July 2021

Moses Clements Virginia Tech Scholarship Dinner

Hurry! Send in your check and reservation to  P.O. Box 741, Emporia, Virginia, 23847 on or before July 22nd.

The Greensville/Southampton Hokie Club and Alumni will be having its annual scholarship dinner on Sunday, August 1st at Golden Leaf Commons in Emporia.  The Scholarship Program is named for beloved local Hokie, Moses Clements, in memory for his dedicated work for years with the local Virginia Tech scholarship program.

Over the last 25+ years, the Emporia Chapter has provided over $50,000 in scholarships to local students starting their college experience at Virginia Tech.

This year, 5 local students each will get a $500 scholarship.  The students are Makayla Bryant, Alexis Clapp, Madison Coker, Hunter Rountree and Josh Williams.  Our chapter is so proud to present these scholarships on August 1st to these outstanding students.

Our guest speaker for the evening Virginia Tech is Virginia Tech announcer, Mike Burnop.  He will give an update on the much anticipated 7 game home football season to be held in Blacksburg in front of 66,000 crazy fans who cannot wait to get HOME.  Mike is a Hall of Fame tight end at Virginia Tech.  His insight coming directly from practices at Virginia Tech is highly anticipated.

The agenda for the evening will start with a Happy Hour at 5:00 PM, Steak Dinner at 6:00 PM followed by our scholarship presentations from Katie Richardson, scholarship chairman. During the Happy Hour, there will be a raffle along with a silent auction.  The auction will include 4 Virginia Tech – Notre Dame tickets and a parking pass.  The evening will conclude with an inside look at the 2021 Virginia Tech football program with Mike Burnop. 

Golden Leaf Commons is located at 1300 Greensville County Circle, Highway 301 North, Emporia, Virginia 23947.

The cost of the dinner is $30 per person.

To make a reservation for dinner, please contact Matthew Lynch at mjl21522@vt.eduand send in your check and reservation to  P.O. Box 741, Emporia, Virginia, 23847 on or before July 22nd.

Governor Northam Releases Statement on Approval of American Rescue Plan Funding

$4.3 billion to go towards universal broadband, small businesses, public education

RICHMOND—Governor Northam today released the following statement on the passage of HB 7001, which distributes $4.3 billion in federal assistance from the American Rescue Plan.
 

I join Virginians in thanking the General Assembly for their hard work over many difficult months.

Together, we are using the American Rescue Plan to invest boldly and build Virginia back better. Starting this week:

  • Businesses across the Commonwealth will be protected from tax hikes to replenish the unemployment fund—so they can invest in their workforce instead.
  • Law enforcement officers and first responders will get a well-deserved raise, and violence prevention programs have the support they need to keep communities safe.
  • More Virginians will have access to the high-quality behavioral health care they need, including strong community-based services.
  • A college degree will be possible for thousands of Virginia students who would have been otherwise unable to afford it.
  • Children in public schools will breathe cleaner air this fall—keeping them safer as they return to in-person learning.
  • All families, schools, and businesses across our Commonwealth will have access to broadband by 2024—beating our goal of universal coverage by 4 years.

This generational opportunity is a result of strong leadership.

Leaders in the General Assembly have worked hand-in-hand with my team to build our roaring economy—and it’s paying off. Our unemployment rate remains below our neighbors and is significantly lower than the national average, we have avoided devastating cuts to state government and critical services, and our Commonwealth has an historic $2.6 billion surplus.

While other states are closing budget gaps, we are investing in Virginians. We have consistently put resources into helping families, businesses, and communities recover from this pandemic and prepare for the future.

Let’s keep building upon this progress.

 

HB 7001 allocates approximately $3.5 billion of the $4.3 billion in funding provided by the American Rescue Plan. The remaining $761 million remains available for programming in light of the evolving pandemic, and will be considered by the General Assembly when they convene next January.

President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 into law in March. It is a $1.9 trillion economic recovery plan that includes $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments. All Republican members of Congress voted against the law, including those representing Virginia.

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August 2021 Update from Congressman McEachin

Thanks to vaccines in arms, July was a great month as we began to meet in-person for events and reconnect with our community. Now, these vaccines are more crucial than ever as the dangerous, more transmissible Delta variant sweeps throughout the country. Please, if you have not already, consider getting vaccinated for you, your family, and your community. Be the solution to saving lives.

Last month, I hosted a Child Tax Credit Roundtable with my colleague and friend, Congressman Bobby Scott, to share information about President Biden’s enhanced Child Tax Credit. You can watch our roundtable discussion here.

I was pleased to help pass this important provision in the American Rescue Plan. These funds will help put money back in the pockets of hardworking parents to help pay for childcare or put gas in the car, so they can go to work and help fuel our economy while building better lives for their families.

These credits will have drastic effects in Virginia’s Fourth as well. More than 147,000 children in our district will gain from the expanded and improved Child Tax Credit.

If you have any further questions or are looking for some particular information about the childcare tax credit, the IRS has a dedicated webpage: https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/advance-child-tax-credit-payments-in-2021.

They also have this portal to see if you are signed up to receive the advance payments: https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/child-tax-credit-update-portal

I also hosted a renaming and dedication service last month at the Hopewell Post Office on Poythress Street in honor of the late Reverend Curtis West Harris. I was joined by local elected officials, community leaders, and family members of Rev. Harris.

From leading the Virginia Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to serving as a top lieutenant of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Harris was a tireless champion in the fight for equal rights. He never forgot his home in Hopewell and served as a local elected leader, Hopewell’s first Black mayor, and as a pastor of Union Baptist Church for nearly fifty years. I was proud to introduce legislation to honor his life and legacy and hope residents of Hopewell are reminded of his contributions whenever they visit the post office.

To wrap up July, I joined a community town hall hosted by Virginia Interfaith Power and Light (VAIPL) to discuss President Biden’s Build Back Better priorities, the Justice 40 Initiative, my environmental justice efforts in Congress, and job creation.

The Justice40 Initiative aims to improve productive collaboration between federal agencies and state and local communities while advancing President Biden’s promise to deliver at least 40 percent of the overall benefits from federal investment in climate and clean energy to disadvantaged communities.

As we continue our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must advance innovative policy solutions that promote economic growth, create new jobs, and address the climate crisis. I enjoyed joining Virginia Interfaith Power and Light to discuss President Biden’s priorities and our shared values for the future.

Lastly, my office has been hosting Mobile McEachin’s throughout the summer so constituents can have direct and immediate access to address any issues they may be having with a federal agency.

One of the major issues reported to our office is difficulty with renewing/ obtaining passports. With vaccine uptake curbing COVID-19 transmission rates, many Americans are choosing to travel both domestically and internationally. Unfortunately, this has caused a serious backlog for obtaining and/or renewing passports.

I want to encourage you, if you are considering travelling for the winter holidays, which may seem far away, please put in your passport request as soon as possible.If you have put in a renewal and your passport has not arrived and you are within 14 days of your departure date, please feel free to contact my office for assistance. In addition, if you have applied for a passport or a renewal and you have waited significantly longer, please feel free to contact us. We are also happy to help with any issues with obtaining visas needed to visit certainly countries under certain conditions.

 

 

 

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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.

Earl Wayne Gillam

January 22, 1952-July 27, 2021

Visitation Services

Saturday, July 31, 5:00-8:00 pm

Owen Funeral Home
303 S. Halifax Rd
Jarratt, Virginia

 

Sunday, August 1, 2:00 pm

Owen Funeral Home
303 S. Halifax Rd
Jarratt, Virginia

 

Earl Wayne Gillam, 69, of Jarratt, Virginia left for his eternal home on Tuesday, July 27, 2021. A loving son, husband, father, and grandfather, he leaves his family behind to cherish his memory and continue his legacy of love. Preceded in death by his father, James Lewis Gillam, mother, Mabel Lewis Gillam, and brother David Gillam, Wayne is survived by his devoted wife of 44 years Connie Winfield Gillam, daughter Carol Gillam Glanville (Peter), son Steven Wayne Gillam (Lisa) and two grandchildren, Nikolas and Addison Gillam. Wayne also leaves behind three sisters, Dianne Gillam, Judy Matthews, and Martha Gillam and one brother, Curtis Gillam. Wayne dedicated his life to serving others and taking care of his family and friends.

Visitation will be held 5-8 p.m. Saturday, July 31 at Owen Funeral Home, 303 S. Halifax Rd., Jarratt, where the funeral service will be held 2:00 p.m. Sunday, August 1. Interment will follow at High Hills Memorial Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations in honor of Mr. Gillam can be made to Bon Secours Richmond Health Care Foundation, 5008 Monument Ave., 2nd Floor, Richmond, VA 23230. Mr. Gillam’s family would like to thank the Jarratt Volunteer Fire Department, Stony Creek Rescue Squad, and the staff of Southside Regional Medical Center, St. Mary’s Hospital and the Evelyn D. Reinhart Guest House for their care and support during this difficult time.

Anthony Ryan Caruso

June 21, 1990-July 27, 2021

Anthony Ryan Caruso, 31, of Emporia, passed away unexpectedly Tuesday, July 27, 2021. He is survived by his mother, Alina Bogdan; father, Anthony A. Caruso; sister, Cynthia D. C. Bogdan (Brian Mallory); nephews; Antonio Bogdan and Jayden Mallory; maternal grandmother, Karen Lehman (Lothar) and aunt, Kathleen Lawson and a number of cousins.

A memorial service will be scheduled by the family at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made by contacting the family or the funeral home to assist with final expenses.

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).

