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Governor Northam encourages Virginians to complete 2020 Census online amid COVID-19 outbreak

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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today encouraged Virginians to complete the 2020 Census online as the country works to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19. This week, households across Virginia began receiving invitations from the U.S. Census Bureau to complete the 2020 Census. For the first time ever, individuals are able to complete their forms online, via phone, or mail. The statewide virtual Week of Action from Friday, March 27 to Thursday, April 2 will highlight Census Day on April 1, and encourage Virginians to participate in the 2020 Census.

“Though many Virginians are focused on COVID-19, it is still crucial that everyone takes time to complete the 2020 Census, which can be done quickly and easily online,” said Governor Northam. “Counting every person in the Commonwealth will ensure that we receive our portion of the more than $675 billion in federal funding that will be allocated to states for important programs, from Medicaid to school breakfasts.”

By last Friday, an estimated 140 million households had received an invitation from the U.S. Census Bureau to complete the 2020 Census. To date, approximately 18.6 million households have responded to the Census. Though data collection continues, the U.S. Census Bureau has modified some of its field operations during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Today, Governor Northam also announced a Virtual Statewide Week of Action, which includes Census Day on Wednesday, April 1. From Friday, March 27 through Thursday, April 2, Virginians are encouraged to virtually promote the 2020 Census and “Determine Your Decade: YOUR Representation. YOUR Community Funding. YOUR Civic Duty.”

A full list of events is located below:

Friday, March 27 – Sunday, March 29 | Interfaith Engagement
Faith Leaders and communities are encouraged to commit to being a faith partner through the following efforts:

  • Religious Teachings: Incorporate Census messaging into a virtual sermon, lesson, litany, or other teachings. This is an opportunity to preach or teach on the importance of being counted in the 2020 Census.
  • Announcement or Presentation: Allow a member of the U.S. Census Bureau, Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, Virginia Complete Count Commission, or a local Complete Count Committee to virtually connect with your congregation and provide a Census-related message.
  • Video Messaging: Share a Census-related video message with your congregation via email or through social media channels.
  • Social Media: Encourage parishioners to follow @CountOnVirginia on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for Census-related updates. Leverage your own social media and that of your congregants to spread the word about the 2020 Census.
  • Digital Platforms: Work with local media to share key messages about the upcoming Census. You may consider writing an op-ed or being interviewed by a local reporter.
  • Text Messaging: Encourage parishioners to text PLEDGE or CENSO to (804) 203-0393 for Census updates and reminders.

Monday, March 30 | Social Media Monday
Virginians can “Get Social on Media Monday” by following Virginia’s Census engagement efforts on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Virginians are also invited to participate in a Twitter chat about what’s at stake in the 2020 Census. Questions can be tweeted to @CountOnVirginia. Promote the Census using the hashtags #Census2020, #VACompleteCount, and #CountOnVirginia. Additionally, individuals are encouraged to change their Facebook profile picture frames to promote the Census.

Tuesday, March 31 | Text It Tuesday: Pledge to be Counted
The Northam administration has partnered with CommunityConnect Labs to use mobile messaging to connect with hard-to-reach populations. Virginians are encouraged to “Pledge to be Counted” by texting the word “PLEDGE” or “CENSO” (Español) to the number for their respective locality. Participants will receive a digital pledge card that can be shared on social media. Standard text messaging data rates may apply.

Valley: (540) 235-5155
Northern: (703) 684-0007 or (571) 200-0828
Coastal: (757) 210-3232
Southside: (434) 201-4884
Southwest: (276) 218-8138
Central: (804) 203-0393

Wednesday, April 1 | Spread the Word Wednesday
Since 1930, Census Day has been observed on April 1. By this date, all households will have received an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. Organizations are encouraged to send electronic correspondence to subscribers promoting the 2020 Census and sharing instructions for how individuals can complete the Census online, by phone, or by mail.

Thursday, April 2 | Townhall Thursday
Organizations are encouraged to host virtual townhalls via Facebook Live, Google Hangouts, and other platforms to promote the 2020 Census.

“It’s important that we come together as a community to determine our decade and be counted in the 2020 Census,” Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson. “Taking 10 minutes to complete our Census questionnaires online will help our communities for the next 10 years.”

How to Complete the 2020 Census Online

  • To respond online, go to 2020census.gov. The online form is available in English and 12 other languages. Additionally, video guides showing people how to complete the online questionnaire are available in English and 59 other languages.
  • A sample 2020 Census questionnaire is available here.

