Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Tina Smith (D-MN), joined by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Cory Booker (D-NJ), sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (HHS/CMS) leadership urging them to review and formally report on the adequacy of the Affordable Care Act’s Essential Health Benefits (EHBs). The letter expressed the need for a review of telehealth flexibilities and the impact that scaling back these service options will have on those who rely on telehealth capabilities for treatment.

“As we begin to envision health care policies post-pandemic, we remain concerned telehealth services will be significantly pared back, hindering access to care for millions of Americans—especially those with complicated health conditions,” the Senators wrote.

When the Affordable Care Act was enacted, it required the Secretary of HHS to review EHBs and provide a report to Congress, and the public, that contains:

  • An assessment of whether enrollees are facing any difficulty accessing needed services for reasons of coverage or cost;
  • An assessment of whether the EHBs list needs to be modified or updated to account for changes in medical evidence or scientific advancement;
  • Information on how EHBs will be modified to address any such gaps in access or changes in the evidence base;
  • An assessment of the potential of additional or expanded benefits to increase costs and the interactions between the addition or expansion of benefits and reductions in existing benefits to meet actuarial limitations;

Despite this requirement, this formal review and report have never been undertaken or completed. The Senators stressed the need for this process in light of changes being made to care as the health care system shifts to a post-pandemic structure.

“We have heard from constituents who have concerns that coverage will start to vary based upon visit modality. For some specialized, complicated care—eating disorders, for example—it has always been challenging getting the most appropriate treatment covered, whether that’s because of parity or network issues,” the Senators continued. “We are concerned that modality will become one additional way barriers to treatment will be enacted, if arbitrary in-person requirements become one more way care is denied or delayed.”

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

Dear Secretary Becerra, Administrator Brooks-LaSure and Deputy Administrator Montz:

We thank you for your continued partnership in establishing and extending telehealth flexibilities to ensure Americans have access to vital health care services and supports over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we begin to envision health care policies post-pandemic, we remain concerned telehealth services will be significantly pared back, hindering access to care for millions of Americans—especially those with complicated health conditions.

According to federal statute, it is incumbent upon the Secretary to periodically review insurance plan Essential Health Benefits (EHBs) and provide a public report to Congress that contains 1) an assessment of whether enrollees are facing difficulty accessing needed services for reasons of coverage or costs; 2) an assessment of whether plan benefits need to be modified or updated to account for changes in medical evidence or scientific advancement; 3) information on how plan benefits will be modified to address any such gaps or changes in the evidence base; and 4) an assessment of potential of additional or expanded benefits to increase costs and the interactions between the addition of benefits and reductions in existing benefits.

We believe after 12 years of the ACA it is important that EHBs be formally reviewed and the mandated report be issued to the public and Congress, especially as your Administration is committed to maintaining and further strengthening the law’s protections. We urge you to undertake such a review and report, and in addition we urge you to ensure that visit modality is not one of the “reasons of coverage” for which “enrollees are facing difficulty accessing needed services.”

We have heard from constituents who have concerns that coverage will start to vary based upon visit modality. For some specialized, complicated care—eating disorders, for example—it has always been challenging getting the most appropriate treatment covered, whether that’s because of parity or network issues. We are concerned that modality will become one additional way barriers to treatment will be enacted, if arbitrary in-person requirements become one more way care is denied or delayed.

The Department addressed a delay in completing such a report to Congress in its 2019 Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameter Final Rule, citing the need for further insurance market stabilization that the final rule would provide. Although we understand the difficulty of reviewing the markets as they continue to evolve, it is for that reason critical that the Administration review and report on EHBs so that we have an understanding of whether they continue to be adequate in an ever-evolving health care ecosystem. The health care system will not be the same after the COVID-19 pandemic, and this is an opportunity to renew our commitment to comprehensive, affordable and accessible health care coverage. We respectfully request this report be conducted and issued to Congress to inform future health policy to better serve Americans.

Thank you for your consideration, and we look forward to continuing to work with you on this very important issue.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), a member of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Caucus, joined U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and 23 of his Senate colleagues in sponsoring the Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act – legislation to make the existing federal tax credit for adoption expenses fully refundable and ensure that more families can benefit from this critical support. This legislation aims to support lower-income families that are adopting as well as address the number of children “aging out” of the foster care system.

“Every child deserves a loving and supportive home,” said Sen. Warner. “This legislation will enable more families to claim the adoption tax credit and pave the way for more children to be adopted into safe, stable, caring homes.”

The adoption tax credit was made permanent in the American Taxpayer Relief Act in January 2013. However, that law did not extend the refundability provisions that applied to the adoption tax credit in 2010 and 2011. The Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act will restore the refundable portion of this critical support for families wishing to adopt.

According to data, Virginia ranks near the bottom of states – 49 out of 50 – when it comes to the percentage of children who “age out” of the foster care system. Virginia also has a higher percentage of older youth in foster care than the nation as a whole. This bill aims to help families seeking to adopt by removing some of the financial constraints families considering adoption face. 

Data indicate that a refundable adoption tax credit plays a significant role in lower-income families’ ability to adopt and support a child from foster care. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, one-third of all adopted children live in families with annual household income at or below 200 percent of the poverty level. Despite the common misperception that only wealthy families adopt, nearly 46 percent of families adopting from foster care are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Many of these families’ tax burdens are so low that they cannot benefit from the adoption tax credit at all unless it is refundable.

Full text of the bill is available here

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) was joined by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Northern Virginia officials for an event announcing $20 million to construct a new bicycle-pedestrian bridge crossing the Potomac River between Arlington and Washington, D.C. The funding for the project was made possible by the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program that was included in the Warner-authored Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The construction of the new shared-use path for bikes and pedestrians, connecting the Mt. Vernon Trail in Virginia to downtown Washington, is a crucial component of the broader Long Bridge project, which will relieve a major passenger and freight rail bottleneck by constructing a new two-track bridge upstream and expanding the existing railroad corridor, which is currently the only rail bridge connecting Virginia to Washington, D.C., from two tracks to four.

“I am thrilled to announce this new funding for the Long Bridge Pedestrian Crossing project. This $20 million investment was made possible by the bipartisan infrastructure law I was proud to help write and will help the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority complete a new span across the Potomac dedicated to cyclists and pedestrians,” said Sen. Warner. “This project is a key component of the broader effort to fix a major rail chokepoint and expand commuter and passenger service over the Potomac River.”  

“I want to thank Senator Warner for sticking with the Long Bridge project for all these years,” said DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. “People in our region want opportunities to get around without cars. They want to live and work near train stations. They want to get around on bikes, scooters, and buses. And more and better bridges, trains, and bike paths mean more opportunities to do just that. I look forward to seeing this project come to fruition and, in the meantime, working together to build a more connected region.”

“Today’s announcement will pave the way to build an unprecedented, purpose-built bicycle and pedestrian bridge that will become a major gateway to Arlington, Long Bridge Park, Crystal City and beyond,” said Katie Cristol, Arlington County Board Chair. “Arlington is extremely grateful to Senator Warner for his leadership in securing funding for this important project that will enhance mobility and accessibility across our region.”

“VPRA’s Long Bridge Project includes not only a new bridge dedicated to passenger rail, but also a bicycle and pedestrian bridge, which will make it safer and more convenient to cross the Potomac River,” said DJ Stadtler, executive director of the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority. “This RAISE grant highlights how the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Federal Government are partnering to support multi-modal infrastructure investments that will benefit not only Virginians, but also residents of our nation’s capital.  We would like to thank Senator Warner for his support of this worthwhile project.”

Sen. Warner has been a longtime advocate for the $1.9 billion Long Bridge project. In 2020, he secured passage of legislation transferring four acres of land required for the project from the federal government to Virginia and the District of Columbia. Once complete, the rail expansion will double the capacity of the Potomac River crossing and is projected to bring an annual $6 billion in benefits to the region by 2040.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (D-VA) along with Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA-09) issued a statement after President Biden formally approved the Commonwealth of Virginia’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration in response to the severe flooding event in Southwest Virginia on July 13, 2022. This declaration triggers the release of Public Assistance in the affected areas, while the Commonwealth’s request for Individual Assistance remains under review.

“We are pleased that the federal government has taken this crucial step to aid recovery efforts in Buchanan and Tazewell counties,” said the lawmakers. “We will continue pushing for Individual Assistance and all resources needed to help residents rebuild following this devastating flooding.”

Today’s announcement comes after Sens. Warner and Kaine and Rep. Griffith urged President Biden to issue a Major Disaster Declaration earlier this month.  

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sponsored the Build, Utilize, Invest, Learn, and Deliver (BUILD) for Veterans Act of 2022 – legislation to strengthen the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) ability to carry out key infrastructure projects, including medical facilities, in order to better care for veterans across the country. Virginia has one of the country’s largest and fastest-growing concentrations of veterans, resulting in increased demand for the services and benefits provided by the VA.

“I have been working for years to ensure that our nation’s veterans receive the high-quality medical care they deserve,” said Sen. Warner, who successfully spearheaded congressional efforts to approve new VA healthcare projects across the country, including outpatient clinics in Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg. “Unfortunately, as a country, we’ve struggled to keep up with the needs of veterans seeking care and support through the VA, due in part to processes that are just too slow and too bureaucratic, leading to years of unnecessary delays in opening and remodeling needed hospitals, clinics, and benefits offices. This legislation will push the VA to modernize and improve its capacity to manage current and future infrastructure projects.”  

Specifically, the BUILD for Veterans Act would bolster and invest in VA infrastructure by requiring the Department to:

  • Develop relevant plans, metrics, infrastructure workforce hiring strategies, year-by-year budgets and oversight mechanisms to overhaul its capacity to accomplish new facility projects and provide Congress with its plans and performance data for enhanced accountability.
  • Implement a more concrete schedule to eliminate or repurpose unused and vacant buildings such as old maintenance sheds or warehouses to safeguard taxpayer dollars, and focus funding on new and productive infrastructure.
  • Examine infrastructure budgeting strategies, identify if reforms are required, and implement industry best practices.
  • Provide annual budget requirements over a 10-year period so that Congress and VA can set about on the task of fully modernizing VA’s infrastructure in a strategic, comprehensive approach.

The legislation has been endorsed by The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and Paralyzed Veterans of America.

This effort comes on the heels of the bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022, legislation supported by Sen. Warner and signed into law by President Biden to expand health care and resources for toxic-exposed veterans. The law also provided $5.5 billion in funding for 31 new facilities across the country – including another outpatient clinic in Hampton Roads – and streamlines the process for the VA to execute on new leases, removing bureaucratic hurdles and cutting down on some of the frustrating delays to these facilities’ completion.

