See below for video from the close of the 2021 Virginia General Assembly special session, as well as press releases from the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus, Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn and the Virginia House Democratic Caucus:
General Assembly Completes More Historic Work for Virginians
RICHMOND, Va.: Today, the Virginia General Assembly adjourned, having agreed upon a spending plan for the funds assigned to the Commonwealth by the federal American Rescue Plan and having appointed judges to the newly expanded Virginia Court of Appeals.
Caucus Chair Mamie Locke said: “Senate Democrats have delivered for Virginians once again, providing support for families and businesses across the Commonwealth. As we emerge from COVID, our priorities remain the same: taking care of every single person in Virginia, no matter who they are or where they live. I’m proud of what we have been able to accomplish in the past several days, and we are dedicated to continuing the important work of the people as we look ahead to 2022 and beyond.”
Majority Leader Dick Saslaw said: “We are making monumental investments in businesses through the Rebuild Virginia program, aimed at supporting our economy through the devastating effects of the pandemic and beyond. Our response since March 2020 has helped Virginia maintain our best state for business rating from CNBC and made sure we continue that growth as we begin to come out on the other side of the economic crisis.”
Senator George Barker said: “With COVID-19 cases again on the rise, we are setting aside nearly $800 million for future use to combat the spread of the pandemic, provide economic aid where necessary, and increase our testing and vaccination efforts to keep Virginians safe and healthy. We will address this in our 2022 General Assembly Session.”
Senator John Bell said: “In the budget we passed this Special Session, we are allocating nearly $34 million in a substance abuse block grant. This means people struggling with the disease of addiction can get the help they require, when they’re ready for it, and are able to have their continuing needs met as they work through recovery.”
Senator Jennifer Boysko said: “With more than $700 million in this budget for broadband, Virginia will close the digital divide. No longer will we have families parked outside public spaces so their kids can do homework. High speed Internet is a necessity for modern life – telework, school, shopping, telemedicine and more.”
Senator Creigh Deeds said: “When someone is ready to seek the help they need with their behavioral health, they should be able to access care at that moment. Many millions of dollars are headed toward the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to attract and retain psychiatric health workers; address the shortage of crisis centers, inpatient services and outpatient services; and aid law enforcement officers and dispatchers in crisis intervention training.”
Senator Adam Ebbin said: “There is, and will continue to be, an acute need for unemployment benefits for Virginians out of work due to the economic implications of COVID-19. We have appropriated substantial funds to not only expand the Virginia Employment Commission capacity but also refill the coffers of the Unemployment Insurance Fund, avoiding a business tax increase and helping families’ bottom lines as we get people back into the workplace.”
Senator John Edwards said: “The General Assembly has had a history-making Special Session, especially the election of 8 new judges to the Virginia Court of Appeals. In every way—by gender, race, geography, and area of practice—we are making our judicial system mirror the people it serves. I’m proud to have led the effort to provide that every Virginian will have the right to an appeal in every civil and criminal case.”
Senator Barbara Favola said: “This pandemic won’t be the last public health crisis we will see. This Special Session, we have funded efforts to beef up local health departments and community-based mental health services. Local governments are on the front lines in guiding residents to appropriate care, and I’m proud we are investing in the health of Virginia at the local level.”
Senator Ghazala Hashmi said: “In this budget, we are allocating more than $150 million to make college more affordable at Virginia’s institutions of higher learning, including our dynamic community colleges. Not only will these opportunities provide next-generation workforce readiness for young Virginians, it will help reinvigorate our economy with skilled employees ready to take on the challenges of the future.”
Senator Janet Howell said: “Since March 2020, our world has been turned upside down and we have faced unprecedented challenges. But, your General Assembly has and will continue to be with you. In this Special Session, the budget we passed included historic funding that will impact every Virginian’s life—keeping each of us healthy, safe, and a part of a thriving economy. I’m proud of the work we have been able to do, as Senate Democrats as well as our colleagues in the House of Delegates, to bring Virginia forward into the future.”
Senator Lynwood Lewis said: “American Rescue Plan funds allocate nearly $320 million for aid to local governments as we emerge from the pandemic and beyond to help support public health expenditures, addressing economic impacts, replacing lost public-sector revenue, providing premium pay for essential workers, and investments in infrastructure.”
Senator Louise Lucas said: “Virginians need a roof over their heads to be productive at school or work—and we are making sure everyone has a safe place to stay. This Session, we were able to provide further eviction relief and protect both tenants and landlords as we tackle our housing crisis. In addition, funding has been allocated to help those facing eviction get the legal aid they need.”
Senator Dave Marsden said: “Our Departments of Corrections and Juvenile Justice have had concerning rates of spread of COVID-19. This Special Session, we are setting up better systems to protect the incarcerated, visitors, and staff and make sure everyone can get and stay healthy. This includes testing, vaccinations, outdoor spaces, and quarantine areas to reduce the spread.”
