Covid-19 Economic Recovery

Governor Northam Announces Virginia’s Unemployment Rate Drops for 15 Straight Months, to 4.0 Percent in August

 

Virginia outpaces the nation in economic recovery

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 4.0 percent in August, 3.0 percentage points below the rate from one year ago.

The labor force increased by 5,550 to 4,247,321, as the number of unemployed residents decreased by 7,678 to 168,515. The number of employed residents rose by 13,228 to 4,078,806. In August 2021, Virginia saw over-the-year job gains of 2.2 percent. Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continues to be below the national rate of 5.2 percent.

“Virginia’s economic recovery continues to outpace the nation," said Governor Northam. “Our unemployment rate remains well below the national average and has fallen consistently every month for the past fifteen months. More people are working and businesses are continuing to flock to our Commonwealth—even with the ongoing threat of COVID-19. I'm proud of our roaring economic growth, and I look forward to seeing these trends continue."

“This month’s declining unemployment rate is made possible through the hard work and determination of Virginia’s workers and employers, who are the true champions of economic recovery in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Labor Megan Healy. “While we have more work to do, we can all be proud of how far we've come.”

“The overall trend in the unemployment rate we see is very encouraging, as the number of jobs being added to payrolls across Virginia continues to increase,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “The trends are clear—businesses are hiring and folks are getting back to work.”

In August, private sector employment increased by 1,500 jobs to 3,208,700, and employment in the public sector gained 9,000 jobs to 704,500. Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 10,500 jobs in August. Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, nine of eleven major industry divisions experienced employment gains. The largest over-the-year job gain occurred in leisure and hospitality, up 37,100 jobs or 12 percent. The next largest over-the-year job gain occurred in professional and business services, up 20,600 jobs or 2.7 percent. Trade and transportation experienced the third-largest over-the-year job gain of 16,600 jobs or 2.6 percent.

For a greater statistical breakdown, visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website.

SBA Administrator Guzman Enhances COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program to Aid Small Businesses Facing Challenges from Delta Variant

Increased Loan Cap to $2 Million, Expanded Use of Funds to Pay and Prepay Business Debt, Streamlined Review Processes, and Deferred Payments; First Approval and Disbursement of Loans of $500,000 or Less Also Introduced.

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman announced major enhancements to the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, a federal disaster relief loan designed to better serve and support our small business communities still reeling from the pandemic, especially hard-hit sectors such as restaurants, gyms, and hotels. The SBA is ready to receive new applications immediately from small businesses looking to take advantage of these new policy changes.

“The SBA’s COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan program offers a lifeline to millions of small businesses who are still being impacted by the pandemic,” SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said. “We’ve retooled this critical program – increasing the borrowing limit to $2 million, offering 24 months of deferment, and expanding flexibility to allow borrowers to pay down higher-interest business debt. We have also ramped up our outreach efforts to ensure we’re connecting with our smallest businesses as well as those from low-income communities who may also be eligible for the companion COVID EIDL Targeted Advance and Supplemental Advance grants totaling up to $15,000.  Our mission-driven SBA team has been working around the clock to make the loan review process as user-friendly as possible to ensure every entrepreneur who needs help can get the capital they need to reopen, recover and rebuild.”

Key changes being announced by the SBA include:

  • Increasing the COVID EIDL Cap. The SBA will lift the COVID EIDL cap from $500,000 to $2 million. Loan funds can be used for any normal operating expenses and working capital, including payroll, purchasing equipment, and paying debt.
  • Implementation of a Deferred Payment Period.  The SBA will ensure small business owners will not have to begin COVID EIDL repayment until two years after loan origination so that they can get through the pandemic without having to worry about making ends meet.
  • Establishment of a 30-Day Exclusivity Window. To ensure Main Street businesses have additional time to access these funds, the SBA will implement a 30-day exclusivity window of approving and disbursing funds for loans of $500,000 or less. Approval and disbursement of loans over $500,000 will begin after the 30-day period.
  • Expansion of Eligible Use of Funds. COVID EIDL funds will now be eligible to prepay commercial debt and make payments on federal business debt.
  • Simplification of affiliation requirements. To ease the COVID EIDL application process for small businesses, the SBA has established more simplified affiliation requirements to model those of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

