Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $19,155,185 in federal funding to provide economic relief to 11 airports across Virginia. The funding, awarded through the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), was authorized by the December 2020 emergency COVID-19 relief bill supported by Sens. Warner and Kaine.

“We are happy to announce that these funds will go towards supporting 11 airports in Virginia,” said the Senators. “While we work to get folks vaccinated and the economy back on track, these dollars will help ensure that our regional airports have what they need to continue combating COVID-19 and serving travelers.” 

The funding will be distributed as follows:

Airport:

Location:

Amount:

Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport 

Albemarle County

$2,928,978

Culpeper Regional Airport

Culpeper County

$23,000

Louisa County/Freeman Field Airport

Louisa County

$13,000

Lynchburg Regional Airport

Campbell County

$1,261,006

Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport

Newport News

$1,951,578

Norfolk International Airport

Norfolk

$5,768,825

Richmond International Airport

Henrico County

$6,143,825

Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport

Augusta County

$ 1,005,973

Stafford Regional Airport 

Stafford County

$13,000

Warrenton-Fauquier Airport

Fauquier County

$23,000

Winchester Regional Airport

Frederick County

$23,000

Specifically, this funding will go towards helping airports cover costs related to operations, personnel, cleaning, sanitization, janitorial services, debt service payments, and efforts to combat the spread of pathogens.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have long fought for increased investments to infrastructure, including for Virginia’s airports. Most recently, they supported the passage and signing of the American Rescue Plan, which provides robust transportation funding for airports and other transit systems throughout Virginia.

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WASHINGTON – Across Virginia, relief funds are headed to schools, localities and bank accounts, as a result of the American Rescue Plan that was signed into law earlier this month.

An overview of resources going to Virginia as a result of the American Rescue Plan can be found here. A list of direct aid amounts for local governments in Virginia are available here.

Here’s what some local leaders around Virginia are saying:

“Since day one, local governments have been on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19. Across the country, municipal employees have been dogged in working to defeat the virus and carry out vital functions despite immense budgetary uncertainty. I am thankful to Senator Warner for making sure Fairfax County has the funding critical to continuing to fight the virus and vaccinate our residents while maintaining essential services and promoting the economic recovery.” – Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay

“Prince William County has weathered immense challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding in this relief bill will help us emerge from this crisis stronger than ever as it will address the needs of all families and address local inequities which have become more visible during this crisis. I am grateful for Senator Warner and his tireless leadership during this current health and economic crisis.”  – Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chair Ann Wheeler

“The Town of Dumfries is extremely grateful to be a direct recipient of funding from the ARP.  We will continue to use the funding to help our community defeat this virus and rebuild our economy.  We appreciate Senator Warner for making sure that localities like the Town of Dumfries and our residents have much-needed resources to weather the season of this pandemic.” – Dumfries Mayor Derrick Wood

“On behalf of all Alexandrians, I want to share my heartfelt gratitude to Senator Warner, Senator Kaine and Representative Beyer for their assistance in achieving this legislation. The assistance from the American Rescue Plan will help our residents and business community in many ways over the coming years and will certainly expedite our recovery after the devastating economic and personal impacts of the last year. We will continue to persevere together, and this aid will help to see us through to the other side of this global pandemic.” – Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson

“Cities like Richmond have been on the front lines of this pandemic for a year now, and we all know that communities of color have disproportionately borne the brunt of the public health threat and economic devastation wrought by COVID-19. As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, the American Rescue Plan will give us the economic shot in the arm we need to continue to fight the battle against COVID and help us recover the right way. I’m grateful to President Biden and leaders like Senator Warner for coming to the rescue of Virginia – and the City of Richmond.” – Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney

“It’s an opening to transform our town. It’s a historic chance to make a lasting difference, to turn a painful time into a promising one.” – Scottsville Vice Mayor Laura Mellusi

“The American Rescue Plan will allow the City to disburse the money more quickly and efficiently than previous funding, which is incredibly important because it includes critical financial support for municipal services as well as direct relief for citizens and businesses. The ARP Act took a holistic and thoughtful approach by recognizing that several funding sources should work together on behalf of businesses. For example, the mechanism by which entities can take advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program can also apply for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) administered by the Small Business Administration. This is a great example of how local governments can help our federal partners get funding directly where it is needed most.” – Virginia Beach Mayor Robert M. “Bobby” Dyer

“Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, the city of Hampton will receive millions in direct fiscal relief to help deal with the effects of COVID-19. Our residents have been hard-hit by the health and economic effects of the virus. This relief funding – along with other aid to this region for schools, transit, and more – will go a long way to helping us respond and set Hampton on a path to a strong recovery from the pandemic.” – Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck

“Chesapeake has been extremely hard-hit by the effects of COVID-19. The direct funding for Chesapeake that the American Rescue Plan provides will help us continue our efforts to defeat the virus and build back our economy. I am thankful to Senator Warner for making sure the Chesapeake and our residents have the tools we need to deal with the effects of the pandemic.” – Chesapeake City Council Member Dr. Ella D. Ward 

“The passage of the American Rescue Plan provides direct aid to localities which have been significantly impacted by COVID-19. These resources will allow Bristol, VA and localities across the nation to continue to provide services to citizens even when localities have seen substantial negative impacts to their revenue. Local government employees have continued to serve their communities during the pandemic with minimal interruptions from COVID-19, and this funding will allow us purchase items to fight the virus in order to keep our schools, children and citizens safe.” – Bristol City Manager Randall Eads

“Local governments have been on the frontline since the beginning of the pandemic providing critical public health and essential services, and ensuring the well-being of our most vulnerable citizens. For more than a year, we have continued this important work despite the immense challenges and fiscal uncertainty we have faced due to COVID-19 and the subsequent economic fallout. This critical funding will help us to continue fighting the virus and expedite the vaccinating of our residents while maintaining the delivery of core services and promoting the economic recovery.” – Pulaski County Administrator Jonathan D. Sweet

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

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

The following organizations will receive funding as listed below: 

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

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

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

The following projects will receive funding as listed below:

Recipient

Location

FEMA Share Previously 

 

Cost Share Adjustment

Fairfax County

Fairfax

$5,147,564.33

$1,715,854.77

City of Alexandria

Alexandria

$3,675,732.45

$1,225,244.15

Virginia Department of Emergency Management

Richmond

$50,773,516.83

$16,924,505.61

Centra Health

Lynchburg

$4,285,914.02

$1,428,638.00

Virginia Department of Emergency Management

Richmond

$4,862,422.42

$1,620,807.47

Total: 

 

$68,745,150.05

$22,915,050

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that two emergency projects across the Commonwealth will receive $2,624,138.82 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The federal funds will be used to communicate COVID-19 warnings and guidance to Virginians, and procure and utilize medical supplies and equipment to combat the virus. 

“We’re glad to see these federal dollars go towards managing, controlling, and reducing the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” said the Senators. “As Virginians continue to wear a mask, social distance, and get tested and vaccinated, we remain committed to ensuring that the Commonwealth has the necessary tools and procedures to continue to combat this health crisis.”

The following projects will receive funding as listed below:

Recipient

Amount

Virginia Port Authority

$1,599,519.03

Virginia Beach   

$1,024,619.79

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

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

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

Recipient

City/Town

Award Amount

Neighborhood Health

Alexandria

$7,893,875

Blue Ridge Medical Center Inc.

Arrington

$1,861,750

Bland County Medical Clinic Inc. 

Bastian

$1,595,375

Free Clinic of the New River Valley, Inc. 

Christiansburg

$1,492,000

Piedmont Access to Health Services Inc. 

Danville

$3,666,625

Clinch River Health Services Inc. 

Dungannon

$950,375

Harrisonburg Community Health Center, Inc. 

Harrisonburg 

$3,441,625

St. Charles Health Council Inc. 

Jonesville

$3,021,125

Tri-Area Community Health 

Laurel Fork

$1,990,750

Loudoun Community Health Center

Leesburg

$3,976,500

Rockbridge Area Free Clinic 

Lexington

$1,629,000

Johnson Health Center 

Lynchburg

$4,305,625

Martinsville Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness 

Martinsville

$1,435,875

Highland Medical Center 

Monterey

$822,750

Central Virginia Health Services, Inc. 

New Canton

$8,864,625

Peninsula Institute for Community Health, Inc. 

Newport News

$4,659,500

Eastern Shore Rural Health System, Incorporated 

Onancock

$5,704,750

Portsmouth Community Health Center, Inc. 

Portsmouth

$2,767,125

Daily Planet Inc. 

Richmond

$2,259,375

Richmond, City of 

Richmond

$2,991,625

Kuumba Community Health & Wellness Center, Inc. 

Roanoke

$2,461,625

Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems, Inc. 

Saltville

$3,039,750

Stony Creek Community Health Center 

Stony Creek

$889,500

Southern Dominion Health Systems, Inc.

Victoria

$2,379,875

Horizon Health Services, Inc. 

Waverly

$1,159,250

Greater Prince William Area Community Health Center, Inc. 

Woodbridge

$4,647,375

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

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WASHINGTON – The day after Mark Zuckerberg testified before a congressional committee exploring the proliferation of misinformation on social media,  U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) pressed the Facebook CEO about the continued proliferation of anti-vaccine content on the company’s platforms, particularly Instagram.  

