urge the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to advance its efforts on this case without further delay.
As you likely recall, in 2002 Payá started the Varela Project that sought greater political freedom in Cuba through a peaceful petition drive and referendum process as allowed for in the Cuban constitution. Not only did the Cuban government reject the historic effort and brazenly change the constitutional provision allowing such public avenue for change, but also began a decade of shameful harassment of Payá and his movement.
In July 2012, this persecution culminated in his car being rammed from behind by a tailing government vehicle, resulting in the death of Payá and fellow passenger and youth activist Harold Cepero. The Cuban government has yet to provide a credible explanation, accounting, or justice for this tragic incident. In fact, shortly after his death the United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution honoring Payá’s work which also called on the “Government of Cuba to allow an impartial, third-party investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas.”
We hope the Commission’s unique role in such matters will help advance such an accounting and continue to stand ready to assist with this important matter.
Warner & Kaine Announce More Than $2 Million From American Rescue Plan to Update Airports in Virginia
Jul 02 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $2,168,854 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to provide infrastructure improvements to six of the Commonwealth’s airports.
“We are glad to see these federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan being put to good use,” said the Senators. “This funding will enable the Commonwealth’s airports to continue supporting travelers and encourage economic opportunities for the surrounding regions.”
This funding was awarded through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which Senators Warner and Kaine voted to pass in March. The legislation included significant funding to help Virginia’s airports continue delivering crucial supplies to the Commonwealth.
A breakdown of the funding is below:
- Franklin Regional Airport will receive a grant of $200,000 to repair 4,000 feet of various taxiway surfaces,28,000 square yards of the existing apron surface, and 2,900 feet of the existing North Taxiway surface to extend the pavement's useful life.
- Leesburg Executive Airport will receive a grant of $166,666 to restore 46,000 square yards of the existing south terminal apron.
- Dinwiddie County Airport and Industrial Authority in Petersburg will receive a grant of $300,000 to update the airport’s master plan and airport layout plan to help better address issues and goals for future development.
- Hanover County Municipal Airport in Ashland will receive a grant of $388,888 to restore 5,402 feet of an existing runway.
- Lee County Airport in Jonesville will receive a grant of $613,300 to restore 5,003 feet of runway and 6,440 feet of the existing parallel and connector taxiways.
- New River Valley Airport in Dublin will receive a grant of $500,000 to update the airport’s master plan and airport layout plan to help better address issues and goals for future development.
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, applauded the reopening of the Lee County Community Hospital in Pennington Gap, Virginia. This morning, Senator Warner attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the new Lee County Community Hospital. In April, Kaine toured the construction site of the hospital, which was being renovated by Ballad Health. While there, Kaine met with Ballad Health officials to discuss the reopening and health needs facing the region, including efforts to respond to COVID-19 and strengthen Virginia’s rural health care system.
“As many rural hospitals across the nation are closing due to lack of resources, we hope Lee County Community Hospital serves as an example of how these vital facilities can reopen and effectively serve their communities,” said the Senators. “We are very pleased to see the hospital fully open, and we will continue working to ensure Virginians have access to reliable and affordable health care services, regardless of their zip code.”
In 2013, the Lee County Regional Medical Center closed abruptly. Not only did this closure leave the residents of Lee County without access to a nearby hospital, but it also hindered opportunities for economic development in the area. In February of 2019, Lee County Hospital Authority partnered with Ballad Health to begin plans to reopen the hospital.
Senators Warner and Kaine have long supported the reopening of this facility. In March, the senators introduced the bipartisan Save Rural Hospitals Act of 2021 to provide additional financial support for rural hospitals that are already operating on very thin margins. Reporting indicates that rural hospitals are now closing at an alarming rate, with more than 130 rural hospitals across the nation having closed in the last decade. Lee County Community Hospital is rare among these hospitals for having reopened. Warner and Kaine have also introduced the States Achieve Medicaid Expansion (SAME) Act of 2021,legislation to promote health care access for low-income Americans and support Medicaid expansion nationwide. It is estimated that the SAME Act would save Virginia’s hospitals an estimated $300 million per year in the first three years of implementation, according to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association.
Flickr photo album of Senator Warner’s visit today can be found here.
Flickr photo album of Senator Kaine’s visit in April can be found here.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner, Tim Kaine (both D-Va.), and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urging him to reopen Howard Bailey’s immigration proceedings and grant him humanitarian parole. Bailey is a U.S. Navy veteran who lives in exile in Jamaica after being deported in 2012 for a conviction that has since been pardoned.
