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Legislative Update

Senate passes bipartisan legislation Kaine cosponsored to strengthen veteran-owned small businesses

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation that was cosponsored by U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and introduced by Senator Tammy Duckworth to help entrepreneurs grow their small businesses and expand economic opportunity. The Veterans Small Business Enhancement Act, which now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives, would allow veteran small business owners to acquire equipment and property that the federal government no longer has a use for by adding veterans to the list of eligible recipients for federal surplus personal property, which already includes women and minority small business owners as well as Veterans Service Organizations.

“When the men and women who have tirelessly served our nation come home and begin new careers in their communities, we owe them our support,” Kaine said. “That’s why one of my top priorities in the Senate has been easing servicemembers’ transition from active duty to the civilian workforce. I’m excited that this commonsense legislation brings us closer to that goal by helping veterans who own small businesses thrive and in turn strengthen their communities.”

Kaine has focused in the Senate on supporting veterans, servicemembers, and their families. He’s been a leader on efforts to reduce unemployment for veterans and military spouses and ensure those who serve our nation receive the health care and benefits they were promised. The first bill Kaine introduced in the Senate – the Troop Talent Act of 2013 – was a bill to ease the transition for servicemembers into the civilian workforce. This year, Kaine introduced two bills — the Military Spouse Employment Act of 2018 and the Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act of 2018 — to reduce military spouse unemployment and support military families. Key provisions of these two military spouse bills were signed into law as part of the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The General Services Administration (GSA) has overseen distribution of federal surplus personal property for 15 years in partnership with the Small Business Administration (SBA) and State Agencies for Surplus Property (SASP) through the Federal Surplus Property Donation Program. When there is no federal need for excess property, SASPs disburse the property to eligible recipients who otherwise may have been unable to acquire it. This legislation is supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the National Association of State Agencies for Surplus Property (NASASP), and the American Legion.

American Legion National Commander Brett P. Reistad has previously said: “The American Legion supports legislation that would give veteran-owned small businesses access to surplus federal property. Unclaimed surplus property costs the federal government millions of dollars to dispose of or maintain every year. This same surplus property may help small businesses offset the overhead expenses associated with opening a storefront or office, which benefits the United States.”

There are more than 2.5 million veteran-owned small businesses across the country, including approximately 76,000 in Virginia. As more Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans transition out of the military and begin their next career, this number will only increase.

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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – June 27, 2020

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This week in Washington the House debated legislation related to police reforms, patent programs, and several other issues. Additionally, I was pleased to see another one of my bills pass in the House, and I look forward to it being considered in the Senate. As the Nation reopens and Congress begins to resume a more regular schedule, I will continue working to represent the values of the Sixth District and its residents.

Police Reforms:
The horrific killing of George Floyd led to millions across the country to call for additional transparency and accountability in policing. Instead of working across the aisle on this important matter, Democrats rammed a partisan bill through the House that will impede the ability of good police officers to do their jobs effectively and uphold the Rule of Law. During the markup of this legislation, my colleagues and I offered a dozen thoughtful amendments in an effort to improve this bill. However, our ideas were voted down.

While I could not support this legislation on the Floor, I have cosponsored the House version of a police reform bill called the JUSTICE Act. Offered on the Senate side by Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the JUSTICE Act would:

• Improve law enforcement transparency through additional reporting, including annual reporting on the use of force and reporting on no-knock warrants.

• Ensure law enforcement agencies and officers are held accountable by developing accessible disciplinary records systems.

• Provide $500 million for state and local law enforcement agencies to equip all officers with body cameras, improve the use of body cameras, and store and retain footage.

• Eliminate the use of chokeholds except for when the use of deadly force is permitted under law.

• Improve officer training by directing the Attorney General to develop curricula related to the duty to intervene and de-escalation tactics.

• Includes the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, making lynching a federal crime.

Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act:
Earlier this month, I joined my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in introducing the Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act, and this week, I was pleased to see it pass the House with unanimous support. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s “Patents for Humanity” competition recognizes inventors who develop creative solutions to global humanitarian problems. Through this competition, the USPTO awards inventors with a certificate for an accelerated review of a future patent.

The Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act supports this program and the innovators it recognizes by making these acceleration certificates transferable while codifying the program into law. Smaller companies and USPTO encourage the growth of this vital program. This bill increases the power of the program to encourage those seeking to make a global change to pursue their innovations, as well as the opportunity for similarly-sized start-ups to receive a certificate via transfer.

Innovations recognized in the past by the program have included better ways to diagnose and treat HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, and other diseases, improved crops, and better sources of nutrition energy sources for those without a reliable electric grid, and methods to preserve clean drinking water and improve sanitation.

Alzheimer’s Association:
This week, I joined the Virginia Alzheimer’s Association for a virtual town hall. I appreciated the opportunity to hear folks’ first-hand experiences with this illness and welcomed the suggestions on how together we can make progress on this issue. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and more than 5 million Americans are currently suffering from it. Congress must work toward realistic solutions to help combat this ever-growing disease and bring an end to the pain and suffering it has inflicted on far too many. To that end, I announced my cosponsorship of the bipartisan Promoting Alzheimer’s Awareness to Prevent Elder Abuse Act.

Phase Three Reopening:

This week Governor Northam announced that on July 1, the Commonwealth will move into Phase Three of reopening. Previously, Virginia moved into Phase One on May 15 and Phase Two on June 12.

Once in Phase Three, non-essential retail, restaurants and beverage services, beaches, and state parks will be open in full capacity, but with proper distancing. Entertainment venues will be open with 50 percent capacity. Fitness and exercise centers will be open at 75 percent capacity with no restrictions on shared equipment, but an increase in sanitation is encouraged. Childcare and personal grooming businesses will be open in full capacity. The 50-person limit on gatherings will increase to 250 people. Please keep in mind that even as these businesses open, face coverings and physical distancing is still required. You can find more information and a full list of changes when we enter Phase Three here.

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Application Deadline:

Time is running out because as of June 30, the application for PPP loans will be closed. If you intend to seek relief funding, I encourage you to talk to an eligible lender as soon as possible by clicking here.

If you are interested in a loan and do not yet have a lender, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced the launch of a new dedicated tool for applicants to be matched with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs), Certified Development Companies (CDCs), Farm Credit System lenders, Microlenders, as well as traditional smaller asset size lenders in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). This tool is designed as an additional resource for pandemic-affected small businesses who have not applied for or received an approved PPP loan to connect with lenders, so they may receive relief assistance. The platform can be accessed here.

After entering their information into the Lender Match platform, a borrower receives an email from lenders who have been matched with them. The borrower can see lenders’ requests for them to begin an application. Borrowers are then able to begin the application process directly from the email they receive. Leads will only be forwarded to CDFIs and Lenders with less than 10 billion dollars in assets until the PPP program ends. At that time, the Lender Match platform will then be open to all participating SBA Lenders. Additionally, the Lender Match platform can connect borrowers with other SBA lending products currently offering debt relief. An overview of alternative relief options can be found here.
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COVID-19 Data and Testing:
Increased COVID-19 testing is important to maintaining the move towards reopening Virginia and the Nation. As we begin to see an increase in new coronavirus cases across the country, it is important that we continue to expand testing and pursue data on coronavirus recovery in the U.S. and around the world. This important information could indicate how easily people can build immunity against the virus, as well as help us predict a timeline for getting recovered and immune segments of our population back to work. As your Representative I will continue to advocate for Federal support for testing at locations with high infection rates around the country.

At vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus, you will find a map searchable by zip code intended to help provide information on known locations of various COVID-19 test sampling sites. I also recommend that you keep up with local media networks, which may be providing information on testing sites in their respective localities.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.
For the latest updates from Washington and across the Sixth District, please follow my Facebook and Twitter pages.