Benchmark Bankshares, Inc. Reports Increased Earnings for Three and Six Months Ended June 30, 2021

KENBRIDGE, VA – Benchmark Bankshares, Inc. (BMBN), the Kenbridge-based hold­ing company for Benchmark Community Bank, announced unaudited results for the three- and six-month periods ending June 30, 2021.  Net income for the second quarter amounted to $2,721,294, a 7.40% increase from the $2,533,893 posted for the second quarter of 2020, while earnings per share increased from $0.57 to $0.60 for the quarter.  Net income for the first six months of the year amounted to $5,496,417, up 18.33% from the $4,644,879 earned last year, while earnings per share increased from $1.03 to $1.21 for the period.

Notable Items:

  • Net interest income increased by 6.49%, from $14.9 million to $15.8 million, when comparing the first six months of 2021 to the same period last year.  
  • The bank participated in the Paycheck Protection Program ("PPP") in both 2020 and 2021.  As of December 31, 2020, the Bank held 710 loans, totaling $24.6 million in PPP loans.  The bank participated in the second round of the SBA Paycheck Protection Program, which ended on May 30, 2021, generating 649 loans for a total of $28.0 million.  These loans generated deferred revenue of $2.1 million, which will be recognized over the life of the individual loans.  Year-to-date, the bank has recognized $935 thousand in fee income related to PPP lending.  As of June 30, 2021, PPP loan balances, including remaining loans from 2020, totaled $25.9 million, with $1.6 million in deferred revenue remaining to be recognized.
  • Noninterest income increased from $3.7 million to $4.2 million as the bank’s mortgage demand remained very strong.
  • Non-accrual loans have declined from $651,750 to $507,798 over the past year, while foreclosed properties have decreased from $1,446,050 to $232,760.
  • T total of $149,302 was provisioned to the loan loss reserve during the first six months of 2021, compared to a provision of $471,596 during the same period last year. The allowance for loan losses as a percentage of net loans was 0.88% on June 30, 2021 compared to 0.90% last June.
  • Interest expense on borrowings, used to support the company’s stock repurchase program, amounted to $99,287 year-to-date. Interest expense of $147,247 was recognized last year during the same period.
  • The bank’s overnight cash position was $200.5 million as of June 30, 2021, up from $71.6 million one year ago.
  • A total of 23,990 common shares have been repurchased year-to-date at an average price of $18.36 per share.  A total of 58,774 shares were repurchased at an average price of $16.72 during the first six months of 2020. Total shares outstanding as of June 30, 2021 were 4,523,638.

As of June 30, 2021, total assets were $978.4 million, an increase of $187.0 million, or 23.6%, over the June 30, 2020 balance of $791.4 million. Over the past twelve months total loans held for investment have increased by $26.7 million, or 4.3%, while total deposits have increased by $179.9 million, or 25.5%. Shareholders’ equity, net of unrealized gains on investment securities, was $78.9 million on June 30, 2021, an increase of $8.7 million, or 12.5%, over the June 30, 2020 balance of $70.2 million. All capital ratios exceeded regulatory guidelines for a well-capitalized financial institution under the Basel III regulatory requirements as of June 30, 2021.

Key Financial Ratios:

  • Return on average equity (ROAE) increased from 13.19% to 13.92% and Return on average assets (ROAA) decreased from 1.27% to 1.17% year to date.
  • Yield on loans decreased from 5.42% to 5.25%, while the bank’s cost of funds decreased from 0.54% to 0.29%.
  • Net interest margin has declined from 4.40% to 3.58% due primarily to the bank’s large, low-yielding cash position.
  • Current book value of the company is $17.77 per share compared to $16.01 one year ago.  The closing market price at quarter-end was $20.25 per share, or 113.9% of book value.

The common stock of Benchmark Bankshares, Inc. trades on the OTC Pink marketplace under the symbol BMBN. Any stockbroker can assist with purchases of the company's stock, as well as with sales of holdings.

Benchmark Community Bank, founded in 1971, is head­quartered in Kenbridge, VA. It is the company's sole subsidiary which oper­ates seventeen banking offices through­out central Southside Vir­ginia and northern North Carolina. Additional information is available at the company’s website, www.BCBonline.com.

Governor Northam Awards Funding to 15 Projects Addressing Food Insecurity in Underserved Communities

Grants will support initiatives aimed at expanding food retailers, increasing access to fresh produce

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that 15 projects across the Commonwealth will receive a total of over $620,000 in the inaugural round of Virginia Food Access Investment Fund (VFAIF) grants. The Governor made the announcement at an event with Richmond Food Justice Alliance, which will receive funding to support a new mobile food market with Shalom Farms.

First launched in 2020, the VFAIF provides grants between $5,000 and $50,000 to support business development, construction, rehabilitation, equipment upgrades, or expansion of grocery stores, small food retailers, or innovative food retail projects that increase food access in underserved communities. VFAIF follows the Equitable Food-Oriented Development model of using food and agriculture to create economic opportunities and healthy neighborhoods in historically marginalized communities.

“Hunger and food insecurity are a reality for too many Virginia families, and the pandemic has only underscored the urgency of this crisis,” said Governor Northam. “At its core, the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund is about addressing the root causes of low food access and increasing equity and justice in our local food systems. I am pleased to see the innovation and dedication of businesses and organizations who are helping to advance our shared goals of building strong, resilient food supply chains in historically marginalized communities and making fresh, nutritious food available to Virginians in every corner of our Commonwealth.”

In 2020, Governor Northam signed House Bill 1509, sponsored by Delegate Delores McQuinn, and Senate Bill 1073, sponsored by Senator Jennifer McClellan, creating the Virginia Food Access Investment Program and Fund. The VFAIF program supports the Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger, a unified set of goals and strategies to prioritize food security during the current public health emergency and beyond. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 850,000 Virginians were food insecure, including 250,000 children. Rates increased by approximately 20 percent during the ongoing public health crisis, with an additional 150,000 Virginians experiencing food insecurity. 

“I have spent many years advocating for equity in providing healthy and affordable food options to all citizens of the Commonwealth,” said Delegate Delores McQuinn. “This investment program is a great start to address the ongoing challenge of food insecurities that have been so prevalent in this period of social and economic deficit. I am grateful to the Governor for his leadership and commitment to addressing food inequities across Virginia.”

In addition to supporting equitable food access in food deserts, the program works to increase the availability of fresh, healthy foods. VFAIF projects include a food retail component that accepts federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and offers the Virginia Fresh Match nutrition incentives program. Virginia Fresh Match doubles the value of SNAP benefits for fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets, increasing access to healthy foods and supporting local farmers. 

“Studies have proven time and again that people in areas without access to fresh food are disproportionately affected by negative health consequences, including obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure,” said Senator Jennifer McClellan. “Not only does the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund help alleviate this disparity, it pushes investment into historically underserved communities that have often struggled to access capital.”

“Addressing food insecurity has been and continues to be a priority for the Northam Administration,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “The Virginia Food Access Investment Fund achieves three important goals of providing access to healthy and nutritious fruits and vegetables while also investing in local economies and supporting Virginia agriculture.”

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services provides technical assistance and works with applicants in developing projects. The VFAIF application can be accessed through the VDACS website.

The following projects are receiving funding in the inaugural round of Virginia Food Access Investment Fund grants:

Beans and Rice, Pulaski County
$50,000

This project will support a fresh food mobile market that will operate four days per week with stops determined in partnership with area churches, community members, and local governments, including the Pulaski County Department of Social Services, to ensure maximum benefit to food insecure residents.

Browntown Farms, Brunswick County
$50,000

Funding for Browntown Farms will support a multi-purpose facility with cold storage, aggregation of local produce, and “barn to door” online ordering and delivery service.

Doña Fer Grocery Store, Rockingham County
$22,046

This project will fund a new cooler and repair an existing cooler at a small grocery store serving the Latinx community in Harrisonburg to meet the customer requests for more fresh foods, including milk, meat, and produce.

FRESHFARM, Fairfax County
$50,000

FRESHFARM will establish new fresh food mobile markets in food insecure areas of Northern Virginia in partnership with the Virginia Farmers Market Association. These markets will generate revenue for family-owned farms in Virginia and expand a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program for SNAP users.

Henry’s Marketplace, Scott County
$25,000

Funding for Henry’s Marketplace will support expanded retail space, coolers, and local produce sales, as well as a new outdoor market and community event space featuring local artists and musicians.

Honaker Wholesale, Russell County
$25,000

Honaker Wholesale is a small grocery and general goods store in rural Russell County, where additional grocery options are at least a 25-minute drive away. Funding will support the purchase of a new walk-in cooler enabling volume purchases and the storage of fresh products, lowering costs, and increasing the availability and variety of fresh food to customers. 

Jon Henry General Store, Shenandoah County
$25,000

Located in New Market, Jon Henry General Store is one of the only food retailers offering a produce box CSA-style program for SNAP/EBT customers that provides access to fruits and vegetables while also leveraging the Virginia Fresh Match program. Funding will support expanded cooler capacity and enable an expansion of this program.

Norfolk Food Ecosystem, City of Norfolk
$50,000

Funding will support a new fresh food market in the underserved St. Paul’s community of Norfolk to increase access to fresh food, serve as a Fresh Food Pharmacy, offer health education, and provide information about how to access SNAP and Virginia Fresh Match.  

Northside Food Access Coalition, City of Richmond
$50,000

Northside Food Access Coalition is a community-led organization that aims to increase fresh food access along the Brookland Park corridor in Richmond. This project will convert an existing community-owned building into a cold storage facility and a new hybrid farmers’ market CSA program serving the more than 35,000 area residents, 56 percent of whom experience low food access.

