Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after voting to avert a government shutdown by passing a stopgap government funding bill that will fund federal agencies covered by the Agriculture, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Energy and Water Development and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bills through January 19 and all remaining departments through February 2:

“Today, we voted to pass legislation to avert a government shutdown. We have long warned that a shutdown would cause catastrophic damage to Virginia’s economy, hurt our military readiness, and jeopardize Virginians’ ability to access crucial services, like help resolving issues with Social Security or Medicare benefits. While today’s bipartisan action is a relief, we share Virginians’ frustration with short-term fixes. We will continue to urge our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass a full-year budget as quickly as possible, and will keep working to ensure that budget includes Virginia’s priorities.”

Warner and Kaine have been vocal in emphasizing the harmful impacts of government shutdowns, including on America’s military readiness and the Commonwealth’s economy, air travel, and food security. Additionally, the senators worked to secure key wins for Virginia in the draft Fiscal Year 2024 budget bills, which will provide long-term government funding and are making their way through the legislative process.

Today’s vote comes after a series of bipartisan agreements to fund the government. Earlier this year, congressional leadership and a majority of House Republicans came to an agreement with the White House regarding government funding levels for Fiscal Year 2024. As a means of protesting that bipartisan agreement, a vocal minority of House Republicans pushed Congress to the brink of a government shutdown at the end of September, when the Fiscal Year 2023 budget was set to expire. A bipartisan coalition of Senate and House lawmakers, including Kaine and Warner, came together on September 30 to overcome that effort and passed a stopgap funding bill to fund the government through November 17.

###

 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) issued the statement below after voting in favor of a legislative package that will fund the Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, Department of Transportation, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Veterans Affairs, and military construction projects for Fiscal Year 2024. This package, which passed by a vote of 82-15, comes one month after Congress narrowly averted a government shutdown by passing a stopgap funding bill to keep the government funded at Fiscal Year 2023 levels through November 17.

“While we’re disappointed that Congress has yet to get a full spending bill across the finish line, we’re pleased to see the Senate move forward on a package to fund critical components of the government. This package will help fund veterans’ benefits, nutrition programs for families, affordable housing assistance, local infrastructure projects, military construction projects, and much more. We hope that our colleagues in the House of Representatives will pass this package and help steer us away from a government shutdown and towards proper funding for Fiscal Year 2024 at levels that were agreed upon months ago by the White House, Senate leaders, and a majority of House Republicans,” said Sens. Warner and Kaine.

The Senate-passed legislative package includes:

  • $154.4 billion for military construction, veterans’ affairs, and related agencies.
    • This funding will fully fund veterans’ medical care and benefits and fully fund VA programs. It will help deliver mental health care for veterans, strengthen VA facilities, support critical maintenance projects, upgrade shipyards, improve the resiliency of bases and military infrastructure, strengthen oversight of privatized military housing, and deliver new resources to construct new family housing.
  • $26 billion for agriculture, rural development, and Food and Drug Administration.
    • This funding will support kids and families by fully funding nutrition assistance programs. It will also invest in agricultural research with new funding to support farmers and ranchers and protect the safety of America’s food supply.
  • $99 billion for transportation, housing and urban development, and related agencies.
    • This funding will further strengthen our nation’s transportation infrastructure, including through $150 million to support the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), and $213 million for the Port Infrastructure Development Program, which makes grants available to improve facilities within or related to coastal or inland ports. It will also increase the supply of affordable housing nationwide, and deliver resources to help address the homelessness crisis. It also includes a Warner-led amendment to prohibit the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from operating, procuring, or otherwise providing funding for drones produced by companies from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba.

As part of the Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations process, members of Congress were also able to work with the communities they represent to request funding for specific community projects in a manner that promotes transparency and accountability. Thanks to advocacy by Sens. Warner and Kaine, today’s legislation includes designated funding for a variety of projects in Virginia, which involve agriculture, nutrition, transportation, housing, and military construction. Sens. Warner and Kaine will continue to advocate for the other projects they secured funding for in the remaining draft government funding bills as they head to the Senate floor.

The projects included in today’s legislation are:

Northern Virginia

  • $2,500,000 to improve the intersection of Minnieville Road and Prince William Parkway in Prince William County to relieve congestion, improve safety, enhance access and connectivity to I-95, Potomac Mills, and Dale City, and support economic development plans for the area.
  • $2,031,000 for the Culpepper Garden Senior Affordable Housing Revitalization Project to renovate affordable senior housing to improve accessibility and safety in Arlington County.
  • $1,280,000 to create 321 units of new affordable housing in Arlington County, in a high opportunity zone that is close to job opportunities and public transportation, making it an ideal area for economic mobility.
  • $850,000 to build a roundabout connecting Stefaniga Road and Lightfoot Drive with Mountain View Road, a main thoroughfare which provides access to I-95 and Mountain View High School in Stafford County. The project will improve walkability and make it easier to travel to the area.

Central Virginia

  • $4,000,000 to design and plan the construction of a 200-member Army Reserve Center Training Building and a Storage Building on land to be acquired from the Defense Logistics Agency in Richmond.
  • $2,000,000 for the Better Housing Coalition to construct 106 affordable rental units in Henrico County.
  • $1,749,000 to build a new intersection connecting Harwood Street and Hopkins Road with U.S. Route 1 to improve safety and ensure pedestrian and transit riders have access to sidewalks and transit stops in Richmond.
  • $1,000,000 to construct a community center to serve youth in Northumberland County.
  • $988,000 for the Virginia Department of Transportation to construct 1.78 miles of a 9.5-mile trail that will connect three rural towns in Lancaster County.
  • $650,000 for the Piedmont Housing Alliance to build a permanent location for the Charlottesville Financial Opportunity Center + Housing Hub (CFOC+HH) in Charlottesville, where area residents can go to get financial coaching and support, find help navigating housing options and resources, or get 1-on-1 assistance to prevent evictions.
  • $30,000 for the Richmond Metropolitan Habitat for Humanity to conduct emergency home renovations and accessibility modifications and assist households with small payments necessary to allow for additional repairs.

Hampton Roads & Eastern Shore

  • $3,000,000 for the Norfolk Airport Authority Federal Inspections Services Facility to build a modern customs inspection facility. The new facility will enhance customer experience by expanding capacity for efficient international screening and processing by Customs and Border Protection and acceptance of scheduled international air service.
  • $3,000,000 for the Williamsburg Area Transit Authority to construct a transfer facility in York County that will serve as a connection for four bus routes, with planned parking, a customer service area, and real time transit information displays.
  • $500,000 for Virginia Supportive Housing to preserve and rehabilitate 60 units of affordable housing and build 40 new units of affordable housing with supportive services, such as transportation assistance, job and financial counseling, and medical care referral services, for those who previously experienced homelessness and very low-income adults from the Norfolk region.

Southwest & Southside

  • $7,000,000 for the Virginia Department of Transportation to add additional lanes—an expansion from a two-lane highway to a four-lane highway—to the 2.74-mile Poplar Creek Phase A section and the 2.07-mile Poplar Creek Phase B section of the U.S.121/460 within Corridor Q and the Coalfields Expressway in Buchanan County.
  • $3,500,000 for the Virginia Department of Transportation to replace the aging Apperson Drive Bridge and add a 12-foot multi-use pedestrian trail connecting the downstream side of the bridge to the greenway trail on either side of the bridge in Salem City.
  • $2,150,000 for the Virginia Department of Transportation to construct two additional lanes and improve drainage on a section of Beaver Creek Drive to service the Patriot Centre Industrial Park in Henry County.
  • $1,500,000 for the Appalachia Service Project to reconstruct homes that were destroyed in the recent floods in Buchanan County.
  • $1,500,000 for Helping Overcome Poverty’s Existence, Inc. (HOPE) to construct at least 30 units of new, energy-efficient, affordable housing units in HOPE’s Monroe-North development in downtown Wytheville.
  • $1,250,000 for the Community Housing Partners Corporation to construct a new 56-unit multifamily affordable housing complex in Blacksburg for low- and moderate-income individuals and families.
  • $1,000,000 for the Southside Community Development & Housing Corporation to construct 52 units of affordable housing in Emporia.
  • $522,000 for the Ballad Health Foundation to expand access to dental care through the Appalachian Highlands Community Dental Center in the Town of Abingdon.
  • $366,000 to complete the Blue Ridge Discovery Center Visitor Center in Smyth County. The visitor center will feature exhibits, interactive displays, and educational materials that highlight the unique natural features of Southwest Virginia.
  • $354,000 to improve community safety by expanding and renovating the Emergency Management Service (EMS) building in the Town of Tazewell.
  • $90,000 to purchase a new dump truck that will be used to help complete maintenance of the drinking water and wastewater systems in the Town of Cedar Bluff.

