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Governor Northam Announces Commonwealth’s Unemployment Rate falls to 2.8%

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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased 0.1 percentage point in August to 2.8 percent, which was unchanged from a year ago. In August, the labor force expanded for the fourteenth consecutive month by 14,204, or 0.3 percent to set a new record high of 4,404,492, as the number of unemployed decreased by 3,551. Household employment increased by 17,755 to set a new high of 4,281,899. Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continues to be below the national rate, which was unchanged at 3.7 percent.

“The drop in Virginia’s unemployment rate is yet another sign that our economy remains strong and our efforts to create opportunity in every corner of the Commonwealth are paying real dividends,” said Governor Northam. “While we welcome this news, we also know that we still have challenges to overcome in making sure that all Virginians have access to affordable health care, a world-class education, and the skills they need to get a good-paying job. My administration will stay focused on making the strategic investments that will help the families we serve and ensure that Virginia continues to be the best place to do business.”

Virginia has the lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate among the Southeast states. Virginia has the third best rate among the states east of the Mississippi. Virginia is ranked sixth in the nation for the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate along with Colorado and Utah.

“The strength of Virginia’s labor market is evident not only in the declining unemployment rate, but in increasing rates of labor force participation that show how some who had been on the sidelines have resumed looking for work,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “We’re proud of this statewide unemployment rate. But as some localities continue to struggle with a higher rate, the Governor remains focused on bringing new investment and jobs to all regions of the Commonwealth.”

Over-the-year employment growth in Virginia has been positive for 65 consecutive months. For August, Virginia’s over-the-year growth of 1.8 percent was greater than the national rate. Nationally, over-the-year growth was higher in August at 1.5 percent from 0.8 percent in July and 0.9 percent in June.

“Virginia’s thoughtful investments in workforce development are paying off in the form of sustained low unemployment rates and a growing labor force,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “Thanks to Governor Northam’s leadership, more Virginians than in our Commonwealth’s history have either now secured or are seeking a job. We are encouraged by our progress, and will continue to deliver opportunities and results for job seekers and employers throughout Virginia in the months ahead.”

In August, the private sector recorded an over-the-year gain of 35,500 jobs, while employment in the public sector increased as well by 1,200 jobs. Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, eight of the eleven major industry divisions experienced employment gains, while the other three experienced employment losses.

For a greater statistical breakdown visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website at www.vec.virginia.gov.

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Richmond Circuit Court upholds Executive Order Forty-Nine

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RICHMOND—The Richmond Circuit Court today upheld Governor Ralph Northam’s decision, outlined in Executive Order Forty-Nine, to temporarily ban firearms on Capitol grounds from 5:00 PM on Friday, January 17, 2020  until 5:00 PM on Tuesday, January 21, 2020. The Governor said that law enforcement intelligence analysts had identified credible threats of violence surrounding the event, along with white nationalist rhetoric and plans by out-of-state militia groups to attend.

Governor Northam issued the following statement:

This is the right decision. I took this action to protect Virginians from credible threats of violence. These threats are real—as evidenced by reports of neo-Nazis arrested this morning after discussing plans to head to Richmond with firearms.

I’m grateful to the Circuit Court for recognizing the seriousness of these threats, and for upholding this reasonable, legal action to protect all Virginians, including demonstrators and policymakers. I will continue to do everything in my power to keep Virginians safe. 

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Governor Northam declares State of Emergency in advance of Capitol Square demonstration

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On January 15th, Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in advance of expected demonstrations on Capitol Square on Monday, January 20, 2020. According to the Governor, law enforcement intelligence analysts have identified credible threats of violence surrounding the event, along with white nationalist rhetoric and plans by out-of-state militia groups to attend.

The Governor’s declaration prohibits all weapons, including firearms, from Capitol grounds, and will provide joint law enforcement and public safety agencies the resources they need to keep demonstrators, policymakers, and all Virginians safe.

This emergency declaration is temporary, and extends from Friday, January 17 at 5:00 PM until Tuesday, January 21 at 5:00 PM.

The full text of Executive Order Forty-Nine is available here.

Watch the Governors comments:

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Attorney General Herring says he’ll continue to fight to protect student borrowers

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~ Herring joins coalition of attorneys general in commending Congressional effort to reject the U.S. Department of Education’s 2019 Borrower Defense Rule that would hurt students ~

RICHMOND (January 14, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has joined a coalition of states in supporting Congressional efforts to reject a final rule by the U.S. Department of Education that fails to protect students and taxpayers from the misconduct of unscrupulous schools. In a letter to Congress, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues commended efforts to reject the U.S. Department of Education’s 2019 Borrower Defense Rule. Previously, Attorney General Herring won a victory in federal court after he challenged the U.S. Department of Education’s plan to abruptly rescind the 2016 Borrower Defense Rule.

“Time and again the Trump Administration has shown that it favors protecting for-profit colleges over protecting student borrowers,” said Attorney General Herring. “This new Borrower Defense Rule will hurt student borrowers and leave them without options to discharge their loans if they have been defrauded by one of these for-profit schools. I will continue to fight to make sure that for-profit colleges are held accountable and student borrowers are afforded the protections they deserve.”

