On January 13th, Governor Ralph Northam announced that total general fund revenues rose 7.6 percent in December, driven by solid growth in payroll withholding, sales and use taxes, and recordation tax collections. On a fiscal year-to-date basis, total revenue collections rose 8.3 percent through December, well ahead of the annual forecast of 1.9 percent growth.
“This continued strong revenue performance gives us confidence that we can achieve the forward-looking agenda I have laid out, while also putting money into our cash reserves,” said Governor Northam. “As the General Assembly session gets underway in Richmond, we have a unique opportunity to invest in our shared future, grow and diversify our economic base, and continue building on our progress.”
Collections of payroll withholding taxes rose 9.2 percent in December, with an additional deposit day compared with last year. Collections of sales and use taxes, reflecting November sales, rose 5.1 percent in December. November represents the beginning of the holiday shopping season and this year had fewer shopping days after Thanksgiving than last year.
“A clearer assessment of the season will be possible after receiving December sales tax payments due in January,” said Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne. “January non-withholding payments will also give us a better indication of taxpayer behavior for calendar 2019 tax returns.”
Collections of wills, suits, deeds, and contracts—mainly recordation tax collections—were $40.4 million in December, compared with $32.0 million in December of last year.
December is a significant month for corporate income tax collections as quarterly estimated payments are due for most corporations and refunds from extension returns are processed. With the main refunding season completed and the first two estimated payments received, collections of corporate income taxes grew 19.2 percent on a year-to-date basis, compared with the forecast of 2.2 percent growth.
Fiscal-year-to-date, payroll withholding collections have grown 5.8 percent, well ahead of the annual estimate of 4.7 percent growth. Collections of sales and use taxes have risen 8.1 percent, ahead of the annual estimate of 6.0 percent growth and recordation tax collections are up 29.0 percent, far ahead of the annual forecast of 13.2 percent growth. On a fiscal year-to-date basis, total revenue collections rose 8.3 percent through December, well ahead of the annual forecast of 1.9 percent growth.
I-81 southbound closed April 2nd in Augusta County for crash investigation
Southbound Interstate 81 is scheduled to be closed from about 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on the morning of Thursday, April 2, for Virginia State Police to investigate a recent crash in southern Augusta County.
I-81 southbound motorists will detour at exit 213A, take Route 11 (Lee-Jackson Highway) south into Rockbridge County, and then take Route 606 (Raphine Road) west to return to the interstate at exit 205.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at http://www.511Virginia.org.
The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at https://my.vdot.virginia.gov/. Agents are available 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week.
The VDOT Staunton District serves Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke, Warren, Page, Rockingham, Augusta, Highland, Rockbridge, Alleghany, and Bath counties.
DOJ announces $16 million available to Virginia governments and law enforcement agencies to aid coronavirus response
ROANKOE, Va. – United States Attorneys Thomas T. Cullen and G. Zachary Terrwilliger announced today that the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, has made available more than $16 million to help Virginia public safety agencies and local government agencies respond to the challenges posed by the outbreak of COVID-19.
The Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) program, authorized by the recent stimulus legislation signed by President Trump, will allow eligible state, local and tribal governments to apply immediately for these critical funds. The department is moving quickly to make awards, with the goal of having funds available for drawdown within days of the award.
The Commonwealth of Virginia will receive more than $16 million from the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program. Allowable projects and expenditures include, but are not limited to: Overtime, training, travel expenses, supplies, including personal protective equipment for medical personnel and first responders, and initiatives focused on addressing the medical needs of inmates in state and local detention centers.
“Our local communities are waging a war to mitigate the awful effects of the Coronavirus,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today. “These grants will provide additional funding to augment critical health and public-safety initiatives in cash-strapped counties, cities, and towns across the Commonwealth and increase safety for the brave health-care providers, police officers, and first responders on the front lines.”
“The Department of Justice is 100 percent committed to supporting our communities through these unprecedented times,” said U.S. Attorney Terwilliger. “In addition to upholding the rule of law, we are working daily to ensure that our state and local partners have the resources they need to effectively combat the spread of COVID-19. These grants underscore our commitment to stand with those on the frontline of this critical fight.”
Applications are currently being accepted and all applications are due by May 29.
The Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Task Force:
Western Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Baudinet, USAVAW.COVID19@usdoj.gov or 540-278-1494.
Eastern Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kaitlin G. Cooke, Kaitlin.Cooke@usdoj.gov or 804-819-5416.
To report a COVID-19 fraud scheme or suspicious activity, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) by calling the NCDF Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
FBI at: https://www.ic3.gov or 804-261-1044.
To report fraudulent activity to the Virginia State Police, Virginians can contact the Virginia Fusion Center (VFC) at email@example.com.
For continuing information on the COVID-19 virus and the federal response, check https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
United States announces civil settlement to collect all debts owed by justice entities for violations of Federal Mine Safety Act
ROANOKE, VIRGINIA – United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen and Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) David G. Zatezalo, announced today a settlement between the United States and a group of 24 coal companies operating in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky to satisfy more than $5 million in unpaid penalties for violations of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act.