Sen. Warner has long fought to improve care for Virginia’s veterans.  In 2015, confronted with wait times in Hampton Roads that were three times the national average, Sen. Warner successfully urged the VA to send down a team of experts to address the problem. He also succeeded in getting the Northern Virginia Technology Council to issue a free report detailing how to reduce wait times. Sen. Warner also spearheaded a bipartisan effort to approve long-overdue leases for more than two dozen VA medical facilities across the country, including two in Virginia. In October 2020, Sen. Warner successfully saw through the signing of his legislation to expand veterans’ access to mental health services and reduce the alarming rate of veteran suicide. 

Full text of the BUILD for Veterans Act is available here

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine issued the following statement today after the Senate successfully passed a stopgap funding bill to keep the federal government funded through mid-December:

“We’re relieved that this legislation will keep the government operating; allow the Food and Drug Administration to continue its review of innovative drugs and medical devices; deliver critical disaster relief funding to Puerto Rico; and send a strong message that the U.S. continues to stand with Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty against the brutal dictatorship of Vladimir Putin. It’s going to take some more time for Congress to finalize the Fiscal Year 2023 budget, and we are going to keep fighting to keep intact the nearly $135 million we secured for Virginia in that budget as the process continues.”

More information regarding the funding Warner and Kaine are working to secure in the final Fiscal Year 2023 budget legislation for Virginia is available here.

The stopgap funding legislation that the Senate passed today will soon be voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives before heading to President Biden’s desk for signature.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), joined by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), introduced the Broadband Grant Tax Treatment Act (BGTTA) legislation to amend the Internal Revenue Code to ensure that funding directed for the implementation of broadband from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) will not be considered taxable income.

Grants awarded to industry for the purposes of broadband deployment are currently factored into a company’s income and will soon be subjected to additional taxes due to scheduled changes to the corporate tax code that kick in beginning next year – unless Congress acts now to address the problem. This new bipartisan legislation moves to exclude broadband deployment grants awarded through the IIJA and ARP from an organization’s income, ensuring the entirety of federal dollars awarded to companies for the purpose of deploying broadband around the country can be used wholly for that purpose, rather than making their way back to the government through taxes.

“In order to fully reap the benefits of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the American Rescue Plan, every dollar that was set aside to fund broadband expansion and deployment should be used for that purpose,” said Sen. Warner, a member of the Finance Committee that oversees the nation’s tax code and a primary author of the broadband provisions in the IIJA and ARP. “Taxing these broadband investments awards would be counter-productive, and could ultimately diminish efforts to give more Americans access to high-speed internet.” 

“Reliable, high-speed internet is more crucial than ever for Kansans to run their businesses, access telehealth or pursue an education,” said Sen. Moran. “This commonsense legislation would make certain federal grants provided for broadband deployment are not counted as taxable income to maximize the impact and success of these resources.”

“The pandemic underscored the need for everyone to have a high-speed internet connection—which is why Congress stepped up to help more households get connected through the American Rescue Plan and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” said Sen. Kaine. “Ensuring that those investments won’t be taxed will help speed our progress toward that goal and expand access to online learning tools, remote work opportunities, and telehealth services.”

“Many underserved communities will soon see the benefits of new federal investments in internet infrastructure, but new federal tax changes would reduce the grants’ reach,” said Sen. Wicker. “Broadband providers that are trying to close the digital divide should not be hit with tax penalties.”

“When Congress funded grant programs to help deploy broadband in underserved states like West Virginia, it was intended for all of those funds to be used for exactly that purpose – for broadband deployment,” said Sen. Capito. “Taxing federal broadband grants as gross income undermines our intent for these programs and would further delay efforts to close the digital divide in areas that need broadband connectivity the most. I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce this legislation, and I will continue working toward our shared goal of helping bridge the digital divide in West Virginia and rural America.”

“The pandemic forced many of us to live even more of our lives online. Hardworking Georgia families need reliable internet access for their jobs, education, health care and so much more,” said Sen. Rev. Warnock. “I’m pleased to be a champion for broadband access and to be a part of this bipartisan coalition working to ensure rural regions in Georgia and across the nation have access to the resources they need to deploy broadband. The Broadband Grant Tax Treatment Act will help  connect Georgians so they can thrive in our bustling economy.”

As Senator, and during his tenure as the 69th Governor of Virginia, Sen. Warner has been a staunch advocate for expanded access to broadband. With more Virginia families relying on the internet for telework and telehealth following the COVID-19 crisis, Sen. Warner secured $65 billion in funding within the bipartisan infrastructure law to help deploy broadband, increase access, and decrease costs associated with connecting to the internet. Sen. Warner was also a key supporter of the American Rescue Plan, which delivered $17 billion in funding for broadband expansion across the country, including a $10 billion Capital Projects Fund that Sen. Warner authored and secured in the bill specifically for infrastructure projects to help rural and low- and moderate-income communities gain access to high-quality internet.

“We are grateful that Congress committed tens of billions of dollars to broadband deployment grants through recent bills seeking to help close the digital divide in our country. But taxing broadband grants – requiring recipients to pay back to the government a portion of what they receive from the government – will dramatically reduce the impact of these programs and likely leave the hardest-to-reach communities without essential connectivity for even longer,” said Chief Executive Officer of NTCA Shirley Bloomfield. “It is critical that all broadband grant funds go toward their intended purpose of network deployment. NTCA is proud to support the “Broadband Grant Tax Treatment Act,” and on behalf of our members, I want to thank Senators Warner and Moran for introducing the bill. This legislation will maximize the impact of every dollar granted for broadband deployment and further the mission of getting every American connected.”

“The federal government is making an enormous investment in rural broadband, but the effects of the tax code make it harder for the small, locally-based broadband providers we represent to maximize the amount of funding going to build out the network,” said Derrick B. Owens, Senior Vice President for Government and Industry Affairs for WTA - Advocates for Rural Broadband. We applaud the Senators for introducing this bipartisan legislation, which would streamline the tax code so that we’ll get as much broadband built as quickly as possible."

"We appreciate the leadership of Senators Warner and Moran for their efforts to eliminate the tax on broadband grants," said Brandon Heiner, USTelecom Senior Vice President of Government Affairs. "With an eye toward 100 percent connectivity, Congress made a historic investment in the broadband grant program in 2021. However, requiring grant recipients to return as much as 20 percent of those grants in the form of taxes jeopardizes our shared goal of universal connectivity. It is vital that Congress move to eliminate this tax, as America’s broadband providers carefully plan and prepare to allocate resources to connect as many Americans as possible."

Full text of the bill is available here

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration with oversight over federal elections, is cosponsoring comprehensive legislation to address the rise in threats targeting election workers. The Election Worker Protection Act would provide states with the resources to recruit and train election workers and ensure these workers’ safety, while also instituting federal safeguards to shield election workers from intimidation and threats.

“Because of their roles on the front lines of our democracy, local election workers have been subjected to increasing harassment and violent threats from those seeking to overturn the results of lawfully conducted elections,” said Sen. Warner. “As Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I’m disturbed that so many Americans, including a former president, have been so enthusiastically willing to aid and abet adversaries like China and Russia in undermining confidence in our elections and faith in our democratic process. As we face this new and unfortunate reality, we should take steps to ensure that election workers have the support and protection they need to do their jobs safely.”

The Election Worker Protection Act would: 

  1. Establish grants to states and certain local governments for poll worker recruitment, training, and retention, as well as grants for election worker safety;
  2. Direct the Department of Justice to provide training resources regarding the identification and investigation of threats to election workers;
  3. Provide grants to states to support programs protecting election workers’ personally identifiable information;
  4. Establish threatening, intimidating, or coercing election workers as a federal crime; 
  5. Expand the prohibition on voter intimidation in current law to apply to the counting of ballots, canvassing, and certification of elections;
  6. Extend the federal prohibition on doxing to include election workers; and 
  7. Protect the authority of election officials to remove poll observers who are interfering with or attempting to disrupt the administration of an election.

As Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner has been outspoken on the need to protect American democracy from those seeking to undermine confidence in the security of our elections and overturn the results of fairly conducted elections. As a leader of the Intelligence Committee, he released a groundbreaking, bipartisan and comprehensive investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election. More recently, he introduced the Preventing Election Subversion Act, legislation to institute new federal safeguards insulating state election administration from partisan pressure. He also just negotiated and introduced bipartisan legislation to reform and modernize the outdated Electoral Count Act of 1887 to ensure that the electoral votes tallied by Congress accurately reflect each state’s vote for president, which passed out of the Senate Rules Committee earlier this week in a bipartisan 14-1 vote. 

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WASHINGTON – This evening, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) took to the Senate floor to speak on the urgent need to enact the Congressionally-approved Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act, legislation he authored and championed to provide much-needed relief for individuals who previously consolidated their student loan debt with a spouse.  

“In 2017, I introduced the Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act to solve this problem and give borrowers a way out of these exploitative loans. It took seven years, but we got the bill through Congress with bipartisan support. This is a rare accomplishment. As a Congress, it’s not often that we pass standalone bills. Much less ones with unanimous Senate support or bipartisan House support. That’s a testament to what a critical and commonsense fix this is ­one that will actually change the lives of thousands of folks almost overnight,” said Sen. Warner on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

“I’d like to close in saying that this week, I called Sara back, the constituent who originally brought this to my attention,” he continued. “She told me that without this law, and even if she’d continued making all her monthly payments, it would be impossible to erase this debt in her lifetime. She would be tied to her ex-husband for the rest of her life. For Sara, and for all the thousands of borrowers impacted by this, it’s time for President Biden to sign this and finally free these borrowers.

Sen. Warner’s remarks as prepared for delivery are available below:

M. President, I rise today to celebrate a major accomplishment for thousands of Americans who have been trapped for decades in exploitative… joint student loans.

This is an issue that is near and dear to me… because I’ve been working on it for seven years… since hearing from a constituent in 2015.

Sara from Northern Virginia was part of a group of student loan borrowers who entered into something called a “joint consolidation loan,” which allowed married couples to combine their student loan debt into one loan.

In 2006, Congress got rid of this program. However, Congress did not create a way for folks to split the loan back into two.

When my constituent, Sara, divorced from her husband, she was still responsible for this loan. All of the debt had originally been his, but when he decided to stop paying… it was Sara who had to continue facing the consequences.

A single mom of two and a public school teacher… Sara was financially on the hook for the payments. Her credit suffered and she even faced the possibility of losing her teacher’s license.

