This week, the Senate passed a second bipartisan coronavirus relief package, focused on helping people feeling the economic consequences of the outbreak. Negotiations on a third, larger economic relief bill are currently ongoing.
Here’s your Warner Weekly Wrap-up:
That’s what they’re calling the initial bipartisan coronavirus economic relief package Congress passed on Wednesday. Among other provisions, this legislation:
• Guarantees testing for coronavirus will be free
• Expands unemployment insurance and reduces barriers for workers applying for UI
• Extends paid sick leave to some workers if they seek treatment for coronavirus, quarantine, or care for a family member with the virus
• Provides payroll tax credits to companies offering paid sick leave to their employees for coronavirus treatment
• Expands nutrition assistance for low-income families
• Provides additional funding for state Medicaid programs dealing with the coronavirus
Sens. Warner and Kaine, who both voted in favor of the legislation, issued a joint statement following the vote, saying:
“This legislation is a critical step forward to support workers and families impacted by the coronavirus. We’re pleased the bill includes our priorities to guarantee free coronavirus testing and establish paid sick leave for some American workers. This is one of many steps we must take to confront this pandemic. We will keep fighting for the resources Virginia needs to defend against this virus and help our economy recover from its consequences.”
The next step for Congress is what’s being called Phase III of the coronavirus response. Negotiations for this even larger economic stimulus and public health legislation are ongoing, and Sen. Warner is working around the clock to ensure that it contains provisions that will help Virginians who are struggling due to the coronavirus outbreak. Sen. Warner outlined two of his top priorities explicitly this week:
First, he is especially focused on disaster unemployment insurance for workers who have fallen through the cracks of our social safety net. As he stated in a video update to his constituents today, his priority is to expand unemployment insurance to cover furloughed workers, hourly workers, gig workers, and others who are missing paychecks but have not formally been laid off.
Second, Sen. Warner is working to ensure small and mid-sized businesses have sufficient cash flow to stay open during the coronavirus outbreak. In a statement this week, he proposed an emergency lending facility to provide credit to small and mid-sized businesses. His statement reads, in part:
“…We have to get cash flow back to our small and mid-sized businesses so that they can remain open, retain their employees, and survive through this public health emergency. Nearly 18 million people are employed in industries whose revenues are severely curtailed and are vulnerable to layoffs. Many businesses, particularly small and mid-sized firms, are running down their cash and credit lines. As we see more areas enforce tighter social distancing restrictions, this problem is only set to get worse.
“I am proposing that we immediately set up a small and mid-sized business liquidity facility, jointly run by the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve, to provide companies affected by the virus with federally-guaranteed loans at low rates throughout the crisis. The loans would be delivered through local financial institutions and backed by up to $1T in federal financing. A few important elements of this proposal include:
– Simple terms and underwriting requirements in order to quickly deliver cash flow to these businesses;
– Protections to ensure that any company taking a loan is required to retain a large portion of its workforce; and
– Some specific mechanisms to avoid any moral hazard and hold financial institutions accountable.
“If we do not take action immediately, thousands of American businesses and millions of their employees are at enormous risk. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the coming days to provide them the assistance they need to weather the current crisis.”
As Yahoo Finance noted this week, Sen. Warner’s proposal, “…would include some protection that would require a borrower to commit to keeping their employees on the payroll. Warner said he is also considering additional measures that may restrict executive compensation.”
Sen. Warner, a notorious worker of the phones since his days as Governor, has been actively engaging with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, working to ensure Virginia’s priorities are represented in the next phase of coronavirus legislation. Stay tuned.
HELP FOR SMALL BUSINESSES
While Sen. Warner continues to push for this larger emergency liquidity facility, some emergency capital just became available to Virginia small businesses. On Thursday, the Small Business Administration (SBA) issued a statewide economic injury disaster loan declaration.
This declaration unlocks emergency long-term, low-interest loans for small businesses for up to $2 million to help cover operating costs during the coronavirus outbreak.
Sen. Warner applauded the announcement and quickly began spreading the word for eligible businesses.
