Governor Ralph Northam announced on July 28, 2021, that the Commonwealth will commit $485 million in federal and state funding to address pressing challenges in Virginia’s behavioral health system. The plan includes targeted investments to alleviate pressure on state mental health hospitals, strengthen community-based services, and increase support for substance abuse treatment and prevention programs.
The Governor made the announcement at the Arlington County Community Services Board and was joined by Senator Adam Ebbin and Delegates Mark Sickles, Patrick Hope, and Alfonso Lopez for a tour of the Crisis Intervention Center and a roundtable with behavioral health leaders. The announcement is part of “Investment Week,” during which the Governor and legislative leaders are highlighting proposals for allocating the $4.3 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding available to the Commonwealth in advance of the August 2nd special session.
“Every Virginian should have access to the behavioral health care and treatment they need, either in their home communities or in a state-operated facility,” said Governor Northam. “The pandemic has led to increases in depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, and other mental health issues in Virginia and across the country, which has added to the strain on our behavioral health system and the valued people who work within it. This funding package is a down payment that will significantly increase support for our state hospitals, community-based providers, and substance abuse prevention and treatment programs so they can best help those who rely on their services.”
The Governor’s plan solidifies the Commonwealth’s ongoing commitment to increasing access to community-based services and ensuring the safety of staff and patients in Virginia’s 12 state hospitals and centers. Additional capital investments will support improvements to state facility infrastructure, including water treatment, ventilation, and sewer systems.
“COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on both the mental and physical health of Virginians,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, MD, MHCM. “These investments will mean Virginians will receive the care they need in the communities where they live.”
The $485 million investment includes state funding as well as federal dollars from the ARP and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and is broadly focused on three areas—state mental hospitals, community-based services, and opioid and substance abuse treatment.
Virginia’s mental health hospitals have faced high census levels for a number of years and the pandemic has made the situation more challenging. The funding package has nearly $200 million for staffing at state behavioral health facilities and intellectual disability training centers. This includes $45 million to continue staff bonuses and an additional $154 million in the two-year budget Governor Northam will submit in December for salary adjustments.
“State hospitals are in desperate need of help,” said Senator Louise Lucas, Chair of the Senate Education and Health Committee. “This funding will mean that Virginians can access the quality care they need, when they need it, without placing a burden on our community services.”
“These measures outline a significant step towards ensuring state hospitals remain operational for the immediate and foreseeable future,” said Delegate Mark Sickles, Chair of the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee. “We have to take action now to address these critical issues.”
The funding proposal also includes $150 million to increase access to community-based crisis services and child and family support services, and provide dispatcher training for the Marcus Alert program, a new statewide mental health alert system designed to ensure behavioral health experts are involved in responding to individuals in crisis. An additional $5 million dollars will be dedicated to providing permanent supportive housing in Northern Virginia to assist with bed shortages.
“Over the past eight years, we have worked to restructure our mental health system and to better fund services, but we still have much to do to best help Virginians with mental health needs,” said Senator George Barker, member of the Senate Finance Committee and the Behavioral Health Commission. “The federal dollars will help meet needs now, and we will continue to build the best mental health system in the 2022 legislative session.”
“Today’s announcement is a down payment toward our long-term commitment to improving Virginia’s behavioral health system,” said Delegate Patrick Hope, Vice-Chair of the Behavioral Health Commission. “It is only through a sustainable investment in community-based care will we truly recognize the lasting benefit and I am committed to a fully-funded community safety net to meet all our behavioral health needs.”
“Expanding community capacity ensures patients are cared for in an appropriate setting,” said Delegate Rodney Willett, Chair of the Behavioral Health Subcommittee. “I am grateful for the partnership between the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services, the Administration, the General Assembly, and the private sector to ensure equitable behavioral health services across the state.”
The plan also allocates $103 million for opioid and substance abuse treatment services. In 2020, Virginia saw nearly 2,300 overdose deaths, a 41 percent increase from the previous year, and the 2021 number is projected to be even higher. This funding will support community-based prevention, peer counseling, and harm reduction services.