Project GROWS, City of Staunton
$46,642

Project GROWS will operate a mobile market to increase fresh food access in a number of underserved communities in Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County. Market locations will include elderly and fixed-income communities, low income housing complexes, and afterschool programs.

Richmond Food Justice Alliance and Shalom Farms, City of Richmond
$49,000

This project is a collaboration between the non-profit organizations Richmond Food Justice Alliance and Shalom Farms, and will support a community-led process to inform the establishment of pop-up markets in the Mosby Court, Fairfield, and Creighton Court neighborhoods in Richmond. Skills development and entrepreneurship opportunities will be available for neighborhood residents, centered around community wealth-building and increased access to fresh food.

River Street Market Education, City of Petersburg
$50,000

River Street Market Education is the non-profit arm of Petersburg’s River Street Market. This project seeks to establish youth-led mobile markets and to create more local purchasing opportunities at existing Petersburg farmers’ market. VFAIF will support this project by providing needed cold storage infrastructure for food aggregation and retail distribution. 

Surry Marketplace, Surry County
$50,000

This project will support the establishment of a new grocery store in Surry County, which currently lacks a market, and will feature an online ordering platform and delivery service, workforce development, and increased access to fresh food.

Tommy T’s Marketplace, Brunswick County
$25,000

Tommy T’s Marketplace will address an identified food desert in Lawrenceville by transforming a vacant convenience store into a multi-purpose retail facility with an emphasis on providing healthy, fresh food options. Funding will support infrastructure, hiring local community members, and a mobile market component. 

Youth Earn and Learn, City of Norfolk
$50,000

Youth Earn and Learn is a non-profit that takes a multi-pronged approach to increasing food security, including through youth-led mobile markets and entrepreneurship training, local sourcing of fresh produce, and business literacy. This project expands a proven youth and community development model which focuses on job training and skills development to benefit historically marginalized youth and underemployed residents in the Norfolk area.

Governor Northam Announces Virginia to Reduce Water Pollution, Increase Access to Clean Water

$411.5 million investment in American Rescue Plan funds will improve aging water and sewer infrastructure, restore waterways

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia plans to allocate $411.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to reduce water pollution and increase access to clean water across the Commonwealth. The proposal will make substantial investments in aging water systems and improve drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure.

The announcement is part of “Investment Week,” during which the Governor and legislative leaders will highlight proposals for distributing the $4.3 billion in ARP funding available to the Commonwealth in advance of the August 2nd special session.

“With this funding, we have a tremendous opportunity to rebuild our aging water systems and ensure every Virginia family has reliable access to safe, clean drinking water,” said Governor Northam. “In addition to modernizing water and sewer infrastructure across the Commonwealth, these investments will go a long way towards restoring the health of our waterways and reducing pollution in our communities.”

The proposal includes $186.5 million for wastewater treatment and nutrient removal, $125 million for combined sewer overflow projects in Richmond, Alexandria, and Lynchburg, and $100 million to assist water systems in small and disadvantaged communities. These proposed investments supplement more than $300 million in ARP funding that the Commonwealth sent to towns in June and $2.3 billion made available to Virginia’s 133 counties and cities directly from the federal government to meet local response and recovery needs, which include improving access to clean drinking water and to supporting vital wastewater and stormwater infrastructure.

“Protecting the environment, and particularly providing for sanitary disposal of wastewater, is critical to public health and the economy,” said Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “These investments will put us even closer to restoring the Chesapeake Bay, and will clean up streams and improve septic and sewer systems across the Commonwealth.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of ensuring all Virginians have access to basic necessities—safe housing, quality health care, food security, and reliable utilities,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, MD, MHCM. “Investing in our water systems will help advance health equity and ensure a robust economic recovery.”

Clean water supports overall public health by preventing water-related ailments, increasing sanitation, and enabling food production. Affordable and reliable access to clean water is also important for driving economic activity across a broad range of industries, from tourism and outdoor recreation to agriculture and manufacturing.  

“Maintaining wastewater infrastructure is an essential function of government,” said Senator Mamie Locke. “I am grateful to my colleagues in the General Assembly and to Governor Northam for investing in this issue that has gone unaddressed for far too long.”

“This is a public health issue, an economic issue, and an equity issue,” said House Majority Leader Charniele Herring. “This investment means more Virginians can focus on leading healthy lives and taking pride in their communities, not worrying about high utility bills.”

“As someone who values our natural ecosystems, I am excited to see the tremendous benefits this will bring to improving the health of watersheds across the Commonwealth,” said Senator David Marsden. “It is critical to use these federal funds to make permanent improvements in our fight for clean water.”

“Every Virginian deserves access to clean water and we know that a healthy environment is the backbone of a strong economy,” said Delegate David Bulova. “I look forward to continuing to work with the Administration and my fellow legislators to make Virginia the healthiest state in the nation.”

Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation, Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth partner to deliver Water bottle filling stations to schools

Emporia, Virginia (July 27, 2021)– A new partnership between Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation and the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth is making it easier for children in Virginia to access clean drinking water with the donation of touchless water bottle filling stations to schools.

Virginians, especially youth and adolescents, are not drinking enough water, and are instead opting for sugar-sweetened beverages with added sugars that can have negative health outcomes.

Rev Your Bev, an obesity prevention initiative of VFHY supported by its statewide youth-led program Y Street, works to improve the health of all Virginians by encouraging individuals to drink more water. The goal of the campaign is to increase the access, availability, and promotion of water within Virginia’s schools.

With the new water bottle filling stations,students will now have increased access to water and the opportunity to choose water over sugary drinks and establish healthier behaviors including oral health.

Y Street member, Anna Kowalski from William Fleming High School says, “Having a water bottle filling station will make it easier for students at my school to drinking water. I’m an athlete and it’s very important that I stay hydrated throughout the day. With the new station, I’ll be able to easily fill my water bottle up with cold, great tasting water.”

“Water has so many benefits for our bodies beyond hydration — we want to encourage kids to make healthy choices now to prevent health problems in the future,” explains Polly Raible, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager for Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation. “Oral health issues have a direct impact on learning. Children who develop cavities due to sugary foods or drinks may have a hard time paying attention in class due to pain or discomfort. Enabling access to healthy drink options will help create long-term positive change for today’s youth.”

Cavities are the number one chronic disease in children and yet, cavities are entirely preventable. On average, 34 million school hours are lost each year due to cavities and other oral health issues in children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Water offers an inexpensive and healthy alternative to the sugary drinks that may lead to the development of cavities and other, more serious health issues.

Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation is donating four water bottle filling stations to the following Y Street Partner schools:

  • Fauquier High School – Warrenton, VA
  • Brunswick High School – Lawrenceville, VA
  • Greensville County High School – Emporia, VA
  • William Fleming High School – Roanoke, VA

In addition to the water bottle filling stations, Rev Your Bev are providing water promotion posters and other free resources to assist schools in increasing their access, availability, and promotion of water.

Governor Northam Announces Landmark Virginia Company to Expand in Sussex County, Doubling Production of Iconic Gourmet Peanuts

Virginia Diner will invest over $4.5 million to grow manufacturing and distribution operation

WAKEFIELD—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia Diner will invest over $4.5 million to nearly double production of its iconic gourmet peanuts. Founded in 1929, Virginia Diner is known for its landmark restaurant on Route 460 in Wakefield and line of gourmet seasoned peanuts, snack mixes, peanut brittles, and other candies. The company currently sources Virginia-variety peanuts exclusively from Florida and as part of this expansion, will create 16 new jobs and commit to sourcing 100 percent of its peanut purchases from the Commonwealth, leading to the purchase of nearly four million pounds of peanuts from Virginia shellers over the next four years. Governor Northam celebrated the announcement with company leaders and local economic development officials during a visit to the restaurant.

“Agriculture is Virginia’s largest industry, and that means it is vital to our economy and the well-being of our residents,” said Governor Northam. “Virginia Diner celebrates all of the culinary traditions of the Southeastern corner of our Commonwealth, most notably, Virginia peanuts. This expansion will not only bring new jobs and investment to Sussex County, but will create important new markets for Virginia peanuts and help secure the future of one of our most iconic businesses.”

Opened in 1929 in a refurbished railroad dining car, Virginia Diner soon became famous for serving patrons not the traditional after-dinner mints, but local peanuts fresh-roasted in the diner’s kitchen. By the late 1940s, customer demand for their famous peanuts led to the creation of a small mail order business. Today, Virginia Diner’s gourmet peanut business accounts for more than 80 percent of the company’s annual sales, with half their sales going through major retailers with the remainder direct to customers through the company’s mail order catalogs and website. 

“Peanuts have been an iconic part of the Commonwealth’s agricultural history since we became the first state in the country to begin commercial peanut production nearly 200 years ago,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “Thanks to companies like Virginia Diner, the Commonwealth’s reputation as a producer of the world’s best peanuts continues to thrive. I’m thrilled that we could partner with Sussex County through the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund to support this cornerstone of Virginia agriculture.”

“Virginia Diner has been an icon throughout Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic region for 92 years in large part due to the support of our local Wakefield community, regular customers throughout Sussex and surrounding counties, and families who have been visiting for several generations,” said Virginia Diner President and COO Andrew Whisler. “We are thankful for the support of the Commonwealth of Virginia and Sussex County as we embark in a multi-year, multi-phase investment to bring more jobs, revenue, and agricultural purchases to the region.”

The planned expansion is expected to occur in two phases over the next four years. The first phase includes construction of a 22,000 square-foot addition to the existing building for warehousing, distribution, and office space. This new facility will also enable the company to store all of its products on-site. The second phase of the project is an expansion of Virginia Diner’s manufacturing facility, which will increase the company’s production capacity, improve operational efficiencies, and decrease costs, thereby improving product margins. Virginia Diner roasts an average of 4,200 pounds of peanuts per day, scaling up to more than 7,000 pounds per day during peak holiday season.

