Press Releases

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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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $4,138,947 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help support health centers across the Commonwealth as they continue battling the COVID-19 crisis. 

“We’re thrilled to announce that these federal dollars will go towards supporting Virginia’s health centers as they continue to provide essential care during this pandemic,” said the Senators. 

The funding for health centers was awarded as follows:

  • $280,654 for Eastern Shore Rural Health System in Accomack County, Va.
  • $353,441 for Neighborhood Health in Alexandria, Va.
  • $222,750 for Johnson Health Center in Amherst County, Va.
  • $75,905 for Bland County Medical Clinic in Bland County, Va.
  • $335,491 for Central Virginia Health Services in Buckingham County, Va.
  • $215,250 for Tri-Area Community Health in Carroll County, Va.
  • $222,750 for Portsmouth Community Health Center in Portsmouth, Va. 
  • $224,446 for St. Charles Health Council in Lee County, Va.
  • $282,459 for Rockbridge Area Free Clinic in Lexington, Va.
  • $126,094 for Loudoun Community Health Center in Loudoun County, Va.
  • $40,000 for Southern Dominion Health Systems in Lunenburg County, Va.
  • $240,953 for Martinsville Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness in Martinsville, Va.
  • $207,750 for Free Clinic Of The New River Valley in Montgomery County, Va.
  • $220,818 for Blue Ridge Medical Center in Nelson County, Va.
  • $317,485 for Greater Prince William Community Health Center in Prince William County, Va.
  • $227,936 for Daily Planet Health Services in Richmond, Va.
  • $217,856 for Kuumba Community Health and Wellness Center in Roanoke, Va.
  • $222,750 for Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems in Smyth County, Va.
  • $104,159 for Horizon Health Services in Southampton County, Va. 

This funding was awarded through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Health Center Program, which provides funds to community-based health care providers that provide primary care services in underserved areas. These health centers must meet a stringent set of requirements, including providing care on a sliding fee scale based on ability to pay and operating under a governing board that includes patients.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $8,978,420 in federal funding to help Virginians access affordable housing across the Commonwealth. The funding was awarded through the Housing Choice Voucher Program and authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act supported by Warner and Kaine.

“As housing insecurity continues to rise for many Virginians, now more than ever, Congress needs to offer critical assistance to those in need,” the Senators said. “We’re pleased to announce these federal funds that will go directly towards supporting some of the most vulnerable communities right now.”  

Through the CARES Act, Congress provided $1.25 billion for Tenant-Based Rental Assistance, which funds the Housing Choice Voucher program that helps lower-income families, the elderly, and disabled individuals afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing. This funding includes $400 million for increased subsidy costs and $850 million for administrative and other expenses incurred by public housing authorities (PHAs), including activities to support or maintain the health and safety of assisted individuals and families, and costs related to retention and support of participating owners.

The funding will be awarded as below:

Recipient                                                                                          City                            Amount

Abingdon Redevelopment and Housing Authority                                 Abingdon                  14,067

Accomack-Northampton Regional Housing Authority                            Accomack                  70,053

Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                  Alexandria                384,750

Arlington County Dept. of Human Services                                         Arlington                   382,489

Big Stone Gap Redevelopment and Housing Auth.                               Big Stone Gap           14,895

Bristol Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                        Bristol                       44,015

Buckingham Housing Development Corp. Inc.                                     New Canton              12,112

Charlottesville Redevelopment & Housing Authority                             Charlottesville           60,969

Chesapeake Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                Chesapeake              273,293

County of Albemarle/Office of Housing                                               Charlottesville           68,308

Covington Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                   Covington                 6,188

Danville Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                      Danville                    202,837

Fairfax County Redevelopment & Housing Authority                             Fairfax                      1,343,712

Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority                                   Franklin                     39,053

Hampton Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                    Hampton                   546,358

Harrisonburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority                              Harrisonburg              118,122

Hopewell Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                   Hopewell                    83,304

James City County Office of Housing                                                 Williamsburg               26,718

Lee County Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                 Jonesville                   60,122

Loudoun County Department of Family Services                                Leesburg                   141,428

Lynchburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                 Lynchburg                102,166

Marion Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                     Marion                       32,611

Newport News Redevelopment & Housing Authority                          Newport News           457,534

Norfolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                    Norfolk                      670,205

Norton Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                    Norton                       13,554

People Inc. of Southwest Virginia                                                   Abingdon                  18,907

Petersburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority                              Petersburg                120,138

Portsmouth Redevelopment & Housing Authority                             Portsmouth               332,279

Prince William County Office of HCD                                              Woodbridge               467,993

Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority                               Richmond                  506,406

Roanoke Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                 Roanoke                    250,704

Scott County Redevelopment & Housing Authority                           Duffield                     28,438

Staunton Redevelopment & Housing Authority                                Staunton                   26,821

Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority                                Suffolk                      158,077

Virginia Beach Dept. of Housing & Neighborhood Pres.                     Virginia Beach          363,274

Virginia Housing Development Authority                                         Richmond                 1,381,408

Waynesboro Redevelopment & Housing Authority                           Waynesboro              46,973

Wise County Redevelopment & Housing Authority                            Coeburn                    90,291

Wytheville Redevelopment & Housing Authority                               Wytheville                17,848

 

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WASHINGTON – Members of Congress representing the Delmarva region led a bicameral and 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. The letter was signed by U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons (D-Del.), Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and U.S. Representatives Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Elaine Luria (D-Va.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.),  Rob Wittman (R-Va.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Andy Harris, M.D. (R-Md.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), and Anthony Brown (D-Md.). 

