Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) led members of the Virginia congressional delegation in requesting at least $159 million in federal funding for the Norfolk Harbor Widening and Deepening project. In a letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Shalanda Young and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Connor, the lawmakers requested that this funding be approved in part through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Fiscal Year 2022 Work Plan, and through the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

“Deepening Norfolk Harbor to 55 feet from its current 50 feet depth and widening Thimble Shoal Channel to 1,400 feet will enable safe, two-way traffic in and out of the harbor and will help prevent delays to commercial and military vessels – a necessity in today’s global trading landscape,” the lawmakers wrote. “Expanding Norfolk Harbor to allow for two-way traffic will also help prevent backlogs of commercial vessels that could cause costly delays and supply chain disruptions that are currently affecting some port facilities across the U.S.”

In their letter, the Members of Congress stressed the importance of federal funds in enabling the project’s on-time completion, as well as the important role the Port of Virginia plays in both the state and national economy.

“The Port of Virginia is a commercial and economic engine for the United States and continues to play an integral role in American foreign and domestic commerce and trade. Federal investment into this project will allow the Port to remain a prominent economic hub for the nation and a key player in domestic and international trade by generating more than $3.9 billion in net national economic development benefits,” they continued. 

Specifically, the lawmakers requested that a minimum of $75.3 million in funding be made available through the bipartisan infrastructure law that was passed earlier this year. These federal dollars would go towards fully funding construction of the inner harbor and advancing construction of the Atlantic Ocean Channel – measures that would help address capacity constraints at the Craney Island Dredged Material Management Area.

Additionally, the lawmakers requested that at least $83.7 million in funding be maintained in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Fiscal Year 2022 Work Plan, which allocates funding for civil works projects across the nation each fiscal year. Earlier this year, Sen. Warner celebrated the inclusion of $83.7 million in funding for the Norfolk Harbor project in President Biden’s budget request. These proposed funds were subsequently included in the spending bills approved by the House and Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittees. If included in the FY22 Work Plan, these federal dollars would fund construction for the Newport News Channel and a portion of the inner harbor.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have long been strong advocates for the Norfolk Harbor project. In February, Sen. Warner spoke about the importance of the project during a Senate Banking Committee hearing. Sen. Warner also led the Virginia congressional delegation in a letter to OMB requesting a New Start designation for the project in January of this year. This request was also made in 2020. In July, Sen. Kaine advocated for the project to Assistant Secretary Connor as part of his nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. In 2018, Sens. Warner and Kaine successfully fought for the inclusion of the Norfolk Harbor Widening and Deepening project, in addition to other coastal resiliency programs, in the bipartisan water infrastructure bill.

In addition to Sen. Warner, the letter was signed by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Reps. Elaine Luria (D-VA), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Donald McEachin (D-VA), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Don Beyer (D-VA), Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), and Gerry Connolly (D-VA).

Full text of the letter is here and below.

The Honorable Shalanda Young

Acting Director

Office of Management and Budget

725 17th Street, NW

Washington, DC 20503

 

The Honorable Michael L. Connor

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

441 G Street, NW

Washington, DC 20314 

 

Dear Acting Director Young and Assistant Secretary Connor:

As lawmakers representing the Commonwealth of Virginia, we write today concerning funding needs for the Norfolk Harbor and Channels Widening and Deepening project. In order to keep this essential project for Virginia on schedule, we request at least $159 million in federal funding in Fiscal Year 2022 through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Fiscal Year 2022 Work Plan and funding made available through the recently enacted bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

The Port of Virginia is one of the largest and busiest ports on the East Coast and is one of the Commonwealth’s most powerful economic engines. Annually, the Port of Virginia is responsible for more than 400,000 jobs and $92 billion in spending across Virginia and generates more than seven and half percent of the Commonwealth’s Gross State Product. The Port’s reach also extends throughout the Mid-Atlantic and into the Ohio Valley and Midwest. U.S. exports account for more than half of its container movements and serve a robust rail market to and from American farmers and manufacturers throughout the Midwest and Ohio Valley.

The widening and deepening of Norfolk Harbor is essential to continue safe and timely passage of ever-increasing commercial and military vessels through the harbor. Deepening Norfolk Harbor to 55 feet from its current 50 feet depth and widening Thimble Shoal Channel to 1,400 feet will enable safe, two-way traffic in and out of the harbor and will help prevent delays to commercial and military vessels – a necessity in today’s global trading landscape. Expanding Norfolk Harbor to allow for two-way traffic will also help prevent backlogs of commercial vessels that could cause costly delays and supply chain disruptions that are currently affecting some port facilities across the U.S.

Construction on the first constructible element of the Norfolk Harbor project, deepening Thimble Shoal Channel – West, began in December 2019, 18 months ahead of schedule. In August 2021, the Port awarded a contract to deepen and widen Thimble Shoal Channel – East. Both segments are scheduled to be complete by August 2022. Both contracts are funded and administered by the Port and are in full compliance with federal standards under a Memorandum of Understanding with USACE in July 2017. Further, the construction work is eligible as Work-In-Kind once a Project Partnership Agreement is signed. The Commonwealth of Virginia has provided full funding of $20 million for Preconstruction Engineering and Design and $330 million for construction in its FY19-20 biennial budget.