 The enhancements to the COVID EIDL program will allow more businesses greater and more flexible support from the over $150 billion in available COVID EIDL funds. Additionally, these changes will help entrepreneurs access capital at a time when, according to a recent Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses survey, 44 percent of small business owners report having less than three months of cash reserves, and only 31 percent reporting confidence in gaining access to funding.

 How to apply

 Eligible small businesses, nonprofits, and agricultural businesses in all U.S. states and territories can apply. Visit www.sba.gov/eidl to learn more about eligibility and application requirements. The last day that applications may be received is December 31, 2021. All applicants should file their applications as soon as possible.

 For additional information on COVID EIDL and other recovery programs please visit www.sba.gov/relief. Small business owners may call SBA’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 (1-800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard of hearing) or email DisasterCustomerService@sba.gov for additional assistance. The center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST. Multilingual representatives are available. Small business owners may also contact SBA’s Resource Partners by visiting www.sba.gov/local-assistance.

 Application Process and Fraud Control Enhancements

 In addition to the policy enhancements, the SBA has invested in optimized processes and increased capacity to improve the customer service experience for applicants. Directed by Administrator Guzman to swiftly and drastically enhance COVID EIDL, the revamped management team implemented new processes and performance management such as prioritizing personnel for COVID EIDL and increasing the average number of loan application decisions made. The SBA accelerated daily processing of loan increases from close to 2,000 applications to more than 37,000 applications daily. Loan officer productivity also went from 1.86 applications per day to 15 applications per day. As a result of these increased loan review rates, the 600,000+ loan increase backlog has been cleared and new applications can be processed immediately. At the same time, and to ensure taxpayer dollars are used to support businesses that need COVID EIDL funding most, the SBA has increased fraud controls and is working in collaboration with the SBA Inspector General to closely monitor the program.

All business owners that have received previous loans through the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), or Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) can still benefit from COVID EIDL. To learn more about the application process, visit www.sba.gov/eidl.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING OUTLINES UPDATED TENANT PROTECTIONS

~ Herring is outlining current state and federal tenant protections to help Virginians stay in their home as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the Commonwealth ~

RICHMOND(August 19, 2021) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring is outlining the various state and federal tenant protections that are currently in place to help Virginians stay in their homes as the deadly COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the Commonwealth.
 
“The sad reality is that too many Virginians across the Commonwealth continue to find themselves in tough financial situations because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and they may have a hard time making ends meet or paying their rent,” said Attorney General Herring. “I want to help all Virginians and their families stay in their homes during this ongoing global health crisis, which is why it’s so important to make sure that tenants stay up to date on eviction protections, as they have changed over the past year.”
 