“The Biden administration has committed to honoring family unity and redressing racial injustices where possible. Returning Mr. Bailey to the U.S., in light of his overwhelming positive equities and the injustice of his deportation, honors these priorities and is a small step toward restoring humanity to the U.S. immigration system,” wrote the Senators. “We urge you to join his motion to reopen his immigration proceedings and grant his application for humanitarian parole.”
Last week, Bailey was invited to testify at an Immigration Subcommittee hearing to examine how we can better honor the promises made to our brave military members, veterans, and their families in our immigration policy. At the conclusion of the hearing Padilla stated, “Mr. Bailey fought for our country and I am happy to fight for him.” Padilla also raised this issue directly to Robert Silvers, the Nominee for DHS Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy, and Plans during a Homeland Security Committee hearing.
Howard Bailey moved to the U.S. when he was around 17-years-old after obtaining lawful permanent residence status through his U.S. citizen mother. He joined the U.S. Navy after high school and served for nearly four years, including two tours in Operation Desert Storm. He was awarded the National Defense Service Medal and honorably discharged. After Mr. Bailey’s service to the U.S. Navy, he devoted himself to his wife and two U.S. citizen children, purchased a home, and started two small businesses including a thriving trucking company employing seven people.
The full text of the letter is available HERE and below:
Dear Secretary Mayorkas:
We write to request that the Department of Homeland Security join U.S. veteran Howard Bailey’s motion to reopen his immigration proceedings and grant him humanitarian parole so that he can return to the United States.
Mr. Bailey joined the U.S. Navy after high school. During his subsequent four years of service, he served on a critical supply ship often in danger zones as a part of Operation Desert Storm and Project Comfort. After he left the Navy, he started a trucking business, purchased his home with a V.A. loan, and built a stable life for his family. He was living the American Dream in every sense of the phrase. Mark Warner
Soon after his honorable discharge, Mr. Bailey was arrested after a package of marijuana was mailed to his home for a friend. Despite not knowing the contents of the package, he pled guilty to a marijuana charge based on counsel from his attorney, who also failed to advise him of the immigration consequences of his plea. Fifteen years later, when Mr. Bailey applied for citizenship, he disclosed that he had a marijuana conviction from 1995. ICE learned of his conviction only when Mr. Bailey himself brought it to the agency’s attention as he applied for U.S. citizenship. ICE then initiated deportation proceedings against him on the basis of this sole marijuana conviction—arresting him on his front lawn with his daughter, son, and wife as witnesses.
In the years after his deportation to Jamaica, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such convictions no longer render people like Mr. Bailey deportable or make them ineligible for discretionary relief from deportation. More recently, in 2017, former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe issued a pardon for Mr. Bailey’s marijuana conviction in light of his service to the U.S. Navy and the increasing decriminalization of marijuana nationwide. Today, the conviction that led to his deportation is no longer a part of his record, and the law makes clear that he is eligible for relief from deportation.
On May 27, 2021, a memorandum was issued by DHS headquarters to ICE OPLA attorneys explicitly encouraging DHS to join motions to reopen cases like Mr. Bailey’s where “an individual is eligible for relief under the law and merits relief as a matter of discretion.” The memo lists factors that should be taken into account in joining a motion and that weigh in favor of his case. These include his prior military service, his prior lawful permanent residence status, decades of residency in the U.S. with significant family ties, the length of time since his conviction (26 years) and the compelling humanitarian circumstances in his case such as the severe mental health challenges suffered by his daughter.
As the Secretary of Homeland Security, you have the authority under current law to grant humanitarian parole for cases like Mr. Bailey’s where urgent humanitarian considerations and significant public benefit apply. In addition to the public benefit of bringing home a U.S. veteran who has proudly served his country, paroling Mr. Bailey into the United States is also an appropriate next step to address the profoundly devastating impact of his deportation on his two U.S. citizen children. His daughter, only 11-years-old at the time ICE officers took her father away, continues to face significant mental health challenges and has been unable to attend college, a dream both her and her father shared for her. His son—traumatized by the loss of his father and the subsequent economic challenges including suffering from hunger—has had trouble with the criminal legal system.