In a letter, Sen. Warner wrote, “Anti-vaccination groups and other health conspiracy groups have long utilized – and been enabled by – Facebook’s platforms to disseminate misinformation. Studies show a rapid increase in the spread of health misinformation online since the start of the pandemic. Yet on the very day that Facebook introduced its updated standards touted to address health misinformation media organizations noted that several of the top-ranked search results for ‘covid vaccine’ on Instagram were anti-vaccine accounts. I am deeply concerned that Facebook’s new policies will continue to lack the adequate enforcement needed to reduce the spread of harmful misinformation on its platforms.” 

In the correspondence, Warner noted the importance of promoting accurate information about vaccine safety, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently finding that nearly a third of U.S. adults surveyed reported they did not intend to get vaccinated, despite the proven safety and effectiveness of multiple COVID-19 vaccines. Experts estimate that 70 to 90 percent of Americans will need to be vaccinated before herd immunity can be achieved. 

“Facebook has previously committed to reducing the spread of misinformation on its platforms, implementing a ban on false claims about vaccines in groups, pages, and ads in April 2020  and promising to remove COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation from the platform in an effort to promote authoritative health information in February 2021,” Warner explained. “However, despite these promises, Facebook’s enforcement of its own policies is consistently and demonstrably insufficient, a trend we have seen in other areas where Facebook has pledged to address misuse of its products or instances of its products amplifying harmful content.”

A recent report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate found that Instagram’s algorithm promoted unsolicited content that featured anti-vaccine and COVID-19 misinformation to users across several features of the platform, including in the “Suggested Posts” section, which was introduced in August 2020 and directs users to recommended posts from accounts they do not follow based on users’ engagement with related posts. 

“The events of January 6th prove that there are real-world consequences when harmful misinformation is allowed to run rampant online, and I am concerned that Instagram – a platform which has generally escaped the level of scrutiny directed at Facebook, itself – is similarly enabling the spread of harmful misinformation that could hinder COVID-19 mitigation efforts and, ultimately, result in lives lost,” Warner wrote.

In the letter, Warner pressed Zuckerberg to respond to a series of questions about the platform’s policies and procedures for dealing with health misinformation, and requested that the CEO produce the company’s internal research into Instagram’s amplification of anti-vaccine content, groups, pages, and verified figures by April 23, 2021. 

Warner has long pressed social media platforms to crack down on the rapid proliferation of extremist content and harmful misinformation. In June 2020, Warner pressed Facebook regarding its failure to prevent the propagation of white supremacist groups online and its role providing these extremist groups with a platform to organize and radicalize other users. In October, Warner urged Facebook, Twitter and Google to implement robust transparency and accountability standards before the November election to minimize the spread of political misinformation.

Sen. Warner has written and introduced a series of bipartisan bills designed to protect consumers and reduce the power of giant social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google. Among these are the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act – bipartisan legislation to require data harvesting companies to tell consumers and financial regulators exactly what data they are collecting from consumers and how it is being leveraged by the platform for profit; the Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act – bipartisan legislation to prohibit large online platforms from using deceptive user interfaces to trick consumers into handing over their personal data; and the Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act – bipartisan legislation to encourage market-based competition to dominant social media platforms by requiring the largest companies to make user data portable – and their services interoperable – with other platforms, and to allow users to designate a trusted third-party service to manage their privacy and account settings, if they so choose.

Last month, Sen. Warner introduced the Safeguarding Against Fraud, Exploitation, Threats, Extremism and Consumer Harms (SAFE TECH) Act to reform Section 230 and allow social media companies to be held accountable for enabling cyber-stalking, targeted harassment, and discrimination on their platforms.  

A copy of today’s letter is available here, and the text appears in full below. 

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

I write to you today to express my concern for your companies’ continued amplification of harmful misinformation, particularly the spread of COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation promoted by the Instagram algorithm.

As the pandemic endures, the importance of promoting reliable health information only grows. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that nearly a third of U.S. adults surveyed reported they did not intend to get vaccinated.  With experts estimating 70 percent to 90 percent of Americans will need to be immunized before achieving herd immunity,  it is critical that individuals who are experiencing COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy are exposed to accurate information that will help them make informed decisions about the vaccine. 

Facebook has previously committed to reducing the spread of misinformation on its platforms, implementing a ban on false claims about vaccines in groups, pages, and ads in April 2020  and promising to remove COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation from the platform in an effort to promote authoritative health information in February 2021.  However, despite these promises, Facebook’s enforcement of its own policies is consistently and demonstrably insufficient, a trend we have seen in other areas where Facebook has pledged to address misuse of its products or instances of its products amplifying harmful content. Indeed, a coalition of State Attorneys General, including the Attorney General of Virginia, just last week wrote to you and the CEO of Twitter, accusing your companies of not taking “sufficient action to identify violations and enforce [existing] guidelines.” 

Anti-vaccination groups and other health conspiracy groups have long utilized – and been enabled by – Facebook’s platforms to disseminate misinformation. Studies show a rapid increase in the spread of health misinformation online since the start of the pandemic.  Yet on the very day that Facebook introduced its updated standards touted to address health misinformation media organizations noted that several of the top-ranked search results for “covid vaccine” on Instagram were anti-vaccine accounts.  I am deeply concerned that Facebook’s new policies will continue to lack the adequate enforcement needed to reduce the spread of harmful misinformation on its platforms. 

Further, a recent report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate found that Instagram’s algorithm promoted unsolicited content that featured anti-vaccine and COVID-19 misinformation to users across several features of the platform, including in the “Suggested Posts” section, which was only introduced in August 2020 and directs users to recommended posts from accounts they do not follow based on users’ engagement with related posts. If Facebook is truly committed to “[removing] false claims on Facebook and Instagram about COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines and vaccines in general during the pandemic,”  as the company has stated, its own algorithms should not be amplifying misinformation and promoting harmful content to users. 

For several years now, I have raised concerns that your content recommendation algorithms have disproportionately surfaced disinformation, misinformation, violent extremist content, and other harmful content. In June 2020, I wrote to you with concern that white supremacist and violent right-wing extremist groups were radicalizing users on your platforms and that Facebook’s algorithms – including its group recommendation feature – aided in that radicalization. In October of the same year, I wrote again to urge Facebook and other social media companies to implement robust transparency and accountability standards before the November election to minimize the spread of political misinformation. The events of January 6th prove that there are real-world consequences when harmful misinformation is allowed to run rampant online, and I am concerned that Instagram – a platform which has generally escaped the level of scrutiny directed at Facebook, itself – is similarly enabling the spread of harmful misinformation that could hinder COVID-19 mitigation efforts and, ultimately, result in lives lost. 

These examples demonstrate Facebook’s continued unwillingness or inability to enforce its own Community Standards and take action to reduce the spread of misinformation on its platforms. More concerningly, a recent report suggests that Facebook has failed to address the ways in which its products directly contribute towards radicalization, misinformation proliferation, and hate speech – deprioritizing or dismissing a range of proposed product reforms and interventions because of their tendency to depress user engagement with your products.  

Eliminating misinformation on your platforms is a valuable and necessary undertaking as online health misinformation can have a substantive impact on users’ intent to get vaccinated, with people exposed to COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation shown to be more likely to express vaccine hesitancy than those who were not.  Further, public health authorities shoulder an even greater burden – at a time of profound resource and budget strain – to combat misinformation amplified by platforms like Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp. Given that over half of Americans rely on social media to get their news, with Facebook in particular serving as a “regular source of news” for about a third of Americans,  it is critical that Facebook take seriously its influence on users’ health decisions.  

To address these concerns, I request that you provide responses to the following questions by April 23, 2021: 

1.      What procedures does Facebook have to exclude misinformation from its recommendation algorithm, specifically on Instagram? 

2.      Please provide my office with Facebook internal research of the platform’s amplification of anti-vaccine content, groups, pages, and verified figures.

3.      Why were posts with content warnings about health misinformation promoted into Instagram feeds? 

4.      When developing the new Suggested Posts function, what efforts did Facebook make to ensure that the new tool was only recommending reliable information? 

5.      What is the process for the removal of prominent anti-vaccine accounts, and what is the rationale for disabling such users’ accounts from one of Facebook’s platforms but not others?

6.      How often are you briefed on the COVID-19 misinformation on Instagram and across Facebook platforms?

7.      Did Facebook perform safety checks to prevent the algorithmic amplification of COVID-19 misinformation? What did those safety protocols entail? 

8.      Will anti-vaccine content continue to be monitored and removed after the COVID-19 pandemic? 

9.      Please provide my office with Facebook’s policies for informing users that they were exposed to misinformation and how Facebook plans to remedy those harms. 

10.  Combatting health misinformation amplified by large social media platforms puts an additional strain on the time, resources, and budgets of public health agencies – often requiring them to spend on online ads on the very platforms amplifying and propelling misinformation they must counter. Will you commit to provide free advertising for state and local public health authorities working to combat health misinformation?

Health misinformation on social media platforms like Facebook is a serious threat to COVID-19 mitigation efforts and could ultimately prolong this public health emergency. Given the urgency and severity of these consequences, I appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,           

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

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

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

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a former Governor of Virginia, wrote a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam urging him to do everything he can to accelerate Virginia Employment Commission’s (VEC) process of disbursing benefits to unemployment insurance claimants now that the American Rescue Plan has been signed into law.

“I am writing this letter today to urge you to use every lever at your disposal to speed up the process by which unemployment insurance claimants can receive their benefits. As of this writing, President Biden has signed the American Rescue Plan into law,” wrote Sen. Warner in his letter to Governor Northam. “The new law extends the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program for the long-term unemployed, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for self-employed and gig workers, and the newly created Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) benefit that I championed for workers with mixed sources of income.” 

