Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) asking the agencies to explain their plan to ensure continuity of care for patients being prescribed controlled substances via COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) telemedicine flexibilities. The current PHE declaration is set to expire on October 13, 2022 without intervention from the Biden Administration. Upon expiration current access to certain prescribed medications via telemedicine appointments will be stopped in order to remain in accordance with the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008.

During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, DEA has waived certain requirements of the Haight Act, including in-person or Special Registration requirements in order to prescribe controlled substances via telehealth.

“At the onset of the COVID-19 PHE, I was pleased to see the DEA act swiftly to ensure that patients could continue to access medically necessary controlled substances, including treatment for opioid use disorder, via telehealth by waiving the requirement that the patient have a prior in-person visit, regardless of their location, for the duration of the PHE,” wrote Sen. Warner.

He continued, “In the more than two years since that flexibility was put into place, patients have successfully continued and established treatment virtually, without reports of widespread harm. The pandemic has shown that telehealth is an appropriate modality for a great deal of health care services, and that health care providers and their patients should be at the center of modality decision-making.”

Sen. Warner posed a series of questions to ensure that there is a plan to continue to provide uninterrupted service:

  1. Does DEA plan to extend any current waivers or flexibilities regarding prescribing controlled substances over telehealth beyond the expiration of the PHE?
    1. If so, in what way(s)?
    2. If not, why not? Would additional authorities from Congress be needed?
  2. For patients who are under the care of a health care provider and are at risk of such care being interrupted or terminated upon PHE expiration, what flexibility or assistance will DEA provide such provider and patient to ensure appropriate continuity of care after the expiration?
  3. As opioid overdoses and deaths continue to impact our communities, is DEA considering continuing some of these telehealth flexibilities under the ongoing nationwide opioid crisis Public Health Emergency designation?
    1. If so, what are the agency’s plans?
    2. If not, why not?
  4. It is unacceptable that Americans have waited 14 years for the Special Registration rule; as telehealth will continue to expand, what is DEA’s plan to ensure appropriate access to legitimate health care services prior to the rule being finalized and implemented?

Earlier this year, Sen. Warner pushed the DEA to finalize a special registration for providers to prescribe controlled substances over telehealth, which has been required by Congress for nearly 14 years. Following this push, the DEA has drafted a rule, which is currently waiting for White House approval.

Sen. Warner has been a consistent leader for expanding telehealth accessibility. In May of this year, Sen. Warner led a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers in legislation to expand telehealth services for patients undergoing dialysis. Sen. Warner was also an original co-sponsor of the 2016 Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, reintroduced in 2021, and has been a longtime advocate for the expansion of telehealth in order to ease access to health care. 

Sen. Warner has consistently pushed for the permanent expansion of telehealth services, writing letters to congressional leadership in June 2020 and February 2022. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Warner included a provision to expand telehealth services for substance abuse treatment in the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. In 2003, then-Gov. Warner expanded Medicaid coverage for telemedicine statewide, including evaluation and management visits, a range of individual psychotherapies, the full range of consultations, and some clinical services, including in cardiology and obstetrics. Coverage was also expanded to include non-physician providers. Among other benefits, telehealth expansion allows individuals in medically underserved and remote areas of Virginia to access quality specialty care that isn’t always available nearby.

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Attorney General Garland, and Administrator Milgram:

As we await release of the proposed rule to create the Special Registration for Telemedicine, as directed by Congress first in 2008 in the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act and subsequently in the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act and appropriations legislation, I am writing today to request information about the Drug Enforcement Administration’s plan to ensure continued patient access to care upon expiration of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE).

At the onset of the COVID-19 PHE, I was pleased to see the DEA act swiftly to ensure that patients could continue to access medically necessary controlled substances, including treatment for opioid use disorder, via telehealth by waiving the requirement that the patient have a prior in-person visit, regardless of their location, for the duration of the PHE. In the more than two years since that flexibility was put into place, patients have successfully continued and established treatment virtually, without reports of widespread harm. The pandemic has shown that telehealth is an appropriate modality for a great deal of health care services, and that health care providers and their patients should be at the center of modality decision-making.

I am concerned for patients who are at risk of having their health care interrupted or terminated when DEA PHE flexibilities end. As you know, the goal of the Ryan Haight Act was not to stymie appropriate access to care, but to prevent illicit use and sale of controlled substances. To that end, it is critical that Congress understands what DEA’s plan is for the time between when the PHE expires and the Special Registration is implemented to ensure constituents receive the continued health care they need and deserve. Specifically, I would like to know:

(1)    Does DEA plan to extend any current waivers or flexibilities regarding prescribing controlled substances over telehealth beyond the expiration of the PHE?

  1. If so, in what way(s)?
  2. If not, why not? Would additional authorities from Congress be needed?

(2)    For patients who are under the care of a health care provider and are at risk of such care being interrupted or terminated upon PHE expiration, what flexibility or assistance will DEA provide such provider and patient to ensure appropriate continuity of care after the expiration?

(3)    As opioid overdoses and deaths continue to impact our communities, is DEA considering continuing some of these telehealth flexibilities under the ongoing nationwide opioid crisis Public Health Emergency designation?

  1. If so, what are the agency’s plans?
  2. If not, why not?

(4)    It is unacceptable that Americans have waited 14 years for the Special Registration rule; as telehealth will continue to expand, what is DEA’s plan to ensure appropriate access to legitimate health care services prior to the rule being finalized and implemented?

It is unacceptable that Americans have waited 14 years for the Special Registration rule; as telehealth will continue to expand, what is DEA’s plan to ensure appropriate access to legitimate health care services prior to the rule being finalized and implemented?

It is critical that the Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Congress work together to ensure Americans receive the health care they need, both during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and afterwards. I also urge you to expeditiously finalize the rulemaking for the Special Registration, as directed by Congress. Thank you in advance for your attention to this request and I look forward to hearing back from you.

Sincerely,

Mark R. Warner

cc: The Honorable Shalanda D. Young, Director, Office of Management and Budget

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $2,124,300 in emergency rural health care funding to bolster federal support in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will be provided to the Ledwith-Lewis Free Clinic in Tappahannock, Page Memorial Hospital in Luray, Tazewell Community Hospital in Tazewell, and Wellmont Health System in Big Stone Gap. This funding was awarded through the Community Facilities Emergency Rural Health Care program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“As Virginia communities continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s critical that we provide resources to help protect Virginians,” said the senators. “That’s why we are pleased to see these grants go towards COVID vaccination and testing, telehealth and food assistance services, ventilation systems, and financial aid.”

The funding will be awarded as below:

•             $36,800 for Ledwith-Lewis Free Clinic in Tappahannock, VA to provide COVID-19 testing kits, rapid testing supplies, and vaccinations, as well as additional staffing to meet the needs of the rural counties served. This investment will benefit approximately 27,350 residents.

•             $1,000,000 for Page Memorial Hospital in Luray, VA to purchase telehealth, remote monitoring systems, COVID testing, mobile clinic and food assistance. In addition, the funds will be used to train current nursing staff. This project aims to connect rural patients to Valley Health telehealth services and Page County internet infrastructure. This project will benefit approximately 24,042 residents. 

•             $335,000 for Carilion Clinic (Tazewell Community Hospital) in Tazewell, VA to upgrade the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. The HVAC system will follow the Center for Disease Control’s COVID-19 operational protocols for health care and will service the lab and patient care areas, as the current HVAC system is old and unreliable. This investment will benefit approximately 45,078 residents.

•             $752,500 for Wellmont Health System in Big Stone Gap, VA to replace lost health care revenue and help with financial difficulties experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. This investment will benefit approximately 70,997 residents.

The USDA’s Community Facilities Emergency Rural Health Care program is designed to help broaden access to COVID-19 testing and vaccines, rural health care services, and food assistance through food banks and food distribution facilities.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for rural communities and health care access in the Commonwealth. Last year, both Sens. helped pass the American Rescue Plan, a COVID-19 relief bill that provided $20 billion to improve vaccine distribution, $10 billion for the Defense Production Act to procure essential medical equipment, and $50 billion for virus testing, genomic sequencing to detect new variants, contract tracing, and additional PPE. Additionally, Sen. Warner introduced legislation, cosponsored by Sen. Kaine, to expand telehealth services through Medicare, connecting patients to doctors and cutting costs for patients and providers. Sen. Kaine also introduced legislation to expand health care to rural areas through telehealth as part of the Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019. The bill passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee as part of the Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019.

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 WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner issued the following statement after the Senate failed to advance the Small Business COVID Relief Act – legislation that would have provided additional COVID-19 relief for small businesses still dealing with the ramifications of the pandemic:

“Today, Congress failed to fulfill its promise to small business owners still reeling from the pandemic. When we established the Restaurant Revitalization Fund through the American Rescue Plan, business owners took us up on it for good reason. Many businesses were struggling to stay afloat and many of them knew that if they went out of business, they wouldn’t be able to bounce back. Unfortunately, demand surpassed available dollars. This bill would have helped Congress keep its promise and deliver aid to Virginia businesses who did everything right and applied on time. I’m disappointed that so many of my colleagues chose not to stand on the side of small businesses today, but I’m committed to continue working to get this done.”

Since the onset of the pandemic, Sen. Warner has pushed to provide small businesses and nonprofit organizations the support and relief they need. This includes fighting for the successful passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the 2020 emergency relief bill, and the American Rescue Plan (ARP).

