Press Releases

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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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement today upon the Senate voting overwhelmingly to confirm Roderick C. Young as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia:

“Roderick Young will be a fair, even-minded judge who is already well-respected in the Commonwealth. We were proud to recommend his nomination to this court, and we’re pleased to see him confirmed today.”

In March, Warner and Kaine recommended the nomination of Young—who, until now, has been a U.S. magistrate judge—based on the assessments of an independent panel of attorneys from across the Commonwealth as well as feedback from numerous bar associations in Virginia.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $7,798,131 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) to develop, expand, and strengthen assistance programs for victims of sex trafficking in Richmond, Fairfax, Alexandria, and Hampton. 

“Community and government-based agencies are on the front lines in the battle against human trafficking,” said the Senators. "We are pleased to announce these critical funds to support communities across the Commonwealth in their effort to end human trafficking.”

The funding was awarded as follows:

  • $1,684,000 for the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services in Richmond, VA.
  • $1,499,911 for the ICF Incorporated, L.L.C. in Fairfax, VA.
  • $588,868 for the Transitions Family Violence Services in Hampton, VA.
  • $2,500,000 for the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Alexandria, VA.
  • $1,000,000 for the National White Collar Crime Center in Richmond, VA.
  • $525,352 for the Virginia Department of Law in Richmond, VA.

In 2016, the Senate passed legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which included a provision championed by Sen. Warner to combat human trafficking in the skies. The Stop Trafficking on Planes (STOP) Act requires airlines to train flight attendants to recognize and report suspected human trafficking to law enforcement.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, along with U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott, Gerry Connolly, Don Beyer, A. Donald McEachin, Elaine Luria, Abigail Spanberger and Jennifer Wexton (all D-VA), wrote a letter to President Trump requesting that he extend a moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling to the Commonwealth of Virginia. This letter follows the President’s decision to exempt three states led by Republican governors (Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina) from his Administration’s plan to open more than 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas leasing. This, despite requests for an exemption from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, members of Virginia’s Congressional Delegation, and Virginia’s coastal communities, whose industries would be severely impacted by the proposal. 

“In Virginia, more than 20 communities have officially voiced their opposition to offshore drilling, including the Commonwealth’s most populous cities, Virginia Beach and Norfolk. In addition, Virginia’s General Assembly passed a law earlier this year that would prohibit oil and gas drilling and related infrastructure in Virginia waters,” wrote the lawmakers. “Offshore oil and gas drilling threatens the Commonwealth’s economy, natural resources, and military assets. Virginia’s coastal communities rely predominantly on industries that would be affected by your proposal including tourism, recreation, commercial fishing, aquaculture, and deepwater port commerce. Further, the Department of Defense’s analysis has shown that oil and gas leasing off the coast of Virginia could potentially disrupt military operations, training, and testing activities critical to the U.S. military’s readiness and our national security.” 

They continued, “For these reasons and more, Virginians are overwhelmingly opposed to your administration’s proposal to expand offshore drilling off the Atlantic Coast. Virginia has been as vocal in its opposition to opening up its offshore area to oil and gas drilling as Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Yet, Virginia has not received the same promises as these states.” 

In 2018, the Trump Administration proposed a program to open more than 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas leasing. This program was subsequently opposed by Republican and Democratic governors all along the Atlantic seaboard. Offshore oil and gas drilling has also been opposed by more than 285 localities on the East Coast and Florida’s Gulf Coast, 2,300 elected officials, 46,000 businesses, and 500,000 fishing families along the East Coast. 

In their letter, the members of Congress noted the President’s lack of explanation for Virginia’s exclusion, and urged the President to take the concerns from Virginia coastal communities just as seriously as those in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. 

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

 

Dear President Trump:

We write today regarding your recent issuance of a Presidential Memorandum to the Secretary of the Interior extending a moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling off the coasts of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina until at least 2032. We are deeply concerned that a similar moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling has not been extended to the Commonwealth of Virginia, despite requests from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, members of Virginia’s Congressional Delegation, and Virginia’s coastal communities. 

In 2018, your administration released the 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Proposed Program, which would have opened more than 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to oil and gas leasing including the coast of Virginia. Republican and Democratic governors along the Atlantic seaboard have indicated their opposition to this proposed plan. In addition, over 285 localities on the East Coast and Florida’s Gulf Coast, 2,300 elected officials, 46,000 businesses, and 500,000 fishing families along the East Coast have expressed their opposition to offshore oil and gas drilling.

In Virginia, more than 20 communities have officially voiced their opposition to offshore drilling, including the Commonwealth’s most populous cities, Virginia Beach and Norfolk. In addition, Virginia’s General Assembly passed a law earlier this year that would prohibit oil and gas drilling and related infrastructure in Virginia waters.