The American Rescue Plan provided billions in federal relief for struggling Virginians who are out of work through no fault of their own by extending the historic unemployment insurance reforms established in the CARES Act through September 6, 2021. The bill extended the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for the self-employed, gig workers, freelancers and others in non-traditional employment; the $300 in weekly federal enhancement to state benefits; and the additional weeks of federal unemployment insurance for workers who exhaust their regular state benefits.

Warner noted, “It is my understanding that, following earlier passage of congressional legislation to extend these programs in December, constituents in Virginia faced many delays and communication problems with the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC). With the knowledge that these benefit systems were originally set to expire on December 26th, I worked with a bipartisan and bicameral group of lawmakers in the U.S. Congress to pass a relief package shortly before Christmas because it was understood that loss of benefits at this time of the year would be particularly cruel. Now, several months later, I hope you can agree that for constituents still experiencing delays the lack of pandemic unemployment insurance is unconscionable.”

In his letter to Gov. Northam, Sen. Warner referenced three items he would like the VEC to report back on:

  1. What changes are being administered to ensure seamless disbursement of current PEUC/PUA funds and a seamless transition into this new PEUC/PUA extension into September 6th? 
  2. What are the current plans to improve the communications between VEC and Virginians? 
  3. What are the current plans to improve communications between VEC and employers to quickly determine worker eligibility for UI benefits and approve claims?

Sen. Warner also urged the VEC to implement six key solutions to address communication issues and provide clarity for Virginians seeking benefits by:

  1. Providing detailed status updates on CARES Act related unemployment insurance benefits via vec.virginia.gov and getgov2go.com and through press releases.
  2. Establishing a more robust phone system and customer service protocol. 
  3. Providing updates across all VEC websites as well as web.getgov2go.com
  4. If individuals must file a new claim, allowing the new claimant to use the previous PIN in order to prevent a further lag in weekly benefits due to postal service delays. 
  5. Working with the Virginia Commission on Unemployment Compensation to collaborate on ways that the Virginia General Assembly can improve benefits delivery to constituents. 
  6. Partnering with a nonprofit, non-partisan entity such as the U.S. Digital Response (USDR) or 18F, an office within the U.S. General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Services (TTS), to address practical, low-cost ways to modernize technology and streamline the payment process. 

Concluded Warner, “I recognize that some of the issues experienced at the state level have been a direct result of the burden inherited from a patchwork unemployment insurance system that has not been updated since its inception. For that reason, I recently co-sponsored the Unemployment Insurance Technology Modernization Act to make sure that the U.S. Department of Labor has the resources to develop a robust technology system that states can opt into using. This new system would address many of the issues that have caused delays for claimants and I will continue to work to pass this bill into law. In the meantime, I plan to also ask the DOL to more proactively communicate with state agencies, consider issuing guidance on automatic renewal of claims, evaluate the funding formula to make sure it does not disadvantage large diverse states like the Commonwealth, and address fraud issues that have led to complications in implementation.” 

From the start of this crisis, Sen. Warner, a former tech entrepreneur and longtime leader on labor issues affecting contractors and the contingent workforce, has pushed to expand benefits for Americans who have found themselves unemployed through no fault of their own during the pandemic. In the months following passage of the CARES Act, Sen. Warner urged states to quickly implement federal provisions easing restrictions on emergency unemployment benefits, and called on the Department of Labor (DOL) to issue and clarify state guidance in order to ensure that workers were able to receive benefits. He also introduced legislation to help guarantee that Americans who earn a living through a mix of traditional (W-2) and independent employment income (1099) were able to fully access the financial relief made available under the PUA program.

The full text of the letter can be found here and below.

Dear Governor Northam: 

I am writing this letter today to urge you to use every lever at your disposal to speed up the process by which unemployment insurance claimants can receive their benefits. As of this writing, President Biden has signed the American Rescue Plan into law. The new law extends the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program for the long-term unemployed, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for self-employed and gig workers, and the newly created Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) benefit that I championed for workers with mixed sources of income. The new expiration date for these programs is September 6th, 2021.

Congress created these pandemic unemployment programs to disburse benefits to workers who would normally not be eligible for unemployment assistance for a variety of reasons. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there were 171,364 continuing PUA claims and 29,425 PEUC claims in Virginia as of the week of February 27th. These workers include employees with insufficient earnings or work history to qualify for the regular state unemployment program, the long-term unemployed who have exhausted state benefits, domestic workers, freelance workers, contractors, and workers with mixed sources of income. Without these new programs and with limited opportunities for employment in this pandemic economy, these workers have no alternative safety net.

It is my understanding that, following earlier passage of congressional legislation to extend these programs in December, constituents in Virginia faced many delays and communication problems with the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC). With the knowledge that these benefit systems were originally set to expire on December 26th, I worked with a bipartisan and bicameral group of lawmakers in the U.S. Congress to pass a relief package shortly before Christmas because it was understood that loss of benefits at this time of the year would be particularly cruel. Now, several months later, I hope you can agree that for constituents still experiencing delays the lack of pandemic unemployment insurance is unconscionable.

I am hearing about this issue from constituents all across the Commonwealth. A constituent in Warrenton let us know that she applied to the PUA program weeks ago. She tried calling the VEC’s customer service line every day, all day for weeks. She then received a letter instructing her to provide more information and a phone number to call. When she called, VEC had no record of her application. The situation for this constituent is severe, she is now homeless. Another constituent in Centreville indicated he has not received benefits since December 26th. This constituent has a family with two children and cannot pay rent for February, insurance bills, or phone bills.

From Newport News to Henrico to Alexandria, constituents are contacting my office from every corner of the Commonwealth with desperate requests for relief. Some of them have waited 3 months, others have waited 11 months, and many are struggling to feed their children and keep a roof over their heads.

Now that President Biden has signed the American Rescue Plan into law and provided months of additional relief, it is imperative that the VEC work diligently to speed up the process of disbursing benefits to constituents and proactively communicate with claimants. I understand that earlier delays in delivering benefits were partly a result of time-intensive deliberations between the VEC and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that could have been streamlined. In light of these issues, I would like the VEC to report on the following: 

  1. What changes are being administered to ensure seamless disbursement of current PEUC/PUA funds and a seamless transition into this new PEUC/PUA extension into September 6th?

  1. What are the current plans to improve the communications between VEC and Virginians?

  1. What are the current plans to improve communications between VEC and employers to quickly determine worker eligibility for UI benefits and approve claims?

To address these communication issues going forward and provide clarity for the citizens Commonwealth, I recommend that the VEC implement the following solutions:

  1. Provide detailed status updates on CARES Act related unemployment insurance benefits via vec.virginia.gov and getgov2go.com and through press releases, in order to reassure individuals that they will receive back-pay for the weeks they have certified. Official and concrete communications will allow Virginians to better communicate with landlords, utility companies, and others.

  1. Establish a more robust phone system and customer service protocol. VEC should allow individuals who do not connect immediately with a representative to register on a “waitlist” or receive an approximation of when a representative will call them back. In addition, such an automated system would provide information such as the phone number that will call them and what materials should be readily available to ensure a more efficient conversation. The phone system should have two simple options for those who call in regarding claims and benefit questions versus technical, web-based questions regarding web.getgov2go.com. These measures would also help VEC prioritize phone tasks more efficiently.

  1. Provide updates across all VEC websites as well as web.getgov2go.com. Automatically sign up those with getgov2go.com profiles to receive update emails. Create a visible notice specifically on the getgov2go website, reminding individuals to check their email spam settings and their getgov2go messages in order to mitigate constituents missing out on important information.

  1. If individuals must file a new claim, allow the new claimant to use the previous PIN in order to prevent a further lag in weekly benefits due to an unreliable USPS. Recommend that VEC establish an online functionality to retrieve one’s PIN if lost or forgotten using corroborating information such as a recent utility bill or picture of an identification card before establishing the sole recourse of requesting one’s PIN via mail. Prepare the web.getgov2go.com website for the new extension of PUA, PEUC, and MEUC into September 6th, 2021.

  1. Work with the Virginia Commission on Unemployment Compensation to collaborate on ways that the Virginia General Assembly can improve benefits delivery to constituents.

  1. Partner with a nonprofit, non-partisan entity such as the U.S. Digital Response (USDR) or 18F, an office within the U.S. General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Services (TTS) to address practical, low-cost ways to modernize technology and streamline the payment process. We know other states, such as Wisconsin, have gone this route with immediate success.

I recognize that some of the issues experienced at the state level have been a direct result of the burden inherited from a patchwork unemployment insurance system that has not been updated since its inception. For that reason, I recently co-sponsored the Unemployment Insurance Technology Modernization Act to make sure that the U.S. Department of Labor has the resources to develop a robust technology system that states can opt into using. This new system would address many of the issues that have caused delays for claimants and I will continue to work to pass this bill into law. In the meantime, I plan to also ask the DOL to more proactively communicate with state agencies, consider issuing guidance on automatic renewal of claims, evaluate the funding formula to make sure it does not disadvantage large diverse states like the Commonwealth, and address fraud issues that have led to complications in implementation.

Thank you for your timely attention to this request.

Sincerely, 

###

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., joined Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Representative Steven Horsford, D-Nev., in sending a bicameral letter to Labor Secretary Marty Walsh outlining priorities for $2 billion in American Rescue Plan funding to overhaul unemployment insurance administration and technology.