     

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and a bipartisan group of their colleagues in introducing the Support Kids Not Red Tape Act, which would grant the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) additional flexibility so that schools and summer meal sites can stay open and improve access to free, healthy meals for children. The additional flexibility would mean less red tape and more options for families, including by allowing families to pick up a week’s worth of meals or having meals delivered to their home on the school bus. These flexibilities have been crucial to feeding students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. With 90% of schools still facing many challenges as they return to normal operations, these flexibilities would give schools much-needed support to keep kids fed.

“Every child, regardless of where they live, deserves nutritious meals,” said Sens. Warner and Kaine. “Ensuring that school districts have the flexibility and federal resources they need to keep feeding their students is essential to our fight to end childhood hunger in America. This legislation will help us do that.”

“We should make it easier for kids to get the meals they need – not harder. Our bill cuts red tape and keeps the priority on giving children the healthy meals they need and deserve,” said Senator Stabenow. “As we come out of this pandemic, schools are doing their best - but it takes time for them to transition back to their operations before COVID. We can’t let hungry kids get caught in the middle. Without this support, up to 30 million kids who get food at school will see their essential breakfast and lunch meals disrupted. And millions of hungry kids who rely on summer meals may have nowhere to go to get food.”

More specifically, the bipartisan Support Kids Not Red Tape Act would:

  • Extend USDA’s authority to issue waivers from June 30, 2022 to September 30, 2023, which would extend USDA school meal flexibilities. This is simply a continuation of the authority USDA has had and exercised throughout the pandemic. This would cover this summer, as well as the full 2022-2023 school year, and summer of 2023, and create a transition plan to help schools adjust back to normal school meal operations starting October 1, 2023.
  • Direct states to submit a transition plan to USDA so that schools will be prepared and supported when transitioning back to normal National School Lunch Program operations after the increased flexibilities end.
  • Direct the Secretary to provide technical assistance to states on drafting transition plans and to School Food Authorities on meeting meal standards during the waiver period.

Since the pandemic began, Warner and Kaine have secured federal funding to expand access to food assistance for students, including successfully pushing USDA to make food distribution policies more flexible for Virginia’s families. They also helped secure Virginia’s request to operate a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program to ensure children have access to healthy food while at home. In March 2022, Warner and Kaine sent a letter urging USDA to issue guidance to better address the growing food insecurity crisis among college students. 

In addition to Warner, Kaine, and Stabenow, this legislation was also cosponsored by 49 members of the Senate, including: Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tina Smith (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tom Carper (D-DE), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Angus King (I-ME), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

Full text of the legislation is available here. A summary of the legislation is available here.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine issued the following statement to mark the one-year anniversary of President Biden signing the American Rescue Plan (ARP)—COVID-19 relief legislation they helped pass into law:

“Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we’re on our way toward a comeback after COVID-19. Virginians in every community experienced firsthand the benefits of this legislation, from direct payments for families and easier vaccine access, to support for schools and child care centers. We wouldn’t be where we are today without these investments, and we’re going to keep working to build on the progress we’ve made over the last year.”

ARP was first introduced in the Senate in March 2021, and was ultimately passed by 50 Democratic Senators and a tiebreaking vote by Vice President Kamala Harris. The legislation funneled critical resources to communities throughout Virginia to help the economy recover after the pandemic. When ARP passed, the unemployment rate was 6 percent. Since then, it has dropped to 3.8 percent.

Investments the legislation made in Virginia priorities include:

Assistance for Virginia households:

  • The bill provided advanced expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) payments – tax cuts for parents – that benefited 1.6 million Virginia children, including more than 200,000 children living below the poverty line. The vast majority of families in Virginia received $3,000 per child ages 6-17 years old and $3,600 per child under 6 as a result of the increased 2021 Child Tax Credit.
  • Expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) payments for childless workers boosted earnings for more than 400,000 Virginia workers. The ARP nearly tripled the EITC to roughly $1,500 for workers without children.
  • The legislation also included additional funding for emergency rent and utility relief—which has now provided over $500 million to help keep Virginia families in their homes and keep utilities from being shut off during the pandemic.

Child care: Virginia received $488 million to help child care providers stay open and ensure families have access to affordable child care options so they can return to work. The expanded Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit has provided working Virginia parents with relief from the high cost of child care. Virginia families with incomes below $125,000 will get back up to half of what they spent on child care in 2021 while working or studying—saving up to $4,000 for one child or $8,000 for two or more children under age 13. Families earning up to $438,000 will get a partial credit. 

 

State, local, and tribal aid: The legislation provided $7.2 billion for state and local aid for Virginia. This funding helped Virginia continue to take public health measures and address the negative economic effects of COVID while also including more flexibility to help local Virginia governments experiencing revenue shortfalls prevent budget cuts. Some examples of how Virginia communities are putting this funding to use include:

  • $250 million for ventilation improvements in public school facilities to decrease the risk of COVID-19 transmission and support safe schools across Virginia.
  • $700 million for broadband deployment across Virginia, which will result in universal broadband coverage in the Commonwealth by 2024, four years earlier than predicted.
  • $8.6 million to help Frederick County participate in a regional project to develop fiber-to-the-home broadband service. This put broadband within reach for roughly 42,700 previously unserved locations in the region.
  • $3.7 million for Virginia Beach to provide 65 emergency rental vouchers to help households at high risk of housing instability afford rent. The program will expand on the 35 vouchers previously awarded to the city through federal programs.
  • $1 million for Prince William County to support the costs associated with the COVID-19 emergency response program, including community vaccination efforts.
  • $600,000 for Albemarle County to provide emergency shelter and permanent supportive housing to individuals experiencing homelessness.
  • $570,000 for Danville to provide utility assistance to 1,300 households that were financially impacted by the pandemic. This assistance aims to prevent residents from being displaced due to unpaid utility costs.
  • $560,000 for Alexandria to use for workforce development programs. These programs incorporated work-based learning, vocation-based English for Speakers of Other Languages (V-ESOL) training, digital literacy and equity for employment, and included access to supportive services. Participants will earn as they learn, and hosting companies will receive support and a chance to assess a good fit before making a hiring decision on a prospective employee.

Health care provider mental health: The bill included over $100 million, including over $5 million for Virginia, to boost mental health support for front line health workers. This funding was modeled after the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, legislation Kaine sponsored in honor of a physician from Charlottesville, Virginia, who died by suicide after working on the frontlines of the pandemic in New York. The Breen Act subsequently passed the Senate in February 2022.

Higher education: Virginia received over $948 million for 120 colleges and universities, including $297 million for community colleges due to the American Rescue Plan—much of which will provide financial relief to students. For a more in depth breakdown of Virginia higher education funding, including funding for community colleges, HBCUs, and MSIs, click here.

Expanding health care access: The legislation included a two-year authorization of provisions from Kaine’s Medicare-X Choice Act to help low- and middle-income Americans pay their health care premiums by providing a larger tax premium subsidy for Americans living below 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and expanding tax credit eligibility to families above 400% of the FPL. Kaine continues to advocate for the passage of his legislation to make those changes permanent. In Virginia, over 307,000 people are now seeing reduced health care costs through the Health Insurance Marketplace, a 18% increase since the American Rescue Plan passed.

 

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WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded $2,008,250 in federal funding awarded to the Chickahominy Eastern Division and Nansemond Indian Nation to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding was awarded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) program, which was extended under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, legislation Sens. Warner and Kaine voted for in March 2021. The American Rescue Plan allocated more than $31 billion to Native American communities across the country, including funding which will benefit Virginia’s federally recognized tribes.

“As the Omicron variant continues to create challenges for people across the Commonwealth, we’re glad to see that these federal dollars will provide critical relief for communities hit hard by the pandemic,” said the Senators. “This funding will help provide these tribes with services necessary to protect their health and safety.”

The funding will be awarded as follows:

  • Chickahominy Eastern Division will receive $1,010,000 to rehabilitate homes to improve indoor air quality.
  • Nansemond Indian Nation will receive $998,250 to expand and enhance their community center, which is used to distribute COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and food. This funding will help increase capacity for social distancing, upgrade kitchen facilities to prepare more meals for those in need, and install solar panels and battery storage to improve energy efficiency and resiliency during emergencies.

In 2017, Senators Kaine and Warner led legislation to grant federal recognition to six Virginia tribes, including the Chickahominy and Nansemond tribes. After centuries of being denied federal recognition, the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act was signed into law on January 30, 2018, making it possible for these tribes to receive federal funding.

In April 2021, Senator Kaine visited Nansemond Indian Nation to hold a roundtable with tribal members to discuss the challenges that the community has faced throughout the pandemic and encourage vaccinations.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the statement below, following the release of an unclassified report on the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19:

“This report underscores the need for China to stop stonewalling international investigations into a global pandemic that has cost so many lives and livelihoods around the world. It's disheartening that the Chinese Communist Party remains unwilling to cooperate with an investigation of this magnitude, even as the world mourns the deaths of 4.5 million people and counting. At the same time, I would urge Americans around the country to denounce hateful rhetoric and discrimination against our AAPI friends and neighbors, many of whom have suffered racist attacks throughout the period of this crisis.”

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WASHINGTON — Today U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, members of the Senate Budget Committee, released the following statement after Senate passage of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget resolution they cosponsored that will set the stage for historic legislation to lower costs and cut taxes for American families:

“As members of the Senate Budget Committee, we were thrilled to play a pivotal role in crafting a transformative budget blueprint to improve the lives of families in Virginia and across the nation for years to come. We believe this bill will not only help us recover from the impacts of COVID-19, but it will also help our economy rebuild even stronger than before. By investing in American families, we are investing in our nation’s future. As negotiations continue in the coming weeks, we will continue advocating for the needs of families across the Commonwealth.”

