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Governor Northam requests additional federal support for Virginia workers, economy

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~ In letter to Virginia’s congressional delegation, Governor outlines requests for new federal stimulus package ~

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today (April 16, 2020) sent a letter to the Virginia congressional delegation thanking them for their ongoing partnership and outlining additional requests for federal support in response to COVID-19.

“I am deeply grateful to our congressional delegation for their help in bringing much-needed federal support to Virginia,” said Governor Northam. “Additional funding for these programs will make a tremendous difference as we combat this public health emergency, address the economic fallout, and prepare for economic recovery.”

The Governor’s letter outlines six key areas of needed investment: (1) additional flexible state funding; (2) investments in public health infrastructure; (3) support for Virginia’s families, including an increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and relief for renters, home-owners, and those experiencing homelessness; (4) support for Virginia’s workers, including the expansion of unemployment benefits, health insurance, and hazard pay; (5) small business relief, including a federal recovery loan fund and expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program; and (6) infrastructure investment, including funding to achieve universal broadband.


Here is the full text of the Governor’s letter:

Dear Members of the Virginia Congressional Delegation:

I first want to thank you for your efforts to help all Virginians through passage of the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” (CARES Act). The CARES Act, coupled with prior legislation, has helped address the public health and economic impacts from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. There is more work yet to be done to combat this pandemic. Modeling from the University of Virginia shows that the social distancing efforts I ordered via Executive Orders 53 and 55 has paused the growth of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth. We need more data and testing to fully understand the benefit of these social distancing measures, but the current trends are promising and show that Virginia’s statewide hospital bed capacity will be sufficient in the immediate future.

At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the foundation of the Commonwealth’s economy. For the week ending April 4, Virginia’s seasonally unadjusted initial claims reached 147,000, bringing the total initial claims for the weeks ending March 21, March 29, and April 4 to over 300,000. Small businesses across the Commonwealth have had to close their doors, and families are hurting. The CARES Act is providing some initial relief, but these efforts need to expand. As we continue enhanced social distancing measures for the next few months, we are also starting the process of identifying how we may reopen Virginia’s economy. To that end, I write to you to request additional programs and funding to combat the public health emergency, address the economic fallout, and prepare for economic recovery.

I.Flexible State Funding
The Commonwealth and its localities need a flexible funding structure to cover budget shortfalls and support discretionary measures to tackle the public health crisis and economic recovery. As we freeze or reduce planned spending in response to sharp COVID-19 related drops in revenue, we need federal support to avoid large cuts to state-funded essential services. These measures will help avoid an extended recession and a sharp decline in consumer confidence, just as our country may otherwise be poised to begin economic recovery. The relief provided in the CARES Act was a step in the right direction, but additional funding should give states and localities flexibility to address fiscal challenges brought on by the crisis, preparing localities, states, and the country for a healthy recovery.

This funding in the form of flexible block grants equivalent to 20 percent of the Commonwealth’s general fund revenue in fiscal year (FY) 2019 would have a huge impact on bolstering Virginia’s economy. This funding would be in addition to block grants that the Commonwealth allocates to localities to address their own fiscal challenges. Alternatively, a benefit with similar value could be provided by further increasing the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for Medicaid, as well as making corresponding adjustments to the matching rates for CHIP and Medicaid expansion programs. Either approach will assist the Commonwealth as we reforecast our budget and prepare for economic recovery.

II. Public Health Investments

A. Support our Public Health Workforce
This crisis has had a profound impact on our Virginia Department of Health and its employees. While grants from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have been helpful, more is needed to increase surveillance and testing efforts, fund necessary network enhancements to support the COVID-19 response, and fund public communication and public service announcements. VDH is especially concerned about the long-term impact on local health departments given the loss in revenue. Virginia’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) has also been a critical partner in addressing this crisis, and I recommend providing additional funding for the MRC in both the short and long-term.

B. Premium Pay Through a “COVID-19 Heroes Fund”
The Commonwealth strongly supports the U.S. Senate’s proposal to create a “Heroes Fund” to provide premium pay to retain and recruit essential workers. In addition to hospital and home health workers, the “Heroes Fund” and other benefit programs must include long-term care facilities staff, behavioral health and developmental disability service providers, and essential workers such as grocery store and pharmacy employees who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.

C. Address Workforce Shortages in the Domestic Drug Supply Chain
Previous legislation has included initiatives to increase the domestic medical supply chain. I encourage Congress to continue those efforts, and to ensure that existing and future funding can be used to identify and address gaps in the available workforce. For example, colleges in Virginia will likely need additional funds to develop an advanced pharmaceutical undergraduate degree in order to manufacture active pharmaceutical ingredients at scale.

D. Expand Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP)
It continues to be clear that the expansion of FMAP to 6.2 percent provided in the Families First Coronavirus Act will not be sufficient to cover the expanding need for health insurance. Providing an enhanced FMAP of 12 percent and applying that rate across the full Medicaid and CHIP program is critical. Furthermore, increasing the FMAP will help states as they work to enroll newly-eligible beneficiaries and maintain coverage for all populations.

III. Support for Virginia Families

A. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) & Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
As provided in my previous correspondence, I recommend an increase in SNAP benefits and the TANF block grant by 50 percent. In addition, I urge Congress to extend P-SNAP through August 2020 and direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to approve gift cards or pre-paid debit cards for P-SNAP, in order to address summer hunger problems for children who were receiving free- and reduced lunch. I also recommend removing the work study requirement for college students to participate in SNAP while colleges/universities are closed.

B. Child Welfare
I recommend providing flexibilities for Foster Care and Children Support funding under Title IV of the Social Security Act. Under Title IV-E, Congress should waive the work or school requirement for children in foster care ages 18-21. For Child Support, Congress should allow Title IV-D funds for training and employment services (including apprenticeships and subsidized employment) and receive a Federal Financial Participation (FFP) rate of 66%. States should also be able to keep the federal share of retained earnings on TANF child support cases, if states agree to pass the full amount through to the custodial parent.

C. Domestic Violence Programs
In Virginia, as with many other states, COVID-19 is increasing the need for domestic violence prevention and supportive services. Reports from March show a 76% increase in calls to domestic violence emergency hotline numbers and 1,000 additional people sought overnight shelter from domestic violence. As such, Congress should provide additional funding for Family Violence Prevention and Services (FVPSA) program, building on the $45 million provided in the CARES Act.

D. Grants to States for Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Developmental Disability Services
I appreciate the inclusion of additional funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the CARES Act. However, future funding should be directed to states and localities to support increased costs due to COVID-19, including: state mental health hospital expenses around PPE, screening, infection control, prescriptions, and increased staffing needs; increased funding for the behavioral health workforce to provide premium pay and staff training; direct grants to expand telehealth capabilities; and community prevention and resilience efforts.