The 30 senators and members of Congress are requesting the administration use their legislation, the Unemployment Insurance Technology Modernization Act, as a guide for a technology overhaul. The bill would establish one set of technology and security capabilities for state unemployment offices, and pave the way for one website to apply for unemployment benefits, not 53.  

The letter was signed by Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., 

The letter was also signed by Representatives Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Don Beyer, D-Va., Dwight Evans, D-Pa., Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., Sharice L. Davids, D-Kans., Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Ga., Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-District of Columbia, Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J, Susie Lee, D-Nev., Kweisi Mfume, D-Md., Hank Johnson, Jr., D-Ga., and Terri A. Sewell, D-Ala.

In the letter to Secretary Walsh, the senators and members of Congress wrote, “We strongly urge the Department to use the Unemployment Insurance Technology Modernization Act as a guide for any modernization efforts. The past year has proven that individual states attempting to modernize their system in isolation hasn’t yielded results, and that failure has contributed to unconscionable delays for millions of workers. A cohesive federal approach would not only ensure that every state has access to modern, efficient technology to meet their needs, but would also be far more cost effective than investing in 53 separate systems.”

Full text of the letter follows: 

Dear Secretary Walsh:

We are writing to request that as the Department of Labor (the Department) considers how to use the $2 billion appropriated for fraud prevention, equitable access, and timely payment in the American Rescue Plan, the Department should focus any technology and infrastructure modernization efforts on developing federal technology capabilities for unemployment insurance administration. The Unemployment Insurance Technology Modernization Act (S.490/H.R.1458), recently introduced by Senator Wyden in the Senate and Representative Horsford in the House of Representatives with 47 cosponsors between the Senate and House bills, can be used as a guide for this kind of robust modernization effort.

The Unemployment Insurance Technology Modernization Act calls for the Department to work with technology experts to develop, operate, and maintain a modular set of technology capabilities to modernize unemployment compensation technology. This type of system would allow the federal government to take on a role in ensuring smooth administration of unemployment programs while still allowing states to adapt the technology to meet their unique programmatic needs. The bill would require the Department to establish a Department of Labor Digital Services Team to assist states in implementation and to support federal technology needs. The updated system would help states ensure timely and accurate delivery of payments, make the program more accessible, and better identify fraudulent claims. 

Importantly, the Unemployment Insurance Technology Modernization Act prioritizes user experience by requiring consultation and testing with claimants, employers, state workforce agency staff, and other users. It also requires the use of best practices in cybersecurity, procurement, and transparency, and includes several requirements for online claim filing systems to ensure that technology does not impede the ability of workers to access benefits. Finally, the legislation includes several provisions to ensure that automated decision systems or algorithms used as part of the technology do not result in systemic bias.

We strongly urge the Department to use the Unemployment Insurance Technology Modernization Act as a guide for any modernization efforts. The past year has proven that individual states attempting to modernize their system in isolation hasn’t yielded results, and that failure has contributed to unconscionable delays for millions of workers. A cohesive federal approach would not only ensure that every state has access to modern, efficient technology to meet their needs, but would also be far more cost effective than investing in 53 separate systems.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We request that you keep us updated on any technology modernization efforts that the Department undertakes.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced legislation today to prevent further financial instability for rural health clinics and safeguard the care they provide to underserved communities. The bipartisan Strengthening Rural Health Clinics Act of 2021 would make a technical fix to protect existing rural health clinics from a sudden and unexpected Medicare payment rate change that was erroneously brought on by the December 2020 COVID-19 relief bill

“In the past year, rural health clinics have played an essential role in bringing urgent and lifesaving care to some of our most vulnerable communities. Unfortunately, this crisis has served to further throw these facilities into financial distress,” said Sen. Warner. “By fixing a legislative error, our bill will help avoid further financial volatility and allow rural health clinics in Virginia and across the country to continue serving the communities that need it the most.”

“Many Missourians rely on rural health clinics for affordable, quality care close to home,” said Sen. Blunt. “This bill will fix a technical error to protect these clinics from added financial strain on top of the challenges they’ve faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. I urge our colleagues to join us in supporting the vital role these clinics play in improving health care - and the quality of life - in rural communities.”

The emergency COVID-19 relief bill that was signed into law in December included a provision to reform Medicare payment rates for future rural health clinics. While this provision intended to “grandfather” existing rural health clinics at their current payment rates in order to ensure their financial stability, a technical error ultimately excluded clinics that were established after December 2019. As a result, hundreds of rural health clinics nationwide, and even more clinics that were in the “mid-build” phase, now face serious financial uncertainty. Among these are nearly 30 clinics in Virginia:

Shenandoah Medical Associates

Front Royal, VA

Valley Health Family Practice

Rutherford Crossing, VA

New Warren Memorial Hospital Campus

Front Royal, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Clifton Forge, VA

Carilion Clinic Internal Medicine

Hardy, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Buena Vista, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Rocky Mount, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Buchanan, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Floyd, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Rocky Mount, VA

Carilion Clinic Family & Internal Medicine

Galax, VA

Carilion Clinic Family & Internal Medicine

Martinsville, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Tazewell, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Wytheville, VA

Carilion Clinic Family & Internal Medicine

Boones Mill, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Bedford, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Hillsville, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Bluefield, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Raphine, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Lexington, VA

Carilion Clinic Family Medicine – Westlake

Hardy, VA

Volens Family Medicine

Nathalie, VA

Clarksville Family Medicine

Clarksville, VA

Sentara Obstetrics & Gynecology

South Boston, VA

Halifax Pediatrics

South Boston, VA

Chase City Family Medicine

Chase City, VA

Halifax Family Medicine

South Boston, VA

In order to protect these clinics from the chaos associated with a sudden payment rate change, this legislation would amend existing law to grandfather at the 2020 or first-year payment rate any qualified rural health clinic that was in existence, in “mid-build”, or that had either submitted an application or had a binding written agreement with an outside unrelated party for the construction, purchase, lease, or other establishment of such a rural health clinic prior to December 31, 2020.  

This legislation has the support of a number of organizations including the National Association of Rural Health Clinics (NARHC), National Rural Health Association (NRHA), Virginia Rural Health Association (VRHA), Virginia Healthcare and Hospital Association, Missouri Hospital Association, Missouri Rural Health Association, West Virginia Hospital Association, Carilion Clinic, Valley Health System, Sentara Healthcare, Forrest General Hospital, Highland Community Hospital, Marion General Hospital, Walthall General Hospital, Jefferson Davis Community Hospital, Pearl River County Hospital, Braden Health, Braden Patient Safety Organization, Mississippi Hospital Association, and McLaren Health Care.

“In December, Congress passed significant and positive payment reforms for rural health clinics,” said Nathan Baugh, Director of Government Affairs for the National Association of Rural Health Clinics. “This legislation will ensure that all rural health clinics in existence at the time the law was changed, as well as those who were in the process of becoming a rural health clinic, are fairly grandfathered into the program.”  

“On behalf of Valley Health which serves communities in VA and WVA,  I would like to thank Senators Warner and Blunt for introducing this important legislation. Rural health clinics are the life blood of healthcare delivery in these rural underserved areas. Ensuring that Rural Health Clinics receive proper reimbursement is critical to their continued sustainability. This legislation addresses the concerns of many across the country that were developing rural clinics in previous years and will go a long way in protecting access to care in these communities which is especially important during the pandemic,” said Mark Nantz, President & CEO of Valley Health System.

“The past year has again reminded us of the critical importance of protecting and strengthening access to health care for all people, including those in rural communities,” said Sean T. Connaughton, President and CEO of Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association. “This legislation aims to correct an oversight in existing law to ensure the adequacy of Medicare reimbursements for designated health care providers treating patients in underserved rural communities. We appreciate the work of Senator Warner and Senator Blunt in sponsoring the Strengthening Rural Health Clinics Act of 2021 and we are proud to support it.”

“Thank you to Senator Warner for his ongoing efforts to assist citizens in rural areas of the Commonwealth with sustainable and expanded access to affordable, high quality health care,” said Nancy Howell Agee, President and CEO of Roanoke-based Carilion Clinic. “Much of Carilion's service area is rural with an aging population. Our community needs assessments consistently reflect concerns about access to primary and specialty care. Our Rural Health Clinics and expanded digital solutions, including telehealth, help us better serve the health care needs in the region and provide more sustainable access to care. Senator Warner has consistently worked to ensure that health care services are available for our rural citizens to the greatest degree possible. His efforts to help stabilize access to these services through our Rural Health Clinics is important and appreciated.”

A copy of the bill is available here. A one-page summary can be found here

### 

WASHINGTON – With more than 7 million Virginians slated to get over $9 billion in relief as a direct result of the American Rescue Plan, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) urging the agency to ensure that families receive their promised COVID-19 stimulus payments by quickly and proactively addressing three common issues that Virginians experienced with the last round of economic impact payments (EIPs) earlier this year.

“I write today following the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to raise specific issues my constituents had in accessing their second economic impact payments (EIP) in hopes those problems can be resolved and taken into consideration as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) administers the third round of economic impact payments,”wrote Sen. Warner in his letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig.

In his letter to the IRS, Sen. Warner identified the three most prevalent issues Virginia families ran into when attempting to access their second round of COVID-19 stimulus payments. The issues commonly heard from Virginians were: 

  1. Couples who filed a 2019 tax return as married filing jointly who reported that only one spouse received a second EIP even though they received a joint EIP in the first round. 