We were pleased that the President’s FY22 Budget Request included $83.7 million and a New Start designation for the Norfolk Harbor project. We were also pleased to see this funding maintained in the House and Senate Fiscal Year 2022 Energy and Water Subcommittee Appropriations bills. As the Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations process continues, we respectfully request this amount be maintained in the USACE Fiscal Year 2022 Work Plan. This amount will fund construction for the Newport News Channel and a portion of the inner harbor. In addition, we request at least $75.3 million in funding through the recently signed IIJA to fully fund inner harbor construction and advance Atlantic Ocean Channel construction to address capacity constraints at the Craney Island Dredged Material Management Area. Allocating at least $159 million in federal funding to Norfolk Harbor in Fiscal Year 2022 will allow this nationally significant project to remain on track for completion by early 2025.

The Port of Virginia is a commercial and economic engine for the United States and continues to play an integral role in American foreign and domestic commerce and trade. Federal investment into this project will allow the Port to remain a prominent economic hub for the nation and a key player in domestic and international trade by generating more than $3.9 billion in net national economic development benefits. Completion of this project will also support the construction of the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project – a 2.6-gigawatt commercial offshore wind project off Virginia’s coast that will power up to 660,000 Virginia homes and the Commonwealth’s push to become a hub for offshore wind development along the East Coast.

Thank you for your consideration. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions regarding this request. We look forward to continue working with you to support this critical project for Virginia and our nation’s ports and harbors.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner and Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, applauded $1,502,141 in federal funding the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) awarded to the Hampton Roads Workforce Council to support job training and reemployment services for unemployed and underemployed Virginians in Hampton Roads. This funding was provided by DOL’s Comprehensive and Accessible Reemployment through Equitable Employment Recovery (CAREER) National Dislocated Worker Grant program, which supports organizations serving individuals most affected by the economic consequences of COVID-19, in particular those from historically marginalized communities.

“As the economy continues to recover from the impacts of the pandemic, we must ensure that Virginians most affected by the economic fallout of COVID-19 have access to the resources they need to enter or reenter the workforce,” said the Senators. “We are pleased to see this federal funding go toward helping Virginians access jobs that will be part of our economic recovery.” 

CAREER National Dislocated Worker Grants fund various reemployment services that help job seekers with search assistance, career guidance, and child care and transportation costs. Recipients can deliver training services in classroom, virtual, or work-based settings. They can also use grants to develop or upgrade virtual services, online platforms, data structures, and other technological improvements to support accessibility for job seekers. 

Both Warner and Kaine have been leaders in the Senate on efforts to support job training programs to prepare students for good-paying, in-demand jobs and help Virginians get back to work amid COVID-19. In March, Kaine reintroduced his bipartisan Jumpstart Our Businesses By Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, cosponsored by Warner, legislation to help improve access to job training programs by expanding Pell Grant eligibility. 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA-02), sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland today requesting that she direct the National Park Service to accept a 40-acre donation of land that would enhance and protect the Fort Monroe National Monument.

“Despite Fort Monroe’s significance to American history and exceptional recreational value, the monument, as it exists today, includes a very small number of historic buildings and fee ownership of less than half the property’s 565 acres. The fortress itself – the largest stone fort constructed in North America – remains in state ownership, while an easement allows the Park Service some control over its use. Virginia retains full responsibility for the fortress and the dozens of historic buildings on the property,” wrote the lawmakers.

“This donation would establish a physical connection between the two sections of Fort Monroe, creating an unbroken coastline along the Chesapeake Bay from Old Point Comfort to the northern end of the property,” they continued. “Despite the expected additional modest federal financial responsibility that would be expected from a land donation, we believe the cause of protecting and enhancing Fort Monroe is worth the Park Service’s additional investment. Fort Monroe has a unique and diverse history to tell and a tremendous amount of untapped potential we believe can be unlocked.”

Fort Monroe was built between 1819 and 1834 to protect the entrance to Hampton Roads. During the Civil War, Major General Benjamin Butler issued his famous “contraband decision” at Fort Monroe, ordering that escaped slaves who reached Union lines could not be returned to bondage. It was this consequential decision that earned Fort Monroe the nickname “Freedom's Fortress.”

In 2019, following the Trump Administration’s failure to accept the land donation, Sens. Warner and Kaine introduced legislation to add these 40 acres to Fort Monroe in order to unify the two divided sections and achieve an unbroken coastline along the Chesapeake Bay.

Full text of the letter can be found here and below: 

Dear Secretary Haaland:

We write today to request that you direct the National Park Service to accept a pending 40-acre land donation from the Commonwealth of Virginia to the Fort Monroe National Monument. The addition of this land would accomplish a longtime goal of connecting the eastern section of the property and would help protect the monument for future generations.

In 2011, then-President Barack Obama designated Fort Monroe a national monument using his authority under the Antiquities Act. Fort Monroe holds a special place in Virginia and our nation’s history that tells a unique, complicated, and diverse story. Despite Fort Monroe’s significance to American history and exceptional recreational value, the monument, as it exists today, includes a very small number of historic buildings and fee ownership of less than half the property’s 565 acres. The fortress itself – the largest stone fort constructed in North America – remains in state ownership, while an easement allows the Park Service some control over its use. Virginia retains full responsibility for the fortress and the dozens of historic buildings on the property.

