RICHMOND (April 2, 2021) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today called on Twitter, eBay, and Shopify to act immediately to prevent people from selling fraudulent CDC vaccination cards on their platforms. Attorney General Herring joins a bipartisan coalition of 45 attorneys general in raising concerns about the public health risks of these fake cards in a letter to the companies’ CEOs.
“Getting vaccinated is one of the most important things a Virginian can do to help us all get back to normal and get the COVID pandemic under control,” said Attorney General Herring. “Individuals who purchase fraudulent vaccine cards and go out into our communities pretending to be vaccinated could be detrimental to our efforts to curb the pandemic and put the safety of others at risk. It’s important that these companies and platforms crack down on the sale of these fake vaccination cards to make sure our communities are safe, and we remain on the right track in combating the COVID pandemic.”
Legitimate vaccination cards are given by providers when they administer the vaccine. People who buy fake cards can have their own information added to the card or add it in themselves, so it appears they have been vaccinated when they have not. These deceptive cards threaten the health of our communities, slow progress in getting people protected from the virus, and violate many state laws.
In their letter, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues ask the CEOs to:
• Monitor their platforms for ads or links selling blank or fraudulently completed vaccination cards
• Promptly take down ads or links that are selling cards
• Preserve records and information about the ads and the people who were selling them
Joining Attorney General Herring in sending the letter are the attorneys general of Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Governor Northam launches Return to Earn Grant Program to help Virginians transition back to work
On June 11, 20212, Governor Ralph Northam announced a new $3 million investment to pilot the Return to Earn Grant Program, which will match payments from eligible small businesses to provide new hires with up to $1,000 to support their transition back into the workforce. While many companies are offering hiring bonuses, the Return to Earn Grant Program will serve businesses with less than 100 employees that may not have the resources to provide this financial support. The initial launch of this program will be funded through Virginia’s federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) set aside, and additional recovery funds may be allocated based on demand.
“Many Virginians who lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic still face a variety of barriers to returning to work like access to affordable child care, transportation, and a living wage,” said Governor Northam. “These bonuses will serve as an incentive for unemployed workers to get back into the workforce, while also helping employers fill vacant jobs. The Virginia Return to Earn Grant Program is about empowering the true catalysts of our economic comeback—Virginia’s workers and small businesses.”
This initiative will match up to $500 that a qualifying small business pays directly to a new employee hired after May 31, 2021, either as a lump sum or in installments to offset the ongoing costs of child care, transportation, or other barriers to re-employment. Funds will only be reimbursed to businesses for new hires in positions that pay at least $15 per hour and that qualify as W-2 employment, either full- or part-time. To help address workforce shortages in child care, qualifying child care businesses may qualify for up to $500 per new hire without the match requirement.
“For Virginia to fully recover from the impacts of the pandemic on our economy, we need targeted solutions,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Dr. Megan Healy. “One in three Virginia workers has applied for unemployment benefits over the course of the pandemic. The new Return to Earn Grant Program will accomplish a dual purpose of helping unemployed Virginian’s transition back into living-wage jobs, particularly in the child care industry, and supporting small businesses with their hiring needs.”
The launch of the Return to Earn Grant Program coincides with the reinstatement of the weekly work search requirement in Virginia, which started the week of May 31, 2021. Virginians receiving unemployment benefits must make contact with employers each week and accept reasonable offers of employment.
On June 1, the Commonwealth also reopened its Virginia Career Works Centers for in-person services to ensure that Virginians making the transition back to the workforce have access to the resources they need to find high-quality jobs. Job seekers can continue to access resources virtually through the Virginia Career Works Referral Portal.
For additional information on requirements and to apply for Return to Earn grant funding, small businesses should contact their local Virginia Career Works Center.
Answers to frequently asked questions.