After looking for a way out, she found out that the only way she could be free of her ex-husband’s debt was through an “act of Congress.” So she contacted my office, and we found out that across the country, thousands of borrowers were trapped in similar situations.

Domestic violence survivors were bound to their abusers by loans. Many were victims of financial abuse and were held completely responsible for debt they’d never taken out. Others were unable to save for retirement or their children’s educations. Public servants were left out of loan forgiveness programs because of the unique constraints of these loans.

In 2017, I introduced the Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act to solve this problem and give borrowers a way out of these exploitative loans.

It took seven years… but we got the bill through Congress with bipartisan support.

This is a rare accomplishment. As a Congress, it’s not often that we pass standalone bills. Much less ones with UNANIMOUS Senate support or bipartisan House support.

That’s a testament to what a critical and commonsense fix this is … one that will actually change the lives of thousands of folks almost overnight. Since we introduced this law the first time, my office has heard from so many Americans that are desperate to get this done.

Chris, from Indiana, said: “I’ve spent over sixteen years thinking about this loan every day… and waking up at night trying to create a strategy to pay this loan off. For the first time, I may be able to put my mind at peace.”

Sharon… a 7th grade teacher whose former partner has not made a payment in years… told us, “I don’t have to do this anymore. I get to live my life. I get to retire this year.”

Jessica…. whose former partner refuses to pay his share of the loan…. said, “I am finally about to be free… of one last way my ex controls me.”

Amy is a public servant who has never been able to take advantage of a single debt-relief program. This bill will change that.

All these people have asked for… is a chance to take their student loans into their own hands, and not be saddled with the debt of a former partner.

Applications for the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program close on Oct. 31 of this year.

Many of these borrowers are public school teachers and government workers. They need to be able to apply by that deadline so they are eligible for the same benefits all other Americans have enjoyed.

I am hopeful that Pres. Biden will sign this into law as soon as possible so that these borrowers can finally experience freedom from financial and domestic abuse… freedom to control their own financial future… and freedom to enjoy the same benefits as other borrowers across the country.

I’d like to close in saying that this week, I called Sara back, the constituent who originally brought this to my attention.

She told me that without this law… and even if she’d continued making all her monthly payments… it would be impossible to erase this debt in her lifetime. She would be tied to her ex-husband… literally… for the rest of her life.

For Sara, and for all the thousands of borrowers impacted by this, it’s time for Pres. Biden to sign this and finally free these borrowers. 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) today introduced the Savings Security Act. The legislation would help the American people protect their savings from changes in inflation by increasing the public’s ability to utilize I Bonds, a type of savings bond created by the U.S. Treasury Department. Series I Savings Bonds were created so consumers could invest their hard-earned savings in something that isn’t hurt by inflation, earns a reasonable rate of return, and is backed by the full faith and credit of the federal government.

“We need to take an all-encompassing approach to help families facing high costs,” said Sen. Warner. “In tandem with our inflation-fighting efforts, and intervention from the Federal Reserve, this legislation would allow Americans to better shield their finances from the unpredictability of inflation and offer peace of mind during difficult economic times.”

“The American people are scrambling for ways to protect their earnings from rampant inflation. I Bonds are one option consumers should be able to leverage. Arbitrary purchasing caps on I Bonds, however, are shortchanging the public from better utilizing the program. Our bill would raise the annual purchasing cap to ensure working families can insulate a greater portion of their savings from the pain of sky-high inflation,” said Senator Fischer.

Currently, the Treasury Department caps annual purchases of I Bonds at $15,000 per person per year. The Savings Security Act would require the Treasury Secretary to raise the annual cap to $30,000 per person when the average six-month annual Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U) is above 3.5%. The new purchase limit only applies to families and individuals. Businesses and trusts would not be eligible for the increased cap.

Additional Background

Series I Bonds are a type of savings bond created by the U.S. Treasury. I Bonds earn monthly interest for 30 years, or until the saver cashes out of the bond.

I Bonds were created in 1998 during the Clinton Administration as a financial tool that families can utilize to protect their savings from the negative impacts of high inflation. 

Currently, the Treasury Department caps annual purchases of I Bonds at $15,000 per person. That includes $10,000 per person per year in electric I Bonds, and an additional $5,000 per person per year in paper-issued I Bonds that are purchased through a federal income tax return. The Savings Security Act would require the Treasury Secretary to raise the annual cap to $30,000 per person when the CPI-U is above 3.5%. The Savings Security Act does not change the $5,000 per person paper I bond cap.

I-Bonds can only be purchased via Treasurydirect.gov or through your federal income tax return.

The annual inflation rate in the United States is 8.3%

Fill text of the legislation is available here.

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement after voting to move forward on debate on legislation that would keep the government funded through December 16:

“Government shutdowns are pointless and painful and should be avoided whenever possible. I’m glad that the Senate was able to move forward tonight on legislation to keep the government up and running. My complaints have fallen on deaf ears over the years, but it’s still worth pointing out that the process by which Congress decides whether or not to keep the government functional is, in fact, pretty dysfunctional. We can and should do better than continuing resolution after continuing resolution.

“While the permitting reform proposal from Senator Manchin was dropped from this bill, I agree that we still need to take sensible steps to reduce European dependence on Russian energy while maintaining an affordable and resilient supply here at home. I look forward to working with my colleagues to enact reforms to our existing permitting process that protect our national and economic security, but also respect concerns voiced by those communities most impacted by these projects.”

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today made $7 billion available to fund regional clean hydrogen hubs (H2Hubs) across the country, which will form a key power source in America's future clean energy economy. As part of the Department’s commitment to accelerating the national deployment of clean hydrogen fuel, DOE also released a draft of the National Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap for public feedback. The H2Hubs will be a critical part of the Department’s efforts to helping communities across the country realize the benefits of clean hydrogen and reach President Biden’s goal of a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.

“These H2Hubs are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to lay the foundation for the hydrogen economy of tomorrow—one that will lift our economy, protect the planet, and improve our health,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “With input from America’s brightest scientists, engineers, community organizers, and entrepreneurs, this national hydrogen strategy will help us accelerate the development and deployment of technologies to realize the full potential of clean hydrogen energy for generations to come.”

Hydrogen is a versatile fuel that can be produced from clean, diverse, and domestic energy resources, including wind, solar, and nuclear energy, or by using natural gas (while capturing resulting carbon to reduce emissions). Hydrogen’s flexibility makes it an important component of President Biden’s strategy to achieve a carbon-free grid by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050.

The H2Hubs will be one of the largest investments in DOE history. Funded by the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) through the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations, they are a critical component of the Administration’s commitment to invest in America’s workforce and support good-paying jobs with the free and fair choice to join unions, an integral element of building a clean energy economy and curbing climate change. Addressing environmental justice and engaging local communities, particularly historically disadvantaged and underserved communities that have disproportionately borne the brunt of past energy practices, are fundamental priorities of DOE’s approach to developing H2Hubs. Applicant teams are expected to develop community benefits plans to address quality jobs, environmental justice, diversity and equity, and maximize meaningful engagement with disadvantaged communities, labor unions, and other key stakeholders.

For this initial funding opportunity launch, DOE is aiming to select six to ten hubs for a combined total of up to $7 billion in federal funding. Concept papers are due by November 7, 2022, and full applications are due by April 7, 2023. Learn more about DOE’s funding opportunity.

The DOE National Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap provides a comprehensive overview of the potential for hydrogen production, transport, storage, and use in the United States and outlines how clean hydrogen can contribute to national decarbonization and economic development goals. This comprehensive strategy, along with guiding principles and concrete actions, A final version of the strategy and roadmap will be released in the coming months and updated at least every three years.

 

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WASHINGTON— Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $4,275,080 in federal funding to help more Virginians access affordable housing. The funding will be awarded to Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) across the Commonwealth through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Incremental Housing Choice Vouchers program.  

“Rising rents and home prices are making it harder and harder for Virginians to find affordable housing options,” the senators said. “We’re glad this funding will help more Virginians across the Commonwealth find safe, affordable housing.”    

The funding is distributed as follows:

  • $827,363 to the Virginia Housing Development Authority
  • $590,155 to the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority
  • $307,394 to the Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority
  • $246,989 to the Arlington County Department of Human Services
  • $275,732 to the Prince William County Office of HCD
  • $152,811 to the Newport News Redevelopment & Housing Authority
  • $133,126 to the Roanoke Redevelopment & Housing Authority
  • $168,800 to the Virginia Beach Department of Housing & Neighborhood Preservation
  • $254,170 to the Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority
  • $133,190 to the Hampton Redevelopment & Housing Authority
  • $61,800 to the Danville Redevelopment & Housing Authority
  • $104,987 to the Chesapeake Redevelopment & Housing Authority
  • $163,219 to the Loudoun County Department of Family Services
  • $89,254 to the Portsmouth Redevelopment & Housing Authority
  • $56,761 to the Lynchburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority
  • $69,356 to the Harrisonburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority
  • $61,615 to the Petersburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority
  • $62,381 to the Charlottesville Redevelopment & Housing Authority
  • $66,306 to the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority
  • $61,917 to the County of Albemarle Office of Housing
  • $46,777 to the Hopewell Redevelopment & Housing Authority
  • $37,367 to the Waynesboro Redevelopment & Housing Authority
  • $49,789 to the James City County Office of Housing
  • $34,459 to the Buckingham Housing Development Corp. Inc.
  • $22,586 to the Bristol Redevelopment & Housing Authority
  • $32,885 to the Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority
  • $30,231 to the Staunton Redevelopment & Housing Authority
  • $23,624 to the Marion Redevelopment & Housing Authority
  • $20,335 to the Scott County Redevelopment & Housing Authority
  • $23,822 to the Covington Redevelopment & Housing Authority
  • $27,355 to the Accomack-Northampton Regional Housing Authority
  • $19,131 to the People Inc. of Southwest Virginia in Abingdon
  • $19,393 to the Norton Redevelopment & Housing Authority

Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs) help low-income families, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities afford housing of their choice. These new vouchers are an additional allocation of HCVs and will allow a greater number of Virginians to access safe and decent housing across the Commonwealth.

Sens. Warner and Kaine, a former fair housing attorney, have long supported efforts to expand affordable housing in the Commonwealth. Earlier this year, the senators announced nearly $115 million for affordable housing in Virginia. They’ve introduced legislation that would address rising home prices, assist first-generation homebuyers, and close widening wealth and homeownership gaps. Sen. Kaine has also introduced legislation that would protect veterans and low-income families who use HCVs from discrimination.