Virginia Eviction Protections Effective Through June 30, 2022
  • If someone in a tenant’s household has experienced a financial hardship related to COVID-19, their landlord may not take any action to get possession or evict for nonpayment of rent unless the landlord:
  • Gives tenant a 14-day nonpayment notice informing the tenant about the Rent Relief Program (RRP), and
  • Unless the tenant pays in full, enters into a payment plan, or has already has applied for RRP, the landlord must apply for RRP on the tenant’s behalf within the 14-day period.
  • Landlords must cooperate with RRP applications by providing all information and documents needed.
  • After application for rent relief funds, landlords may not take any action to evict unless:
  • The tenant is not eligible for RRP, or
  • The tenant refuses to cooperate with RRP application, or
  • RRP funds are not approved in writing within 45 days of the first completed application, or
  • For any subsequent application, RRP funds are not approved in writing within 14 days of a complete application, or
  • RRP funds are depleted.
  • If a tenant is complying with a written payment plan, their landlord may not evict for nonpayment of rent.
Virginia Rent Relief Program
  • Tenants may apply for the statewide Rent Relief Program at http://www.dhcd.virginia.gov/rmrp.
  • Chesterfield County tenants should apply for rent relief with Chesterfield Emergency Rent Assistance (CERA) at http://actsrva.org/chesterfield-emergency-rent-and-utility-assistance-cera.
  • Tenants in Fairfax County can apply for rent relief through Coordinated Services Planning at https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/health-humanservices/eviction-prevention
  • Basic eligibility requirements:
  • Household income at or below 80% Area Median Income
  • Rent amount at or below 150% Fair Market Rent
  • Loss of income related directly or indirectly to COVID-19, or increase in expenses related directly or indirectly to COVID-19
  • Required documentation:
  • Rental agreement (valid lease or alternative lease documentation)
  • Tenant/landlord ledger
  • Tenant income documentation
  • Landlord’s Virginia W-9
  • RRP landlord/tenant agreement
  • Rent arrears can be covered back to April 1, 2020, plus current rent and up to 3 months’ future rent for a maximum of 18 months. Payments are made directly to landlords.
  • A landlord that refuses to accept rent relief may be illegally discriminating on the basis of a tenant’s source of funds. You can report suspected housing discrimination to the Virginia Fair Housing Office: https://www.dpor.virginia.gov/FairHousing.

Other State Protections
  • A landlord may not evict a tenant without following court eviction process. That landlord first sends a written notice and next the landlord files an unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit. The landlord must get a court order of possession, followed by a Writ of Eviction.
  • Through September 28, 2021, tenants in eviction lawsuits for non-payment of rent can get a case postponed for 60 days by coming to court with written proof of reduced income due to COVID-19.
  • After an eviction lawsuit for nonpayment of rent, tenants have the right to pay to a zero balance on or before the court date and have the lawsuit dismissed. After that, tenants have the right to pay to a zero balance up to 48 hours before a Sheriff’s eviction and have the eviction cancelled. If the landlord has 5 or more rentals, tenants may use these rights at any time. Otherwise, tenants may use these rights only once in a 12-month period.
Federal CDC Eviction Protections Effective Through October 3, 2021
  • On August 3, 2021, the CDC issued a new temporary halt in residential evictions in communities with substantial or high levels of transmission of COVID-19.
  • To qualify for the CDC eviction protections, a tenant must prove:
  • They have used their best efforts to obtain all available government rent assistance.
  • They are below income requirements:
  • Earned no more than $99,000 ($198,000 if joint return) in 2020, or
  • Expects to earn no more than $99,000 ($198,000 if joint return) in 2021, or
  • Not required to report any income to the IRS in 2020, or
  • Received stimulus check.
  • They are unable to pay rent due to income loss or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses.
  • They will use best efforts to make timely partial rent payments considering other expenses to be paid.
  • They would become homeless or need to move into close quarters (double up) if evicted.
  • Must provide CDC Declaration to landlord. Note that a previously given CDC Declaration remains in effect as long as information remains truthful and the tenant lives in locality where COVID-19 transmission rate is high or substantial.
  • Current CDC eviction protections only apply to:
  • Counties and Independent Cities where COVID-19 transmission rate is high or substantial.
  • These CDC protections do not apply where COVID-19 transmission rate is moderate or low.
  • A locality which moves into a transmission rate of high or substantial, from a rate of moderate or low, it will immediately trigger CDC eviction protections.
  • A locality which moves into a transmission rate of moderate or low for 14 consecutive days, from a rate of high or substantial, will lose CDC eviction protections after the 14 days.
  • Transmission rates by locality: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view.

 Additional Resources

 

 

SBA Announces Plan to Open Supplemental Grants for Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Applicants Encourages all potential SVOG applicants to apply

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Small Business Administration is announcing a call to all eligible Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) applicants seeking economic aid for live entertainment small businesses, nonprofits, and venues. New applications will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. PT on Friday, August 20, 2021. The SVOG program has so far awarded $8.4 billion in grants to more than 10,800 businesses to assist in getting the nation’s cultural institutions, which are critical to the economy and were among the first to shutter, back on track.