About the Virginia Complete Count Commission
On December 18, 2018, Governor Northam signed Executive Order Twenty-Seven establishing the Virginia Complete Count Commission. The purpose of the Commission is to improve participation and representation of all Virginians in the 2020 Census. The Commission facilitates the sharing of ideas and community resources regarding the 2020 Census and serves as a conduit between the Commonwealth and the United States Census Bureau.

The Virginia Complete Count Commission serves as a trusted voice and resource to educate, empower, and engage all communities for the purpose of ensuring that everyone who lives in the Commonwealth of Virginia is counted in the 2020 Census.

For more information on the 2020 Census and Virginia Complete Count Commission, visit census.virginia.gov or follow @CountOnVirginia on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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Virginia receives USDA approval to join SNAP online purchasing pilot program

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Governor Ralph Northam announced on May 22, that for the first time, more than 740,000 Virginians who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will be able to pay for their groceries online and have them delivered after the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved Virginia to participate in an innovative online purchasing pilot program.

“This continued public health emergency has made access to healthy, affordable food challenging, particularly for Virginians who live in food deserts, have disabilities, or face transportation barriers,” said Governor Northam. “Allowing Virginia families who receive SNAP benefits to purchase groceries online and have them safely delivered to their homes will give vulnerable populations additional flexibility to put food on the table without putting themselves at unnecessary risk.”

The program will launch statewide in Virginia on Friday, May 29 with online shopping access available through the Amazon and Walmart online platforms. Retailers interested in participating in the program can find more information and apply by contacting USDA. Transactions will take place using SNAP customers’ secure Personal Identification Numbers (PINs). SNAP benefits cannot be used to pay for fees of any type, such as delivery, service, or convenience fees.

“With so many Americans already opting to stay safe at home by ordering their groceries online, it’s only right that we make every effort to ensure our most vulnerable families are also able to take advantage of these services,” said United States Senator Mark R. Warner. “After having pushed USDA to approve Virginia’s participation in the SNAP online purchasing pilot program, I’m glad to know that many more families in the Commonwealth will soon be able to access nutritious food without requiring them to leave their homes.”

“I’m grateful that following our request, the USDA has approved Virginia’s inclusion in the SNAP online purchasing pilot program,” said United States Senator Tim Kaine. “Especially at this time of great food insecurity, it’s critical that Virginians have the resources they need to safely access food.”

The pilot, which was mandated through the 2014 Farm Bill, was designed to test the feasibility of allowing USDA-approved retailers to accept online transactions. The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) administers SNAP in the Commonwealth.

“Agencies and leaders across the Commonwealth are constantly collaborating on innovative ways to meet the needs of individuals, families, and communities during this pandemic,” said VDSS Commissioner S. Duke Storen. “Addressing the adaptive needs of Virginians right now, particularly expanding access to food, remains at the forefront of everything we are doing.”

Additional information about SNAP benefits in Virginia is available on the VDSS website.

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Governor Northam COVID-19 update briefing – May 22, 2020; new testing tools, SNAP update

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Governor Northam joins the Virginia Emergency Support Team to share the latest updates on the COVID-19 response. Here is the latest update:

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Can’t pay your rent? – Resources for renters

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Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam is focused on keeping Virginians in their homes and ensuring people experiencing homelessness are provided shelter. The Governor is focused on the immediate public health need to keep Virginians in their homes and is seeking federal assistance for rent relief for COVID-19-impacted Virginians. The emergency judicial order has halted eviction processes through May 17, and the Governor and General Assembly have passed legislation that caps late fees on rent and provides additional state COVID-19-related protections from evictions and foreclosure. These are short-term protections, as rent will continue to accrue. The key during this unprecedented time is to know your rights, knowing the housing counseling services available to you, and communicating with your landlord.

​If You Can’t Pay Your Rent: Know your rights, seek housing counseling assistance, and talk to your landlord. If you are unable to pay your rent because of COVID-19, the first thing you should do is know your rights, seek housing counseling resources, and then contact your landlord to learn what your options are.

If you are a Housing Choice Voucher recipient, contact your voucher agency as soon as possible, so they can work with you toward a solution. From now until July 24, 2020, if you fall behind on your payment, you will not be charged a late fee or penalty for a missed payment. There will also be no evictions for those who had housing vouchers until July 24, 2020. This does not apply, however, to a tenant who may have violated their lease by damaging the property or other circumstances such as drug abuse.