Small business owners in need of assistance should first read this SBA fact sheet, then apply online using the SBA website.
ADDITIONAL CORONAVIRUS ACTIONS
Here is a list of additional steps Sen. Warner has taken this week to assist Virginians impacted by the Coronavirus outbreak:
• TELEHEALTH: Sen. Warner applauded the announcement that Medicare would begin paying clinicians across the country for telehealth services to Medicare beneficiaries during the coronavirus outbreak. This decision was enabled by passage earlier this month of provisions from Sen. Warner’s bipartisan CONNECT for Health Act of 2019, as part of the initial $8.3 billion coronavirus response package.
• VIRGINIA VETERANS: In letters sent today, Sens. Warner and Kaine urged four Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers to expend every effort to ensure that veterans and the health providers who care for them are safe amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. In letters to the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center, the Salem VA Medical Center, the Hampton VA Medical Center, and the Washington DC VA Medical Center, the Senators asked for more information on each facility’s efforts to address the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring the health of VA employees.
• NO CAPS: Sen. Warner applauded announcements by several major internet service providers that they would adopt practices to better accommodate the use of remote technologies that students, workers, and public health officials will rely upon during the coronavirus outbreak.
• DAYCARE: Sens. Warner and Kaine sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, urging the agency to issue clear guidance for child care providers to determine whether these centers should remain open amid the nationwide COVID-19 outbreak.
• AMERICANS ABROAD: Sen. Warner urged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to provide State Department guidance and assistance to Americans stuck abroad after heightened travel restrictions, lockdowns, and border closures across the globe to curb the spread of coronavirus have left U.S. citizens stranded in foreign countries indefinitely.
• POWER BILLS: This week, Sens. Warner and Kaine urged the body that regulates public utilities including electricity, natural gas, and water in Virginia to promptly issue an order suspending the charging of late fees through the duration of Virginia’s state of emergency due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
• FEDERAL WORKERS: Sen. Warner led seven of his Senate colleagues in a letter calling on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to post department and agency contingency plans amid the COVID-19 outbreak so that Americans know what services to expect as more federal agencies begin to ramp up teleworking capabilities to mitigate the spread of the virus.
• DoD GUIDANCE: On Friday, Sen. Warner pushed the Department of Defense (DoD) to issue guidance for uniformed, civilian, and contractor personnel to help them better understand their options for paid leave and telework amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
• UNEMPLOYMENT: Following the passage of the bipartisan coronavirus economic relief package that day, Sen. Warner led a letter urging state governors and workforce administrators to implement its provisions easing restrictions on emergency unemployment benefits.
• NURSING HOMES & DISABILITIES: Sens. Warner and Kaine joined more than 30 of their Democratic colleagues to press the Coronavirus Task Force on their preparedness and response plans for seniors and individuals with disabilities.
• AD SCAMS: Sens. Warner and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, expressing deep concern that Google – despite claiming to ban ads that capitalize on novel coronavirus fears – continues to run ads for products such as face masks and hand sanitizer.
• HOSPITALITY & TOURISM: The Virginia and Maryland Senators sent a letter to the financial regulators asking them to take action to mitigate the adverse impacts of the coronavirus on workers in the hospitality and tourism industry.
• RURAL RESPONSE: In light of the unique challenges facing rural communities, Sen. Warner sent a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to enable thousands of federal civil servants, who have experience with rapid emergency response, to assist rural communities that are increasingly overwhelmed by the challenge of responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.
• TELEWORK FOR FEDS: Following a mixed message from the administration to federal workers and contractors, Sen. Warner joined 24 of his colleagues in urging the President to immediately issue an executive order directing agencies to maximize the use of telework.
(NON-CORONAVIRUS) GRAB BAG
• EASTERN DISTRICT: Sens. Warner and Kaine sent a letter to the White House recommending U.S. Magistrate Judge Roderick C. Young and U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas E. Miller for the vacancy in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division.
