On June 11, 20212, Governor Ralph Northam announced a new $3 million investment to pilot the Return to Earn Grant Program, which will match payments from eligible small businesses to provide new hires with up to $1,000 to support their transition back into the workforce. While many companies are offering hiring bonuses, the Return to Earn Grant Program will serve businesses with less than 100 employees that may not have the resources to provide this financial support. The initial launch of this program will be funded through Virginia’s federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) set aside, and additional recovery funds may be allocated based on demand.
“Many Virginians who lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic still face a variety of barriers to returning to work like access to affordable child care, transportation, and a living wage,” said Governor Northam. “These bonuses will serve as an incentive for unemployed workers to get back into the workforce, while also helping employers fill vacant jobs. The Virginia Return to Earn Grant Program is about empowering the true catalysts of our economic comeback—Virginia’s workers and small businesses.”
This initiative will match up to $500 that a qualifying small business pays directly to a new employee hired after May 31, 2021, either as a lump sum or in installments to offset the ongoing costs of child care, transportation, or other barriers to re-employment. Funds will only be reimbursed to businesses for new hires in positions that pay at least $15 per hour and that qualify as W-2 employment, either full- or part-time. To help address workforce shortages in child care, qualifying child care businesses may qualify for up to $500 per new hire without the match requirement.
“For Virginia to fully recover from the impacts of the pandemic on our economy, we need targeted solutions,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Dr. Megan Healy. “One in three Virginia workers has applied for unemployment benefits over the course of the pandemic. The new Return to Earn Grant Program will accomplish a dual purpose of helping unemployed Virginian’s transition back into living-wage jobs, particularly in the child care industry, and supporting small businesses with their hiring needs.”
The launch of the Return to Earn Grant Program coincides with the reinstatement of the weekly work search requirement in Virginia, which started the week of May 31, 2021. Virginians receiving unemployment benefits must make contact with employers each week and accept reasonable offers of employment.
On June 1, the Commonwealth also reopened its Virginia Career Works Centers for in-person services to ensure that Virginians making the transition back to the workforce have access to the resources they need to find high-quality jobs. Job seekers can continue to access resources virtually through the Virginia Career Works Referral Portal.
For additional information on requirements and to apply for Return to Earn grant funding, small businesses should contact their local Virginia Career Works Center.
Answers to frequently asked questions.
1. What is the Virginia Return to Earn Grant Program?
Unemployed Virginians are facing a variety of childcare, transportation, and other barriers to returning to the workforce while some small businesses are struggling to find workers. To support Virginians in their transition back to employment, Governor Ralph Northam will invest $3 million in federal WIOA set aside funds to pilot the VA Return to Earn Grant Program. The pilot initiative will match up to $500 that a qualifying small business pays directly to a new employee hired on or after May 31st, 2021 to support their transition back to employment. Funds will only be reimbursed for new hires in positions that pay at least $15 per hour and qualify as W-2 employment, either full- or part-time. Qualifying small childcare businesses, who may be facing particularly challenging workforce shortages, may qualify for up to $500 per new hire without the requirement to match.
2. Which small businesses are eligible for funds through the VA Return to Earn Grant Program?
A business must have 100 or fewer employees and be incorporated in Virginia. The employee count is the sum of the business’s employees across all Virginia locations. Qualifying childcare businesses, who may be facing particularly challenging workforce shortages, are eligible for 100% reimbursement for up to $500 per new hire. This means that no match is required from the childcare business to receive funding for new hires through the grant program.
3. What qualifies as a “childcare business”?
A childcare business may be a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation, with services delivered in home- and/or center-based settings. These businesses may be licensed or legally exempted from licensing by the state.
4. Which job positions are eligible for funds through the VA Return to Earn Grant Program?
Funds will only be reimbursed for new hires in positions that pay at least $15 per hour and qualify as W-2 employment, either full- or part-time.
5. Is there a limit to the number of new hires eligible for reimbursement through the VA Return to Earn Grant Program?
Yes, qualifying small businesses are eligible for a match of up to $500 per new hire for up to 25 new employees. These must have been hired on or after May 31st, 2021.