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Legislative Update

Sixth District prepares for Phase Three – COVID-19 Update

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While the spike in the number of new COVID-19 cases across the country is something we should monitor closely, I continue to be hopeful about the downward trend here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The seven-day average of new cases is less than half the level from three weeks ago. While other states have hit the pause button on reopening, Virginia remains steady in the number of new coronavirus cases and is experiencing a decline in coronavirus related deaths which allows for the continuation of our phased reopening.

As we examine returning to normal activities, please continue to follow the CDC’s latest guidelines. This includes staying six feet away from others, wearing a mask where appropriate, washing your hands, cleaning and disinfecting, and monitoring your health. If you are sick or in a vulnerable population, please stay at home. Continue reading for further resources and updates on various programs designed to help you through this crisis and the current status of the Commonwealth’s Virginia Forward Phased reopening.

Reopening: Phase Three

This week Governor Northam announced that on July 1, the Commonwealth will move into Phase Three of reopening. Previously, Virginia moved into Phase One on May 15 and Phase Two on June 12.

Once in Phase Three, non-essential retail, restaurants and beverage services, beaches, and state parks will be open in full capacity, but with proper distancing. Entertainment venues will be open with 50 percent capacity. Fitness and exercise centers will be open at 75 percent capacity with no restrictions on shared equipment, but an increase in sanitation is encouraged. Childcare and personal grooming businesses will be open in full capacity. The 50-person limit on gatherings will increase to 250 people. Please keep in mind that even as these businesses open, face coverings and physical distancing is still required. You can find more information and a full list of changes when we enter Phase Three here.

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Application Deadline

Time is running out because as of June 30, the application for PPP loans will be closed. If you intend to seek relief funding, I encourage you to talk to an eligible lender as soon as possible by clicking here.

If you are interested in a loan and do not yet have a lender, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced the launch of a new dedicated tool for applicants to be matched with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs), Certified Development Companies (CDCs), Farm Credit System lenders, Microlenders, as well as traditional smaller asset size lenders in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). This tool is designed as an additional resource for pandemic-affected small businesses who have not applied for or received an approved PPP loan to connect with lenders, so they may receive relief assistance. The platform can be accessed here.

After entering their information into the Lender Match platform, a borrower receives an email from lenders who have been matched with them. The borrower can see lenders’ requests for them to begin an application. Borrowers are then able to begin the application process directly from the email they receive. Leads will only be forwarded to CDFIs and Lenders with less than 10 billion dollars in assets until the PPP program ends. At that time, the Lender Match platform will then be open to all participating SBA Lenders. Additionally, the Lender Match platform can connect borrowers with other SBA lending products currently offering debt relief. An overview of alternative relief options can be found here.

COVID-19 Data and Testing

Increased COVID-19 testing is important to maintaining the move towards reducing infection rates and reopening Virginia. As we begin to see an increase in new coronavirus cases across the country, it is important that we continue to expand testing and pursue data on coronavirus recovery in the U.S. and around the world. This important information could indicate how easily people can build immunity against the virus, as well as help us predict a timeline for getting recovered and immune segments of our population back to work. As your Representative I will continue to advocate for Federal support for testing at mobile locations with high infection rates.

At vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus, you will find a map searchable by zip code intended to help provide information on known locations of various COVID-19 test sampling sites. I also recommend that you keep up with local media networks, which may be providing information on testing sites in their respective localities.

Economic Impact Payments

Still waiting on your Emergency Relief Payment? The IRS has released a process in which taxpayers can trace their Economic Impact Payment (EIP) if they have not received it and:

• They have received Notice 1444 telling them the date their EIP was sent, or

• The “Get My Payment” online tool shows their EIP was issued and it has been more than:
o 5 days since the scheduled direct deposit date
o 4 weeks since it was mailed by check to a standard address
o 6 weeks since it was mailed, and you have a forwarding address on file with the local post office
o 9 weeks since it was mailed, and you have a foreign address.

A trace on an EIP follows the same process as a trace on a tax refund. To start a Payment trace:

• Call the IRS at 800-919-9835 (you may experience long wait times or recorded help because of staffing limitations)
Or

• Submit a completed Form 3911, Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund (PDF).