  1. Social Security recipients who received the first EIP via direct deposit or direct express card but did not receive the second EIP.

  1. Virginians who reported that the IRS’s Get My Payment application showed that they would either receive their payment via direct deposit or check but never received it. 

During the COVID-19 crisis, Sen. Warner has been a strong advocate for Virginians, working to ensure that they get the funds to which they are entitled. Last April, he pressed the Treasury Department to ensure that families who are not normally required to file taxes do not need to wait until the following year to receive the additional $500 payment per dependent child that they were promised. He also successfully pushed the Treasury Department to allow Social Security recipients to automatically receive CARES Act direct cash assistance without needing to file a tax return.

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

Dear Secretary Yellen and Commissioner Rettig,

I write today following the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to raise specific issues my constituents had in accessing their second economic impact payments (EIP) in hopes those problems can be resolved and taken into consideration as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) administers the third round of economic impact payments.

The Administration is well aware of the millions of Americans facing economic hardship, and should be applauded for its tireless work to deliver more relief as part of the ARPA. Further, I am appreciative of the IRS’s hard work throughout the pandemic. IRS employees have worked diligently to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in EIPs to Americans while managing the risks associated with COVID-19.

Virginians continue to reach out with specific problems they are having, particularly those trying to access their second EIP. Below, I lay out the three most prevalent issues my staff has identified. To help me respond adequately to my constituents, please review the three issues and answer the following related questions.

  1. Couples that filed a 2019 tax return as married filing jointly are reporting that only one spouse received a second EIP even though they received a joint EIP in the first round. When the spouse not receiving the payment checked the IRS’s Get My Payment App, there was no information. Is the couple’s only recourse to claim a Recovery Rebate Credit (RRC)? Is there a reason why the second EIP was treated differently in this situation? Can the IRS take steps to ensure the same problem does not occur with the third EIP? 

  1. A number of my constituents who are Social Security recipients received the first EIP via direct deposit or direct express card but did not receive the second EIP. The IRS has said those constituents can file a tax return and claim a RRC but I am concerned for those Social Security recipients who are non-filers and are less equipped to file a tax return to claim their RRC. I am also concerned that these same constituents will not receive their third EIP. Please explain why the IRS did not send the second (December) round of EIPs automatically to Social Security recipients. Will the IRS commit to sending past due checks to Social Security recipients who should have received them? For the third round of EIPs, can the IRS commit to automatically sending checks to Social Security recipients? If not, why not? 

Last year, the IRS created a Non-Filers tool to allow non-filers to gain access to the first round of EIPs to address this problem and make it easier for non-filers to access their EIP. Why did the IRS not reopen the Non-Filers tool to help Americans access their second EIP? Will the IRS commit to reopening the Non-Filers tool for the third round of EIP to ensure non-filers can easily access their third EIP? And will they be allowed to use this tool to claim checks owed to them from the first two rounds?

  1. A number of constituents reported that the IRS’s Get May Payment application showed that they would either receive their payment via direct deposit or check but they never received it. Although the payment was issued to them and they qualified based on their 2019 tax return, the RRC is based on their 2020 tax filing. In some situations this has eliminated constituents’ eligibility for the second EIP. Will the IRS offer any flexibility or recourse for constituents in these circumstances? 

I know the IRS is working diligently to serve the American people, and I welcome our continued collaboration to help Americans across the country. Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $4,387,500.00 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)'s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to support COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Virginia.

“As more Americans receive one of the three COVID-19 vaccines, the supply of available vaccines still can't meet the demand,” said the Senators. “We are glad to announce that this funding will provide increased support to distribute vaccines equitably throughout the Commonwealth, and we remain committed to ensuring that every Virginian has access to the vaccine as quickly as possible.”

The American Rescue Plan included $7.5 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for COVID–19 vaccine distribution and administration, including support for State, local, Tribal, and territorial public health departments. 

###

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that seven Virginia tribes have been awarded $724,246 in federal funding for housing assistance as a result of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

“We’re pleased to announce this funding to expand access to affordable housing for Virginia’s tribes during this health crisis,” the Senators said. “These grants will help ensure these communities have a safe and affordable place to live during and after the pandemic.”

 The following Virginia tribes will receive funding as listed below:

  • The Chickahominy Indian Tribe in Providence Forge will receive $181,184 to develop and manage affordable housing.
  • The Chickahominy Indian Tribe-Eastern Division in Providence Forge will receive $35,624 to develop and manage affordable housing.
  • The Monacan Indian Nation in Amherst will receive $208,875 to develop and manage affordable housing.
  • The Nansemond Indian Tribe in Suffolk will receive $97,413 to develop and manage affordable housing.
  • The Pamunkey Indian Tribe in King William will receive $35,007 to develop and manage affordable housing.
  • The Rappahannock Tribe, Inc. in Indian Neck will receive $44,068 to develop and manage affordable housing.
  • The Upper Mattaponi Tribe in King William will receive $122,075 to develop and manage affordable housing.

The grant was awarded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) Program. The IHBG provides grants, loan guarantees, and technical assistance to Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages for the development and operation of affordable housing. The American Rescue Plan Act contains over $32 billion in targeted funding for Tribal governments and Native communities. 

In 2018, a bipartisan Warner and Kaine bill to grant federal recognition to six Virginia tribes was signed into law. The legislation granted these six Virginia tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government, allowing the tribes to compete for grants only open to federally recognized tribes.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) highlighted some of the ways in which the American Rescue Plan will help families, workers, small businesses and local governments across Virginia defeat COVID-19 and recover from the health and economic impacts of the virus.

“The American Rescue Plan will help us defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and put our nation on a clear path to rebuild from this crisis. Already, Virginians are seeing the benefits, with direct payments hitting bank accounts and much-needed funds going out to expand vaccine distribution, help schools reopen, and provide assistance to small businesses and local governments across Virginia,” said the Senators.

Relief Checks:

  • The American Rescue Plan includes an additional round of economic impact payments for individuals making less than $80,000 and joint filers making less than $160,000
  • More than 7 million people in Virginia are set to receive $9.32 billion in direct payments, helping them cover essential expenses like food, rent, and medical bills

Child Tax Credit:

  • The American Rescue Plan makes the Child Tax Credit fully refundable and increases the credit amount from $2,000 to $3,000 per child age 6 to 17 (and $3,600 per child below the age of 6) for many families
  • An estimated 1.5 million children across Virginia will benefit from the expanded child tax credit, including 249,000 children in the Commonwealth who are currently in poverty or deep poverty 

Earned Income Tax Credit:

  • 417,000 workers in Virginia will benefit from an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit

Enhanced Unemployment Benefits:

  • The bill provides billions in additional federal relief for struggling Virginians – who are out of work through no fault of their own – by extending the historic unemployment insurance reforms established in the CARES Act, through September 6, 2021. The bill extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for the self-employed, gig workers, freelancers and others in non-traditional employment, the $300 weekly federal enhancement in benefits, and the additional weeks of federal unemployment insurance for workers who exhaust their regular state benefits. 256,320 Virginians faced the possibility of losing benefits in March or April if the programs had not been extended 

Child Care:

  • To help Virginians afford child care and to help ensure child care providers can continue operating safely, the American Rescue Plan includes:
    • $306 million for Virginia Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) programs
    • $490 million for Virginia Child Care Stabilization Grants
    • $16.557 million for Virginia Head Start programs
    • An increase in the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to up to $4,000 for one child or $8,000 for two or more children, and makes the credit fully refundable. This would significantly ease the burden of child care costs for many Virginia families, who pay on average $14,063 annually for infant care and $10,867 for the care of 4-year olds

 Education:

  • $2.11 billion for Virginia K-12 schools: These flexible funds will support school districts in reopening safely for in-person instruction and addressing the many needs that students are facing due to the pandemic. A portion of the funds are targeted towards addressing learning loss, providing resources through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and implementing summer enrichment and afterschool programs
  • $846 million for Virginia colleges & universities: Institutions must distribute half of their allocation to students in the form of financial aid awards to address hardships caused by COVID-19. The remaining portion of the funds can be used on reopening costs, revenue losses, classroom retrofits, PPE, and other expenses

Health Care

  • The legislation includes $160 billion for national vaccination and other health efforts, including testing, tracing, genomic sequencing, public health staffing, and supplies to slow the spread of COVID-19
  • To expand access to affordable health care nationwide, the American Rescue Plan:
    • Caps premium payments: The bill lowers or eliminates premium costs on the Affordable Care Act exchange to ensure every family can find a health care plan that’s affordable to them
    • Provides uninsured workers with health care: 41,000 uninsured Virginians who rely on unemployment insurance are now eligible for advance premium tax credits to help pay for essential health benefits 
    • Ensures jobless Virginians can keep their employer-sponsored healthcare coverage: To help Virginians who have lost their job and associated employer-sponsored healthcare coverage, the American Rescue Plan provides a 100% reimbursement so that workers who have lost their job can keep their health care coverage through COBRA
    • Expands guaranteed health care coverage for new moms: The American Rescue Plan improves maternal health care with a new provision that will allow state Medicaid programs to offer new moms health care coverage for up to one year post-partum
  • COVID-19 has placed an enormous strain on our nation’s healthcare system. To address this, the American Rescue Plan includes:
    • $8.5 billion to help struggling rural health care providers and ensure access to care in rural areas
    • $7.66 billion dollars to support public health workers in communities across the country, who are the key to getting the virus under control
    • $7.6 billion in direct financial support to Community Health Centers, providing immediate relief to frontline providers in community health centers who serve communities of color and underserved populations hardest-hit by pandemic