• DREAMERS: Sen. Warner joined a group of 36 Senators and 87 Representatives in pressing the Trump Administration on reports that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is preparing mass deportations of Dreamers, young immigrants who grew up in the United States and know no other home.
• GW PARKWAY: Last Friday, Sen. Warner led a bicameral letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in support of the National Park Service’s grant application for $102 million in federal funds to reconstruct nearly eight miles of the northern section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
Social distancing. The Senate is expected to vote on a third coronavirus relief package in the coming days.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – September 20, 2020
After months of Speaker Pelosi keeping the House in recess due to COVID-19, we finally returned to regular order this week to conduct the business of the people. Aside from passing important legislation in the Judiciary Committee, particularly one bill related to Alzheimer’s, the House also resumed a full schedule of votes before the whole House. I also took to the Floor this week to support our brave law enforcement officers and to call for the restoration of the Rule of Law in our communities. Additionally, we saw exciting news from the White House as a historic Middle East peace deal was signed on the South Lawn. And finally, on Tuesday, I joined my Republican colleagues on the steps of the Capitol as we laid out our Commitment to America.
Supporting Law Enforcement:
Over the past several months, we have heard politicians, pundits, and riot participants vilifying our Nation’s law enforcement officers – brave men and women who have sworn an oath to protect and serve their communities. This week, following the tragic ambush of two LA County Sheriff’s Deputies, I took to the House Floor to call for the restoration of the Rule of Law in our country and urged my Democrat colleagues to stop using hateful, violent rhetoric when speaking about police officers. Since the beginning of the year, 193 members of law enforcement have been killed in the line of duty. We cannot continue to dishonor their memory by advocating that we dismantle or disband police departments.
Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and more than 5 million Americans are currently suffering from it. And while medical advancement has led to a decrease in the number of deaths for many illnesses, Alzheimer’s is unfortunately not one of them. Over the past 20 years, deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased a startling 146% and nearly 1 in 3 seniors die from it or another dementia-related illness. That is why I was pleased this week that the Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 6813, the Promoting Alzheimer’s Awareness to Prevent Elder Abuse Act, the legislation of which I am a cosponsor. This bill would require the Department of Justice to develop training materials to assist professionals in supporting victims of abuse living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. This legislation is crucial to ensuring our Nation’s seniors are receiving the quality care they deserve. As World Alzheimer’s Day approaches next week, it is my hope that Speaker Pelosi will call this bill for a vote in front of the whole House. To learn more about H.R. 6813, please click here.
Commitment to America:
This week, I joined my Republican colleagues on the Capitol steps as we formally unveiled our caucus’ “Commitment to America”. This plan calls for restoring our way of life, rebuilding the greatest economy in the world, and renewing the American Dream. Our vision for our Nation differs drastically from that of the Democrats, which promotes a message of defund, dismantle, and destroy. To learn more about our “Commitment to America,” click here.
Promoting Peace in the Middle East:
This week, President Trump, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, and King Hamad Al Khalifa signed the Abraham Accords at the White House, normalizing relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. This historic agreement is the most significant step toward peace in the Middle East in more than 25 years, and it will bring about greater stability to the region while also increasing pressure on America’s adversaries. To read more about this notable agreement, click here.
Coronavirus Food Assistance Program:
From the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, this Administration has been committed to supporting our Nation’s producers – most notably through the Department of Agriculture’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Since April, this program has provided critical support to farmers and ranchers, helped maintain the integrity of our food supply chain, and ensured that every American continues to receive and have access to the food they need. This week, the President announced that the program would be expanded and receive an additional $14 billion beginning September 21. To learn more or to apply for assistance, please click here.
While vaccines typically take years to produce, the world’s leading scientists and researchers are hard at work to develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine at record speeds. There are currently 9 vaccines in Phase 3 of clinical trials meaning they are undergoing large-scale efficacy testing, and 5 have even been approved for early and limited use. The medical community is hopeful that we can have a large-scale vaccine approved by early next year. To learn more, click here.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – September 6, 2020
legislation and have begun to negotiate the outlines of an agreement to fund the government after October, no Floor action is scheduled in the House next week. However, House committees will be busy meeting next week to consider several pieces of legislation. This week also brought announcements from the Administration concerning White House tours and a telephone town hall for veterans. It was a great week traveling the Sixth District, and I continue to enjoy the opportunity to hear from constituents daily at events throughout our community.