In May 2019, the United States filed a civil action to collect debts owed against Southern Coal Corporation, Justice Coal of Alabama, A&G Coal Corporation, Black River Coal, Chestnut Land Holdings, Double Bonus Coal Company, Dynamic Energy, Four Star Resources, Frontier Coal Company, Infinity Energy, Justice Energy Company, Justice Highwall Mining, Kentucky Fuel Corporation, Keystone Service Industries, M&P Services, Nine Mile Mining, Nufac Mining Company, Pay Car Mining; Premium Coal Company, S and H Mining, Sequoia Energy, Tams Management, and Virginia Fuel Corporation.
According to the United States’ civil complaint, between May 3, 2014, and May 3, 2019, MSHA collectively issued at least 2,297 citations to the defendant mine operators for violations of the Mine Safety and Health Act, and at the appropriate time, assessed civil penalties for each violation, pursuant to the law.
The defendants failed to pay the penalties, even after MSHA sent multiple demand letters. MSHA then referred the civil penalties to the Department of Treasury for collection. The Department of Treasury made another written demand on the defendants, but they still failed to pay, and the Department of Treasury referred the civil penalties to the Department of Justice for collection. On September 5, 2018, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia made a written demand on the defendants for the delinquent debts. The defendants, however, still failed to pay the outstanding debts, and on May 7, 2019, the United States filed a civil complaint to collect the unpaid debts.
Today, the 23 named defendants agreed to pay the full amounts of the assessed civil penalties, plus interest and penalties. In total, the defendants will pay $4,065,578.29 to satisfy the debts identified in the United States’ May 2019 complaint. Additionally, the defendants and related company Bluestone Coal Corporation agreed to pay an additional $1,064,547.18 to get current on their other unpaid, Mine Safety and Health Act penalties that were not included in the United States’ May 2019 complaint.
“Thanks to the hard work and persistence of career attorneys from our civil division and the MSHA, the 24 Justice entities have agreed to pay, in full, all outstanding debts and penalties associated with their mine-safety violations,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today. “It is our hope that this landmark collection action and settlement agreement sends a clear message that the Department of Justice will aggressively pursue mine-safety violations and hold owners and operators accountable.”
“Ensuring that mine operators pay their penalties for violating mine safety and health laws is an important part of protecting miners’ safety and health, and that means holding them accountable if they fail to pay fines,” said MSHA Assistant Secretary David G. Zatezalo. “I thank my colleagues at the Departments of Treasury and Justice for their support in reaching this historic settlement.”
Executive Assistant United States Attorney Laura Day Rottenborn, Assistant United States Attorney Krista Consiglio Frith, and Special Assistant United States Attorney Jason Grover, an attorney with the Department of Labor, are representing the United States in these matters.
Virginia State Police enforcement practices of Governor’s executive orders and directives
RICHMOND – The Virginia State Police encourages all Virginians to adhere to Virginia Governor Northam’s directives and does their part by staying home in order to best mitigate the exposure and spread of COVID-19 within the Commonwealth. State troopers, for their personal protection and for the safety of the public, are minimizing their direct contact with the public. All Department recruitment events, public presentations, training, ceremonies, etc., have all been canceled or postponed through June 10, 2020.
Governor Northam has directed state and local law enforcement to initially address violations of the following Executive Order 53 and Executive Order 55 directives with education and warnings. Persistent violation of these Executive Order (EO) directives can result in an individual(s) or business being charged with a class one misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in jail and $2,500 fine:
• Prohibition of all public and private in-person, indoor and outdoor gatherings of more than 10 individuals – with the exception of the operation of businesses not required to close under EO 53 and the gathering of family members living in the same residence;
• Closure of all dining and congregation areas in restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, and farmers markets;
• Any brick and mortar retail business (not listed in paragraph 5 of EO 53) failing to limit all in-person shopping to no more than 10 patrons per establishment. If any such business cannot adhere to the 10-patron limit with proper social distancing requirements, it must close.
• Closure of all public access to recreational and entertainment businesses;
• Closure of public beaches for all activity, except for exercising and fishing;
• Cancellation of in-person classes and instruction at institutions of higher education;
• Cessation of all reservations for overnight stays of less than 14 nights at all privately-owned campgrounds
Virginia State Police have been and will continue to assess Virginia EO violations on a case-by-case basis.
State police are required to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth and will continue to have a visible presence within our communities and on the roads for the safety of those living, working and traveling in Virginia. The law still requires law enforcement to have reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop on a vehicle. Virginia State Police will not be making random traffic stops on vehicles nor conduct checkpoints to determine if a driver is traveling for a permissible reason, as granted by EO 53 and EO 55.
The current Governor’s Executive Orders related to COVID-19:
• Do not require an individual to carry documentation related to one’s purpose of travel;
• Do not close Virginia roads/interstates to Virginia residents;
• Do not restrict non-Virginia residents from traveling into and/or through Virginia;
• Do not prevent Virginians from traveling out of the state. State police do encourage any Virginian(s) traveling out-of-state to check, in advance, the other state(s) for any travel restrictions in effect for that state(s). Governor Northam has advised Virginians returning from out-of-state and/or international travel to self-quarantine for at least 14 days.