“Virginia Diner’s commitment to sourcing their peanuts from the Commonwealth is something to celebrate, not just for our state’s progressive economy but for Sussex County as a whole,” said Senator Louise Lucas. “A few weeks ago, Virginia was named the nation’s top state for business by CNBC. Today, we are proud to continue to uphold that standard by celebrating this economic development announcement in Sussex County, one of the rural parts of my district.”

“Virginia Diner is known for its delicious peanut products all over the country,” said Delegate Roslyn Tyler. “As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I am pleased to work with Governor Northam, Secretary Ring, and state agencies to fund small businesses and create job opportunities that are vital to the economy of rural communities like Sussex County. We must continue to move Virginia forward and we can’t turn back.”

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services worked with Sussex County and the Sussex County Economic Development Authority to secure this project for the Commonwealth.  Governor Northam approved a $100,000 grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, which Sussex County will match through a rebate of taxes and infrastructure improvements that will directly benefit Virginia Diner as well as two adjacent agriculture-related businesses. 

“For nearly 100 years, Virginia Diner has been a fixture of Sussex County’s business community and this expansion project is evidence of their continued long-term commitment to our county,” said Sussex County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Susan Seward. “In addition, this project will further promote our strong agricultural heritage and provide opportunities for our peanut growers. We appreciate the support of the state and look forward to working with Virginia Diner on this expansion.”

“We are delighted that Virginia Diner has made the decision to continue to grow and prosper in the Gateway Region,” said Keith Boswell, President and CEO of Virginia’s Gateway Region Economic Development Organization. “We look forward to continuing our strong partnership with the company and celebrating this next chapter of their growth for Sussex County.”

Governor Northam Announces $500 Million Investment to Improve Air Quality in Virginia Schools

$250 million in American Rescue Plan funding, $250 million in local matching funds, will complete nearly all currently planned school HVAC projects

HOPEWELL—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia plans to invest $500 million to improve ventilation and air quality in public schools, securing the completion of nearly all currently planned HVAC projects. The Commonwealth will allocate $250 million in federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding for necessary ventilation upgrades, which will be matched 1:1 by local ARP or other relief funding. Ventilation systems clean and disperse air, decreasing the risk of various airborne illnesses including COVID-19.

Governor Northam made the announcement at Hopewell High School, joining school officials to celebrate the launch of their year-round school initiative. This announcement marks the start of “Investment Week,” during which the Governor and legislative leaders will highlight proposals for allocating the $4.3 billion in ARP funding available to the Commonwealth in advance of the August 2nd special session.

“Air quality is a key part of maintaining safe and healthy learning environments for our students across the Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “This investment will help families, educators, and students feel more confident about the quality of the air they breathe as we return to in-person learning five days a week this fall.”

In a recent report to the Commission on School Construction and Modernization, the Virginia Department of Education analyzed 117 Capital Improvement Plans (CIPs) from school divisions detailing the projects they plan to complete in the next decade. Following plans for new buildings and renovations, school divisions most frequently planned for HVAC repair and replacement projects, with a total of 463 HVAC projects amounting to $623 million. Governor Northam’s investment will secure the completion of nearly all currently planned projects.

“Ensuring there is clean air in our classrooms helps assure staff and students that schools are safe places so they can focus on learning,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “We know high quality ventilation systems reduce the number of virus particles in the air, and this investment means that Virginia schools will have updated HVAC systems for years to come.”

Funding will be allocated to school divisions based on their average daily membership, with a minimum allocation of $200,000 per school division. The funds will be granted as reimbursements to divisions completing HVAC projects.

“This funding is incredibly important for schools across the Commonwealth in dire need of upgrading their ventilation systems,” said Senator Louise Lucas, Chair of the Senate Education and Health Committee. “I’m proud we can provide this necessary support on behalf of teachers, staff, students, and communities.”

“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools have recognized the need to improve their air quality and HVAC systems,” said Delegate Roslyn Tyler, Chair of the House Education Committee. “Now more than ever, this funding is critical to ensuring we provide a safe and supportive learning environment to students in Virginia schools.”

Every schools in Virginia is required to make in-person instruction available to all students in the 2021-2022 school year, pursuant to Senate Bill 1303 which was passed during Virginia’s 2021 special session.

“When the special session convenes next week, the Commonwealth has the opportunity to invest in its future, beginning with its students,” said Senator Janet Howell, Chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee. “This investment is another prime example of how we will be utilizing American Rescue Plan funding to move Virginia forward and build on the investments of last year’s CARES Act funding.

“Together with the localities, we are working to address school modernization needs across the Commonwealth,” said Delegate Luke Torian, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “This partnership will support our collective efforts to create healthy learning environments for all of our students.”

In 2020, Governor Northam directed $492 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to public schools and PreK-12 state-level education initiatives. This year, Virginia received approximately $939 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) II funds under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act of 2021. Ninety percent of the funding was distributed to school divisions in January, with the other 10 percent set aside for targeted state-level initiatives to address the impact of the pandemic on students and schools. Additionally, the American Rescue Plan Act ESSER III funds directly allocate $1.9 billion to school divisions, with an additional state set aside of $211 million.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING CALLS FOR ACCESS TO PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

~ On anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act, Herring urges Congress to pass All Stations Accessibility Program Act of 2021 ~

RICHMOND(July 26, 2021) – To mark the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Attorney General Herring has joined a coalition of 18 attorneys general in urging Congress to pass legislation that will allow people with disabilities to have equal access to public transportation. The All Stations Accessibility Program Act of 2021 (ASAP) will support state and local government efforts to provide accessible public transportation to people with disabilities.
 
The ASAP Act would establish a federal grant program to support local transit and commuter rail authorities to upgrade existing stations to meet or exceed the ADA’s accessibility standards. In a letter to congressional leadership, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that the legislation is essential to addressing barriers to transportation, which also serve as barriers preventing people with disabilities from fully participating in society.
 
“Public transportation doesn’t just mean getting from one place to another, but it also represents independence or increased employment or housing opportunities, and Virginians with disabilities deserve the same access as other individuals,” said Attorney General Herring. “On this anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I am calling on Congress to pass the ASAP Act, because too many Americans with disabilities still face barriers that keep them from fully and actively participating in their communities – and that must change.”
 
The landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law July 26, 1990 and was designed to guarantee people with disabilities equal opportunities to be active participants in society. Considered by many to be the most sweeping civil rights legislation since passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the ADA resulted from tireless advocacy by disabled activists who demanded civil rights for people with disabilities. In passing the ADA, Congress acknowledged the historic isolation and segregation of people with disabilities, as well as the discrimination they experience in critical areas such as employment, housing, public accommodations, education, transportation, recreation, voting and more. 
 
In their letter to congressional leadership, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues point out that notwithstanding the progress enshrined in the ADA, more work is needed to ensure people with disabilities can actively participate in their communities. Despite the ADA becoming law more than 30 years ago, studies show that people with disabilities continue to face challenges in obtaining employment and housing. A 2020 report issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that only 17.9% of people with disabilities were employed, compared to 61.8% of people without disabilities. In their letter to Congress, the coalition argues that access to transportation is critical to addressing disparities in housing and employment and allowing people with disabilities to participate equally in society.
 
The Federal Transit Administration has reported that nearly 20% of all public transit stations were not ADA accessible in 2019. The ADA’s Standards for Accessible Design set minimum standards for what makes a facility accessible to people with disabilities. However, the ADA allows public entities to defer making architectural changes to facilities constructed prior to the ADA’s enactment when changes would pose an undue financial burden. As a result, the coalition point outs, state and local governments’ fiscal constraints have frequently prevented them from making all legacy transportation systems fully accessible.
 
The ASAP Act will establish a grant program dedicated to assisting state and local governments in upgrading legacy rail stations, or those that were in operation before the ADA’s effective date. The program would appropriate $10 billion over 10 years, and each grant will fund 90% of a project’s net cost. Recipients can use grant funding to develop plans for projects aimed at accommodating individuals with a wide range of disabilities, including physical, sensory, and developmental disabilities. Each project plan must also ensure equitable service to all riders regardless of income, age, race or ability.
 
Joining Attorney General Herring in calling upon congress to pass the ASAP Act are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington.

VCCA Announces 2021 Legislators of the Year

Del. Roslyn Tyler and Sen. Janet Howell The Virginia Circuit Court Clerks’ Association announced today that Delegate Roslyn “Roz” Tyler (D-75) and Senator Janet Howell (D-32) are the recipients of the Association’s 2021 Legislators of the Year awards.

Delegate Tyler and Senator Howell were selected by the Clerks for both their exemplary leadership through the trials of the COVID-19 pandemic and their support of the Association’s values and priorities.

“We want to thank Senator Howell and Delegate Tyler for their commitment to Virginia’s constitutional officers, especially during budget negotiations. They helped us achieve some of our biggest priorities for years,” said VCCA President Llezelle Dugger.

The VCCA is the professional organization of elected circuit court clerks, deputy clerks, court professionals, and their business partners. The Clerks are constitutional officers of our Commonwealth, elected to eightyear terms to fulfill more than 800 responsibilities and duties outlined in the Code of Virginia.

In addition to being the first African American woman to chair the House Education Committee, Delegate Tyler chairs the Compensation and General Government Subcommittee.

Senator Howell is the first woman in Virginia’s 400-year history to lead the Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee.