While the application portal will close to new applicants, the SBA will continue delivering economic aid to help venues recover by providing critical relief through the supplemental awards program. Later this month the SBA will open the program for supplemental SVOGs for 50% of the original award amount, capped at a total of $10 million (initial and supplemental combined). Details will be announced at a later date. Additionally, to ensure no eligible venue is left behind, the SBA is currently accepting, by invitation, applications for reconsideration of award amounts and appeals. This rare opportunity gives applicants a chance to prove their eligibility and reverse a prior decision. SBA is committed to delivering relief to entertainment venues through these various options. Should the need arise, the SBA may reopen the portal or make other adjustments to its plan to best meet the needs of small businesses.

“After making much-needed improvements to this vital program, we’ve made swift progress getting more than $8 billion in funds into the hands of more than 10,800 performing arts venues and other related businesses – two-thirds of which employ less than 10 employees. These small businesses suffered disproportionate impacts from the pandemic and were often left out of early rounds of relief,” SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said. “However, we also know so many small businesses continue to struggle. That’s why, as this program nears the finish line, we’re providing additional funding options for our hardest-hit venues through our supplemental awards program, which will provide another critical lifeline to ensure businesses can reopen and stay open.”

“Simply stated, the Shuttered Venues Operator Grant was our lifeline. The grant has allowed us to return to full operation, including staffing and programming,” stated President and CEO of The Palace, a theater in Stamford, CT, Michael Moran.  “In early 2020, we planned for closing just three or four weeks. As the pandemic continued to worsen, so did our fears of never reopening. The Palace closed for 15 months, with expenses continuing to accumulate against bleak revenue prospects.  The SVOG grant through the SBA saved us and can be credited with not only our recovery but that of Stamford’s entire theater district.”

Moran continued, “Our theatrical community is so appreciative of the exceptional support of the SBA. The program and funds ensure the preservation of our community, allowing artists and audiences the unique experience of joy and enrichment through the arts.”

Since receiving the SVOG, The Palace and other venues have raised their curtains and welcomed back artists and audiences. SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET to provide technical assistance with the SVOG application portal and can be reached at 1-800-659-2955 or, for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, at 1-800-877-8339. For additional information on SBA’s Economic Relief programs, visit COVID-19 relief options (sba.gov).

Further, SBA’s resource partners, including SCORE Mentors, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, and Veterans Business Outreach Centers, are available to provide entities with individual guidance on their applications. Applicants can find a local resource partner via a zip code search at  http://www.sba.gov/local-assistance. For weekly SVOG funding data reports, visit www.sba.gov/svog.  

Shuttered Venue Operators Grant background

The SVOG program was appropriated more than $16.2 billion for grants via the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act, and the American Rescue Plan Act. Of these funds, at least $2 billion is reserved for eligible SVOG applications with up to 50 full-time employees. Eligible applicants may qualify for grants equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue up to a maximum amount of $10 million for a single grant. 

$7.5B Awarded in Shuttered Venue Operators Grants

Unique program distributes +10K grants to venues impacted by COVID-19

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Small Business Administration reached a new milestone of successfully awarding over $7.5 billion in Shuttered Venue Operators Grants (SVOG) to more than 10,000 hard-hit live entertainment small businesses, nonprofits, and venues. The SVOG program is designed to assist in getting the nation’s cultural institutions, which are critical to the economy and were among the first to shutter, back on track.  

The SBA worked closely with the White House and other federal partners to process SVOG applications faster after the first two weeks of awards did not set the pace needed for this emergency funding. While more work is still needed to help businesses recover from the pandemic, the SBA took swift action to expeditiously process loans for SVOG and get funding into the hands of hard-hit operators.