This week I was pleased to join Bloomaker, the leading producer and supplier of hydroponically grown flowers in the U.S., as they broke ground on a 22,000 square foot expansion of their facility in Waynesboro. This new warehouse will allow them to meet their largest demand to date and ship nearly 1.5 million amaryllis bulbs to stores across the country. The company currently employs more than 100 part-time seasonal workers to help with the planting, harvesting, packaging, and shipping of its blooms and has plans to further expand its Waynesboro facility in the near future.
It was also announced this week that VIRTEX, an electronics manufacturing service company that provides services to military, aerospace and medical customers, would be introducing a new product line at its facility in Waynesboro. This expansion will create at least 40 new manufacturing jobs for area residents and is another example of our continued economic recovery.
Supporting Child Nutrition:
I recently joined my Republican colleagues on the Education and Labor Committee in writing to Secretary Perdue urging the Department of Agriculture to review flexibilities allowed under law to our Nation’s child nutrition program. Utilizing such flexibilities at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis allowed schools to provide meals to students in need and employing them again would enable educational institutions to continue doing so. I was pleased that Secretary Perdue agreed with our recommendation and this week authorized schools to continue to provide meals to vulnerable students through the end of 2020. To read more about the USDA’s decision, click here. To read the full letter my colleagues and I sent to Secretary Purdue, click here.
This week, the AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine entered Phase 3, the final phase of clinical trials. The Federal Government’s task force, Operation Warp Speed, now has three vaccine candidates in the final phase of clinical trials. Earlier this month, the FDA Commissioner emphasized that no matter what, only a safe, effective vaccine will get final approval.
Currently, vaccine developers are searching for thousands of volunteers for these clinical trials. If you wish to participate or would like more information, click here. Additionally, there is a need for plasma donations from those who have recovered from COVID-19 that may help treat people who have recently contracted the coronavirus. To find out if you are eligible and how to donate, click here. Fueled by American ingenuity, scientists and doctors are working around the clock to develop a vaccine, improve and increase testing, and create more effective treatment plans.
Veterans Benefits Administration Telephone Town Hall:
The Under Secretary of the Veterans Benefits Administration, Dr. Paul Lawrence, will be hosting his second Virginia state-wide telephone town hall next Wednesday at 4 pm for veterans in Virginia. He will discuss the benefits our service members have rightly earned and then will take questions for approximately 45 minutes. To participate, dial (833) 380 -0417 during the time of the call.
White House Tours:
While most tours of federal buildings, including the U.S. Capitol, remain suspended due to COVID-19, the White House announced this week that tours will resume in a limited capacity on September 12. Tours will be hosted two days a week instead of five, on Friday and Saturday, from 8:00 am to 11:00 am and the number of guests will be limited to 18% of normal capacity. Further, safety precautions will be in place such as the requiring of wearing masks, social distancing, and hand sanitizer will be readily available. To learn more about White House tours, please click here or call my office at (202) 225-5431.
With school-aged children of my own, I am aware of the uncertainty that surrounds sending kids back to school. To help clarify school plans, over the last few weeks, I have tried to provide you with the most up-to-date reopening information on school districts across the Sixth District. The below schools are slated to begin instruction this week.
Amherst County Schools: School will start September 9th
• All elementary school students will be in school Monday through Thursday with block scheduling in place
• For middle and high school students, they will be split into groups. One group will go to school on Mondays and Wednesdays, the other on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with both groups doing at-home instruction on Fridays.
• Virtual learning is available for those who have requested.
Bedford County Schools: First day of school pushed back to September 8th
• Pre-K through sixth grade students will attend school daily starting after Labor Day for face-to-face instruction with reduced class sizes so physical distancing can be achieved.