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Earlier this month, Apple publicly acknowledged that it is considering procuring NAND memory chips for future iPhones from Yangtze Memory Technologies Co. (YMTC), a state-owned company with extensive links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its armed wing, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). 

U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chairman and Vice Chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter to U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines calling for a public analysis and review of YMTC and the risks it presents to U.S. national security. 

  • “[W]e write to convey that any decision to partner with YMTC, no matter the intended market of the product offerings developed by such a partnership, would affirm and reward the PRC’s distortive and unfair trade practices, which undermine U.S. companies globally by creating significant advantages to Chinese firms at the expense of foreign competitors. Last year, the Biden Administration described YMTC as China’s ‘national champion memory chip producer,’ which supports the CCP’s efforts to counter U.S. innovation and leadership in this space.” 
  • “Policymakers have for several years now conveyed to the American public the importance of a competitive semiconductor industry to U.S. national and economic security. A partnership between Apple and YMTC would endanger this critical sector and risk nullifying efforts to support it, jeopardizing the health of chipmakers in the U.S. and allied countries and advancing Beijing’s goal of controlling the global semiconductor market. Buoyed by a major contract with a leading global equipment vendor such as Apple, YMTC’s success would threaten the 24,000 American jobs that support memory chip production. More broadly, such a partnership would also threaten the opportunities this market provides for research at U.S. universities and further development of memory chips for civilian and military uses.”

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) also signed the letter.

Full text of the letter is available here and below. 

Dear Director Haines:

We write to convey our extreme concern about the possibility that Apple Inc. will soon procure 3D NAND memory chips from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) state-owned manufacturer Yangtze Memory Technologies Co. (YMTC). Such a decision would introduce significant privacy and security vulnerabilities to the global digital supply chain that Apple helps shape given YMTC’s extensive, but often opaque, ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and concerning PRC-backed entities. In addition, we write to convey that any decision to partner with YMTC, no matter the intended market of the product offerings developed by such a partnership, would affirm and reward the PRC’s distortive and unfair trade practices, which undermine U.S. companies globally by creating significant advantages to Chinese firms at the expense of foreign competitors. Last year, the Biden Administration described YMTC as China’s “national champion memory chip producer,” which supports the CCP’s efforts to counter U.S. innovation and leadership in this space. 

In July 2022, we wrote to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to warn of the threat YMTC poses to U.S. national security and to request that it be added to the Bureau of Industry and Security’s Entity List. We made these arguments based on the company’s central role in CCP efforts to supplant U.S. technological leadership, including through unfair trade practices. YMTC also appears to have strong ties to the PRC’s military-civil fusion program, as shown through its investors and partnerships; its parent company, Tsinghua Unigroup, allegedly supplies the PRC military.

The PRC has heavily subsidized YMTC for several years, enabling the company to rapidly expand production and sales in China and internationally. Since its formation in 2016, YMTC’s nearly $24 billion in PRC subsidies triggered explosive growth, helping to prepare the company’s plan to launch a second plant in Wuhan as early as the end of this year. At a time when overcapacity is potentially disrupting the market for chipmakers, these subsidies could enable YMTC to distort this often highly cyclical market, selling memory chips below cost in an effort to push out competitors. In addition, in April, reports alleged that YMTC may have breached the U.S.’s foreign direct product rule for supplying smartphone and electronics components to Huawei.

For these reasons, we request that you coordinate among the relevant intelligence community (IC) components a comprehensive review and analysis of YMTC and the threat that a suppler partnership arrangement between it and Apple would pose to U.S. national and economic security. The review should consider, among other issues:

  • How the CCP supports the YMTC as part of its plan to bolster and indigenize China’s semiconductor industry and to displace chipmakers from the United States and allied and partnered nations;
  • YMTC’s role in assisting other Chinese firms, including Huawei, to evade U.S. sanctions;
  • YMTC’s role in the PRC’s military-civil fusion program and its linkages to the People’s Liberation Army; and
  • The risks to U.S. national and economic security of this potential procurement.

Policymakers have for several years now conveyed to the American public the importance of a competitive semiconductor industry to U.S. national and economic security. A partnership between Apple and YMTC would endanger this critical sector and risk nullifying efforts to support it, jeopardizing the health of chipmakers in the U.S. and allied countries and advancing Beijing’s goal of controlling the global semiconductor market. Buoyed by a major contract with a leading global equipment vendor such as Apple, YMTC’s success would threaten the 24,000 American jobs that support memory chip production. More broadly, such a partnership would also threaten the opportunities this market provides for research at U.S. universities and further development of memory chips for civilian and military uses.

We once again request that you convene the relevant IC components to review and assess YMTC’s ties to the CCP and produce a comprehensive public report on YMTC, which can be used to inform federal agencies and the public as to the nature and risks associated with YMTC and similar companies.  

We look forward to your attention to this critical matter and request a response by October 1, 2022.

Sincerely,

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 WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued a statement regarding recently released legislative text for the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022:

“Russia’s ongoing illegal war in Ukraine has resulted in extreme shocks to the global energy market. We need increased pipeline capacity in order to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and maintain a strong and resilient domestic energy supply here at home. So protecting our national and economic security is going to require increased pipeline capacity and reforms to our existing permitting process, which is currently too slow and too expensive. That said, I think the process around the Mountain Valley Pipeline stinks. In the coming days, I’m going to work with my colleagues to see if we can’t make some reasonable fixes while we work to keep the government up and running.”

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $2,067,003 million in federal funding for three projects to improve water service in Southwest Virginia.

“Reliable, up-to-date water infrastructure is critical for the health and safety of our communities,” said the Senators. “We are glad to see these federal funds go towards necessary improvements in underserved communities in order to ensure dependable service.”

The funding is broken down as follows:

  1. $1,000,000 for the Project Jonah Water and Sewer Improvements to provide water and sewer service improvements in Tazewell, VA.
  2. $525,000 for the Upper Clip Mountain – Phase II Water Project to extend public water service in unserved areas in Scott County, VA.
  3. $542,003 for the Ocoonita – Miller Smyth Chapel Interconnect Project to connect two separate water supply systems in order to provide greater reliability of water supply in Lee County, VA.

This funding was awarded through the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).  The ARC is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 423 counties across the Appalachian region.

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President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) allocates more than $50 billion to EPA toward repairing the nation’s essential water infrastructure, which helps communities access clean, safe and reliable drinking water, increase resilience, collect and treat wastewater to protect public health, clean up pollution and safeguard vital waterways. These grants will supplement the $35 million in fiscal year (FY) 2022 funding that will be awarded for Virginia’s Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) and mark the first significant distribution of water infrastructure funds thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. State allocations were previously announced.

“All communities need access to clean, reliable, safe water,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Thanks to President Biden’s leadership and the resources from the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are repairing aging water infrastructure, replacing lead service lines, cleaning up contaminants, and making our communities more resilient in the face of floods and climate impacts.”

 “Reliable water infrastructure is critical to safeguard public health,” said Sen. Tim Kaine “I was glad to vote to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and I’m glad Virginia is receiving federal funding to repair our water systems thanks to this landmark legislation. This funding will help ensure Virginians have access to safe, clean, and reliable water for decades to come.”

 “Access to safe drinking water is critical for the health of all Virginians,” said Sen. Mark Warner. “I am thrilled to see the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which I was proud to help negotiate, deliver much-needed funds to update our water systems and ensure the wellbeing of our communities.”

“President Biden has been clear—we cannot leave any community behind as we rebuild America’s infrastructure with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” said White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu.  “Because of his Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, nearly half of the additional SRF funding will now be grants or forgivable loans, making accessing these critical water resources easier for small, rural and disadvantaged communities.”

“Help is on the way to the state of Virginia,” said Adam Ortiz, EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator.  “This funding represents ‘delivery on a promise’ that the Biden administration made to help our communities most in need of clean drinking water and programs to control contaminants and harmful stormwater runoff.  EPA Mid-Atlantic looks forward to assisting and partnering with our states to expedite this critical work.”

EPA’s SRFs are part of President Biden’s Justice40 initiative, which aims to deliver at least 40% of the benefits from certain federal programs flow to underserved communities. Furthermore, nearly half the funding available through the SRFs thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law must be grants or principal forgiveness loans that remove barriers to investing in essential water infrastructure in underserved communities across rural America and in urban centers.

Funding announced today represents the FY22 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law awards for states that have submitted and obtained EPA’s approval of their plans for use of the funding. SRF capitalization grants will continue to be awarded, on a rolling state-by-state basis, as more states receive approval throughout FY22; states will also receive awards over the course of the next four years. As grants are awarded, the state SRF programs can begin to distribute the funds as grants and loans to communities across their state.

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WASHINGTON —Today, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Congressman David Price (D-NC) commend the passage of their bipartisan, bicameral legislation, the Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act, which will now head to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law. 

“For too long, individuals have been tied to abusive or unresponsive ex-partners through joint student loans,” said Sen. Warner. “This legislation offers financial freedom to those who have spent decades unfairly held liable for their former partner’s debt. I am thrilled to see the House of Representatives pass this legislation and look forward to getting it in front of President Biden as quickly as possible to start offering relief to borrowers.” 

“I introduced this bill in direct response to a constituent's experience with a joint consolidation loan for which he remained wholly responsible for after a divorce. I am delighted by the passage of this common-sense bill that will bring immense relief to borrowers who are victims of abusive or uncommunicative spouses,” said Congressman David Price. “For decades, these borrowers have been trapped, with no legal options available, and this bill will give them the ability to regain their financial freedom. I look forward to this bill arriving on the President’s desk and delivering for America’s federal student debt borrowers.”  

From January 1, 1993 until June 30, 2006, married couples were able to combine their student loan debt into joint consolidation loans.  Both borrowers agreed at the time to be jointly liable for repayment, which proved problematic if they wanted to separate the loans.  Congress eliminated the joint consolidation program effective July 1, 2006, but did not provide a means of severing existing loans, even in the event of domestic violence, economic abuse, or an unresponsive partner.  As a result, there are borrowers nationwide who remain liable for this consolidated debt without legal options for relief. 

The Joint Consolidation Loan Separation (JCLS) Act would allow both borrowers to submit a joint application to the Department of Education (ED) to split their joint consolidated loan into two separate federal direct loans.  It would also allow one borrower to submit a separate application if they are experiencing domestic or economic abuse or are unable to reasonably reach the other borrower.  The remainder of the joint consolidated loan will be split proportionally. 

While the universe of borrowers still making payments on a joint consolidation loan is relatively small, this legislation would greatly benefit the individual borrowers who are most in need of relief (including victims of abuse and those who are unable to get in touch with their ex-spouse). 