“The shellfish industry has been significantly impacted by the disruption in normal supply chains and these products are ideally positioned to aid USDA’s efforts to address food insecurity during this difficult time. We request that USDA consider establishing a short-term purchasing program for shellfish products, including farmed and wild-caught oyster and clam products, as part of AMS’s Section 32 authority,” wrote the members of Congress.

The full letter is available here.

“Delmarva and the Chesapeake Bay region’s seafood industries generate billions of dollars in economic activity and support tens of thousands of jobs throughout the region. In particular, clam and oyster operations across Delmarva and throughout the Chesapeake Bay region are important to local economies and help support regional seafood supply chains. Nearly 70 percent of all seafood consumed in the United States is sold at restaurants and hospitality venues. As restaurants were forced to close and continue to adhere to restrictions decreasing service capacity, our local seafood industries, many of which are small businesses, have suffered extreme losses due to substantial reductions in demand.“

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) applauded the House passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill he championed that would address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at National Park Service (NPS) sites across the country and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). With the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this bipartisan bill will help create more than 100,000 jobs across the country and stimulate local economies that rely on outdoor tourism industry. In June, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan legislation and with today’s passage in the House of Representatives, the bill will now head to President Trump’s desk for his signature.

“In passing the Great American Outdoors Act, the House has reaffirmed Congress’ bipartisan commitment to preserving America’s irreplaceable natural and historic resources for future generations. The House vote clears the final hurdle to getting this bill to the President’s desk, closing a years-long effort to address the mounting deferred maintenance costs that have accumulated at national parks across the Commonwealth and the country,” said Sen. Warner. “After the economic devastation we’ve seen come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is another tool in the toolbox to help stimulate our nation’s struggling economy and create up to 110,000 additional infrastructure-related jobs. I am grateful for all those who contributed to this process. I look forward to the President quickly signing this momentous legislation into law, which could create 10,000 new jobs in the Commonwealth, help preserve vital tourism for communities, and ensure that future generations of Americans will continue to experience and take advantage of America’s historical and natural treasures.”

Congressional passage of the bill comes nearly three years after Sen. Warner’s initial effort to provide relief to national parks in Virginia, where the maintenance backlog currently sits at $1.1 billion dollars.

In June, the National Park Service released a report that estimated that an average of 40,300 direct jobs and 100,100 direct and indirect jobs would be supported nationally by the Restore Our Parks Act if passed as part of the Great American Outdoors Act. In Virginia, it is estimated that 10,340 jobs would be created or supported as a result of Sen. Warner’s push to address the national parks backlog. 

In addition, a recent NPS study highlighted the financial impact national parks sites have on Virginia’s economy. Last year, 22.8 million individuals from around the world visited national parks in Virginia, spending $1.2 billion. Additionally, national parks in Virginia helped support 17,300 jobs and contributed over $1.7 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy. Because of the economic impact national parks have on communities across the country, more than 800 organizations have pledged their support for the Great American Outdoors Act.

Sen. Warner’s effort to address the maintenance backlog began in March 2017, when he worked with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to introduce the National Park Legacy Act, which would have eliminated the NPS maintenance backlog by creating a thirty-year designated fund to take care of maintenance needs at visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds, as well as transportation infrastructure operated by NPS such as the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Arlington Memorial Bridge. That same year, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced its own proposal, drawing heavily on the initial proposal from Sens. Warner and Portman. However, the Administration proposal – which was introduced in the Senate as the National Park Restoration Act by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME) – would not have established a dedicated funding stream for NPS maintenance.

In March 2018, after extensive negotiations among Sens. Warner, Portman, Alexander, and King, the bipartisan group introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, a bipartisan consensus proposal endorsed by the Trump Administration, to invest in overdue maintenance needs at NPS sites. The bill would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and allocating existing revenues from onshore and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury, not exceeding $1.3 billion each year for the next five years. In February 2019, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Restore Our Parks Act and, the bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November.