• If you submit the form and you are Married Filing Jointly, both spouses must sign the form;

• Write “EIP” on the top of the form and complete Sections I, II and III;

• Answer the refund questions as they relate to your EIP;

• When completing Number 7 under Section I, check the box for “Individual” as the Type of return; enter “2020” as the tax period and leave the date filed blank;

• Mail or fax the form to {see the FAQ for where to mail or fax form 3911}:

Taxpayers should not request a payment trace to determine if you were eligible for a payment you should have received, or you have not received a Notice 1444 or a payment date from Get My Payment.

Virginia Department of Veterans Services Reopening

On June 29, the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (VDVS) will begin reopening some of their offices and facilities. As conditions continue to improve, more offices will reopen. VDVS will begin providing in-person services for Virginia Veterans and their family members at select Benefits Offices on an appointment-only basis. Prior to their reopening, Veterans are encouraged to contact their local VDVS office by telephone or email for service during regular business hours Monday – Friday.

General visitation at the Virginia Veterans Care Center (VVCC) in Roanoke will continue to be prohibited to protect the health of residents and staff. Exceptions are made for end-of-life state visitation with prior coordination. Virginia State Veterans Cemeteries are now reopened to memorial services with limitations. Visitors are encouraged to use face masks and maintain distance between themselves and others.

Centers for Disease Control Resources:

Centers for Disease Control

How to Protect Yourself

Symptoms and Testing

If You Are at Higher Risk

If You Are Sick

Frequently Asked Questions

Follow @CDCgov on Twitter

Other:

Salem VA Medical Center Resumes Services

Shenandoah National Park Reopening

Virginia Enters Phase Three

COVIDCheck

Emergency Relief Payments – Debit Cards

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

USDA ReConnect Loan and Grant Program 

DOT Enforcement Notice

VA COVID Coach

Keep Americans Connected

FDA FAQs Regarding Masks and Gowns

Resources for Educators

IRS Unveils Their People First Initiative

The Virginia Department of Health Has Activated Call Centers Throughout the Commonwealth

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management Has Begun Accepting Donations

Virginia Employment Commission waives the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits

How to aid the relief effort 

FDA Warns of Fraudulent Home Testing Kits

Trust Your Sources

Tax Day Moved to July 15th

At cline.house.gov/covid-19, you can access further information about the coronavirus pandemic, including administrative, congressional, and state action that has been taken to curb the spread of the virus, resources for businesses, and information from the CDC on how to keep you and your families healthy. Rest assured, I will continue to monitor the situation in Virginia and around the country and work with my colleagues to ensure the full, coordinated force of the federal government is behind our efforts to stop the spread of this disease.

If you need help with a federal agency in regard to coronavirus relief, please reach out to the District office located closest to your home or business about Economic Impact Payments, the Paycheck Protection Program, EIDL, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or bringing home a loved one stuck in a foreign country. My District staff welcome your communication so that they can address these and other matters together with you.

Harrisonburg: (540) 432-2391
Staunton: (540) 885-3861
Roanoke: (540) 857-2672
Lynchburg: (434) 845-8306

If you experience symptoms or have been exposed to someone recently diagnosed with COVID-19, contact your doctor immediately to determine if you need screening.

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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – June 20, 2020

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In the past month, Americans have come together to protest the brutal killing of George Floyd. And while I support everyone’s right to peaceably assemble, the “Defund the Police” movement being pushed by the left is reckless and nothing more than a partisan talking point that will divide the country. Our dedicated police officers put their lives on the line each day to protect our communities and ensure that lawlessness does not prevail in our streets and neighborhoods. The anarchy unfolding within Seattle’s “Autonomous Zone” is a perfect example of what “Defund the Police” would actually look like across America. As Congress begins discussing legislation to reform policing, I will fight to ensure our law enforcement officers are not stripped of the resources they need to effectively do their jobs.

Reforming Policing
The vast majority of law enforcement officers serve their communities with honor and distinction. But unfortunately, a select few bad actors have made it necessary to implement reforms to ensure that those who cross the line are held accountable. This week, the Judiciary Committee held a markup on the Justice in Policing Act. While this bill contained some positive reforms, I also introduced an amendment to address law enforcement collective bargaining agreements.