Governor Glenn Youngkin ceremonially signs legislation investing in school facilities across the Commonwealth
On August 5, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin participated in the official grand opening and ribbon cutting of the Mecklenburg County Middle School and High School, a best-in-class joint school made possible by the community. The Governor also ceremonially signed HB 563, sponsored by Deputy Majority Leader Israel O’Quinn, R-Washington, and SB 473 and SB 471, sponsored by Senator Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond.
“These schools demonstrate how a community can come together not only to build a state-of-the-art facility but to invest in their children and transform their workforce,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “And through the bipartisan coalition that unanimously advanced these bills, we are delivering on our commitment to support vibrant, 21st Century educational environments across the Commonwealth. This is what happens when we put our students first; we’re getting it done together.”
HB 563 and SB 473, the School Construction Fund and Program will support $400 million in grants distributed based on student enrollment and local needs. It will also support $450 million in competitive grants for high-need school’s new construction, expansion, and modernization projects in partnership with local school boards. SB 471 will provide $400 million in school construction loans and make additional improvements to the administration of the Literary Fund Construction Loan Program.
“This year the Commonwealth was in a position to assist localities with the construction and modernization of their schools,” said House Appropriations Chairman Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach. “We were able to leverage $1 billion, which was set aside to make a school construction and modernization fund of $3 billion. This marks a significant investment in the education and future of Virginia’s children, and I believe it is a good deal that we can all get behind.”
“I am thankful to have Governor Youngkin sign my HB 563 today, and I appreciate everyone who helped to get this bill across the finish line,” said Deputy Majority Leader Israel O’Quinn, R-Washington. “This shift in Virginia’s approach to school construction is a big deal for school divisions all across the Commonwealth, but particularly in Southwest Virginia. Having new schools built across the state ultimately means that the real winners are students.”
“The new School Construction Fund and enhanced Literary Fund loans will lay the groundwork to fix Virginia’s crumbling school infrastructure,” said Senator Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond. “I’m honored to have worked with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to make bipartisan progress on public school construction. I look forward to working with them in the years to come to continue to make crucial investments in the future. Our children cannot learn in crumbling schools, and Virginia’s investments in school modernization cannot wait.”
“We are thrilled to host these bill signings as we celebrate our new school and the world-class career pathways students will access here,” said Mecklenburg Superintendent Paul Nichols. “Mecklenburg students will benefit greatly from the historic budget investments in school facilities and lab schools developed in partnership with K-12, postsecondary, and employers.”
Governor Glenn Youngkin and Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera Participate in a Roundtable Discussion at Southside Virginia Community College on Friday, August 5, 2022. Official Photo by Christian Martinez, Office of Governor Glenn Youngkin.
Governor Youngkin also participated in a roundtable discussion at Southside Virginia Community College to discuss lab school efforts in Southside and the needs of the region’s students and economy.
“Southside Virginia Community College is thrilled to build upon its strong partnership with Mecklenburg County Public Schools through our plan to launch the first lab school in the Commonwealth’s community college system under Governor Youngkin’s leadership,” said Southside Virginia Community College President Dr. Quentin R. Johnson. “By allowing community colleges and higher education centers to lead lab schools, the Governor and General Assembly ensured that students across the Commonwealth can benefit from these innovative options.”
In addition, participants shared plans to launch a lab school at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center that will expand upon its Career Tech Academy through employability skills. Participants also discussed plans to expand the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research’s GO TEC middle school career connections and exploration program.
“This roundtable was a great opportunity to come together with postsecondary partners, superintendents, teachers, students, and leaders in the General Assembly to discuss what’s working—and not working—in education in the Commonwealth,” said Governor Youngkin. “We must continue to work together to empower parents and students, support teachers, and foster innovation.”