Together with House Appropriations Committee Chairman Luke Torian, Senator Howell and Delegate Tyler championed $1.8 million in new funding to equalize deputy court clerk salaries, nearly $400,000 to ensure a minimum of three positions in each Circuit Court Clerk’s office, and $1 million in new support to help reduce the technology trust fund transfer established during the Great Recession.

“Senator Howell and Delegate Tyler have long been active supporters of our duties as Circuit Court Clerks. They understand where our needs are, and despite having to revise the budget to address the pandemic, they can see that the critical services provided by our offices are something that the state cannot live without,” said Edward Jewett, Clerk of the City of Richmond’s Circuit Court. “We are grateful for their vision, and we look forward to where these trailblazing women will take us next.”

Last year, the VCCA honored Senator Barbara Favola (D-31) and Delegate Patrick Hope (D-47) as 2020’s Legislators of the Year. The Association will present all four recipients with their award at the Clerks’ annual convention this summer.

About the Virginia Court Clerks’ Association

The VCCA is the professional organization of elected circuit court clerks, deputy clerks, court professionals, and their business partners. The Clerks of the Circuit Court are constitutional officers of our Commonwealth, elected to eight year terms to fulfill more than 800 responsibilities and duties outlined in the Code of Virginia. Clerks of the Circuit Court are active community leaders, volunteers and members of numerous civic organizations in the numerous counties and cities in our Commonwealth.

In recent years, Clerks of Circuit Court have implemented cost-effective and efficient technology improvements which lead to better service. Some examples of these technologies include secure remote access to public information, e-recording, and digitizing of public court records.

As public servants, Clerks of the Circuit Court have been mindful of the welfare of our citizens as they have implemented redaction programs to remove confidential and private information from public records as permitted by state law, and they have worked with the Virginia legislators to pursue programs to protect private information of citizens.

Southside Virginia Community College to use Gerald L. Baliles Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative Award from Virginia Foundation for Community College Education to Close Educational Attainment Gaps

Richmond — Southside Virginia Community College received the Gerald L. Baliles Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative (RVHI) Award from the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education (VFCCE) to help close the educational attainment gap between the Rural Horseshoe region and the state at large. Named for the 65th governor of Virginia, the award honors Baliles’ legacy of promoting educational accessibility. The primary goals of the RVHI program are to reduce the number of rural residents without a high school diploma and to increase the number of rural residents with an associate’s degree, diploma, or certificate.

“Rural Virginia needs a targeted investment to take care of its next generation so the entire Commonwealth can prosper,” said Stewart Roberson, VFCCE’s board chair.

Each of the 11 colleges that received this funding proposed unique strategies that align with the goals of the RVHI. RVHI programs will serve a diverse range of high school students and adults from underserved and underrepresented populations.

"Many of our students pursue transfer program opportunities or workforce programs that lead directly to high paying jobs.  Through the expertise of our career coach professionals, the RVHI program will help potential students better understand the connection between their educational choices and their career opportunities," said Dr. Quentin R. Johnson, SVCC President.

By investing in rural education, the VFCCE is working with Virginia’s Community Colleges to promote opportunities to pursue higher education and a more equitable Commonwealth.

The SVCC Foundation is a proud partner in the RVHI grant.  SVCC’s approved grant request was in the amount of $100,000; of that total amount, $50,000 is coming from the VFCCE and the other $50,000 must be raised through the SVCC Foundation.

McEachin Joins VAIPL Environmental Justice Town Hall

Washington, D.C. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) joined a community town hall hosted by Virginia Interfaith Power and Light (VAIPL) to discuss President Biden’s Build Back Better priorities, the Justice 40 Initiative, his environmental justice efforts in Congress, and job creation.

“I have been honored to work with the Biden administration during this crucial period to Build Back Better. As we continue our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must advance innovative policy solutions that promote economic growth, create new jobs, and address the climate crisis,” said Rep. McEachin (VA-04). “I enjoyed joining Virginia Interfaith Power and Light to discuss President Biden’s priorities, my efforts in Congress, and our shared values for the future.”

“The Administration’s infrastructure priorities have the potential to be a gamechanger for frontline and rural communities, spurring economic growth and raising environmental standards for all Virginians as well,” said Faith Harris, Co-Director for Virginia Interfaith Power & Light

"President Biden's infrastructure package sets aside historic funding to tackle the climate crisis, create green jobs, and make improvements to critical infrastructure. As we analyze this infrastructure package, it is critical that we recognize environmental injustices that plague our country. The infrastructure package is an opportunity to infuse billions of dollars into communities that have historically been disinvested in, and we hope that this package does not continue a pattern of disinvestment in communities of color” said Naadiya Hutchinson, Government and Media Affairs Specialist at We Solar.

The Justice40 Initiative aims to improve productive collaboration between federal agencies and state and local communities while advancing President Biden’s promise to deliver at least 40 percent of the overall benefits from federal investment in climate and clean energy to disadvantaged communities.

Rep. McEachin has been an unwavering advocate for environmental justice communities in Congress and has introduced several important pieces of legislation to address their needs. Rep. McEachin introduced the bicameral Environmental Justice for All Act with Natural Resources Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03) and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) to empower environmental justice communities to take actionable steps to address environmental pollutants and hazards. He also introduced the bicameral Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Cleanup Act with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) to eliminate pollution that has disproportionately harmed frontline communities for generations.

VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital Names New Nurse Manager of Acute Care and ICU

South Hill, VA (7/22/21) – David Matthews, MSN, RN, AMSN, CC, is the new Nurse Manager of Acute Care and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital (VCU Health CMH). He began his nursing career there while serving in the Army National Guard 25 years ago. David has more than 10 years of nursing leadership experience and clinical experience in multiple specialties including Medical-Surgical, Telemetry, ICU, Ambulatory Surgical Services, and Physician Practices. He has a Master of Science in Nursing specializing in Executive Leadership and he is board certified in Medical-Surgical Nursing.

Currently, David is an RN Clinical Coordinator in the C.A.R.E. Building. He splits supervision of all VCU Health CMH clinics with another coordinator. He facilitates a committee that focuses on keeping heart and stroke patients well with the goal of reducing readmissions. He continues to educate himself at every opportunity, most recently taking a course in wound, ostomy and continence care.

“My advice for nurses is to always look for opportunities to learn something,” he said. “Learning should be a lifelong adventure. Always look for ways to improve your communication skills and techniques.”

David is looking forward to the new management position and making an impact on patient improvement scores.

“I’m a big believer in patient satisfaction, safety of our patients and staff, quality assurance, and exceeding benchmarks,” he explained. “There is nothing better than seeing the sickest of patients get better right in front of your eyes and return home.”

The transition will be a challenge and he’ll need time to get to know everyone. He’ll start by learning the day-to-day operations and patient flow in the ICU and the Medical Surgical floors at VCU Health CMH.

“Nurses are known for taking great care of others but don’t take care of themselves,” David said. “I try to manage stress by taking a walk every day after lunch.”

“We are excited to have David returning to the inpatient setting as the Nurse Manager of Acute Care and ICU,” said Janet Kaiser, Senior Director of Patient Care Services. “His extensive nursing and leadership experience, along with his passion for high quality patient care will be beneficial in driving our success towards improved patient outcomes in our community.”

A native of Brunswick County, David currently resides in Bracey. He is married to an RN at Massey Cancer Center. They have a 16-year-old daughter, a dog and a cat. He enjoys cruising (when not in a pandemic), landscaping and gardening. He is an avid fisherman and has a boat he likes to take out on Kerr Lake.

Allen Warren Thompson, Sr.

Visitation Services

Friday, July 23, 2021, from 6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M.

Wrenn Clarke & Hagan Funeral Home

July 24, 2021, starting at 2:00 P.M.

Forest Hill Baptist Church, Saturday

Allen Warren Thompson, Sr., 69, passed away on July 21, 2021. Allen worked as a maintenance operator for the Virginia Department of Transportation for most of his life. He was the son of the late, Lonnie Columbus Thompson and Ruth Lowe Thompson. He was preceded in death by his parents, Lonnie and Ruth Thompson, wife, Linda Beale Thompson, sister, Margie Lewis, nephew, Brent Anderson, niece, Sheila Lanier. He is survived by his son, Allen Warren Thompson, Jr. (Crystal) of Lexington, SC., step-son, Jason D. Rook (Rhonda) of Emporia, VA., sisters, Jane Thompson of Abbottsburry, Sue T. Galloway of Whiteville, NC., Nancy T. Mitchell (Larry) of Bladenboro, NC., Cathy T. Marlow of Lumberton, NC., brother-in-law, Livingston Lewis of Bladenboro, NC., grandchildren, Devin Thompson, Cassie Thompson, Joshua Rook, Emma Rook.

The family will receive friends at Wrenn Clarke & Hagan Funeral Home on Friday, July 23, 2021, from 6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M.

A funeral service will be held at Forest Hill Baptist Church, Saturday, July 24, 2021, starting at 2:00 P.M. with interment to follow at the church cemetery.

Online Condolences may be left at www.wrennclarkehagan.com

McEachin Votes in Support of Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Virginians, Clean Up Dangerous PFAS Chemicals

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) voted to protect Virginians by passing the bipartisan PFAS Action Act of 2021. The legislation, which Rep. McEachin cosponsored, will clean up per- and polyfluoralkyl substances, known as “forever chemicals,” and introduce stronger protections against future pollutants.   

Research shows that exposure to PFAS chemicals can cause life-threatening illness and disease, including multiple forms of cancer, liver disease, asthmas, thyroid dysfunction, infertility and impaired child development. PFAS chemical have been found in communities across the United States, including in Virginia. A new study published last week found that, based on EPA data, an estimated 30,000 industrial sites are known or suspected of using toxic PFAS: twelve times what had been previously estimated.  American servicemembers and their families are also at particular risk of exposure, as more than 400 U.S. military sites are known to have PFAS contamination.