Shenandoah Valley

  • $1,000,000 for the Harrisonburg Rockingham Child Day Care Center to expand capacity for affordable child care in the community.
  • $812,000 for the Blue Grass Resource center to restore an 18-room historic inn on the National Register of Historic Places that was built in 1904 in Highland County.
  • $575,000 for the Millennium Group to open a child care center and support the Community Health Workers Training Program in Nelson County.
  • $94,000 for the Masonic Theatre Preservation Foundation to replace all entrance and emergency exit doors for the Historic Masonic Theatre in Clifton Forge.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, with one day remaining until the government funding deadline, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine issued the following statement on the need to fund the government and the consequences for Virginia’s small businesses:

“Small businesses are the backbone of our communities and economy, and many of these businesses rely on support from the Small Business Administration to operate. Every day the government is shut down, critical access to capital provided by the Small Business Administration will be delayed, forcing Virginia small businesses who rely on this funding to make tough decisions about how they’re going to continue to stay open. The only reason we’re in this position is because of a small but loud group of members in the House who are refusing to fund the government if they don’t get everything they want. We remain committed to working in a bipartisan way to fund the government as quickly as possible.”

A government shutdown prevents the Small Business Administration (SBA) from approving new small business loans or modifying existing loans through the 7(a) and 504 programs. It is estimated that an average of $2,122,200 in financing for Virginia small businesses will be delayed every day the government is shut down. So far this year, the SBA has approved 955 loans with a total value of over $488 million to Virginia businesses through the 7(a) program.

A recent Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Voices Survey found that 91% of small business owners say it’s important for the federal government to avert a shutdown. 70% of small business owners said their business would be negatively impacted. Among that 70%, 93% believe their revenue would take a hit if the government shuts down, and 67% believe their customer demand would go down due to economic uncertainty and instability.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, with one day left to pass a government funding bill before a potential shutdown, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined their colleagues to introduce legislation that would secure back pay for the thousands of federal contract workers who face furlough or reduced work hours during a potential shutdown. Unlike federal government employees, federal contract employees—many of whom serve in modestly paid jobs like custodians and cafeteria workers—have no assurances that they will receive back pay to make up for the wages they miss during a shutdown. In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the legislation is also sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

“It’s a shame that a few members in the House of Representatives are refusing to do their jobs, and it’s disgraceful that this stands to impact the many federal contractors that keep our government facilities running,” said Sen. Warner. “Without the guarantee of a paycheck, the thousands of dedicated federal contractors who show up every day may be forced to pick between keeping a roof over their heads or putting food on the table. I am glad to introduce this legislation to ensure that when Congress struggles to act, our federal workers contractors do not suffer long-term consequences.”

“Our federal contractors make critical contributions to the federal government’s delivery of services that Virginians, Americans across the country, and our national security depend on,” said Sen. Kaine. “In 2019, I was glad to successfully negotiate the passage of legislation to secure back pay for federal workers during shutdowns, and will keep working until Congress

The Fair Pay for Federal Contractors Act seeks to ensure federal contract workers, including low-wage food service, janitorial and security service workers, are fairly compensated for the wages and benefits lost due to a lapse in appropriations. Specifically, the legislation would:

 

  • Provide contract workers, including low-wage service workers, with back pay and restored paid leave benefits, if used, after a government shutdown;
  • Cover costs associated with back pay for workers in an amount equal to their weekly compensation up to $1,442, which is 250% of the federal poverty level for a family of four; and
  • Require the Office of Federal Procurement Policy submit a report on federal contractors accessing back pay.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been outspoken about the devastating impacts of a government shutdown. In 2019, during the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, Sens. Warner and Kaine took a series of actions to protect affected workers, including guaranteeing back pay for federal employees, urging back pay for contractors, introducing budget amendments to protect federal workers, and urging OPM to prevent the termination of dental and vision insurance for federal employees.

A copy of the bill text can be found here.

"IAM members are grateful for the unwavering dedication of Reps. Pressley, Holmes Norton and Norcross in the House, and Sen. Tina Smith in the Senate, for championing the Fair Pay for Federal Contractors Act,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “Their leadership shines a beacon of hope for tens of thousands of IAM federal contract members, and countless more federal contract workers across the country, who tirelessly serve our nation alongside federal employees. This vital legislation, ensuring back pay compensation after government shutdowns, acknowledges the profound impact these men and women make to allow our nation to function. Beyond mere statistics, this legislation safeguards the livelihoods of hardworking families, preventing the painful ripple effects of missed payments and financial hardships. Let’s all stand united in support of our federal contract workers and their families."

“A government shutdown hurts every family regardless of race, occupation and zip code. However, it is beyond time for every member of Congress to acknowledge how devastating a government shutdown is for the hundreds of thousands of men and women who work hard to keep our government operating in both good and bad times as federally contracted workers.  Security officers, janitors and other workers employed by federal contractors contribute so much to our country by administering vital programs, taking care of our nation’s parks, and keeping our office buildings safe. Yet, they risk permanently losing the income they need to pay rent, buy groceries or keep the lights on," said SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry. "That’s why passing the Fair Pay for Federal Contractors Act of 2023 is so critical when our nation is on the verge of a government shutdown. Providing federally contracted workers with back pay would help ensure they have an opportunity for true recovery.”

“Contracted janitors and security officers, unlike direct federal employees, have never been able to count on back pay following a government shutdown,” said Manny Pastreich, President of 32BJ Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “They live paycheck-to-paycheck and cannot afford to pay the price of a government shutdown that they did nothing to cause. Denying them pay during a shutdown would be catastrophic, even life-threatening for the sole providers who struggle to feed and pay rent for parents, children and dependents, especially those relying on them to pay for treating debilitating medical conditions. Congress must practice basic governance by passing Representative Pressley’s legislation to ensure leaders meet their moral and financial obligation to these hard-working men and women. Before reckless Republicans drive our nation off a cliff to realize their fever dreams, we must not let one more day go by without righting this wrong. Most Americans could not survive without income – why are contracted workers expected to?”

### 

WASHINGTON – Today, with two days remaining until the government funding deadline and the expiration of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) current authorization, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) issued the following statement on the need to fund the government and prevent an especially catastrophic shutdown for air travel. Without action, more than 13,000 air traffic controllers and 50,000 Transportation Security Officers, along with thousands of other FAA and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel would be forced to work without pay, and important trainings and technology upgrades would stop:

Every government shutdown is ill-timed, but a shutdown on the same day the FAA’s reauthorization lapses would be especially catastrophic for air travel. In Virginia alone, a shutdown would mean thousands of TSA officers and air traffic controllers will be forced to work without pay. We’ve seen in previous shutdowns the havoc that this can wreak for travelers, including long flight delays and extreme wait times at airports. An FAA reauthorization lapse would halt technology upgrades and the training of new air traffic controllers. This is a safety issue that is entirely preventable. It’s time for Congress to do its job and fund the government and continue other important work, including reauthorizing the FAA.”   

Virginia is home to 1,913 TSA agents and 633 air traffic controllers who would be required to continue their critical work without pay until a funding deal is reached.

If the FAA’s authorization expires, the agency could miss out on $50 million a day in tax revenue to facilitate smooth and safe air travel experiences.  Air traffic controller hiring and training process would also be disrupted, further slowing air traffic, even after a spending deal is reached. The FAA is typically reauthorized every five years.

###

 

WASHINGTON – Today, with three days remaining until the government funding deadline, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine issued the following statement on the need to fund the government and protect nearly seven million women and children, including 127,124 in Virginia, who rely on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC):

“A government shutdown not only impacts those near Washington, D.C. It has real, tangible consequences for millions of people across Virginia and America and would be devastating for our economy. Those in Congress who are suggesting otherwise are wrong. In Virginia, 127,124 women and children are at risk of not receiving vital nutrition assistance during a government shutdown. We can and should prevent this from happening by passing a bipartisan bill to fund the government as soon as possible.”

WIC provides federal grants to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at nutrition risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating, and referrals to health care. States that receive federal grants on a monthly basis for programs like WIC, Head Start, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) are at risk of not being awarded funding if the government shutdown lasts through the first of the next month.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, with four days remaining until the government funding deadline, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) issued the following statement on the need to fund the government and prevent 1.3 million servicemembers nationwide from being forced to work without pay:

“In just four days, the U.S. government will run out of funding, triggering an entirely preventable government shutdown that will have disastrous consequences on large swaths of Americans, including federal workers, seniors, veterans, and Americans who rely on timely government services. For servicemembers, who already sacrifice so much in service to our country, this shutdown will be particularly devastating. In Virginia alone, 129,400 active-duty servicemembers will be forced to continue working without pay – a phenomenon that will undermine our national security and threaten the wellbeing of military families. Servicemembers should never be put in this situation. We urge our colleagues in the House of Representatives to put our military and our country before politics. Congress must do its job and fund the government.” 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (D-VA) announced the inclusion of key Virginia priorities in the Senate’s Fiscal Year 2024 draft funding bills. All 12 bills were passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on a bipartisan basis.

“We are proud to announce that the Senate’s draft government spending legislation for Fiscal Year 2024 includes critical funding that will keep the government open, back record investments in infrastructure and U.S. competitiveness, uplift rural and underserved communities, support servicemembers and military families, provide assistance to miners suffering from black lung disease, and support key industries that are central to Virginia’s economy. We’re also proud to have secured more than $111 million for specific community projects all throughout Virginia as we work to ensure our federal budget meets Virginians’ needs. We hope that our colleagues in the House of Representatives will negotiate in good faith in order to reach a compromise on a final deal that includes funding for these important priorities,” said Sens. Warner and Kaine.