E. Homelessness Assistance
Individuals experiencing homelessness are highly vulnerable to the health impacts of COVID-19. To adequately address the needs of the homeless population, we need an additional $11.5 billion nationally for Emergency Solutions Grants, of which at least $125 million is needed for Virginia. We have started the process of providing temporary housing for our vulnerable homeless population, including those who are unsheltered, those who are in shelters where they must leave for the day, and those who are in shelters and need to be quarantined. This additional funding will be used for rapid rehousing to provide additional temporary housing and get individuals into permanent housing, case management, utility assistance, shelter supplies, and outreach.

It is critical that these funds be allocated to states and localities within 30 days so localities and states can plan and respond rapidly. Virginia’s Congressional delegation should work to ensure all states get a fair share of ESG dollars from both the prior round of stimulus funding and for future stimulus funding. Prevention costs are critical for all states, and Virginia’s effort is focused on COVID-19 prevention for the homeless population through non-congregate shelters. HUD chose to only allocate a portion of the previous round of ESG funds, which makes it difficult for states and localities to make plans for COVID- 19 response and planning.

F. Rental Assistance
Congress should allocate funding for rental assistance to ensure that Virginians remain in their homes and avoid facing eviction. Virginia requests $100 billion nationally, including $2.4 billion to the Commonwealth in the form of block grants for COVID-19 rent assistance. The assistance will be delivered through state and local systems. Funding should be focused on the lowest income Virginians with eligibility requirements up to those making under 100% of area median income. Virginia’s funding request anticipates the majority of renters will be impacted by COVID-19 for at least 6 months. Evictions are expected to spike after the lifting of the judicial order in the Commonwealth, and the multifamily market is destabilized because of the inability of many tenants to pay rent. The funding request for rental assistance will help stabilize the rental market for both renters and properties impacted by COVID-19.

I also request $12 billion nationally for Housing Choice Vouchers, of which $156 million would be provided for additional Housing Choice Vouchers in Virginia. This additional funding will enable a greater portion of the most vulnerable Virginians to have access to safe, affordable housing.

G. Mortgage Assistance
Just as we need to stabilize the rental market, we also need to do so for homeowners impacted by COVID-19. I request $612 million in block grant assistance to Virginia to assist with mortgage payments for those impacted by COVID-19. The Commonwealth anticipates that about 20% of mortgage holders may be impacted by COVID-19 for up to 6 months. The requested funding would be limited to the primary residence for Virginians who are under 100% of area median income.

H. Expand HOME Funding
HOME is a flexible tool for states that supports housing creation and housing counseling. I request a national amount of $48.5 billion in additional HOME funding where HUD should use the FY20 funding formulas for each state’s allocation. This will ensure that states receive the proper funding, and it will provide states with the flexibility to respond to the individual needs in their communities. The funding will help Virginia keep people safely in their homes and preserve and expand the supply of affordable homes.

IV. Support for Virginia Workers

A. Unemployment Insurance Benefits
Congress has taken tremendous actions to provide additional unemployment benefits to Virginians. I recommend building upon the current efforts to expand eligibility of the newly created Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to include newer or less consistent labor market participants. This could occur by 1) lowering or removing the income threshold during the ‘base period’ of eligibility calculation, and 2) reducing the job tenure threshold from 12 months to 3 months.

Students, low-wage workers, parents, formerly incarcerated individuals, and migrant and seasonal workers who are not consistently attached to the labor market are largely ineligible under the current income threshold that is the equivalent of 12 months of paid work in the prior calendar year. Part-time service workers, which represent one of the hardest-hit subsectors of the labor market, are concentrated in sectors with high staff turnover rates, making it likely those workers are disqualified from unemployment insurance (UI) because they do not meet income or job tenure requirements. Additionally, there should be broader qualifications for workers whose hours have been cut. Right now, most middle- income workers who have seen reduced hours likely don’t qualify for UI benefits. Additionally, measures to extend federal unemployment insurance beyond the current window should be considered, especially in anticipation of a slower opening of the economy.

Congress must also allocate dollars to state employment commissions. The commissions are under strain from the high number of claims, and need to increase staff and technical infrastructure to process claims.

Finally, Congress should ensure that states do not have to pay back the federal infusion paid into state’s UI trust funds, along with providing additional funding to state UI trust funds to ensure their solvency.

B. Healthcare Coverage
Laid off workers will need a lifeline to access healthcare, especially during a medical crisis. I recommend creating an immediate special enrollment period on Healthcare.gov. Instituting a blanket special enrollment period would allow all Virginians who wish to purchase health insurance or to upgrade their policy to do so. I also recommend providing COBRA subsidies to help bridge the gap for individuals to maintain employer-based health insurance even after separation.

C. Payroll Credit for Required Paid Sick and Family Leave
U.S. H.R. 6201 requires state and local governments and their political subdivisions and instrumentalities to provide paid sick leave, while the bill expressly prohibits these governmental entities from receiving the tax credits. State and local governments pay payroll taxes and therefore should not have been excluded from this provision with an expressed carve out. At a time when state and local budgets are already experiencing severe economic stress, state and localities and their political subdivisions should be included. Virginia supports the request of The Council of State Governments, National Conference of State Legislatures, Government Finance Officers Association, and others to strike Sections 7001(e)(4) and 7003(e)(4) from HR 6201 and clarify that state and local government employers, including those exempt from 26 USC 3111, fully qualify for both the Section 7001 and 7003 tax credits.

D. Hazard Pay to Essential Personnel
As you consider amendments to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program or the Paycheck Protection Program, I recommend considering providing provisions to incentivize businesses to pay essential personnel hazard pay. The programs should allow businesses to recoup or claim those costs, especially for essential personnel who are on the front lines of this crisis.

E. Funding for State Work Sharing Agreements
On April 12, 2020, Governor Northam authorized a work-sharing program to support businesses and workers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The federal CARES Act provides funding for states to build new work sharing programs and, for those states with existing programs, reimburses all allocated benefits through December 31, 2020. We ask that Congress reimburse 100% of benefits allocated through work sharing programs for all states, including those developing a new one. This additional funding is critical to Virginia’s efforts to keep workers employed and paying taxes during the public health emergency.

F. Financial Supports for Virginia Students and Workers to Pursue Affordable Career Pathways
The Department of Education and Department of Labor should support affordable workforce pathways for low and middle income families. Pell Grant funding should be increased to cover community college students that are enrolled full time and studying in a high-demand field such as health care, technology, skilled trades, early childhood, or public safety. These high-need students should receive at least an additional $1,000 a semester and $500 in the summer to cover wrap- around costs associated with pursuing an education. Increased Pell Grant funding should also cover short-term, noncredit training to provide skills to dislocated workers who have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 crisis.

G. Additional funding for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)
I recommend the Department of Labor to increase WIOA funding to support the economic recovery of the COVID-19 crisis. Additional funding should be flexible to support American Job Centers, re-employment services and additional rapid response needs to support ongoing layoff aversion. Dislocated Worker Grants should be also used to support individuals that may not fit the definition of a “dislocated worker”, such as those who have been furloughed.