In 2015, the Commonwealth of Virginia agreed to donate approximately 40 coastal acres including additional land in the Wherry Quarter to Fort Monroe, to enhance and protect the monument. Following a thorough review, the Park Service indicated it could accept a land donation of approximately 40 acres in the eastern section of the Wherry Quarter. This donation would establish a physical connection between the two sections of Fort Monroe, creating an unbroken coastline along the Chesapeake Bay from Old Point Comfort to the northern end of the property. The Commonwealth remains committed to donating this property to Fort Monroe and is willing to work with the Park Service to determine the best use for the property.

The approximately 40 acres of coastal land contain several low-rise non-historic buildings, which could be demolished or utilized for alternative purposes. We understand the Commonwealth has continued to negotiate in good faith to lease these buildings to new tenants, which would mitigate any potential costs to the Park Service. Despite the expected additional modest federal financial responsibility that would be expected from a land donation, we believe the cause of protecting and enhancing Fort Monroe is worth the Park Service’s additional investment. Fort Monroe has a unique and diverse history to tell and a tremendous amount of untapped potential we believe can be unlocked.

Acceptance of this land donation would demonstrate to the Commonwealth that the Park Service is a reliable federal partner that can be relied on to follow through on its plans. In recent years, Virginia and the Park Service have endorsed a “One Fort Monroe” concept, which has the goal of elevating Fort Monroe as a national treasure and unlocking the landmark’s vast historical and recreational potential. Recently, the Commonwealth has worked collaboratively with the Park Service to open a new combined visitor center and hosted a successful 400th anniversary commemoration event regarding the arrival of the first Africans in North America. Moving forward with this land donation will help strengthen the relationship between the Commonwealth and Fort Monroe and help the monument move closer to realizing its vast potential.

We respectfully request that the Department of the Interior move forward with accepting this land donation from the Commonwealth of Virginia as quickly as possible. This transfer has been delayed for too long and the time is now for this donation to move forward. We appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to your response.

 

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NEWPORT NEWS, VA - Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), as well as Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01), Congresswoman Elaine Luria (VA-02), and Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03), announced the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF) has been awarded a $847,646 grant from the Small Community Air Service Development Program (SCASDP) through the U.S. Department of Transportation. Specifically, this grant will provide funding to expand service at PHF with a new United flight to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD).  

“We are glad to see this vital funding go toward supporting travel throughout the Commonwealth, while also promoting greater economic opportunities for the surrounding areas,” said Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.  

“This grant will not only provide vital air service between the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF) and Washington Dulles Airport (IAD), but benefit the entire Greater Peninsula area,” said Congressman Rob Wittman. “By returning United Airlines to PHF with regular service for the first time since the early 1980’s, this grant allows PHF to meet the regions’ growing business demands through vital connections to overseas destinations. I am proud to have advocated on behalf of this funding for the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, and look forward to watching as this project improves the economy and quality of life across coastal Virginia.” 

“Providing an additional direct flight from Newport News/Williamsburg to Washington Dulles Airport is critical to meeting the transit and economic needs of the over 500,000 residents of the Peninsula,” said Congresswoman Elaine Luria. "Time after time, I have voiced the importance of investing in our regional infrastructure, and I am proud to have helped secure this victory alongside the Virginia delegation on behalf of Peninsula residents.”

“This grant will greatly benefit the Commonwealth by providing regular air service between Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF) and Washington Dulles Airport (IAD),” said Congressman Bobby Scott. “This will help reduce congestion on our roadways, boost our economy, and provide more connection to overseas destinations. I am thankful for the bipartisan effort to secure this grant funding and look forward to seeing its implementation.” 

“The Peninsula Airport Commission and its staff are grateful for the tremendous amount of public and private support our community provided us during the application process,” said Michael Giardino, Executive Director of the Peninsula Airport Commission. “We are committed to bringing reliable commercial air service to the Virginia Peninsula.” 

This grant announcement follows a series of letters sent by Representatives Wittman, Luria, and Scott, as well as Senators Warner and Kaine, to the United States Department of Transportation recommending the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport be awarded this grant from SCASDP. You can find these letters attached to this release.  

Congressman Rob Wittman represents the First District of Virginia. He serves on the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Armed Services Committee, where he serves as the ranking member of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Budget Committee, applauded the inclusion of $83.7 million in federal funds for the Norfolk Harbor project in the Biden administration’s budget proposal. The funding comes after Sen. Warner led the entire Virginia delegation in a letter requesting that the Biden administration prioritize the Norfolk Harbor Widening and Deepening project. The President’s budget proposal also includes a New Start designation, which would allow the Norfolk Harbor project to advance to its next stage of construction and receive Army Corps funding.

“This is welcome news for the Commonwealth,” said Sen. Warner. “By giving the green light on this critical designation, we can unlock much-needed federal funds to support this critical commercial and economic channel in Hampton Roads. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to make sure this project reaches the finish line.” 

Sen. Warner, a former Virginia governor, has long advocated for the Norfolk Harbor Widening and Deepening project. In February, during a virtual Senate Budget Committee hearing, Sen. Warner highlighted the project and emphasized the importance of allowing the project to receive Army Corps funding. Earlier this year, Sen. Warner also led the entire Virginia congressional delegation in sending a letter to OMB requesting a New Start designation for the Norfolk Harbor project – a request they made in 2020 as well. In 2018, Sen. Warner successfully pushed for the inclusion of the Norfolk Harbor project, in addition to other coastal resiliency programs, in the bipartisan water infrastructure bill. 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) along with Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) today introduced the Chesapeake Bay Science, Education and Ecosystem Enhancement (SEEE) Act, which aims to restore the health of the Bay Watershed, strengthen fisheries management, and expand environmental education programs for residents across the Bay Watershed. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. John Sarbanes (D-MD), Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Rob Wittman (R-VA).