• Seventh graders, eighth graders and high schoolers will receive primarily virtual instruction in the fall, with each student connected to a “learning coach” throughout the school day to provide support and determine days when students may need to come into buildings for individual or small-group interactions with teachers.
Highland County Schools: First day of school set for September 8th
• In-school option Plan A will have students attending school 5 days a week.
• Parents may choose Plan B for their students to have 100% virtual learning.
Lexington Schools: School set to begin remotely on September 8th
• 100% virtual start for the fall semester.
• The school board passed the changes at a remote special session Monday night, and will consider what to do next no later than its next meeting in October.
Rockbridge County Schools: Start date pushed back to September 8th
• Students grades 2 through 12 will learn 100 percent virtually for the first nine weeks.
• Pre-K, Kindergarten and 1st grade students will attend in-person learning four days per week, breaking on Wednesdays for building sanitation.
Rockingham County Schools: School set to open on September 10th
• Students will begin the year 100% virtual for grades 2-12 and will then transition to a hybrid model of both distance and virtual learning.
• Grades PK-1 will come to school 4 days of the week.
Warren County Schools: School board will vote to push back start date to September 8th
• Preschool through 12th grade students will participate in a combination of in-person and remote instruction each week.
• Parents were asked to fill out an intent form online by July 17 to let school officials know whether their student would be attending classes online through the virtual academy or in person.
For a full list of public schools’ reopening plans, please click here.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – August 23, 2020
As I crisscrossed the Sixth District this week listening and talking with constituents, I was consistently reminded of the hard work and resilience of those I am honored to represent in Congress. Once again, I visited the City of Staunton to see the rebuilding following the devastating flooding in the Queen City two weeks ago. In an effort to obtain federal FEMA assistance for affected residents, I wrote to the Governor requesting an expedited Emergency Declaration from the Commonwealth to get the folks in the area back on their feet in a timely manner. Also, I introduced a third bipartisan government reform initiative with my colleague Congressman Dean Phillips (D-MN-03), and the Speaker called us back to Washington to vote on a politically motivated bill affecting the Postal Service.
48-Hour Bill Review Resolution:
One of the most basic principles of representative government is transparency. That’s why this week, Congressman Dean Phillips (D-MN-03) and I introduced H. Res. 1086 – the 48-Hour Bill Review Resolution. H. Res. 1086 would require that in addition to the 72-hour notice for bill introduction, the actual text to be voted on must be published at least 48-hours before the vote. Adding this rule strengthens the current 72-hour rule by providing an additional layer of protection for the legislative text being considered, thus closing a loophole used far too frequently in Congress. Further, the 48-Hour Bill Review Resolution would require the House to pass an altogether separate resolution in order to waive the waiting period required under H. Res. 1086. This resolution would promote greater transparency and accountability in the legislative process. This is the third government reform bill Congressman Phillips and I introduced this month. In the past few weeks we have also introduced H.R. 7949, the SMART Government Act and H.R. 8022, the Lobbying Disclosure Reform Act.
Politicization of the USPS:
The United States Postal Service provides a vital national service, especially for those in rural areas. With many self-quarantining due to COVID-19, the reliance on the post office for delivery of things like medicine and daily household goods has become even more important. Both parties and past Presidential Administrations realize this and have made bipartisan efforts to reform and strengthen the current postal system.
Unfortunately, this bipartisan tradition has been put in danger by Speaker Pelosi in an effort to score political points. Congress was called into session this week to vote on legislation that would prohibit any further reforms to the USPS, require a rollback of any reforms made after January 1, 2020, and allocate an additional $25 billion to fund the USPS, even though Congress provided an extra $10 billion line of credit as part of the CARES Act enacted earlier this year, and even though the Postmaster General recently announced that he would delay the implementation of any further reforms until after November.