The FY2022 budget resolution proposes to extend the American Rescue Plan’s expansions of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), Earned Income Tax Credit, and Child and Dependent Care Tax Credits. The framework also includes affordable health care and childcare, expanded family and medical leave, universal pre-K, affordable higher education, affordable housing, green energy projects, climate resiliency, workforce development, and support for small businesses—all while cutting taxes for middle-class families. Following the passage of this resolution, Senate Committees will work on shaping the bill before final Senate passage.    

FY2022 Budget Resolution Proposals Include:

Families: 

·       Establishes Universal Pre-K for 3 and 4 year olds and a new child care benefit for working families 

·       Makes Community College tuition-free for 2 years 

·       Extends the largest tax cut ever for families with children

·       Increases the Pell Grant award and makes investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Alaskan Native- or Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions (ANNHIs) 

·       Creates the first ever federal Paid Family and Medical Leave benefit 

Infrastructure and Jobs: 

·       Invests in workforce development and job training programs to connect workers to good-paying jobs 

·       Invests in research and development and strengthens U.S. manufacturing supply chains  

·       Expands access to capital and markets for small businesses 

·       Makes the largest ever one-time investment in Native American infrastructure projects 

·       Rehabilitates aging Veterans Administration buildings and hospitals 

·       Makes historic investments in public housing, green and sustainable housing, and housing production and affordability  

Health Care: 

·       Reduces prescription drug costs for patients and saves taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars

·       Adds a new Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit to the Medicare program 

·       Extends the recent expansion of the Affordable Care Act in the American Rescue Plan

·       Invests in home and community-based services to help seniors, persons with disabilities and home care workers 

·       Creates a new federal health program for Americans in the “Medicaid gap,” helping more people get health coverage  

Climate: 

·       Provides clean energy, manufacturing, and transportation tax incentives and grants 

·       Invests in climate smart agriculture and forest management for farmers and rural communities 

·       Creates coastal and ocean resiliency programs 

·       Makes investments to address droughts and wildfires

·       Provides funding to create environmental justice and climate resilience programs

For more information on the resolution, click here. For text of the resolution, click here

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine sent a letter to Senate Leadership urging them to provide critical relief to restaurants, bars, and other small businesses in the food and beverage industries severely impacted by the pandemic. In their letter, the Senators point to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), established by the American Rescue Plan, and the help it provided to tens of thousands of establishments across the nation before funding ran out. The Senators call on Senate Leadership to bring up legislation that provides the RRF with additional funding to meet the outstanding demand for the program. In July, the Small Business Administration announced the RRF program received over 278,000 eligible applications requesting over $72 billion in funds – exceeding the $28.6 billion included in the American Rescue Plan.

“We write to you regarding the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), which was established by the American Rescue Plan to provide critical relief to restaurants, bars, and other small businesses in the food and beverage services sector. In light of the extraordinary demand for the program, we urge you to replenish the Fund to meet the current need among eligible applicants,” wrote the Senators.

“We urge you to bring up legislation that provides the RRF with additional funding to meet the outstanding demand for the program. Virginia’s restaurants play a major role in the Commonwealth’s economy, employing over 300,000 people prior to the pandemic. Ensuring that restaurants and similar small businesses in Virginia and across the country have the resources they need to stay solvent will facilitate a speedy economic recovery,” concluded the Senators.

Senators Kaine and Warner were both co-sponsors of the bipartisan Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive (RESTAURANTS) Act of 2020, legislation that led to the creation of the RRF but would have included $120 billion in funding to help independent restaurants deal with the long-term structural challenges facing the industry because of COVID-19.

A copy of the letter text can be found here and below:

Dear Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell:

We write to you regarding the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), which was established by the American Rescue Plan to provide critical relief to restaurants, bars, and other small businesses in the food and beverage services sector. In light of the extraordinary demand for the program, we urge you to replenish the Fund to meet the current need among eligible applicants.

The food and beverage industries have been among the hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with restaurant and food service sales down $280 billion from expected levels and restaurant jobs down 1.7 million from pre-pandemic levels. Even as restrictions are being lifted and the economy slowly rebounds, restaurants are only just beginning to recover from the devastating economic impact of the pandemic. In Virginia and across the country, restaurants continue to experience decreased sales, crippling staffing shortages, and significant debt burdens. Hundreds of Virginia restaurant owners have told us that they may have to close their doors permanently if they do not receive additional federal relief.

The $28.6 billion RRF has already started working to keep tens of thousands of these establishments across the nation open. However, demand has far outstripped the available funding. On July 2, 2021, Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Isabel Guzman announced the closure of the RRF program. SBA reported that they had received more than 278,000 eligible applications requesting a total of $72.2 billion in funding. As of June 30, 2021, approximately 101,000 of those applications had been approved.

We urge you to bring up legislation that provides the RRF with additional funding to meet the outstanding demand for the program. Virginia’s restaurants play a major role in the Commonwealth’s economy, employing over 300,000 people prior to the pandemic. Ensuring that restaurants and similar small businesses in Virginia and across the country have the resources they need to stay solvent will facilitate a speedy economic recovery. 

Thank you in advance for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – With the COVID-19 delta variant on the rise, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) introduced legislation today to promote federal worker safety and ensure that employees and their families are well informed about COVID-19 protective measures in the workplace. The Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act – named after a Virginia federal worker who passed away from COVID-19 complications – would require federal agencies to publish and communicate their COVID-19 safety plans, setting a precedent for increased agency transparency around critical safeguards. 

Joining Sen. Warner in introducing this legislation are U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). This bicameral legislation was also introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and passed by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on May 13, 2021. It now awaits a vote on the House floor.  

“Civil servants should not have to sacrifice their lives to serve their country, as was the tragic case for Chai Suthammanont, a kitchen worker at Marine Corps Base Quantico who passed from COVID-19 complications,” said Sen. Warner. “The Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act will help ensure that federal agencies have workplace safety plans in place to protect public servants as they continue to provide essential government services and assistance. This bill will also set an important precedent for increased transparency so that agencies are better prepared to publish and disseminate safety plans in a future emergency.”

“No one should have to fear for their life or safety while working, especially during this pandemic,” said Sen. Kaine. “We must ensure that every federal workplace implements comprehensive plans to protect federal workers. I’m proud to introduce this legislation to keep employees and their families informed and safe during these unprecedented times.” 

“Federal workers continue to be on the front lines of this pandemic and deserve a safe workplace,” said Sen. Cardin. “As the nation’s single largest employer, the federal government should set the standard for making the workplace safe for everyone so that workers can continue to meet their missions for the American people.” 

“No one should have to pick between their life and livelihood. Our federal employees work tirelessly to provide vital services to the American people. This legislation will help ensure that their safety is a priority, so these dedicated civil servants can continue to assist Americans day in and day out,” said Sen. Van Hollen.

“The frontline federal employees that have reported to work throughout this ongoing pandemic deserve gratitude, protection, and support. With the emergence of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus, we must recognize and act on the risks these workers face during this health emergency. There’s no reason why civil servants should have to worry about whether their work environment is safe enough for them to carry out their duties. This legislation is a step in the right direction to ensuring that federal employees are not left in the dark with regard to workplace safety,” said Sen. Brown.

Chai Suthammanont – a kitchen staff worker at a childcare facility on Marine Corps Base Quantico – died from coronavirus-related complications in May of 2020 after being exposed to COVID-19, likely in the tight kitchen space he shared with additional staff. Confusion and uncertainty regarding best practices and agency policies, as well as a general lack of communication with federal workforce staff, likely contributed to his death. 

Nearly fourteen months after Chai’s death, the delta variant – a highly contagious strain of COVID-19 – has continued to spread at an alarming rate among unvaccinated individuals, putting the Commonwealth at risk for another deadly COVID-19 surge. The legislation introduced by the senators today would require federal agencies to develop the kind of workplace safety plan that could have reduced Chai’s potential exposure to COVID-19.

“COVID-19 is still with us. While infection and death rates have thankfully dropped dramatically from the devastating numbers we had earlier this year, we cannot be complacent. New variants and slowing vaccination rates mean workers are still at risk. We thank Senator Warner for his leadership in ensuring our federal workers and their families are safe,” said Juley Fulcher, Worker Health and Safety Advocate, Public Citizen.

“As federal agencies prepare to reopen buildings to full capacity and phase out the incredibly successful policy of maximum telework, Sen. Warner's effort to ensure federal employees feel safe at work is well-timed. The Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act sends a strong message to agency leaders that employee safety is paramount and that civil servants deserve a work environment that incorporates the lessons learned from the pandemic and protects federal workers as they continue to serve the American people,” said Tony Reardon, National President, National Treasury Employees Union.

“The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers applauds and thanks Senator Warner for reintroducing this much needed legislation, as it will help to ensure that federal workers returning to work will have the information necessary to feel that they are entering a safe workplace.  We are hopeful that Congress will approve this legislation and send to President Biden for his signature,” said Matt Biggs, Secretary-Treasurer/Legislative Director, IFPTE.

“The National Federation of Federal Employees is proud to support the Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act in honor of Mr. Suthammanont, who passed away due to COVID-19 after exposure to the virus in his workplace. This bill is necessary to ensure the safety of all federal employees who answer the call to serve their country during this pandemic and any future crises,” said Randy Erwin, National President, NFFE.

“The coronavirus pandemic has exposed serious shortcomings in federal agencies’ development and dissemination of protocols for ensuring the health and safety of employees and visitors to federal facilities. This legislation would require all federal agencies to establish plans to protect employees and visitors from the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure the continuity of operations in the event of a surge in cases – and ensure these plans are posted online and communicated to employees. I applaud Senator Warner for reintroducing this legislation as a companion to the House bill introduced by Congressman Connolly. Having clear and easily accessible safeguards in place at the start of this pandemic would have saved many lives and failing to do so now continues to put workers and the public in danger,” said American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley.