The Biden administration has committed to honoring family unity and redressing racial injustices where possible. Returning Mr. Bailey to the U.S., in light of his overwhelming positive equities and the injustice of his deportation, honors these priorities and is a small step toward restoring humanity to the U.S. immigration system. We urge you to join his motion to reopen his immigration proceedings and grant his application for humanitarian parole.
Warner, Rubio Lead Bipartisan Letter to Ambassador Tai Highlighting Importance of Reconvening Trade Talks with Taiwan
Jun 30 2021
WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA) Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Marco Rubio (R-FL) Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Katherine Tai, highlighting the importance of reconvening trade agreement talks with Taiwan.
“We respectfully request that you prioritize these talks and take steps to begin laying the groundwork for negotiation of a free trade agreement (FTA), or other preliminary agreement, with Taiwan,” the Senators wrote.
“Taiwan is the tenth largest trading partner of the United States—surpassing more populous nations such as India, France, and Italy—and the eighth largest market for American agricultural products. It embraces high standards of labor rights and environmental protection. We can all be confident that an agreement negotiated with Taiwan could serve as a model for what a high-standard FTA should look like,” the Senators continued.
“Beyond commerce and investment, Taiwan has proven itself to be a true friend to the United States and a model of a vibrant democracy. While Chinese authorities denied American companies operating in China the ability to send personal protective equipment (PPE) back home during the pandemic, Taiwan stood up production lines of PPE for the United States when we were most in need,” the Senators concluded.
Joining Warner and Rubio in sending the letter were Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Chris Coons (D-CT), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Joe Manchin (D-WV), John Boozman (R-AR), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Todd Young (R-IN), Steve Daines (R-MT), Rick Scott (R-FL), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Thune (R-SD), Tim Scott (R-SC), Mike Braun (R-IN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Mike Lee (R-UT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mike Rounds (R-SD), James Lankford (R-OK), Rand Paul (R-KY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Ted Cruz (R-TX), John Hoeven (R-ND), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Bill Hagerty (R-TN).
Dear Ambassador Tai:
As you move to establish your early priorities, we are pleased to see that the resumption of talks with Taiwan under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) is among your areas of focus. The last TIFA meeting was held in October 2016, which is far too long ago when one considers Taiwan’s importance as a trade partner to the United States. For this reason, we were gratified to see reports that you held a virtual meeting with Taiwan’s top trade official, John Deng, on June 9, 2021 and committed to reconvene TIFA talks in the coming weeks. We respectfully request that you prioritize these talks and take steps to begin laying the groundwork for negotiation of a free trade agreement (FTA), or other preliminary agreement, with Taiwan.
In August 2020, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen announced her intention to remove, and later removed, what had been a major obstacle to the pursuit of a FTA: import restrictions on certain U.S. beef and pork products. It is now time for the United States to reciprocate and begin negotiations. It is clear that the United States stands to gain much in doing so.
Taiwan is the tenth largest trading partner of the United States—surpassing more populous nations such as India, France, and Italy—and the eighth largest market for American agricultural products. It embraces high standards of labor rights and environmental protection. We can all be confident that an agreement negotiated with Taiwan could serve as a model for what a high-standard FTA should look like. It will facilitate free trade under fair conditions that allow American workers, producers, and companies alike to flourish. Advanced economies such as Singapore and New Zealand have paved the way by signing their own FTAs with Taiwan.
Beyond commerce and investment, Taiwan has proven itself to be a true friend to the United States and a model of a vibrant democracy. While Chinese authorities denied American companies operating in China the ability to send personal protective equipment (PPE) back home during the pandemic, Taiwan stood up production lines of PPE for the United States when we were most in need. Despite Beijing’s endless efforts to isolate and bully, Taiwan remains everything we want the Indo-Pacific region to be: a democratic, free market economy that is a reliable partner to the United States. Lastly, trade talks with Taiwan are also of great strategic importance. Maintaining U.S. economic influence in the region and reducing Taiwan’s dependence on China is essential to ensuring that the region remains free and open.
Thank you again for committing to resume TIFA talks with Taiwan in the coming weeks. We appreciate your continued attention to this important matter.
Warner & Kaine Statement on Nominations of Heytens for Fourth Circuit and Giles, Nachmanoff for Eastern District of Virginia
Jun 30 2021
WASHINGTON —Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement on President Biden’s nominations of Virginia Solicitor General Toby J. Heytens for the upcoming vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and Patricia Tolliver Giles and U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael S. Nachmanoff for the vacancies on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division.