Senator Monty Mason said: “Our tourism industry was hard hit by the economic effects of COVID-19. This Special Session, we are investing millions into the Virginia Tourism Authority and localities to reinvigorate tourism in the Commonwealth. We will work closely with our localities to bring not only more Virginians but people from across the nation to our historic sites and leisure activities.”
Senator Jennifer McClellan said: “Our children are our future. This Special Session, we are investing millions in the next generation by stabilizing childcare services and ensuring our children can be healthy at home and in school. We are upgrading HVAC systems in public schools so the air can be healthy, and investing more in WIC benefits so families can get healthy food. So many families have been affected by this pandemic—I’m glad to see us looking out for the youngest Virginians.”
Senator Jeremy McPike said: “Further expanding de-escalation and crisis intervention for our law enforcement and first responders helps Virginians get the care they need, when they need it. This Special Session, we are investing even more in the MARCUS Alert System, which will train law enforcement and dispatchers in proper de-escalation techniques and non-violent crisis intervention.”
Senator Joe Morrissey said: “Our law enforcement and correctional officers have been on the front lines, even before the pandemic. Awarding state-supported local sheriffs’ deputies and officers in regional jails a $3,000 one-time bonus and assembling a workgroup to further investigate hiring and retention in law enforcement is a step in the right direction to supporting these crucial employees.”
Senator Chap Petersen said: “Restoring full-time, walk-in services at the Department of Motor Vehicles across the Commonwealth was one of my priorities heading into this Special Session. I’m glad to see a plan come together to make sure Virginians can get their business done.”
Senator Lionell Spruill said: “Some Virginians have struggled to make ends meet during this difficult time. That’s why we are extending rent and utility assistance and relief, to make sure families can stay in their homes with lights on and water running. Basic human necessities are non-negotiable, and this Special Session we are taking care of all Virginians.”
Senator Scott Surovell said: “I’ve worked for many sessions on ensuring water quality in the Commonwealth, and I’m happy to say we delivered yet again this Special Session. Several localities will be receiving funds for sewer and water management upgrades and repairs, as well as millions of dollars in funding to support equal access to clean drinking water.
“I was also pleased that we were able to join the rest of the United States in guaranteeing a right of appeal in all cases and making Virginia’s Court of Appeals more representative of the Commonwealth.”
Special Session Provides COVID-19 Relief to Virginia
House Democrats deliver on American Rescue Plan funding priorities
RICHMOND, Va.—Today, Virginia’s 2021 Special Session II concluded with the House Democrats keeping their promises on how they would allocate federal American Rescue Plan funding.
The House Democratic Caucus advocated successfully for the following funding:
- Broadband expansion: Over $700 million in funding to expedite the deployment of last-mile broadband infrastructure to unserved areas and close the digital divide within the next three years.
- Small businesses: $250 million to fully fund the Rebuild VA program, to reinvest in our economy and take strides to build a better Virginia in the aftermath of the pandemic.
- Virginia Employment Commission: $862 million added to the Unemployment Trust Fund, with another $73.6 million is being allocated to update and modernize VEC systems to improve claimant services.
- Public school infrastructure: $250 million to upgrade our public schools’ infrastructure by enhancing their HVAC systems. This will address ventilation needs and ensure improved air quality so our children only have to focus on learning in their classrooms.
- Public health systems: This funding will go toward making sure our medical infrastructure is up to date and as safe as possible. $238 million is being allocated for substance abuse and mental health systems, and $280.8 million will go toward public health initiatives.
- Clean water: $411.5 million to fortify wastewater treatment infrastructure, provide funds for homeowners who live below the poverty line to improve their wells and septic systems, and increase access to drinkable water in every corner of the Commonwealth.
- Financial aid for higher education: $111 million to provide aid for students who might not have been able to afford higher education otherwise.
In addition, House Democrats continued to support voting rights during Special Session, where they assigned $3 million to assist localities with the expansion of early voting, including Sunday voting, and $1.5 million to combat election misinformation. HB 7001 also left approximately $1.1 billion available if needed for the Commonwealth to manage another COVID-19 resurgence.
This critical federal aid was proposed by the Biden administration to provide COVID-19 relief to Americans throughout the country. It was opposed by every single member of Virginia’s Congressional Republican delegation, as well as GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin.
House Democratic Majority Leader Charniele Herring and House Democratic Caucus Chair Rip Sullivan released the following statement:
“Virginia House Democrats took the allocation of the American Rescue Plan money seriously. Our priority was to assist Virginians hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic shock, and we delivered. The House Democratic majority stands firm in our commitment to support the most vulnerable among us.”