According to this legislation, any workplace safety plan disseminated by a federal agency must include:   

  • Procedures for testing, contact-tracing, and vaccine administration for federal employees, along with other mitigation efforts, including cleaning protocols, implementation of occupancy limits, and efforts to ensure proper mask-wearing, social distancing, and individual hygiene at worksites.
  • Efforts to protect employees who travel for their official duties or who work outside of federal office buildings.
  • Safety and health requirements for visitors to federal facilities.
  • Contingency options and workplace flexibilities for those at high-risk of contracting the coronavirus, or who live in a household with individuals at high-risk.
  • Protocols for vaccination, including leave policies for individuals who experience severe side-effects as a result of vaccination.
  • Efforts to ensure continuity of agency operations, including contingency plans should there be a surge in coronavirus cases.
  • Applicable Inspector General Hotline information that employees can use to report instances when agencies do not follow the plan.

Text of this legislation is available here

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) are stepping up to the plate today by introducing the Minor League Baseball Relief Act to help the nine Minor League Baseball (MiLB) teams in Virginia who are hurting economically after the COVID-19 crisis threw a curveball into their 2020 season. The Minor League Baseball Relief Act would provide up to $550 million in federal relief funding for MiLB teams, which serve as important economic engines in communities across the Commonwealth as baseball fans come to attend games and end up patronizing local businesses like restaurants, hotels, and other attractions. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by heavy hitters Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and David McKinley (R-WV).

“For many working families, catching a weekend Minor League Baseball game at stadiums across the Commonwealth is an affordable and fun family outing,” said Sen. Warner.“Baseball isn’t just America’s pastime, it also represents an economic lifeline for many communities. However, like many small businesses throughout the COVID-19 crisis, our Minor League Baseball teams in Virginia and across the country have struggled mightily to keep the lights on. Since there was no Minor League Baseball season in 2020 due to the pandemic, many of these teams have sustained heavy financial losses that have not been substantially mitigated by existing small business economic relief programs. I’m pleased to work with my colleagues on this bill that would allow these local treasures access to economic relief.”

“Baseball is not only America’s favorite pastime, bringing friends and families together; it’s also a critical economic engine for the Commonwealth,” said Sen. Kaine. “Teams in communities across Virginia support our local economy and create jobs. The pandemic has taken a toll on this beloved sport, and I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to help MiLB teams through this economic crisis.”

The bases are loaded in Virginia, with nine MiLB teams in the Commonwealth eligible for financial relief under the Minor League Baseball Relief Act, which include the:

·         Fredericksburg Nationals (formerly Potomac)

·         Norfolk Tides 

·         Richmond Flying Squirrels

·         Lynchburg Hillcats 

·         Danville Otterbots (formerly Braves)

·         Pulaski River Turtles (formerly Yankees)

·         Salem Red Sox 

·         Bluefield Ridge Runners (formerly Blue Jays)

·         Bristol State Liners (formerly Pirates) 

The Minor League Baseball Relief Act would be modeled after the successful Shuttered Venue Operator Grants (SVOG) program, which has provided needed assistance to venues like theatres, museums, or concert halls that were forced to shut due to necessary COVID-19 safety measures. 

Specifically, the Minor League Baseball Relief Act would:

·         Repurpose up to $550 million in COVID-19 relief funding for an emergency grant program to be administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) that would otherwise be returned to the U.S. Treasury.

·         Provide eligible clubs grants up to a maximum of $10 million. Allowable expenses include payroll costs, regular business expenses (e.g., rent, utilities), worker protection expenditures, and payments made to independent contractors.

·         Provide an opportunity for a second grant at 50 percent of the first if a club’s revenue does not recover and does not significantly exceed its 2019 total.

·         Require strict oversight from SBA through documentation, review of use, and an audit on grant funding, and applies to any minor league baseball team previously part of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues but not to any club that is majority-owned by Major League Baseball.

Play ball and read a copy of the bill text here.

###

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) in sending a bipartisan letter calling on U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts for the nine million Americans living abroad. 

The senators urged the administration to donate supplemental doses to U.S. embassies and consulates in coordination with the Department of Defense, prioritizing the vaccination of Americans living in countries where they are considered ineligible or in those that are not distributing vaccines authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization. U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) also signed the letter to Secretary Blinken. 

“While the country is quickly approaching its target of vaccinating 70 percent of adults based in the U.S., vaccination rates around the world vary significantly. Around 85 percent of shots administered so far have been in high- and upper-middle-income countries, while only 0.3 percent of doses have been administered in low-income countries. While Americans abroad are eligible to receive vaccines in some countries, in others, Americans are ineligible as non-citizens,” the senators wrote.

The senators continued, “Should Americans living abroad wish to travel to the U.S. to receive the vaccine, the financial burden of travel as well as lengthy quarantine requirements upon return to their host country may be prohibitive. As a result of these complicating factors, millions of Americans abroad worry they may not have access to a vaccine for months or even years.”

“The administration has made remarkable progress in vaccinating Americans at home and U.S. officials overseas. As the attention shifts to global vaccination efforts, we urge you to explore all viable options to support vaccination of the millions of Americans living abroad,” the senators concluded.

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

 

Dear Secretary Blinken,

We commend the administration’s ongoing efforts to tackle the COVID-19 global pandemic in coordination with our partners and allies. In particular, the United States is leading the world by announcing the donation of more than 500 million vaccines overseas. In addition to this important effort, we urge you to take concrete steps toward vaccinating the nine million Americans living abroad. 

While the country is quickly approaching its target of vaccinating 70 percent of adults based in the U.S., vaccination rates around the world vary significantly. Around 85 percent of shots administered so far have been in high- and upper-middle-income countries, while only 0.3 percent of doses have been administered in low-income countries. While Americans abroad are eligible to receive vaccines in some countries, in others, Americans are ineligible as non-citizens. Should Americans living abroad wish to travel to the U.S. to receive the vaccine, the financial burden of travel as well as lengthy quarantine requirements upon return to their host country may be prohibitive. As a result of these complicating factors, millions of Americans abroad worry they may not have access to a vaccine for months or even years.

We welcome the administration’s sharing of 500 million vaccines with 92 low- and lower middle-income countries. In addition, we urge you to donate supplemental doses to U.S embassies and consulates to support vaccinating American citizens living in those countries as well. To optimize distribution of those additional doses, we urge you to prioritize countries where Americans are deemed ineligible or low priority in national vaccination deployment plans as well as countries that presently are not distributing a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-authorized vaccine or vaccine authorized by the World Health Organization.

The State Department’s success in vaccinating tens of thousands of Foreign Service personnel and their families was a heroic undertaking by medical units at posts around the world. The Defense Department has also succeeded in administering more than one million doses across more than 80 international facilities around the world. In recognition of the challenge of vaccinating up to nine million private citizens overseas, we urge you to explore coordination with the Defense Department to maximize U.S. government capacity.

The administration has made remarkable progress in vaccinating Americans at home and U.S. officials overseas. As the attention shifts to global vaccination efforts, we urge you to explore all viable options to support vaccination of the millions of Americans living abroad.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) today slammed Facebook for failing to remove vaccine misinformation from its platforms. The rapid spread of dangerous misinformation across social media could hamper the efforts of public health officials as they work to vaccinate hard-to-reach communities and hesitant individuals, representing a serious concern for public safety. Studies show that roughly 275,000 Facebook users belong to anti-vaccine groups on the platform. 

“As public health experts struggle to reach individuals who are vaccine hesitant, epidemiologists warn that low rates of vaccine rates coupled with the relaxing of mask mandates could result in new COVID-19 outbreaks,” the senators wrote in a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “Moreover, most public health officials agree that because herd immunity in the U.S. is now unlikely, ‘continued immunizations, especially for people at highest risk because of age, exposure or health status, will be crucial to limiting the severity of outbreaks, if not their frequency’. In short, ‘vaccinations remain the key to transforming the virus into a controllable threat’.” 

A recent report from Markup.org’s “Citizen Browser project” found that there are 117 active anti-vaccine groups on Facebook. Combined, the groups had roughly 275,000 members. The study also found that Facebook was recommending health groups to its users, including anti-vaccine groups and pages that spread COVID-19 misinformation and propaganda.

The lawmakers asked Zuckerberg a series of questions, including why users were recommended vaccine misinformation; how long anti-vaccine groups and pages remained on the platform before being taken down; and what specific steps the company is taking to ensure its platforms do not recommend vaccine misinformation to its users.

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

 

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

We write to express our concern over recent reporting alleging that Facebook failed to remove vaccine misinformation from its platforms. As the U.S. struggles to reach vaccine hesitant individuals and the world grapples with new variants, it is more important than ever that social media companies such as Facebook ensure that its platforms are free from disinformation.