“We are pleased that the President has nominated Mr. Heytens, Ms. Giles, and Judge Nachmanoff to fill these vacancies,” said the Senators. “Based on their fairness, temperament, and integrity, we believe they will all serve Virginia and the country with distinction. We hope our colleagues will join us to support these well-qualified nominees.”
In May, Warner and Kaine sent a letter to the President, recommending Mr. Heytens, along with U.S. District Court Judges Arenda Wright Allen and Hannah Lauck, for the vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit following Judge Barbara M. Keenan’s decision to take senior status in August 2021. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is based in Richmond and hears federal appeals from Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
In April, the Senators sent a letter to President Biden, recommending Ms. Giles and U.S. Magistrate Judge Nachmanoff for the vacancy in the Alexandria Division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia following Judge Liam O’Grady’s decision to take senior status. Shortly thereafter, another vacancy opened in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to succeed Judge Anthony Trenga, who assumed senior status June 1, 2021.
These nominations are subject to confirmation by the full Senate.
Jun 29 2021
WASHINGTON – With Congress preparing to take up this year’s government funding legislation, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have formally requested robust funding to ensure the full implementation of the Ashanti Alert system. This alert system was authorized through the Ashanti Alert Act, a law authored and championed by Sen. Warner to help save lives.
“As you prepare the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 appropriations, we write to respectfully request that you work to ensure that the Department of Justice (DOJ) implements the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 (Pub L. 115-401), and that this effort is fully funded in FY 2022,” wrote the senators in a letter to Congressional leaders in charge of distributing funding. “It is imperative that the Ashanti Alert Act receives full funding and the Department fully implement it in order to advance its goals of transforming the lives and safety of Americans. Full funding ensures that DOJ, law enforcement agencies, and relevant entities and stakeholders have the necessary resources to implement the Ashanti Alert network effectively at the soonest possible date.”
The Ashanti Alert Act is named after Ashanti Billie, a 19-year-old woman who was abducted on her way to work at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in September 2017, and whose body was discovered in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing. Due to her age, Ashanti did not meet the criteria for an Amber or Silver Alert – tools utilized by law enforcement that allow the public to assist in locating missing children or senior citizens. The law requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to establish a national communications network, named the Ashanti Alert, that would notify the public about missing or endangered adults through radio and television broadcast systems. The law also requires the Attorney General to designate a national coordinator to work with states to establish Ashanti Alert systems and to develop voluntary guidelines that states and territories should use in creating their networks.
In their letter, the senators also praised recent progress by the DOJ, including its efforts to encourage states, territories, and tribes to adopt Ashanti Alert plans, and to assist various states in ensuring that their existing alert programs for missing adults are consistent with national Ashanti Alert guidance.
Sen. Warner, who secured unanimous passage of this national alert system in December of 2018, has long led the fight to implement the Ashanti Alert nationwide. In August 2019, he reiterated the need for the swift implementation of the alert during a meeting with Katherine Sullivan, the then-Ashanti Alert Coordinator and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice (DOJ). In July 2020, Sen. Warner sent a letter to Governors across the country inviting their law enforcement officials to participate in a DOJ webinar to help states learn how they can begin to implement this critical program. Most recently, he helped secure $1 million in federal funding in the December 2020 emergency government funding legislation to help with the nationwide implementation of the Ashanti Alert system.
A PDF of the letter is available here. Text is available below.
Dear Chairman Shaheen and Ranking Member Moran:
As you prepare the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 appropriations, we write to respectfully request that you work to ensure that the Department of Justice (DOJ) implements the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 (Pub L. 115-401), and that this effort is fully funded in FY 2022. We appreciate that the Subcommittee included $1 million for Ashanti Alert Network funding in the FY21 spending bill, and we were pleased that President Biden, too, has recognized the importance of the Ashanti Alert in his proposed budget for FY22.
On December 31, 2018, the Ashanti Alert Act was signed into law, after it passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives with strong bipartisan support. The law requires DOJ to establish a national communications network, named the Ashanti Alert, to assist regional and local search efforts for certain missing adults. In addition, the Ashanti Alert Act requires the Attorney General to designate a national coordinator to work with states to establish Ashanti Alert systems and to develop voluntary guidelines that states (as well as territories) should use in creating their networks.