As part of the Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations process, members of Congress were able to work with the communities they represent to request funding for local community projects, otherwise known as earmarks, in a manner that promotes transparency and accountability. This process allows Congress to dedicate federal funding for specific projects in Virginia. The Senators worked to secure more than $111 million for community projects across the Commonwealth. In addition to battling for these priorities, the Senators will work to ensure funds obtained by Virginia House members also remain in the final spending bills. 

More information regarding specific projects in Virginia that will receive Congressionally Directed Spending is available below:

  • For projects in Northern Virginia, click here.
  • For projects in Central Virginia, click here.
  • For projects in the Shenandoah Valley, click here.
  • For projects in Southwest Virginia and Southside, click here.
  • For projects in Hampton Roads, click here.
  • For projects that impact communities in multiple regions across the Commonwealth click here.

 
The following list includes many provisions championed by Sens. Warner and Kaine on behalf of Virginia that were included in the 12 government funding bills: 

Boosting Local Economies: Includes $200 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission and $20 million for the Southeast Crescent Regional Commission to support their work to build economic partnerships, create opportunity, and foster economic development.  

Implementing the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022: Includes $11 billion to implement the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, championed by Sens. Warner and Kaine. Funding will allow the U.S. to keep pace with China and other competitors in scientific fields that can power the economy, such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, microelectronics, clean energy, and advanced communications. Sen. Warner first introduced the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act in June 2020 along with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).  

Implementing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA): Provides full funding for numerous transportation programs authorized in the IIJA, including $29.5 billion for the National Highway Performance Program, $3.1 billion for the Highway Safety Improvement Program, $245 million for the Rail-Highway Grade Crossings Program, $14.3 billion for the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, and $2.4 billion for the Bridge Investment Program. Sen. Warner was a lead author and negotiator of the IIJA.  

Strengthening Transportation and Recreation Infrastructure: Provides $150 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and $45 million for the Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program, which supports multi-purpose trails. 

Making Our Communities Safer: Provides $732 million – a $32 million increase from Fiscal Year 2023 – for Violence Against Women Prevention and Prosecution programs to prevent violence and better support survivors. This legislation also includes over $534 million for Community Oriented Policing Services to support state and local law enforcement and communities in developing comprehensive, evidence-based violence intervention and prevention programs based on partnerships between community residents, law enforcement, local government agencies, and other community stakeholders. This includes efforts to address gang and gun violence and improve school safety.

Support for Missing Persons Program: Includes $1 million to help with the nationwide implementation of the Ashanti Alert system. In 2018, Sen. Warner secured unanimous Senate passage of the Ashanti Alert Act, legislation that created a new federal alert system for missing or endangered adults between the ages of 18-64. The bill was signed into law on December 31, 2018. 

Investing in Children: Provides $8.7 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which provides financial assistance to help low-income families access child care. This is $700 million more than Fiscal Year 2023. The bill also includes $12.3 billion, $300 million more than Fiscal Year 2023, for Head Start, the national school readiness program. In July, Sens. Warner and Kaine urged the White House to provide additional funding to help stabilize the child care industry. In April, Sen. Kaine introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act, legislation that would help ensure families can find and afford child care by expanding access to more high-quality options, stabilizing the child care sector, and helping ensure child care workers taking care of our nation’s kids are paid livable wages. The bill also includes $15 million for the Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health program – a program that Sen. Kaine reauthorized via bipartisan legislation.  

Making Higher Education More Affordable: Provides a $250 boost to the maximum Pell Grant in the 2024-2025 school year, raising the maximum award to $7,645. The bill also includes over $1 billion, an increase of $5 million, for programs to strengthen Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions.

Supporting K-12 Education: Provides over $18.5 billion for Title I-A grants, which supports school districts with low-income students. This is $175 million more from Fiscal Year 2023. The bill also provides over $5 billion for the primary Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Special Education State grant program, an increase of $175 million from Fiscal Year 2023. In July, Sen. Kaine reintroduced the IDEA Full Funding Act, legislation that would ensure Congress fulfills its commitment to fully fund IDEA through regular, mandatory increases in spending.

Investing in Affordable Housing: Includes $1.5 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which provides fundingto state and local governments for housing construction, and $3.3 billion in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), which can be used to support affordable housing, community development, and economic development. Also includes $3.9 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants (HAG), to help families and individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Sens. Warner and Kaine are strong advocates for affordable housing funding each year.

Supporting Nutrition Programs: The bill includes $6.3 billion – a $615 million increase from Fiscal Year 2023 – for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to ensure over 6 million women, infants, and children can access adequate nutrition. It also fully funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to serve an estimated 42 million people per month – with no new restrictions on eligibility – and fully funds the Child Nutrition Programs to help serve an estimated 5 billion lunches and 2.6 billion breakfasts to kids across the country. 

Fighting Global Hunger: Provides $1.8 billion for the Food for Peace program and $248.3 million for the McGovern-Dole Food for Education program, while the State and Foreign Operations bill provides a $691 million increase in funding for humanitarian assistance programs, including increased investments in addressing global hunger and enhancing food security.  

Preventing and Treating Substance Use: Provides $5 billion – an increase of $125 million over Fiscal Year 2023 – for opioid treatment and prevention. This includes $40 million for the Substance Use Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Services Block Grant; $20 million for the State Opioid Response grants; $10 million for the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program; and $20 million for NIH opioid research programs. 

Fighting the Flow of Fentanyl: Includes $719 million to improve the detection and seizure of fentanyl and other narcotics at ports of entry with new technology and personnel. Invests $105 million in new resources to disrupt transnational criminal organizations and stop fentanyl and illicit drugs at their source. Sens. Warner and Kaine are both cosponsors of the Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence (FEND) Off Fentanyl Act, a sanctions and anti-money laundering bill targeting the illicit fentanyl supply chain. Earlier this year, Sens. Kaine and Joni Ernst (R-IA) led bipartisan legislation to direct increased federal attention to fentanyl trafficking by utilizing the tools of the Department of Defense and involving Mexico as an active partner to combat the fentanyl crisis. That legislation was included in the Senate-passed National Defense Authorization Act.

Addressing Long COVID Needs: Includes $10 million for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to support access to comprehensive, coordinated, and person-centered care, particularly for underserved, rural, vulnerable, or minority populations that are disproportionately impacted by the effects of Long COVID. Also includes $5 million for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to establish a network of Long COVID Centers of Excellence that can gather, develop and disseminate data regarding evidence-based treatment; educate and train providers on best practices; conduct outreach to affected populations and community organizations; and coordinate access to care. Sen. Kaine has been a strong advocate for helping individuals with Long COVID, including by leading the bipartisan Long COVID Support Act with Sen. Todd Young (R-IN).

Supporting Rural Health: Includes a $12 million increase for Rural Health programs. This includes a $10 million increase in the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program and a $2 million increase for the Rural Health Outreach program, which supports projects that demonstrate new and innovative modes of outreach in rural areas. Also includes $5 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to establish an Office of Rural Health. Sen. Kaine supported the establishment of this office as a cosponsor of the Rural Health Equity Act, and led a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee in FY23 requesting this funding.

Addressing the Maternal Mortality Crisis: Includes an increase of $10 million for the Implementing a Maternal health and Pregnancy Outcomes Vision for Everyone (IMPROVE) Initiative to combat alarming rates of maternal mortality, as well as an increase of $2.5 million for programs to improve health outcomes during and after pregnancy and reduce disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes. Also includes $110.5 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions Safe Motherhood and Infant Health programs, which is a $2,500,000 increase from fiscal year 2023 and more than $1.7 billion for the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which is a $10,000,000 increase from fiscal year 2023. Sen. Kaine led a bipartisan letter to the Appropriations Committee asking for robust funding for these programs.

Pandemic Preparedness: Includes $3.67 billion for the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR). This includes a $20 million increase for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to support the advanced development of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics and devices for potential serious public health threats, and $75 million to establish a new program in manufacturing and production to ensure that critical resources including medical countermeasures and ancillary supplies are manufactured in the United States. 

Increasing Funding for Pediatric Research: Provides $12.6 million to further fund the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act—legislation championed by Sens. Warner and Kaine and named after a child from Loudoun County who died from a brain tumor in 2013. 

Supporting the Refugee Resettlement Program: Includes $133 million for refugee settlement to meet the goal of 125,000 refugee admissions for Fiscal Year 2024. 

Expanding Home Energy Assistance: Includes $4.075 billion – an increase of $75 million from Fiscal Year 2023 – for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides assistance to low-income households to help heat or cool their homes. Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for lowering energy costs and have consistently advocated for robust funding for LIHEAP. 

Expanding High-Speed Internet Access: Includes $98 million for the USDA’s ReConnect Program to expand access to high-speed broadband to remote underserved areas. Sens. Warner and Kaine have been vocal advocates for expanding broadband. As Governors and Senators, Sens. Warner and Kaine have long supported expanding broadband access in Virginia. During the pandemic, they secured significant funding for broadband through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Sens. Warner and Kaine also joined a bipartisan letter to Senate leadership requesting this funding earlier this year, and Sen. Warner personally secured billions of dollars for broadband expansion in both the American Rescue Plan and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. 