In a February 2021 blog post, Facebook promised to expand “the list of false claims [it] will remove to include additional debunked claims about the coronavirus and vaccines. This includes claims such as: COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured; Vaccines are not effective at preventing the disease they are meant to protect against; It’s safer to get the disease than to get the vaccine; [and] Vaccines are toxic, dangerous or cause autism.” According to data from the Markup.org’s “Citizen Browser project,” misinformation regarding COVID-19 and vaccines are readily available on Facebook. According to Madelyn Webb, a senior researcher at Media Matters, as late as April 2021, she found 117 active anti-vaccine groups on Facebook. Combined, those groups had roughly 275,000 members. Even more troubling is the finding that Facebook “continued to recommend health groups to its users, including blatantly anti-vaccine groups and pages explicitly founded to propagate lies about the pandemic.” As public health experts struggle to reach individuals who are vaccine hesitant, epidemiologists warn that low rates of vaccine rates coupled with the relaxing of mask mandates could result in new COVID-19 outbreaks. Moreover, most public health officials agree that because herd immunity in the U.S. is now unlikely, “[c]ontinued immunizations, especially for people at highest risk because of age, exposure or health status, will be crucial to limiting the severity of outbreaks, if not their frequency.” In short, “vaccinations remain the key to transforming the virus into a controllable threat.”

In March 2021, Senator Warner wrote to you expressing these same concerns. Your April 2021 response failed to directly answer the questions posed in his letter. Specifically, you failed to respond to a question as to why posts with content warnings about health misinformation were promoted into Instagram feeds. Given Facebook’s continued failure to remove vaccine misinformation from its platforms, we seek answers to the following questions no later than July 5, 2021.

1.    In calendar year 2021, how many users viewed vaccine-related misinformation? 

2.    In calendar year 2021, how many users were recommended anti-vaccine information or vaccine-related misinformation? 

a.    Why were these users recommended such information?

3.    In calendar year 2021, how many vaccine-related posts has Facebook removed due to violations of its vaccine misinformation policy? How many pages were removed? How many accounts were removed? How many groups were removed?

a.    On average, how long did these pages or posts remain on the platform before Facebook removed them?  

4.    What steps is Facebook taking to ensure that its platforms do not recommend vaccine-related misinformation to its users? Please be specific. 

5.    What steps is Facebook taking to ensure that individuals who search out anti-vaccine content are not subsequently shown additional misinformation?

6.    In March 2019, Facebook said it would stop recommending groups that contained vaccine-related misinformation content. It wasn’t until February 2021 that the company announced it would remove such content across the platform. Why did it take Facebook nearly a year to make this decision? 

Thank you in advance or your prompt response to the above questions. 

Sincerely, 

###

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that Loudoun County will receive a reimbursement of $1,882,828.45 in federal funding in response to COVID-19 from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The funding will cover costs associated with the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for first responders, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, fire and rescue, health services including nursing and healthcare, and mental health, substance abuse and development services.

“We’re glad to see these federal dollars go towards protecting our first responders from the COVID-19 virus,” said the Senators. “We remain committed to ensuring that our first responders have the necessary equipment to protect themselves from COVID-19.”

###

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $8,899,215.83 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)'s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

“We are glad to announce this funding to support Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s vaccination efforts,” said the Senators. “With half of the U.S. adult population now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, now is not the time to slow down. We remain committed to expanding Virginia’s vaccination capacity so that all eligible workers and residents can get their shots as soon as possible.” 

Sens. Warner and Kaine strongly supported the recent passage of the American Rescue Plan, which included $7.5 billion in funding for the CDC and public health departments to expand vaccine distribution and administration. 

###

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that two emergency projects across Northern Virginia will receive a combined reimbursement of $20,902,666.81 in federal funding in response to COVID-19 from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The funding will cover costs associated with the communication of COVID-19 warnings and guidance to Virginians, as well as medical supplies and equipment to combat the virus.

“We’re pleased to see these federal dollars go towards managing, controlling, and reducing the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Northern Virginia,” said the Senators. “It’s important for folks to have the necessary tools and procedures to tackle this health crisis.”

The funding was awarded as follows:

  • Valley Health will receive $3,786,140.24.
  • Fairfax County will receive $17,116,526.57.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) led a group of 12 colleagues in urging the Biden administration to work with states, tribes, and territories to prioritize young people in the foster care system, who have been particularly afflicted by the COVID-19 health and economic crisis. In a letter to the Administration for Children and Families at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the senators stressed the disparate outcomes faced by young people in foster care in the areas of educational attainment, employment rates, and earnings, and urged the administration to ensure that states take full advantage of existing flexibilities to mitigate these outcomes.

Joining Sen. Warner in the letter to the Associate Commissioner of the Administration for Children and Families were Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jack Reed (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Angus King (I-ME), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

“As efforts to curtail the pandemic prove successful, it is clear that the long-term impacts of the pandemic will be significant. As you continue to work through year-one priorities, we ask that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ensure that youth currently in and transitioning out of the foster care system receive the support and resources they need to thrive,” wrote the Senators in a letter to HHS Associate Commissioner Aysha Schomburg. “We also ask that you prioritize implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 to ensure that children, youth, and their families can access a range of services to keep them safely together and prevent unnecessary entry into foster care whenever possible. For circumstances when foster care placement is needed, we request that you work with states, tribes, and territories to ensure that children and youth in foster care have high-quality placements and trauma-informed care.”

“The past year has been a difficult time for many. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated the overwhelming obstacles youth in the foster care system face, particularly the challenges associated with transitioning into adulthood after leaving the system,” they continued. “We believe that if changes are made to strengthen support and the resources for foster youth, they will be better able to realize their goals and become active members of our nation’s workforce.”

Throughout the past year, young people in the foster care system have felt the educational and economic toll of the pandemic at much higher rates than their peers. In fact, a University of Pennsylvania study found that foster youth have lost their jobs during COVID-19 at a rate three times that of the general population. The senators also cited the findings of a longitudinal study, which revealed that by age 23 and 24, one-quarter of youth with experience in foster care did not have a high school diploma or a GED. Additionally, although nearly one third had completed at least one year of college, only 6 percent had completed a 2- or 4-year post-secondary degree. 

In the letter, the senators requested that the administration take action to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on foster youth. Specifically, they asked the administration to:

·         Allow title IV-B funds to be used to provide internet and other technology to vulnerable foster youth and families in order to ensure that foster youth do not continue to fall behind in meeting their work and study obligations because they do not have necessary technological tools available to them. 

·         Work with states to address the impact of the digital divide on foster youth by considering long-term solutions to technology-access challenges that have been exacerbated during the public health emergency, and working with child welfare agencies on context-specific plans to ensure foster youth have resources necessary to participate in online instruction or work virtually.  

·         Implement a plan to ensure that agencies proactively reach out to foster youth to inform them about benefits related to stimulus checks, unemployment insurance, and other COVID-19-related assistance. 

·         Help ensure that foster youth and other at-risk youth are aware of and have the resources to take advantage of the extension of the earned income tax credit (EITC) to working youth under age 26 and work toward making the child tax credit (CTC) as accessible as possible. They asked that the Administration make the EITC and the CTC as accessible as possible by working with youth and their families to ensure they are aware of these opportunities. They also asked that the Administration provide flexibility for caregivers of children in the welfare system to claim a dependent. 

·         Create and implement a plan to ensure that foster youth have access to and are aware of mental health supports. Given the high rates of trauma experienced by foster youth and the increase in reports of mental illness during the pandemic, the senators asked that the administration work to ensure foster youth are provided the necessary mental health resources to support their resilience during this difficult time. 

·         Commit to working with Congress and states, tribes, and territories to address inequalities in the child welfare system in the U.S. and outline steps to make child welfare programs more equitable by working ensuring better opportunities for foster youth and combat the racial disparities we have known to persist within the system for too long. 

A PDF of the letter is available here. Text is available below.

 

Associate Commissioner Aysha Schomburg

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 

The Administration for Children and Families

Children’s Bureau

330 C Street, SW

Washington, D.C. 20201

 

Dear Associate Commissioner Aysha Schomburg, 

We write today in support of children and youth in the foster care system as they continue to face a number of unique challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the steady progress of nationwide vaccine distribution, like many Americans, we feel a sense of reassurance that our nation will soon transition into a more manageable period of the health and economic crises that the nation has endured for over a year now. As efforts to curtail the pandemic prove successful, it is clear that the long-term impacts of the pandemic will be significant. As you continue to work through year-one priorities, we ask that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ensure that youth currently in and transitioning out of the foster care system receive the support and resources they need to thrive. We also ask that you prioritize implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 to ensure that children, youth, and their families can access a range of services to keep them safely together and prevent unnecessary entry into foster care whenever possible. For circumstances when foster care placement is needed, we request that you work with states, tribes, and territories to ensure that children and youth in foster care have high quality placements and trauma-informed care. 

It is well-documented that current and former foster youth face disparate outcomes compared to their peers in various areas, including educational attainment and employment rates and earnings.[1] A longitudinal study in Iowa, better known as “The Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth,” found that by age 23 and 24, one-quarter of youth with experience in foster care did not have a high school diploma or a GED, and although nearly one third had completed at least one year of college, only 6% had completed a 2- or 4-year post-secondary degree.[2] Foster youth aging out of the system are also more likely to become homeless and struggle with job insecurity.[3]

The past year has been a difficult time for many. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated the overwhelming obstacles youth in the foster care system face, particularly the challenges associated with transitioning into adulthood after leaving the system. 

In fact, former foster youth are some of the most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.[4] According to a study from the University of Pennsylvania, former foster youth have lost their jobs during the pandemic at a rate three times that of the general population. Additionally, two-thirds of study participants reported that COVID-19 had a major negative impact on their educational progress or attainment.[5] These outcomes can be partially explained by inconsistent access to the internet, with only 5% of rural foster youth and 21% of urban foster youth having consistent access to computers in their homes.[6]

These statistics are heartbreaking and unacceptable. We believe that if changes are made to strengthen support and the resources for foster youth, they will be better able to realize their goals and become active members of our nation’s workforce. 