1. What is the Virginia Return to Earn Grant Program?
Unemployed Virginians are facing a variety of childcare, transportation, and other barriers to returning to the workforce while some small businesses are struggling to find workers. To support Virginians in their transition back to employment, Governor Ralph Northam will invest $3 million in federal WIOA set aside funds to pilot the VA Return to Earn Grant Program. The pilot initiative will match up to $500 that a qualifying small business pays directly to a new employee hired on or after May 31st, 2021 to support their transition back to employment. Funds will only be reimbursed for new hires in positions that pay at least $15 per hour and qualify as W-2 employment, either full- or part-time. Qualifying small childcare businesses, who may be facing particularly challenging workforce shortages, may qualify for up to $500 per new hire without the requirement to match.
2. Which small businesses are eligible for funds through the VA Return to Earn Grant Program?
A business must have 100 or fewer employees and be incorporated in Virginia. The employee count is the sum of the business’s employees across all Virginia locations. Qualifying childcare businesses, who may be facing particularly challenging workforce shortages, are eligible for 100% reimbursement for up to $500 per new hire. This means that no match is required from the childcare business to receive funding for new hires through the grant program.
3. What qualifies as a “childcare business”?
A childcare business may be a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation, with services delivered in home- and/or center-based settings. These businesses may be licensed or legally exempted from licensing by the state.
4. Which job positions are eligible for funds through the VA Return to Earn Grant Program?
Funds will only be reimbursed for new hires in positions that pay at least $15 per hour and qualify as W-2 employment, either full- or part-time.
5. Is there a limit to the number of new hires eligible for reimbursement through the VA Return to Earn Grant Program?
Yes, qualifying small businesses are eligible for a match of up to $500 per new hire for up to 25 new employees. These must have been hired on or after May 31st, 2021.
6. How can VA Return to Earn funds be used?
Funds are only reimbursable through the VA Return to Earn Grant Program if they are provided by a qualifying small business directly to a qualifying new hire, either as a lump sum or in installments to offset the ongoing costs of childcare, transportation, or other barriers to re-employment.
7. How should a qualifying small business apply for reimbursement of funds through the VA Return to Earn Grant Program?
For additional information on requirements and to apply for grant funding, small businesses should contact their local Virginia Career Works Center. Funds will only be reimbursed once they have been fully paid to the new hire.
8. This program matches up to $500 provided to a new hire to support their re-employment, for a total of $1000. If I am a qualifying small business, can I give the new hire a stipend that is more than $1000?
Yes, it is at the discretion of the employer as to how much is provided to the new employee. The VA Return to Earn Program will reimburse for 50% of the funds provided but only up to $500 per new hire. Childcare businesses will receive 100% reimbursement for up to $500 per new hire.
9. How is the initial $3 million in funding for the VA Return to Earn Grant Program being allocated across the Commonwealth? What happens if the money runs out?
Grant funds will be allocated across Virginia’s workforce development areas proportional to the number of current continuing unemployment insurance claims in each region. The initial $3 million allocated from WIOA Governor’s set-aside funds will serve to pilot the approach, and additional funding may be allocated depending on demand for the program.
10. What other strategies is the Commonwealth employing to support people with their return to work and ensure that employers have the workforce they need to fuel Virginia’s economic recovery?
The launch of the new Return to Earn Grant Program coincides with the reinstatement of the Virginia work search requirement beginning the week of May 31, 2021. Virginians receiving unemployment benefits must make contact with employers each week and accept reasonable offers of employment. On June 1, the Commonwealth reopened its Virginia Career Works Centers for in-person services to ensure that Virginians making the transition back to the workforce have access to the resources they need to find a high-quality job. Jobseekers can continue to access resources virtually through the Virginia Career Works Referral Portal.
Virginia’s annual crime analysis report now available on Virginia State Police website
Virginia’s official and only comprehensive report on local and statewide crime figures for 2020, is now available online. The Crime in Virginia report continues to provide precise rates and occurrences of crimes committed in towns, cities and counties across the Commonwealth. The report breaks down criminal offenses and arrests by the reporting agency.
Violent crime includes the offenses of murder, forcible sex offenses (rape, sodomy, and sexual assault with an object per the FBI’s updated rape definition), robbery and aggravated assault. Overall, Virginia experienced a 1.9 percent decrease in violent crime offenses compared to 2019. There were 15,713 violent crime offenses reported in 2020 compared to 16,018 violent crime offenses in 2019.