Increasing Military Pay and Compensation: Fully funds the 5.2 percent pay raise for servicemembers, while providing $29.6 billion for housing and $8.4 billion for subsistence – including BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) and BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence—food for servicemembers not living in government quarters).

Economic Support for Underserved Communities: Provides $341 million for the U.S. Department of the Treasury Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund. Sens. Warner and Kaine requested this funding. Sen. Warner has led efforts in Congress to support CDFIs through legislation including the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act and the creation of the bipartisan Senate Community Development Finance Caucus.  

Small Businesses: Provides $1.2 billion to the Small Business Administration to help small businesses thrive. This funding will support SBA’s lending programs, which increase access to capital for small businesses, as well as their entrepreneurial development programs, which include services that help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, such as the Small Business Development Center and Women’s Business Centers networks.

Addressing Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Delays and Customer Service Issues: Includes $12.3 billion for the IRS, which will enable it to continue to update ancient computer systems, improve customer service, and reduce wait times for refunds and other services. Sens. Warner and Kaine have consistently pushed the IRS to address poor customer service and severe delays within the department.  

Support for Miners: Includes $12.19 million for Black Lung Clinics. Sens. Warner and Kaine have actively worked to secure benefits for miners and their families suffering from black lung disease. In July, Sens. Warner and Kaine reintroduced the Relief for Survivors of Miners Act, which would ease restrictions to make it easier for miners’ survivors to successfully claim benefits. In June, the Senators also urged the Biden Administration to issue new silica standards to protect miners across America – a push that helped contribute towards the release of those standards.

Restoring the Chesapeake Bay: Includes $93 million for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program, the primary federal program that coordinates Chesapeake Bay restoration and protection efforts throughout the Bay watershed.

Strengthening Our Ports: Provides $1.2 billion for the Maritime Administration (MARAD), including $213 million for the Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP), which supports the buildout and modernization of our nation’s ports including the Port of Virginia.

Advancing Scientific Discovery: Includes $8.43 billion – an increase of $330 million from Fiscal Year 2023 – for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science. DOE’s Office of Science sponsors basic research in the physical sciences and supports 22,000 researchers at 17 national laboratories across the country, including Jefferson Lab in Newport News, Virginia.

Protecting our Courts: Provides $11.4 million to improve security of the Walter E. Hoffman Courthouse in Norfolk, Virginia. Sen. Kaine visited the Hoffman Courthouse in 2020 to observe the serious security vulnerabilities firsthand and the Senators have been fighting to enhance its security ever since. The Senators last wrote to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) in January 2023 to push for the long delayed security measures.

###

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) reintroduced legislation to protect federal workers and their families from foreclosures, evictions, and loan defaults during a government shutdown or debt default. The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act would enable government employees and contractors to postpone payment obligations during a shutdown or debt default and for 30 days afterward.

“During the government shutdown under President Trump, we spent lots of time with government employees who often broke down crying because they didn’t know how they were going to put food on the table or keep a roof over their family’s heads,” said the Senators. “Some people in Congress treat government shutdowns or the threat of a debt default like political games, but to federal workers and their families, the consequences can be grim and all too real. This legislation will help shield federal employees and their families from those in Congress who think it’s good politics to stop paying our bills by shutting down the government or defaulting on our debt.”

During the December 2018 government shutdown, many federal workers received a pay stub with zero dollars on it. This bill addresses the real threat of federal workers and contractors losing their homes, falling behind on student loans and other bills, having their car repossessed, or losing their health insurance because they have been furloughed during a shutdown or required to work without pay. The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act would protect impacted workers from:

  • Being evicted or foreclosed;
  • Having their car or other property repossessed;
  • Falling behind in their student loan payments;
  • Having negative effects on their credit history;
  • Falling behind in paying their bills; or
  • Losing their insurance because of missed premiums.

This protection would last during a shutdown and debt default and 30 days afterwards to give workers a chance to keep up with their bills and would enable these workers to apply to a court to temporarily postpone payment obligations or eviction or foreclosure actions.

During the longest government shutdown in U.S. history in 2019, Sens. Warner and Kaine took a series of actions to protect affected workers, including guaranteeing back pay for federal employees, urging back pay for contractors, introducing budget amendments to protect federal workers, and urging OPM to prevent the termination of dental and vision insurance for federal employees. During the shutdown, Sen. Kaine objected to the Senate going out of session, which resulted in him securing passage of legislation to guarantee back pay for federal employees. He has also introduced legislation that would end Congress’ abuse of the debt ceiling and prevent a debt default by allowing the President to raise the debt ceiling subject to a congressional override.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the Federal Employee Civil Relief Act is sponsored by U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

This legislation is supported by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), Federal Managers Association (FMA), International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), and National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU).

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the statement below, following reports that Republicans may force a government shutdown this Friday:

“With government funding set to run out this Friday, it’s my sincere hope that my Republican colleagues will not stand in the way of a measure to keep our nation’s lights on. As we head into winter and brace for the effects of the new Omicron variant, it would be negligent to shut down our government – all in the name of fighting a vaccine requirement designed to boost vaccination rates and save lives. I urge my Republican colleagues to work in good faith to avoid a harmful shutdown that could devastate federal workers and American families just three weeks ahead of the holidays.”

Sen. Warner has been a vocal critic of government shutdowns, which take a toll on federal workers and employees who are often left with no other recourse than to drain their savings, tank their credit, or choose between putting food on the table or keeping a roof above their heads. Government shutdowns can also wreak havoc for veterans, seniors, and other Americans who rely on timely government services. In September, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Stop STUPIDITY (Shutdowns Transferring Unnecessary Pain and Inflicting Damage In The Coming Years) Act, legislation to prevent future government shutdowns.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after the Senate approved a stopgap funding bill to keep the government running through December 11, sending it to the president’s desk for signature:

“We’re relieved that we’re going to avoid another pointless, painful government shutdown in the middle of a pandemic. But funding the government is Congress’ most basic responsibility, and we don’t think anybody should be patting themselves on the back for acting at the 11th hour to keep the government up and running – especially since the Senate still has not acted to provide meaningful and much-needed COVID-19 relief to workers, small businesses, local governments, schools, hospitals and health care workers. Instead of breaking precedent and moving hastily to rush a Supreme Court nomination through while the election is already underway, the Senate ought to be focused on the most pressing needs of the American people in the midst of a health and economic crisis.”

###

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to introduce a pair of bills aimed at protecting federal health care benefits in the event of a government shutdown. Similar bipartisan legislation was introduced in the House yesterday, led by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). 

The two bills would amend current law to ensure that workers who have qualifying life events – like the birth or adoption of a child – are able to make the proper adjustments to their health insurance plans and continue dental and vision benefits during lapses in federal funding.

“I’ve heard story after story about how the recent government shutdown caused significant financial hardship for Virginians. But stories like Brian Uholick’s really struck a nerve. During the 35-day shutdown, Brian struggled to get his newborn on his health insurance to ensure he could get the medication she needed because his own HR department was furloughed,” said Warner. “It’s just not right. That’s why I joined my colleagues in introducing a set of bills to ensure the health and well-being of our federal workforce and their families.” 

“Our hardworking federal employees should never have to go through the pain of a shutdown in the first place, and they should never have to fear losing access to their health benefits as a result. Our legislation would help ensure that federal workers and their families can get the care they need during a shutdown,” said Kaine.     

Press reports during the recent shutdown indicated that federal employees had difficulty obtaining health insurance coverage for their newborns because some agencies were not processing new enrollments or changes to enrollments. 

In January, Sens. Warner and Kaine pressed the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Acting Director to prevent the termination of dental and vision coverage for federal workers during the 35-day shutdown after reports emerged that employees could stand to lose their coverage if they did not pay their premiums. During the government shutdown, OPM announced that coverage would continue only for two or three pay periods, after which insurers would start billing employees directly.   

Both bills are supported by the American Federation of Government Employees, National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, and International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers.

 

###

 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) – all members of the Senate Committee on the Budget – filed four amendments to the Fiscal Year 2020 budget resolution aimed at protecting federal employees and contractors. The amendments would put the Senate on the record in favor of preserving retirement security for federal employees, and providing back pay to service contractors affected by the recent federal government shutdown. 

“Federal workers are the backbone of our government. If we want to recruit and retain top talent, we have to offer competitive pay and benefits, including retirement security,” said Sen. Warner, who added, “Though the shutdown itself may be over, for many federal contractors who went without pay for 35 days, the effects have been long-lasting. The Senate cannot forget about these workers, many of whom work paycheck to paycheck. We owe it to them to provide back pay.” 

“This year, federal workers experienced the longest shutdown in history. Their finances were pinched and their families were hurt. As we look at next year’s budget, my priority is to ensure that we’re protecting federal workers against pay cuts, preserving their retirement security, and trying to secure back pay for the service contractors impacted by government shutdowns,” said Sen. Kaine. 

“Our federal workers and federal contract employees provide crucial services to the American people. These amendments will protect the hard-earned paychecks and benefits of our federal employees and help secure back pay for contract workers harmed by the government shutdown,” said Sen. Van Hollen.