This bill has the support of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, National Consumer Law Center, American Federation of Teachers, North Carolina Coalition against Domestic Violence, and the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. This bill was included in the Education and Labor Committee’s Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization during the last two Congresses.  

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WASHINGTON - Following unprecedented flooding that has left one-third of Pakistan underwater and affected approximately 33 million people, today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner joined Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and 10 Senate colleagues in writing a letter calling on President Biden to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Pakistani nationals currently residing in the United States. Implementing TPS would allow Pakistani nationals to remain in the U.S. until Pakistan recovers from this environmental disaster. The ongoing crisis has left many regions of the country uninhabitable and unsafe, caused at least an estimated $10 billion in damage, and contaminated the water supply, spreading an array of waterborne illnesses, including diarrhea, malaria, acute respiratory infections, skin and eye infections, and typhoid.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Gillibrand, the letter to President Biden was also signed by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Tina Smith (D-MN).

“Granting TPS to Pakistani nationals in need is a small but consequential step that the United States can take to immediately reduce the human suffering caused by this natural disaster and would reaffirm our stance as a global leader committed to humanitarian relief efforts and protections,” wrote the senators. “Should Pakistan officially request TPS designation given the current conditions the country is facing, we urge the Biden administration to prioritize such a request while continuing to monitor ongoing developments and deliberate on the best way to aid the Pakistani community.”

This action is supported by the National Immigration Forum, Asian American Federation (AAF), the Climate Justice Collaborative at the National Partnership for New Americans, Communities United for Status and Protection (CUSP), and South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).

The full text of the letter is available below:

Dear President Biden:

We write to respectfully urge your Administration to consider designating the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Unprecedented flooding in Pakistan is currently impacting approximately 33 million people and has killed more than 1,500 people, including 536 children. Given the severity of this crisis, the United States must ensure that Pakistani nationals present in the United States are not forced to return to conditions that could imperil their lives.

Current conditions in Pakistan represent an ongoing environmental disaster – one of the statutory bases for TPS designation. Extreme flooding has left most regions of the country uninhabitable and unsafe. According to data from the European Space Agency, approximately one-third of Pakistan is underwater. The Indus River is exceeding its capacity, which has led officials to evacuate entire villages in hopes of mitigating further disaster. Half of Pakistan’s municipal districts have declared a “state of calamity” and the country’s National Disaster Management Authority estimates that one in seven Pakistanis has been affected. According to Pakistan’s finance minister, the damage is likely to exceed $10 billion, which is equivalent to 4 percent of the country’s annual gross domestic product.

Even as Pakistanis are reeling from the physical destruction caused by the flooding, they are also facing the spread of waterborne illness that this environmental crisis has exacerbated. Tens of thousands have been stricken by diarrhea, malaria, acute respiratory infections (ARI), skin and eye infections, typhoid, and other health issues resulting from contamination of the water supply. While we applaud your Administration’s decision to provide a much needed $30 million in humanitarian assistance and dispatch a USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team, further action is needed to mitigate the harmful effects of this crisis.

Forcing Pakistanis to return to a country that is experiencing what U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has called a relentless impact of “epochal” levels of rain and flooding would be a grievous obstruction to relief efforts. It would also risk fueling further displacement, destabilizing the region, and undermining key U.S. national security interests.8 The use and implementation of TPS as a humanitarian tool would provide necessary relief to individuals that are unable to return to their country due to the extraordinary environmental and public health conditions. 

Additionally, designating Pakistan for TPS would also contribute to your Administration’s multi-pronged disaster response. It would decrease the strain on Pakistani infrastructure and provide a safe haven for those who cannot return to their homes or whose homes have been destroyed. Should Pakistan officially request TPS designation given the current conditions that the country is facing, we urge you to prioritize such a request and take it into serious consideration while you continue to monitor ongoing developments and deliberate on the best way to aid the Pakistani community. TPS is a small but consequential step that the United States can take to immediately reduce the human suffering caused by this natural disaster and would reaffirm our stance as a global leader committed to humanitarian relief efforts and protections.

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to your timely reply.

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WASHINGTON— Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine—who serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee—teamed up with 28 of their colleagues to call on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take immediate action to safeguard women’s privacy and their ability to safely and confidentially get the health care they need. Specifically, the Senators urged the Biden Administration to strengthen federal privacy protections under the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to broadly restrict providers from sharing patients’ reproductive health information without their explicit consent—particularly with law enforcement or in legal proceedings over accessing abortion care.

Since the Dobbs decision, the new patchwork of state abortion bans has caused widespread confusion among health care providers over whether they are required to turn over patients’ health information to state and local law enforcement. As a result, patients may delay or avoid seeking the care they need out of fear their sensitive health information could be weaponized against them.

In recent weeks, states have investigated and sought to punish patients and providers for seeking and providing abortion care. While abortion is not currently criminalized in Virginia, Governor Youngkin has said he would “happily and gleefully” sign “any bill” limiting reproductive freedom, and has tapped Virginia state legislators to introduce legislation to that effect in 2023. Should that legislation be signed into law, the Senators’ push could help prevent personal health data from being used against Virginia women in legal proceedings. This letter makes clear that additional privacy protections are needed to protect this data so it cannot be used by prosecutors or law enforcement seeking to enforce an abortion ban.

“Our nation faces a crisis in access to reproductive health services, and some states have already begun to investigate and punish women seeking abortion care. It is critical that HHS take all available action to fully protect women’s privacy and their ability to safely and confidentially seek medical care,” wrote the Senators.

In their letter to Secretary Xavier Becerra, the Senators urge HHS to take immediate action to strengthen federal privacy protections under HIPAA, bolster enforcement of the protections, educate providers about their obligations, and ensure patients understand their rights. Shortly after the Dobbs decision, Becerra pledged to work to protect patient and provider privacy.

“To safeguard the privacy of women’s personal health care decisions and ensure patients feel safe seeking medical care, including reproductive health care, we urge you to quickly initiate the rulemaking process to strengthen privacy protections for reproductive health information,” urged the Senators. “In particular, HHS should update the HIPAA Privacy Rule to broadly restrict regulated entities from sharing individuals’ reproductive health information without explicit consent, particularly for law enforcement, civil, or criminal proceedings premised on the provision of abortion care.”

Joining Sens. Warner and Kaine in sending the letter were Senators Murray (D-WA), Baldwin (D-WI), Blumenthal (D-CT), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Casey (D-PA), Duckworth (D-IL), Durbin (D-IL), Gillibrand (D-NY), Heinrich (D-NM), Hickenlooper (D-CO), Hirono (D-HI), Klobuchar (D-MN), Luján (D-NM), Markey (D-MA), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Padilla (D-CA), Reed (D-RI), Rosen (D-NV), Sanders (I-VT), Shaheen (D-NH), Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warren (D-MA), and Wyden (D-OR).

The Senators’ full letter is available below:

Dear Secretary Becerra:

Since the Supreme Court’s decision to strip away the constitutional right to abortion, patients across the country have lost access to reproductive health care, and providers have scrambled to adapt to the immense confusion, fear, and upheaval this ruling has caused. In some states, legislators and prosecutors have already sought to investigate and punish women seeking abortion care. To protect patients, and their providers, from having their health information weaponized against them, we urge you to take immediate action to strengthen education on and enforcement of federal health privacy protections, and to initiate the rulemaking process to augment privacy protections under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations.

Every day, health care personnel across this nation care for patients who are pregnant or may become pregnant. This care may include anything from an annual check-up to obstetrical visits to emergency care. In order for patients to feel comfortable seeking care, and for health care personnel to provide this care, patients and providers must know that their personal health information, including information about their medical decisions, will be protected. Recognizing this critical need, in 1996, Congress passed HIPAA, which directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue privacy regulations for personal health information. HHS issued corresponding privacy regulations (the “HIPAA Privacy Rule”) in 2000, with several subsequent updates over the years.

The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision has caused widespread confusion among health care providers on health privacy protections, and whether they are required to turn over health information to state and local law enforcement. Stakeholders have told us about providers who have felt uncertain about whether they must turn over personal health information to state and law enforcement officials, including cases where providers believed they had to turn over information when doing so is only permitted—but not required—under the HIPAA Privacy Rule. In other cases, providers did not know that certain disclosures are actually impermissible. Stakeholders have even described clashes between providers and health care system administrators on whether certain information must be shared. Many of these issues seem to arise from misunderstandings of what the HIPAA Privacy Rule requires of regulated entities and their employees.

This confusion is likely to grow as state lawmakers continue to implement a patchwork of laws restricting access to abortion and other reproductive health care services. Already, some states have laws in effect criminalizing abortion providers, and some states have enacted laws that penalize anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion, potentially exposing everyone from a referring provider to a receptionist to legal liability. Some state legislators have even proposed to bar women from traveling to another state for abortion care. And even before Dobbs, states had already prosecuted women following their abortions or miscarriages. In many cases, these laws have been used to disproportionately criminalize or surveil women of color for their pregnancy loss.

Actions to prohibit abortion access and undermine health privacy are likely to have devastating consequences for women’s health. Out of concern that their reproductive health information may be used against them, women may delay or avoid disclosing a pregnancy or obtaining prenatal care. They may fear initiating treatments for conditions like cancer or arthritis, where treatment could impact a pregnancy, even as health care providers may hesitate to provide them. And women who experience complications from a pregnancy or abortion may avoid seeking desperately needed emergency care, risking devastating health consequences and even death. These concerns are not without justification – in recent years, numerous medical providers have reported women to law enforcement for seeking care following an abortion, a miscarriage, or other pregnancy-related medical issue.

HHS has the tools to protect patients and health care providers, even in the wake of this devastating decision. For over twenty years, the HIPAA Privacy Rule has protected the privacy of individuals’ health information, laying out when health information may or may not be shared without a patient’s explicit consent. In addition, the HIPAA Privacy Rule has long recognized that stronger protections may be needed for particularly sensitive health information, such as psychotherapy notes. We commend you for the actions the Department has already taken to clarify privacy protections in the wake of the Dobbs decision, including the issuance of additional guidance on the HIPAA Privacy Rule. However, given the growing likelihood that women’s personal health information may be used against them, HHS must also take proactive steps to strengthen patient privacy protections.

To safeguard the privacy of women’s personal health care decisions and ensure patients feel safe seeking medical care, including reproductive health care, we urge you to quickly initiate the rulemaking process to strengthen privacy protections for reproductive health information. In particular, HHS should update the HIPAA Privacy Rule to broadly restrict regulated entities from sharing individuals’ reproductive health information without explicit consent, particularly for law enforcement, civil, or criminal proceedings premised on the provision of abortion care.