“After making improvements to the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, the SBA is now delivering money quickly, efficiently and fairly to highly-impacted small businesses and venue operators that are critical to America’s cultural fabric and local economies,” SBA Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman said. “When I began my tenure at the SBA, this first-of-its-kind SVOG program was not where I wanted it to be. I’m proud that, thanks to the hard work and dedication of our talented team, we have turned the ship around. America’s small businesses can rest assured that the SBA will continue to work around the clock to provide the relief that is needed to revitalize local economies and build back better from the pandemic and economic crisis.”

“I am proud to have joined Senators Cardin, Klobuchar, and others to pass the Shuttered Venue Operator Grants into law in December and add even further funding for the program in the American Rescue Plan and am so happy that the live entertainment and other cultural arts venues in New York and across the country are receiving this desperately needed financial aid,” said Majority Leader Schumer. “Over the last year, I have visited music halls, theaters and other cultural institutions throughout New York that had been forced to shutter their doors because of the COVID-19 pandemic. From comedy clubs to concert halls, these cultural institutions are the true heart and soul of New York, and I cannot wait to watch, listen and laugh as they bounce back bigger and better than ever, and I’ll keep working with the SBA to get all of the program’s assistance out the door as soon as possible to help all eligible venues recover.”

“I am grateful that live venues and cultural institutions in Maryland and nationwide are beginning to receive the aid they need to survive the COVID-19 pandemic and recover from the worst economic crisis in nearly 100 years,” Senator Ben Cardin, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship said. “I have already heard from many venue operators in Maryland who intend to use their SVOG funds to catch up on bills, quickly rehire staff, and prepare for reopening. Last year life changed for all of us, practically overnight, so I am looking forward to the return of winding box office lines and lit-up marquees in the months ahead as our communities continue to recover from COVID-19.”  

Under Administrator Guzman's direction to make changes based on the successes of the Paycheck Protection Program and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, in approximately seven weeks, the SBA has gone from awarding just over 100 SVOGs on June 10, to more than 10,000 to date, awarding over $7.5 billion in grants, helping venues reopen and stay open. More than two thirds of the awards have gone to venues with fewer than 10 employees, helping the smallest of small businesses – a priority of Administrator Guzman.  

“Thanks to the dedicated and continuing work by the SBA’s SVOG team, and especially, the relentless efforts of our own Senator Chuck Schumer, Broadway’s plans to reopen are steadily moving forward.  The SVOG grants are imperative to Broadway’s recovery.  We credit, with gratitude, the grants that have been received by shows and also those that are forthcoming and in process.  Broadway stages remain dark, however, our amazing artists, talented workers, and excited audiences are preparing to come back in just a few short weeks, and we so look forward to the full return of Broadway.  The SBA’s Shuttered Venue Operator Grant funding is crucial to our return, and we applaud the efforts by the SBA to focus on delivering crucial funding to businesses most in need, “ said Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League.

“The shuttered venue grants were meant for places like the Smith Center that employ local musicians and entertain local people,” said  Myron Martin, president and CEO for the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas, Nevada. “The SBA is helping us to get back to where we want to be. We’re thankful for that.” 

Another SVOG recipient, Katherine Fritchie, owner of Garland Theater, in Spokane, Washington, shared that after she received the award she was able to successfully balance her budget. “It brings us back to where we were,” Fritchie said. “We’ve paid our debt off, and we get a cushion for our payroll.” Tyrus Joseforsky, owner of indie concert and festival promoter Flight Levelz Entertainment in Hobart, Indiana, added. “I plan to use these funds to invest in future shows and jumpstart my business, which in turn will put artists back on tour, bring revenue back to indoor and outdoor venues, put set-up and break-down crews back to work, bring customers back to the restaurants, retailers and food trucks surrounding venues…the list goes on and on. It’s a good thing for everyone.”    