Housing:

  • To help struggling Virginians stay in their homes during the pandemic, the Commonwealth will receive $451 million for emergency rental assistance. An estimated 267,000 renters in Virginia are currently behind on their rent 
  • The American Rescue Plan also includes $9.9 billion to aid homeowners nationwide who are struggling to afford their mortgage payments, utility bills, and other housing costs. Virginia is expected to receive between $154 million and $276 million from this pot of money to help homeowners who have been financially stressed by the pandemic 

Nutrition:

  • The legislation extends a 15 percent increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through September 30, 2021, which will help the nearly 50 million Americans who have struggled with hunger during the pandemic. In Virginia, 503,000 adults – 9% of all adults in the state – report not having enough food to eat. This includes 308,000 adults living with children, or 15% of all adults living with children, who report that the children in their household do not have enough to eat

Small Business

  • The American Rescue Plan has billions to help small businesses keep their doors open, including:
    • $7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). As of this month, Virginia businesses have received $3.5 billion in forgivable Second Draw PPP loans to keep workers on the payroll during COVID-19
    • $15 billion for the Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance Program. As of last month, 74,664 Virginia businesses have received more than $4 billion in low-interest EIDL loans to help them survive the COVID-19 crisis
    • $28.6 billion for a new Restaurant Revitalization Fund to provide grants to help small local restaurants, bars, and craft breweries stay in business and keep their workers employed. To provide comprehensive support to local restaurants, grants from the fund can be used alongside first and second Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance, and the Employee Retention Tax Credit 
    • $1.25 billion for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) Program to support live entertainment venues, and a critical fix to ensure venue operators can access both PPP and SVOGs
    • $10 billion in new funding for the State Small Business Credit Initiative to help small businesses grow and create jobs

Transportation & Public Transit

  • To allow our frontline workers to travel to and from work and to ensure our transit systems are able to survive the pandemic and continue to serve commuters, the American Rescue Plan includes:
    • $1.4 billion for transit systems in the DC metro region including WMATA
    • $56 million for transit systems in Hampton Roads 
    • $6 million for transit in and around Blacksburg
    • $342,115 for transit in and around Bristol (TN-VA)
    • $5.3 million for transit in and around Charlottesville
    • $817,426 for transit in and around Fredericksburg
    • $884,390 for transit in and around Harrisonburg
    • $542,634 for transit in and around Kingsport (TN-VA) 
    • $3.4 million for transit in and around Lynchburg
    • $30 million for transit in and around Richmond
    • $3.4 million for transit in and around Roanoke
    • $219,506 for transit in and around Staunton-Waynesboro
    • $3 million for transit in and around Williamsburg
    • $241,677 for transit in and around Winchester
  • To allow Virginia airports to weather the storm and to continue delivering crucial supplies to the Commonwealth, the American Rescue Plan includes funding for the following:
    • $84 million for Washington Dulles International Airport    
    • $82 million for Ronald Reagan Washington National
    • $18.5 million for Richmond International Airport   
    • $16.8 million for Norfolk International Airport        
    • $5 million for Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport     
    • $4.9 million for Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport/Woodrum Field    
    • $3.1 million for Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport
    • $1.8 million for Lynchburg Regional Airport/Preston Glenn Field  
    • $1.1 million for  Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport         
    • $148,000 for Leesburg Executive Airport     
    • $59,000 for Virginia Highlands Airport (Abingdon)
    • $59,000 for Virginia Tech/Montgomery Executive Airport
    • $59,000 for Culpeper Regional Airport
    • $59,000 for Danville Regional Airport
    • $59,000 New River Valley Airport (Dublin)  
    • $59,000 for Blue Ridge Airport (Martinsville)
    • $59,000 for Chesapeake Regional Airport
    • $59,000 for Hampton Roads Executive Airport
    • $59,000 Richmond Executive-Chesterfield County Airport
    • $59,000 for Hanover County Airport
    • $59,000 for Warrenton-Fauquier Airport
    • $59,000 for Winchester Regional Airport
    • $32,000 for Franklin Regional Airport
    • $32,000 for Front Royal-Warren County Airport
    • $32,000 for Twin County Airport (Galax Hillsville) 
    • $32,000 for Louisa County Airport/Freeman Field
    • $32,000 for Luray Caverns Airport
    • $32,000 for Mountain Empire Airport (Marion/Wytheville)
    • $32,000 for Accomack County Airport
    • $32,000 for Orange County Airport
    • $32,000 for Dinwiddie County Airport
    • $32,000 for New Kent County Airport
    • $32,000 for William M. Tuck Airport (South Boston)
    • $32,000 for Mecklenburg-Brunswick Regional Airport
    • $32,000 for Stafford Regional Airport
    • $32,000 for Suffolk Executive Airport
    • $32,000 for Tappahannock-Essex County Airport
    • $32,000 for Middle Peninsula Regional Airport 
    • $22,000 for Emporia-Greensville Regional Airport
    • $22,000 for Farmville Regional Airport
    • $22,000 for Ingalls Field (Hot Springs)
    • $22,000 for Lee County Airport
    • $22,000 for Tazewell County Airport
    • $22,000 for Tangier Island Airport
    • $22,000 for Lonesome Pine Airport (Wise) 

Aid to State & Local Governments 

  • The American Rescue Plan provides funds to state and local governments to assist with costs associated with responding to COVID-19, support workers performing essential work during COVID-19, cover revenue losses caused by the public health emergency, or to make necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure 
  • The Commonwealth of Virginia will receive $3.766 billion in direct state fiscal relief
  • Virginia’s counties will receive $1.655 billion, metropolitan cities will get $628 million, and smaller cities and towns will receive $604 million 
  • The Commonwealth of Virginia will also receive $222 million for building out broadband and other infrastructure projects

Funding figures for individual counties and localities are available here

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement today after President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law: 

“By signing the American Rescue Plan into law, President Biden has taken an enormous step in defeating the COVID-19 pandemic and setting our nation on a clear path forward to rebuild from this crisis. Soon, this bold legislation will start delivering urgent relief for Virginians and funding for the Commonwealth’s top priorities.

“The American Rescue Plan will help our nation heal by getting vaccines into arms, expanding COVID-19 testing and tracing, and providing schools with the resources they need to reopen safely. It will also tackle the vast economic challenges related to COVID-19 by putting checks in Americans’ hands, helping small businesses keep their doors open, increasing nutrition benefits for families, assisting struggling renters and homeowners, cutting the child poverty rate in half, and providing funding for state, local, and tribal governments facing drastic budget shortfalls. This bill also includes a record $17 billion in funding to increase affordability and access to broadband – a priority I was proud to secure for the 700,000 Virginians who are still unable to access high-speed internet a year into a pandemic that has further pushed our world online.

“Like any ambitious piece of legislation, the American Rescue Plan is not perfect. I will be the first to acknowledge that the price tag is a significant one. However, this moment is too pivotal to risk doing too little and the future of our country is well worth the investment. I look forward to working to ensure that funding is distributed appropriately, programs are implemented quickly, and Virginians get the help they deserve.”

Through the American Rescue Plan, the Commonwealth of Virginia will receive, among other funding, more than $6,875,000,000 in state and local government funding; $451,000,000 in emergency rental assistance; $2,999,000,000 in education funding; $1,348,000,000 in rural transit funding; and $1,517,221,000 in urban transit funding. Additionally, more than 3,611,000 households in Virginia will benefit from individual stimulus checks. 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $38,564,692.58 in federal funding to support vaccination efforts in Virginia. 

“Getting shots into arms is what will end this pandemic,” said the Senators. “That is why we’re glad to see these federal dollars will provide support for vaccination efforts throughout the Commonwealth, and we remain committed to ensuring that every Virginian has the opportunity to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.”

The funding was awarded in the form of two grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM). A grant in the amount of $1,814,688.83 will be used to pay for staff needed to administer vaccines, while a grant of $36,750,003.75 has been made available to establish a number of mobile vaccine sites across the Commonwealth. 

On Saturday, Sens. Warner and Kaine voted for the American Rescue Plan, emergency relief legislation that includes $20 billion for improving vaccine administration and distribution nationwide. The House passed the bill earlier today and now awaits President Biden’s signature.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after voting for the American Rescue Plan, legislation to provide emergency relief to the American people and defeat the COVID-19 pandemic: 

“This legislation will help our country defeat COVID-19 and get back to normal. It includes desperately needed resources to get vaccines into arms; help schools reopen safely; and provide much-needed lifelines to the communities hardest-hit by this virus. 

“I will be the first to acknowledge that this bill is not perfect. I am glad that as the Senate considered this legislation, we made some important changes to target aid where it is most badly needed as millions of Americans remain out of work, state and local governments continue to lay off workers, and small businesses struggle to keep their doors open.

“I’m especially proud that I was able to work with President Biden and my colleagues to add funding to expand access to high-speed internet, which is a necessity, not a luxury, during COVID-19. The $17 billion we secured to help expand broadband infrastructure and affordability represents the largest-ever federal investment of its kind and will be a significant boost to our economy as we work to rebuild and recover from COVID-19.”