In the FY20 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 116-93), Congress directed DOJ to report on both the status of its Ashanti Alert Act implementation efforts, as well as establish a deadline for final implementation no later than March 19, 2020. While DOJ has not yet fully implemented the program, we are glad to see recent progress. The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), which administers the Ashanti Alert program, is assisting various states with their existing alert programs for missing adults in an effort to ensure the programs are consistent with national Ashanti Alert guidance. Additionally, BJA is encouraging all other states, territories, and tribes to adopt Ashanti Alert plans and has identified states and tribes to serve as possible pilot sites for enhancing Ashanti alerting capabilities. Two states, including Virginia, have adopted formal Ashanti Alert programs.
This law was borne out of the tragic death of Ashanti Billie, a 19 year old who was abducted in Norfolk, Virginia and whose body was discovered 11 days after she was first reported missing. Because Ashanti was too old for an Amber Alert to be issued and no similar network for adults existed at the time, her parents, family, and friends struggled to get word out of her disappearance in a timely fashion.
Thus, it is imperative that the Ashanti Alert Act receives full funding and the Department fully implement it in order to advance its goals of transforming the lives and safety of Americans. Full funding ensures that DOJ, law enforcement agencies, and relevant entities and stakeholders have the necessary resources to implement the Ashanti Alert network effectively at the soonest possible date.
We appreciate the Subcommittee’s past support for the Ashanti Alert Act, and efforts made by Subcommittee staff to ensure implementation. We hope the Subcommittee will continue to demonstrate strong support for the Ashanti Alert Act for FY 2022.
Thank you for your consideration of our request.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) applauded an announcement from the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) that it has selected a location for a new Southside outpatient clinic for veterans in Hampton Roads. The 196,000-square-foot outpatient facility will be constructed on a 25-acre parcel of land on the Chesapeake Regional Hospital campus and is the result of a successful bipartisan effortoriginally spearheaded by Sen. Warner in 2016 to approve 28 overdue Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility leases, including another outpatient clinic in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
“This new outpatient facility is long-overdue in a region with one of the fastest-growing veterans populations in the country, and where veterans often battle traffic and long wait times to access the care they’ve earned,” said Sen. Warner today. “After years of delays, I’m pleased that a site for this new VA clinic in Southside Hampton Roads has finally been selected, and look forward to working with local and federal officials to make sure that it opens its doors as soon as possible.”
High demand has often meant long wait times for care at VA medical facilities in Hampton Roads, where enrollees are expected to increase by 44 percent over the next 20 years, and outpatient workload is expected to increase by more than 70 percent. Sen. Warner has been pushingunder three different presidents to get the long-planned Southside clinic up and running to alleviate demand in the region. While the veteran population in Virginia is predicted to grow more than two percent over the next several years, enrollees at the Hampton VA are expected to rise approximately 16 percent within the same timeframe.
During his time in the Senate, Sen. Warner has fought to reduce wait times for veterans in Hampton Roads. In 2015, confronted with wait times that were three times the national average, Sen. Warner successfully urged the VA to send down a team of experts to address the problem. He also succeeded in getting the Northern Virginia Technology Council to issue a free report detailing how to reduce wait times.
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $13,715,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded to four airports across the Commonwealth to fund infrastructure improvements to the airports’ runways.
“We are pleased to see these federal dollars awarded to the Commonwealth to go toward updating four of Virginia’s airport runways,” said the Senators. “This funding will enable our airports to better support travelers and economic opportunities for the surrounding areas.”
A breakdown of the funding is below:
- Virginia Highlands Airport Commission will receive a grant of $3,216,000 to go toward a runway extension at the Virginia Highlands Airport in Abingdon.
- Stafford Regional Airport Authority will receive a grant of $5,499,000 to go toward a runway extension at the Stafford Regional Airport in Stafford.
- Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will receive a grant of $3,300,000 to go toward a runway reconstruction at the Washington Dulles International Airport in Dulles.
- Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will receive a grant of $1,700,000 to go toward a runway reconstruction at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement upon the release of a congressionally-mandated declassified report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP):
“I was first briefed on these unidentified aerial phenomena nearly three years ago. Since then, the frequency of these incidents only appears to be increasing. The United States must be able to understand and mitigate threats to our pilots, whether they’re from drones or weather balloons or adversary intelligence capabilities. Today’s rather inconclusive report only marks the beginning of efforts to understand and illuminate what is causing these risks to aviation in many areas around the country and the world.”