“I was pleased to support this bipartisan legislation to clean up PFAS chemicals in the Commonwealth and throughout the United States,” said Rep. McEachin (VA-04). “This legislation will help ensure Virginians have access to safe drinking water and clean air, accelerate the clean-up of PFAS chemicals, protect our communities and military sites like Fort Lee, and implement stricter protections against these harmful chemicals. No American should have to worry that the air they breathe or the water they drink could make them sick. This legislation is an important step in ending government inaction, protecting Americans’ health, and ensuring every community can enjoy a cleaner, safer future.”

The legislation, which now goes to the U.S. Senate, would:

  • Require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish a national drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS within two years
  • Designate PFOA and PFOS chemicals as hazardous substances within one year and require EPA to determine whether to list other PFAS within five years while designating PFOA and PFOS as hazardous air pollutants within 180 days and requiring EPA to determine whether to list other PFAS within five years.
  • Require EPA to place discharge limits on industrial releases of PFAS and
  • Provide $200 million annually for wastewater treatment.
  • Prohibit unsafe incineration of PFAS wastes and place a moratorium on the introduction of new PFAS into commerce.
  • Require comprehensive PFAS health testing.
  • Create a voluntary label for PFAS in cookware.

VIRGINIA EXPECTED TO RECEIVE MORE THAN HALF A BILLION DOLLARS FROM OPIOID DISTRIBUTORS AND JOHNSON & JOHNSON

~ Unprecedented $21 billion from opioid distributors McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal, along with $5 billion from Johnson & Johnson to go towards prevention, treatment, and recovery ~

RICHMOND(July 20, 2021) – Virginia is expected to receive more than half a billion dollars from opioid distributors McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal, and opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson as a result of Attorney General Herring’s multiyear investigation into the role opioid manufacturers and distributors played in creating and prolonging the opioid crisis in Virginia and across the country. In total, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal, along with Johnson & Johnson will pay an unprecedented $26 billion that will go towards prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts in communities across the country. A majority of the up to approximately $530 million that Virginia is expected to receive will go towards the Commonwealth’s opioid abatement authority. Additionally, the distributors have agreed to establish an independent clearinghouse that will track and monitor the number of opioids distributors send to healthcare providers and localities.

“The roots of the opioid crisis began in the marketing offices and board rooms of pharmaceutical companies like Johnson & Johnson and ran straight into the homes and medicine cabinets of Virginians. Distributors like McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal spread billions of doses of highly addictive opioids throughout our communities, helping to fuel a crisis that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and upended the lives of Virginians in every corner of our Commonwealth,” said Attorney General Herring. “No dollar amount will ever be able to bring back the Virginians we have lost to this devastating epidemic, but we can at least dedicate our time and resources to preventing further loss through prevention, treatment, and recovery. Throughout my time as attorney general, one of my top priorities has been to go after the pharmaceutical and marketing companies that created and prolonged the deadly opioid crisis, and I will not stop until all those involved are held accountable.”

McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal

Under the terms of the proposed agreement, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal will pay up to $21 billion over an 18-year period to the participating states and localities, with Virginia expected to receive up to $427 million as its share of the agreement. Additionally, the distributors will establish an independent clearinghouse that will monitor and track the number of opioids distributors are sending to healthcare providers, in order to ensure that they are not sending more than the appropriate number to any certain area or provider. An independent, third-party monitor will ensure that each distributor is complying with the terms of the proposed agreement. 

Under the terms of the proposed agreement, Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen will:

  • Establish a centralized independent clearinghouse to provide all three distributors and state regulators with aggregated data and analytics about where drugs are going and how often, eliminating blind spots in the current systems used by distributors.
  • Use data-driven systems to detect suspicious opioid orders from customer pharmacies.
  • Terminate customer pharmacies’ ability to receive shipments, and report those companies to state regulators, when they show certain signs of diversion.
  • Prohibit shipping of and report suspicious opioid orders.
  • Prohibit sales staff from influencing decisions related to identifying suspicious opioid orders.
  • Require senior corporate officials to engage in regular oversight of anti-diversion efforts.

Johnson & Johnson

Under the terms of the proposed agreement, Johnson & Johnson will pay up to $5 billion over a nine-year period with up to $3.7 billion paid during the first three years. Virginia is expected to receive up to approximately $100 million as its share of the agreement. Additionally, Johnson & Johnson will:

  • Stop selling opioids.
  • Not fund or provide grants to third parties for promoting opioids.
  • Not lobby on activities related to opioids.
  • Share clinical trial data under the Yale University Open Data Access Project.

 Attorney General Herring’s Work on the Opioid Crisis

Earlier this month, Attorney General Herring announced a resolution of his lawsuit against the Sackler family and their company, Purdue Pharma, that will make public tens of millions of documents related to their role in the opioid crisis, and require a payment of more than $4.3 billion for prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts in communities across the country. Virginia is expected to receive at least $80 million as its share of the agreement.

The opioid crisis has been one of Attorney General Herring’s top priorities, and as part of this work he has focused on accountability for pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors who helped create, prolong, and profit from the opioid crisis in Virginia and around the country. In addition to filing suit against Purdue Pharma and the Sackler Family, Attorney General Herring has also filed suit against and Teva/Cephalon for the role that they played in creating the opioid epidemic. In February, he secured a settlement with McKinsey & Company for its role working for opioid companies, helping companies promote their drugs, and profiting from the opioid epidemic. Additional multistate investigations and legal actions remain ongoing.

During the most recent General Assembly Session, Attorney General Herring was successful in passing legislation that directs funds secured through his ongoing lawsuits against drug manufacturers and distributors toward opioid abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery, ensuring that the most money possible goes to actually address the opioid crisis.

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Virginia Departments of Health and Education Release Updated Guidance for PreK-12 Schools

PreK-12 schools will make locally-informed decisions on masking and prevention measures, as informed by CDC recommendations

RICHMOND — The Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Education today released new guidance for PreK-12 schools for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year. The Interim Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in Virginia PreK-12 Schools reinforces the importance of in-person learning and supports school divisions in making decisions on masking and other prevention measures, as informed by local data and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Virginia has followed the science throughout this pandemic, and that’s what we continue to do,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “This guidance takes into consideration recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics, and will provide necessary flexibility for school divisions while ensuring a safe, healthy, and world-class learning environment for Virginia’s students. Again, I strongly urge every eligible Virginian to get vaccinated. Getting your shot will protect you, your family, and your community—and it is the only way we can beat this pandemic once and for all.”

The State Health Commissioner’s Public Health Order is in effect until July 25, 2021 and will not be extended, giving school divisions the ability to implement local mask policies based on community level conditions and public health recommendations. As informed by recent recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Virginia guidance strongly recommends divisions adopt the following for the 2021-2022 school year:

  • Elementary schools should implement a requirement that students, teachers, and staff wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, until vaccination is available for children under 12 years old and there has been sufficient time to allow for children younger than 12 years old to be fully vaccinated.
  • At a minimum, middle and high schools should implement a requirement that students, teachers and staff who are not fully vaccinated wear masks indoors. While school divisions regularly confirm school-required immunization records of their students, they should consult with their counsel in determining if and how to confirm student and staff COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • All schools may want to consider universal masking for specific reasons as outlined in certain circumstances by the CDC.
  • All schools should be prepared to adjust local mask policies as local public health conditions evolve throughout the year.

The CDC federal order requiring masks be worn on public transportation remains in effect, and applies to buses operated by Virginia public schools.

“The science is clear that vaccinations and masks help keep our communities safe from COVID-19,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, MD, MHCM. “Due to the dedication, expertise, and close partnership of the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Education, the Commonwealth’s children and the individuals that help them learn will be protected by proven strategies, without a one-size-fits-all approach.”

“Schools occupy a special place in the life of our communities, and we need to do everything we can to keep everyone in them safe. This guidance is aimed at protecting students, educators, and staff while also providing localities with flexibility,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A. “We continue to urge eligible Virginians to get vaccinated to protect themselves, their families and their communities.”

All schools in Virginia are required to make in-person instruction available to all students in the 2021-2022 school year, pursuant to Senate Bill 1303 which was passed during Virginia’s 2021 legislative session. According to the updated guidance, physical distancing of at least 3 feet should be maximized to the greatest extent possible but schools should not reduce in-person learning to keep a minimum distance requirement.

“We know that students learn best in school buildings, and this guidance ensures that divisions have the flexibility and support they need to provide access to in-person learning 5 days a week,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “I’m grateful to all of the school administrators, educators, and staff who have gone above and beyond to provide high quality instruction and support to students during this challenging time.”

Prevention strategies are most effective when layered together, and will continue to be necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools. The guidance recommends that divisions work with local health departments to implement mitigation strategies based on information about the levels of community transmission, local vaccine coverage, the occurrence of cases and outbreaks in schools, and the use of screening testing data to detect cases in schools.

Vaccination remains the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccinating teachers, staff, and eligible students is a critical layer of prevention and protection for all.

“As schools prepare to welcome students back for the 2021-2022 school year, our priority is safely providing in-person instruction so that each and every child can learn and thrive in the classroom,” said Dr. James Lane, Superintendent of Public Instruction. “With this latest guidance and ample federal pandemic relief funds available to school divisions, our local school leaders are equipped to implement appropriate mitigation strategies and ensure student and staff safety within the schools in their communities.”