6. How can VA Return to Earn funds be used?
Funds are only reimbursable through the VA Return to Earn Grant Program if they are provided by a qualifying small business directly to a qualifying new hire, either as a lump sum or in installments to offset the ongoing costs of childcare, transportation, or other barriers to re-employment.
7. How should a qualifying small business apply for reimbursement of funds through the VA Return to Earn Grant Program?
For additional information on requirements and to apply for grant funding, small businesses should contact their local Virginia Career Works Center. Funds will only be reimbursed once they have been fully paid to the new hire.
8. This program matches up to $500 provided to a new hire to support their re-employment, for a total of $1000. If I am a qualifying small business, can I give the new hire a stipend that is more than $1000?
Yes, it is at the discretion of the employer as to how much is provided to the new employee. The VA Return to Earn Program will reimburse for 50% of the funds provided but only up to $500 per new hire. Childcare businesses will receive 100% reimbursement for up to $500 per new hire.
9. How is the initial $3 million in funding for the VA Return to Earn Grant Program being allocated across the Commonwealth? What happens if the money runs out?
Grant funds will be allocated across Virginia’s workforce development areas proportional to the number of current continuing unemployment insurance claims in each region. The initial $3 million allocated from WIOA Governor’s set-aside funds will serve to pilot the approach, and additional funding may be allocated depending on demand for the program.
10. What other strategies is the Commonwealth employing to support people with their return to work and ensure that employers have the workforce they need to fuel Virginia’s economic recovery?
The launch of the new Return to Earn Grant Program coincides with the reinstatement of the Virginia work search requirement beginning the week of May 31, 2021. Virginians receiving unemployment benefits must make contact with employers each week and accept reasonable offers of employment. On June 1, the Commonwealth reopened its Virginia Career Works Centers for in-person services to ensure that Virginians making the transition back to the workforce have access to the resources they need to find a high-quality job. Jobseekers can continue to access resources virtually through the Virginia Career Works Referral Portal.
Governor Northam announces $2 billion public-private broadband investment
RICHMOND—Governor Northam announced that Virginia has received a record number of local and private sector applications to match state broadband investments, putting the Commonwealth on track to become one of the first states to achieve universal broadband access by 2024. Virginia anticipates more than $2 billion in total broadband funding, thanks to local and private-sector matching funds that go beyond the $874 million in state appropriations since the Governor took office in 2018.
“Broadband is as critical today as electricity was in the last century,” said Governor Northam. “Making sure more Virginians can get access to it has been a priority since I took office, and the pandemic pushed us all to move even faster. Virginia is now on track to achieve universal broadband by 2024, which means more connections, more investments, easier online learning, and expanded telehealth options, especially in rural Virginia.”
The Virginia Telecommunication Initiative is the Commonwealth’s broadband program. It was started in 2017 to fund public-private partnerships to extend broadband service to areas unserved by an internet service provider. When the most recent application round closed last month, the program received 57 applications from 84 localities, requesting $943 million to connect more than 250,000 Virginia homes and businesses. These applications leverage $1.15 billion in private and local matching funds. The Department of Housing and Community Development is reviewing applications and expects to award the funds by the end of the year.
Virginia has taken dramatic steps on broadband since Governor Northam took office in 2018, as Virginia’s first rural Governor in a generation. He set out a clear goal: achieve universal access to broadband within 10 years. The goal was bold, as Virginia’s broadband program was investing just $4 million a year and 660,000 Virginians did not have access to high-speed internet.
Since then, Governor Northam and the General Assembly have awarded $124 million in grants to connect more than 140,000 homes, businesses, and community organizations. The Virginia Telecommunication Initiative has awarded 39 projects in 41 different counties, supported by over $94 million in matching private and local funds. Along with private investment and federal broadband grants, the Commonwealth has reduced the digital divide by 65 percent. Plans accelerated further in August, when Governor Northam and the General Assembly allocated $700 million in American Rescue Plan funding to broadband, moving the original goal for achieving universal access to 2024.