Warner & Kaine Announce More Than $4.8 Million to Update Community Infrastructure Needs & Equipment Across Virginia
Jun 25 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Senator Tim Kaine announced $4,869,900 in federal grants and loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded to communities across the Commonwealth to fund much needed infrastructure improvements. The funding was awarded through the Community Facilities Direct Loan & Grant Program, the Community Facilities Guaranteed Loan Program, the Community Facilities Disaster Grants, and the Economic Impact Initiative Grants Program, all administered by USDA Rural Development.
“We are glad to see these federal dollars go toward much needed equipment and infrastructure updates across the Commonwealth,” said the Senators.“These vital investments will help ensure our cities and towns have the tools and resources they need to continue to build back better.”
Community Facilities Direct Loans, Grants, Disaster Grants, and Guaranteed Loans programs offer direct loans, loan guarantees, and grants to develop or improve essential public facilities in rural communities. The funding will be awarded through a grant-loan combination. A breakdown of the funding is below:
- Town of Onancock will receive a grant of $33,000 and loan of $62,000 to purchase two patrol vehicles for the town.
- Town of Colonial Beach will receive a grant of $67,400 and a loan of $382,200 to purchase a public works jet truck equipped with a hydro-excavation package, high capacity vacuum system, tandem axles, and high pressure jetting system, including a 1,000 foot hose and increased water storage.
- Eastern Shore Public Library in Nassawadox will receive a grant of $24,000 to purchase a security and fire alarm, and additional office equipment.
- Town of Cape Charles will receive a grant of $29,000 and a loan of $55,800 to purchase remote read water meters and a new 4-wheel drive pickup truck for the public utilities department.
- Town of Eastville will receive two grants – one of $6,000 and another of $50,000 – and a loan of $104,200 to purchase a patrol vehicle, a pickup truck, a dump trailer, and a generator to update the town’s public works department.
- Health Equipment Loan Program (H.E.L.P.) in Churchville will receive a grant of $25,000 and a loan of $155,000 to purchase a building and medical equipment to serve residents of Augusta County.
- Town of Tazewell will receive a grant of $50,000 to purchase two new patrol vehicles.
- Stickleyville Volunteer Fire Department in Duffield will receive a grant of $11,200 to purchase a used fire truck.
- Drakes Branch Volunteer Fire Department will receive a grant of $19,500 to purchase a utility terrain vehicle (UTV), trailer and equipment.
- County of Dickenson will receive a grant of $50,000 to purchase two patrol vehicles.
- Mount Rogers Community Services, Inc. in Wytheville will receive a loan of $3,000,000 to purchase a building and manage renovations to provide appropriate space for employees and services.
- Town of Gate City will receive a grant of $26,200 and loan of $48,800 to purchase two used patrol vehicles.
- City of Norton will receive a grant of $50,000 and loan of $55,000 to purchase two new patrol vehicles.
- Town of Lawrenceville will receive a grant of $200,000 and a loan of $225,800 to purchase a 3,000 gallon tanker fire truck.
- Town of Brodnax will receive a grant of $66,000 and a loan of $22,000 to purchase three sewer pumps and a pump station.
Economic Impact Initiative Grants program provide essential community facilities in rural communities. A breakdown of the funding is below:
- Town of Bowling Green will receive a grant of $21,300 to purchase a utility terrain vehicle (UTV), trailer and equipment for the town’s fire department, and a grant of $30,500 to purchase a public works truck.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $5,150,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded to Blacksburg Transit (BT). The funding will go toward the purchase of nine electric buses and three charging stations to replace some of the provider’s old diesel buses currently used in its fleet.
“We’re pleased to announce this funding that will be used to support much-needed upgrades to BT’s fleet and infrastructure. These federal dollars will help provide people in Southwest Virginia with more clean and reliable transportation options,” said the Senators.
BT provides public transportation for Blacksburg, Virginia Tech, Christiansburg, and parts of Montgomery County in Southwest Virginia.
Warner and Kaine have been leaders in the Senate on efforts to support public and clean energy transportation in Virginia. In March, Kaine sent a letter of support to DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg for this BT project in Blacksburg.
The funding was awarded through DOT’s Low or No Emission (Low-No) Vehicle Program which provides funding to state and local transit agencies to help purchase or lease low or no-emission buses as well as acquisition, construction, and leasing of required supporting facilities to encourage cleaner, energy-efficient service in communities across the country.