Understand the consequences. Even with new evictions being suspended, and even if your landlord allows you to skip one or more payments, the rent will need to be repaid eventually. Once the current crisis has passed, tenants may fall under various state and federal protections, but some property owners may be able to collect full payment or raise your rent to recover missed payments. Be sure to discuss this with your landlord and double-check that advice with a housing counselor or legal representation so you understand any potential future consequences of skipping rental payments now, and the specifics of what protections are available to you.

Provide documentation: Provide your landlord proof that you have been financially impacted by COVID-19.

Ask for a grace period: If you just need a bit of extra time before you can make rent payments again, request a grace period from your landlord to make your payments and have your late fees waived. Most landlords understand and will be willing to work with you on this.

Discuss your payment plan options: To avoid having to pay a lump sum payment of your past-due rent, request a payment plan from your landlord and have it spread over a longer period of time. Once you agree on a payment plan, ask for the plan in writing.

​File for unemployment: Workers whose jobs were halted because of COVID-19 are likely eligible for unemployment benefits.

​If you are experiencing homelessness or at risk of losing your housing, contact your local homeless crisis response system.

​The Virginia Residential Landlord-Tenant Handbook provides guidelines for tenant and landlord rights. For tenants in hotels or motels, if the room or suite has been the tenant’s primary residence for more than 90 days or there is a written lease for at least 90 days, it is illegal for a landlord to evict the tenant without getting a court order and involving the sheriff’s office. The halt on evictions does apply to these types of circumstances. If you are facing eviction, if your landlord attempts to lock you out without taking you to court, or if you have questions about your rights, contact Virginia Legal Aid by calling 1-866-LEGL-AID or get legal advice from the Eviction Legal Helpline by calling 1-833-NoEvict. Please do pay your rent or mortgage if you are able, as these costs will continue to accumulate. The Virginia Poverty Law Center has created a website dedicated to COVID-19 Legal Response in Virginia.

Managing Your Debt: If you have debt, you should pay it off in the following order, as a general rule:

  1. ​Rental payments
  2. Outstanding utility bills
  3. Car payments
  4. Other outstanding debt

​Helpful Links:

2-1-1 Virginia

HUD Brochure Addressing Tenant Concerns in HUD-assisted and HUD-insured Multifamily Developments

HUD-Certified Housing Counselors

HUD Flyer on Tenant Concerns & Suspension of Evictions for Participants in the Housing Choice Voucher, Public Housing, and Mod Rehab Programs

Mortgage and Housing Assistance During COVID-19 – information from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

National Alliance to End Homelessness

Renter Education eBook (from VHDA)

Virginia Legal Aid

​Virginia Poverty Law Center

Virginia Residential Landlord-Tenant Handbook

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Governor Northam COVID-19 update briefing – May 20, 2020; PPE supplies, expanded healthcare coverage

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Governor Northam joins the Virginia Emergency Support Team to share the latest updates on the COVID-19 response. Here is the latest update:

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Governor Northam announces Education Work Group to help guide process for safe, equitable reopening of schools

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~ Education stakeholders will develop recommendations to ensure continuity of learning and address the needs of all Virginia students ~

Governor Ralph Northam announced on May 18, 2020, a diverse set of education stakeholders participating in the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Education Work Group to help chart a path forward for determining how schools can safely reopen later this year.

The group is comprised of representatives from Virginia’s public and private early childhood, K-12, and higher education systems, and includes teachers, superintendents, parents, college presidents, state agency personnel, special education advocates, museum directors, and student perspectives. This wide variety of education stakeholders represent the whole of Virginia’s education system and come from every region of the Commonwealth.

Secretary of Education Atif Qarni formed the workgroup and chaired its first meeting on April 23. Since then, the workgroup has been focused on developing recommendations to align policies throughout the Commonwealth’s PreK-20 education system and ensure continuity of learning.

“I am deeply grateful for Virginia’s educators, administrators, school nutrition workers, support staff, parents, and students for the ways they have adapted to new learning environments over the past two months,” said Governor Northam. “As we make decisions about the path forward, this panel will help ensure that we are best supporting rural students, English language learners, students of color, and students with special needs. School closures have been necessary to protect health and safety, but lost class time has a disproportionate impact on Virginia’s most vulnerable and economically disadvantaged students. That’s why equity will remain at the forefront as we determine when and how we can safely and responsibly return to in-person learning.”