“Ensuring that rural Virginians have access to broadband is the number one way we can make sure they have equal access to the economic, educational, and health opportunities that broadband provides,” said Broadband Advisory Council Vice-Chair Delegate Roslyn Tyler. “No Virginian should be left behind. Thanks to Governor Northam’s commitment to getting universal broadband done, we’re seeing record levels of public and private sector matching funds, and we’ll have this critical infrastructure available to all Virginians more quickly than we imagined.”
“Broadband a vital resource for communities across the Commonwealth,” said Broadband Advisory Council Chair Senator Jennifer Boysko. “Broadband access allows our citizens to connect to their workplaces, schools, and doctors and broadens their opportunities and choices about where to live and work. The Northam administration’s investment in broadband, paired with these matching funds, will get universal broadband access to Virginians in record time.”
The overwhelming response to this year’s Virginia Telecommunication Initiative grant round demonstrates that Virginia has built an innovative and successful model for bridging the digital divide.
Mail-in ballot requests due Friday, October 22
Voters wishing to cast a mail-in ballot in the November 2, 2021 elections have until 5 p.m. on Friday, October 22 to request a ballot be sent to them.
Voters may apply for a mail-in ballot online at the Department of Elections’ Citizen Portal at vote.elections.virginia.gov or by downloading a paper application at elections.virginia.gov/registration/voter-forms, filling it out, and submitting it to their local Voter Registration Office. Forms are available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Korean. Application forms may be submitted to the voter’s local Voter Registration Office by mail, fax, or email.
Contact information for your local voter registration office can be found at elections.virginia.gov/VRO. Voters may choose to receive a mail-in ballot for this November General Election only or receive mail-in ballots automatically for every election in which they are eligible, until they request to be taken off the permanent absentee list.
If the voter is print disabled, they may request to receive an absentee ballot electronically to mark their ballot using an electronic ballot-marking tool. If this option is chosen for voting absentee, the ballot will be delivered by email and can be marked using screen reader assistive technology. More information about this option is available by contacting the local voter registration office or at elections.virginia.gov/accessible.
All are encouraged to mail their ballot requests well in advance of the October 22 deadline to ensure it is received in time. Applications received by the local Voter Registration Office after 5 p.m. on October 22 cannot be accepted.
ELECT encourages voters to return their absentee ballot at their earliest convenience. A voter may return their absentee ballot by:
- Mailing the ballot via USPS or a commercial delivery service (such as FedEx or UPS.) All absentee ballots include pre-paid postage through the USPS (ballot must be postmarked by Election Day);
- Placing the ballot in a drop-off location listed on their county or city’s official website;
- Delivering the ballot to the Office of the General Registrar in the voter’s county or city; or,
- Dropping the ballot off at any polling place within their county or city on Election Day.
More information can be found about absentee and early voting for the November 2 elections online at elections.virginia.gov/absentee.
Governor Northam announces September revenue increased more than 18 percent
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced on October 13, 2021, that September General Fund revenue increased 18.4 percent from the previous year, continuing Virginia’s economic momentum.
“Our economy continues to show signs of a strong recovery,” said Governor Northam. “Our strategic and proactive decisions are paying off. In this strong economy, Virginia will continue making critical investments in our communities, our public schools, and statewide infrastructure to bolster our growing economy. Our fiscal responsibility is paying off for Virginians.”
Collections of payroll withholding taxes grew 9.9 percent in September. Collections in non-withholding grew 25.2 percent since September of last year. Collections of sales and use taxes, reflecting August sales, grew 20.6 percent in September. Collections of corporate income tax increased by 41.3 percent in September. Collections of wills, suits, deeds, and contracts—mainly recordation tax collections—were $60.1 million, compared with $56.6 million in September of last year. The first estimated payment of non-withholding and corporate income tax collections for the fiscal year was due in September.
“September completes the first quarter of the fiscal year 2022 and is a significant month for revenue collections,” said Secretary of Finance Joe Flores. “Overall, this quarter’s revenue performance was strong. It is important to remember that we are comparing this quarter’s performance to the heart of the pandemic closures last year when there was still not even a vaccine on the horizon.”