According to current estimates, there are approximately 700,000 Virginians who still lack access to high-speed internet, which has become increasingly essential for telecommuting, distance learning, telemedicine, and more amid the COVID-19 crisis. As a former governor and now in the Senate, Sen. Warner has long fought for increased access to broadband in the Commonwealth. In December, Sen. Warner negotiated and passed COVID-19 relief legislation that included $7 billion towards broadband, including $3.2 billion for an Emergency Broadband Benefit to help low-income families maintain their internet connections, $285 million to support broadband access in minority communities, and $300 million in broadband grants modeled on bipartisan provisions Sen. Warner drafted with his colleagues. Sen. Warner has also introduced comprehensive broadband infrastructure legislation to expand access to affordable high-speed internet by investing $100 billion to build high-speed broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities, and has also introduced bipartisan legislation with Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott (R-SC) to establish a $10 billion Broadband Development Fund to prioritize funding for areas that currently lack service, support the deployment of advanced technologies in areas where there is the greatest need, and encourage projects that can quickly provide internet service.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), about 21 million Americans do not have access to 25/3 mbps internet, which is the FCC’s standard for high speed broadband. Of that 21 million, 16 million live in rural areas, while 5 million live in urban areas.

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WASHINGTON – The Senate has approved bipartisan legislation introduced by Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) to extend Section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act from its current expiration of March 31, 2021 to September 30, 2021. The provision allows a critical lifeline for federal agencies to maintain contractors, who would otherwise be at risk for layoff or furlough due to the pandemic and was approved as a bipartisan amendment offered by Sens. Warner and Rubio to H.R.1319, a bill to provide for reconciliation pursuant to title II of S.Con.Res.5. (American Rescue Plan Act of 2021).  

“We are pleased that the Senate passed this bipartisan legislation to provide much-needed stability for personnel who serve a key role in protecting our national security missions and other vital programs,” said Chairman Warner and Vice Chairman Rubio.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Angus King (I-ME) today introduced legislation to stimulate the economy and allow borrowers to get a better handle on their student debt during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. This legislation comes as student debt in the U.S. surpasses $1.7 trillion – all while an increasing number of borrowers find themselves unable to pay back their loans due to job scarcity and other extraordinary financial circumstances caused by the COVID-19 health and economic crisis. 

“All over the country, we have young people who made a substantial decision to invest in their future, but now find themselves saddled by overwhelming student loan debt during a pandemic that has tanked the economy and shattered the job market,” said U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner. “The way to get our economy back on track is not by having an entire generation of people who are unwilling or unable to make future financial commitments because they are buried by the loans they took out in their late teens or early twenties. This legislation will give student borrowers a real shot at paying back their debt so that in the near future they are able to invest in a home, start up a business, or save for retirement.”

“Young folks across our country are facing unprecedented financial hardship simply because they made a choice to invest in their futures,” said Sen. Tester. “These are the current and future leaders of our communities and it’s critical that they have financial security so they can make investments and purchases to drive our economy forward and help America bounce back from this crisis. This bill will provide student borrowers with more opportunities to pay back their loans so that they are better able to participate in their local economies without the fear of drowning in debt.”

“The coronavirus pandemic has hit our economy hard – and that’s a major problem for the millions of Americans who took out student loans to invest in their future,” said Sen. King. “As the coronavirus pandemic’s economic fallout continues to unfold, Congress needs to take steps to help these young people have added flexibility and options to meet these obligations. Our legislation provides paths to help get this debt under control – if enacted, it can improve financial prospects for these borrowers while also supporting the overall health of the American economy.”

The Coronavirus Emergency Student Loan Refinancing Act of 2021 would ease the burden of the student debt crisis by:

  • Allowing student loan borrowers to refinance their federal student loans as long as they are in good standing and meet eligibility requirements based on income or the debt-to-income ratio established by the Department of Education. Under the legislation, borrowers would be able to apply to refinance their Direct Loan or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL).
  • Giving borrowers the option to refinance their federal student loans at lower interest rates to the lowest yield of the 10-year Treasury note in the preceding six months, plus a fixed percentage rate established by the Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013. 
    • For undergraduate borrowers with Federal Direct Stafford, Unsubsidized, PLUS, and Consolidated loans, the interest rate would be equal to the lowest yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note in the preceding six months plus 2.05 percent;
    • For graduate borrowers with Federal Direct Stafford or Unsubsidized loans, the interest rate would be equal to the lowest yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note in the preceding six months plus 3.6 percent; and
    • For borrowers with PLUS loans, the new interest rate would be equal to the lowest yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note in the preceding six months plus 4.6 percent.

This legislation has the support of a number of organizations, including the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), the National Association of Realtors, and the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce:

“Loans keep people from going to college, loans force students to major in lucrative subjects rather than follow their true work interests and values, and loans force people to postpone making decisions like buying homes and forming families, which hurts all of us. We are fortunate that Senator Warner recognizes this and has stepped up to do something about it,” said Anthony P. Carnevale, Director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

“High student loan debt is deterring families and individuals from pursuing the American Dream of homeownership, and its impact has been particularly significant on minority and millennial households. In fact, a 2020 NAR report found that student loan costs have been the single biggest factor inhibiting Americans’ ability to save for a down payment over the past five years. Realtors® applaud Senator Warner for furthering the critical national conversation regarding the impact of student loan debt on the broader U.S. economy, and look forward to working with him to advance this legislation through Congress,” said Charlie Oppler, President of National Association of Realtors.

Bill text is available here. A one-page summary is available here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today applauded an announcement by the U.S. Treasury Department opening the application process for the Emergency Capital Investment Program (ECIP), a new initiative designed to support access to capital in minority and low-income communities that have historically been excluded from the financial system and that have been the hardest-hit during the COVID-19 crisis. The funding is available as part of a record $12 billion investment to open up new credit opportunities for Black, Latino and low-income communities that Sen. Warner successfully fought to include in the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill Congress passed in December.  

Even before the pandemic, low-income communities and communities of color faced significant barriers in accessing credit and economic opportunity,” said Sen. Warner. “The economic crisis caused by COVID-19 has only exacerbated those inequalities. Today’s announcement by the Treasury Department is a historic step in helping underserved communities recover and emerge from this unprecedented economic downturn with more opportunities than before.”

Today’s announcement by the Treasury Department opens up $9 billion in capital for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and minority depository institutions (MDIs) in order to expand the flow of credit into underserved, minority, and historically disadvantaged communities, helping small businesses stay afloat and expand operations while providing affordable access to credit for lower income borrowers. Surveys show that Black- and Latino-owned small businesses have been particularly hard-hit during the pandemic. Thousands of minority-owned small businesses have closed for good, in part due to difficulty securing bank loans and accessing assistance such as the Paycheck Protection Program. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that while overall small business ownership in the U.S. dropped 22 percent between February and April 2020, Black and Latino ownership dropped by 41 percent and 32 percent, respectively. Another recent survey revealed that almost 1 in 5 Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs expect to permanently close their doors within three months, compared to 14 percent of white small business owners. 

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

In addition to the $9 billion in funding that is part of Emergency Capital Investment Program, the Treasury Department last week opened a $1.25 billion grant program for depository and non-depository CDFIs intended to support, prepare for, and respond to the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis. In addition, the Treasury Department is expected to release $1.75 billion in funding to expand lending, grant making, and investment activity in minority communities by this summer. Together, the three programs will help minority and low-income communities weather the COVID-19 crisis and promote an equitable economic recovery in communities that have traditionally been underserved by the financial sector.  

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) and Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-MD) today urged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to quickly make available the maximum number of Congressionally-authorized H-2B visas in order to ensure that seafood processors in Virginia and Maryland have the seasonal workforce they need ahead of the seasonal start date on April 1. 

“In the rural and remote coastal regions in our states, even in a time of high unemployment, seafood processors have struggled to find domestic workers,”wrote the Senators in a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “Seafood processors are designated as part of the ‘essential, critical infrastructure’ during the pandemic and yet many have been unable to operate at full capacity due to lack of workers. Disruptions to the food supply chain will harm American consumers, the seafood industry, and the U.S. economy. Withholding H-2B visas for seasonal seafood processors will only exacerbate this matter.” 

“On February 24, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it had received enough petitions to meet the H-2B cap for the second half of FY 2021,” they continued. “Unfortunately, many small, family-owned businesses in our states were unable to obtain H-2B visas before the cap was met last week. Without these additional visas, our states’ treasured seafood industries, which are crucial to the economies of the Northern Neck and Eastern Shore, will be forced to scale back operations, default on contracts, lay off full-time American workers or, in some cases, close operations completely.”

The H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Visa Program allows U.S. employers to hire seasonal, non-immigrant workers during peak seasons to supplement the existing American workforce. In order to be eligible for the program, employers are required to declare that there are not enough U.S. workers available to do the temporary work, as is the case with the seafood industry, which relies on H-2B workers for tough jobs such as shucking oysters and processing crabs.  

In their letter, the Senators also raised concern with reports that USCIS decided to use ‘receipt by’ instead of ‘mailed by’ dates to reject otherwise timely applications for nonimmigrant workers. Noting mail delays due to inclement weather on the East Coast, they asked the DHS Secretary to reconsider this decision and allow these applications to proceed.

Sen. Warner, Kaine, Cardin, and Van Hollen have long advocated for the seafood processing industry – a community largely made up of rural, family-owned operations. Last year, the Senators urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to release additional H-2B visas needed to support local seafood businesses in Virginia and states like Alaska, Maryland, and North Carolina. 