“Yesterday’s tour and roundtable demonstrated that when our public schools partner with higher education and the private sector, an innovative academic model is developed, providing our students with multiple pathways to obtain industry certifications in high-demand fields,” said House Education Chairman Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach. “It is clear that Virginia’s lab school initiative will provide the flexibility and funding necessary to foster this type of learning environment and provide students across the Commonwealth with an opportunity to receive an education that prepares them for a 21st Century career right out of high school.”
Sales Tax Holiday August 5-7, could be last one for Virginia
Virginia residents will be able to shop for school supplies, clothing, hurricane/emergency preparedness items and more during a three-day Sales Tax Holiday that kicks off at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 5, and runs through 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7.
During the Sales Tax Holiday, qualifying items can be purchased without sales tax in stores and by online shopping. Sales tax in Virginia ranges between 5.3 percent and 7 percent; that includes the state’s 4.3 percent state sales tax, the 1 percent local option tax, and other applicable regional taxes. In Warren County, the rate is 5.3 percent. In the surrounding counties of Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, and Shenandoah the rate is also 5.3 percent. Clarke and Fauquier have rates of 5.3 percent, but some localities or governments within those counties collect an additional tax, making sales tax the state maximum of 7 percent.
The Sales Tax Holiday has fallen on the first Friday of August through the following Sunday since 2016. Prior to that, Sales Tax Holidays occurred in May, August and October. Since the General Assembly last extended the Sales Tax Holiday through July 1, 2023, it could disappear altogether after this weekend. Legislative action would be required to hold the tax holiday weekend next year and beyond.
What can I buy?
Qualifying items include school supplies, clothing, footwear, hurricane and emergency preparedness products, Energy Star products and WaterSense products.
Eligible school supplies are $20 or less per item and include things such as backpacks, filler paper, notebooks, textbooks, pencils, pens, hand sanitizer, lunch boxes and tissues. Items such as briefcases, handbags, wallets, jewelry, makeup, and umbrellas boxes, are not exempt from sales tax. Similarly, protective equipment such as hard hats, helmets, breathing masks and life preservers are also not exempt from sales tax.
Hurricane and emergency preparedness items qualifying for the Sales Tax Holiday include portable generators and generator power cords, inverters and cables, (priced at $1,000 or less each), gas-powered chainsaws ($350 or less each,) and other specified items $60 and less each, such as chain saw oil and lubricants, carrying cases, safety apparel and repair parts.
For those looking to stock up for emergencies or general household use, items such as First-Aid kits, two-way radios, flashlights, batteries, duct tape, carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, bottled water, cell phone chargers will all be sales tax-free.
Energy Star or WaterSense products qualifying for sales tax exemption must be $2,500 or less per item and be for noncommercial, personal use.
The Virginia Department of Taxation has a full list of items that qualify for the tax-free holiday.
West Virginia’s Sales Tax Holiday is slated to begin at midnight on Friday, August 5, and will continue through Monday, August 8 at 11:59 p.m.
Hilton solidifies Virginia footprint, xxpanding global headquarters in Fairfax County
On August 4, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that Hilton (NYSE: HLT), the leading global hospitality company, will retain its headquarters in Fairfax County, including significant upgrades to its facility at 7930 Jones Branch Drive in McLean. Hilton will re-imagine its space to create an even more vibrant place to convene and collaborate, fully integrating technology into the office experience to meet the needs of today’s workforce.
Hilton located its global headquarters in Virginia in 2009 and plans to create 350 net new headquarters jobs over the next five years.
“Virginia is America’s hometown for corporate headquarters, and we are proud that Hilton will continue to call Fairfax County home,” said Governor Youngkin. “For more than a decade, this global company has benefited from the Commonwealth’s combination of strategic location, diverse, world-class talent, and stable business climate, and we look forward to a continued partnership as Hilton recommits to Virginia and reinvents its headquarters for the future.”