The following 2020 crime figures in Virginia are presented in the report:
- The number of reported homicides increased from 428 to 528 (23.4%). Victims and offenders tended to be younger males; 45.1% of homicide victims were men between 18 and 34 and 52.7% of offenders were men between 18 and 34. Nearly half (49.2%) of all homicides occurred at a residence/home.
- Motor vehicle thefts and attempted thefts increased 6% compared to 2019 during which 10,575 motor vehicles were stolen in 10,044 offenses. During 2020, there were 11,209 motor vehicles reported stolen in 10,773 offenses. In 2020, 6,366 motor vehicles were recovered (vehicles may have been stolen prior to 2020). Of all motor vehicles stolen, 40.2% were taken from the residence/home. The reported value of all motor vehicles stolen was $113,993,341.
- Drug arrests decreased by more than a third (36.7%) with the largest percentage decrease in the under 18 age group (48.6%). The number of reports of drugs seized decreased for nearly all drug types, especially marijuana (31.7%), due in part to decriminalization of possessing less than 1 ounce of the drug effective July 1, 2020.
- Burglary decreased 18.4%. Of the 11,413 burglaries and attempted burglaries, more than half (52.2%) took place at night between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., a reverse pattern from 2019 during which 54.8% of burglaries occurred during the day. Furthermore, 68% occurred at a residence/home, a decrease of 7.3% over the previous year.
- Of the known weapons reported for violent crimes, firearms were used in 83% of homicides and 50.4% of robberies. Firearms were used in more than one-third (35.2%) of aggravated assault cases.
- There were 190 hate crime offenses, involving 193 victims, reported in 2020 representing a 2.7% increase compared to 2019. Two offenses indicated more than one type of bias motivation. Nearly three-fourths (72.8%) were racially or ethnically motivated. Bias toward sexual orientation and religion were next highest (14.4%, 11.8%, respectively). Of all reported bias motivated crime, 77.4% were assault offenses (aggravated assault, simple assault) or destruction/damage/vandalism of property.
The report employs an Incident Based Reporting (IBR) method for calculating offenses, thus allowing for greater accuracy. IBR divides crimes into two categories: Group A for serious offenses including violent crimes (murder, forcible sex offenses, robbery and aggravated assault), property crimes and drug offenses, and Group B for what are considered less serious offenses such as trespassing, disorderly conduct, bad checks and liquor law violations where an arrest has occurred.
For both Group A and Group B offenses, there were a total of 206,609 arrests in 2020 compared to 274,636 arrests in 2019, representing an overall decrease in arrests in Virginia of 24.8%.
Per state mandate, the Virginia Department of State Police serves as the primary collector of crime data from participating Virginia state and local police departments and sheriffs’ offices. The data are collected by the Virginia State Police Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division. This information is then compiled into Crime in Virginia, an annual report for use by law enforcement, elected officials, media and the general public. These data become the official crime statistics for the Commonwealth and are sent to the FBI for incorporation into their annual report, Crime in the United States.
Virginia commits to reducing polluted runoff from state lands to advance Chesapeake Bay restoration
On June 3, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam signed Executive Directive Seventeen setting pollution reduction targets for lands within the Chesapeake Bay watershed that are owned by state agencies and public institutions of higher education. Nonpoint source pollution, also known as polluted runoff, occurs when stormwater moves over the ground collecting pollutants like excess nutrients, sediment, and toxins that degrade water quality and harm living resources.
“Stormwater runoff is among the most harmful and challenging sources of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries,” said Governor Northam. “Virginia has taken bold action to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution and we have made meaningful progress, but we must step up these efforts to achieve our clean water goals by 2025. As one of the largest landowners in the Bay watershed, this directive will ensure that the Commonwealth leads by example.”
In 2019, Virginia released its Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan to achieve the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load by 2025 that included a commitment to developing a plan specific to state lands. Over the past year, a team of experts from state agencies and public institutions from higher education worked at the direction of the Governor’s Conservation Cabinet to produce a State Lands Watershed Implementation Plan (SWIP) by mapping state lands, calculating runoff pollution targets, and identifying conservation practices that when implemented will reduce nutrient and sediment pollution.