In addition, while HHS moves forward with the rulemaking process, the Department should take the following steps to improve awareness and enforcement of current privacy protections in the HIPAA Privacy Rule:

  1. HHS should increase its efforts to engage and educate the health care community about regulated entities’ obligations under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, including the difference between permissible and required disclosures, best practices for educating patients and health plan enrollees on their privacy rights, how HIPAA interacts with state laws (including those related to prescriptions), and potential legal consequences for violations of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, including civil and criminal penalties. As part of this effort, HHS should engage the full range of health care personnel, including providers, senior executives, and smaller health care organizations, as well as pharmacists, health plan administrators and sponsors, legal and compliance personnel, and entities that provide HIPAA training. These efforts should include listening sessions, additional guidance and FAQs with specific examples, webinars, and additional avenues for individuals at regulated entities to seek confidential advice.
  1. HHS should expand its efforts to educate patients about their rights under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, including when information may be shared without patient consent, the ability to request additional restrictions or corrections, and how to file a complaint with HHS.
  1. HHS should ensure cases involving reproductive health information receive timely, appropriate attention for compliance and enforcement activities.

Our nation faces a crisis in access to reproductive health services, and some states have already begun to investigate and punish women seeking abortion care. It is critical that HHS take all available action to fully protect women’s privacy and their ability to safely and confidentially seek medical care. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced bipartisan and bicameral legislation to expand access to critical advance care planning (ACP) services in Medicare that allow people, especially those with serious illness, to plan for their care and have their choices honored when it matters most. The Improving Access to Advance Care Planning Act would help more Americans access critical ACP services by allowing social workers to provide ACP services, removing beneficiary cost-sharing, and promoting increased education for providers on current ACP codes, and improved reporting on barriers to providing ACP services and billing the corresponding codes. This legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

“Decisions about care planning are some of the hardest for a family to make, but they’re also some of the most important. One of my biggest regrets was not having early conversations about care planning with my own mom, who suffered from Alzheimer’s for 11 years and was unable to speak for nine of those years,” said Sen. Warner. “I’m proud to introduce this bill because folks with a serious illness deserve to have a say over what their care should look like, and families deserve the certainty of knowing they are honoring their loved ones’ wishes.”

“Unfortunately, most patients do not routinely make advance plans for their care in the event that they are diagnosed with a serious or life-threatening illness.  This can be a difficult topic for many families to address, but advance care planning has been shown to increase satisfaction and improve health outcomes because people with advance directives are more likely to get the care that they want, in the setting they prefer, and avoid the care that they don’t want,” said Sen. Collins. “The bipartisan bill we are introducing today would help provide an opportunity for patients to have a structured discussion with their health care providers about their goals and treatment options so that they can make their choices known and develop a plan of care in consultation with their loved ones.”

“I have been working to improve end of life care for well over a decade,” said Rep. Blumenauer. “Despite what was rated as the PolitiFact lie of the year during the Affordable Care Act debate over so-called ‘death panels,’ we won. Medicare has finally started paying physicians to help families understand their choices. This legislation will make advance care planning more accessible, allowing more of these conversations to happen and ensuring people’s wishes are heard, respected, and enforced.”

Specifically, this legislation would codify Medicare coverage of ACP services – a longtime priority for Sen. Warner, who first introduced legislation to improve planning options for patients in 2015. Today’s bill would also expand eligible providers that can bill for such services to include clinical social workers with experience in care planning. It would also remove beneficiary coinsurance and deductibles for ACP visits – including those that happen outside of an annual Medicare Annual Wellness Visit – to ensure that beneficiaries are not deterred from seeking these services, and providers are not deterred from offering them. The bill would also require two reports: one that directs CMS to educate providers on the ACP codes and report to Congress on such activities, and one that directs MedPAC to study and report to Congress on (A) barriers to providing and receiving ACP services despite the ability to bill for them, and (B) barriers to billing the code itself.

Sens. Warner and Collins were joined in introducing this legislation in the Senate by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). 

Bill text is available here. 

This legislation has the support of a number of patient and family advocacy organizations, including the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC), LeadingAge, National Association for Home Care & Hospice, National Partnership for Healthcare and Hospice Innovation, Center for Medicare Advocacy, Respecting Choices, USAging, Social Work Hospice & Palliative Care Network, Smarter Health Care Coalition, Consumer Coalition for Quality Health Care.

“Those of us working to improve care for those impacted by serious illness have known that high copays for Advance Care Planning were a barrier to equitable, patient-centered care. Thanks to the tenacity of our C-TAC team and members of congress passionate about our issue, we’ve been able to help remedy this technicality in the law that now increases access to critical conversations between patients and their clinicians by eliminating copays and including social workers who are now eligible to be reimbursed for these services as part of the care team. A sincere thank you to Sen. Warner (D-VA) and Sen. Collins (R-ME) and Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR-3) for continuing to be the voice of the patient and family,” said Jon Broyles, CEO, The Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC).

“The Social Work Hospice and Palliative Care Network (SWHPN) strongly supports the inclusion of clinical social workers in the definition of eligible practitioners who can bill for Medicare Advance Care Planning counseling services. As key members of the interdisciplinary team, clinical social workers are already well-trained to have meaningful conversations around Advance Care Planning with patients and families. This bill would have a direct and immediate impact on the ability for clinical social workers to bill for these services, reducing an important barrier to care and greatly enhancing the provision of these conversations, said Jessica Strong, Executive Director, Social Work Hospice and Palliative Care Network.

“We applaud Senators Warner (D-VA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Representative Blumenauer (D-OR-3) for introducing the Improving Access to Advanced Care Planning Act. Advance Care Planning (ACP) is essential to ensuring that an individual’s care preferences are understood and honored during serious illness and at the end of life. The pandemic reinforced again how critical these conversations are for patients, families, and those that care for them. If enacted, this bill would bolster the health system’s ACP capacity by allowing properly trained clinical social workers to get reimbursed for these services, while also requiring a comprehensive provider education outreach campaign on the value of using Medicare’s ACP billing codes. Importantly, the legislation would also remove any beneficiary cost-sharing associated with these codes, a key equity-focused change that will address an oft-cited barrier to patient and provider willingness to engage in these discussions. NAHC is proud to support this thoughtful framework for improving our nation’s approach to advance care planning,” said William Dombi, President, The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC). 

“NPHI is proud to stand with C-TAC and others in support of the Improving Access to Advance Care Planning (ACP) Act.” Said Carole Fisher, President of NPHI. “As a national collective of community-based advanced illness care providers, NPHI and its members understand the importance of ensuring all Medicare beneficiaries have genuine access to counseling regarding their choices and preferences at the end-of-life. As we know, hospice services are often dramatically underutilized due to late referrals and a lack of prior planning. Engaging in ACP conversations earlier in the disease progression can improve quality of life for beneficiaries and lessen the burden on caregivers. We look forward to working with C-TAC, Congress, and others to pass this important legislation,” said Carole Fisher President, National Partnership for Healthcare and Hospice Innovation (NPHI). 

“End of life issues are nuanced and complicated, which is why it’s so vital that older adults and families have good access to advance care planning. This bill is an important step toward greater, affordable access to planning that all Americans need. With members delivering care across all settings of aging services, LeadingAge recognizes the importance of acknowledging the preferences and beliefs of people and their families to deliver quality care. We hope greater access to these conversations will improve end-of-life and help providers meet unique patient needs,” said Katie Smith Sloan, President and CEO, LeadingAge. 

“Including licensed clinical social workers as eligible practitioners, allowing them to bill for Medicare ACP counseling services, will address one of the major barriers to access to ACP services faced today.  Social workers are an important part of the healthcare system and have the appropriate training and skills to facilitate high quality ACP conversations. Providing reimbursement for them to do so will expand the pool of resources available to provide ACP counseling services, thereby improving access,” said Carole Montgomery MD, FHM, MHSA, Executive Medical Director, Respecting Choices. 

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine reintroduced the Pipeline Fairness, Transparency, and Responsible Development Act, legislation to strengthen the public’s ability to evaluate the impacts of and provide input on natural gas pipelines being considered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

“Communities and landowners who would be impacted by an energy project deserve to have their concerns heard—especially if a green light from FERC means their land would be taken away,” said the Senators. “Our bill would improve the way FERC gathers public input to make sure the public can weigh in on decisions that would literally run through their backyards.”

Congress has given FERC the authority to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks to energy infrastructure proposals. The senators’ legislation would make it easier for the public to offer FERC input and would clarify the circumstances under which eminent domain may be used. The bill would also require public comment meetings to be held in every locality through which a pipeline would pass at every stage of the review process, in order to minimize situations where individuals are forced to commute long distances with very little time to comment.

Additionally, the legislation would strengthen local landowners’ rights by improving the process by which landowners are notified of a pipeline application and bolstering their ability to ensure any concerns about their property are given fair consideration.

Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Improve the process by which landowners are notified of a potential pipeline project affecting their property;
    • Require that FERC review companies’ notices to landowners to ensure these notices meet FERC criteria;
  • Require that FERC or applicants for a FERC Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (e.g., companies with pipeline proposals) provide clear and complete instructions to all affected landowners on how to request an appeal or “rehearing” through FERC. The notice must make it clear to landowners that they must appeal to FERC in a timely manner for a rehearing to preserve certain rights to seek judicial review;
  • Prevent pipeline projects from exercising eminent domain or commencing construction until:
    • the project has received all requisite permits, certifications, or other permissions required under federal law;
    • FERC has issued rulings on all timely landowner rehearings.
    • except on land that is already owned by the pipeline company or land that is in an existing utility right-of-way;

 

  • State that it is the policy of the United States that eminent domain be limited to situations in which the taking of property for natural gas pipelines is for public, not private, use. This language is modeled after a 2006 Executive Order by President George W. Bush clarifying the scope of federal eminent domain authority;
  • Help ensure fair appraisals and offers of compensation for affected property owners by giving landowners the opportunity to accompany appraisers during the inspection of property in order to provide more oversight over the appraisal process, which must be completed prior to an offer of compensation for that property. That offer of compensation must be of fair market value or better;
  • Require a single programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS) if two gas pipelines are proposed within one year and 100 miles of one another, and provide that if there is more information that comes out after a draft EIS than is in a draft EIS, FERC must do a supplemental EIS, with another public comment period;
  • Mandate public comment meetings in every locality through which a pipeline passes, at every stage in the process (draft EIS, final EIS, and supplemental EIS) so members of the public do not have to drive long distances to meetings where they are only able to speak for just a few minutes;
  • Specify that eminent domain takings of land under conservation easement be given fair compensation not just for the land value but for the lost conservation value of the land;
  • Ensure that plans to mitigate unavoidable impacts are subject to public comment so the public can verify that the mitigation is fair and proportionate;
  • Require cumulative analysis of the project’s visual impacts on National Scenic Trails (including the Appalachian Trail) for multiple pipelines that cross the same trail within 100 miles, in order to prohibit any downgrading of National Scenic Trail scenic integrity requirements in current law if the project represents a net degradation to the trail;
  • Codify the end of “tolling orders,” a longstanding practice that allowed FERC to place landowner rehearing requests in limbo while pipeline constructions were allowed to continue, and strengthen landowners’ ability to proceed to court should FERC not rule on grievances in a timely manner. The “tolling orders” practice was recently struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit;
  • Codify that FERC must consider landowners’ rehearings within 30 days.