The workgroup is chaired by Secretary of Education Atif Qarni, and is staffed by Deputy Secretary Education Fran Bradford, State Council of Higher Education Director Peter Blake, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. James Lane. These four individuals comprise the steering committee for the COVID-19 Education Work Group.

“As we begin to think about how Virginia’s education system can operate in the summer and fall, it is crucial that we have the advice of a diverse, thoughtful group of education leaders,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “This group will use their expertise to guide our approach and help ensure that all voices are heard and all recommendations are made through the lens of equity.”

Members of Virginia’s COVID-19 Education Work Group include:

Steering Committee
• Atif Qarni, Secretary of Education, Chair of COVID-19 Education Work Group
• Fran Bradford, Deputy Secretary of Education for Higher Education and Museums
• Peter Blake, Director, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
• Dr. James Lane, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Virginia Department of Education

Work Group Members
• Jenna Conway, Chief School Readiness Officer, Office of the Governor
• Holly Coy, Assistant Superintendent for Policy, Communications, and Equity, Virginia Department of Education
• Dr. Laurie Forlano, Deputy Commissioner for Population Health, Virginia Department of Health
• Jennifer O. Macdonald, Director, Division of Child and Family Health, Virginia Department of Health
• Dr. Lynn Clayton Prince, Director of Special Education, Powhatan County Public Schools and President-Elect, Virginia Council of Administrators of Special Education
• Pam Simms, Program Director, Gladys H. Oberle School
• Dr. Donna Henry, Chancellor, University of Virginia’s College at Wise and Chair, Council of Presidents in Virginia
• Dr. Michael Rao, President, Virginia Commonwealth University
• Taylor Reveley, President, Longwood University
• Dr. Makola Abdullah, President, Virginia State University
• Dr. Sharon Morrissey, Senior Vice Chancellor, Virginia Community College System
• Dr. John Downey, President, Blue Ridge Community College
• Dr. Eric Williams, Superintendent, Loudoun County Public Schools
• Dr. Jared Cotton, Superintendent, Chesapeake Public Schools
• Dr. Dennis Carter, Superintendent, Smyth County Schools
• Kathy Burcher, Representative, Virginia Education Association
• Melinda Bright, Representative, Virginia Education Association
• Dr. Travis Burns, Principal, Northumberland High School and President, Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals
• Dr. Andrew Buchheit, Principal, T. Clay Wood Elementary School and President, Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals
• Ann-Marie Ward, Council Treasurer, Virginia Parent Teacher Association
• Pamela Croom, President-Elect, Virginia Parent Teacher Association
• Teddy Martin II, Member, Henry County School Board and Regional Chair, Virginia School Boards Association
• Karen Corbett-Sanders, Chair, Fairfax County School Board
• Grace Creasey, Executive Director, Virginia Council for Private Education
• Robert Lambeth, President, Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia
• Dr. Larry Stimpert, President, Hampden-Sydney College
• Dr. Tiffany Franks, President, Averett University
• Dan Gecker, President, Virginia Board of Education
• Marianne Radcliff, Representative, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
• Jared Calfee, Executive Director, Virginia21
• Rich Conti, Director, Science Museum of Virginia
• Dr. Betty Adams, Executive Director, Southern Virginia Higher Education Center
• Ingrid Grant, Member, Governor’s African American Advisory Board
• Hyun Lee, Member, Governor’s Asian Advisory Board
• Diana Brown, Member, Governor’s Latino Advisory Board
• Ashley Marshall, Chair, Virginia Council on Women
• Shan Lateef, Rising Senior, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology and Governor’s STEM Phenom Award Winner

On March 13, Governor Northam directed all K-12 schools in Virginia to close for a minimum of two weeks in response to the spread of COVID-19. On March 23, Governor Northam was one of the first governors in the country to issue a statewide order closing school for the remainder of the academic year. The Virginia Department of Education established the Continuity for Learning (C4L) Task Force consisting of more than 120 teachers, leaders, and collaborating educational partners across Virginia to help school divisions to develop and implement continuous learning plans in partnership with local county health departments, families, staff, and local boards of education.

Virginia’s COVID-19 Education Work Group will develop recommendations on key issues schools must address before reopening and help determine how to ensure continuity of learning for Virginia students from cradle to classroom to career. After this guidance is developed, the workgroup will transition to focus on long-term recovery plans to include addressing the learning gaps and the social-emotional needs of students resulting from school closures.