In March 2020, following the President’s announcement that he would back the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act as well as full and permanent funding for LWCF, Sen. Warner, along with Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Portman, King, Alexander, and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced the Great American Outdoors Act, which would provide $9.5 billion over five years to the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education to address the deferred maintenance backlog at these agencies. The legislation would also provide permanent, mandatory funding for the LWCF, which provides states and local communities with technical assistance, recognition, and funding to help preserve and protect public lands. Virginia has received approximately $368.5 million in LWCF funding over the past four decades to help protect dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails and more.

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WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate voted 80-17 to take up the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill championed by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) that would permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at National Park Sites (NPS) across the country. The bipartisan legislation includes Sen. Warner’s Restore Our Parks Act, which would help tackle the $1.1 billion in deferred maintenance at Virginia’s parks and create up to 10,340 jobs in the Commonwealth alone. Today’s procedural vote – known as a “cloture vote on the motion to proceed” – sets up the bill for a final up-or-down vote in the Senate later this week.

“We are one step closer to passing this critical bill that would preserve our cherished national parks and help create jobs in the Commonwealth during this time of economic crisis. For years, I have been sounding the alarm about urgently-needed repairs to our trails, buildings, roads, and bridges that have been ignored for too long,” said Sen. Warner. “If Congress continues to delay addressing these infrastructure challenges, our local communities will be at further risk of losing out on important tourism dollars on top of the economic challenges they are currently facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With Virginia’s national parks supporting more than 16,000 jobs and contributing $953 million dollars in value added to our economy,that’s a loss we just can’t afford. After clearing an important first step on this bipartisan bill today, we’re now closer than ever to making sure our bipartisan solution to the parks backlog becomes law.”

Last week, the National Park Service released a report that estimated that an average of 40,300 direct jobs and 100,100 direct and indirect jobs would be supported nationally by the Restore Our Parks Act if passed as part of the Great American Outdoors Act. In Virginia, where the maintenance backlog currently sits at more than $1.1 billion dollars in overdue projects and surpasses that of every state except for California and the District of Columbia, it is estimated that 10,340 jobs would be created or supported as a result of Sen. Warner’s push to address the national parks backlog.

Today’s vote comes more than three years after Sen. Warner wrote and introduced the first comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to provide relief to national parks across the country. In March 2017, Sen. Warner teamed up with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to introduce the National Park Legacy Act, which would have eliminated the NPS maintenance backlog by creating a thirty-year designated fund to address maintenance needs at visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds, as well as transportation infrastructure operated by NPS such as the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Arlington Memorial Bridge. That same year, the U.S. Department of Interior announced its own proposal, drawing heavily on the initial proposal from Sens. Warner and Portman. However, the Administration proposal – which was introduced in the Senate as the National Park Restoration Act by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME) – would not have established a dedicated funding stream for NPS maintenance. (In an attempt to address overdue maintenance needs at national parks nationwide, the Administration has also unsuccessfully pressed to dramatically increase entrance fees.)

In March 2018, after extensive negotiations among Sens. Warner, Portman, Alexander, and King, the bipartisan group introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, a bipartisan consensus proposal endorsed by the Trump Administration, to invest in overdue maintenance needs at NPS sites. The bill would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and allocating existing revenues from onshore and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury, not exceeding $1.3 billion each year for the next five years. In February 2019, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Restore Our Parks Act and, the bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November.

In March 2020, following the President’s announcement that he would back the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act as well as full and permanent funding for LWCF, Sen. Warner, along with Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Portman, King, Alexander, and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced the Great American Outdoors Act, which would provide $9.5 billion over five years to the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education to address the deferred maintenance backlog at these agencies. The legislation would also provide permanent, mandatory funding for the LWCF, which provides states and local communities with technical assistance, recognition, and funding to help preserve and protect public lands. Virginia has received approximately $368.5 million in LWCF funding over the past four decades to help protect dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails and more.

A list of organizations in support of the Great American Outdoors Act can be found here

A full list of deferred maintenance needs at Virginia’s national parks can be found here

###

WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), spoke on the Senate floor about the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill championed by Sen. Warner that would permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at National Park Service (NPS) sites across the country. The bipartisan legislation includes Sen. Warner’s Restore Our Parks Act, which would help tackle the $1.1 billion in deferred maintenance at Virginia’s parks and create up to 10,340 jobs in the Commonwealth alone. Yesterday, the bill cleared a key procedural hurdle– known as a “cloture vote on the motion to proceed”  by a vote of 80-17, setting up the bill for a final up-or-down vote in the Senate later this week.

In his remarks on the Senate floor, Sen. Warner said: “This represents one of the largest investments in the infrastructure of our national parks in the over 100-year history of the National Park Service. In addition to preserving our national treasures for future generations to enjoy, this legislation will also create tens of thousands of jobs across the country and provide a positive economic impact for gateway communities that depend on our national parks. A recent study by the National Park Service indicates that the Great American Outdoors Act will support over 100,000 jobs and contribute $17.5 billion in total economic output through funding deferred maintenance projects at the Park Service. In Virginia, over 10,000 jobs could be created by eliminating the maintenance backlog at Park Service sites.”