"The Appalachian Trail Conservancy applauds Senators Kaine and Warner for their efforts to protect our National Scenic Trails,” said Sandra Marra, President and CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. “The Pipeline Fairness Act requires regulators like FERC to examine the large and lasting impacts proposed developments could have on our irreplaceable public lands. We look forward to continuing our work with the Senators and other elected officials on behalf of all National Scenic Trails, ensuring that they continue to benefit millions of visitors, thousands of volunteers, and hundreds of trailside communities."

“Originally passed in 1938, the Natural Gas Act is long overdue for a rebalancing of landowner interests with those of natural gas development,” said David Bookbinder, Chief Counsel of the Niskanen Center. “By strengthening landowner rights and requiring more transparency in FERC's approval process, Senators Kaine and Warner's bill will is a major step forward in preventing the capricious loss of private property.”

 Full text of the legislation is available here.

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WASHINGTON —Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced that they successfully secured nearly $135 million in federal funding for Virginia in pending government funding bills for Fiscal Year 2023, as the latest text of the bills was recently unveiled by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The next step for the legislation is a markup and advancement by the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is expected later this year, followed by Senate floor consideration.

“I’m proud to have worked to secure these investments for communities all throughout Virginia,” said Sen. Warner. “By propelling impactful local projects, these dedicated federal dollars will further build on the progress we’ve made through the bipartisan infrastructure law and the many rounds of COVID-19 relief funding authorized by Congress. I look forward to seeing these diverse projects generate jobs, support Virginia’s tourism economy, make neighborhoods safer, and bring communities together.”

“The annual budget is always an important opportunity to fight for Virginia priorities and America’s leadership around the world—and I’m pleased with how that effort is shaping up for the upcoming Fiscal Year,” said Sen. Kaine. “I will keep fighting to keep the many critical components of these bills intact as we get this budget across the finish line—from keeping Virginia communities safe from gun violence, COVID, and future health crises; to addressing food insecurity and the root causes of migration.”

As part of last year’s budget process, the Senate revived a process that allows members of Congress to make Congressionally Directed Spending requests, otherwise known as earmarks, in a manner that promotes transparency and accountability. This process allows Congress to dedicate federal funding for specific projects.

Through strong advocacy, the senators secured—and will fight to keep—Congressionally Directed Spending dollars in the funding bills for the following projects in Virginia:

  1. For projects in Northern Virginia, click here.
  2. For projects in Central Virginia, click here.
  3. For projects in Southwest Virginia and Southside, click here.
  4. For projects in the Shenandoah Valley, click here.
  5. For projects in Hampton Roads, click here.    
  6. For projects that impact communities in multiple regions across the Commonwealth, click here.

In addition, should they be passed as-is, the budget bills include funding for the following Warner and Kaine priorities:

Boosting Local Economies: Includes $200 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission and $7 million for the Southwest Crescent Regional Commission to support their work to build economic partnerships, create opportunity, and foster economic development.

Strengthening Transportation and Recreation Infrastructure: Provides $150 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and $25 million for the Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program, which supports multi-purpose trails.

Making Our Communities Safer: Provides $50 million for Community Violence Prevention grants to support communities in developing comprehensive, evidence-based violence intervention and prevention programs, including efforts to address gang and gun violence, based on partnerships between community residents, law enforcement, local government agencies, and other community stakeholders.  

Support for Missing Persons Program: Includes $1 million to help with the nationwide implementation of the Ashanti Alert system. In 2018, 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.

Addressing Gun Violence:  Provides $100 million for new violence intervention programs to prevent mass casualty or gang-related gun violence. Additionally, provides $60 million—a $30 million increase compared to Fiscal Year 2022—to support research into effective ways to prevent firearm related injuries.

Fighting Hunger: Includes over $2 billion to combat global hunger and malnutrition, following Sen. Kaine’s emphasis on the threat Russia’s invasion of Ukraine poses to food security around the world and Warner's successful efforts to support non-governmental organizations responding to the food crisis.

Fighting COVID: Includes $16 billion in funding for the procurement of additional COVID vaccines and therapeutics and to support the development of next-generation vaccines and therapeutics that could better protect Virginians against new COVID variants.

Addressing Americans’ Long COVID Needs: Includes $15 million for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to provide the research needed to ensure those experiencing long COVID have access to the patient-centered, coordinated care they need; address disparities in diagnosis and treatment of long COVID; and identify treatments for the condition. Also provides the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with $25 million to continue studying long COVID. Both of these efforts were first outlined in Sen. Kaine’s CARE for Long COVID Act.

Supporting Health Care Providers: Includes $30 million to further implement the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Act, legislation Sen. Kaine wrote and named in honor of Dr. Lorna Breen, a physician from Charlottesville who was working on the front lines of the pandemic in New York and died by suicide in the spring of 2020. The resources will go toward comprehensive and evidence-based support to prevent suicide, burnout, and mental and behavioral health conditions among health care providers. Sen. Kaine led a bipartisan push to include this funding in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget.

Addressing the Maternal Mortality Crisis: Includes $496 million—an increase of $304 million above Fiscal Year 2022 funding—for the Maternal Mortality Initiative, following a bipartisan push led by Sen. Kaine for funding to prevent maternal deaths, eliminate inequities in maternal health outcomes, and improve maternal health.

Pandemic Preparedness: Includes $10.5 billion in non-emergency funding for global health—a $680 million increase compared to Fiscal Year 2022—and $5 billion to support national COVID vaccination campaigns in countries with low vaccination rates. This funding is critical to protecting Americans from the impacts of disease outbreaks around the world.

Modernizing America’s Health Data Infrastructure: Includes $200 million—an increase of $100 million compared to Fiscal Year 2022—to modernize the public health data systems that help support healthy communities throughout America. Sen. Kaine, who pushed for this funding, also crafted the Improving Data Accessibility Through Advancements (DATA) in Public Health Act, legislation to increase timely and accurate information sharing between local, state, and federal public health departments to improve our preparedness and response to emerging public health threats.

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.

Reducing Tobacco Use: Includes $20 million in funding to support the CDC, states, and territories’ continued efforts to reduce tobacco use among disparate populations and regions with high tobacco prevalence and mortality and to expand the highly successful and cost-effective Tips from Former Smokers media campaign. The investment follows a successful bipartisan push by Sen. Kaine to raise the tobacco age from 18 to 21 and a push to ensure that the Food and Drug Administration could regulate synthetic nicotine.

Addressing the Root Causes of Migration: Provides resources for a diverse array of programs to help improve the conditions that drive migration from Central America, including programs focused on counter-narcotics efforts and economic development.

Expanding High-Speed Internet Access: Includes $400 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, 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. Sen. Warner also 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: Includes $1.5 billion to fully fund a 4.6 percent pay raise for servicemembers. Also, includes roughly $1.5 billion in additional funding for compensation to help with rising costs as well as $373 million towards a number of military family support programs. Sen. Warner, who pushed for this funding, has long stressed the need for increased support for servicemembers through legislation such as the Military Hunger Prevention Act that helps low-income military families put food on the table.

Economic Support for Underserved Communities: Provides $324 million for the U.S. Department of the Treasury Community Development Financial Institution Fund. Sen. Warner, who requested this funding, 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.

Addressing Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Delays and Customer Service Issues: Incudes $310 Million for the IRS, which will enable IRS 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 $11.845 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 August, the Inflation Reduction Act, supported by both Sens. Warner and Kaine, permanently extended the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund excise tax at a higher rate, providing more certainty for miners, miner retirees, and their families who rely on the fund to access benefits.

In addition to battling for these priorities, the Senators will work to ensure that funds obtained by Virginia House members also remain in the ultimate budget package.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), and 28 colleagues in calling on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take immediate action to safeguard women’s privacy and their ability to safely and confidentially get the health care they need. Specifically, the Senators urged the Biden Administration to strengthen federal privacy protections under the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to broadly restrict providers from sharing patients’ reproductive health information without their explicit consent—particularly with law enforcement or in legal proceedings over accessing abortion care. The push from the Senators comes as legislators and prosecutors across the country have sought to enforce Republicans’ abortion bans by investigating women and doctors for seeking and providing abortion care.

“Our nation faces a crisis in access to reproductive health services, and some states have already begun to investigate and punish women seeking abortion care. It is critical that HHS take all available action to fully protect women’s privacy and their ability to safely and confidentially seek medical care,” wrote the Senators.

In their letter to Secretary Xavier Becerra, the Senators urge HHS to take immediate action to strengthen federal privacy protections under HIPAA, bolster enforcement of the protections, educate providers about their obligations, and ensure patients understand their rights. In June, in the wake of the Dobbs decision, Becerra pledged to work to protect patient and provider privacy.

“To safeguard the privacy of women’s personal health care decisions and ensure patients feel safe seeking medical care, including reproductive health care, we urge you to quickly initiate the rulemaking process to strengthen privacy protections for reproductive health information,” urged the Senators. “In particular, HHS should update the HIPAA Privacy Rule to broadly restrict regulated entities  from sharing individuals’ reproductive health information without explicit consent, particularly for law enforcement, civil, or criminal proceedings premised on the provision of abortion care.”

Since the Dobbs decision, the new patchwork of state abortion bans has caused widespread confusion among health care providers over whether they are required to turn over patients’ health information to state and local law enforcement. This confusion fundamentally threatens women’s health, as patients may delay or avoid seeking the care they need out of fear their sensitive health information could be weaponized against them. In recent weeks, states have investigated and sought to punish patients and providers for seeking and providing abortion care.