“The Chesapeake Bay is not only an important recreational and ecological treasure, it’s also a vital economic engine for Virginia,” said Sen. Warner. “I am proud to introduce this legislation that will support the mission of NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay office to improve the health of the Bay and ensure its sustainable use for generations to come.”

“The prosperity of the Commonwealth and the health of the Chesapeake Bay are inextricable,” said Sen. Kaine. “This bill will support the vital work of preserving our ecosystems, maintaining healthy waterways, and understanding climate challenges so Virginia can continue to reap the benefits the Bay provides.”

“We are at a critical moment for Chesapeake Bay restoration, facing harmful climate change impacts such as rising sea levels, temperatures, and extreme rain events,” said Sen. Cardin. “NOAA's science helps ensure the investments we make will go the furthest to benefit the watershed through improved livelihoods, public health, water quality, and resilience—now and in the future.” 

“A clean Chesapeake Bay is essential to the health of Maryland’s environment and success of our Bay economy,” said Sen. Van Hollen. “This legislation will help deliver on our commitment to preserve and protect the Bay through crucial partners like the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office and environmental educational programs. I am proud to support this bill and will continue working in Congress to provide the resources necessary to promote a clean and healthy Chesapeake Bay.” 

“I am proud to cosponsor this bipartisan, bicameral legislation to support restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, an incredible wildlife area that includes multiple counties in West Virginia. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle as we work to reauthorize the NOAA Chesapeake Bay office and the programs they support to benefit the habitats in our state and across the Chesapeake Bay region,” said Sen. Manchin.

Specifically, the Chesapeake Bay SEEE Act would: 

  • Reauthorize the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office (CBO), a key partner of the Bay Program and leader of the Program’s fisheries, environmental literacy, climate resiliency, and habitat work. The bill would allow NOAA CBO to collaborate with universities, nonprofits, and other Bay stakeholders to promote integrated coastal observations – such as monitoring and observing restoration activities, collecting and analyzing marine resources data – and information sharing to assist policymakers, resource managers, and the public.
  • Direct NOAA to support coordinated management, protection, characterization, and restoration of Bay habitats and living resources, as well as the Interpretive Buoy System along the Capital John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.
  • Authorize the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) program, which awards educational grants related to Bay restoration.
  • Reauthorize NOAA CBO through 2025, funding it at $12 million in FY22, $20.7 million in FY23, $22.57 million in FY24, and $24.627 million in FY25.

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the U.S. More than 150,000 streams and rivers thread through the Chesapeake’s 64,000-square-mile watershed, which is home to 18 million people across Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. 

A copy of the bill text can be found here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $10,575,962 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to help fund projects at 7 airports across the Commonwealth. The funding was awarded through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which supports infrastructure improvement projects at airports across the nation. A portion of the funding also comes from the American Rescue Plan supported by Sens. Warner and Kaine.

“With the COVID-19 crisis almost in the rearview mirror and families beginning to plan their summer getaways, we’re pleased to see these funds go towards safety improvements at airports across the Commonwealth,” said the Senators.

The American Rescue Plan provided additional funds to help airports weather the effects of COVID-19. To further assist with much-needed infrastructure updates at airports, Sen. Warner introduced bicameral, bipartisan legislation, which would set up a funding stream to help strengthen Virginia’s infrastructure and create jobs.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) 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 – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today participated in a virtual Senate Budget Committee hearing with Neera Tanden, President Biden’s nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). During the hearing, Sen. Warner questioned Tanden about her willingness to conduct a fulsome review of recent Army Corps of Engineers Work Plans, given the previous administration’s seemingly politically-motivated decision-making in prioritizing certain Army Corps projects over others that appear to be more competitive, including the Norfolk Harbor and Channels Deepening and Widening project.

“[Traditionally,] the Army Corp of Engineers civil works program…has been extraordinarily bipartisan. There is a thorough review where projects come forward, get evaluated, and then on a basis of points usually get added into that precious New Start category,” said Sen. Warner. “Unfortunately, over the last couple of years, we’ve seen that process politicized.” 

He continued, “We’ve seen a project…the Norfolk Harbor…clearly been qualified as the top project to get funded under any kind of objective analysis. But at the eleventh and a half hour, that objective analysis was thrown out the door by the previous administration’s OMB, and a political process took over. So I hope that you will be willing to conduct a full review of the Army Corp work plans to make sure that we can get back to a fair evaluation.” 

Given the critical work the Army Corps does in states across the country, Congress regularly provides substantial funding to the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works program to help address the backlog of civil works projects. In providing additional funding, Congress has traditionally entrusted Army Corps professionals to determine which projects provide the greatest return on taxpayers’ investment. However, over the course of the past four years, these recommendations have seemingly been ignored or overruled by the Trump administration, in favor of other projects that appear to serve political means. 

A New Start designation would allow the Norfolk Harbor and Channels Widening and Deepening project to advance to its next stage of construction and receive Army Corps funding. Currently, the project is progressing using a combination of state and local funds.