“The companies that choose to locate and grow in our Commonwealth are a strong endorsement of the advantages a Virginia location offers. Retaining Hilton’s global headquarters reinforces our commitment to ensuring the best business climate for our valued corporate partners,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick. “Northern Virginia is one of the most educated and diverse regions in the United States, and we are confident that Hilton’s next phase of growth will be bolstered by the top-tier talent pipeline Fairfax County provides.”
“Northern Virginia has been Hilton’s home for more than a decade, and the region has played an instrumental role in helping us create the best, most inclusive home for our Team Members while also managing the demands of a global business,” said Chris Nassetta, President and CEO, Hilton. “We appreciate the continued support of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Fairfax County, and the Tysons Partnership in ensuring we continue to attract strong, diverse talent to our vibrant, growing region.”
“I am thrilled that Hilton, a valued corporate citizen, is maintaining its headquarters and expanding its workforce here. This is a validation of the strong economy we enjoy here in Fairfax County,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey C. McKay. “We have demonstrated time and again that business-friendly policies go hand-in-hand with the high quality of life here, maintaining Fairfax County’s status as the premiere destination for starting, moving, or expanding your company.”
“I am pleased to hear about Hilton’s decision to grow their corporate headquarters in Fairfax County,” said Senator Janet Howell. “Hilton has a long history of calling McLean their home, and I know that they will continue to add considerable value to the bustling Northern Virginia business climate.”
“Hilton is an iconic name in the hospitality, travel, and tourism industries, and I am grateful that this global business leader will continue to make Tysons its home,” said Delegate Mark Keam. “I also want to thank the leadership of the company for expanding its workforce in my district.”
Founded in 1919, Hilton is a leading global hospitality company with a portfolio of 18 world-class brands comprising 7,000 properties and 1.1 million rooms in 122 countries and territories. Dedicated to fulfilling its founding vision to fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality, Hilton has welcomed more than 3 billion guests in its more than 100-year history, earned a top spot on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list, and been recognized as a global leader on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices for five consecutive years. Hilton has introduced several industry-leading technology enhancements to improve the guest experience, including Digital Key Share, automated complimentary room upgrades, and the ability to book confirmed connecting rooms. Through the award-winning guest loyalty program Hilton Honors, the nearly 139 million members who book directly with Hilton can earn points for hotel stays and experiences money can’t buy. Hilton currently employs approximately 800 Team Members at its headquarters location in McLean.
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority to secure the project for Virginia. Governor Youngkin approved $5 million in funds from the Virginia Economic Development Incentive Grant. The Virginia Economic Development Incentive Grant was established as a self-funded program of performance-based incentives that the Commonwealth awards to exceptional economic development projects with large numbers of employees and very high wages relative to average wages for that particular area. The Governor also approved a $1 million grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist Fairfax County with the project. The company is eligible to receive benefits from the Major Business Facility Job Tax Credit for new, full-time jobs created. The Virginia Jobs Investment Program will provide funding and services to support the company’s employee training activities.
Attorney General Miyares announces the formation of a nationwide Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force
On August 2, 2022, Attorney General Jason Miyares announced that Virginia is joining a nationwide Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force of 50 attorneys general to investigate and take legal action against the telecommunications companies responsible for bringing a majority of foreign robocalls into the United States. This bipartisan nationwide Task Force has one goal: to cut down on illegal robocalls.
“Everyone has experienced the nuisance of robocalls. These scams are constantly trying to steal Virginians’ personal information, targeting not only online consumers but senior citizens as well. Virginia is joining the Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force because enough is enough – it’s time to crack down on these annoying and illegal calls and proactively protect Virginians,” said Attorney General Miyares.
The Task Force has issued 20 civil investigative demands to 20 gateway providers and other entities allegedly responsible for most foreign robocall traffic. Gateway providers that bring foreign traffic into the U.S. telephone network have a responsibility to ensure the traffic is legal, but these providers are not taking sufficient action to stop robocall traffic. In many cases, they appear to be intentionally turning a blind eye in return for steady revenue. The Task Force will focus on the bad actors throughout the telecommunications industry to help reduce the number of robocalls and benefit the companies that are following the rules.
