The work of the special session is continues. Currently, most bills with differences between the House and Senate versions are in conference, where all differences will hopefully be worked out. The same applies to the revised state budget, where negotiations between the House, Senate, and the Governor's administration are ongoing. In this newsletter, I've provided some key provisions in the version of the budget passed by the House last week. As negotiations continue, some of these provisions could change. I will keep you updated when we have a final version up for a vote.
If you are interested, you can keep up to date with scheduled meetings of the House here. All meetings and floor sessions are available to the public in real time and archived here. The Senate scheduled meetings and archived videos can be found here.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to my office at DelKDelaney@house.virginia.gov. My staff and I are here to help connect you to the appropriate resources or state agency.
Last week, the House passed our budget bill, HB 5005. Coming in to special session, the Commonwealth was faced with a $2.8 billion revenue shortfall. Our aim is to restore as much un-alloted funding as possible, while maintaining Virginia's AAA Bond rating. These changes are short-term and temporary, and we will come back next session to re-examine the budget with updated revenue forecasts and ensure that our state's budget remains balanced.
Here are some key provisions from the House-passed version of the biennium budget:
Restores $95.2 million in K-12 education funding for fiscal year 2021 that was reduced as a result of the adjusted sales tax forecast
Proposes new investment in broadband access programs to help Virginians working at home and students in distance learning
Provides for additional funds to institutions of higher education as they grapple with financial challenges
Allocates funding to state mental health facilities and restores some funding for the Virginia Mental Health program (VMAP) to help with children's mental health
Eliminates the "40 quarter" barrier to eligibility for Medicaid enrollment for legal permanent residents
Directs $56 million in Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) money to personal care attendants in the form of hazard pay
Service providers to Virginians with intellectual and developmental disabilities would immediately receive retainer payments and higher reimbursement rates through a waiver rate refresh starting in January
Our budget provides $150 million in CRF funds for personal protective equipment, $60 million toward child care provider stabilization, and $33.2 million for short-term child care
Once again, we will be back next session with updated forecasts and will continue to work on our state budget and the effects COVID-19 has had on it and the lives of Virginians. These points are just parts of a much larger budget. I will keep you posted in a future newsletter when the House and Senate have come to an agreement on all funding.
Voting in Virginia:
Currently, Virginia is leading the nation in early voter turnout! Let's keep that momentum going.
The deadline to register to vote or update your registration is this Tuesday, October 13. Eligible citizens can learn more about the registration process here.
To check or update your voter registration, or apply for an absentee ballot by mail click here. If you've applied for your ballot or sent it back, and are curious as to where it is in its journey, you can check that here. Please note that in order to be counted, your absentee ballot must be postmarked on or by Election Day, and must be received by noon the Friday after Election Day. Please keep these deadlines in mind as you make your plan to vote.
For more information from the Fairfax County Registrar, click here. For information for Loudoun County residents, click here.
If you believe you may not safely have a witness present while completing the absentee ballot for the November 3, 2020 Election, you are not required to have a witness present. Accordingly, you may disregard the witness signature requirement if you believe you may not safely have a witness present while completing your ballot.
Rent and Mortgage Relief Program Update:
This week, the Governor announced that he was directing a further $12 million in CARES Act funding to the Rent and Mortgage Relief Program for tenants and landlords. The program was created in June with $50 million in CARES Act funding, and this additional funding will go directly to families in need during these trying times.
To learn more about tenant eligibility for the program, click here.
Rebuild VA Grant Reminder:
You may remember that a few months ago, Gov. Northam announced the creation of the Rebuild VA fund, which provides grants of up to $10,000 to small businesses and nonprofits affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, the administration announced that it would be expanding its eligibility criteria for the grants to small supply chain partners of businesses that closed due to COVID-19, as well as businesses that had previously received federal CARES Act funds.
More information on the Rebuild VA program, including required documents and the application can be found here. If you or someone you know has a business affected by COVID-19, I encourage you to look into this opportunity.
Virginia has become the first state in the country to implement a free COVID-19 exposure notification app using the Apple/Google Bluetooth Low Energy framework. The app is called COVIDWISE and was developed in an unprecedented, public-private partnership between the Virginia Department of Health, Google, and Apple. Simply put, COVIDWISE allows you to anonymously notify others if you test positive for COVID-19, and notifies you if you’ve likely been exposed to the virus based on positive reports from other app users.
This effort is an example of Virginia leading the way forward during the most pressing pandemic of our lifetimes, with the goal of reducing the risk for your friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues and helping Virginia stay safe and healthy.
But it only works if we all use it. Here’s how you can help:
Visit the App Store or Google Play Store and download COVIDWISE
Share information about COVIDWISE with your friends, colleagues, and family members
Post & share your support on social media
Mental Health and Domestic Violence Resources:
At this trying time, it is important that we continue to care for our mental health. Here are some resources if you are struggling and need help:
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Fairfax/Falls Church Community Services Board hotline: 703-527-4077
Loudoun County Mental Health Emergency Services...703.777.0320
Loudoun Suicide Prevention...703.777.0176
PRS CrisisLink: 703-527-4077 or text “Connect” to 85511
SAMHSA National Helpline: 800-662-HELP (800-662-4357)
Children's Regional Crisis Response: 844-NCrisis (844-627-4747) in English and Spanish