Background on the Great American Outdoors Act: 

Last week, the National Park Service released a report that estimated that an average of 40,300 direct jobs and 100,100 direct and indirect jobs would be supported nationally by the Restore Our Parks Act if passed as part of the Great American Outdoors Act. In Virginia, where the maintenance backlog currently sits at more than $1.1 billion dollars in overdue projects and surpasses that of every state except for California and the District of Columbia, it is estimated that 10,340 jobs would be created or supported as a result of Sen. Warner’s push to address the national parks backlog.

The Senate’s action on this bill comes more than three years after Sen. Warner wrote and introduced the first comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to provide relief to national parks across the country. In March 2017, Sen. Warner teamed up with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to introduce the National Park Legacy Act, which would have eliminated the NPS maintenance backlog by creating a thirty-year designated fund to address maintenance needs at visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds, as well as transportation infrastructure operated by NPS such as the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Arlington Memorial Bridge. That same year, the U.S. Department of Interior announced its own proposal, drawing heavily on the initial proposal from Sens. Warner and Portman. However, the Administration proposal – which was introduced in the Senate as the National Park Restoration Act by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME) – would not have established a dedicated funding stream for NPS maintenance. (In an attempt to address overdue maintenance needs at national parks nationwide, the Administration has also unsuccessfully pressed to dramatically increase entrance fees.)

In March 2018, after extensive negotiations among Sens. Warner, Portman, Alexander, and King, the bipartisan group introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, a bipartisan consensus proposal endorsed by the Trump Administration, to invest in overdue maintenance needs at NPS sites. The bill would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and allocating existing revenues from onshore and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury, not exceeding $1.3 billion each year for the next five years. In February 2019, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Restore Our Parks Act and, the bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November.

In March 2020, following the President’s announcement that he would back the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act as well as full and permanent funding for LWCF, Sen. Warner, along with Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Portman, King, Alexander, and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced the Great American Outdoors Act, which would provide $9.5 billion over five years to the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education to address the deferred maintenance backlog at these agencies. The legislation would also provide permanent, mandatory funding for the LWCF, which provides states and local communities with technical assistance, recognition, and funding to help preserve and protect public lands. Virginia has received approximately $368.5 million in LWCF funding over the past four decades to help protect dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails and more.

A list of organizations in support of the Great American Outdoors Act can be found here.  

A full list of deferred maintenance needs at Virginia’s national parks can be found here.

  

The full text of Sen. Warner’s remarks as prepared for delivery appears below: 

Mr./Madam President, I rise today to join my colleagues in support of the Great American Outdoors Act.

This historic legislation represents the most significant investment in our public lands in a generation… and a job-creating investment in our outdoor economy.

The Great American Outdoors Act will provide up to $9.5 billion over five years to address the deferred maintenance backlogs at the National Park Service, and other federal land agencies. This bill also finally provides full and mandatory for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). It has been a long road getting to this point, but I am thrilled we are finally considering this important, job-creating legislation.

Years of chronic underfunding has forced the Park Service to defer maintenance on countless trails, buildings, and historic structures – as well as thousands of miles of roads and bridges. Today, the National Park Service faces a deferred maintenance backlog of $12 billion. Over half of all Park Service assets are currently in desperate need of repairs. In Virginia alone, the deferred maintenance backlog sits at over $1.1 billion… more than any other state but California and the District of Columbia. 

To address this growing problem in Virginia and across the country, Sens. Portman, King, Alexander, and I introduced legislation – the Restore Our Parks Act – that would provide $6.5 billion to the Park Service to reduce its maintenance backlog utilizing unobligated energy revenues. In March, our bill was combined with Sen. Gardner and Sen. Manchin’s LWCF legislation to form the Great American Outdoors Act.

This bill on the floor today will provide up to $6.65 billion over five years to repair our national parks. That’s enough to address more than half of the current deferred maintenance backlog and completely fund the highest-priority deferred maintenance projects within the agency. This represents one of the largest investments in the infrastructure of our national parks in the over 100-year history of the National Park Service.

In addition to preserving our national treasures for future generations to enjoy, this legislation will also create tens of thousands of jobs across the country and provide a positive economic impact for gateway communities that depend on our national parks.

A recent study by the National Park Service indicates that the Great American Outdoors Act will support over 100,000 jobs and contribute $17.5 billion in total economic output through funding deferred maintenance projects at the Park Service. In Virginia, over 10,000 jobs could be created by eliminating the maintenance backlog at Park Service sites. And I want to give a few examples of how this legislation will create jobs and help preserve our natural heritage in my home state.

Here in the National Capital Region, the George Washington Memorial Parkway—which is managed by the National Park Service—has over $700 million in deferred maintenance. Matter of fact, anyone who travels on that road knows that north of the T.R. Bridge, we actually had a sinkhole appear in the parkway within the last year—an enormous safety threat as well as an inconvenience to the traveling public. Our legislation would help rebuild this critical transportation route between Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland… reducing traffic and creating jobs.