Attorney General Miyares is committed to stopping illegal and unwanted calls. According to the National Consumer Law Center and Electronic Privacy Information Center, over 33 million scam robocalls are made to Americans every day. These scam calls include Social Security Administration fraud against seniors, Amazon scams against consumers, and many other scams targeting all consumers, including some of our most vulnerable citizens. An estimated $29.8 billion dollars was stolen through scam calls in 2021. Most of this scam robocall traffic originates overseas. The Task Force is focused on shutting down the providers that profit from this illegal scam traffic and refuse to take steps to mitigate these scam calls otherwise.
Attorney General Miyares offers the following tips to avoid scams and unwanted calls:
- Be wary of callers who specifically ask you to pay by gift card, wire transfer, or cryptocurrency. For example, the Internal Revenue Service does not accept iTunes gift cards.
- Look out for prerecorded calls from imposters posing as government agencies. Typically, the Social Security Administration does not make phone calls to individuals.
- If you suspect fraudulent activity, immediately hang up and do not provide any personal information.
Virginians who have a question, concern, or complaint about a consumer matter should contact Attorney General Miyares’ Consumer Protection Section:
- By phone: (800) 552-9963
- By email: email@example.com
- Online Complaint Form
- Online Contact Form
Governor Glenn Youngkin declares State of Emergency in response to flooding in Southwest Virginia
Governor Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency today to assist with response and recovery efforts due to impacts from heavy rainfall and flooding in Southwest Virginia. The Virginia Emergency Support Team has been monitoring heavy rainfall and severe flash flooding events that began moving through the southwestern region of the commonwealth on July 27. This event presents significant resource and operational challenges as the region has experienced several days of rainfall and storms, with additional rainfall forecasted in the days ahead. The effects of this weather system has already caused flash flooding and significant impacts on roadways and utilities in several localities.
The Commonwealth assists with the ongoing response and recovery operations, including providing assets and supplies to our local partners. The VEST will continue to support this incident.
“Southwest Virginia continues to be impacted by flooding after heavy rainfall in the area yesterday,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “With more rainfall forecasted over the next few days, we want to lean forward in providing as many resources possible to assist those affected. Our team will continue to monitor the situation and provide assistance as needed.”
A state of emergency allows the Commonwealth to mobilize resources and deploy people and equipment to assist in response and recovery efforts. The declaration also allows officials from Virginia to coordinate the provision of resources with our state and local partners. This action does not apply to individuals or private businesses.
AG Miyares sues Biden Administration for threatening to withdraw school nutrition assistance for political agenda
RICHMOND, VA – Attorney General Jason Miyares joined 22 attorneys general in a lawsuit filed on July 27, 2022, against the Biden Administration’s new regulatory guidance on sex discrimination for schools and programs that receive federal nutritional assistance.
On May 5, 2022, the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services issued guidance to Virginia and other States announcing that discrimination on the basis of sex in Title IX and the Food and Nutrition Act includes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. By doing so, they are forcing unlawful regulatory measures onto schools and holding hostage funding for school lunches.
The National School Lunch Program serves nearly 30 million school children daily, many of whom rely on it for breakfast, lunch, or both. Approximately 100,000 public and non-profit private schools and residential childcare institutions receive federal funding to subsidize free or reduced-price meals for qualifying children.
In the lawsuit, the attorneys general argue the USDA’s Guidance is unlawful because:
- This USDA guidance was issued without providing the State and other stakeholders the opportunity for input as required by the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).
- The USDA premised its guidance on an obvious misreading and misapplication of the Supreme Court’s holding in Bostock v. Clayton County.
- The guidance imposes new and unlawful regulatory measures on state agencies and operators receiving federal financial assistance from the USDA. This guidance will inevitably result in regulatory chaos threatening essential nutritional services to some of the most vulnerable citizens.
On June 14th, 26 state attorneys general coalition called on President Biden to withdraw the USDA’s guidance.