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

The Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas

Secretary

U.S. Department of Homeland Security                                             

Washington, DC 20528

Dear Secretary Mayorkas:

We are writing on behalf of Virginia and Maryland seafood processors who depend on H-2B temporary, seasonal workers to operate their businesses.  In the rural and remote coastal regions in our states, even in a time of high unemployment, seafood processors have struggled to find domestic workers.  Seafood processors are designated as part of the “essential, critical infrastructure” during the pandemic and yet many have been unable to operate at full capacity due to lack of workers. Disruptions to the food supply chain will harm American consumers, the seafood industry, and the U.S. economy. Withholding H-2B visas for seasonal seafood processors will only exacerbate this matter. 

The Fiscal Year 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act provides the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the authority to lift the existing statutory cap of 66,000 annual H-2B visas.  We urge DHS to promptly make available the maximum number of additional Congressionally-authorized H-2B visas while balancing safety to meet the labor needs of seafood processors in our states.

On February 24, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it had received enough petitions to meet the H-2B cap for the second half of FY 2021.  February 12, 2021 was the final receipt date for new cap-subject H-2B worker petitions requesting an employment start date before October 1, 2021. 

Unfortunately, many small, family-owned businesses in our states were unable to obtain H-2B visas before the cap was met last week.  Without these additional visas, our states’ treasured seafood industries, which are crucial to the economies of the Northern Neck and Eastern Shore, will be forced to scale back operations, default on contracts, lay off full-time American workers or, in some cases, close operations completely. 

Despite good faith efforts to find local seasonal workers, our seafood industries rely on H-2B workers for tough jobs such as shucking oysters and processing crabs.  Seafood processors have used the seasonal H-2B visa program to supplement their U.S. workforce for decades and have not grown significantly in the numerical requests for visas over time. The April 1 seasonal start date is just weeks away and the seafood processors in our will not be able to operate without their seasonal workforce.

Additionally, we have also received reports that USCIS has decided to use ‘receipt by’  instead of ‘mailed by’ dates to reject otherwise timely applications. A number of our constituents mailed their applications before the deadline but due to inclement weather on the East Coast their applications were delivered after the cap was met. For example, USCIS Forms I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Workers overnighted on February 11, 2021 were not delivered until several days later due to winter storms. Among the employers affected are several seafood companies on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and the Northern Neck of Virginia. Employers elsewhere in the country using the same shipping methods had their applications receipted before the cap simply due to their geographic location. We ask that you reconsider these decisions and allow these applications to proceed.

We thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter; the viability of many seasonal businesses in our states depend on the H-2B program.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON — Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Vice-Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) filed legislation (S. 640) to extend Section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act from its current expiration of March 31, 2021 to September 30, 2021. The provision allows a critical lifeline for federal agencies to maintain contractors, who would otherwise be at risk for layoff or furlough due to the pandemic. Warner and Rubio also sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) requesting that Section 3610 be extended “as freestanding legislation, as we have introduced, or as a provision on the next appropriate legislative vehicle.”

A coalition of organizations wrote in support of Warner and Rubio's efforts to extend Section 3610, highlighting that “numerous organizations representing the breadth of the government industrial base, including manufacturers and service providers, from large companies to small businesses, have emphasized the importance of the 3610 authority and the need for an extension.” 

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell,

We write to ask that Section 3610 Federal Contractor Authority of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act be extended to September 30, 2021, as freestanding legislation, as we have introduced, or as a provision on the next appropriate legislative vehicle.

This authority was last extended in the omnibus appropriations act for fiscal year 2021 and is due to expire on March 31, 2021. We believe extending this authority given the prolongation of the global pandemic is critically important to the resilience of our national security industrial base. Section 3610 has proven to be an important means of providing necessary relief during the pandemic to critical Intelligence Community industry partners—and particularly to small businesses that provide highly specialized capabilities—to retain key national security capabilities.

We look forward to working with you on this important matter.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $95,560,265 in federal funding to help Virginians access safe and affordable housing across the Commonwealth. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded the funding through four grant programs – the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) program, the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME), Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program, and the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) grant program.

“We’re glad to see these federal funds go toward providing housing resources for individuals who are struggling to stay afloat amid COVID-19,” the Senators said. “We will continue to push for federal assistance to better support Virginians in these challenging times.”

The CDBG program provides annual grants on a formula basis to states, cities, and counties to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and a suitable living environment and expanding economic opportunities. The following localities will receive funding through the CDBG program:

Recipient Amount
Alexandria $1,173,007
Blacksburg $554,230
Bristol $265,409
Charlottesville $427,176
Chesapeake $1,164,279
Christiansburg $104,407
Colonial Heights $109,405
Danville $894,119
Fredericksburg $193,431
Hampton $963,720
Harrisonburg $532,571
Hopewell $221,881
Lynchburg $718,593
Newport News $1,308,136
Norfolk $4,488,314
Petersburg $619,273
Portsmouth $1,613,918
Radford $182,495
Richmond $4,505,969
Roanoke $1,835,201
Staunton $339,361
Suffolk $497,035
Virginia Beach $2,010,809
Waynesboro City $190,037
Winchester $278,923
Arlington County $1,323,025
Chesterfield County $1,531,472
Fairfax County $6,039,155
Henrico County $1,721,965
Loudoun County $1,442,139
Prince William County $2,659,547
Virginia Nonentitlement $19,090,101
Total: $58,999,103

The HOME Investment Partnerships program helps to expand the supply of quality, affordable housing to families by providing grants to states and local governments to fund programs that meet local needs and priorities. The following localities will receive funding through the HOME program:

Recipient Amount
Alexandria $618,934
Blacksburg $596,346
Charlottesville $676,615
Chesapeake $553,118
Danville $273,606
Hampton $539,408
Lynchburg $413,856
Newport News $771,200
Norfolk $1,246,498
Portsmouth $425,453
Richmond $1,611,568
Roanoke $675,808
Suffolk $400,819
Virginia Beach $1,059,622
Winchester $638,110
Arlington County $725,257
Chesterfield County $586,058
Fairfax County $2,175,471
Henrico County $887,581
Prince William County $924,474
Virginia Nonentitlement $10,712,842
Total: $26,512,644

The Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program provides annual grants to State, local, and private entities to help people find permanent and stable housing after experiencing a housing crisis and/or homelessness. The program also provides funding for outreach and for improving emergency homeless shelters. The following localities will receive funding through the ESG program:

Recipient Amount
Norfolk $384,637
Richmond $389,042
Roanoke $153,124
Virginia Beach $175,346
Fairfax County $508,353
Henrico County $147,536
Prince William County $229,863
Virginia Nonentitlement $3,007,657
Total: $4,995,558

The Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program provides housing assistance and additional supportive services to local units of government, states, and non-profit organizations for projects that help low-income persons medically diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and their families. The following localities will receive funding through the HOPWA program:

Recipient Amount
Richmond $1,500,245
Virginia Beach $2,177,661
Virginia Nonentitlement $1,375,054
Total: $5,052,960

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today welcomed a move by the U.S. Department of Labor expanding the number of workers who are eligible for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program that was created as part of the federal CARES Act. Last week, Sen. Warner and four of his colleagues raised concern with the Department that policy guidance issued to state unemployment offices on Jan. 8 was limiting the ability of workers whose hours have been reduced to access PUA benefits.

“There are workers all over the country who have had their hours reduced or been temporarily laid off due to COVID-19, and they should be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance under the CARES Act,” said Sen. Warner. “I’m glad to see the Department of Labor listened to our concerns and is adjusting their guidance to states to make clear that these workers are eligible for PUA benefits.”

On Feb. 17, Sen. Warner joined Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in calling on the U.S. Department of Labor to issue revised guidance making clear that workers who have had their hours reduced, or who have been temporarily laid off even though their employer remains open, are eligible for PUA.

In the Feb. 17 letter to the Department of Labor, the Senators wrote, “Partial closures are very common for businesses like restaurants that are operating with limited indoor dining capacity, or only offering take-out services, and have resulted in many service workers working reduced hours or being temporarily laid off even though their employer remains open. The recent guidance directs states to deny PUA eligibility to workers who have been impacted by partial closures. This is of particular concern for workers who do not have sufficient qualifying earnings to be considered eligible for state unemployment, including workers who are newly hired. It is clear from the language of the CARES Act that PUA is intended to cover workers who are ‘unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work’, which would include workers affected by partial closures… We ask that the Department clarify that workers impacted by partial closures or their employer scaling back business operations are eligible for PUA, or use its authority under 2102(a)(3)(A)(ii)(I)(kk) of the CARES Act to ensure these workers are eligible. This clarification is vital so that these workers can make ends meet during the pandemic.

When emergency pandemic unemployment programs were set to expire at the end of last year, Sen. Warner successfully led the fight to include an extension in the $900 billion emergency COVID-19 relief legislation that Congress approved in December. From the start of this crisis, Sen. Warner, a former tech entrepreneur and longtime leader on labor issues affecting contractors and the contingent workforce, has pushed to expand benefits for Americans who have found themselves unemployed through no fault of their own during the pandemic. In March, Sen. Warner voted in favor of $2 trillion bipartisan legislation that, among other things, expanded access to unemployment benefits for gig workers, contractors and the self-employed. In the months following the signing of the legislation, Sen. Warner urged states to quickly implement federal provisions easing restrictions on emergency unemployment benefits, and called on the Department of Labor (DOL) to issue and clarify state guidance in order to ensure that workers were able to receive benefits. He also introduced legislation to help guarantee that Americans who earn a living through a mix of traditional (W-2) and independent employment income (1099) were able to fully access the financial relief made available under the PUA program.

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