For decades there has been an understanding that the USPS required reforms to meet changing landscapes and competition. Whether President Clinton, Bush, Obama, or Trump, the consistent message has been that in order to ensure financial viability, the USPS needed to continue to reform its operations. Speaker Pelosi could have had the support of most Republicans, including myself, if she had left politics out of the bill and focused on improving USPS operations. Unfortunately, House Democrats placed politics above policy and ended up with a bill that has little chance of actually being signed into law.
Fighting for Staunton:
On August 8, heavy rain and flooding wreaked havoc in downtown Staunton and caused more than $3.1 million in damages to property. Soon after, the City of Staunton provided the necessary data to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and requested an Emergency Declaration but two weeks after the flooding, the State has yet to act. This designation is necessary because state designation helps a locality qualify for Federal Disaster Aid through FEMA. Knowing this is an already difficult time for businesses and area residents, I wrote to the Governor urging swift approval of Staunton’s request for an Emergency Declaration to ensure that the Queen City can quickly begin to rebuild what was lost.
Emergency Relief Check Filing Deadline Extended:
The IRS has extended its deadline to September 30, 2020, for people to provide information to the agency using its Non-Filer Tool. Click here if you have not yet received your Economic Impact Payment and meet any of the criteria below.
• Receive Social Security retirement, survivors, or disability benefits, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments
• Did not file a 2019 or 2018 tax return
• Have a qualifying child under age 17
• Did not already enter information in the IRS’ Non-Filer Tool for yourself and at least one child
With school-aged children of my own, I am aware of the uncertainty that surrounds sending kids back to school. To help clarify school plans, over the last few weeks, I have tried to provide you with the most up-to-date reopening information on school districts across the Sixth District. The below schools are slated to begin instruction next week.
Bath County Schools: Schools will open on August 26th
• 4 days/week (Monday-Thursday) and 1-day remote learning (Friday), however, parents may select 100% virtual learning for their children when registering.
• Information on the virtual learning option is included in the plan. If you have additional questions, contact your child’s school principal.
Botetourt County Schools: School is set to start August 24th
• The Botetourt County school board approved a plan for fall in which students in grades 3-12 will have two days of in-person class and then three remote days of learning. The younger students will be in school five days a week.
• Students in grades 3-12 will be assigned to either Group A or Group B and will go to school on Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday and will learn remotely the other three days of the week. Then, starting on Wednesday, Oct. 21, students will learn in person on Wednesdays too. Wednesdays will alternate between Group A and B days.
• Students can alternatively choose to take all their classes remotely. They will not be considered homeschooled, so they will still be eligible to participate in athletics.
Lynchburg Schools: Lynchburg City Schools will start 100% virtual on August 24th
• Students will begin the year with virtual learning, then transition to in-person learning. As originally presented, this option calls for the transition to in-person learning to happen after the first nine weeks of school, however, the specifics of how often classes would meet will be determined by whatever data is available at that time.
• No decision has been made regarding the future of athletics.
Page County Schools: School will reopen on August 24th
• High school students (grades 9-12) will be learning remotely this fall.
• Pre-K through second grade will attend in-person four days a week.
• Grades 3 through 8 will attend in-person twice a week.
• Wednesdays will be used as a remote learning day for all students, giving time to deep clean schools and for teachers to plan.
Roanoke County Schools: First day of school pushed back to August 24th
• Parents can still choose to have their students receive 100% online instruction if desired.
• There will be reduced class sizes for the students in K-2 who attend school in person five days a week. School leaders said some areas of the school, such as libraries and cafeterias, have been converted into classroom spaces.
• Students in grades 3-12 will be split into two groups and will attend school in person two days a week spread out in classroom spaces.
Staunton Schools: First day pushed back from August 18th to August 25th
• Virtual-only learning for the first semester of the school year.
• The hybrid model will no longer be used and the plan for virtual learning can be found at the link below when a plan is published.
COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker:
While vaccines typically take years to produce, the world’s leading scientists and researchers are hard at work to develop an effective vaccine at record speeds. There are currently more than 165 variations of a vaccine being developed – 32 of which are already in human trials. Of those 32, 8 are in Phase 3 meaning they are currently undergoing large-scale efficacy testing, and 2 have even been approved for early and limited use. The medical community is hopeful that we can have a large-scale vaccine approved by early next year. To learn more, click here.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – August 16, 2020
This week, I was pleased to return to work in the Sixth District. Although negotiations on a potential coronavirus relief bill have slowed, I am hopeful that we can reach a bipartisan agreement that addresses the needs of the American people and provides aid to those who need it most. Additionally, as schools begin to reopen, I will continue to provide you with the most up-to-date information on local school openings.
Lobbying Disclosure Reform Act
To promote greater transparency within the lobbying industry, I joined my colleague Dean Phillips (MN-03) in introducing H.R. 8022, the Lobbying Disclosure Reform Act. At the core of this bipartisan bill is the public’s right to knowledge of ongoing lobbying efforts. Americans are dissatisfied with the way things get done in Washington and updating the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) with these common-sense provisions is a strong step to modernizing our lobbying laws and placing more power in the hands of the people rather than the lobbyists.
This legislation is the second in a series of bipartisan reform bills that I have introduced with my colleagues aimed at continuing to improve government to better serve all Americans, especially those within Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District. For further information on this initiative, please click here.
As your representative, I aim to provide you with the most up-to-date information on local school openings. As we near the beginning of the school year, school districts across the Commonwealth are releasing information about their plans for this upcoming term. This information is current as of August 14, 2020, but may change as warranted.
As you know, recently the President issued Executive Order’s aimed at addressing some economic hardships brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. It was the hope that this would also bring both the Administration and Congress back to the negotiating table. Unfortunately, it appears that there is currently little interest in doing so. I understand, due to issues related to COVID-19, there are those within the Sixth District who are in need and I urge you to contact my District offices if we can help you with a question or problem with a Federal agency or any pandemic related issues. They can be reached at:
Harrisonburg: (540) 432-2391
Staunton: (540) 885-3861
Roanoke: (540) 857-2672
Lynchburg: (434) 845-8306
Additionally, you may find the COVID-19 section of my website of interest. It is full of useful information and additional resources and can be found at cline.house.gov/covid-19.
This week marked the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, the precursor to the end of WWII. On August 14, 1945, President Harry S. Truman announced that Japan had surrendered in a press conference at the White House: “This is the day we have been waiting for since Pearl Harbor. This is the day when Fascism finally dies, as we always knew it would.” We must never forget the immense sacrifice of those that fought in the Far East and the Pacific. Their fortitude and heroism ended the world’s deadliest war and forever changed the course of history.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the latest updates.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – August 9, 2020
While I am home in the Sixth District and not in Washington, DC, know that I am always working on behalf of you. This week, House and Senate Leadership, along with the Administration, discussed an additional COVID-19 relief bill. As potential legislation develops, I will continue to monitor these ongoing negotiations. Further, to help fight red-tape and burdensome regulations, I introduced bipartisan legislation on Friday aimed at saving taxpayers potentially billions of dollars. There was also some excitement here in the District between the naming of a new Superintendent of Shenandoah National Park and the opening of a new emergency call center in Roanoke. And until the time that I am called back to Washington to further address the coronavirus, I look forward to spending time traveling our beautiful District and seeing the folks who I am privileged to represent.
In the midst of House and Senate Leadership negotiations regarding an additional COVID-19 relief bill, the President took Executive Action this week to help those in need. In his order, the President provided $400 per-week supplemental unemployment payments to out of work Americans, extended student loan relief, and afforded protections to those facing evictions. The order also directed the Treasury Department to allow employers to defer payment of the employee portion of certain payroll taxes through the end of 2020. This action follows the recently introduced Health, Economic Assistance Liability Protection & Schools Act, or HEALS Act in the Senate.
Among its provisions, this legislation seeks to address several underlying issues still affecting our Nation during the coronavirus pandemic. As millions of Americans continue to face financial hardship, this legislation would provide a second round of direct Emergency Impact Payments to individuals to help them through these difficult times. Further, the bill continues enhanced unemployment benefits established under the CARES Act but lowers the rate slightly to help encourage folks whose places of business are reopening to go back to work, which will ensure the long-term viability of our economy and the financial stability of American families.