On a year-to-date basis, collections of payroll withholding taxes—62 percent of General Fund revenues—grew by 9.7 percent, well above the annual estimate of 1.7 percent increase. Sales tax collections—17 percent of General Fund revenues—increased 16.7 percent through September, far outpacing the annual forecast of a 4.2 percent decline. On a fiscal year-to-date basis, total revenue collections rose 10.6 percent, well ahead of the annual forecast of an 8.0 percent decrease. Through the first quarter of the fiscal year, corporate income tax collections rose 36.5 percent, exceeding expectations of an annual 16.1 percent decrease. The collections of wills, suits, deeds, and contracts were up 9.0 percent in the first quarter, outperforming the forecasted 31.3 percent decline.
Social Security announces 5.9 percent benefit increase for 2022
Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for approximately 70 million Americans will increase 5.9 percent in 2022, the Social Security Administration announced today.
The 5.9 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 64 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2022. Increased payments to approximately 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 30, 2021. (Note: some people receive both Social Security and SSI benefits). The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Some other adjustments that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $147,000 from $142,800.
Social Security and SSI beneficiaries are normally notified by mail starting in early December about their new benefit amount. Most people who receive Social Security payments will be able to view their COLA notice online through their personal my Social Security account. People may create or access their my Social Security account online at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
Information about Medicare changes for 2022, when announced, will be available at www.medicare.gov. For Social Security beneficiaries receiving Medicare, Social Security will not be able to compute their new benefit amount until after the Medicare premium amounts for 2022 are announced. Final 2022 benefit amounts will be communicated to beneficiaries in December through the mailed COLA notice and my Social Security’s Message Center.
The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated. To read more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.
September marks second consecutive month of cargo volume in excess of 300,000 TEUs
Strong import loads at The Port of Virginia® in September have helped the port achieve consecutive months of cargo volume in excess of 300,000 TEUs (twenty-foot-equivalent units).
In September the port processed more than 306,000 TEUs, which is an increase of nearly 50,000 TEUs (+19%) when compared with last September; loaded import volume was more than 152,000 TEUs, or 31,000 units (+26%). In August, the port handled more than 307,000 TEUs. Last September is when the port began seeing a considerable rebound in its volumes from the COVID period.
To see the port’s operational metrics on productivity at the berth, rail ramp and truck gates, click here.
“The growth we’re seeing is not artificial and the movement of loaded and empty containers is up, for both exports and imports,” said Stephen A. Edwards, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. “Last September is when volumes began coming back and since then we have posted growth each month. The operation is fluid and the Virginia Model of being an operating port, where we own, lease and operate all of the assets, allows us to be agile in meeting the needs of our customers and cargo owners.”
In the last two months, three vessel services, Maersk’s TP20, Hapag-Lloyd and CMA CGM’s Indamex 2 and MSC’s Indus 2 began making Virginia their first-in US East Coast port call. This and the port’s commitment to efficiency is helping to drive growth, Edwards said.
“There is no congestion here and ocean carriers and cargo owners are taking notice of our track record and what we are doing to ensure consistency in our operation,” he said. “We are maintaining our efficiency and service levels because we are monitoring the operation so closely and continuing to add modern assets. The result is that they are choosing Virginia because they see value here.”
With three months left in the calendar year, the port’s TEU volume is 2.58 million TEUs, an increase of 589,136 units (+30%) when compared with the same period last year. Edwards is not anticipating a slowdown in volume before year’s end.
“We may see a dip as the retail season comes to its end, but this is normal and any fall-off in volumes will be small,” Edwards said. “Looking into 2022 we see nothing that leads us to believe that there is going to be a drop in volumes. It is going to take some time before the supply chain returns to normal.”