With the grant funds, venues like the Downtown Cabaret Theatre Company of Bridgeport, in Fairfield County, Connecticut, are returning to operation.  “The sheer weight and excitement by the staff and friends when we got that notice of award was great cause for celebration,” Hugh Hallinan, executive producer of the Downtown Cabaret Theatre said. “The grant will enable us to have a more organized and human approach to open up and we can do it at an accelerated rate.” 

The SVOG portal remains open and funding is still available for all eligible applicants. SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET to provide technical assistance with the SVOG application portal and can be reached at 1-800-659-2955 or, for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, 1-800-877-8339.

Further, SBA’s resource partners, including SCORE Mentors, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and Veterans Business Outreach Centers, are available to provide entities with individual guidance on their applications. Applicants can find a local resource partner via a zip code search at  http://www.sba.gov/local-assistance. For weekly SVOG funding data reports, visit www.sba.gov/svog.  

Shuttered Venue Operators Grant background

The SVOG program has appropriated more than $16.2 billion for grants via the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act and the American Rescue Plan Act. Of these funds, at least $2 billion is reserved for eligible SVOG applications with up to 50 full-time employees. Eligible applicants may qualify for grants equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue up to a maximum amount of $10 million for a single grant.   

On July 22, the SBA publicly shared information via the SVOG Frequently Asked Questions about the opportunity for SVOG awardees who received less than they anticipated to request an award amount reconsideration and how those with declined applications can appeal the decision. The notifications for the appeal and award amount reconsideration opportunities are expected to begin August 2 and August 4 respectively and will remain open for two weeks. Following then and per funds remaining available, on August 23, the SBA will open the program for supplemental SVOGs for 50% of the original award amount for grantees and cap at a total SVOG award (initial and supplemental) of $10 million.

Governor Northam Announces $111 Million Investment to Make College More Affordable for Virginians

New funding commitment supplements $833 million going directly to Virginia higher education institutions through American Rescue Plan

BLACKSBURG—Governor Ralph Northam today visited Virginia Tech where he announced that Virginia plans to use $111 million in American Rescue Plan funding to increase access to financial aid for low- and moderate-income undergraduate students. The proposal designates $100 million for public higher education institutions through the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia, and $11 million for private institutions eligible for the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant program.

“The economic uncertainty of this pandemic has led many to question whether a college degree was still an affordable reality,” said Governor Northam. “Our Administration has worked hard to make higher education accessible to every Virginian, and this targeted investment is a significant stride towards that goal. Increasing access to financial aid will help create more equitable pathways to opportunity and put a world-class education within reach of even more students.”

“In order for Virginia to be the best-educated state in the nation, we must continue to invest in financial aid and improve access to affordable higher education,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “It is critical that we dedicate federal relief funds to build on our past investments in financial assistance and bolster our education and talent pipelines.”

This proposed investment supplements more than $833 million that will be made available to Virginia colleges and universities through the American Rescue Plan Act’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III. These funds will be received directly by institutions of higher education and must be used for financial assistance for students as well as for qualifying institutional purposes.

“Virginia’s colleges and universities rank amongst the top in the nation, and we must do everything in our power to ensure that all Virginians have equitable access to these institutions, regardless of wealth or income-level,” said Senator Mamie Locke, Chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee. “I am proud of the work that we have done in recent years to address the affordability of higher education. The dedication of these federal funds continues those efforts and is particularly impactful during these challenging times for students.”

The Governor’s proposal also commits $10 million to enhance the Online Virginia Network, which facilitates online coursework and degrees from George Mason University, Old Dominion University, James Madison University, and community colleges.

“Over the last year, we saw students delay or pause their pursuit of higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Delegate Betsy Carr, Chair of the House Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee. “This funding signals our dedication to ensuring that students in need of financial aid are able to access it, especially as we confront the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Today, we are following through on our commitment to Virginia’s students and investing not simply in financial aid but in the Commonwealth’s future,” said Delegate Chris Hurst, member of the House Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee. “This funding will open the doors for higher education to low- and middle-income Virginians across the Commonwealth.”