In the coming weeks, Governor Northam will outline a roadmap for Virginia schools, colleges, and universities to return to in-person learning in a safe, equitable, and responsible manner. The data-driven and science-based approach will include recommendations from the COVID-19 Education Work Group and will be coordinated with the Forward Virginia plan to gradually ease public health restrictions. The Forward Virginia plan is grounded in federal CDC guidelines and includes specific goals to contain the spread of the virus through increased testing, contact tracing, and ensuring adequate medical capacity.

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Here’s what you need to know about the state and federal protections for renters and homeowners, in response to COVID-19

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Here’s what you need to know about the state and federal protections for renters and homeowners, in response to COVID-19:​

Federal Guidelines:

Below is a recap of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Mortgage Relief: Two protections for homeowners with federally backed mortgages:

​Suspension of New Foreclosures: Your lender or loan servicer may not foreclose on you for 60 days after March 18, 2020. Specifically, the CARES Act prohibits lenders and loan servicers from beginning a judicial or non-judicial foreclosure against you, or from finalizing a foreclosure judgment or sale, during this period.

Forbearance: If you experience financial hardship due to the coronavirus public health crisis, you have a right to request a forbearance for up to 180 days. You also have the right to request one extension for up to another 180 days. You must contact your loan servicer to request this forbearance. There will be no other fees, penalties or additional interest (beyond scheduled amounts) added to your account.

If you don’t have a federally backed mortgage, such as an FHA loan, you still may have relief options through your mortgage servicer or from your state. Virginia recently passed the Governor’s amendments to HB 340, which provides 30 days of forbearance for homeowners with COVID-19-related income loss.

Renter Relief: 120-day moratorium on evictions from federally subsidized housing or from a property with a federally backed mortgage loan. For those not covered, Virginia recently passed the Governor’s amendments to HB 340, which provides 60 days (effective May 17 – July 16, 2020) of continuance for renters and impacted properties experiencing COVID-19-related income loss.

Unemployment: Expands unemployment insurance from three to four months, and provides temporary unemployment compensation of $600 per week, which is in addition to — and at the same time as — regular state and federal unemployment insurance benefits.

Direct Payments: Eligible individuals receive $1,200, and married couples receive $2,400, plus $500 for each child under age 17. Payments are reduced for individuals with adjusted gross incomes over $75,000 ($150,000 for couples). Anyone earning over $99,000 will not receive a payment ($198,000 for couples).

​* Federal Guidelines credited to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

State Guidelines:

Suspension of all eviction proceedings until May 17, 2020. The Supreme Court of Virginia has extended its emergency declaration an additional 21 days to 5/17/20 (was set to expire 4/26). The Court also may issue further extensions of the emergency order.

​Utilities: The State Corporation Commission (SCC) issued an order directing utilities it regulates, such as electric, natural gas, and water companies in Virginia, to suspend service disconnections for 60 days to provide immediate relief for any customer, residential and business, who may be financially impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Support for Impacted Businesses: Small businesses and nonprofit organizations throughout the Commonwealth affected by the COVID-19 public health crisis can now apply for low-interest federal disaster loans of up to $2 million from the SBA to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other expenses. To submit a loan application through the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.

Deadline Extension on Income Tax Payments: The Department of Taxation has extended the due date for payment of Virginia individual and corporate income taxes. While filing deadlines remain the same, the deadline for payment of individual and corporate income tax is now June 1, 2020. (Interest will still accrue, so taxpayers who are able to pay by the original deadlines should do so.)

Faster Unemployment Benefits: Governor Northam has directed the Commissioner of the Virginia Employment Commission to waive the one-week waiting period to ensure workers receive benefits as soon as possible.

Fewer Restrictions: For individuals receiving unemployment insurance, Governor Northam has directed the Virginia Employment Commission to give affected workers special consideration on deadlines, mandatory re-employment appointments, and work search requirements.

Enhanced Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits: Workers may now be eligible to receive unemployment benefits if:

Their employer must temporarily slow or cease operations due to COVID-19.

They have been issued a notice to self-quarantine by a medical or public health official and are not receiving paid sick or medical leave from their employer.

They must stay home to care for an ill family member and are not receiving paid family medical leave from their employer.

​* State Guidelines credited to the Governor’s Office of Virginia​

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