We greatly appreciate the Biden Administration’s leadership in working with state, tribal and territorial child welfare agencies to slow the spread of the virus and “build back better.” We respectfully ask that you continue to encourage states to take full advantage of existing flexibilities and make additional changes to best support foster youth. Specifically, we request that you: 

·         Allow title IV-B funds to be used to provide internet and other technology to vulnerable foster youth and families. The virtual working and learning environments we have experienced during the pandemic are likely to last long after the spread of the virus is slowed.[7] Therefore, we must ensure that foster youth do not continue to fall behind in meeting their work and study obligations because they do not have necessary technological tools available to them. We ask that allowable expenses be expanded to include laptop computers, tablets, and internet access for children and families in the child welfare system.  

·         Work with states to address the impact of the digital divide on foster youth. We were proud to vote in support of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which increased support for John H. Chafee Foster Care Programs for Successful Transition to Adulthood, mandated that a state operating a program under Title IV-E cannot require that a child who is in foster care leave solely because of the child’s age until October 1, 2021, and suspended certain training and postsecondary educational requirements that could be barriers to youth accessing Chafee supports during the public health emergency. In addition to working with states, territories, tribes and tribal organizations to ensure this law is implemented effectively, we ask that you consider long-term solutions to technology-access challenges that have been exacerbated during the public health emergency. We ask that you work with child welfare agencies on context-specific plans to ensure foster youth have resources necessary to participate in online instruction or work virtually. 

·         Implement a plan to ensure that agencies proactively reach out to foster youth to inform them about benefits related to stimulus checks, unemployment insurance, and other COVID-19-related assistance. We ask that you work to ensure foster youth are aware of all resources available to them during this difficult time. 

·         Help ensure that foster youth and other at-risk youth are aware of and have the resources to take advantage of the extension of the earned income tax credit (EITC) to working youth under age 26 and work toward making the child tax credit (CTC) as accessible as possible. We were pleased to see that the American Rescue Plan included an extension of the EITC to working youth under age 26. We believe this change has significant potential to equip former foster youth to become productive members of the workforce. We ask that the Administration help make foster youth and other vulnerable youth aware of this expansion, as well as help ensure they have the resources to take advantage of this opportunity. In addition, we are proud that the American Rescue Plan temporarily expands the CTC and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) for 2021. We ask that the Administration make the CTC as accessible as possible by working with families to ensure they know how the monthly payments work and allow non-filers to establish eligibility. We also ask that the Administration provide flexibility for caregivers of children in the welfare system to claim a dependent. 

·         Create and implement a plan to ensure that foster youth have access to and are aware of mental health supports. Foster youth who have aged out of the system are like other populations experiencing isolation due to the pandemic, but many lack substantive social supports. The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental illnesses. Given the high rates of trauma experienced by foster youth and the increase in reports of mental illness during the pandemic, we ask that you work to ensure foster youth are provided the necessary mental health resources to support their resilience during this difficult time. The Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 allows Title IV-E funds to cover evidence-based mental health services and programs for children, youth, and their families. We encourage you to support states, tribes, and territories in development and implementation of robust Title IV-E Prevention Program plans that include a range of mental health services.

·         Commit to working with Congress and states, tribes, and territories to address inequalities in the child welfare system in the U.S. and outline steps to make child welfare programs more equitable. Youth of color frequently experience negative outcomes, such as homelessness, unemployment, economic hardship, and involvement with the criminal justice system, at higher rates than their white peers after transitioning out of the foster care system.[8] We ask that the Biden Administration work with youth, parents, kinship caregivers with lived expertise, as well as child welfare agencies and Congress to play a leading role in ensuring better opportunities for foster youth and combat the racial disparities we have known to persist within the system for too long. 

Thank you for your diligent, impactful work on behalf of our nation’s foster youth. We appreciate your time and attention to this urgent matter. We are grateful for your partnership as we continue to work on behalf of youth in need. 

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – Over the last 24 hours, here’s just some of what Virginians have been reading about the $7.2 billion in relief funds that are headed to the state and local governments thanks to the American Rescue Plan:

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Virginia cities to get double boost from American Rescue Plan as money starts to flow

Virginia will receive $4.3 billion, or $500 million more than previously expected, under the American Rescue Plan Act, while Richmond and other cities will get a double financial benefit because of their status as independent cities under guidance released by the U.S. Treasury Department on Monday.

Richmond, for example, will receive $110 million as a city and almost $45 million as a county under the act, which President Joe Biden signed into law on March 11 as the first signature legislative achievement of his presidency to jump-start an economy battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

[…]

Many localities lost substantial amounts of revenue from taxes on meals, lodging and admissions during the pandemic and state restrictions imposed on businesses, especially in areas dependent on tourism, such as Williamsburg and the rest of the Historic Triangle.

“They’re slowly coming back as the economy slowly reopens,” said Neal Menkes, a fiscal consultant to the Virginia Municipal League.

Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, D-Va., drove the needs home in a letter with the state’s seven Democratic congressional representatives to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in mid-April that argued for funding as both city and county: “The treatment of independent cities under the Treasury Department guidance for allocating local relief funds will have a profound impact on our constituents,” they wrote.

Virginia cities would have lost almost $500 million in funding if counted only as cities or towns, and almost $800 million if designated only as counties, the Democrats said.

Daily Press: Over $790M in rescue-plan funds heading to cities, counties and colleges in Hampton Roads

The American Rescue Plan will pump more than $790 million of pandemic relief funds into the Hampton Roads economy through funding to local governments and area colleges and universities.

The plan, enacted earlier this year, is giving $618 million to Hampton Roads cities and counties, Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced. The state government will get nearly $4.3 billion — the combined total of funds for the state and its cities and counties comes to $7.2 billion, the senators said.

They said they were pleased the Biden administration listened to their calls to give state and local governments flexibility in using the money. It should help the state and its cities and counties recover from the impact of lost revenue, as well as boosting public health efforts and broadband expansion, the senators said.

Colleges and universities in Hampton Roads will receive more than $162 million in emergency funding under the American Rescue Plan, Reps. Robert C. “Bobby Scott, D-Newport News, and Elaine Luria, D-Norfolk, reported.

The funding will help the schools cope with the financial impact of the pandemic, said Scott, chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor. 

At least half the funding each institution is getting will be distributed as emergency cash assistance grants to students who are facing hunger, homelessness or other hardships, he said.

WVTF: How much is your community getting from ARPA?

The Treasury Department released much-awaited figures regarding aid from the American Rescue Plan Act Monday evening. In total Virginia’s set to receive $7.2 billion. $4.3 billion will go to the state, and $2.9 billion directly to localities.

Virginia’s cities organize themselves in a way that’s unlike almost all other states. That created worries that cities would miss out on their share of funds from the America Rescue Plan Act. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, along with Virginia’s House Democrats, wrote to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen asking her to give independent cities money for both cities and counties.

County allocations are generally based on population, where as metro city allocations were based on a set of variables from the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, wrote Rob Bullington of the Virginia Municipal League in an email. Independent cities don't fall into either of these categories. 

“I think the Virginia delegation did a great job in making the case that this was the legislative intent of ARPA that these funds be provided as was shown in the first traunch,” said Bob Lazaro, the Executive Director of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission.   

NBC29: Virginia to receive $7.2 billion from Treasury Department’s Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds

The Winchester Star: Warner, Kaine praise Treasury's launch of state, local COVID relief funds

Bristol Herald Courier: Local cities, counties divide $70M in coronavirus relief funds

Culpeper Star-Exponent: Culpeper area counties to receive more than $35 million from American Rescue Plan

The Northern Virginia Daily: Warner, Kaine praise Treasury's launch of state, local COVID relief funds 

Chatham Star-Tribune: Over $40 million in COVID relief coming to Pittsylvania County, Danville

WHSVVirginia to receive $7.2 billion from Treasury Department’s Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds

The Southwest Times: County to get $6.6M in relief funds

Henrico Citizen: Henrico to receive $64.2M in American Rescue Plan funds

Local leaders across Virginia have praised the passage of the American Rescue Plan, noting that state and local governments have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 response since last year.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded the Treasury Department’s launch of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, established by the American Rescue Plan Act.

“We welcome the $7.2 billion in relief for Virginia and are pleased the Biden Administration has listened to our calls to give states, localities, and tribes significant flexibility in determining how best to use these emergency funds,” said the Senators. “These funds will allow the Commonwealth and localities to recover from the economic harm of COVID, promote public health, invest in broadband, make up for lost revenue, and address many of the other impacts of the pandemic. We will keep working with the Commonwealth and local governments to ensure Virginians receive this much-needed relief.”