In 2020, Governor Northam directed $492 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to public schools and PreK-12 state-level education initiatives. This year, Virginia received approximately $939 million in ESSER II funds under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act of 2021. Ninety percent of the funding was distributed to school divisions in January, with the other 10 percent set aside for targeted state-level initiatives to address the impact of the pandemic on students and schools. Additionally, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III funds directly allocate $1.9 billion to school divisions, with an additional state set aside of $211 million.

This spring, Governor Northam announced $62.7 million in Virginia LEARNS Education Recovery grants to help school divisions expand and implement targeted initiatives to support Virginia students as they continue to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

Interim Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in Virginia PreK-12 Schools is available here

Governor Northam Announces Virginia’s Unemployment Rate Dropped Again, Falling to 4.3 Percent in June

Payroll employment increased by 3,200 jobs

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia’s unemployment rate dropped 0.2-percentage point to 4.3 percent in June, compared to 8.8 percent one year ago. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the Commonwealth continues to be below the national rate of 5.8 percent.

“Virginia’s falling unemployment rate and expanding labor force show the strength of our economy and business climate,” said Governor Northam. “We continue to be recognized as best place in America to do business because we are building a Commonwealth where both workers and employers can thrive. We can all be optimistic about what the future holds as we move beyond this pandemic.”

Virginia had the fourth lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate among the Southeast states behind Alabama, Oklahoma, and Georgia.

“The Commonwealth’s positive job growth and falling unemployment rate are welcome signs that workers are finding safety and opportunity in the job market,” said Secretary of Labor Megan Healy. “I look forward to maintaining this positive momentum in partnership with our business and workforce development partners, who are working diligently to ensure Virginians have all the support they need to transition back into employment.”

“Another drop in the Commonwealth’s unemployment rate is a great way to conclude this exciting week,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “We expect to see continuing job growth in the coming months.”

In June, Virginia saw over-the-year job gains of 2.8 percent, and total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 3,200 jobs. The labor force increased by 4,343 to 4,234,360, as the number of unemployed residents decreased by 5,448 to 183,799. The number of employed residents rose by 9,791 to 4,050,561.

The private sector recorded an over-the-year gain of 179,900 jobs, and employment in the public sector added 10,500 jobs. Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, 10 of 11 major industry divisions experienced employment gains. The largest over-the-year job gain occurred in leisure and hospitality, up 67,200 jobs, or 25.5 percent. The next largest over-the-year job gain occurred in trade and transportation, up 40,100 jobs, or 6.5 percent. Professional and business services experienced the third largest over-the-year job gain of 26,300 jobs, or 3.5 percent.

For a greater statistical breakdown, visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website at vec.virginia.gov.

SVCC Announces 2021 Fall Semester Plans

Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) will continue with a full schedule of classes for the fall semester beginning August 23, 2021.  Social distancing restrictions and mask requirements are being lifted for vaccinated individuals, which is in line with the guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While SVCC is not requiring students, faculty, or staff to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, the institution is strongly encouraging it. 

To give students more options, the college is again taking a “HyFlex” approach to course delivery.  This means class options (depending on the needs of each discipline) may include a mix of in-person instruction, expanded online offerings, and a “Zoom to Home” option.

According to Dr. Quentin R. Johnson, SVCC President, "As we are excited about having some restrictions lifted, we understand that the pandemic is not over; and that is why we are encouraging COVID-19 vaccinations.  The college has been open for limited in-person classes since last August, and now we are eager to welcome more students back on-campus."

The Café on both the Christanna campus in Alberta and the John H. Daniel campus in Keysville will also open back up for the fall semester.  As social distancing requirements are being lifted for vaccinated individuals, SVCC’s student resource centers will now allow more students to utilize the facilities on each campus.

Since the pandemic began in March of 2020, SVCC has complied with guidelines from the CDC for physical distancing, hygiene, and safety.  SVCC’s faculty, staff, & administration has worked diligently to keep its locations safely open for the needs of students; and that will continue.

Now is the time to picture yourself a panther at SVCC and start your educational journey; panther pride, catch it!

Registration for the 2021 fall semester is going on now; for more information, please visit southside.edu or call (434) 949-1000.

SENATORS INTRODUCE BICAMERAL, BIPARTISAN BILL TO HELP STUDENTS ‘REVERSE’ TRANSFER CREDITS FROM FOUR-YEAR UNIVERSITIES TO COMMUNITY COLLEGES

~ Legislation would make it easier to help students attain rightfully earned degrees or certification ~

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Mike Braun (R-IN) along with Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to remove an unnecessary bureaucratic obstacle preventing many students from receiving the degree or certification they have rightfully earned. The Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act of 2021 would facilitate the “reverse transferring” of college credits – the process of transferring credits from a four-year institution to a two-year institution in which a student was previously enrolled to identify whether they earned enough credits along the way to receive a degree.

“This much-needed bill would help to eliminate an unnecessary hurdle for students who’ve worked hard and paid for their studies,” said Sen. Warner. “In a competitive job market, this bipartisan bill will help more Americans claim the degree or credentials that they have rightfully earned.”

“A four year college is not the only path to prosperity in this country, and community colleges are a vital and economical part of our education system. Removing needless roadblocks on the path to attaining a degree from these institutions is overdue.  I’m happy to join this measure to allow students to get associates degrees and certifications they’ve earned,” said Sen. Braun.

“Our education system has to support different paths to a successful career,” said Sen. Hickenlooper. “Many students who graduate high school never get a four year degree. Making it easier to recognize the work students have already done is a no-brainer.”

Companion legislation has also been introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Joe Neguse (D-CO), Rep. John Curtis (R-UT), and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX).

“We must ensure every student is provided a pathway to education that fits their goals and career path,” said Rep. Neguse. “This legislation ensures that students can receive credit and earn an associate’s degree or short-term certificate regardless of where they completed their coursework, breaking down barriers for better paying jobs for students who are unable to finish at a four-year institution. Reverse transfer will be a meaningful step for millions of students to increase college affordability and access.”

“I am pleased to join Representative Neguse in introducing the Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act. Utah is home to great schools with many students who begin their education at a community college and finish at a university,” said Rep. Curtis. “This bill will improve data sharing between higher education institutions by allowing a student to continue earning credits towards an Associate’s degree at community college, even after transferring to a university, boosting student earning potential and student retention.”

“There is no single or correct path to higher education,” said Rep. Castro. “As students face increasing tuition costs and student loan debt, it is clear that many students are starting their post-secondary academic goals at community colleges. In my district, Alamo Colleges is the largest provider of higher education in South Texas and proves that two-year programs are critical in preparing students for success beyond their hallways. The Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act will allow these students to easily transition to four-year universities, like the University of Texas at San Antonio in my district, with an associate’s degree as well as the skillset to finish their studies and successfully enter the workforce.”

The National Student Clearinghouse, an educational nonprofit that verifies enrollment data, has identified over four million individuals that have completed enough credit hours at a four-year institution to be eligible for an associate’s degree, but instead withdrew without a degree or certificate. Facilitating the practice of reverse transfer would ease students’ access to credentials they have already earned and better provide for the demands of the future economy.

The Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act of 2021 would amend the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to create a new exemption for the sharing of student education records between higher education institutions. The bill would also allow for the sharing of credit data between post-secondary institutions for the sole purpose of determining whether a student earned an associate’s degree or certificate during the course of their studies. Currently, FERPA requires students to give their institutions proactive permission to determine whether they have earned enough credits to be awarded a degree or certificate. 

The Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act of 2021 has the support of numerous organizations, including the Virginia Community College System, American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers, American Association of Community Colleges, and Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, among others. For a complete list, click here.

“AACRAO believes this legislation is an important step that will enable institutions to increase educational attainment, and ultimately salaries, for millions of in individuals,” said Melanie Gottlieb, Interim Executive Director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers (AACRAO). “The additional FERPA exception proposed represents a responsible means of sharing student information between a student's 4-year and 2-year institutions in a way that both protects student privacy and supports the completion agenda.”

“Virginia’s community colleges prepare students for in-demand jobs that respond to the marketplace and employers,” said Glenn DuBois, Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System. “The Reverse Transfer Act is a welcome approach that will benefit students from every race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic group. Communication will be facilitated, obstacles removed, and processes improved between community colleges and four-year institutions. I applaud Senator Warner and Senator Braun for their bipartisan approach in working across the aisle to advance this legislation that will increase affordability, accelerate degree completion, and lead students to upward mobility.”

“Too many struggling students leave universities burdened with debt and without degrees: disproportionately, they are low-income and students of color. Yet, many have enough credits to earn a career pathway certificate or an associate’s degree at NOVA. Unfortunately, there is no ‘reverse transfer’ system that makes it possible to turn these hard-earned credits into valuable college credentials. Senator Warner’s ‘reverse transfer’ proposal would be transformational. Students could earn degrees and certificates, opening the door to high-demand, sustaining wage careers that would secure their financial futures and grow the high-skilled workforce. It’s a true win-win,” said Anne M. Kress, PhD, President of Northern Virginia Community College.

“Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC) in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia enthusiastically endorses the proposed ‘Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act.’ This act will allow students to easily earn degrees and other credentials at community colleges by transferring credits earned at four-year institutions. Earning additional credentials will make the individuals more competitive in the modern workforce,” said Dr. John A. Downey, President of Blue Ridge Community College. “Many students currently transfer to four-year institutions without completing their associate degrees or certificates. Offering a reverse transfer option will encourage those students to become graduates of their community college. Completion will show employers that these students are lifelong learners who continue to improve their education. BRCC encourages all parties to support this important piece of legislation to improve our workforce.”

