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Governor Northam signs Executive Order establishing Commission on African American History Education

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HAMPTON—Governor Ralph Northam  signed Executive Order Thirty-Nine, which establishes the Commission on African American History Education. The Commission is charged with reviewing Virginia’s history standards, and the instructional practices, content, and resources currently used to teach African American history in the Commonwealth. Governor Northam made the announcement speaking at the 2019 Commemoration of the First African Landing, a ceremony to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in English-occupied North America at Point Comfort in 1619.

“The full history of Virginia is complex, contradictory, and often untold—and we must do a better job of making sure that every Virginia graduate enters adult life with an accurate and thorough understanding of our past, and the pivotal role that American Americans have played in building and perfecting our Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “The important work of this Commission will help ensure that Virginia’s standards of learning are inclusive of African American history and allow students to engage deeply, drawing connections between historic racial inequities and their continuous influence on our communities today.”

The Executive Order tasks the Commission with issuing a report no later than July 1, 2020, with recommendations for improving the student experience, including but not limited to:

• Technical edits to and recommendations for enriched standards related to African American history;

• Broader considerations for the full history and social studies standards review process; and
• Necessary professional development and instructional supports for all teachers to ensure culturally competent instruction.

The Commonwealth first established its history and social science standards of learning in 1995. Since that time, the standards have been routinely updated based on feedback from practitioners, historians, and stakeholders. The work of the Commission will help inform the next history and social science standards review the state will undertake.

Additionally, the Virginia Department of Education will work with Virtual Virginia, WHRO Public Media, and committees of history and social science public school educators, university historians, and college professors to develop a new African American history course for high school students. Together, they will establish objectives and competencies to provide a foundation of knowledge and understanding of African American history.

This new elective will be available to all students in the Commonwealth virtually beginning in the fall of 2020. Its component digital parts will be accessible resources for students in numerous other history courses.

The Governor has appointed the following individuals to serve on the Commission:

• Derrick P. Alridge of Charlottesville, Professor of Education and Director of the Center for Race and Public Education in the South, Curry School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
• Dr. Rosa S. Atkins of Charlottesville, Superintendent, Charlottesville City Schools
• Edward Ayers of Richmond, Professor of the Humanities, University of Richmond
• Jarvis E. Bailey of Fredericksburg, High School Administrator, Westmoreland County Public Schools and School Board Member, Fredericksburg City
• Maria D. Burgos of Prince William County, Supervisor of Global Learning and Culturally Responsive Instruction, Prince William County Public Schools
• Christy S. Coleman of Chesterfield, CEO, American Civil War Museum
• Dr. Robert N. Corley, III of Chesterfield, Associate Vice-Provost for Academic Affairs and Project Director, The Wallace Foundation’s University Principal Preparation Initiative, Virginia State University
• Pamela Croom of Hampton, President-Elect, Virginia PTA
• Dr. Andrew P. Daire of Moseley, Dean of the School of Education, Virginia Commonwealth University
• Crystal DeLong of Bedford, Teacher, Liberty High School, Bedford County Public Schools
• Beau Dickenson of Harrisonburg, President, Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium and Social Studies Supervisor, Rockingham County Public Schools
• Crystal M. Edwards of Lynchburg, Superintendent, Lynchburg City Schools
• Anne Marie Evans of Fluvanna County, Director of Education and Outreach–New American History, University of Richmond
• Dr. John K. Lee of Raleigh, Professor, North Carolina State University
• Makya Renée Little of Woodbridge, Parent Advocate and Florida A&M University Alumnus
• Dr. Monica Manns of Henrico, Director of Equity and Diversity, Henrico County Public Schools
• Basil Marin of Atlanta, Assistant Principal, DeKalb County Schools
• Tyrone Nelson of Henrico County, Chairman, Henrico County Board of Supervisors and Pastor, Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church of Richmond
• Dr. Cassandra L. Newby-Alexander of Chesapeake, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Professor of History, Norfolk State University
• The Honorable Atif Qarni of Prince William, Secretary of Education, Commonwealth of Virginia
• Gloria Randolph-King of Roanoke, Retired Roanoke City Public Schools Administrator
• Rodney Robinson of Richmond, 2019 National Teacher of the Year
• Dr. Vanessa D. Thaxton-Ward of Hampton, Director, Hampton University Museum
• Pastor Michelle C. Thomas of Loudoun County, Founder and CEO, Loudoun Freedom Center and President, NAACP Loudoun Branch
• Dr. Dietra Trent of Halifax, Former Secretary of Education
• Dr. James F. Lane of Chesterfield, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction
• Dr. Alice Reilly of Alexandria, Educator, George Mason University
• Renita S. Williams of Chesapeake, Secondary Social Studies Instructional Supervisor, Newport News Public Schools
• Rodney Jordan of Norfolk, Co-Chair, Virginia School Boards Association Task Force on Students and Schools in Challenging Environments and School Board Member, Norfolk City
• Cainan Townsend of Farmville, Director of Education, Robert Russa Moton Museum
• Chris Van Tassell of Richmond, Program Coordinator and Educator, Virginia Museum of History & Culture
• Robert C. Watson of Williamsburg, Assistant Professor of History, Hampton University
• Dr. William E. White of Williamsburg, Visiting Distinguished Scholar, Christopher Newport University
• Jonathan C. Zur of Richmond, President and CEO, Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities

The full text of Executive Order Thirty-Nine can be found here.

Additional information about the Commission and its meetings will be available online here.

Governor Northam’s full remarks at the 2019 Commemoration of the First African Landing, as prepared for delivery, are below.

Good morning.

What a beautiful setting this is. I thank you for the privilege of speaking to you at Fort Monroe today. As a former member and vice-chairman of the Fort Monroe Authority, it’s always a pleasure to be here at this site.

Thank you all for being here today to commemorate 400 years of American history.

For those of you from out of state, welcome to Virginia.

It’s great to be here today with former governors, now Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and former governors McDonnell and Baliles. I also want to recognize Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring, Congressman Bobby Scott, Congresswoman Elaine Luria, House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox, members of our legislative black caucus, and other elected officials.

I would like to thank everyone who has worked hard to make this commemoration a reality—Fort Monroe Authority director Glenn Oder, Fort Monroe Authority Board of Trustees Chairman Jim Moran, members of the Fort Monroe Authority board, Fort Monroe National Monument Superintendent Terry Brown, the National Park Service, Kathy Spangler, Nancy Rodrigues, and the team from American Evolution. I’d also like to thank the Hampton 2019 Commemorative Commission for all the hard work they have done around these events in their home city.

We are here today for a commemoration, and a reckoning.

Today is a time to reckon with the fact that four hundred years ago, enslaved Africans arrived for the first time on Virginia shores. Like you and me, they had lives and families—lives and families they would never see again.

Just up the river in Jamestown, a few weeks earlier, white landowning men had come together to establish a system of representative government.

But that system did not represent all of the people who arrived here at Old Point Comfort, people whose skin looked different than mine.

That government did not represent them during 246 years of slavery. It did not represent them through nearly 100 years of Reconstruction and Jim Crow terror and discrimination. And in many ways, it struggles to represent them today.

That is the truth, and that is what we must reckon with as we move forward. How do we tell the full and true story of our past 400 years?

How do we do so with honor and dignity for people whose honor and dignity were taken away from them? Who should tell that story? And how do we learn from those lessons as we move forward?

Ida B. Wells wrote that “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”

If we are going to begin to truly right the wrongs of our four centuries of history, if we are going to turn the light of truth upon them, we have to start with ourselves.

Over the past several months, as I have met with people around the state and listened to their views on the disparities and inequities that still exist today, I have had to confront some painful truths.

Among those truths was my own incomplete understanding regarding race and equity.

I have learned a great deal from those discussions, and I have more to learn. But I also learned that the more I know, the more I can do.

For too long, the burden has been on individuals and communities of color to lead these discussions. But if more of us have these hard conversations, and truly listen and learn from them, we’ll be better able to shine that light of truth. Because the eyes can’t see what the mind doesn’t know.

We can start those conversations at places like this, Fort Monroe, the ground where the first enslaved Africans landed.

This is also the same ground where the end of slavery began. It was here where enslaved people sought refuge, and were granted it, a decision that eventually led to emancipation.

General Butler’s contraband decision has been hailed by Ed Ayers—a nationally known historian of the American South, and a member of the Fort Monroe Authority—as “the greatest moment in American history.”

Virginia is the place where enslaved Africans first landed and where American representative democracy was born.

Virginia is the place where emancipation began and the Confederate capitol was located.

Virginia is the place where schools were closed under Massive Resistance, rather than desegregate and allow black children to attend, and it is the state that elected the nation’s first African American governor.

Virginia is a place of contradictions and complexity. We take a step forward and, often, a step back.

And we have to acknowledge that. We have to teach that complexity to our children, and often to our adults. We are a state that for too long has told a false story of ourselves.

The story we tell is insufficient and inadequate, especially when it comes to black history.

We must remember that black history IS American history.

That’s why earlier today, I signed an executive directive to establish a Commission on African American History Education in the Commonwealth.