Sen. Warner, a former Virginia governor, has been a champion in Congress for the Norfolk Harbor Widening and Deepening project, which will expand Norfolk Harbor’s shipping channels, improve navigation, and energize the national, state and local economy. In 2018, Sen. Warner successfullypushed for the inclusion of the Norfolk Harbor project, in addition to other coastal resiliency programs, in the bipartisan water infrastructure bill. Earlier this year, he led the entire Virginia congressional delegation in sending a letter to OMB requesting a New Start designation for the Norfolk Harbor project – a request they made in 2020 as well.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), sent a letter urging the Biden Administration to allocate funds to address the deferred maintenance backlog at Colonial National Historical Park in the President’s FY22 budget request. Colonial National Historical Park has a deferred maintenance backlog of over $434 million, the largest backlog of any national park unit in Virginia. Specifically, the members of Congress are requesting that the Department of the Interior allocate funds that were made possible by the passage of Sen. Warner’s legislation, the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), to help address deferred maintenance along the Colonial Parkway, which connects Virginia Historic Triangle: Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown Battlefield.

“As the Department of the Interior continues its work on the FY22 Budget, we urge the Department to allocate funds from the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) to address significant deferred maintenance along the historic and vital Colonial Parkway, located within Colonial National Historical Park (COLO). The deferred maintenance backlog at COLO currently stands at $434 million, the highest of any unit in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Critical maintenance needs along the Colonial Parkway make up a significant portion of COLO’s deferred maintenance backlog,” wrote the Members of Congress to Department of the Interior Acting Secretary Scott de la Vega.

In their letter, the members of Congress underscore the vital role the 23-mile scenic Colonial Parkway plays in connecting Virginia’s Historic Triangle, which Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown rely on for tourism in addition to serving as a critical local commuter route in the region.

“In addition to linking these historic sites, the Parkway has become an important local commuter route in Eastern Virginia. Some sections carry over four million vehicles per year and the Federal Highway Administration predicts a traffic increase of nearly 50 percent over the next 20 years. Repairs to the Colonial Parkway are needed to address significant safety and flooding concerns, preserve and improve access to historical sites like Jamestown and Yorktown Battlefield, and extend the life of the Parkway,” they continued.

The Great American Outdoors Act is a product of Sen. Warner’s more than three-year effort to provide relief to national parks in Virginia, where the maintenance backlog currently sits at $1.1 billion. Last year, four Virginia projects received funding in FY21, including a project to rehabilitate the northern section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway and a project to refurbish a significant portion of Skyline Drive. The members of Congress have also sent a letter in support of  funding repairs along an 11-mile stretch of Colonial Parkway between Williamsburg and Yorktown, Va.

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

 

Dear Acting Director de la Vega:

As the Department of the Interior continues its work on the FY22 Budget, we urge the Department to allocate funds from the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) to address significant deferred maintenance along the historic and vital Colonial Parkway, located within Colonial National Historical Park (COLO). The deferred maintenance backlog at COLO currently stands at $434 million, the highest of any unit in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Critical maintenance needs along the Colonial Parkway make up a significant portion of COLO’s deferred maintenance backlog.

The Colonial Parkway holds significant historical value and plays a vital role for communities in Eastern Virginia. Completed in 1957, the Colonial Parkway is a 23-mile scenic roadway that extends from the York River at Yorktown to the James River at Jamestown. The Parkway connects Virginia’s Historic Triangle: Historic Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, and Yorktown Battlefields – three of the most historically significant sites in our country. Congress passed the GAOA in large part to preserve our historical sites for future generations of Americans. Virginia’s Historic Triangle is integral to the story of our nation’s founding.

In addition to linking these historic sites, the Parkway has become an important local commuter route in Eastern Virginia. Some sections carry over four million vehicles per year and the Federal Highway Administration predicts a traffic increase of nearly 50 percent over the next 20 years. Repairs to the Colonial Parkway are needed to address significant safety and flooding concerns, preserve and improve access to historical sites like Jamestown and Yorktown Battlefield, and extend the life of the Parkway.

Thank you for your attention to this request. We understand the difficult task the Department has in allocating GAOA funds. We look forward to working with the Department on implementation of GAOA to ensure our national parks and public lands have the resources they need to reduce the deferred maintenance backlog and rebuild critical infrastructure.