One amendment would ensure that federal workers are not shouldering more than their fair share of deficit reduction. This amendment would establish a scorekeeping rule that would prevent federal employees from being subject to increased retirement contributions meant to offset the cost of other, unrelated congressional spending. Despite there being no solvency concerns related to the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), Congress has repeatedly increased the required federal employee contribution rate without offering any additional benefit. Combined with years of pay freezes, the increased requirements have resulted in de facto pay cuts for thousands of hardworking federal employees. 

Another amendment would preserve the retirement security of civil service employees by preventing further retirement benefit reductions and protecting the retirement plans that employees have spent decades building.

A third amendment would establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to provide back pay to service contractors affected by the recent government shutdown. The shutdown caused more than 800,000 employees and thousands of contractors to go without pay for 35 days, and while affected federal employees were assured that they would be compensated for their missed wages, their contractor colleagues – who perform essential functions like cleaning, food service, and security – were not given that same guarantee. This amendment would put the Senate on the record in support of making these workers whole, following the record-breaking shutdown. 

A fourth amendment would protect federal workers’ retirement benefits by striking a provision in the draft budget that could cut federal employees’ benefits by at least $15 billion.

Sens. Warner, Kaine, and Van Hollen have fiercely advocated for federal employees and contractors, especially during and following the government shutdown. In January, the Senators, along with several colleagues, introduced a bill to pay back federal contract workers after the shutdown. They also joined a bipartisan group of Senators earlier this month in urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to include contractor back pay in the upcoming disaster package. Additionally, the Senators pressed OMB in February for a timeline detailing the implementation of the 1.9 percent pay increase for federal employees that the Senators worked to pass into law earlier in the year. 

The Senate Budget Committee is scheduled to begin its two-day markup on the FY20 budget resolution on Wednesday, March 27. Though nonbinding, the budget resolution provides a blueprint for future congressional action on federal programs.  

 

###

 

 

Washington – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and John Kennedy (R-LA) to introduce the Protect Federal Workers’ Credit Act, legislation to protect the credit reports of federal workers and contractors who were hurt by the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. 

“The recent shutdown may be over, but federal employees and contractors are still feeling its effects,” said Sen. Warner. “They shouldn’t have their credit scores threatened because the President recklessly decided to shutter the government for 35 days.”

The bipartisan Protect Federal Workers’ Credit Act would require credit bureaus to remove negative information that was placed on the credit reports of federal workers and contractors who missed payments as a result of a government shutdown. The bill would apply to the recent shutdown and any future government shutdowns. 

Virginia is home to more than 170,000 federal employees and thousands of federal government contractors. During the 35-day shutdown, Sen. Warner met and heard from Virginia families who had to miss bills or draw down on their savings to afford basic necessities. These financial decisions can have a damaging effect on an individual’s credit score and make it harder to qualify for future bank loans.

Sen. Warner previously introduced the Stop STUPIDITY Act to end the threat of future shutdowns and protect federal government workers from being used as pawns in political negotiations. In addition, Sen. Warner introduced legislation that the President signed into law that secured back pay for federal workers. He continues to press the Administration and his colleagues to pass bipartisanlegislation that would provide back pay to low- and middle-wage federal contractor service employees affected by the government shutdown.

A copy of the legislation can be found here.

###

WASHINGTON – Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) wrote to the Small Business Administration (SBA) today to express concern and solicit information on the backlog of loans created by the partial government shutdown. The 35-day lapse in appropriations jammed the approval process of SBA loans—a particularly alarming fact for Virginia, where 1.5 million individuals, nearly half of the Commonwealth’s employees, are employed by small businesses.

“I fear the fallout from the Administration’s 35-day shutdown will slow Virginia’s economic growth and innovation,” wrote Sen. Warner. “According to some estimates, the shutdown delayed about $2 billion in SBA lending and more than 300 small business loans per day. A backlog of loan applications could have a chilling effect on small businesses’ confidence, investment, and hiring.” 

According to SBA’s shutdown contingency plan, more than 2,000 SBA positions were subject to furlough, freezing essential loan programs that allow individuals to start or expand businesses, make essential repairs and refinance debt. SBA loans are vital contributors to innovation and growth and have been used by the founders of companies like Under Armour, Chipotle and Apple to kick-start their businesses.

“News reports shared the stories of small business owners who had to cancel SBA-financed expansion plans because of the shutdown, as well as entrepreneurs who were unable to access SBA loans to open their businesses,” Sen. Warner continued.“Throughout the 35-day period, Americans hoping to obtain an SBA loan to start or expand their small business had to put their ambitions on hold — or turn to more costly capital alternatives— while they waited for the government to get its act together. I am deeply concerned with backlog left for SBA employees now that the shutdown is over, and other impacts the lapse in funding had on SBA’s vital functions.”

In his letter to SBA Administrator Linda McMahon, Sen. Warner asked for information in order to evaluate the shutdown’s lasting damage on small businesses. Specifically, he requested a list of all functions that were reduced or postponed. He also asked about the number of loan applications in the backlog and about SBA’s plan to address this backlog.

A PDF copy of the letter is available here and the text appears below.

 

January 31, 2019

 

Linda McMahon

Administrator

Small Business Administration

403 3rd Street, SW

Washington, DC 20024

 

Dear Administrator McMahon:

 

I write to raise concerns with a potential backlog of Small Business Administration (SBA) loans created by the government shutdown. Virginia has over 680,000 small businesses, which collectively employ approximately 1.5 million Virginians, almost half of the Commonwealth’s employees.[1] The Commonwealth’s economy, like our nation’s economy, depends on our small businesses and entrepreneurs. I fear the fallout from the Administration’s 35-day shutdown will slow Virginia’s economic growth and innovation.

 

Support from the SBA has been a key contributor to our nation’s innovation leadership, providing early funding and resources to renowned companies such as Apple, HP, Intel, FedEx, and AOL in the early years.[2] Under Armour was started by founder Kevin Plank with the help of a small SBA loan at just 23 years old. Chipotle used a SBA loan to open a third store setting the food chain on a path to open more than 2,450 restaurants and to employ over 70,000 people.

 

According to SBA’s Lapse Appropriations Contingency Plan, over 2,000 positions at the agency were subject to furlough. Moreover, reports indicated that, during the shutdown, the SBA stopped approving routine small business loans upon which entrepreneurs and established firms depend. According to some estimates, the shutdown delayed about $2 billion in SBA lending and more than 300 small business loans per day. A backlog of loan applications could have a chilling effect on small businesses’ confidence, investment, and hiring. 

 

For over a month, the reduced flow of capital put many small businesses in a precarious position. News reports shared the stories of small business owners who had to cancel SBA-financed expansion plans because of the shutdown, as well as entrepreneurs who were unable to access SBA loans to open their businesses. Throughout the 35-day period, Americans hoping to obtain an SBA loan to start or expand their small business had to put their ambitions on hold — or turn to more costly capital alternatives— while they waited for the government to get its act together.

 

I am deeply concerned with backlog left for SBA employees now that this shutdown is over, and other impacts the lapse in funding had on SBA’s vital functions. To assess the lasting damage that the shutdown has caused, please provide me with the following information:

 

1.      A list of all SBA functions that were stopped or reduced during the lapse in funding.

 

2.      The number of loan applications that are in the backlog. 

 

3.      How will SBA address the loan backlog that was created by this shutdown?

 

I appreciate the vital functions SBA provides to small businesses and entrepreneurs in Virginia and across the country. I hope the SBA can quickly dig out of the hole in which the Administration placed both your agency and our nation’s small businesses.  

 

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

 

 

 

Sincerely,

 

###

 

 



[1] Small Business Administration, “Virginia Small Business Profile,” 2018, available at https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/advocacy/Virginia.pdf

[2] Small Business Administration, “SBIC Early Stage Initiative,” available at https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/articles/SBIC-Early-Stage-Initiative.pdf

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner led a letter with 26 colleagues calling on Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to improve guidance the Department of Education is giving to student loan borrowers impacted by the shutdown. In the letter, the Senators cited concerns that guidance the Department is currently giving borrowers does not help them navigate repayment options effectively and may cause borrowers to experience further difficulties navigating student loan forgiveness, leading to financially unwise decisions.

“Among the 800,000 federal workers that are furloughed, or working without pay, are thousands of student loan borrowers,” the Senators wrote. “We urge you to improve advice that the Department is providing to impacted student loan borrowers, immediately conduct proactive outreach to borrowers, prioritize requests for student loan assistance from all federal workers, and explore other ways to assist impacted student loan borrowers.”

“Federal workers who serve their country deserve a federal student loan program that supports their needs during this time. We urge you to deploy the resources of your Department to provide the assistance we have requested as soon as possible,” the Senators concluded. 

Joining Kaine and Warner on the letter are Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Edward Markey (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ).                                                            

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

 

January 25, 2019

 

The Honorable Betsy DeVos

Secretary of Education

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.

Washington, DC 20202

 

Dear Secretary DeVos:

 

We write to you on behalf of the federal workers and their families affected by President Trump and Congressional Republicans’ inexcusable and harmful government shutdown. Among the 800,000 federal workers that are furloughed, or working without pay, are thousands of student loan borrowers. Many of these borrowers and their families are struggling to make rent and mortgage payments, pay for child care and medical treatment, afford food, and meet other basic needs—all while their student loan bills come due. Committed public servants who have federal student loans deserve better assistance from the U.S. Department of Education (“Department”) during the shutdown. We urge you to improve advice that the Department is providing to impacted student loan borrowers, immediately conduct proactive outreach to borrowers, prioritize requests for student loan assistance from all federal workers, and explore other ways to assist impacted student loan borrowers.