V. Support for Virginia Businesses
A. Expand the Paycheck Protection Program
Virginia supports the continued funding of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to shore up small businesses facing mandatory closures and revenue loss. I recommend allocating additional funding for the program as we know the funding provided in the CARES Act is likely not sufficient. I also recommend increasing the size of loans and allowing businesses to apply again for additional loans given that the business impacts will remain throughout the spring.

Furthermore, delays in finalizing guidelines and in the Small Business Administration’s E-Tran system have left many small businesses struggling to access loans through the PPP program. Congress should extend the program’s expiration by an additional six months to ensure all affected small businesses have the opportunity to access the program. Congress should also appropriate additional resources to SBA to enhance their infrastructure, including a more robust call center and SBDC network to provide timely, accurate information to business owners on the available programs.

Many small businesses are unable to access PPP loans through the current banking infrastructure, in particular small businesses without existing banking relationships. Congress should consider implementation of additional program guidelines, including providing banks with incentives to offer PPP loans to small businesses that have not had prior relationships with them. Future expansions of PPP and the establishment of other loan programs should earmark a substantial portion of funding to community banks, CDFI’s, and other lenders that provide support to the most vulnerable businesses affected by the economic conditions and/or to require a set percentage of funds to be made available to such vulnerable small businesses. In addition, Congress should consider expanding the CDFI Fund to provide an additional infusion of loan dollars that CDFIs can start disbursing into their communities now, particularly for disadvantaged and rural communities.

Small community banks are a critical component in the deployment of disaster funding to small businesses. Unfortunately, many small banks are concerned about the future health and performance of their existing small business loan portfolios and the potential losses they are likely to incur from existing small business customers, who are unable to ultimately recover from the COVID-19 disaster. These concerns about potential future losses and a bank’s desire to maintain their own liquidity during the COVID-19 crisis may deter or significantly limit the interest some smaller banks have with participating in the PPP program. The federal government should consider the creation of an entity, similar to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which could provide liquidity support to small banks desiring to originate loans under the PPP program. In addition to facilitating the usage of the PPP program, such an entity would also provide support to the capital markets during an extraordinary period when stress or turmoil in the broader financial system could threaten our economy.

B. Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program
The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program has provided another significant source of capital for small businesses that are struggling. I request that Congress provide additional appropriations for the EIDL program, as the most vulnerable small businesses are likely to access this pool of funding for longer- term relief than the PPP. SBA initially indicated that the $10,000 advance from the EIDL program would be made available “within three days” of a successful application, which is important for the hardest-hit businesses. SBA should consider streamlining its disbursement process to ensure these funds reach small businesses sooner. Timely funding is imperative for small business owners. According to a survey recently published by the MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index, nearly one in four small businesses have shut down temporarily in response to the crisis, while another 40 percent expect to do so within two weeks.

C. Reauthorizing the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI)
The State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) was a federal program that provided funding to state development finance organizations, like the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority (VSBFA). VSBFA utilized this federal funding to provide flexible financing programs for Virginia’s small businesses, including VSBFA’s very successful Cash Collateral Program. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) have introduced a bill to reauthorize the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) in the U.S. Senate as S. 3551. This bill would provide $3 billion in funds to a reauthorized SSBCI Program and provide immediate access to capital for small businesses that desperately need it. The programs created by states like Virginia under the original SSBCI are still in operation and would be ready to immediately deploy capital to businesses in need.

D. Small Business Grants through Main Street Programs
Congress should consider providing $200 million in direct grants to Virginia to assist with direct technical assistance through Main Street organizations, chambers of commerce, commercial district affiliates and local government economic development efforts. These direct service providers can ensure federal stimulus funds are accessed by small businesses with 20 employees or less and sole proprietorships. This funding will be leveraged to develop local programs for tax and fee extensions and relief.

E. Create a Recovery Loan Fund
Once America moves past the apex of the pandemic, businesses will face significant restart costs, such as rehiring employees, inventory purchases, and marketing. Congress should create an economic recovery loan fund, and these loans should be appropriated in advance of the economic recovery. The loans should provide flexibility in how they can be spent so that businesses can cover a variety of restart costs. Congress should also consider establishing tax-exempt disaster recovery bonds to provide additional credit to businesses, states, and localities seeking to maintain or restore services impacted by COVID-19.

F. Support for Agricultural Businesses
In general, Congress needs to re-examine establishing direct payment programs to farmers, along with funding large-scale USDA purchases of commodities, to help stabilize markets and create a food stockpile to help alleviate the food insecurity being created as unemployment rises sharply. To offset the decline in demand for certain products in the food service sector and in the school meal sector, USDA should make purchases of certain products including dairy products, seafood products, produce items, pork, beef, and poultry. A certain portion of purchases should be allocated for small-scale producers, particularly in seafood/aquaculture and in produce, who do not normally bid on USDA food procurements.

The nation’s aquaculture industry also faces major and immediate losses to markets, with estimates that the industry will lose between $3.5 and $7 million per month during this period of enhanced social distancing. Additional considerations for the aquaculture industry includes critical labor issues, as picking and shucking houses are dependent on H2B visas and a largely immigrant workforce for processing. Even when the market returns, the industry may be limited by the availability of labor. The federal government should work quickly to expand the cap on H2B visas. USDA Disaster Assistance and Marketing Service Programs should be funded to provide the seafood industry with opportunities to retool for processing, packaging and selling seafood products through new or alternate outlets.

Congress allocated additional funding to the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) in the most recent legislation package. Since the length of the economic impact is undetermined, I recommend providing additional funding for TEFAP to cover the next 6 to 12 months when we may need a new influx of food for food banks.

There are several specific actions Congress and USDA could take to help small, minority, or socially disadvantaged farmers. Suggestions include reopening EQUIP sign-up to allow small producers to access more cost-share programs, extending the sign-up for CSP, and relaxing the guidelines for both CSA’s and GAP certification for rural areas. Congress should also consider creating a separate funding source or pool of funds for Limited Resource and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers, Ranchers and Veterans to assist with their agricultural enterprise. This source should be flexible, and it could mirror the FAS Micro- Loan program, including a cap out at $50,000 and applications completed in 30 to 45 days.

G. Community Development Funding
Virginia requests additional Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding or flexible block grants to states to bolster community development responses in housing, infrastructure, and business assistance. HUD should use the FY2020 funding formulas for each state’s allocation. This will ensure that states have the flexibility to respond to the individual needs in their communities. Unfortunately, HUD chose to only allocate a portion of the prior stimulus funds, which makes it difficult for states and localities to make plans for COVID-19 response and planning. We request the full CDBG allocation based on the FY2020 funding formula.