Offshore oil and gas drilling threatens the Commonwealth’s economy, natural resources, and military assets. Virginia’s coastal communities rely predominantly on industries that would be affected by your proposal including tourism, recreation, commercial fishing, aquaculture, and deepwater port commerce. Further, the Department of Defense’s analysis has shown that oil and gas leasing off the coast of Virginia could potentially disrupt military operations, training, and testing activities critical to the U.S. military’s readiness and our national security. 

For these reasons and more, Virginians are overwhelmingly opposed to your administration’s proposal to expand offshore drilling off the Atlantic Coast. Virginia has been as vocal in its opposition to opening up its offshore area to oil and gas drilling as Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Yet, Virginia has not received the same promises as these states. Your September 8, 2020, Presidential Memorandum, and accompanying remarks in Jupiter, FL, provided zero reasons for extending the moratorium for three states while excluding every other affected state.

Throughout this process, your Administration has emphasized the consideration and importance of the “local and state voice.” Therefore, we respectfully urge you to take the concerns from Virginia coastal communities just as seriously as those in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. 

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $5,115,615 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) to reduce domestic violence, dating violence, and sexual assault in Charlottesville, Norfolk, Marion, and Richmond.  

“Community-based intervention programs are an invaluable tool in the fight against violence against women,” said the Senators. "We are pleased to announce these critical funds to support communities across the Commonwealth in their effort to end domestic violence.”

The funding was awarded as follows:

·       $340,313 for the Sexual Assault Resource Agency’s Engaging Men Program in Charlottesville, VA.

·       $369,340 for the Rural Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking Program to YWCA South Hampton Roads in Norfolk, VA.

·       $744,326 for the Rural Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking Program to Southwest Virginia Legal Aid Society in Marion, VA.

·       $3,661,636 for the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services STOP (Services, Training, Officers, Prosecutors) Violence Against Women Formula Grant Program in Richmond, VA. 

Sens. Warner and Kaine have worked to secure funding that better supports victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. In April, the senators wrote a letter to Congressional leadership requesting that any future legislation to address the ongoing coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) provides funding to support victims and survivors, including programs authorized by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In December, the Senators also joined their colleagues in introducing companion legislation to the House-passed Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act that would reauthorize VAWA through 2024.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $14,400,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to address traffic and connectivity issues in Norfolk, VA. The funding follows aggressive advocacy by Sens. Warner and Kainewho personally sent letters to Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in support of the City of Norfolk’s application for DOT’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) program.
“We’re proud to announce that these federal dollars will help fund crucial upgrades in St. Paul’s area, improving city mobility and quality of life for the thousands of Virginians that commute through these streets every day,” said the Senators.
We are grateful for the continued and significant support for the transformation of the St. Paul’s area. This $14.4 million BUILD grant brings the total investment, to date, for this initiative above $50 million and helps us leverage additional funding for the generational project. It will fund new gridded, elevated roadways that will mitigate flooding. This transformed and resilient infrastructure will feature pedestrian friendly streets and corridors, enhanced access to transit, and improved connections to broadband. The resilient, mix-use community that will rise from this new foundation will be home to more than 700 units of new replacement, affordable and market rate housing. This significant award was the result of a tireless and coordinated effort. We appreciate the incredible work and commitment of our residents, stakeholders, federal partners including Secretary Chao, Congressional delegation including Senators Warner and Kaine, and City of Norfolk staff,” said City of Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander.
This project will upgrade approximately 1.33 miles of road in the St. Paul’s area to reestablish a connected street grid in a new, mix-use housing and commercial development. Specifically, it will upgrade corridors and intersections along Freemason, Church, Tidewater, Chapel, Reilly, Mariner, and Holt Streets and Resilience Drive as complete streets with expanded sidewalks, streetscape improvements, dedicated bicycle facilities, wayfinding signage, transit connectivity, and stormwater management and flood mitigation.
St. Paul’s area has faced significant challenges due to extensive tidal and stormwater flooding, aging infrastructure, and housing, as well as social and physical isolation from a lack of connectivity to the rest of the city. 
The funding was awarded through the BUILD Transportation Discretionary Grants program, which seeks to invest in road, rail, transit, and port projects that have a significant local or regional impact and promise to achieve national objectives.
 
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $35,719,247 in federal funding to support access to safe and affordable housing throughout Virginia, particularly in communities whose households face a higher rate of eviction. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded the funding through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. The funding is part of the $5 billion in supplemental CDBG funding authorized by the CARES Act in March.

 “Too many Virginians are in danger of losing their homes due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus,” said the Senators. “We’re pleased to see significant funding go directly towards supporting affordable housing, and we will continue fighting to ensure people across the Commonwealth get the federal assistance they need.”