 

We recognize and appreciate that the Department recently attempted to increase awareness about repayment options for federal workers in a January 11, 2019, blog post which directs impacted federal student loan borrowers to seek loan forbearance or deferment, or enroll in—or recertify income early for—an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan.[1] As the blog post mentions, interest on a loan in deferment or forbearance will accrue and such interest may capitalize if left unpaid, which results in more debt for borrowers in the long-run. However, we are concerned that the Department’s advice to borrowers does not help them effectively navigate their options, may cause them to experience further difficulties navigating student loan forgiveness, and could lead to financially unwise decisions.

 

The Department’s advice only briefly describes a few options without helping borrowers make fully informed choices or proceed to obtain relief. For example, while the blog post mentions Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and correctly notes that periods of deferment or forbearance do not count towards the 120 qualifying payments for forgiveness, the post does not help impacted student loan borrowers determine whether the trade-off between the administrative ease of deferment or forbearance is better than the more involved process of entering—or recertifying income for—an income-driven repayment plan. The blog post also fails to discuss tradeoffs between deferment and forbearance, including the option for interest subsidies under deferment. Especially in an era when irresponsible government shutdowns are increasingly frequent, the Department should develop a fact sheet or guidance document for its website, loan servicers, and borrowers that helps affected borrowers decide which type of benefit to pursue, directs them on how to apply for and receive such benefits, and lists the administrative steps to improve relief that we are requesting and that the Department has agreed to.

 

IDR is a beneficial option for many borrowers, and particularly for federal workers interested in PSLF. These repayment plans can provide federal workers who are student loan borrowers, and who are furloughed or working without pay, with a $0 “payment” amount, interest subsidies, and a lower risk of substantial interest capitalization. Borrowers who enroll in IDR may be entitled to a subsidized interest rate effective the moment their enrollment is processed. Borrowers with subsidized student loans are allowed up to three years of interest subsidy if their student loan payment under any IDR plan is insufficient to cover accruing interest charges—a certainty for borrowers with a $0 payment. In addition to this benefit, borrowers with unsubsidized student loans are entitled to have 50 percent of unpaid interest charges waived if they enrolled in the IDR plan known as “Revised Pay As You Earn” (REPAYE), a substantial benefit that is unavailable to borrowers under any other payment arrangement.

 

Revising IDR payment amounts to $0, along with interest subsidies, is certainly a more beneficial option than deferment or forbearance for all federal workers who are already seeking PSLF and who are now not currently receiving any income. Additionally, enrollment in IDR is not time-limited, unlike the three year limitation on deferment. Since eligible borrowers already have the opportunity to qualify for short-term interest subsidies in IDR, and they run the risk of forgoing qualifying payments for PSLF and accruing interest at the end of deferment or forbearance, we ask that the Department ensure the guidance we are requesting more fairly and prominently discusses the benefits of IDR compared to deferment or forbearance. And for borrowers who miss payments or end up in deferment or forbearance during the shutdown, the Department should use its settlement and compromise authority to waive all interest that accrues on these loans during the shutdown.[2]

 

One reason that some borrowers are reluctant to pursue IDR as a temporary relief option, despite its potential benefit, is the Department’s extended processing time that occurs with contracted federal student loan servicers. However, IDR applications need not take weeks to process—and this customer service level is fully within the Department’s control. This is especially the case for furloughed federal workers or those working without pay, who have the option to self-certify that they are not currently receiving any income, which would result in a $0 monthly payment amount. The Department can and must ask its contracted servicers to process IDR applications from federal workers, including any adjustments of payment amounts from existing IDR borrowers, on a timeline of days—not weeks or months. For example, the Department should direct its contractors to prioritize all applications for borrowers whose applications are easier to process because they applied online and have self-certified that they have no income.

 

We also ask that the Department do everything in its power to reach out directly to borrowers who, due to the submission of a PSLF form or enrollment in a federal loan repayment assistance program, have a record of federal employment. Such outreach should include emailing, calling, and texting every borrower employed in federal service to ensure that they are aware of their repayment options and the ability to receive a $0 payment under IDR. The Department should also explore the possibility of a secure data match to identify other federal workers with federal student loans who are not in the PSLF program. Such outreach could be easily paid for with funds set aside for outreach about PSLF in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, as well as the Department of Education Appropriations Act, 2019. Finally, the Department should issue a change request to student loan servicers that covers IDR processing times, training for customer service agents to respond to all inquiries and requests from impacted student loan borrowers, and instruction to conduct the necessary outreach to affected borrowers.

 

Despite President Trump and Congressional Republicans’ decision to continue this unnecessary government shutdown, federal workers should not bear the consequences of their obstinance and irresponsibility. In this case, there is a clear path to allow federal workers who are temporarily without income to pay nothing toward their loans under IDR. Federal workers who serve their country deserve a federal student loan program that supports their needs during this time. We urge you to deploy the resources of your Department to provide the assistance we have requested as soon as possible.

 

Sincerely,

 

###

 

 




[1] U.S. Department of Education, Home Room, the Official Blog of the [1] U.S. Department of Education. January 11, 2019. https://blog.ed.gov/2019/01/federal-employees-manage-student-loans-government-shutdown/

[2] 20 U.S.C. § 1082(a)(6); 34 C.F.R. § 30.70

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) was joined by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) in requesting financial flexibility from childcare organizations for parents and guardians affected by the partial government shutdown. Among the expenses piling up for these families, who do not know when their next paycheck will come, are steep costs of childcare—a necessity parents cannot forgo. With a regional shortage of daycares, many parents are continuing to pay for childcare they are not using to avoid losing their spots at the facilities.

“We ask that your company make efforts to support federal workers and contractors who are furloughed or working without pay by offering them as much financial flexibility as is possible,” wrote the Senators. “There have been reports of federally contracted childcare providers agreeing to waive fees for late payments, allowing the option of deferred payments, and reducing rates for those who do not send their child to daycare for entire weeks during the shutdown. Given how scarce and sought after quality childcare can be, it is crucial that federal workers and contractors impacted by the shutdown not risk forfeiting the very care that their families will need again when the government reopens.

“It is also of the utmost importance that federally connected families not be penalized financially for a shutdown for which they bear no responsibility. Accordingly, we respectfully request that you provide us with information regarding how your company is supporting federal workers and their families during the shutdown. We have been pleased to learn about flexibilities many businesses have extended to federal employees and contractors during this challenging time and would be interested in learning if your organization is offering any comparable accommodations,” they concluded.

Letters were sent to the ten largest for-profit child care organizations, including KinderCare EducationLearning Care GroupBright Horizons Family SolutionsGoddard SystemsPrimrose SchoolsChildcare NetworkKids ‘R’ Learning AcademiesNobel Learning CommunitiesThe Learning Experience, and Cadence Education

 

###

WASHINGTON – Following concerns raised by Virginia’s mayors, Sen. Warner inquired today whether lenders plan to extend and expand the assistance being offered to federal workers and contractors affected by the shutdown. In letters addressed to the six largest consumer banks and credit unions in the DMV region, the Senator also asked about any steps being taken to ensure that affected individuals are informed of their options. 

“The consequences of even a single missed paycheck—let alone two—can be severely devastating. Some federal workers and contractors don’t know how they will put food on the table, pay their electrical bills, or pay their mortgage,” wrote Sen. Warner. “I continue to hear from those affected by the shutdown that they feel like they are without options to address their most pressing financial obligations while they wait for an end to the shutdown. What steps have you taken to publicize the assistance you are offering and how have you sought to ensure that those affected by the shutdown are aware of the assistance?”

“Although affected federal employees are, at the very least, assured back pay, many still face trouble making ends meet until paychecks resume, and federal contractors see no relief in sight,” he continued. “The financial pain felt by all of these workers will increase exponentially as the shutdown continues.  Do you have any plans to increase the level of assistance to affected federal workers and contractors?” 

As the longest government shutdown in U.S. history continues, more federal workers and contractors find themselves struggling financially. Many banks have already taken steps to help federal workers and contractors, such as making no-fee personal loans available, offering mortgage and loan forbearance, deferring payment obligations, and waiving or adjusting fees. As many federally-connected families confront the possibility of missing a second paycheck this Friday, they face an increasing financial pressure that may render many of them unable to pay their rent, mortgage or other critical personal obligations. 

On Monday, Senator Warner hosted a phone call with Virginia’s mayors to hear the most pressing local concerns triggered by the government shutdown. Many of the mayors expressed worry that while cities were able to offer forbearance on municipal costs like water and electrical bills, that with a second missed paycheck fast approaching, many more of their constituents would soon be struggling to afford their housing costs and private sector loan payments such as mortgages.  

In addition to asking about extended assistance for those affected by the shutdown, Sen. Warner also acknowledged and thanked the CEOs for measures already in place. Letters were sent to the Chief Executive Officers of Bank of America Corp., Citigroup,JPMorgan Chase & Co., U.S. Bancorp, Wells Fargo and Navy Federal Credit Union.