VI. Investments in Infrastructure

A. Broadband
The pandemic has amplified the need for universal broadband coverage across Virginia. To that end, I request that Congress consider federal block grants of broadband infrastructure funds to Virginia. We estimate that $250 million would achieve universal broadband coverage for the Commonwealth. I recommend expanding funding and accelerating the build-out times for two existing Federal Communications Commission (FCC) broadband grant programs – the Connect America Fund II (CAFII) and Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). I recommend the payment schedule of CAFII and RDOF be accelerated and allow funds to be dispersed upon receipt of project expenditures.

As areas without broadband service try to serve their students, healthcare institutions, and teleworkers, many are experiencing lack of availability for the critical technology needed to enable these enterprises. I recommend that Congress use the Defense Production Act or another method to increase production of mobile wi-fi hotspots, which are in high demand in areas without broadband. This can be a relatively swift, albeit temporary, solution for households without broadband access.

VII. Conclusion

Thank you for your consideration of these requests to give the Commonwealth flexibility in future federal relief. I hope that you will prioritize investments in public health and in Virginia families, workers, and businesses. To the extent that the next round of funding also includes infrastructure investments, I have provided important programs that could assist both in the Commonwealth’s recovery and in creating opportunities to put Virginians back to work. I look forward to continuing to work with you as we address this pandemic and begin to move toward economic recovery.

Thank you for your continued support and service.

Sincerely,
Ralph S. Northam

 

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The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank promotes food finder tool amid winter weather, rising food prices

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Following another weekend of winter weather, many individuals and families across the region are experiencing hunger because they could not afford to both heat their home and buy food. For those facing this tragic dilemma, the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank has an online tool for people to find food assistance in their community.

Improved and re-launched in the spring of 2021, the user-friendly and mobile-accessible Food Finder tool can be navigated in 12 different languages and displays a broad range of partner and program sites (including mobile food pantries and more). Search results can be filtered by service type, days of operation, distance and even the availability of evening hours.

Compounding the hardships stemming from winter weather, food prices also continue to rise. Food-at-home prices (e.g., groceries) were up 6.5% in December 2021 from December 2020, according to the latest Consumer Price Index. Meat, fish, poultry, and eggs rose 12.5% over the same period.

At least one in 12 people in the Blue Ridge area experiences hunger, with children and the elderly suffering the worst consequences.


“We are in the midst of the coldest part of the year, and with more winter weather on the way, many people are faced with the impossible question of, ‘Do we heat our house today or buy food?’” said Michael McKee, CEO of The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. “We understand the gravity of these situations, and we are committed to offering resources to those facing these difficult decisions. We’ve already seen the positive impact of Food Finder, and we hope more across our service area can find help through the tool should they need it.”

For those interested in utilizing Food Finder, go to: foodfinder.brafb.org for more information.


About the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank
Founded in 1981 and headquartered in Verona, Virginia, the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank is the largest organization alleviating hunger in western and central Virginia. The Food Bank serves an average of nearly 119,000 individuals each month across 25 counties and eight cities through distribution centers in Charlottesville, Lynchburg, Winchester, and Verona. Together with our network of 207 community partners and 187 program sites, we’re serving record numbers of Virginians during a prolonged pandemic and its associated economic impacts. We pledge to continue innovating and adapting to secure, store, and distribute more food to more individuals, families, children, and seniors experiencing hunger. The Food Bank is a member of Feeding America, a national food bank association that supports 200 food banks across the United States providing 6 billion meals to 42 million people through 60,000 partner pantries. For more information, visit www.brafb.org.

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Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Red-shouldered Hawk

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Why are hawks so often hit by vehicles?

Photos / Blue Ridge Wildlife Center

This Red-shouldered Hawk was admitted last week due to a vehicle collision. This hawk had a guarded prognosis on intake due to the severity of head and lung trauma.

This bird improved over the first few hours with supplemental oxygen and pain medications, but was quiet for a few days after admission. Over time, this patient’s breathing improved as did the head trauma.

Now, after a week in care, this patient has been moved to an outdoor enclosure. Though able to fly, there are still some coordination and endurance issues.


We are hopeful that this hawk will recover fully and be released!

We are only a couple of weeks into January, yet we have already admitted six raptors for confirmed vehicle collisions this year.

Why does this happen so often? And how can you help?

We all know that littering is bad. But it may surprise you that biodegradable items like banana peels, apple cores, and other food waste are especially dangerous to wildlife! Often, people will toss these items out of their car window thinking they are harmless and will biodegrade quickly. In reality, the food scraps attract prey species to the roads, and then predators, like hawks, follow.

Don’t give these birds of prey more of a reason to frequent roadways. Help wildlife by disposing of your trash properly!


Looking for an easy way to help native wildlife? Become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.

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Summary of the Warren County EDA meeting of January 14, 2022

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The Board of Directors of the Front Royal and Warren County Economic Development Authority held the first board of directors’ meeting of the New Year via Zoom. The meeting was authorized under Governor Northam’s executive mandate for the health emergency.

The Board adopted two resolutions.

The first resolution the board unanimously approved was a one-year lease with a 60-day notice clause for 1329 Happy Creek Road. The house is part of a settlement on the Jennifer MacDonald bankruptcy.

The second resolution supports Sands Anderson, EDA’s legal counsel, in the lawsuits to recover lost funds during the Jennifer MacDonald tenure as executive director. The resolution authorizes the EDA Chairperson, Jeff Browne, to direct Sands Anderson in trial strategy as necessary regarding claims and defenses based on the EDA’s strategies.


Beginning with the January 14, 2022 meeting, committee reports are in writing and submitted prior to the meeting with the board report. The committee reports along with the agendas of each meeting will be posted on the website prior to the meeting. The January committee reports are posted. The committee chairs highlighted the items in the reports and answered questions.

Board Vice-Chairman and Asset Committee Chair Greg Harold discussed the long-term need for housing in the community to support businesses brought to the county in the future. Tom Patteson presented an oral report on the staffing for the EDA. Dr. Patteson expressed disappointment that several qualified candidates interviewed but took other positions. He recommended expanding the advertising for the Executive Director position to include the IEDC, an association of professional economic developers.

Dr. Patteson resigned effective January 31, 2022, at the end of his four-year term. The board as a whole and individual board members expressed their gratitude and appreciation for all his work on the board including serving as treasurer. Dr. Patteson provided a balance to the board, attention to detail, and business acumen.

As of January 31st there will be two open positions on the board. Jeff Browne emphasized a full board is needed especially now with the board managing much of the day-to-day operations of the EDA.

See related story “The WC EDA faces 2022 with optimism while bidding farewell to one board member and seeking administrative staff replacements”

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VDOT crews focus on secondary roads tonight – drivers should watch for refreezing and drifting

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STAUNTON – (5:00 p.m.) Plow crews in the Virginia Department of Transportation Staunton District continue with snow removal operations following a major winter storm on Sunday, January 16. With interstate and most primary roads now clear or in minor condition, work will focus on secondary roads. Crews will plow and treat roads throughout the night. If possible people should not park along the road so that plows can fully clear snow from the neighborhood and other residential roads.