September Cargo Snapshot (2021 vs. 2020)
- Total TEUs – 306,219 up 19.4%
- Loaded Export TEUs – 80,697 up 6.8%
- Loaded Import TEUs – 152,197, up 25.7%
- Total Containers – 170,998, up 21.6%
- Virginia Inland Port Containers – 2,297, down 31%
- Breakbulk Tonnage – 4,332, up 1.8%
- Total Rail Containers – 53,405 up 16.4%
- Total Truck Containers – 110,452 up 25.2%
- Total Barge Containers – 7,141 up 9.4%
Virginia War Memorial now accepting applications for 2022 Marocchi Memorial Scholarships
The Virginia War Memorial has announced that applications for its 2022 Marocchi Memorial College Scholarships are now being accepted.
One scholarship of $2,500 is available to any student enrolled in the senior class of an accredited public or private school or homeschool program in the Commonwealth of Virginia. New this year, an additional $2,500 scholarship is available for a student currently enrolled in a Virginia public or private college or university and is participating in a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program.
Senior high school age applicants must also plan to enroll and participate in an ROTC program at a Virginia public or private college or university that will lead to a career in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. All applicants must possess an unweighted minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) of 2.75 and must be U.S. citizens or hold permanent residence status at time of application. Students do not have to participate in an ROTC program at the high school level to apply.
“This year, we are pleased to announce that for the first time, our Marocchi Memorial Scholarships will be available to both a graduating high school student and to a student currently enrolled in a state college or university,” said Dr. Clay Mountcastle, Virginia War Memorial Director. “These scholarships were established and intended to reward Virginia students who participate in ROTC at the college level and wish to pursue a career in military service.”
The Marocchi Memorial Scholarships were established and are funded by friends and family of the late Rear Admiral John Marocchi of Rappahannock County, Va. and are administered by the Virginia War Memorial Foundation.
Admiral Marocchi served in the United States Navy for decades in a career that spanned World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. A recipient of the Purple Heart and Legion of Merit, the Admiral was one of the few Navy officers to complete Army Airborne training. He also served as a trustee of the Virginia War Memorial for more than fifteen years.
All applications for the 2022 Marocchi Memorial Scholarships must be received by Sunday, April 24, 2022. Complete details, including application forms and a list of required documents, are available online or by contacting Virginia War Memorial Assistant Director of Education Morgan Guyer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 804.786.2060.
About the Virginia War Memorial
The mission of the Virginia War Memorial is to Honor Veterans, Preserve History, Educate Youth and Inspire Patriotism in All. Dedicated in 1956, the Memorial includes the names of the nearly 12,000 Virginia heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and the Global War on Terrorism. The Virginia War Memorial is and will always be the Commonwealth’s tribute to those who served and most especially, to those who died defending our freedoms. Every day is truly Memorial Day at the Virginia War Memorial. The Virginia War Memorial is a division of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services and serves as an integral part of its mission in support of all Virginians who have served in our military. It is located at 621 South Belvidere Street, Richmond, Virginia 23220. For more information, please visit www.vawarmemorial.org.
About the Virginia Department of Veterans Services
The Virginia Department of Veterans Services (VDVS) is a state government agency with more than 40 locations across the Commonwealth of Virginia. VDVS traces its history to 1928 and the establishment of the Virginia War Service Bureau to assist Virginia’s World War I veterans. Today, VDVS assists veterans and their families in filing claims for federal veterans benefits; provides veterans and family members with linkages to services including behavioral healthcare, housing, employment, education and other programs. The agency operates two long-term care facilities offering in-patient skilled nursing care, Alzheimer’s/memory care, and short-term rehabilitation for veterans; and provides an honored final resting place for veterans and their families at three state veterans cemeteries. It operates the Virginia War Memorial, the Commonwealth’s tribute to Virginia’s men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice from World War II to the present. For more information, please visit www.dvs.virginia.gov.
About The Virginia War Memorial Foundation
Established in 2000, the Virginia War Memorial Foundation (VWMF) is the private, non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation that finances all of the educational outreach, patriotic events, and historical programs, exhibits, and documentary films of the Virginia War Memorial. The Foundation depends on the generous support of individuals, corporations, military and veterans organizations, civic groups, and grants for its funding. For more information or to make a gift, please visit www.vawarmemorial.org.