Joining Sens. Warner and Murray in sending the letter were Sens. Baldwin (D-WI), Blumenthal (D-CT), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Casey (D-PA), Duckworth (D-IL), Durbin (D-IL), Gillibrand (D-NY), Heinrich (D-NM), Hickenlooper (D-CO), Hirono (D-HI), Kaine (D-VA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Luján (D-NM), Markey (D-MA), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Padilla (D-CA), Reed (D-RI), Rosen (D-NV), Sanders (I-VT), Shaheen (D-NH), Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warren (D-MA), and Wyden (D-OR).

The letter is available for download here and below:  

Dear Secretary Becerra:

Since the Supreme Court’s decision to strip away the constitutional right to abortion, patients across the country have lost access to reproductive health care, and providers have scrambled to adapt to the immense confusion, fear, and upheaval this ruling has caused. In some states, legislators and prosecutors have already sought to investigate and punish women seeking abortion care. To protect patients, and their providers, from having their health information weaponized against them, we urge you to take immediate action to strengthen education on and enforcement of federal health privacy protections, and to initiate the rulemaking process to augment privacy protections under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations.

Every day, health care personnel across this nation care for patients who are pregnant or may become pregnant. This care may include anything from an annual check-up to obstetrical visits to emergency care. In order for patients to feel comfortable seeking care, and for health care personnel to provide this care, patients and providers must know that their personal health information, including information about their medical decisions, will be protected. Recognizing this critical need, in 1996, Congress passed HIPAA, which directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue privacy regulations for personal health information. HHS issued corresponding privacy regulations (the “HIPAA Privacy Rule”) in 2000, with several subsequent updates over the years.

The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision has caused widespread confusion among health care providers on health privacy protections, and whether they are required to turn over health information to state and local law enforcement. Stakeholders have told us about providers who have felt uncertain about whether they must turn over personal health information to state and law enforcement officials, including cases where providers believed they had to turn over information when doing so is only permitted—but not required—under the HIPAA Privacy Rule. In other cases, providers did not know that certain disclosures are actually impermissible. Stakeholders have even described clashes between providers and health care system administrators on whether certain information must be shared. Many of these issues seem to arise from misunderstandings of what the HIPAA Privacy Rule requires of regulated entities and their employees.

This confusion is likely to grow as state lawmakers continue to implement a patchwork of laws restricting access to abortion and other reproductive health care services. Already, some states have laws in effect criminalizing abortion providers, and some states have enacted laws that penalize anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion, potentially exposing everyone from a referring provider to a receptionist to legal liability. Some state legislators have even proposed to bar women from traveling to another state for abortion care. And even before Dobbs, states had already prosecuted women following their abortions or miscarriages. In many cases, these laws have been used to disproportionately criminalize or surveil women of color for their pregnancy loss.

Actions to prohibit abortion access and undermine health privacy are likely to have devastating consequences for women’s health. Out of concern that their reproductive health information may be used against them, women may delay or avoid disclosing a pregnancy or obtaining prenatal care. They may fear initiating treatments for conditions like cancer or arthritis, where treatment could impact a pregnancy, even as health care providers may hesitate to provide them. And women who experience complications from a pregnancy or abortion may avoid seeking desperately needed emergency care, risking devastating health consequences and even death. These concerns are not without justification – in recent years, numerous medical providers have reported women to law enforcement for seeking care following an abortion, a miscarriage, or other pregnancy-related medical issue.

HHS has the tools to protect patients and health care providers, even in the wake of this devastating decision. For over twenty years, the HIPAA Privacy Rule has protected the privacy of individuals’ health information, laying out when health information may or may not be shared without a patient’s explicit consent. In addition, the HIPAA Privacy Rule has long recognized that stronger protections may be needed for particularly sensitive health information, such as psychotherapy notes. We commend you for the actions the Department has already taken to clarify privacy protections in the wake of the Dobbs decision, including the issuance of additional guidance on the HIPAA Privacy Rule. However, given the growing likelihood that women’s personal health information may be used against them, HHS must also take proactive steps to strengthen patient privacy protections.

To safeguard the privacy of women’s personal health care decisions and ensure patients feel safe seeking medical care, including reproductive health care, we urge you to quickly initiate the rulemaking process to strengthen privacy protections for reproductive health information. In particular, HHS should update the HIPAA Privacy Rule to broadly restrict regulated entities from sharing individuals’ reproductive health information without explicit consent, particularly for law enforcement, civil, or criminal proceedings premised on the provision of abortion care.

In addition, while HHS moves forward with the rulemaking process, the Department should take the following steps to improve awareness and enforcement of current privacy protections in the HIPAA Privacy Rule:

  1. HHS should increase its efforts to engage and educate the health care community about regulated entities’ obligations under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, including the difference between permissible and required disclosures, best practices for educating patients and health plan enrollees on their privacy rights, how HIPAA interacts with state laws (including those related to prescriptions), and potential legal consequences for violations of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, including civil and criminal penalties. As part of this effort, HHS should engage the full range of health care personnel, including providers, senior executives, and smaller health care organizations, as well as pharmacists, health plan administrators and sponsors, legal and compliance personnel, and entities that provide HIPAA training. These efforts should include listening sessions, additional guidance and FAQs with specific examples, webinars, and additional avenues for individuals at regulated entities to seek confidential advice.
  1. HHS should expand its efforts to educate patients about their rights under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, including when information may be shared without patient consent, the ability to request additional restrictions or corrections, and how to file a complaint with HHS.
  1. HHS should ensure cases involving reproductive health information receive timely, appropriate attention for compliance and enforcement activities.

Our nation faces a crisis in access to reproductive health services, and some states have already begun to investigate and punish women seeking abortion care. It is critical that HHS take all available action to fully protect women’s privacy and their ability to safely and confidentially seek medical care. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (D-VA) along with Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA-09) wrote a letter to President Biden, formally requesting the approval of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration and federal assistance for individuals affected by the extreme and devastating rainfall event that occurred on July 13, 2022. This request includes Individual and Public Assistance for Buchanan County, Public Assistance for Tazewell County, and Hazard Mitigation for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“This extreme storm event dropped seven inches of rain on eastern Buchanan County and northwestern Tazewell County within several hours, which resulted in flash flooding that damaged waterlines, transmission lines, roads, bridges, homes, and businesses. The joint preliminary damage assessment found that this severe storm event destroyed 37 homes and caused significant damage to 54 other properties in Buchanan County,” wrote the lawmakers. “This major storm event comes less than a year after the community of Hurley, Virginia – located in Buchanan County – experienced a devastating rainfall event that resulted in heavy flooding, landslides, and mudslides that destroyed 31 homes and resulted in major damage to 27 other properties, along with extensive damage to other public and private infrastructure.”

“Our constituents in Buchanan County are still grappling with the aftermath of this devastating storm event, which resulted in a Major Disaster Declaration, and are now forced to respond to this debilitating storm event. Many residents in Buchanan County remain displaced from last year’s extreme rainfall event and are already facing another uprooting of their lives,” they continued. “The impact of these two natural disasters within a calendar year has severely stressed the resources and capabilities of the Commonwealth of Virginia and Buchanan County. We hope you consider this cumulative impact on this community as you review the Commonwealth’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration.”

In their letter, the lawmakers noted the particular need for Individual Assistance for Buchanan County and its residents, who have withstood multiple natural disasters within a year. The Administration’s approval of a Major Disaster Declaration would provide a surge of federal resources and support, allowing Virginia to more quickly respond to and recover from the direct and indirect consequences caused by July’s storm.  

Sens. Warner and Kaine and Rep. Griffith have been pushing for federal assistance since the devastating floods of August 2021. In October 2021, they sent a bipartisan letter to President Biden to express their strong support for former Virginia Governor Ralph S. Northam's September 30th request for a Major Disaster Declaration for the Commonwealth of Virginia and Buchanan County. Later that month, the President approved Virginia’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration, which provided Public Assistance for Buchanan County and Hazard Mitigation for the Commonwealth of Virginia. However, on October 29, the Administration issued a formal denial of Governor Northam’s request for Individual Assistance for Buchanan County. In December 2021, Sens. Warner and Kaine and Rep. Griffith sent a letter to President Biden asking his administration to approve an appeal that would grant federal assistance to individual residents in and around Hurley, Virginia. Despite these efforts, Virginia’s appeal was ultimately denied in January 2022.

Today’s letter comes after Sen. Warner visited Buchanan County on August 22 and Sen. Kaine and Rep. Griffith visited Buchanan County on August 26 – all to see the impacts of the flooding and hear from impacted Virginians.

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

Dear President Biden:

We write today to express our strong support for Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration for the Commonwealth of Virginia, including the counties of Buchanan and Tazewell, following the extreme and devastating rainfall event that occurred on July 13, 2022. The Governor has requested Individual and Public Assistance for Buchanan County, Public Assistance for Tazewell County, and Hazard Mitigation for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

On July 13, 2022, Governor Youngkin declared a state of emergency in the Commonwealth following severe flooding that occurred that morning. This extreme storm event dropped seven inches of rain on eastern Buchanan County and northwestern Tazewell County within several hours, which resulted in flash flooding that damaged waterlines, transmission lines, roads, bridges, homes, and businesses. The joint preliminary damage assessment found that this severe storm event destroyed 37 homes and caused significant damage to 54 other properties in Buchanan County.

This major storm event comes less than a year after the community of Hurley, Virginia – located in Buchanan County – experienced a devastating rainfall event that resulted in heavy flooding, landslides, and mudslides that destroyed 31 homes and resulted in major damage to 27 other properties, along with extensive damage to other public and private infrastructure. Our constituents in Buchanan County are still grappling with the aftermath of this devastating storm event, which resulted in a Major Disaster Declaration, and are now forced to respond to this debilitating storm event. Many residents in Buchanan County remain displaced from last year’s extreme rainfall event and are already facing another uprooting of their lives. The impact of these two natural disasters within a calendar year has severely stressed the resources and capabilities of the Commonwealth of Virginia and Buchanan County. We hope you consider this cumulative impact on this community as you review the Commonwealth’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration.

A Major Disaster Declaration would ensure the full availability of federal resources to support the Commonwealth’s efforts to guarantee public safety and rapid recovery from the direct and indirect effects of this significant storm event. Federal assistance – particularly the issuance of Individual Assistance – is needed in Buchanan County to help our constituents recover and rebuild following multiple natural disasters.

We thank you for your consideration of Governor Youngkin’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration. We look forward to working with you, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and other relevant federal agencies to ensure the Commonwealth of Virginia has the resources available to support our constituents following this tragic event.

Sincerely,

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