Sincerely,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Accomack: 4401

Albemarle: 3765

Amherst: 10217

Augusta: 11919

Bath: 4731

Bland: 3901

Botetourt: 7792

Brunswick: 8041

Buckingham: 8400

Campbell: 8756

Caroline: 3278

Carroll: 4767

Charlotte: 12586

Chesterfield: 38638

Culpeper: 18511

Cumberland: 10052

Dinwiddie: 12196

Essex: 8026

Fairfax: 11213

Floyd: 9102

Franklin: 25439

Grayson: 5277

Halifax: 27851

Hanover: 4243

Henrico: 39618

Henry: 22130

Highland: 2321

James City: 4014

King and Queen: 3881

Loudoun: 3869

Mecklenburg: 17632

Montgomery: 32249

Nelson: 5696

Nottoway: 9783

Orange: 4934

Patrick: 11262

Pittsylvania: 23119

Prince Edward: 10624

Prince George: 8543

Prince William: 55128

Rappahannock: 7373

Rockbridge: 15873

Rockingham: 11530

Scott: 7959

Shenandoah: 9068

Smyth: 3913

Southampton: 7958

Spotsylvania: 21803

Stafford: 12818

Sussex: 6377

Tazewell: 12740

Warren: 14335

Wise: 9566

Wythe: 6773

Bristol: 13982

Buena Vista: 6650

Charlottesville: 6616

Chesapeake: 33605

Covington: 3098

Danville: 15545

Franklin City: 8582

Fredericksburg: 8988

Hampton: 38928

Harrisonburg: 9016

Hopewell: 12120

Lexington: 7042

Lynchburg: 29886

Manassas: 7678

Manassas Park: 6248

Martinsville: 6166

Newport News: 38292

Norfolk: 62583

Petersburg: 22639

Portsmouth: 11862

Radford: 12260

Richmond City: 62381

Roanoke City: 39950

Salem: 10424

Suffolk: 9752

Virginia Beach: 27205

Waynesboro: 5240

Williamsburg: 4138

Total: 1,186,877

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

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released a statement after the Senate conducted a cloture vote to confirm Alejandro Mayorkas as Secretary of Homeland Security:

“Though I was unable to vote on the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas today, I would have voted to confirm Mr. Mayorkas as Secretary of Homeland Security. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting virtually with Mr. Mayorkas regarding his nomination, and we had a good discussion touching on many issues critical to Virginia – including the TPS and DACA programs that allow nearly 40,000 Virginians to live and work legally in the Commonwealth, and the H2B visa program that is essential to our seafood industry. 

“Given that our government is dealing with the largest cybersecurity breach in our nation’s history and a rise in domestic terrorism, it is critically important that the Department of Homeland Security have in place an experienced, capable and Senate-confirmed leader as soon as possible.”

Sen. Warner was unable to vote in the Senate today, as he is following recommended public health guidance regarding possible exposure to COVID-19 and quarantining at home.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) met with President Biden’s nominee for Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, ahead of his confirmation vote to discuss the importance of the Commonwealth’s seafood industry and its reliance on H-2B visas.

“During my conversation with Mr. Mayorkas, I stressed the importance of Virginia’s seafood processing industry, which includes many small and family-owned businesses, and their reliance on H-2B visas to hire seasonal workers. As I indicated during the meeting, it is my hope that we find a long-term solution to support these small, family-owned businesses in the Northern Neck,” said Sen. Warner.

Sen. Warner has long advocated for Virginia’s seafood processing industry – a community largely made up of rural, family-owned operations. Last February, Sen. Warner 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.

In July, Sen. Warner sent a bicameral, bipartisan letter to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) highlighting the severe impacts COVID-19 is having on the seafood industry and requesting that USDA consider establishing a short-term purchasing program for shellfish products.As a result of these efforts, USDA recently announced its decision to allow oyster and clam businesses to access funds included within the CARES Act Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, an announcement that Sen. Warner applauded.

In September, he also fired off a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding the urgent need to secure H-2B visas for seasonal seafood workers in Virginia with the oyster harvesting season now in full swing. And in October in the Northern Neck, Sen. Warner participated in a socially-distanced meet and greet to celebrate the kickoff of the oyster harvesting season and to discuss his work in Congress to help Virginia’s family-owned seafood processors keep their operations up and running during the economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 health crisis.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement on the passing of Hampton Sheriff B.J. Roberts:

“B.J. Roberts served the people of Hampton faithfully for many decades. He was a trailblazer who was deeply committed to improving relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

“He was also my friend for close to 30 years, and even nominated me when I first ran for Senate in 1996.

“My thoughts are with the Roberts family and the deputies and staff of the Hampton Sheriff’s Office during this time.”  

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

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

The funding will be distributed as follows:

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

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

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement on the passing of Robert “Bob” Bloxom Sr., who served as Virginia’s first Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry:

“Bob Bloxom was a true Virginian who always put the Commonwealth first.

“For years as Governor and afterwards, whenever I was in the Eastern Shore and looking for an applause line, I would always remind folks that I appointed Bob Bloxom as the first Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. That was always greeted with a round of thundering applause, because he was that well-respected.

“I want to offer my sincerest condolences to his wife Pat, his children Lee and Robert Jr. and his four grandchildren.” 

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WASHINGTON, D.C – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $7,485,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to construct a new stormwater pump station in the Olde Towne Historic District of Portsmouth. It’s estimated that this project will reduce the flooding risk for the entire Olde Towne Historic District, including 210 buildings, and protect an area of approximately 23 acres.

“We’re pleased to announce this federal funding to support the construction of a critical flood mitigation project in Portsmouth,” said the Senators. “Recurrent flooding can have detrimental effects on a region. This project will better protect the treasured Olde Towne Historic District from future flood damage.”

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement on the passing of former Virginia Delegate Mamye BaCote:

“Mamye was a dear friend and trusted ally when I was Governor. She cared deeply about making sure every Virginian got a fair shot. Mamye was a champion for Virginians and I join her friends, family, and everyone in Newport News and across the Commonwealth in mourning her loss.” 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) are now accepting applications for the position of U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia to succeed U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady, who took senior status on May 1, 2020. An independent panel of lawyers assembled by the Senators will review applications and interview qualified individuals. The Senators will then use those recommendations, as well as input from bar associations and experts, as they consider potential nominees to recommend to the President. The White House will then nominate an individual to be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The nomination is subject to confirmation by the full Senate. 