The Virginia state government will receive nearly $4.3 billion from these funds. An additional amount of approximately $2.9 billion will be allocated to municipalities the following way:

  • Accomack County: $6,277,004
  • Albemarle County: $21,236,071
  • Alexandria: $59,633,833
  • Alleghany County: $2,886,381
  • Amelia County: $2,553,262
  • Amherst County: $6,138,901
  • Appomattox County: $3,090,525
  • Arlington County: $46,003,782
  • Augusta County: $14,676,256
  • Bath County: $805,506
  • Bedford County: $15,344,241
  • Blacksburg: $13,364,987
  • Bland County: $1,219,816
  • Botetourt County: $6,491,249
  • Bristol: $10,027,374
  • Brunswick County: $3,152,681
  • Buchanan County: $4,079,781
  • Buckingham County: $3,330,798
  • Buena Vista: $1,258,276
  • Campbell County: $10,660,768
  • Caroline County: $5,967,971
  • Carroll County: $5,786,553
  • Charles City County: $1,352,481
  • Charlotte County: $2,307,551
  • Charlottesville: $19,609,709
  • Chesapeake: $76,025,897
  • Chesterfield County: $68,527,653
  • Christiansburg: $3,115,411
  • Clarke County: $2,839,569
  • Colonial Heights: $6,010,090
  • Covington: $1,075,692
  • Craig County: $996,637
  • Culpeper County: $10,217,905
  • Cumberland County: $1,929,175
  • Danville: $29,142,851
  • Dickenson County: $2,781,104
  • Dinwiddie County: $5,544,337
  • Emporia: $1,038,398
  • Essex County: $2,127,492
  • Fairfax County: $222,894,638
  • Fairfax City: $4,665,409
  • Falls Church: $2,839,181
  • Fauquier County: $13,834,039
  • Floyd County: $3,059,059
  • Fluvanna County: $5,296,878
  • Franklin County: $10,885,502
  • Franklin City: $1,547,496
  • Frederick County: $17,348,003
  • Fredericksburg: $10,782,747
  • Galax: $1,232,830
  • Giles County: $3,247,664
  • Gloucester County: $7,254,411
  • Goochland County: $4,613,742
  • Grayson County: $3,020,405
  • Greene County: $3,849,608
  • Greensville County: $2,201,885
  • Halifax County: $6,586,814
  • Hampton: $48,660,418
  • Hanover County: $20,932,282
  • Harrisonburg: $23,834,094
  • Henrico County: $64,257,518
  • Henry County: $9,820,105
  • Highland County: $425,382
  • Hopewell: $9,998,813
  • Isle of Wight County: $7,207,988
  • James City County: $14,863,696
  • King George County: $5,212,578
  • King William County: $3,330,798
  • King and Queen County: $1,364,524
  • Lancaster County: $2,059,508
  • Lee County: $4,549,643
  • Leesburg: $5,927,673
  • Lexington: $1,446,298
  • Loudoun County: $80,324,909
  • Louisa County: $7,301,611
  • Lunenburg County: $2,368,930
  • Lynchburg: $33,328,529
  • Madison County: $2,575,794
  • Manassas Park: $3,394,897
  • Manassas: $7,980,280
  • Martinsville: $2,438,467
  • Mathews County: $1,715,901
  • Mecklenburg County: $5,941,166
  • Middlesex County: $2,055,429
  • Montgomery County: $19,139,269
  • Nelson County: $2,899,977
  • New Kent County: $4,485,156
  • Newport News: $66,794,246
  • Norfolk: $154,141,050
  • Northampton County: $2,274,530
  • Northumberland County: $2,349,312
  • Norton: $773,263
  • Nottoway County: $2,958,637
  • Orange County: $7,196,722
  • Page County: $4,642,683
  • Patrick County: $3,420,148
  • Petersburg: $20,961,839
  • Pittsylvania County: $11,723,057
  • Poquoson: $2,383,498
  • Portsmouth: $56,842,564
  • Powhatan County: $5,759,553
  • Prince Edward County: $4,429,021
  • Prince George County: $7,449,621
  • Prince William County: $91,357,060
  • Pulaski County: $6,609,346
  • Radford: $8,228,392
  • Rappahannock County: $1,431,536
  • Richmond County: $1,752,612
  • Richmond City: $154,879,828
  • Roanoke County: $18,294,526
  • Roanoke City: $64,576,671
  • Rockbridge County: $4,384,541
  • Rockingham County: $15,917,438
  • Russell County: $5,164,019
  • Salem: $4,914,423
  • Scott County: $4,188,943
  • Shenandoah County: $8,471,897
  • Smyth County: $5,847,349
  • Southampton County: $3,424,615
  • Spotsylvania County: $26,458,167
  • Stafford County: $29,695,536
  • Staunton: $12,955,826
  • Suffolk: $30,065,296
  • Surry County: $1,247,398
  • Sussex County: $2,167,505
  • Tazewell County: $7,885,103
  • Virginia Beach: $136,429,703
  • Warren County: $7,801,386
  • Washington County: $10,438,365
  • Waynesboro: $9,046,603
  • Westmoreland County: $3,499,203
  • Williamsburg: $2,904,639
  • Winchester: $12,337,682
  • Wise County: $7,261,210
  • Wythe County: $5,571,531
  • York County: $13,262,590
  • Non-entitlement funds: approximately $633,000,000 

Allocations for non-entitlement local governments will soon be released and will provide an additional $633 million in relief to Virginia cities and towns. Tribal governments will receive their allocation amounts after submitting their requests for funding to the Treasury

Eligible state, metropolitan city, and county governments may now request their allocation through the Treasury Submission Portal.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH), and John Cornyn (R-TX) sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressing their concerns in regards to the ongoing coronavirus surge in India and asking the administration to take further steps to combat the crisis. The country is currently averaging more than 300,000 new infections every day and its health care system and infrastructure are struggling to keep up with the surge. 

In their letter the senators commended the administration for recent actions to help India address the crisis, including transferring to India lifesaving equipment and raw materials for the production of vaccinesThey also urged the Biden administration to take further steps to help India by continuing its robust contribution to the World Health Organization’s COVAX plan and preparing a detailed strategy on how the U.S. can distribute its surplus of vaccines. Finally, they also warned of disinformation campaigns surrounding the vaccines by countries such as China and Russia and urged the administration to do everything it can to combat these campaigns.

“As you know, India’s healthcare system and infrastructure are struggling to meet the challenges posed by the current and largely unchecked surge, with the country averaging more than 300,000 new infections every day,” said the senators. “We urge you to work with the Department of Defense and other U.S. government agencies, as well as with our international partners and private sector partners to transfer more lifesaving equipment, vaccines and other support to India as quickly as possible. The United States must work with the Indian government on their response, as well as continue to lead the international efforts to stop the spread of variants and to deliver the assistance needed to the Indian people.”

For ways that others can get involved, visit https://www.usaid.gov/.

Text of the letter is below and can be found here.

Dear Secretary Blinken:

We are writing to express our deep concern with the ongoing coronavirus surge and human toll in India and to encourage the Administration to continue to take actions to address the crisis. We commend the recent transfer of lifesaving equipment, including N95 masks and other personal protective equipment, oxygen cylinders, rapid diagnostic tests, and raw materials for the production of vaccines. These deliveries will save lives and demonstrates our commitment to our ally India, the world’s largest democracy. However, we also believe there is more we can do, both to mitigate the tragedy unfolding in India and to ensure that the explosion of cases in India does not undercut global progress to combat this virus. 

As you know, India’s healthcare system and infrastructure are struggling to meet the challenges posed by the current and largely unchecked surge, with the country averaging more than 300,000 new infections every day. We urge you to work with the Department of Defense and other U.S. government agencies, as well as with our international partners and private sector partners to transfer more lifesaving equipment, vaccines and other support to India as quickly as possible. The United States must work with the Indian government on their response, as well as continue to lead the international efforts to stop the spread of variants and to deliver the assistance needed to the Indian people

The United States should also continue its robust contribution to the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX)’s plan for the global acquisition and distribution of vaccines to low and medium-income countries. In addition, in the coming months, the United States will have a surplus of vaccines that can be made available for distribution around the world. A detailed public strategy on how the Department of State plans to distribute these excess vaccines would clarify the ambiguity surrounding future US policy and provide needed certainty to India.

Lastly, we urge the Global Engagement Center to combat the numerous disinformation messages from Russia, China and others regarding the coronavirus pandemic, including the US global health response. Specifically in India, disinformation has undermined the public health response, heightened already-tense religious tensions, and muddied the waters surrounding our support as they face an unprecedented surge in coronavirus infections.  As entities continue to manipulate narratives at the expense of US national security, regional security, and global health security, we urge you to place a greater emphasis on combatting these disinformation and misinformation campaigns integrating that effort into America's global health response to this pandemic.  

We look forward to working with you and the Administration to continue our work to ensure that we stand with our ally and partner, India, as it battles the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Senators and Co-Chairs of the Senate India Caucus Mark Warner (D-VA) and John Cornyn (R-TX) sent a letter to President Biden urging him to ramp up efforts to support hard-hit countries like India by providing them with medical supplies and surplus vaccinations as they manage the recent surge in coronavirus infections 

They wrote, “We write to urge you to accelerate U.S. efforts to support other countries as they work to combat the COVID-19 virus.  As the United States strengthens its capacity to fight this virus, with vastly expanded testing and widespread vaccinations for Americans, we must ramp up our support to countries that are being particularly hard hit, such as India, through the provision of medical supplies and surplus vaccinations. 

“As co-chairs of the Senate India Caucus, we are watching with growing alarm the unprecedented surge of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, which has overwhelmed hospitals and the overall health system in India.”

“This pandemic has devastated populations and nations across the globe, making very clear that the virus knows no borders. In order to control its spread globally, saving lives abroad and here at home, we must do our part to attack the virus where it is most devastating and active.”

The full text of the letter is here and below.

Dear President Biden:

We write to urge you to accelerate U.S. efforts to support other countries as they work to combat the COVID-19 virus.  As the United States strengthens its capacity to fight this virus, with vastly expanded testing and widespread vaccinations for Americans, we must ramp up our support to countries that are being particularly hard hit, such as India, through the provision of medical supplies and surplus vaccinations. U.S. government agencies – both civilian and military – should be mobilized to lead an international response to the pandemic that both protects the American people from the virus and supports other countries’ efforts. 