For any additional questions related to the statewide “Stay at Home” order, please go to www.virginia.gov/coronavirus/faq.
Governor Northam COVID-19 update briefing – April 1, 2020
Schools, nonprofits hustle to feed over a half million Virginia students: ‘It’s incredible’
RICHMOND, Va. — Richmond school bus driver Tyrone McBride is still driving a big, yellow bus through Richmond neighborhoods, but these days, he’s transporting boxes of food for kids in need.
“It gets me out of the house,” said McBride, who has been a school bus driver for 18 years, “and you know, you’re doing a great deed and helping people out.”
More than a week has passed since Gov. Ralph Northam announced students will not return to school this academic year, and volunteers are still working to feed the 590,000 children in Virginia eligible for free or reduced lunches who were ordered to remain home during the coronavirus pandemic. Schools have been closed since March 16, though students were originally slated to return by March 27.
Whitcomb Court resident Simone Sanders said her children are now eating at home during the day, but she didn’t receive an increase in food stamps. One child is disabled, which prevents Sanders from being able to work.
“It’s affecting us bad, especially in the projects, and there’s nothing for the kids to do all day,” Sanders said. “And then you have to worry about your child just being outside getting shot.”
Sanders said she’s grateful for the food from Richmond Public Schools and says she occasionally gives food to neighborhood kids who say they’re hungry.
The Richmond Public Schools meal distribution program, like others around the state, continues to evolve during the coronavirus pandemic that caused a surge of Virginians to file for unemployment. Almost 46,300 Virginians filed for unemployment between March 15 and March 21. The previous week 2,706 people filed an unemployment claim, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.
The program started with 10 school sites and has since grown into at least 43 sites throughout the community and 10 school sites.
Erin Stanley, director of family engagement at Richmond Public Schools, said volunteers, bus drivers and the district’s nutrition staff have made the efforts possible. Volunteers were using personal vehicles to drop off food, but RPS decided that school buses would better suit the cause.
“We did that for a couple of reasons,” Stanley said. “One, so we can get more food out, and two, because school buses are a bit more well known and probably more trusted than individual volunteers going in with their personal vehicles.”
Plastic bags filled with milk cartons, sandwiches, apples, and snacks are handed out in neighborhoods found on the Richmond Public Schools’ website. School distribution sites are open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and neighborhood times vary by location. Any student in the school district can use the program, Stanley said.
Volunteer Natalie Newfield said many families she gave meals to lost jobs in the restaurant industry.
“They’re changing the way they do deliveries, which is amazing,” Newfield said. “Every day you give them a count. If they need more food, the next day, all of a sudden your bus has more food. It’s incredible.”
Statewide efforts to feed children in Virginia
When schools closed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture activated the Summer Meals Program, which funds public schools and local organizations to serve breakfast and lunch during the summer.
Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, pressed the USDA to change its policy which required parents to have their child with them when picking up food.
Roem said it was difficult for a Prince William County mother to access food for her two children. Her daughter has an immune system deficiency caused by recent cancer treatments, making her susceptible to the COVID-19 virus.
“When you’re talking about a 7-year-old with cancer, we have to really evaluate what is it that our policy is trying to prevent that is more important than feeding a child with cancer,” Roem said.
Roem said she was able to bring groceries to the family, who live in the representative’s district. As they carried bags of food inside, Roem said the mother told her children, “We’re eating tonight.”
“I fought with the USDA for a full week and won a major, major victory for kids throughout Virginia and across the country, and especially immunocompromised kids, to make sure that they stay safe, that they stay home,” Roem said.
The USDA waived the restriction last week, and states can now choose to waive the in-person policy for students to receive food.
No Kid Hungry, a national campaign launched by nonprofit Share Our Strength, is offering emergency grants to local school divisions and organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The grants can help people who are trying to make meal distribution possible but may lack the equipment necessary to feed children outside of a school setting.
Sarah Steely, senior program manager at No Kid Hungry Virginia, said the grants can fund necessities like vehicles, gas, coolers, and equipment to keep food safe during distribution.
“Those might not be resources that folks already have, because those aren’t service models that were expected of them before,” Steely said, “so we’re here to support community organizations and school divisions as they figure out what it is they need to distribute to kids.”
The organization works with YMCAs, childcare centers, libraries and all 133 of Virginia’s public school divisions.
The organization recently activated their texting hotline for those unsure of where their next meal is coming from text “FOOD” to 877-877. The hotline is generally used during the summer months but was reactivated to combat food insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic.
Steely called the hotline “a tool in a bigger toolbox of resources” and encouraged families to contact their local school board for updated information about their locality.
“They count on that as a primary source of nutrition, so with schools closed, we want to make sure that the students who are accessing meals at school are now accessing those meals at home,” Steely said.
By Hannah Eason
Capital News Service