Interested applicants should visit Senator Warner’s website for application instructions. The application period will close December 18, 2020.

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) applauded an announcement from the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) on proposed site locations for the new Southside outpatient clinic for veterans in Hampton Roads, a region hosting one of the fastest-growing veteran populations in the country. This facility is much needed in the Hampton Roads area, where enrollees are expected to increase by 44 percent over the next 20 years, and outpatient workload is expected to increase by more than 70 percent. Additionally, while the veteran population in Virginia is predicted to grow more than two percent over the next eight years, enrollees at the Hampton VA are expected to rise approximately 16 percent within the same timeframe.

“After years of advocacy and pressure, we’re finally gaining momentum on this much-needed facility that will serve thousands of Virginia veterans. For too long, excessive wait times and overburdened facilities in the region have prevented our veterans from receiving the quality health care they deserve. With today’s announcement, we’re one step closer to ensuring that the fastest growing veteran population will receive the top-notch care they have earned,” said Sen. Warner. “While I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made today, make no mistake that I’ll keep up the pressure to make sure the GSA and the VA stay on track to get this facility up and running.”

The news follows Sen. Warner’s four-year advocacy to get the new Hampton VA clinic up and running. The 215,000 square foot outpatient facility – meant to alleviate demand in the region – is the result of a successful bipartisan effort originally spearheaded by Sen. Warner in 2016to approve 28 overdue Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility leases, including another outpatient clinic Fredericksburg, Virginia. Since then, Sen. Warner has been continuing his pressure to get these facilities up and running, including by pressuring the GSA and the VA to move these projects forward, personally calling and pushing the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director to sign off on these clinics’ lease prospectuses, and successfully urging the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) to bring up the prospectuses for approval.

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

Today’s GSA announcement also states that GSA is preparing an Environmental Assessment in compliance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. GSA is also opening up a public comment period regarding its proposed site locations until mid-November.  

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that the Virginia Port Authority will receive $20,184,999 in federal funds to complete its Central Rail Yard (CRY) expansion project at Norfolk International Terminals (NIT). This funding will build on the investments the Port has made across its two largest terminals, the NIT and Virginia International Gateway (VIG), to expand on-terminal rail capacity at NIT.

“The Port of Virginia is a major economic engine for the entire Commonwealth,” said the Senators. “These federal funds will support an important expansion at the Port that will increase the Port’s competitiveness and efficiency and allow it to continue to serve manufacturers and farmers in Virginia and across the country.”

The Port of Virginia is a major gateway for U.S. inland and Midwest markets. The Port handles a higher percentage of rail cargo than any other port on the East Coast. Thirty-four percent of the cargo processed at the Port arrives and departs via rail. 

This grant supports the construction of two new rail bundles containing four tracks each, in addition to a center working area for transferring and staging containers. Associated lead-in tracks will incorporate turnouts and switches from the terminal’s main rail line and vehicle crossings. Additionally, the project will create a return access road that will separate rail dray traffic returning to the container yard from general truck traffic.

The NIT CRY expansion project would double the 368,000 annual container capacity of the existing CRY. The new rail bundles are projected to generate $112.1 million in total economic benefits.

The funding was awarded through the 2020 Port Infrastructure Development Discretionary Grants Program at the U.S. Department of Transportation. In May 2020, Warner and Kaine joined the entire Virginia congressional delegation in a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, advocating for the project. Additionally, in August, Sen. Warner again wrote to the Secretary in support of the funding that was announced today. 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) and Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-MD) applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to allow oyster and clam businesses to access funds included within the CARES Act Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. The Senators penned a letter in July urging USDA to include these businesses – many of which are small and family owned – given the economic hardship they’re facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Like other agricultural producers, the seafood and shellfish aquaculture industry in Virginia has suffered greatly as a result of this health and economic crisis,” said Senator Warner. “Compounded by supply chain and labor disruptions, this financial blow has strained many family-owned businesses who now find themselves with their backs against the wall. That’s why I’m glad that USDA has finally complied with our request to include these businesses in the relief programs established and funded by Congress. I trust that this will provide many independent seafood businesses with the reprieve they need to continue operations and emerge stronger after this crisis is over.”

“Virginia’s shellfish farmers are hurting. Due to the pandemic, they have experienced massive losses in sales that would normally go to restaurants. We have continually pushed USDA to do all that they can to help our shellfish producers withstand these difficult circumstances. This move by the USDA will provide much needed relief to these businesses, many of which are family owned and operated,” said Senator Kaine.

“Maryland’s small oyster and clam businesses are crucial to our local economy. But like many during this pandemic, they’re struggling to get by. Providing them access to these relief funds will help ensure that they can continue to make ends meet during this difficult time. I’m glad to see USDA heeded our calls, and I will continue working to support this vital local industry,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Shellfish growing, harvesting and transport are vitally important to Maryland’s rural economies, and those engaged in these industries illustrate the hard work and determination that define so many of Maryland’s small businesses,” said Senator Cardin. “I’ve worked for years to expand markets and streamline regulations so these industries can expand, yet the pandemic has dealt an unforeseen blow to many producers. This assistance will provide a critical infusion of aid, hopefully allowing these aquaculture producers to persist until their markets return in full.”  