With temperatures dipping below freezing, drivers who travel tonight and tomorrow morning may encounter damp areas of roadways that are frozen, creating black ice. Caution should be used when traveling. Ice is prone to form first on bridges, overpasses, and other elevated surfaces.

High winds are forecasted for the area. Blowing and drifting snow covering plowed roads may occur. Crews will continue to monitor and plow as needed. Travelers should be aware of possible snow-covered areas on previously plowed roads.

Here are the road conditions as of 5:00 p.m. in the Virginia Department of Transportation Staunton District:


Interstate 64 – Minor conditions in Alleghany County. Clear conditions in Rockbridge and Augusta counties.

Interstate 66 – Clear conditions in Warren County.

Interstate 81 –. Clear conditions in Rockbridge, Augusta, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Frederick counties.

Primary roads – Minor conditions in Alleghany, Highland, Bath, Shenandoah, Frederick, and Clarke counties. Clear conditions in Rockbridge, Augusta, Rockingham, Warren, and Page counties.

Secondary roads – Minor conditions in Warren County. Moderate conditions in Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke, Page, Rockingham, Augusta, Highland, Rockbridge, Alleghany, and Bath counties.

For winter weather road conditions go to http://www.511Virginia.org, look at the orange bar on the top of the page and click on “Text Views” and then click on “Road Condition Table”. Look at the pull-down box that lists all jurisdictions. In this box, individual counties can be chosen to view.

On the go? Then visit VDOT’s Free Virginia 511 Tools to get your 511 app for android or iOS. Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511.

The VDOT Customer Service Center can be accessed through its mobile-friendly website at https://my.vdot.virginia.gov/. Agents are on site 24/7 every day of the year to assist the public. People can also call the VDOT Customer Service Center at 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623).

The Staunton District Snow Page is on the VDOT website under Travel Center Snow Emergency Pages. The Staunton District Twitter feed is at @VaDOTStaunton.

The Staunton District Twitter feed is at @VaDOTStaunton. VDOT can be followed on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube. RSS feeds are also available for statewide information. The VDOT Web page is located at http://www.VirginiaDOT.org.

The VDOT Staunton District serves Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke, Warren, Page, Rockingham, Augusta, Highland, Rockbridge, Alleghany, and Bath counties.

Road condition definitions:
Severe – drifting or partially blocking the road.
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Governor Glenn Youngkin delivers address to the Joint Assembly

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On January 17, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin delivers to the Joint Assembly in Virginia’s State Capitol.

As prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon.

Standing here before you, and looking around this room, I’m struck by the history that’s been made in this place, the people’s house.


As well as the fact that the work you do here has great consequence for the people of Virginia. And so it is as we gather here today.

Mr. Speaker, Madam President, Lt. Governor Earle-Sears, Chief Justice Goodwyn, and Justices of the Supreme Court, members of the General Assembly, my fellow Virginians, today we begin anew, all of us together.

After years of fractured politics, a deadly pandemic, lives and livelihoods lost, soaring mental health incidents and drug overdoses, rising crime rates, ever-increasing costs for housing, food and fuel, Virginians have sent us here to turn the page.

They came out in record numbers to make their voice heard. They chose a new vision for the future.

Today, I want to speak to that vision and begin our partnership to address the priorities of the people.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know so many of the members of these two legislative bodies both Republicans and Democrats.

You have invited me to your homes. We’ve shared meals together. We’ve done community service together. And I thank you for that.

We’re all part of Team Virginia.

And as I shared on Saturday, we can take inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King’s life which we celebrate today and his words that “we may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

The work we have to do, we must do together.

And there isn’t a better example of people coming together on behalf of Virginia than the brave crews, the law enforcement heroes, and the first responders who worked during yesterday’s storm in the freezing cold, ice and snow to keep our streets safe, the lights on and our hospitals open.

Before I speak to the work ahead, I want to recognize someone who has traveled with me every step of the way.

She inspired me to live a life of faith as a younger man. She is an example of humility and strength not just to our children but to women across this great commonwealth.

She is the best partner I could ever imagine our First Lady, Suzanne Youngkin.

After a year of campaigning at diners, senior centers, schools, housing projects, courthouses…even pickup basketball games, I’ve taken the measure of our people.

I’ve found them to be resilient, optimistic, courageous. I listened to their hopes and concerns their dreams and fears. Their stories of inspiration and stories of tragedy.

Some cried on my shoulders. Some prayed over me. And some spoke bluntly maybe a little too bluntly at times.

Almost all expressed a desire for a Virginia worthy of the ambitions of its people.

I come here today to echo their clarion call for change.

To form a government that works for ordinary citizens. That’s a catalyst for opportunity and not an obstacle. And that addresses the kitchen table concerns of working families that are real and mounting.

It’s been said that all great change starts at kitchen tables across America.

You see, that’s where families talk about what matters to them. It’s also where parents discuss their worries stagnant wages in the face of rising expenses caring for an elderly parent and trying to find a way to save for their kids’ future.

I want to share with you something that we’ve all heard from voters.

They’re genuinely concerned that the cold halls of government are disconnected from the cold realities families face while sitting at their kitchen tables every day.

In that respect, we shouldn’t misconstrue record revenue for government as economic success for Virginians.

The view from the people, whose labor generates those tax receipts is quite different than the talk in Richmond.

They see an economy whose growth has stalled at less than 1% per year for 8 years. With household incomes stagnating over the last year — as the cost of living has sky-rocketed.

They see declining schools, they see violent crime reports dominating the news, they see record low labor participation, they see small businesses struggling, and they see government failures and encroachments on their liberties.

From the perspective of every day Virginia families times are tough. And the state of our Commonwealth is not what it should be.

Today we’re at the proverbial “tipping point” where the cash flow to the government from rising tax burdens is very high.

And yet the impact of high costs and high taxes, and an increased regulatory burden are clearly being felt in the real economy and the real lives of Virginians.

The good news is that we have the ability to course-correct before this poor performance becomes permanent.

With current and projected tax driven surpluses we can lower the tax burdens on Virginia families.

And make crucial investments in those critical pillars to the great Virginia promise of a lower cost-of-living, excellent schools, safe communities, a rip-roaring economy that lifts up all Virginians, and a state government that works for Virginians.

To do that, I’m asking each of us in this body Republican and Democrat alike to come together.

To rise above the Richmond of divisive, special interest politics, the small and the parochial to usher in a sweeping vision of change

And to put this commonwealth on a pathway to prosperity.

On day one, we hit the ground running, signing 11 executive actions, and swearing in a full cabinet, outstanding individuals, who are qualified and share Virginia’s values.