 The CDBG program offers annual grants on a formula basis to states, cities, and counties to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and a suitable living environment and expanding economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons.

 The following localities will receive funding through the CDBG program:

 

Recipient                      Amount

Alexandria

$943,356

Blacksburg

$210,594

Bristol

$116,003

Charlottesville

$335,024

Chesapeake

$876,358

Christiansburg

$111,118

Colonial Heights

$104,710

Danville

$228,845

Fredericksburg

$205,866

Hampton

$688,562

Harrisonburg

$326,630

Hopewell

$125,506

Lynchburg

$389,143

Newport News

$971,659

Norfolk

$1,250,901

Petersburg

$189,765

Portsmouth

$426,191

Radford

$74,893

City of Richmond

$1,362,346

Roanoke

$546,786

Staunton

$125,136

Suffolk

$323,149

Virginia Beach

$2,069,846

Waynesboro City

$117,476

Winchester

$182,191

Arlington County

$1,348,826

Chesterfield County

$1,216,799

Fairfax County

$4,850,209

Henrico County

$1,417,098

Loudoun County

$1,448,141

Prince William County

$2,145,011

Virginia Nonentitlement

$10,991,109

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) led Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) in calling on the seven largest internet service providers (ISPs) to do their part to limit the economic and social disruption caused by COVID-19 and help ensure that children are able to meaningfully participate in their education. These letters come as unprecedented numbers of students rely on remote learning to kick off the fall semester due to the ongoing public health crisis. 

In a letter sent to the CEOs of AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, T-Mobile, and Verizon, the Senators called on companies to take concrete measures to suspend limits and fees associated with increased broadband use, which is needed to participate in online courses or remote work. They also called for the companies to expand coverage areas, as the public health emergency has highlighted the devastating impact of the nation’s lingering broadband gaps.

“As a new school year commences, the need to accommodate an unprecedented reliance on data services to provide education continues. We have heard from public schools who express appreciation for internet service options that enable remote learning, but are also concerned with ongoing data limitations and continued lack of service for many households,” the Senators wrote. “In many situations, online learning activities require additional data allowances beyond plans readily available for students. We kindly request that you again take immediate action to help students connect to the online resources they need to learn, including expanding coverage areas and rolling out new service plans that better meet the needs of these families.” 

“With many schools closed and students now relying on the internet to connect with their teachers, instruction materials, and assignments, sufficient data allowances are even more essential for students’ success now and throughout their future. However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced many parents to work from home, increasing their monthly broadband usage,” they continued. “For these crucial reasons, we ask again that you temporarily suspend data caps and associated fees or throttling for affected communities, and work with public school districts, colleges, and universities to provide free, or at-cost broadband options for students whose schools are closed due to COVID-19 and don’t have sufficient access at home. These options are essential for students, regardless of household billing histories. Working with school administrations to facilitate qualification for discounts based on the schools’ personal knowledge may be especially helpful. For example, students qualifying for free/discounted lunches may also prequalify for free/discounted broadband services as well.”

According to findings from a Pew Research study, the “homework gap” of students lacking reliable access to internet connectivity or a computer at home is more pronounced among Black, Hispanic and lower-income households. In addition to the toll it takes on individual students and their families, the economic cost of this gap has been identified by McKinsey and Company as having deprived the economy of at least $426 billion between 2009 and 2019.

In their letter, the Senators noted numerous complaints that have come in to their offices from parents and educators who are grappling with usage caps and limited bandwidth, which prevent daily video calls needed to learn and work from home. The Senators also stated they’ve heard of families being deemed ineligible for the new services offered for low-income families due to previous missed payments. 

Sen. Warner has long fought for increased access to broadband in the Commonwealth during his tenure as Governor and during his time in the Senate. In March, Sen. Warner led 17 of his colleagues in urging major internet service providers to take steps to accommodate the incoming unprecedented reliance on telepresence services. After this effort, a number of major internet service providers announced the adoption of practices to better accommodate the use of remote technologies. Earlier this year, Sen. Warner also introduced legislation to help ensure adequate home internet connectivity for K-12 students during COVID-19. He has also pushed the FCC to ensure that millions of Americans are made aware of their eligibility for the FCC’s Lifeline program – the primary federal program charged with helping low-income families obtain broadband and telephone services. 

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

 

As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic requires returning students across the United States to rely on remote learning and online courses, we write to ask for your assistance to help ensure students can take full advantage of essential education opportunities this fall. In March, we were thankful that your company answered our request to make a range of accommodations and service changes to help Americans shifting to unprecedented levels of online education and telework, including suspending some broadband data limits on a temporary basis. Your decisive and timely actions helped cushion the impacts to families across the nation during the spring months. 