This Commission will review our educational standards, instructional practices, content, and resources currently used to teach African American history in the Commonwealth. We want to make sure all students develop a full and comprehensive understanding of the African-American voices that contribute to our story.

But that is not the only thing we can do.

When we look back at events of 1619, or 1861, or 1964, when the Civil Rights Act was signed, we often look at them as history—frozen in time or locked in a book, relics of the past.

We memorize dates, but not connections. We don’t teach the themes that appear in our history over and over again.

We often fail to draw the connecting lines from those past events to our present day.

But to move forward, that is what we must do.

We know that racism and discrimination aren’t locked in the past. They weren’t solved with the Civil Rights Act. They didn’t disappear—they evolved.

They’re still with us, in the disparities we see in educational attainment and school suspension rates, in maternal and neonatal mortality for black and white mothers, in our courts and prisons, and in our business practices.

Through 400 years of American history, starting with the enslavement of Africans, through Jim Crow, Massive Resistance, and now mass incarceration, black oppression has always existed in this country, just in different forms.

The legacy of racism continues not just in isolated incidents, but as part of a system that touches every person and every aspect of our lives, whether we know it or not. And if we’re serious about righting the wrong that began here at this place, we need to do more than talk. We need to take action.

The Commission I mentioned earlier is just one action. My administration is taking bold steps to right historical inequities in education, in our health system, and in access to business opportunities.

We established a commission to examine racial inequities in Virginia law.

We have set a goal to eliminate racial disparities in maternal and neonatal mortality by 2025.

I signed an executive order to advance equity for our small women-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses, including a statewide disparity study, and we are working to reduce evictions.

A few weeks ago, I was here at Fort Monroe to announce the removal of letters from the arch that once celebrated the president of the Confederacy.

Jefferson Davis was charged with treason and was imprisoned here at Fort Monroe, a traitor to his country. And I believe it is no coincidence that in the same year that Virginia enacted Massive Resistance as official state policy, that arch went up in his honor.

To have a monument glorifying a person who worked to maintain slavery, on the same site on which enslaved Africans both first arrived here and were later freed, is not just inappropriate, it is offensive, and it is wrong. Removing that monument is one way we can act to better tell the true story here in Virginia.

And I am pleased and proud to announce today another important step in how we represent the full and true story of our Commonwealth.

Last year, I requested and the General Assembly agreed to allocate $500,000 toward the first African Landing Memorial Art Project here at Fort Monroe.

Since that time, the Fort Monroe Authority and the Virginia Commission for the Arts, in partnership with the National Park Service, the Fort Monroe Foundation, and Project 1619, led a national search for an artist who could create this memorial art project at Old Point Comfort.

The art project will be dedicated to the first landing of African people here on these shores. Importantly, the artist will engage with the public to ensure that the community has the chance to express their opinion on what this memorial project means to them, and what experiences should be included in the design.

I’m delighted that the artist for the Fort Monroe African Landing Memorial Art Project is here with us today. Mr. Brian Owens, would you please stand?

I look forward to seeing Mr. Owens’ project and how it will contribute to this site and the telling of this important American story.

On this very day last year, I was at the Tucker family cemetery, a cemetery named after the first documented child of African descent born in English-speaking North America.

William Tucker’s parents, Anthony and Isabell, were among those who were brought here to Old Point Comfort in 1619.

Like too many African-American cemeteries, the Tucker family cemetery had fallen victim to neglect.

But it is also a testament to revival and restoration. Family members and interested groups are working to restore that cemetery, and I want to recognize Delegate Delores McQuinn for her work on this issue.

In that restoration work, and in the events here this weekend, I see steps forward. I see us working to acknowledge the wrongs and the evils done in the past—and in the present.

Because, while we cannot change the past, we can use it and learn from it. When we know more, we can do more.

I know more, and as your governor, I will do more.

And as we reckon with the painful legacy of Virginia’s racist past, and acknowledge that it continues to shape our present, we can and must continue to act to improve the future. We must work to tell our full and true story.

It is our job—all of us that make up this diverse society—to ensure that when the next generation looks back—a generation that is hopefully more inclusive than we have been—they see a more accurate narrative, one that tells the truth, and includes everyone.

Thank you.

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Virginia receives USDA approval to join SNAP online purchasing pilot program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Can’t pay your rent? – Resources for renters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

​Helpful Links:

2-1-1 Virginia

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

HUD-Certified Housing Counselors

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

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

National Alliance to End Homelessness

Renter Education eBook (from VHDA)

Virginia Legal Aid

​Virginia Poverty Law Center

Virginia Residential Landlord-Tenant Handbook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Federal Guidelines:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

​* Federal Guidelines credited to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

State Guidelines:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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