Numerous countries are facing record-breaking surges and a devastating number of deaths daily.  India is a case in point. As co-chairs of the Senate India Caucus, we are watching with growing alarm the unprecedented surge of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, which has overwhelmed hospitals and the overall health system in India. India is the now the epicenter of this crisis and faces a severe shortage of testing kits, vaccines, oxygen equipment, personal protective equipment, and medical facilities. India is also in great need of treatments and medicines, including oxygen, monoclonal antibodies, Remdesivir, and high quality dexamethasone to combat the virus.  

As is the case in this global crisis, this unmitigated surge in COVID-19 not only threatens India and its people, but it threatens the entire world as variants emerge, and nations continue to struggle to limit the virus’ spread. We urge you to find ways to increase support to the most impacted countries, including India, with surplus vaccines, supplies, and field hospitals, as they battle to reduce the number of deaths and new cases. 

The United States has demonstrated real ingenuity and a capacity to scale up its COVID-19 testing and vaccination regimes during the pandemic. We have conducted more than 300 million tests. Now, as the United States averages 2.82 million vaccine doses per day, new cases and deaths have dropped significantly. Even accounting for current and anticipated need domestically, there is now a surplus supply of testing kits that can have the greatest impact abroad, along with personal protective equipment that so many countries desperately need. In addition, with millions of unused AstraZeneca vaccine doses on hand, the U.S. has the ability to send many abroad without a detrimental impact to our own vaccination efforts at this crucial time. We applaud and encourage your efforts to share AstraZeneca doses with India and other countries in need as they come available.

Finally, we congratulate you for taking specific actions to remove obstacles that would get in the way of sending excess vaccines to India. While India has significant capacity to vaccinate, its per capita vaccination rates are insufficient to cover such a large population. Further, we urge you to remove the export embargo on raw materials to India used in vaccine production, which would allow The Serum Institute of India to ramp up production of vaccines that it already produces domestically. We ask that you also assess similar barriers that prohibit the sharing of excess vaccines with other nations. 

As you design your strategy to provide assistance to India and other nations, we ask that you consider the needs outlined above. This pandemic has devastated populations and nations across the globe, making very clear that the virus knows no borders. In order to control its spread globally, saving lives abroad and here at home, we must do our part to attack the virus where it is most devastating and active. We appreciate your commitment to helping our global partners in our shared efforts to combat this disease, and we thank you for your attention to this important matter. 

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) will receive $6,505,200 in federal funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deliver individuals that have transportation needs to state run Community Vaccination Centers. 

“We’re glad to see these federal dollars go towards helping Virginians who have transportation needs get vaccinated,” said the Senators. “As Virginians 16 and older are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, we remain committed to expanding opportunities so that all eligible students, workers, and residents can get their shots as soon as possible.”  

Sens. Warner and Kaine strongly supported the recent passage of the American Rescue Plan, which included $7.5 billion in funding for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and public health departments to expand vaccine distribution and administration, and several billion dollars in additional funding for local community health centers and medical personnel to assist in administering vaccines.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $19,155,185 in federal funding to provide economic relief to 11 airports across Virginia. The funding, awarded through the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), was authorized by the December 2020 emergency COVID-19 relief bill supported by Sens. Warner and Kaine.

“We are happy to announce that these funds will go towards supporting 11 airports in Virginia,” said the Senators. “While we work to get folks vaccinated and the economy back on track, these dollars will help ensure that our regional airports have what they need to continue combating COVID-19 and serving travelers.” 

The funding will be distributed as follows:

Airport:

Location:

Amount:

Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport 

Albemarle County

$2,928,978

Culpeper Regional Airport

Culpeper County

$23,000

Louisa County/Freeman Field Airport

Louisa County

$13,000

Lynchburg Regional Airport

Campbell County

$1,261,006

Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport

Newport News

$1,951,578

Norfolk International Airport

Norfolk

$5,768,825

Richmond International Airport

Henrico County

$6,143,825

Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport

Augusta County

$ 1,005,973

Stafford Regional Airport 

Stafford County

$13,000

Warrenton-Fauquier Airport

Fauquier County

$23,000

Winchester Regional Airport

Frederick County

$23,000

Specifically, this funding will go towards helping airports cover costs related to operations, personnel, cleaning, sanitization, janitorial services, debt service payments, and efforts to combat the spread of pathogens.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have long fought for increased investments to infrastructure, including for Virginia’s airports. Most recently, they supported the passage and signing of the American Rescue Plan, which provides robust transportation funding for airports and other transit systems throughout Virginia.

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WASHINGTON – Across Virginia, relief funds are headed to schools, localities and bank accounts, as a result of the American Rescue Plan that was signed into law earlier this month.

An overview of resources going to Virginia as a result of the American Rescue Plan can be found here. A list of direct aid amounts for local governments in Virginia are available here.

Here’s what some local leaders around Virginia are saying:

“Since day one, local governments have been on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19. Across the country, municipal employees have been dogged in working to defeat the virus and carry out vital functions despite immense budgetary uncertainty. I am thankful to Senator Warner for making sure Fairfax County has the funding critical to continuing to fight the virus and vaccinate our residents while maintaining essential services and promoting the economic recovery.” – Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay

“Prince William County has weathered immense challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding in this relief bill will help us emerge from this crisis stronger than ever as it will address the needs of all families and address local inequities which have become more visible during this crisis. I am grateful for Senator Warner and his tireless leadership during this current health and economic crisis.”  – Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chair Ann Wheeler

“The Town of Dumfries is extremely grateful to be a direct recipient of funding from the ARP.  We will continue to use the funding to help our community defeat this virus and rebuild our economy.  We appreciate Senator Warner for making sure that localities like the Town of Dumfries and our residents have much-needed resources to weather the season of this pandemic.” – Dumfries Mayor Derrick Wood

“On behalf of all Alexandrians, I want to share my heartfelt gratitude to Senator Warner, Senator Kaine and Representative Beyer for their assistance in achieving this legislation. The assistance from the American Rescue Plan will help our residents and business community in many ways over the coming years and will certainly expedite our recovery after the devastating economic and personal impacts of the last year. We will continue to persevere together, and this aid will help to see us through to the other side of this global pandemic.” – Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson

“Cities like Richmond have been on the front lines of this pandemic for a year now, and we all know that communities of color have disproportionately borne the brunt of the public health threat and economic devastation wrought by COVID-19. As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, the American Rescue Plan will give us the economic shot in the arm we need to continue to fight the battle against COVID and help us recover the right way. I’m grateful to President Biden and leaders like Senator Warner for coming to the rescue of Virginia – and the City of Richmond.” – Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney

“It’s an opening to transform our town. It’s a historic chance to make a lasting difference, to turn a painful time into a promising one.” – Scottsville Vice Mayor Laura Mellusi

“The American Rescue Plan will allow the City to disburse the money more quickly and efficiently than previous funding, which is incredibly important because it includes critical financial support for municipal services as well as direct relief for citizens and businesses. The ARP Act took a holistic and thoughtful approach by recognizing that several funding sources should work together on behalf of businesses. For example, the mechanism by which entities can take advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program can also apply for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) administered by the Small Business Administration. This is a great example of how local governments can help our federal partners get funding directly where it is needed most.” – Virginia Beach Mayor Robert M. “Bobby” Dyer

“Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, the city of Hampton will receive millions in direct fiscal relief to help deal with the effects of COVID-19. Our residents have been hard-hit by the health and economic effects of the virus. This relief funding – along with other aid to this region for schools, transit, and more – will go a long way to helping us respond and set Hampton on a path to a strong recovery from the pandemic.” – Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck

“Chesapeake has been extremely hard-hit by the effects of COVID-19. The direct funding for Chesapeake that the American Rescue Plan provides will help us continue our efforts to defeat the virus and build back our economy. I am thankful to Senator Warner for making sure the Chesapeake and our residents have the tools we need to deal with the effects of the pandemic.” – Chesapeake City Council Member Dr. Ella D. Ward 

“The passage of the American Rescue Plan provides direct aid to localities which have been significantly impacted by COVID-19. These resources will allow Bristol, VA and localities across the nation to continue to provide services to citizens even when localities have seen substantial negative impacts to their revenue. Local government employees have continued to serve their communities during the pandemic with minimal interruptions from COVID-19, and this funding will allow us purchase items to fight the virus in order to keep our schools, children and citizens safe.” – Bristol City Manager Randall Eads

“Local governments have been on the frontline since the beginning of the pandemic providing critical public health and essential services, and ensuring the well-being of our most vulnerable citizens. For more than a year, we have continued this important work despite the immense challenges and fiscal uncertainty we have faced due to COVID-19 and the subsequent economic fallout. This critical funding will help us to continue fighting the virus and expedite the vaccinating of our residents while maintaining the delivery of core services and promoting the economic recovery.” – Pulaski County Administrator Jonathan D. Sweet

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $1,169,961 in federal funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for three organizations across Southwest and Southside Virginia that are supporting individuals suffering from substance use disorder. 

“Over the course of the pandemic, we have seen an increased demand for substance abuse treatment,” said the Senators. “We are glad to announce that this funding will provide increased support to those struggling with addiction in Southwest and Southside Virginia.”

The following organizations will receive funding as listed below: 

  • Piedmont Regional Community Services Board in Martinsville, Virginia will receive a grant of $498,961 to increase the number of recovering individuals in Martinsville and Henry County and expand the program that currently serves Patrick County.
  • LENOWISCO in Duffield, Virginia will receive a grant of $371,000 to develop a substance abuse recovery ecosystem and remove barriers to obtaining employment.
  • Western Virginia Workforce Development Board in Roanoke, Virginia will receive a grant of $300,000 to develop and enhance the recovery ecosystem in Alleghany, Craig, and the City of Covington.

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