In Virginia, we’re blessed with a number of historic battlefields. The Richmond National Battlefield Park has over $5 million in deferred maintenance. And the nearby Petersburg National Battlefield has nearly $9 million in deferred maintenance. Our legislation would help preserve these important pieces of our heritage, while also supporting the local economies.

At Shenandoah National Park, one of the crown jewels of the National Park Service, the maintenance backlog sits at $90 million. Our legislation will put people to work on these overdue repairs…including to Skyline Drive and stretches of the Appalachian Trail… which are at the heart of Virginia’s outdoor tourism industry.

As you head Southwest, the Blue Ridge Parkway has accumulated over $508 million in deferred maintenance needs. That’s over $1 million per mile of the Parkway. The Great American Outdoors Act will put Virginians to work on these repairs… so visitors can continue to appreciate the beauty of the Appalachian Highlands and support the local economy.

I’ll give one final example: Colonial National Historical Park, which is home to Historic Jamestown and Yorktown Battlefield. At this park containing some of our country’s most significant sites, there are deferred maintenance needs totaling over $433 million. With this legislation, the wait on these repairs is over. We’re going to create jobs and make sure this important part of our history is around for years to come.  

In addition to securing up to $9.5 billion to address the maintenance backlog at our public land agencies, the Great American Outdoors Act provides full, mandatory funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. LWCF is the most important tool the federal government and states have to conserve natural areas, water resources, and cultural heritage, and to expand recreation opportunities to all communities.

Over the past four decades, Virginia has received over $368 million in LWCF funding that has been used to protect critical places in the Commonwealth like Rappahannock River Valley and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuges and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. With full funding for LWCF, we will be able to conserve additional critical lands in the Commonwealth and provide more recreation opportunities for Virginians from the coalfields to the Chesapeake Bay and everywhere in between.

In closing, I urge my colleagues to support this historic legislation that will help restore our national parks and public lands, create tens of thousands of jobs across the country, and expand recreation opportunities for millions of Americans.

Thank you, Mr./Madam President. I yield back. 

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Reps. John P. Sarbanes (D-Md.)  Bobby Scott (D-Va.), and members representing the Chesapeake Bay region in a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urging continued investment in the health of the Chesapeake Bay. The letter, sent to Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Matthew Lohr, underscores the importance of supporting the region’s farmers in their efforts to reduce pollution and provides recommendations as the Department prepares a final rule on the implementation of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which supports these efforts. 

The Members write, “As members of the Chesapeake Bay delegation, we write with recommendations regarding implementation of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) under the 2018 Farm Bill. We thank you and your team for your ongoing work to implement the 2018 Farm Bill, which included key improvements to benefit water quality and the health of the Chesapeake Bay.”

“As you know, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s financial and technical assistance for conservation efforts plays a critical role in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay watershed and supporting states’ efforts to meet their commitments under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint by 2025. These programs are essential to support farmers throughout the region as they adopt best management practices to limit the runoff of nitrogen, sediment and phosphorus and to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay,” they continue. 

The Members go on to lay out four major recommendations to help ensure the continued benefit of the program to the region. The recommendations include: ensuring that the Chesapeake Bay Watershed remain designated as a Critical Conservation Area (CCA), highlighting the need for administrative and financial support for lead partners in RCPP implementation, and pressing for clarity and transparency on reporting requirements on conservation goals and outcomes.  

In addition to Sens. Warner, Van Hollen and Casey, Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), signed the letter.

In addition to Representatives Sarbanes and Scott, Representatives Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), David Trone (D-Md.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Elaine Luria (D-Va.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), Abigail D. Spanberger (D-Va.) and Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.) joined the letter. 

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

 

Dear Chief Lohr:

As members of the Chesapeake Bay delegation, we write with recommendations regarding implementation of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) under the 2018 Farm Bill. We thank you and your team for your ongoing work to implement the 2018 Farm Bill, which included key improvements to benefit water quality and the health of the Chesapeake Bay. 

As you know, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s financial and technical assistance for conservation efforts plays a critical role in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay watershed and supporting states’ efforts to meet their commitments under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint by 2025. These programs are essential to support farmers throughout the region as they adopt best management practices to limit the runoff of nitrogen, sediment and phosphorus and to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

RCPP was created in the 2014 Farm Bill by consolidating four previously separate programs, including the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI). CBWI provided an annual average of over $47 million over five years for conservation in our region, but that level of funding has not yet been provided to the region through RCPP. The 2018 Farm Bill made further modifications to RCPP, and the program continues to significantly contribute to farmer and partner driven conservation in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. To further enhance opportunities for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and implement the changes included in the 2018 Farm Bill, we provide the following recommendations for inclusion in the RCPP final rule:

1)      Ensure the Chesapeake Bay watershed remains a Critical Conservation Area (CCA)

Agricultural conservation efforts are central to the Chesapeake Bay states’ Phase III Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs). Our states’ agricultural sectors are committed to ongoing efforts to contribute to meeting nutrient reduction goals by 2025. Focused and targeted investments through partner driven programs like RCPP are a critical component of supporting our farmers in their efforts to improve the health of the Bay. We appreciate that the Farm Bill allocated 50 percent of RCPP funding to CCAs, and urge you to ensure that the Chesapeake Bay retain its CCA designation.  The 2018 Farm Bill made clear that Congressional intent was for the current CCAs to remain in place for the duration of the 2018 Farm Bill, unless the resource concerns of a given CCA were fully addressed. As conveyed through our states’ WIPs, there is still significant conservation needed to address water quality goals in the Chesapeake Bay.

2)      Provide support for the critical role that technical assistance plays in RCPP agreements.

We urge you to ensure that partners have appropriate technical assistance and administrative support from NRCS. We appreciate that Section 1464.23 (c) of the interim rule allows NRCS to provide funding to a partner for activities such as outreach, education and the development of metrics. As part of this critical component of RCPP projects, we also support the coverage of project management as part of an “Enhancement TA” allocation, within both RCPP Classic as well as the 2020 Alternative Funding Arrangement (AFA) funding announcement. We urge you to explicitly authorize this option in the final rule. There is a high administrative burden on lead partners and allowing them to recoup at least part of these costs is important and should be clearly stated. Additionally, we urge NRCS to provide clear guidance regarding the distinction between partner and NRCS roles under AFA or grant agreements. Following the publication of the AFA announcement, several outstanding questions remain, including questions around NRCS sign-off on implemented practices, producer privacy, contracts between partners and producers and the role of partners in monitoring project implementation following AFA completion. 

3)      Clearly include and identify reporting requirements in the final rule.

As highlighted in the Background section of the interim rule, and as directed in Section 2703 of the 2018 Farm Bill, NRCS must provide a semi-annual report on the status of obligated contracts and an annual report describing how the Secretary used technical assistance. This transparency and information is critical to partners in the Chesapeake Bay, and we urge NRCS to ensure that these details and directives are included in the final rule. Further, Section 2706 of the 2018 Farm Bill also required reports to Congress on RCPP projects. We recommend that these requirements also be specified in the interim rule. For CCAs, these reporting requirements include critical information regarding how conservation outcomes and goals are being achieved through the selected RCPP projects.

4)      Align Chesapeake Bay CCA goals with local WIP goals, CEAP findings and prioritize conservation outcomes.

The 2018 Farm Bill adds language to the purpose of RCPP directing USDA to engage producers and partners in projects to achieve “greater conservation outcomes and benefits” for producers than would otherwise be achieved. We therefore urge NRCS to ensure that RCPP implementation maximizes conservation outcomes and benefits for the Chesapeake Bay. We urge you to work with your State Technical Committees to inform the project selection and ranking process at the state level. Further, our states’ WIPs, which include local area goals, as well as the Chesapeake Bay Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) can help identify the acres, practices and projects with the greatest potential for water quality benefits. Through RCPP, and through collaboration with Bay partners, NRCS should ensure that targeted conservation efforts continue to improve the health of the watershed.

Thank you for considering our recommendations and we look forward to working with you on RCPP implementation and continued efforts to support farmers and program partners in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) issued the following statement on reports that the FBI’s top lawyer Dana Boente was asked to resign Friday:

“Dana Boente served ably for many years as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, where we knew him as a dedicated and experienced career civil servant, a consummate professional, and an extremely capable attorney. Press reports indicate that he was pushed out of his position at the FBI following pressure from the highest levels of the Trump Justice Department, as retribution for his role in the investigation of the president’s former national security adviser. If this is accurate, Mr. Boente appears to be one more victim of the Attorney General’s disturbing crusade to turn the Department of Justice into another arm of the president’s political campaign.”

From 2013 to 2015, Dana Boente served as acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. In 2015, following arecommendation from Sens. Warner and Kaine, Boente was nominated and confirmed to serve as U.S. Attorney.

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded $6,914,080 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help support health centers across the Commonwealth as they combat the COVID-19 crisis. 

“We are glad to see this funding go towards helping support these health centers as they continue to work around the clock to provide crucial care for members of the community during this pandemic,” said the Senators.  

The funding for health centers was awarded as follows:

  • $1,021,822 for Portsmouth Community Health Center
  • $1,205,773 for Eastern Shore Rural Health System
  • $2,573,599 for Central Virginia Health Services
  • $1,026,353 for Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems
  • $1,086,533 for Piedmont Access to Health Services (PATHS)

This funding was awarded through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Health Center Program, which provides funds to community-based health care providers that provide primary care services in underserved areas. These health centers must meet a stringent set of requirements, including providing care on a sliding fee scale based on ability to pay and operating under a governing board that includes patients.