As a new school year commences, the need to accommodate an unprecedented reliance on data services to provide education continues. We have heard from public schools who express appreciation for internet service options that enable remote learning, but are also concerned with ongoing data limitations and continued lack of service for many households. In many situations, online learning activities require additional data allowances beyond plans readily available for students. We kindly request that you again take immediate action to help students connect to the online resources they need to learn, including expanding coverage areas and rolling out new service plans that better meet the needs of these families. Unprecedented numbers of students now rely on remote access for education due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and remote education is only as effective as available internet service. 

Effective remote learning requires capable devices and adequate broadband internet access. The Pew Research Center found in March the “homework gap” of students lacking reliable access to a computer at home is a significant challenge for many students, and even more pronounced for Black, Hispanic and lower income households. With many schools closed and students now relying on the internet to connect with their teachers, instruction materials, and assignments, sufficient data allowances are even more essential for students’ success now and throughout their future. However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced many parents to work from home, increasing their monthly broadband usage.

Our offices have fielded numerous complaints from parents and educators frustrated by usage caps and limited bandwidth, which prevent daily video calls needed to learn and work from home. And those who have no other option find themselves buried in overage fees. In some cases, we’ve learned that eligibility for new services announced for low-income households is barred if that household has missed monthly payments in the past. These predicaments shine a light on our growing digital divide and threaten the education and subsequent futures of our students. In June, McKinsey and Co. reported that this education achievement gap limited the growth of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) by at least $426 billion between 2009 and 2019. The necessary closing of schools during the public health crisis and transition to remote education has exacerbated these gaps.

For these crucial reasons, we ask again that you temporarily suspend data caps and associated fees or throttling for affected communities, and work with public school districts, colleges, and universities to provide free, or at-cost broadband options for students whose schools are closed due to COVID-19 and don’t have sufficient access at home. These options are essential for students, regardless of household billing histories. Working with school administrations to facilitate qualification for discounts based on the schools’ personal knowledge may be especially helpful. For example, students qualifying for free/discounted lunches may also prequalify for free/discounted broadband services as well. 

We look forward to promptly hearing from you about what steps you will take to help limit the economic and social disruption that COVID-19 is posing at this challenging time. We recognize that many broadband providers have experienced significant business growth since the onset of this crisis. We ask that you identify ways to give back to the communities you serve through deployment of expanded service and additional service plans and policies that respond to the concerns we’ve heard from constituents about access, affordability, and data rates.

Containing the health impact of COVID-19 will depend on observance of social distancing measures outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health authorities. But containing the economic and social impact of COVID-19 requires a whole-of-society effort. At this time of great strain on our economic and education systems, we encourage you to do everything you can to cushion the impacts on American families and students. Our offices would be happy to connect you with local education officials and administrators to facilitate this effort.

We appreciate your time and consideration of this matter.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded $543,619 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) to reduce domestic violence, dating violence, and sexual assault in Norfolk and Richmond. 

“Unfortunately, in today’s society, there’s so much more we must do to combat violence against women, especially on our college campuses,” said the Senators. “Boosting the capacity for higher education institutions to prevent violence and stalking on campus and increasing resources for support services is a start.”

The funding was awarded as follows:

  • $300,000 for Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Va. The funding was awarded through theGrants to Reduce Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking on Campus Program (Campus Program). The Campus Program provides higher education institutions the opportunity to establish comprehensive approaches to better combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking on campuses. NSU works in partnership with the YWCA of South Hampton Roads, the City of Norfolk Police Department, and the Office of Norfolk’s Commonwealth Attorney to ensure the Campus Program is properly administered.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have worked to secure funding that better supports victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. In April, the senators penned a letter to Congressional leadership requesting that any future legislation to address the ongoing coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) provides funding to support victims and survivors, including programs authorized by the Violence Against Women Act.

Kaine is the sponsor of the Survivor Outreach and Support on Campus Act (S.O.S. Campus Act), which would require colleges and universities to have an independent advocate available to support survivors of sexual assault on every campus. In 2015, provisions of Kaine’s Teach Safe Relationships Act were signed into law to allow elementary and secondary schools to use federal education funding specifically for instruction and training on safe relationship behavior among students. The idea for the legislation came out of a December 2014 meeting Kaine had at the University of Virginia to listen to students’ recommendations for preventing campus sexual assault.Warner has previously introduced bipartisan legislation to combat sexual assault on college and university campuses. The Campus Accountability and Safety Act would reform the way institutions handle incidents of on-campus sexual assault and ensure that investigations and disciplinary proceedings are fair and consistent. It would also create new resources and support services for survivors, and set new notification requirements for both survivors and accused students involved in the campus disciplinary process.

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