“Higher education faced numerous challenges over the past 16 months and it was an especially difficult time for our students,” said Timothy Sands, President of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. “For many who were already facing financial strain, the impact of COVID-19 threatened to push their higher education dream out of reach. We are grateful to the Governor and General Assembly for these additional funds to support financial aid at this critical time, and for their continued investment in the future of our students and the Commonwealth.”

In May, Governor Northam and General Assembly leaders released a joint statement outlining shared priorities for allocating the $4.3 billion in federal funds available to the Commonwealth from the American Rescue Plan. Throughout this week and in advance of the August 2nd special session, Governor and legislative leaders are highlighting proposals for allocating these funds and have announced $250 million for school modernization and air quality improvements in school buildings, $411.5 million to reduce water pollution and increase access to clean water, $935.6 million to replenish the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and accelerate critical upgrades to the Virginia Employment Commission, and $485 million to strengthen Virginia’s behavioral health system.

New App Helps Virginians Apply for COVID Rental Assistance

Tenants and landlords in Central, Southside and Western Tidewater Virginia who need help applying for the Virginia Rent Relief Program now have a toll-free number to call to receive that help: (866) 995-5595.

Virginia Legal Aid Society operates the toll-free line. VLAS, like other legal aid societies in the state, has hired people dedicated to guiding applicants through the process. The workers are similar to state navigators who help people enroll in insurance through the Affordable Care Act. When fully staffed, VLAS will have seven people, including two who speak Spanish, to help people apply to the Virginia Rent Relief Program (RRP).

The toll-free assistance arrives as a July 31 expiration date approaches on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium on evictions of tenants for falling behind on rent payments. The moratorium was intended to protect the public’s health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Virginia RRP is designed to support housing stability during the coronavirus pandemic. The RRP provides financial assistance for rent payments for eligible households, including rent payments past due since April 1, 2020, and future rent of up to three months. Tenants and landlords can apply directly.

Anyone interested can see if they are eligible and receive useful help at our online interactive guided app bit.ly/VaRentReliefor by calling our Rent Relief number, 866-995-5595.

VLAS’s website offers a COVID Resource Guide at vlas.org/covid19/. VLAS also provides legal information to the public onhousing, access to health care, income and public benefits, family issues, special education, consumer lending, and other issues at vlas.org, and advice, representation, and referrals at no cost to low-income families and individuals with these problems by calling 866-LEGL-AID (866- 534-5243).

Governor Northam Announces $304.5 Million in Federal American Rescue Plan Act Funding Distributed to Virginia’s Towns

Payments follow funds received from U.S. Treasury for counties and cities

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that the Commonwealth has distributed approximately $304.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to 190 towns. These payments represent the first half of funding provided by the U.S. Treasury for Non-Entitlement Units of local government, with the same amount to be provided in June 2022. These funds are in addition to $2.3 billion available to Virginia’s 133 counties and cities directly from the federal government, as well as $4.3 billion that Governor Northam and the General Assembly will allocate during a special session beginning August 2. 

“Our Administration is committed to ensuring that communities of all sizes get the assistance they need to recover from the impacts of the pandemic—that’s why we expedited the distribution of funding for Virginia’s towns,” said Governor Northam. “These federal dollars represent an unprecedented opportunity to meet local response needs while also making transformative investments to support broad-based, equitable growth in every corner of the Commonwealth. We encourage collaboration across localities to maximize these funds for the benefit of all Virginians.” 

The Secretary of Finance issued a memorandum to local officials of Non-Entitlement Units of government on June 9, 2021 with guidance on distributing the first round of CSLFRF allocations.

“ARPA funding will provide significant assistance to state and local governments in a wide range of areas,” said Secretary of Finance Joe Flores. “We have worked diligently to ensure that all localities receive the funds designated for them, and we are excited to see the positive outcomes that will result for communities across Virginia.” 