Additionally, $2,648,079 was awarded to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association for COVID-19 preparedness and response activities. This funding was awarded through HHS’ Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP), which seeks to promote a consistent national focus to improve patient outcomes during emergencies and disasters and enable rapid recovery.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded $720,441 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to assist Loudoun County, the City of Manassas, and the City of Norfolk in responding to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. The federal funding was made possible through the FY2020 Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) program, which was authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act supported by Sens. Warner and Kaine.

“Right now, we need to make sure that our local governments can continue to count on the resources they need to keep combating this crisis,” said the Senators. “That’s why we’re glad to know that this federal funding will be used to support additional supplies in Loudoun, Manassas and Norfolk.”

The funding will be distributed as follows:

  • $114,472 for Loudoun County
  • $41,306 for the City of Manassas
  • $564,663 for the City of Norfolk

CESF funding may be used to help purchase equipment – including law enforcement and medical personal protective equipment – or supplies, such as gloves, masks, and sanitizer. It can also be used to pay for overtime, hiring, training, or travel expenses – particularly those related to the distribution of resources to the most impacted areas. The funding can also be used to address the medical needs of inmates in state, local, and tribal prisons, jails, and detention centers.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $4,520,475 in federal funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to support coastal and marine fishery participants who have been negatively affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. The federal funding was made possible by Section 12005 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act supported by Sens. Warner and Kaine.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every sector of our economy including fisheries and our seafood industry, which is already particularly susceptible to the forces of nature that determine when produce is ready for harvest,” said the Senators. “We’re glad to know that these funds will help provide some needed relief to help Virginia’s seafood industry withstand this crisis.”

Section 12005 of the CARES Act authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to provide $300 million in appropriated funds to assist fishery participants affected by the COVID-19. Specifically, these funds will help address direct or indirect fishery-related losses as well as subsistence, cultural, or ceremonial impacts related to COVID-19.

Fishery participants eligible for funding – including tribes, commercial fishing businesses, charter/for-hire fishing businesses, qualified aquaculture operations, processors, and other fishery-related businesses – will be able to work with their state marine fisheries management agencies, territories, or tribes to apply for these funds. 

Sens. Warner and Kaine have long advocated for Virginia’s seafood industry – a community largely made up of rural, family-owned operations. Earlier this week, the Senators joined their colleagues in sending a letter to Senate leaders asking them to make sure urgently needed federal assistance is delivered to America’s fishermen and seafood processors who have been affected by this crisis. Additionally, in February, the Senators urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to release additional H-2B visas needed to support local seafood businesses in Virginia and states like Alaska, Maryland, and North Carolina.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) Jack Reed (D-RI), and a bipartisan group of lawmakers in pushing to make sure urgently needed federal assistance is delivered to America’s fishermen and seafood processors, who have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

In their letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the senators request that upcoming coronavirus relief legislation include funding and provisions to support this critical industry.

“Our seafood processors and fishermen have been dealt a significant economic blow as a result of coronavirus and are in desperate need of federal assistance,” the senators wrote. “It has been reported that many of the nation’s fisheries have suffered sales declines as high as 95 percent.  In addition, while many other agricultural sectors have seen a significant increase in grocery sales, seafood has been left out of that economic upside, as stores have cut back on offerings.”

“The seafood industry is currently facing an unprecedented collapse in demand because of the novel coronavirus. We urge you to facilitate the government purchase of seafood products that would both ensure stability in this key sector and provide healthy, domestically produced food for Americans,” the senators continued.

Specifically, the senators recommend the allocation of $2 billion to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase and redistribute seafood products to food banks—just as the agency is currently doing for other agricultural products. In addition, the letter requests that $1 billion be allocated to the Department of Commerce and NOAA to support direct payments to fisheries, seafood producers, and processors.

Not only do fisheries help Americans put food on the table for their families, they have long been the lifeblood of local and regional economies across the country. In 2016, the industry supported over one million good-paying jobs and generated more than $144 billion in sales, adding an estimated $61 billion to the nation’s GDP. In addition to the jobs, families, and communities it supports along every part of our country’s coastlines, the seafood industry fuels jobs throughout the country in processing, distribution, and food service industries.

Warner, Merkley, Murkowski, and Reed were joined in sending the bipartisan letter by U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Angus King (I-ME), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

The full text of the letter is available here and is available below.

We write to urge the inclusion of support for the American seafood industry in the next coronavirus relief measure. Our seafood processors and fishermen have been dealt a significant economic blow as a result of coronavirus and are in desperate need of federal assistance.

The seafood industry is critical to local and regional economies across the country. In 2016, the industry supported over one million good-paying jobs and generated more than $144 billion in sales, adding an estimated $61 billion to the nation’s GDP. In addition to the jobs, families, and communities it supports along every part of our country’s coastlines, the seafood industry fuels jobs throughout the country in processing and distribution.