 

###

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to inquire about the impact of the government shutdown on craft breweries in Virginia. The shutdown has halted operations at the federal agency that regulates alcohol production and distribution, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. As a result, craft brewers across Virginia have been unable to secure approvals for labeling changes, new recipes, or operating permits. 

“According to various reports, thousands of applications for alcohol labels have been put on hold. The craft beer industry depends on innovation to drive growth, and the shutdown has and will prevent craft breweries from introducing new beers to the market. It is hard enough for these craft brewers to operate a business, and the shuttering of TTB is yet another example of how the Administration’s shutdown is making it harder for American business owners,” the Senators wrote.

The Senators requested that the Department provide answers about how many craft brewery requests for TTB action are currently pending as a result of the shutdown, and what plans are for reducing and resolving the backlog.

The beer industry employs more than 28,000 people in Virginia, and contributes more $9.3 billion annually to Virginia’s economy. Virginia is home to 206 licensed breweries, a growth rate of more than 450 percent since 2012, making craft beer an important economic driver for the Commonwealth.

“Breweries in Virginia operate in a supply chain, and the shutdown’s impacts on breweries will resonate up and down the supply chain, negatively impacting the farmers, suppliers, and customers. The shutdown will limit business owners’ investment, hiring, and growth. Virginia is not alone in benefiting from this industry; craft brewing contributes $76.2 billion and more than 500,000 jobs to the U.S. economy,” the Senators told Mnuchin. 

In the letter, Warner and Kaine raised the example of Port City Brewing Company in Alexandria, whose founder Bill Butcher wrote to the Senators earlier this month to say, “We work hard to get ahead of our business and this shutdown wrecks our plans.  If we can’t get our new labels approved in a timely manner, it affects our entire operation, and damages our revenue stream, which relies on new beers in the market... We have spent the closing months of 2018 planning our business out for 2019. This shutdown has made all of this planning work futile.”

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

 

The Honorable Steven Mnuchin

Secretary

U.S. Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Ave. NW 20220

Dear Secretary Mnuchin:

We write to raise concerns with the impact the government shutdown is having on Virginia’s craft brewers. As a result of the funding lapse, The Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB) has ceased its review and approval of labeling changes, new recipes, or permits for brewers and distillers. According to various reports, thousands of applications for alcohol labels have been put on hold. The craft beer industry depends on innovation to drive growth, and the shutdown has and will prevent craft breweries from introducing new beers to the market. It is hard enough for these craft brewers to operate a business, and the shuttering of TTB is yet another example of how the Administration’s shutdown is making it harder for American business owners. 

Virginia has seen a surge of economic activity resulting from the growth of craft brewing. According to the Brewers Association, Virginia ranks 13th in the country for the most craft breweries, with well over 100 new breweries opening in the Commonwealth since 2011. Virginia is home to 206 licensed breweries, with the craft beer industry contributing more than $9 billion annually to the Commonwealth’s economy and employing over 28,000 people in production, distribution, and retail. This includes the new Southwest Virginia Mountain Brew Trail, which boasts more than 18 unique breweries and was a product of years of planning by small businesses and local stakeholders. 

We have heard from many breweries, large and small, about the negative impacts the lapse in funding has had on their business. For example, Port City Brewing Company in Alexandria wrote to us about how they spent the closing months of last year mapping out their business plan for 2019, only to have the government shutdown “wreck” months of planning. They are unable to introduce new beers and are awaiting a Small Business Administration loan for new bottling equipment. Port City Brewing Company is one of many breweries that have had their operations damaged by the government shutdown. 

Breweries in Virginia operate in a supply chain, and the shutdown’s impacts on breweries will resonate up and down the supply chain, negatively impacting the farmers, suppliers, and customers. The shutdown will limit business owners’ investment, hiring, and growth. Virginia is not alone in benefiting from this industry; craft brewing contributes $76.2 billion and more than 500,000 jobs to the U.S. economy.

Please let us know how many craft brewery requests for TTB action are pending and your plans to resolve the backlog.  We call on the Administration to end the shutdown and put TTB employees back to work.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

###

 

WASHINGTON – Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) led Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) today in urging the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to do everything in its power to prevent the termination of dental and vision insurance coverage for federal employees affected by the partial government shutdown. In a letter to OPM, the Senators stood up for the federal employees who risk losing their coverage unless they pay out of pocket for premiums that would usually be deducted from their paychecks. 

“Your guidance to employees has been insufficient and fails to account for the significant financial strain already placed on these employees and their families,” wrote the Senators. “If the status quo persists, you are undoubtedly risking the health and wellness of federal workers, their spouses, and children enrolled in federal vision and dental plans. We have already heard from individuals who are worried about what this will mean for them and their health care needs.”  

“We believe it is unreasonable to expect unpaid employees to take on this financial responsibility,” continued the Senators. “Instead, we ask that you immediately work with federal contractors administering these dental and vision benefits to develop alternative payment arrangements that ensure continuous coverage at no risk of terminated benefits. In addition, we ask that – upon any such agreement – you immediately reissue guidance to employees who are in jeopardy of having their benefits terminated.”

OPM recently announced that many federal employees enrolled in the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program will be billed directly for their premiums after the date of their second missed pay period – as soon as this Friday. This notice places additional financial pressure on strained government employees who are already struggling to pay for expenses like childcare and mortgages. 

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

 

January 23, 2019

 

Margaret Weichert

Acting Director

U.S. Office of Personnel Management

1900 E Street NW, Washington, DC 20415

 

Dear Acting Director Weichert: 

We write today concerning federal employees that may lose their dental and vision health insurance benefits as a result of the government shutdown. As you may know, if the current lapse in government funding continues more than 800,000 federal employees will miss their second pay period. From this time forward – federal employees with dental and vision insurance must also begin to pay their premiums directly to BENEFEDS or risk having their coverage terminated.  

Recent guidance from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to federal employees’ enrolled in the BENEFEDS dental and vision plans states:

“Payroll deductions will cease for any employee that does not receive pay. BENEFEDS will generate a bill to enrollees for premiums when no payment is received for two consecutive pay periods. The enrollee should pay premiums directly billed to him/her on a timely basis to ensure continuation of coverage.”

The above guidance will require federal employees to tap into their savings and pay these costs or risk having their coverage terminated. We are alarmed that unpaid federal employees will be required to incur this additional financial hardship during a time when they can least afford it. This is unacceptable.

Your guidance to employees has been insufficient and fails to account for the significant financial strain already placed on these employees and their families. If the status quo persists, you are undoubtedly risking the health and wellness of federal workers, their spouses, and children enrolled in federal vision and dental plans. We have already heard from individuals who are worried about what this will mean for them and their health care needs. We also understand that certain insurers are willing to allow individuals to continue their coverage without payment, and we encourage OPM to continue to work with all insurers to help members maintain continuity of coverage. 

We believe it is unreasonable to expect unpaid employees to take on this financial responsibility. Instead, we ask that you immediately work with federal contractors administering these dental and vision benefits to develop alternative payment arrangements that ensure continuous coverage at no risk of terminated benefits. In addition, we ask that – upon any such agreement – you immediately reissue guidance to employees who are in jeopardy of having their benefits terminated. 

Thank you for your attention to this letter. If our offices can be further helpful in resolving this matter please do not hesitate to contact us. 

 

Sincerely,

 

###

 

WASHINGTON— Today U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) introduced legislation to put an end to future government shutdowns and protect federal government workers from being used as pawns in policy negotiations. This bill would keep the government running in the case of a lapse in funding by automatically renewing government funding at the same levels as the previous fiscal year, with adjustments for inflation. The Stop STUPIDITY (Shutdowns Transferring Unnecessary Pain and Inflicting Damage In The Coming Years) Act would fund all aspects of the government except for the legislative branch and the Executive Office of the President – effectively forcing Congress and the White House to come to the negotiating table without putting at risk the economy or hurting the American public. 

“The Stop STUPIDITY Act takes the aggressive but necessary step of forcing the President and Congress to do the jobs they were elected to do,” said Sen. Warner. “It is disturbing that the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of workers are at the mercy of dysfunction in Washington. Workers, business owners and tax payers are currently paying the price of D.C. gridlock and my legislation will put an end to that.” 

Sen. Warner has been outspoken on the impact of the Trump Administration’s government shutdown. He recently passed a bill to give back pay to the federal and other government workers who have been affected by the shutdown and introduced legislation to pay back federal contract workers. 

For a copy of the bill text, click here.

 

###

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Finance, Banking, Budget and Rules committees and Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today wrote to the heads of several federal Departments raising questions about the Trump Administration’s compliance with the Antideficiency Act, which prohibits federal agencies from obligating or expending federal funds not appropriated by Congress. Now in its 32nd day, the current shutdown is the longest in American history, and questions are being raised about the seemingly ad hoc way in which the Trump Administration is picking “winners and losers” during the shutdown – determining which employees will be furloughed and which employees will be deemed “excepted,” expected to continue working without pay to keep certain government services operational. 

Previous presidential administrations have applied a narrow interpretation to determine which employees are considered essential during a shutdown, restricting such a designation only to employees whose jobs were necessary to avoid “emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.”