The ARPA established the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (CSLFRF) to assist states and eligible units of local and tribal government with COVID-19 recovery and infrastructure improvements. Within the categories of eligible uses, recipients have broad flexibility to decide how best to use this funding to meet local needs. Eligible uses of CSLFRF funds include: 

  • Supporting public health expenditures, including COVID-19 mitigation efforts, medical expenses, behavioral health care, and certain public health and safety staff;
  • Addressing economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, including to workers, households, small businesses, impacted industries, and the public sector;
  • Replacing lost public sector revenue, providing government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue experienced due to the pandemic;
  • Providing premium pay for essential workers, offering additional support to those who have and will bear the greatest health risks because of their service in critical infrastructure sectors; and 
  • Investing in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, making necessary investments to improve access to clean drinking water, support vital wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, and expand access to broadband internet.

Virginia restaurants face new challenges at brink of full reopening

By Christina Amano Dolan, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia restaurants will soon be able to host more patrons, but establishments may not be able to accommodate more guests due to a shortage in workers. 

Restaurants and drinking establishments will be able to seat up to 100 patrons indoors and a maximum of 250 guests outdoors starting May 15, Gov. Ralph Northam recently announced.

Eric Terry, president of the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association, estimated around 100 Richmond restaurants closed last year, but said there have been minimal closures this year. Many restaurants are likely nearing 80% of their pre-pandemic revenue levels, according to Terry. 

While full recovery for the industry is underway, Terry said the biggest revenue factor for restaurants is a restricted labor force. 

“I was on the phone yesterday with two restaurant operators who said they are having to close two days a week because they can’t get enough staff,” Terry said. 

The new limit will double the number of indoor guests allowed as of April 1. Restaurants may return to selling alcohol past midnight and dining room closures between midnight and 5 a.m. will no longer be required. 

Northam announced last week that all restrictions will be lifted on June 15 if the number of new COVID-19 cases remains low and COVID-19 vaccinations rise. On Monday, the state reported the lowest number of COVID-19 cases in a year. 

“I’m optimistic that we will be able to take more steps in June,” Northam recently said.

However, if seating capacity is extended fully in June, restaurants with limited staff will not be able to accommodate that many people, Terry said. 

“Unless we can get more folks to come back to work, it’s going to be tough,” Terry said. “The extended unemployment, child care issues and other things have made it very difficult to get people back into the industry.” 

Michael Nelson, manager of The Sidewalk Cafe in Richmond, said restaurants around the city struggled to find enough workers after losing valuable staff. Bartenders, cooks and others moved away from the industry and changed professions when the pandemic hit, Nelson said.

The Virginia accommodation and food services industry lost almost 60,000 workers from March 2020 to March 2021, according to the latest data from the Virginia Employment Commission (a 17% job loss). The figures are seasonally adjusted, meaning they account for seasonal fluctuations in the labor market.

Northam’s executive orders closed indoor dining areas in 2020 from late March to at least early June, though Richmond and Northern Virginia waited an additional two weeks before moving into phase two. Many restaurants voluntarily closed for extended periods. 

“Even when the governor says you’re able to have full capacity, I can see a lot of restaurants not going back to that because they just don’t have the staff,” Nelson said. 

Jeremy Barber, owner of three Alexandria-based restaurants, said that while staffing challenges are temporary, restaurants may hesitate to fully open indoor seating.

“I think that people are still going to be more comfortable dining outside,” Barber said. “Even people that I've talked to that are vaccinated and have eaten in restaurants still say they have an eerie feeling when they are dining indoors.”

Barber believes it will take time for the restaurant industry to fully recover. 

“Restaurateurs as well as guests need to work together to adapt to the new dining out,” Barber said. “It’ll be a true sign at the end of the summer to see how things are really progressing.”

More than 35% of Virginians are fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Over 47% the state’s population has received at least one dose. 

More than 6.8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the state, according to VDH.

“I hope that we’re on the brink of getting over this thing,” Barber said. “But I think as a business owner, it’s our responsibility to plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University's Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.

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