The goal of the SWIP is to achieve significant reductions in or to offset unregulated, nonpoint source pollution originating from state lands within Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay watershed. The SWIP required the development of a comprehensive dataset of over 400,000 acres of state lands within the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the calculation of pollution load reductions using the Chesapeake Bay Watershed model. The SWIP details reduction targets of 122,000 pounds of nitrogen and 10,100 pounds of phosphorus and specifies eleven programmatic actions to achieve success.
“State agencies and institutions of higher education must take the same steps to restore the Chesapeake Bay that the Commonwealth is expecting of farmers, homeowners, private businesses, and local governments,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “If we make reducing pollution part of everyday business in Virginia, we will ensure that future generations can enjoy and benefit from healthy rivers and a cleaner Bay.
Executive Directive Seventeen orders the Secretary of Natural Resources, in partnership with the Secretary of Administration, Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, and the Conservation Cabinet, to ensure that the SWIP is fully implemented by all Virginia agencies, public institutions of higher education, and other state governmental entities that own or manage land within Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Read Governor Northam’s 2021 Clean the Bay Day proclamation here.
Traffic crashes claim 14 lives during 2021 Memorial Day weekend
The 2021 Memorial Day weekend not only saw an increase in overall traffic volumes on Virginia’s highways, but also an increase in traffic deaths. Preliminary reports indicate 14 people lost their lives during the four-day, holiday statistical counting period. During the same statistical counting period in 2020, traffic crashes on Virginia highways resulted in eight deaths.
Of the 14 individuals killed this year on Virginia highways, two were riding on motorcycles, and eight were not wearing a seat belt. The statistical counting period began at 12:01 a.m. Friday (May 28) and ended at midnight Monday (May 31).
The fatal crashes occurred in the cities of Richmond and Virginia Beach, and the counties of Botetourt, Bedford, Northampton, Cumberland, Chesterfield, Prince George, Tazewell, Amherst, Fairfax, and Albemarle. The two fatal motorcycle crashes occurred in the city of Virginia Beach and Tazewell County.
“I understand that most Virginians have been driving less in the past year. They may be feeling a bit green in the driver seat and their patience may be a bit short,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “But the rules of the road haven’t changed and safety on the roadways should be of paramount concern to everyone. This holiday weekend, as well as the entire year so far, has seen far too many people lose their lives on Virginia’s highways. Speeding, reckless driving, and distractions are leading to tragedy. Every one of these actions is a choice, a choice that has left too many families in mourning. In addition, eight people made the choice not to buckle up, a simple action that could have saved their lives and kept a family whole. Virginia State Police urge all Virginia drivers to step up and make safe decisions when they get into their vehicles. You have the opportunity to break this devastating streak.”
This year, the Memorial Day Operation C.A.R.E. Initiative fell within the annual “Click It or Ticket” campaign. During the entire statistical counting period for “Click It or Ticket” and the Memorial Day weekend which ran from 12:01 a.m. May 24 through midnight May 31, Virginia Troopers cited 5,553 speeders and 1,818 reckless drivers and arrested 79 impaired drivers. In addition, 740 individuals were cited for seat belt violations and 281 felony arrests were made. Virginia State Police also assisted 2,302 disabled motorists.
Funds generated from summonses issued by Virginia State Police go directly to court fees and the state’s Literary Fund, which benefits public school construction, technology funding and teacher retirement.
Republican nominees call for Governor Northam to rescind State of Emergency, allow Virginia businesses to follow CDC guidance
Republican nominee for governor Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor Winsome Sears, and Republican nominee for attorney general Jason Miyares released the following joint statement calling on Governor Northam to rescind his state of emergency and bring health code regulations for Virginia businesses in line with CDC guidance.
“Governor Northam’s consistently poor leadership has resulted in Virginia employers being left in limbo, caught between following CDC guidance and complying with the more onerous requirements put in place by the governor’s Health and Safety Codes Board. There is no reason for Virginia to be out of step with the latest guidance, but that’s where we are today because of the regime in Richmond and its unchecked, unfounded edicts. It’s time to open Virginia back up and get our economy moving again.