According to the letter, the final rule provides no realistic prospect for borrowers to discharge their loans when they have been defrauded by predatory for-profit schools, and it eliminates financial responsibility requirements for those same institutions.

“If this rule goes into effect, the result will be disastrous for students while providing a windfall to abusive schools,” the letter states.

The U.S. Department of Education’s new rule would rescind and replace its comprehensive 2016 Borrower Defense Rule, which involved a thorough rulemaking process addressing borrower defense and financial responsibility, in which the views of numerous schools, stakeholders, and public commenters were involved. The 2016 Borrower Defense Rule provided defrauded borrowers with a transparent process to seek debt relief and protected taxpayers by holding schools that engage in misconduct accountable.

According to the letter, the Department’s new rule provides an unworkable process for defrauded students to obtain loan relief and will do nothing to deter and hold accountable schools that cheat their students. Instead of ensuring that borrowers are not bearing the costs of institutional misconduct, the Department’s new rule empowers predatory for-profit schools and cuts off relief to victimized students.

In October 2018, Attorney General Herring announced that a federal judge rejected the Trump Administration’s challenge to the Borrower Defense Rule, ordering its immediate implementation for students nationwide. This ruling followed a victory Attorney General Herring won in federal court after he and a coalition of state attorneys general challenged the U.S. Department of Education’s plan to abruptly rescind its Borrower Defense Rule which was designed to hold abusive higher education institutions accountable for cheating students and taxpayers out of billions of dollars in federal loans. The immediate implementation of the Borrower Defense rule meant that the U.S. Department of Education had to automatically discharge $381 million in loans for students whose schools closed.

Attorney General Herring has taken major actions against for-profit colleges for misleading students. In November 2015, for-profit education company Education Management Corporation announced it would significantly reform its recruiting and enrollment practices and forgive more than $2.29 million in loans for approximately 2,000 former students in Virginia through an agreement with the Attorney General and a group of state attorneys general. Nationwide, the agreement required the for-profit college company to forgive $102.8 million in outstanding loan debt held by more than 80,000 former students.

In December 2016, the Attorney General announced that more than 5,000 Virginia students formerly enrolled in schools operated by Corinthian Colleges, Inc. may be eligible for loan forgiveness. This came after the U.S Department of Education found that Corinthian College and its subsidiaries published misleading job placement rates for many programs between 2010 and 2014. Following this announcement, Attorney General Herring urged Secretary DeVos and the Department of Education to follow through on their commitment to cancel student debt for students in Virginia and around the country who were victimized by Corinthian Colleges’ practices.

Attorney General Herring announced in January of 2019 that he and 48 other attorneys general reached a settlement with for-profit education company Career Education Corporation. The terms of the settlement required CED to reform its recruiting and enrollment practices and forgo collecting about $493.7 million in debts owed by 179,529 students nationally. In Virginia, 3,094 students will receive relief totaling $8,022,178.

Joining Attorney General Herring in sending today’s letter are the attorneys general of California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

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December 2019 General Fund revenue collections up 7.6% from previous year, fiscal-year-to-date collections up 8.3%

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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.

The full report is available here.

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Absentee voting for March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary starts this week

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Registered voters may now request an absentee ballot for the March 3, 2020, Virginia Democratic Presidential Primary be mailed to them by going online to www.elections.virginia.gov/citizen-portal or find the form to fill out and mail to their local voter registration office at www.elections.virginia.gov/forms.

Virginia Republicans will choose delegates to their national convention at a state convention. Therefore, no Republican candidates will appear on the ballot in the March 3, 2020, Presidential Primary.

A list of the 20 acceptable reasons a voter can give to vote absentee in Virginia is available at www.elections.virginia.gov/absentee.

In-person absentee voting will begin on Thursday January 16, Friday January 17, or Saturday January 18, 2020, depending on office hours and observation of state holidays. If a voter is unsure when in-person absentee voting starts in their locality, they should contact their local voter registration office. They can find information about their local office at www.elections.virginia.gov/vro.

Other important absentee ballot dates to remember if voting in the March 3, 2020, Virginia Democratic Presidential Primary, include:

  • The deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail is at 5pm on Tuesday February 25, 2020.
  • The deadline to vote absentee in-person is on Saturday February 29, 2020.
  • The deadline for returning your ballot by mail is on Election Day, Tuesday March 3, 2020.

Virginia voters casting an absentee ballot either in-person or on Election Day must show an acceptable photo ID. Voters can get a free Voter Photo ID at their local voter registration office. Voters who do not have an acceptable form of ID may still vote absentee in-person after completing the Virginia Voter Photo Identification Card Application and receiving a Temporary Identification Document from their voter registration office. Find out more about Virginia’s voter ID requirements at www.elections.virginia.gov/voterid.

The last day to register to vote or update voter registration information in order to vote in the March election is Monday February 10, 2020. More information on voter registration can be found online at www.elections.virginia.gov/registration.