“Government shutdowns are never good, the current one being no exception, and they never produce positive results. Our hard-working federal employees deserve to be paid for their work, and to be paid in a timely manner rather than waiting weeks, months, or even years for a shutdown to end. Rather than finding ways to minimize the impact of the current government shutdown, and straining legal bounds to do so, it is my strong belief that the best way to fix the current situation is to simply end the shutdown,”Sen. Warner wrote to several Trump Administration officials.

Press reports indicate that Department heads under the Trump Administration have taken a questionable and inconsistent approach towards determining what programs will continue to operate under the shutdown:

  • For example, at the Department of the Interior, furloughed employees from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management were recalled after several weeks in order to work on upcoming offshore oil and gas lease sales;
  • During the shutdown, the State Department proceeded with holding a conference for all U.S. chiefs of mission and ambassadors abroad in Washington, D.C. from January 15-18, requiring many State Department employees to work without pay to organize and work at the conference; moreover, the Department recently recalled all furloughed employees in order to carry out the Department's mission without providing additional explanation on how this complied with the Antideficiency Act and why that move was needed to avoid imminent threats to human life or protection of property;
  • More than three weeks after the shutdown began, the Department of Transportation recalled  thousands of employees to perform work such as air-safety checks, and routine activities such as approving new aircraft for commercial carriers’ fleets and new flight routes;
  • At the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS), employees were recalled, reportedly at the behest of the mortgage industry, to conduct income verification checks, and to process tax refunds, even though both activities were initially designed as non-excepted activities under the IRS’s shutdown plans;
  • The Department of Agriculture recalled 2,500 Farm Service Agency employees to help farmers with existing loans and tax paperwork, among other tasks. 

Letters were sent to the InteriorStateTreasuryAgriculture, and Transportation Departments, as well as the IRS

 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today issued the following statement:

"President Trump's remarks today failed to acknowledge the pain and suffering he has caused to federal workers, contractors, and millions of Americans with this unnecessary government shutdown, and his rhetoric toward immigrants was inflammatory and unproductive. ?We would be glad to review, starting this week, any proposals he has to responsibly improve and increase border security and provide certainty to TPS recipients and DREAMers. To start this process, we have to immediately reopen the government.”

###?

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) sent a letter today to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, stressing the importance of sustained funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The lawmakers expressed concern with the agency’s ability to support states and grocery stores, following a decision by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to issue February SNAP benefits weeks ahead of schedule. The letter also highlights a lack of guidance for recipients who may be forced to go without the assistance if the government shutdown persists beyond the month of February.

USDA has been particularly impacted by the partial government shutdown. Nearly 95 percent of USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) workers have been furloughed, affecting the agency’s ability to run SNAP—a program that 776,000 Virginians rely on to meet their basic nutritional needs. SNAP keeps more than 150,000 Virginians, including 79,000 children, out of poverty every year by granting families and individuals access to nutritious foods.

“Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it was taking the unprecedented step of issuing SNAP benefits a month early to ensure that individuals are able to receive their benefits for February. While we are pleased that USDA was able to identify funds to continue SNAP benefits during the shutdown, we are concerned the agency is not providing adequate support to states and grocery retailers, who are dealing with the massive logistical challenge of distributing SNAP benefits weeks earlier than normal,” wrote the Senators. 

The Senators continued, “In addition, we are troubled by the lack of information from USDA about its ability to continue SNAP benefits through March and beyond if this shutdown continues into February… We urge you to provide additional information on other funding options you have at your disposal to continue SNAP payments for March and beyond if the shutdown is not resolved in a timely manner… Given the importance of this program for many of our constituents, we ask that you do all you can to ensure the uninterrupted issuance of SNAP benefits as long as this shutdown continues.”

 

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

 

The Honorable Sonny Perdue

Secretary         

U.S. Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Ave., S.W.

Washington, DC 20250 

 

Dear Secretary Perdue:

 

We write today concerning the uncertainty surrounding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) during the ongoing partial federal government shutdown. Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it was taking the unprecedented step of issuing SNAP benefits a month early to ensure that individuals are able to receive their benefits for February. While we are pleased that USDA was able to identify funds to continue SNAP benefits during the shutdown, we are concerned the agency is not providing adequate support to states and grocery retailers, who are dealing with the massive logistical challenge of distributing SNAP benefits weeks earlier than normal. In addition, we are troubled by the lack of information from USDA about its ability to continue SNAP benefits through March and beyond if this shutdown continues into February.

Every month, approximately 776,000 Virginians receive SNAP benefits to meet their basic nutritional needs. One out of every eleven Virginians received SNAP benefits in 2017 and almost 70 percent of SNAP participants were households with children. According to Michael McKee, CEO of Virginia’s largest food bank, Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, a funding lapse for SNAP will prevent food banks from feeding thousands of Virginians. Currently, SNAP provides about 12 times the amount of food as the nation’s food banks combined. A lapse in SNAP funding would be devastating for the thousands of Virginians that depend on this program each month. Low-income Virginians should not suffer the consequences of this unnecessary shutdown. 

Unfortunately, the ongoing government shutdown has impacted the ability of USDA to carry out this essential program. The Food and Nutrition Service, which processes SNAP benefits, has furloughed nearly 95 percent of its workforce. Even with a fully-staffed agency, it would be a tremendous undertaking for USDA and states to issue SNAP benefits weeks earlier than usual. Given the lack of available staff at USDA, the uniqueness of this situation, and the tight timeline, we are worried about the agency’s ability to support states as they rush to ensure their SNAP recipients receive their February benefits by the January 20th deadline. 

Additionally, we are concerned by USDA’s lack of guidance concerning SNAP benefits after February, should the government shutdown continue into next month. Last year, Congress provided USDA $3 billion for a SNAP contingency fund. While not an insignificant number, this fund would likely not cover a full month of SNAP benefits for current users, considering the average monthly cost of the program is $4.8 billion. This means that the nearly 40 million recipients of SNAP do not know when additional funds will be added to their benefit cards after January 20th. We urge you to provide additional information on other funding options you have at your disposal to continue SNAP payments for March and beyond if the shutdown is not resolved in a timely manner.

Beyond providing Virginians access to healthy and nutritious foods, SNAP is one of Virginia’s best tools to fight poverty. The program keeps more than 150,000 Virginians, including 79,000 children, out of poverty annually. Given the importance of this program for many of our constituents, we ask that you do all you can to ensure the uninterrupted issuance of SNAP benefits as long as this shutdown continues.

Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to your reply.

 

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – Today, Members of Congress sent a letter to President Trump on the direct and immediate consequences of the shutdown on housing security for more than four million households across the country. Both the short-term operations and long-term viability of affordable housing programs are dependent on Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) rental assistance initiatives. An estimated 2.2 million low-income households are among those at risk of eviction, including housing for thousands of veterans, seniors, and people living with disabilities. 

The letter was spearheaded by Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX-33).

“By now, virtually every American has either been hurt by this shutdown, or knows someone who has,” said Sen. Warner. “No one – particularly our most vulnerable citizens – should have to lose their home just so that the President can make a political point. This has to stop now. The President must allow the government to re-open before the damage gets even worse.” 

“Every day that the Trump shutdown continues, more Texas children and families are placed in immediate danger of losing their housing,” said Rep. Veasey. “Public servants and their families should never be faced with eviction from their homes. This must end. That’s why Senator Warner and I urged the President and Secretary Carson to put aside politics and consider the unjust burden on Americans across the country.”

Text of the letter can be found below. PDF of the letter is available here.

 

Dear President Trump:

We write to express our deep concern regarding the harmful impacts the current government shutdown is having on the ability of Americans to afford their homes. This partial shutdown is undermining both the short-term operations and long-term viability of our affordable housing programs that serve over four million Americans, the majority of whom are seniors and people with disabilities living on a fixed income. For the sake of the families whose homes are at stake, we urge you to end the shutdown and protect the American people.

An immediate result of the shutdown is that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been forced to scramble to find funds to renew federal contracts for over 1,100 project-based rental assistance properties, housing tens of thousands of low-income renters, that have expired since the government shutdown began. Additional contracts will expire later in January and February, should the shutdown continue, as HUD does not have funding to renew contracts while the government is shut down. HUD proposes that private owners use their individual funding reserves, where available, to cover shortfalls. The longer the shutdown continues, the more untenable this guidance becomes.

Additionally, the shutdown will delay public housing authorities from receiving funding to help address pressing capital needs, such as fixing boilers and repairing leaking roofs. Funding is also dwindling for grants that support developmental projects and programs in local communities that depend on such funding to serve low-income families. Finally, the lapse in federal funding is curbing economic growth as more Americans are unable to purchase homes due to the Federal Housing Authority’s (FHA) delay in processing loans. 

The American people should not be used as leverage, or be held hostage, to fulfill a political agenda. The longer we extend the shutdown, the more harm will be done to seniors, families with children, people with disabilities, and other Americans who rely on these programs. We urge you to end this shutdown and provide immediate relief to Americans being impacted by this funding crisis. In these times of uncertainty and tension, we must continue to prioritize the American people. We owe it to the people we serve to choose their best interest over politics.

 

###