“Virginia Western Community College is delighted to support the bipartisan Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act to help students achieve their goals of a college degree through reverse transfer. This bill removes the roadblocks that deter students from pursuing reverse transfer and will help colleges make the process of credential attainment more accessible. Additionally, this bill  will benefit students, employers, and our communities by helping students realize the credentials needed for employment,” said Dr. Robert Sandel, President of Virginia Western Community College.

A copy of the bill text is available here.

VSP Investigating Fatal Accident in Brunswick County

Currently the Virginia State Police is investigating a two vehicle crash that has resulted in a fatality. 

The incident occurred early this morning, at approximately 1:43 a.m., on Interstate 85 at the 24 mile marker, Brunswick County. Preliminary investigations reveal that the driver of a 2020 Freightliner tractor trailer, ran off the roadway, and sideswiped a 2008 Acura. The Freightliner continued off the roadway into the tree line, striking several trees before jack knifing. The driver and passenger of the Acura suffered non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the Freightliner died at the scene from injuries sustained by the crash.

At this time, Troopers have the right lane blocked as they continue to investigate.  Once information becomes available for release, an updated email will follow. 

 

VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital’s June 2021 Team Member of the Month

Donna Jarrell, MS, CEP, Rehab Director; Scott Burnette, President; Shelly Parham, RRT-RCP; Mike Simmons, BS, RRT, Respiratory Therapy Manager; Todd Howell, FACHE, VP of Professional Services.

 

South Hill, VA (7/14/21) – Sometimes the least intervention is best. When a patient came out of a procedure with complications, it looked like they were going to have to be sent to the ICU. But because of quick thinking by a respiratory therapist at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital (VCU Health CMH), they were able to bring the patient back to the main floor with minimal interventions.

“Shelly Parham, RRT-RCP, took a lead role in turning care around for a patient and avoiding ICU admittance,” said a coworker in the nomination. “The patient quickly improved and was able to go to a regular floor. Shelly’s knowledge and professionalism resulted in an excellent outcome for this patient.”

“Shelly demonstrated exemplary action likely resulting in an improved patient outcome,” said her manager, Mike Simmons, BS, RRT.

Shelly was awarded the June Team Member of the Month award for STAR service. STAR stands for Safety, Teamwork, Accountability and Relationships. She received the STAR service award, STAR pin, a parking tag that allows her to park wherever she wants for the month of July and a $40 gift card.

She said, “I was shocked. I had a patient in the ER at the time I found out and I was more worried about them than receiving an award for just doing my job.” 

Shelly has worked at VCU Health CMH for more than 18 years. She is a Registered Respiratory Therapist and Respiratory Care Practitioner. She performs pulmonary function tests and EEGs.

“The pandemic has tested all of us; we’ve had to do things we never thought we’d have to do,” Shelly explained. “All of us do everything we can for our patients. We love what we do.”

She shared advice for the community, “We still need to be vigilant. Socially distance yourselves with people outside your household and wash your hands frequently. With the new variant out there, I would not take my mask off just yet.”

Shelly lives in Baskerville with her husband and two sons, ages 14 and 7, and several dogs. She loves gardening, fishing and lake life. Her favorite thing to grow is roses.

Other nominees for June were Peggie Powell, Pain Management; Shawntell Taylor, ICU; and Lauren Vigilante, Education.

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Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services Elects Officers & Directors

Jackson-Feild is pleased to announce that the following officers have been re-elected to serve two-year terms:  T. Darnley Adamson, III,  Robert B. Wynne – Co Chairs, William H. Poarch- Vice-Chair, Beverley A. Coleman- Secretary, and John Mason Antrim – Treasurer.

Adamson, Co-Chair, is the owner of Green Solutions Virginia and has extensive experience in the insurance and real estate fields. Wynne, Co-Chair, is an associate with McGuire Woods in the employee benefits and executive compensation group. Poarch, Vice-Chair, is a retired Navy aviator and airline pilot. Coleman, Secretary, is retired after a career business development at the state and local government levels. Antrim, Treasurer, is newly elected to the Board. He is the retired President, CEO and COO of the Middleburg Financial and Trust Company.

Re-elected to serve two-year terms were Steven Riethmiller, a retired Virginia Military Institute professor of chemistry; Anne W. Hill, an attorney with Minnesota Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company; and Leslie W. Rose, III, a physician with James River Primary Care in Richmond.

Jackson-Feild is pleased to continue its relationship with the re-elected members, and welcomes Mr. Antrim as a new member of the board.

Jackson-Feild looks forward to their leadership and support as it continues its mission to provide high quality evidence-based psychiatric, residential, educational and recovery treatment services for children who suffer from severe emotional trauma and mental illness.        

McEachin Introduces Resolution Urging Federal Action on Maternal Mortality Crisis

Washington, D.C. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) introduced a resolution recognizing the maternal mortality health crisis affecting women in Virginia and across the nation. The resolution urges federal action to lower maternal mortality and morbidity rates and mitigate stark race-based disparities in maternal health outcomes.

“As the father to two daughters, the maternal mortality crisis is personal to me. The United States has the highest maternal morbidity rates of any developed country, and the issue impacts women across the nation,” said Rep. McEachin (VA-04). “Racial disparities in maternal health outcomes are evidence of long-standing inequities in our health care system and must be addressed. I will continue working with advocates in Virginia and my colleagues in Congress to lower maternal mortality rates throughout the country.”

Rep. McEachin is a proud member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. The resolution is currently co-sponsored by Reps. Robin Kelly (IL-02), Abigail Spanberger (VA-07), and Lauren Underwood (IL-14).

Read the full resolution here.

Governor Northam Announces Virginia to Invest $700 Million in American Rescue Plan Funding to Achieve Universal Broadband by 2024

Proposal will allow the Commonwealth to connect remaining unserved locations, accelerate 10-year plan to close the digital divide

ABINGDON—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia plans to invest $700 million in American Rescue Plan funding to expedite the deployment of last-mile broadband infrastructure to unserved areas and close the digital divide within the next three years. This proposal will accelerate the Governor’s 10-year goal for achieving universal internet access from 2028 to 2024, with the majority of connections obligated within the next 18 months. 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.

The Governor made the announcement at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon and was joined by U.S. Senator Mark Warner, State Senator Janet Howell and Delegate Luke Torian, who chair the General Assembly’s money committees, and State Senator Jennifer Boysko and Delegate Roslyn Tyler, who lead Virginia’s Broadband Advisory Council. Governor Northam also reported that the Commonwealth has successfully bridged half of the digital divide, with an estimated 233,500 unserved locations remaining.

“It’s time to close the digital divide in our Commonwealth and treat internet service like the 21st century necessity that it is—not just a luxury for some, but an essential utility for all,” said Governor Northam. “The pandemic has reinforced how important high-quality broadband is for the health, education, and economic opportunity, and we cannot afford to leave any community behind. With this historic $700 million investment, universal broadband is now within our reach. I am grateful to Senator Warner for fighting to include this funding in the American Rescue Plan, which will be key to the success of local connectivity efforts and to ensuring every Virginian has affordable, reliable, and equitable access to high-speed internet.”

Since 2018, the Commonwealth has awarded approximately $124 million in broadband grants and connected over 140,000 homes, businesses, and community anchors. Governor Northam and the General Assembly made historic investments—$50 million in 2020 and an additional $50 million in 2021—in the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI), a public-private partnership that provides targeted financial assistance to extend broadband service to areas currently unserved by a provider. With this $700 million allocation of federal dollars and continued state investment, the Commonwealth has the necessary resources to meet the tremendous demand from localities and broadband providers and close the digital divide in Virginia.

“With telehealth and telework becoming permanent staples across the nation, access to broadband is more critical than ever,” said U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner. “Earlier this year, I was proud to help deliver more than $3.7 billion dollars in direct fiscal relief for the Commonwealth through the American Rescue Plan, including hundreds of millions of dollars for broadband. I’m hopeful that my friends in the General Assembly will use $700 million of that funding to expand access to broadband, thereby creating economic opportunity and ensuring that every Virginian can meaningfully participate in our 21st century economy.”

“Localities and broadband providers have stepped up over the past three years and helped the Commonwealth connect thousands of unserved Virginians,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “With today’s announcement, large regional projects that achieve universal service can be funded across the Commonwealth without delay.”

Because Governor Northam prioritized broadband expansion well before the pandemic, Virginia is on track to be one of the first states in the country to achieve universal broadband service. In 2019, the Governor worked with the General Assembly to establish a pilot program that promotes collaboration between localities, electric utilities, and internet service providers to connect unserved areas to high-speed internet. In just two years of the pilot program, Virginia’s utility companies have helped connect more than 13,000 homes and businesses across the Commonwealth. Earlier this year, Governor Northam signed bipartisan legislation that makes the pilot program permanent.

“The Commonwealth continues to prioritize funding for universal broadband access and I’m encouraged to see these investments coming ahead of schedule,” said Senator Janet Howell, Chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee. “This appropriation of federal dollars will go a long way towards supporting the investments that the Commonwealth has already made to bridge the digital divide.”

“Funding for broadband is more critical now than ever,” said Delegate Luke Torian, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “We must continue to ensure that all citizens of the Commonwealth have access to quality internet access.”

“The Broadband Advisory Council has long prioritized funding to reduce the cost of broadband access and connect unserved Virginians,” said Senator Jennifer Boysko, Chair of the Broadband Advisory Council. “With this investment of American Rescue Plan dollars, we will greatly accelerate our progress.” 

“I have lived in a rural area my entire life and I know that the Commonwealth benefits as a whole when we lift up all communities,” said Delegate Roslyn Tyler, Vice Chair of the Broadband Advisory Council. “This investment will have a tremendous impact on countless Virginians and allow our communities to prosper and grow.”

Video of today’s announcement is available on Governor Northam’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

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