More details on the program, including application information, can be found here. USDA will be accepting applications from now through December 11, 2020.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) continued to raise the alarm regarding the urgent need to secure H-2B visas for seasonal seafood workers in Virginia and around the United States. 

In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Sen. Warner urged the U.S. Department of State to make clear that seafood companies seeking H-2B visas for their seasonal workers qualify for national interest exceptions (NIEs) to Presidential Proclamations 10014 and 10052which suspend entry to the United States for certain immigrant visa applicants through December 31, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This clarification would help local businesses plan for seasonal seafood workers to obtain H-2B work visas for “travel necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States.”

“With a half billion dollar economic impact, Virginia seafood is a key industry in the Commonwealth. Its success largely depends on seasonal workers, who shuck oysters, clams, and crabs, hand pick seafood meat, pack fish, and perform other critical tasks,” wrote Sen. Warner. “While seafood businesses have made good faith efforts to find local seasonal workers, employers often must rely on H-2B visas to fill difficult and labor-intensive positions. The industry is already confronting significant business challenges due to the pandemic, and now faces the potential for further economic harm unless it is able to access H-2B visas.”

In Virginia, the financial hardship of failing to secure visas for H-2B workers will be extreme, with the burden falling heavily on small, seasonal Virginia seafood companies already facing economic uncertainty due to the COVID-19 crisis,” he continued. “Without concrete guidance on the H-2B visa process as it relates to the Presidential Proclamations, our seafood industry remains in a perilous position, as businesses seek to survive the pandemic. I urge you to ensure congressionally-authorized H-2B visas are granted to seafood workers who meet the NIE guidelines.” 

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.

Sen. Warner has long advocated for Virginia’s seafood processing industry – a community largely made up of rural, family-owned operations. In February, Sen. Warner 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. Additionally, Sen. Warner has successfully pressed the Trump Administration to extend a ban on offshore oil and gas drilling to Virginia in accordance with requests from Virginia’s coastal communities, whose seafood industries would have been be severely impacted by the Trump Administration proposal to allow offshore drilling.

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

Dear Secretary Pompeo: 

I write to urge you to clarify that seafood companies seeking H-2B visas for their seasonal workers, via the Temporary Nonagricultural Worker Program, do qualify for the national interest exemption to Presidential Proclamation 10052. 

With a half billion dollar economic impact, Virginia seafood is a key industry in the Commonwealth. Its success largely depends on seasonal workers, who shuck oysters, clams, and crabs, hand pick seafood meat, pack fish, and perform other critical tasks. While seafood businesses have made good faith efforts to find local seasonal workers, employers often must rely on H-2B visas to fill difficult and labor-intensive positions. The industry is already confronting significant business challenges due to the pandemic, and now faces the potential for further economic harm unless it is able to access H-2B visas. 

As you know, Presidential Proclamations (P.P.) 10014 and 10052 suspend entry to the United States for certain immigrant visa applicants through December 31, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both proclamations include National Interest Exceptions (NIE), which allow the government to issue H-2B work visas for “travel necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States.” The proclamations further state that the NIE apply when at least two of three indicators are present: 

1.) The applicant was previously employed and trained by the petitioning U.S. employer. 

2.) The applicant is traveling based on a temporary labor certification (TLC) that reflects continued need for the worker. 

3.) Denial of the visa pursuant to P.P. 10052 will cause financial hardship to the U.S. employer. 

Many seafood companies in Virginia and around the United States depend on seasonal workers whose positions meet all three of the criteria listed above. In Virginia, the financial hardship of failing to secure visas for H-2B workers will be extreme, with the burden falling heavily on small, seasonal Virginia seafood companies already facing economic uncertainty due to the COVID-19 crisis. For example: 

1.) A bait fish packing operation in the Northern Neck of Virginia will lose approximately $150,000 in revenue each month without H-2B visa workers and will not be able to purchase bait fish from watermen or purse seine vessels. 

2.) A crab picking operation in Hampton Roads will lose five American full-time salary positions and approximately $600,000 in revenue each month without H-2B workers. 

3.) A Northern Neck bait fish operation will lose approximately $1M each month in combined bait fish purchases and profit in sales. As a result, American truck drivers, supervisors and office personnel will be laid off. 

4.) A bait fish operation will lose $350,000 each month in product sales without H-2B visas. 

While I understand that local consulates make individual visa approval decisions, I ask that the Administration clarify that seafood workers are covered by the NIE. Additionally, I ask that you provide a response to the following questions, either via writing or a meeting, by October 14, 2020: 

1.) Are all consulates aware of the clear NIE guidance for P.P. 10014 and 10052? 

2.) Do visa applicants and petitioning employers receive a clear explanation of factors that result in a visa being denied? If so, how is this explanation communicated? 

3.) What point of contact has the ultimate authority to provide such explanations? 

4.) What process is available for visa applicants who appear to meet all visa and NIE guidelines to have their H-2B visa denials reconsidered? 

Virginia seafood businesses, many of which are family-owned operations going back multiple generations, depend on the Department of State to issue congressionally-authorized H-2B visas in order to survive. Without concrete guidance on the H-2B visa process as it relates to the Presidential Proclamations, our seafood industry remains in a perilous position, as businesses seek to survive the pandemic. I urge you to ensure congressionally-authorized H-2B visas are granted to seafood workers who meet the NIE guidelines. Thank you for your careful attention to this critical matter.

Sincerely,

 

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