As of today, we’ve worked with legislators to introduce 59 pieces of legislation to tackle our day one agenda.

And we’ll be submitting a package of 25 budget amendments to reflect our bipartisan priorities.

We’re addressing issues that are critical to the future of this commonwealth. And that every member in this chamber can get behind.

Virginians have given us a license to lead. They have charged us all to deliver on a Day One agenda.

We know on some issues there’ll be deep disagreement.

But I believe this chamber is big enough for us to talk through our differences. And there is more that binds us than divides us.

For we all share a common goal to leave a better Virginia for our children.

We’re going to start by investing in Virginia classrooms.

Education is the key to opportunity. The means by which all children and their parents can realize their greatest dreams.

Virginia schools have a lofty reputation. But lately we’ve not lived up to that reputation.

In fact, our education standards for math and reading are now the lowest in the nation.

Unelected political appointees lowered standards which inevitably led to a decline in student performance.

60% of our students don’t meet national proficiency standards, including over 70% of Latino students, and over 80% of black students, failing to meet standard on the math NAEP tests. Remarkably, despite these dramatic declines noted by the National Center for Education Statistics only one Virginia school has been deemed failing
because accreditation standards were lowered.

Starting now we’re ending the accountability shell games intended to make us feel good but amount to the often stated “soft bigotry of low expectations.”

Let’s stop cheating our kids.

On this we should join arms and purpose together so that when our time here is done we’ll collectively have raised education standards from the lowest to the highest in the nation.

I’m also calling for $150 million to help us meet our goal of starting 20 new charter schools.

Whether they’re called charter schools, lab schools, or schools of innovation – it doesn’t really matter.

I don’t care what we call it I just care that we do it.

We’re joined today by the students of Green Run Collegiate Charter School in Virginia Beach. Green Run Collegiate shares a facility with Green Run High School.

They have an innovative curriculum. They provide access to every child in the school district to attend the collegiate program. They’re thriving and their parents are thrilled.

Please join me in welcoming these future Virginia leaders to our commonwealth’s capitol.

We’re going to build partnerships between the commonwealth and our great universities to create lab schools of excellence.

It could be a lab school in Southwest Virginia in partnership with UVA Wise.

It could be an entrepreneurship or entertainment industry-focused school partnering with one of our amazing historically black colleges and universities.

Or a partnership with Old Dominion University for opportunities in offshore wind development or maritime projects.

When it comes to the education budget, I’ve heard consistent bipartisan agreement from all of you that the budget you’ll pass, and that I’ll sign will reflect a record investment in education including a significant boost in teacher pay.

With the exception of a parent or guardian no one impacts the future of a young child more than a quality teacher.

We will attract quality professionals to Virginia schools. And we will pay teachers as the professionals they are.

We must also recognize that the people most responsible for a child’s education are parents.

My message to parents is this,

You have a fundamental right, enshrined in law by this General Assembly, to make decisions with regard to your child’s upbringing, education and care.

And we will protect and reassert that right.

Hear me clearly when parents are empowered and engaged, a child’s life is enhanced.

I’ve heard the concerns of parents about curriculum.

Virginia parents want our history – all of our history, the good and the bad to be taught. And they want their children to be told how to think, not what to think.

That’s why we should not use inherently divisive concepts like Critical Race Theory in Virginia. And why we should not be teaching our children to see everything through the lens of race.

That’s also why I want to give parents the right to be informed before their child is exposed to sexually explicit materials.

Please, send me the same bill you passed on a bipartisan basis in 2017 and I will sign it.

The classroom environment must be safe, so children can learn.

I’m asking members of this general assembly to prioritize school safety by putting a school resource officer on every campus.

I also ask you to join me in protecting students from sex trafficking organizations that recruit them on and off campus.

Let’s train educators to see the signs of trafficking. And to stand in the gap for children at risk of being preyed upon.

Let’s also involve local law enforcement agencies in the approval of school safety audits.

And whenever someone preys upon a child in a Virginia school — we must require it to be reported to local law enforcement for investigation.

No more cover-ups. No more sweeping it under the rug. Parents deserve to know if their child is at risk.

Schools exist for the educational benefit of children, and for that reason they must remain open. I strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated for Covid-19 and get the booster.

As we battle covid, its parents that should decide the health measures taken for their children.

That is why I signed an executive order that allows parents to opt-out of mask mandates in schools. This is a matter of individual liberty.

Again, this body passed a law that protects parent’s fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of their children.

And health care workers should get to make those decisions too.

And I will continue to oppose President Biden’s COVID vaccine mandate for health workers as we continue to fight a crisis of staffing in Virginia’s healthcare system.

Our fight against COVID-19 will move forward based on this simple principle we will protect lives and livelihoods.

That means no more mandates and no more shutdowns. As I said on Saturday it means Virginia is open for business.

It also means the science since the beginning of the pandemic has not been static. We now have therapeutics better testing protocols and fortunately a less severe variant.

And of course, we have vaccines. It means, educating our friends and neighbors and encouraging them to get the vaccine and the booster.

There are 1.6 million unvaccinated Virginians today.

And speaking to you as your Governor, I’ll never tell you what you must do. But speaking to you as a friend and a neighbor I strongly encourage you to get the vaccine.

The data is clear people who do not get the vaccine are four times as likely to be hospitalized.

The vaccine will not only help keep people out of the hospital, it will also keep people working, earning a paycheck and growing our economy, something that has to remain a top priority for us all.

Our Day One Plan will jump-start jobs.

We’re going to repeal needless regulations. We’re going to invest in job training. We’re going to foster innovation. And we’re going to win the competition for jobs and corporate re-locations.

I support a significant investment in mega-sites.

To make sure we don’t lose the next advanced battery manufacturing plant after seeing several go to Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia.

And while we’re at it let’s broaden the baseball stadium authority to include football. And perhaps we’ll get one of those too.

I want our rural Virginians to know we’re spreading prosperity far and wide. And rural Virginia won’t be left behind.

We’re not only bringing jobs, we’re bringing high-speed broadband.

Every governor for the last decade has stood in this chamber and told you that rural broadband was a priority. This time we’re going to get it done.

We’re also going to make certain that key projects at our ports and our highways are completed.

So the message is clear, if your cargo container ships is stuck off the coast of another state come to Virginia.

We’re ready for your business. And we won’t make supply chain problems worse with regulatory red tape.

And let me be clear, I believe in the fundamental right to work.

If anyone tries to bring me a bill that creates forced unionization it will meet the business end of my veto pen.

The states around us have created more jobs, grown their economies faster, and took steps years ago that we must take now, lower taxes, business-friendly regulations, workforce development, and more.

This is a real competition, and to win, we have to “play to win.”

One of the other challenges businesses face especially small businesses is the high cost of providing health care for their employees.

Over the last three years, you sent the governor eight versions of an association health plan bill to make it easier for workers to get health care.