For more information on the March 3, 2020, Virginia Democratic Presidential Primary or other election-related inquiries, go to vote.virginia.gov, send an email to info@elections.virginia.gov, or call the Virginia Department of Elections at (800) 552-9745.

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Crime/Court

Former Case Manager at Northwestern Community Services Board pleads guilty to federal charge

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A former case manager at the Northwestern Community Services Board [NWCSB] pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg to illegally accessing the health care information of another individual, United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced today.

Melissa Thomas, 45, of Winchester, Va., pled guilty yesterday to one count of accessing the individually identifiable health care information of a minor child for whom she was not the case manager.

According to court documents, Thomas worked as a case manager at NWCSB from September 2009 through January 2014. In December 2013, an individual lodged a complaint that Thomas had accessed her minor child’s health record, breaching confidentially. Thomas was subsequently investigated by the NWSCB and the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services and it was determined she willfully and knowingly violated the law by illegally accessing the record of the minor child. Thomas was terminated from her employment for the illegal access on January 7, 2014.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the United States Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services Roanoke Field Office. Assistant United States Attorney Ronald M. Huber is prosecuted the case for the United States.

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Upcoming Events

Jan
18
Sat
11:00 am Kooky Chefs Cook the World @ Samuels Public Library
Kooky Chefs Cook the World @ Samuels Public Library
Jan 18 @ 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Kooky Chefs Cook the World @ Samuels Public Library
Alaska. What do people eat in the snowy, frozen state of Alaska? Come to Kooky Chefs to find out and help prepare some Alaskan dishes. For ages 8 and up. Registration begins December 18.
12:00 pm Peter Muhlenberg Commemoration @ The Historic Court House in Woodstock
Peter Muhlenberg Commemoration @ The Historic Court House in Woodstock
Jan 18 @ 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Peter Muhlenberg Commemoration @ The Historic Court House in Woodstock
Program Moderator: The Rt. Rev. Larry W. Johnson Call to Order: Larry Johnson Posting of the Colors: James Wood II Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution Color Guard Pledge of Alliance: Dale Carpenter,[...]
3:00 pm Open a Book @ Samuels Public Library
Open a Book @ Samuels Public Library
Jan 18 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Open a Book @ Samuels Public Library
The award-winning team at Rainbow Puppets has created a new musical review that shares the joy of reading through music, dance, puppetry, and story-telling. It’s a travelling early reading program designed around our new children’s book. And thanks[...]
Jan
20
Mon
9:00 am Martin Luther King Prayer Breakfast @ Esbie Baptist Church
Martin Luther King Prayer Breakfast @ Esbie Baptist Church
Jan 20 @ 9:00 am – 11:00 am
Martin Luther King Prayer Breakfast @ Esbie Baptist Church
Monday, January 20, 2020, starting at 9:00am, Esbie Baptist Church will be having their annual MLK Prayer Breakfast. The speaker of the hour will be Rev. Dr. Donald Reid, Pastor of Mt. Parah Baptist Church[...]
Jan
21
Tue
2:30 pm Inspiring speaker Rodney Smith t... @ Boggs Chapel at Randolph-Macon Academy
Inspiring speaker Rodney Smith t... @ Boggs Chapel at Randolph-Macon Academy
Jan 21 @ 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Inspiring speaker Rodney Smith to visit R-MA @ Boggs Chapel at Randolph-Macon Academy
On Tuesday, January 21st, at 2:30 pm, in Boggs Chapel at Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA), the public is invited to be inspired by Rodney Smith, a man who has chosen to make a difference in the[...]
4:30 pm Novel Ideas @ Samuels Public Library
Novel Ideas @ Samuels Public Library
Jan 21 @ 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm
Novel Ideas @ Samuels Public Library
Children will explore popular books and book series through S.T.E.M. activities, games, food, and more! Tuesday, January 7 – Based on books about Balto, we will learn more about service dogs this week. For ages[...]
Jan
22
Wed
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Jan 22 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, December 18 and Thursday, December 19: Something we all enjoy this time of year is giving and receiving gifts. Our stories, songs, and craft will[...]
Jan
23
Thu
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Jan 23 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, December 18 and Thursday, December 19: Something we all enjoy this time of year is giving and receiving gifts. Our stories, songs, and craft will[...]
Jan
24
Fri
9:00 am Veterans Services Meeting at Abl... @ Able Forces
Veterans Services Meeting at Abl... @ Able Forces
Jan 24 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Veterans Services Meeting at Able Forces @ Able Forces
Able Forces Foundation will once again be hosting a visit by Andre Miller, Resource Specialist, Virginia Veteran and Family Support, Department of Veteran Services, Commonwealth of Virginia, and Danielle Cullers, Homeless Veteran Advocate-Volunteers of America[...]
Jan
25
Sat
11:00 am Goldilocks and the Three Bears @ Samuels Public Library
Goldilocks and the Three Bears @ Samuels Public Library
Jan 25 @ 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Goldilocks and the Three Bears @ Samuels Public Library
A Story Ballet. Join us in a celebration of classic literature through dance! The whole family will enjoy this ballet performance, presented by the Northern Virginia Academy of Ballet.