Due to efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which has led to a near total shutdown of restaurants and other outlets serving fresh seafood, the supply chain of fishermen and seafood processors has been decimated. Notably, more than 68% of the $102.2 billion that consumers paid for U.S. fishery products in 2017 was spent at food service establishments. It has been reported that many of the nation’s fisheries have suffered sales declines as high as 95 percent.  In addition, while many other agricultural sectors have seen a significant increase in grocery sales, seafood has been left out of that economic upside, as stores have cut back on offerings.

We strongly urge you to include in the next coronavirus relief package at least $2 billion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase domestically harvested and processed seafood products and distribute them to local, state, and national non-profits providing food to hungry Americans. Given that few seafood producers have historically participated in USDA commodity purchasing programs, we request that $1 billion be set aside to finance the purchase by USDA of seafood products that have not typically been purchased and that have experienced economic impacts as a result of coronavirus.

We also ask that you include an additional $1 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under the terms of section 12005 of the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136) in order to provide direct relief to Tribal, subsistence, commercial, and charter fishery participants impacted by coronavirus. We request that Congress appropriate and permit the Secretary to make funding available as soon as practicable to all fishery participants, including commercial and recreational fishing and seafood businesses that have been impacted by declines in tourism and the closure of restaurants and other food service industries.

The seafood industry is currently facing an unprecedented collapse in demand because of the novel coronavirus. We urge you to facilitate the government purchase of seafood products that would both ensure stability in this key sector and provide healthy, domestically produced food for Americans.

Thank you for your attention to this critical request, and for your continued support of America’s seafood industry. 

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Congressman Rob Wittman (R-VA), U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, and Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Don Beyer (D-VA), A. Donald McEachin (D-VA), Ben Cline (R-VA), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Denver Riggleman (R-VA), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), and Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) sent a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Navy James Guerts expressing strong support for the shipbuilding and ship maintenance industrial base.  

“We believe that the private shipbuilding and ship maintenance industrial base is performing a vital public function during this pandemic and should remain open for business, sustaining employment and providing products and services which contribute to our Navy’s recapitalization and readiness,” they wrote. “During these challenging times, we are particularly concerned about the shipbuilding and ship repair enterprise and safety of our ship workers.”  

The entire Virginia Delegation requested that the Navy ensure that safety of shipworkers remain the highest priority. They also requested the Navy’s support with expeditious contractual adjustments between Navy and industry to ensure a healthy partnership that fully alleviates the negative impacts, to both workers and shipyards, associated with COVID-19 relief, for the Navy’s support in expediting access to loans and loan guarantees provided that could be used to assist the shipbuilding and ship maintenance industrial base, for the Navy to ensure small business participation in ship repair, and for the Navy to ensure a sustained industrial base, development of the LHA-9 acquisition effort and use of the FY19 LHA-9 Advanced Procurement monies to accelerate construction of an additional large deck amphibious ship.

 

See signed letter here and text below. 

 

The Honorable James F. Geurts

Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development, and Acquisition)

1000 Navy Pentagon

Washington, DC 20350-1000

 

Dear Mr. Geurts,

We are writing to express strong support for the shipbuilding and ship maintenance industrial base. Because of our support of this critical but fragile industry, we are deeply concerned about their viability during the national emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We applaud the actions you directed in your March 20 memorandum and encourage your continued engagement on contracting issues which may arise as the shipbuilding and ship maintenance industrial base works through the pandemic.

We believe that the private shipbuilding and ship maintenance industrial base is performing a vital public function during this pandemic and should remain open for business, sustaining employment and providing products and services which contribute to our Navy’s recapitalization and readiness. During these challenging times, we are particularly concerned about the shipbuilding and ship repair enterprise and safety of our ship workers.  We would ask your support for the following items: 

  • We request your support in ensuring that the safety of our shipworkers remains the bedrock of any future discussion with additional contractual adjustments provided to alleviate any hazards experienced by workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Similar to the authority provided by section 3610 of the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136), we request your support with expeditious contractual adjustments between Navy and industry to ensure a healthy partnership that fully alleviates the negative impacts, to both workers and shipyards, associated with COVID-19 relief. 
  • Pursuant to section 4003 of the CARES Act, we request your support to expediting access to loans and loan guarantees provided that could be used to assist the shipbuilding and ship maintenance industrial base.
  • To ensure continued small business participation in ship repair, your assurance that previously programmed continuous maintenance availability will continue.
  • To ensure a sustained industrial base, development of the LHA-9 acquisition effort and use of the FY19 LHA-9 Advanced Procurement monies to accelerate construction of an additional large deck amphibious ship. 

We would like to thank you for your leadership of Navy acquisition during this critical time for our Navy and our nation. We look forward to continuing to work with you on providing for our future fleet with a strong, robust, and resilient shipbuilding and ship maintenance industrial base.

 

Sincerely, 

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