It was vetoed eight times. Pass that bill again and I will sign it.

Virginians are struggling with the high cost of living, in a commonwealth with skyrocketing housing costs, rising fuel prices, and the silent wage theft of inflation.

There are economic fundamentals we don’t control in Virginia – that must be dealt with at the federal level.

But Washington continues to fiddle in the face of real supply chain challenges. And allows our nation to be overly-reliant on China for critical goods and services.

But there is one vital thing we can do to help Virginians. And that is remove some of the tax burden — added on top of rising prices for groceries, gasoline and housing.

That’s why I support suspending the recent gas tax increase for a year and fully eliminating the grocery tax immediately.

There’s bipartisan support for eliminating the grocery tax. Together, we will give Virginians real relief.

We also need to give Virginians a real break on their personal income tax by doubling the standard deduction. And providing the largest tax rebate in Virginia history.

These tax cuts benefit the people who need it the most.

And represent the largest tax relief ever given to the people of Virginia $1,500 this year for the typical Virginia family.

But beyond the economic implications of this package, I believe we have a special obligation to a group of individuals that have served our country with distinction our military veterans.

Those who risk life and limb for country and community don’t do it for the pay. They do it because service is in their blood.

The care and support of our veterans, have always transcended partisan politics.

That’s why I’m asking this General Assembly to act on something long talked about.

Let’s eliminate the tax on the first $40,000 in military retirement pay together.

Anyone who wears the uniform risks their life each day on the job. And this includes police officers, firefighters, EMTs, every first responder that keeps us safe.

We’re in a fractious era and no group of individuals is under greater scrutiny today than our law enforcement.

A culture of lawlessness has filled the void in Virginia with violent crime on the rise.

In November, Police Officer Michael Chandler of the Big Stone Gap Police Department was violently gunned down by a vicious criminal.

Incidents like this are all too common today.

We’ll never know the depth of his loss to his family but we grieve with them and pray for them.

In Virginia, we must stand with our law enforcement agencies. And therefore, I’m asking you to fund our police to protect our communities.

Officer Michael Chandler’s widow — Natasha Chandler is also a member of law enforcement. She’s a Wise County Deputy Sheriff who even after losing her husband, insisted on returning to serve.

She’s watching this afternoon.

Please join me in recognizing the sacrifice that her husband, Michael, made on our behalf.

The budget submitted to this General Assembly includes pay raises for troopers, sheriffs’ deputies and corrections officers.

Those are strong first steps I know we all support.

But we need to provide more funding for our police departments. And more funding for training and equipment.

Together, we should dedicate $100 million in ARPA funds to a training and equipment grant program for law enforcement. And provide capital funding for a new state police training facility.

Furthermore, I’m asking you to dedicate $26 million in state funding for police departments. But only in localities that are increasing funding for their police departments.

We’ll also fund community violence intervention by dedicating at least $5 million to Operation Cease Fire.

It’s time to take down the temperature around discussions of policing.

The solution is constructive engagement and dialogue. Not inadequate funding which creates more lawlessness.

And when it comes to lawlessness, I want to be crystal clear.

If we won’t tolerate it in communities across the commonwealth then we certainly won’t tolerate it within a state agency.

On Saturday, I fired the entire parole board.

And I asked Attorney General Miyares to begin an investigation into what happened there.

The violations of law and the Constitution, the unconscionable refusal to notify families, of victims about pending decisions to release murderers, were simply unacceptable.

We will not accept selective violations of our constitutional rights. We will protect all of them.

We don’t get to pick and choose the parts of the Constitution we want to preserve and protect.

In order for our government to work for the people, we must also reform the institutions of government that fail to serve the people.

I’ll admit I’ve never run a government agency. But I know something about running a business.

And we’re going to bring business efficiency to government bureaucracy.

That’s why I appointed a Commonwealth Chief Transformation Officer — to oversee government transformation.

We will make government more responsive, more efficient, and more transparent and we’ll start by fixing the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Virginia Employment Commission.

Furthermore, we will be innovative in leveraging federal transportation funds to address the challenges of growth and gridlock.

In Virginia, we are going to build roads, bridges, rail lines and utility lines.

We are going to be better prepared for weather events that strain our highways and the electric grid.

And we will marshal our resources to make our infrastructure the most reliable in the nation.

As I travel Virginia, I remain in awe of the raw natural beauty of our Commonwealth.

The mountains, waterways, beaches, parks, farm land, livestock, vineyards, and natural resources testify to our Creator’s artistry.

I deeply treasure the natural beauty of Virginia. And my administration will dedicate itself to protecting and promoting it as a core principle of our service.

That’s why we will end the dumping of raw sewage in the James River once and for all.

I also support fully funding best management practices on our farms in order to protect our soil and water from the Chesapeake Bay to the Jackson River.

And we are going to see the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay to the finish line.

Coastal resiliency is critical to me.

And it’s critical to our nation because of our Port and military assets in Hampton Roads.

That’s why we’re going to create the Coastal Virginia Resiliency Authority to battle rising seas and make sure the federal government does its part too.

Let me state our goal.

Let’s work together in partnership. To build a government as virtuous as our people. One that serves.

You don’t have to look too far to find examples of that spirit among the people of Virginia.

I met a veteran of our military on the campaign trail by the name of Natasha Barijon (BEAR-ee-un).

She’s an immigrant. And like so many first generation immigrants, she loves this country with a passion few can understand though certainly our lieutenant governor can.

Natasha knows what life is like in other parts of the world.

Which is why tears flowed down her face when she told me about her journey to America her pride in serving in our military and the hopes and dreams she has for her daughter to grow up in a better America.

Natasha represents the best of America.

She may not have been born here but she is every bit American as someone who was. Because she has lived the ideals of this great land.

Natasha is also watching today.

Please join me in recognizing her service to our country and her dreams for her daughter.

Virginia is home to heroes. Many living and many who lie in eternal rest.

I attended the funeral of one such hero last month, in Virginia Beach – the Commanding Officer of SEAL Team 8, Brian Bourgeois.

Brian could light up a room with his laugh and he could put his subordinates at ease during the most tense moments.

He gave his life in service to freedom. And he left behind a wife, Megan, and five children. One of which – Barrett – led us in the pledge of allegiance on Saturday.

What price would we in this room put on freedom?

For some freedom is so precious they would offer everything in its defense.

Those of us who live in the freedom they so valiantly protect must live lives worthy of their sacrifice. Set aside petty divisions. Set aside ego and self-advancement. And join together to make this Virginia we love better, stronger, freer.

My friends in this esteemed legislature, I’m inspired to be with you this afternoon. And to be working with you to build a future of limitless opportunity and strengthen the spirit of Virginia.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the Commonwealth of Virginia.