The HEALS Act also provides $105 billion in education funding to ensure our schools can open safely in the fall. Additionally, the bill extends the Paycheck Protection Program, which has allocated nearly $612 million to businesses right here in Virginia’s Sixth District and is currently supporting 70,000 jobs in our area. And finally, it affords liability protections to businesses, hospitals, and schools, which is vital as our country continues its phased reopening process. While House and Senate Leadership and the Administration continue negations on a final package, I am hopeful that bipartisanship will prevail and that a targeted relief bill is voted upon soon on the Floor. With that said, before passing another piece of coronavirus-related legislation, we must be mindful that there is still at least $500 billion that has not yet been spent from previous relief bills.
SMART Government Act:
The size and scope of the Federal bureaucracy often leads to waste at the expense of the American taxpayer. That is why my colleague, Congressman Dean Phillips (D-MN), and I have teamed up to introduce a series of reform bills over the course of the next few weeks.
This week, we introduced the bipartisan SMART Government Act aimed at promoting efficient technology use by Federal agencies. This legislation would implement a three-pronged approach to establish better governance and oversight regarding Federal technology practices. First, the bill would work to consolidate the more than 12,000 government data centers to not only save Federal dollars but to promote transparency within these facilities. Additionally, it would require Federal agencies to properly track and report their software assets to eliminate unnecessary redundancies in purchasing.
And finally, this legislation would mandate that documents transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration are done so electronically to ensure the government is better equipped to access its data and respond to individual requests in a timely manner. The Federal government invests more than $90 billion annually in information technology, and these measures are needed because, at this time, the Federal bureaucracy lacks the necessary oversight measures to protect against waste.
Blue Hills E-911 Communications Center Facility:
This week, I was pleased to attend the ribbon-cutting of Roanoke’s new 31,000-square-foot Emergency Communications Center. The building will house both Roanoke’s Emergency 911 Center and Virginia 811. Combined, these two entities field more than 1.5 million calls from area citizens each year. The new facility will not only benefit day-to-day operations, but it will also prove beneficial for handling major events and multi-jurisdictional incidents. This public-private partnership was born of a mutual need for better space to dispatch professionals in response to incoming calls. This project will undoubtedly help both organizations best serve our community.
Shenandoah National Park:
Shenandoah National Park not only provides tremendous outdoor recreation to Sixth District residents but also serves as a tourist destination and economic driver for our region. I am excited by the announcement of Patrick Kenney as the new Superintendent, and his experience as the Deputy Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park will serve him well.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the latest updates.
Reps. Cline and Phillips introduce bipartisan bill to promote efficient technology use by federal agencies
Congressmen Ben Cline (VA-06) and Dean Phillips (MN-03) introduced H.R. 7949 – the SMART Government Act. This legislation would implement a three-pronged approach to establish better governance and oversight regarding Federal technology practices.
H.R. 7949 would:
1. Work to consolidate the more than 12,000 government data centers, which would not only save federal dollars but would promote transparency within these facilities.
2. Require Federal agencies to properly track and report their software assets to eliminate unnecessary redundancies in purchasing.
Rep. Cline said, “The Federal government invests more than $90 billion annually in information technology yet lacks the necessary oversight measures to protect against waste. The SMART Government Act is a first step in working to promote a system of technological use that is more accountable to and efficient for the U.S. tax-payer.”
Rep. Phillips said, “We didn’t leave the Stone Age because we ran out of rocks – we found a better way of doing things. Congress is an 18th-century institution operating in a 21st-century world. In order to meet the needs of the American people, and save the taxpayer money, we have to update and innovate. The SMART Government Act will modernize our government and put us on the path towards being more efficient and responsive to our constituent’s needs.”
This legislation is the first in a series of bipartisan government reform bills that Congressmen Cline and Phillips intend to introduce together over the next several weeks.