“This failure is the latest example of the McAuliffe-Northam Administration’s anti-business approach and policies, which has resulted in Virginia falling behind other states when it comes to growing jobs and creating more opportunity. In April, more than twice as many people dropped out of the labor force in Virginia as the number that went back to work. Our Commonwealth is not heading in the right direction, and it’s clear that if we get stuck with a third term of the McAuliffe-Northam Administration, Virginia’s Right to Work will be taken away and the mountain of government red tape that is holding back growth will get even bigger. Virginians simply can’t afford to recycle the same old policies and politicians of the past; we need new leadership in Richmond to rebuild Virginia.”
SIBO GROUP to invest $2.6 million in new operation, creating 24 new jobs in Harrisonburg
Governor Ralph Northam announced on May 27, 2021, that SIBO GROUP, a Slovenia-based manufacturer of closure solutions for tubes, containers, and other packaging systems, will invest $2.6 million to establish its U.S. corporate headquarters and a new manufacturing operation in the City of Harrisonburg. Operating as subsidiary SIBO USA, LLC, the new facility will be located at 810 North Main Street and the project will create 24 new jobs.
“It is a strong vote of confidence in our business climate when an international company chooses Virginia as its gateway into the U.S. market,” said Governor Northam. “We are proud to welcome SIBO USA to Harrisonburg, where the company will find a top-notch workforce with a wealth of manufacturing experience.”
Founded in 1967, SIBO GROUP began by producing plastic closures for the cosmetic industry. The company now manufactures plastic caps and shoulders, molds, technical components, and other items, supplying many of the world’s leading brands in the fields of oral care, cosmetics, pharmacy, medicine, household, sanitary, and food products. SIBO GROUP exports to more than 65 countries around the world, has over 300 customers worldwide and produces over five billion pieces every year. SIBO USA will enable the company to better serve its North American customers.
“Virginia has long been a manufacturing stronghold and its commitment to support our many manufacturers complement SIBO GROUP’s history and long-term goals,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Our strategic location, access to key markets, world-class amenities, and skilled talent makes Harrisonburg an ideal launchpad for SIBO’s future growth.”
“SIBO GROUP decided to establish its first U.S. production facility in Harrisonburg and to commit our production resources to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley due to the welcoming culture, strategic geographical position, investment-friendly state incentives, advanced infrastructure, economically active and innovative population, highly-qualified human capital, and tradition of industrial manufacturing,” said Mat Zakotnik, CEO of SIBO USA. “Our global team analyzed potential investment opportunities across the U.S., and we concluded that Virginia and Harrisonburg offer the best deal for our mutual success, not only in the form of market expansion opportunities for SIBO USA, but also by providing unprecedented local job creation potential, inclusive local community, and long-term corporate partnership.”
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the City of Harrisonburg to secure the project for Virginia and will support SIBO USA’s job creation through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP), which provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs in order to support employee recruitment and training activities. As a business incentive supporting economic development, VJIP reduces the human resource costs of new and expanding companies. VJIP is state-funded, demonstrating Virginia’s commitment to enhancing job opportunities for citizens.
“Harrisonburg is excited to be selected as the U.S. corporate headquarters and manufacturing location for SIBO GROUP,” said Deanna R. Reed, Mayor of the City of Harrisonburg. “The Shenandoah Valley’s strong manufacturing base, skilled workforce, and our strategic location on Interstate 81 all contributed to making Harrisonburg a perfect match for SIBO. We are thrilled to welcome this international firm to our community.”
“Thanks to the SIBO GROUP for working in partnership with the Commonwealth and the City of Harrisonburg, we now have an international business headquartered here in the Shenandoah Valley,” said Senator Mark Obenshain. “This economic growth is tremendously exciting and solidifies the Valley as a great place to live, work, and do business.”
“I am delighted that SIBO GROUP has selected Harrisonburg for its U.S. headquarters,” said Delegate Tony Wilt. “These jobs and investment continue to add to the Valley’s strong manufacturing base. This announcement is welcome news as our economy seeks to recover.”