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EDA in Focus

The Warren County EDA faces 2022 with optimism while bidding farewell to one board member and seeking administrative staff replacements

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After an hour-and-a-half closed session to discuss a variety of topics, including disposition of three cited properties, the civil litigation against Jennifer McDonald, refinancing of a First Bank & Trust loan, and personnel matters involving two EDA Board members, the Warren County Economic Development Authority received Executive, Finance, and Asset Committee reports; acknowledgment of the County Administrator’s Report included in the packet; and several old and new business matters.

That “Old Business” included updates on the development of the EDA Strategic Plan and Search Committee work in finding permanent replacements for departed Executive Director Doug Parsons and Administrative Assistant Gretchen Henderson. The 9 a.m. Friday morning (Jan. 14) meeting concluded at 11:15 a.m. after a review of potential reallocation of Budget Line Items in its lone “New Business” topic.

A head’s up on one of the closed session personnel matters may have been given in open session when during his Executive Committee report, EDA Board Chairman Jeff Browne acknowledged the pending departure of Tom Pattison at the end of the month as his four-year term comes to a close. Pattison’s retirement leaves the EDA Board of Directors two members short. It was observed that is especially problematic with the board chairman, among other members, juggling what would normally be staff responsibilities to help fill the gap as replacements for departed Executive Director Doug Parsons and Administrative Assistant Gretchen Henderson are sought.

County Administrator Ed Daley joined Browne and his board in bidding Pattison a fond farewell and thanks for his work in helping the realigned EDA Board get adjusted to the evolving, post-financial scandal landscape they were entering in early to mid-2019. Daley was part of that board as chairman, along with current members Browne and Greg Harold. Daley pointed out Pattison had arrived on the board just a few months prior to the influx of new members during the post-financial scandal turnover.


Meeting virtually under state guidelines to combat exploding Omicron COVID variant numbers, WC EDA Board Chairman Jeff Browne hosted virtually against an impressive graphic backdrop. The EDA board and county administrator bid farewell to retiring member Tom Pattison, below, leaving at month’s end as his four-year term expires. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

“He was a terrific asset … you’ll be sorely missed. We appreciate everything you’ve done on our behalf and the County. So, thank you,” Browne said of Pattison’s role in getting the new board on track over the past 3-1/2 years in the wake of questions about EDA operations and contractual arrangements under the leadership of former Executive Director Jennifer McDonald.

“Thank you for your kind comments,” Pattison responded, adding, “And I’d like to say that I’ve certainly been pleased to serve with such a fine board, conscientious and well-qualified, as well as the administration when we had (Doug) Parsons and others. I’ve also enjoyed working with the County and County Administration, and also with Sharon and her expertise and advice over the years (EDA attorney Sharon Pandak). So, I leave thinking the board is in good hands.”

However, Pattison wasn’t resting on his laurels, noting that he had some comments on staff recruiting strategies when the Search Committee Update portion of the meeting arrived under Old Business. Currently, the EDA is functioning with county staff filling the two EDA administrative staff positions on a part-time basis as permanent replacements are being sought after Parsons and Henderson left for other career opportunities, Parsons with the Fauquier County EDA and Henderson with the Northwest Regional Commission.

And following Daley’s acknowledgment of his submission of the County Administrator’s Report and Browne’s noting that once again there was no Town Manager’s Report, the Search Committee Update discussion was broached. Pattison told his colleagues that the county human resources department had reported that there have been “a paucity of applications” for the executive director’s position in particular. Discussion indicated one factor could be confusion over who the director would be answerable to.

Later during the discussion County Administrator Daley noted that the initial advertisement for the position was drawn up while the County and Town were still talking about a joint effort in reorganizing the half-century-old joint County-Town EDA. But as the subsequent town council decision, under the guidance of then-Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick, to litigate against the EDA for real or imagined losses, as opposed to engaging in offered “good faith negotiations” to establish exactly what was owed to whom from the financial scandal; not to mention the continued absence of a monthly staff report on Town efforts toward economic development, that is obviously no longer the case.

Pattison suggested removing confusion in that regard, along with new, broader sources in which to advertise the vacant positions moving forward. “One question for the person looking at it, is ‘exactly who am I going to answer to?’ I think it should be clear that it’s going to be to Ed (County Administrator Daley) and the board of supervisors … and it doesn’t make sense that they’d have to answer to the Front Royal EDA personnel.”

Daley concurred, telling the EDA board, “… that will be clarified that we will work with their (the Town) EDA, but will not be making reports to the town council or their EDA or anything like that.”

Pattison also suggested the list of qualifications be narrowed somewhat, with an emphasis on the marketing of properties, a current focus of the EDA in the wake of the McDonald executive tenure. That is due to some questionable real estate moves dating to McDonald’s executive directorship when it is suggested real estate transactions may have been used to cloak alleged misdirection of EDA assets.

Click here for the WC EDA press release “Summary of the WC EDA meeting of January 14” for additional information.

 

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Upcoming Events

Jan
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7:00 pm FRWRC Woman Gathering @ ONLINE
FRWRC Woman Gathering @ ONLINE
Jan 20 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
FRWRC Woman Gathering @ ONLINE
The Front Royal Women’s Resource Center presents: WomanGathering – 7 PM, Virtual via Zoom Webinar with guest Dawn Devine, the Executive Director for the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum. Topic: Why Children are our most valuable resource. Click[...]
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1:00 pm FRWRC Book Circle @ ONLINE
FRWRC Book Circle @ ONLINE
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January 21 – FRWRC Book Circle – Free Virtual Event – Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Questions about FRWRC Online Book Circle, please contact: Lyn Bement at dlbement@comcast.net or (540) 635-3000. In person Book Circle Postponed until[...]
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6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Jan 26 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
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12:30 pm Free REVIVE! Opioid Overdose and... @ ONLINE
Free REVIVE! Opioid Overdose and... @ ONLINE
Jan 28 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Free REVIVE! Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Education @ ONLINE
Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, in conjunction with Northwestern Community Services Board, will offer a free, virtual REVIVE! Training on January 28th from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm. The one-hour online class provides an overview of how[...]
Feb
2
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6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Feb 2 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
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First Friday @ Downtown Main Street
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Come celebrate First Friday! Downtown businesses will be open late, until 8 p.m., on the first Friday and Saturday of each month.
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all-day First Friday @ Downtown Main Street
First Friday @ Downtown Main Street
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First Friday @ Downtown Main Street
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9:00 am Women’s Wellness Workshop @ ONLINE
Women’s Wellness Workshop @ ONLINE
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Women's Wellness Workshop @ ONLINE
Women’s Wellness Workshop – Virtual via Zoom Webinar – Key Note Speaker Dr. Neema. Registrations will begin January 5: frontroyalwomenswellness.com
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Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
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Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area: Discover our International Dark-Sky Park! Our evenings begin with a half-hour children’s “Junior Astronomer” program, followed by a discussion about the importance of dark skies and light conservation. Then join NASA Jet Propulsion[...]
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6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Feb 9 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]