In some states, unions have been permitted to shield bad officers from accountability by negotiating contracts that make it nearly impossible for a department to remove those who are unfit to serve. Many such agreements among police unions limit officer interrogations after alleged misconduct, mandate the destruction of disciplinary records, prevent anonymous civilian complaints, and limit the length of internal investigations. My amendment would have ensured that the Department of Justice and the Attorney General were not hindered by collective bargaining agreements when working with law enforcement to resolve patterns or practices of misconduct. Further, it would have reallocated more federal funding to states who reform their collective bargaining laws. Regretfully, my amendment was not accepted, but I will continue to work with my colleagues toward a bipartisan consensus on improving law enforcement and ending racism in our communities.

While I could not support the proposal mentioned above, I joined my colleagues this week in introducing the JUSTICE Act, which offers real solutions to increase transparency, accountability, and training within our Nation’s police departments. This bill builds upon the directive in President Trump’s Executive Order to develop policies that encourage proactive police strategies to address concerns and strengthens relationships that ensure the safety and security of all communities. Specifically, this legislation would:

• Improve law enforcement transparency through additional reporting including annual reporting on the use of force and reporting on no-knock warrants.

• Ensure law enforcement agencies and officers are held accountable by developing accessible disciplinary records systems.

• Provide $500 million for state and local law enforcement agencies to equip all officers with body cameras, improve the use of body cameras, and store and retain footage.

• Ban the use of chokeholds except for when the use of deadly force is permitted under law

• Improve officer training by directing the Attorney General to develop curricula related to the duty to intervene and de-escalation tactics.

• Includes the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, making lynching a federal crime.


Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce:
It was a pleasure to join the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce and Congressman Morgan Griffith on a video-call this week to hear first-hand from small business owners and to answer questions regarding the federal resources that are available to them in this difficult time. During the call, we touched on subjects relating to the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, future coronavirus relief legislation, and more. I recently participated in similar events with the Botetourt Chamber of Commerce and the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance and will continue listening to business leaders throughout this pandemic to better understand the situation they are currently facing. If you have questions, resources are available to help during this trying time. Please consult my COVID-19 website at www.cline.house.gov/covid-19.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Advance
On June 15, the U.S. Small Business Administration began accepting new Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL Advance applications from all qualified businesses. This advance is designed to provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. This loan advance will not have to be repaid. Applicants who have already submitted their applications will continue to be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Previously, the Disaster Loan application portal was only available to agricultural businesses but as of June 15, the portal is available to all eligible applicants. For agricultural businesses that submitted an EIDL application through the streamlined application portal prior to this legislative update, SBA will process these applications without the need for re-applying. Eligible small businesses and agricultural businesses may apply for the Loan Advance here.

Operation Warp Speed
When it comes to combating the effects of the coronavirus, the Administration has taken an all-hands-on-deck approach. Most recently, a presidential task force named “Operation Warp Speed” has tasked several agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the Department of Defense, to work together on the accelerated development, manufacturing, and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.

This program is expected to produce large quantities of vaccines while the clinical trials are still underway. This is to ensure that there is not a delay once those clinical trials determine safety and efficacy. Private-sector drug companies do not have the ability to produce a drug in this way due to the financial risk involved. Operation Warp Speed and the Federal Government will be assuming the risk to ensure economic confidence does not hinder the development of this life-saving vaccine. Though the timeline is speeding up, rest assured science and safety will not be compromised. Read the full update from the Department of Defense here.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.

For the latest updates from Washington, please follow my social media accounts: FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – June 14, 2020

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As our Nation battles the coronavirus and looks at ways to unify the country in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, we returned to Washington this week to continue discussions regarding these and other pressing matters facing America. There is much that needs to be done, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in these trying times to move the Nation forward.

Judiciary Committee Hearing on Police Reform
Across the street from the Capitol above the Supreme Court is inscribed “Equal Justice Under Law.” In these troubling times, I stand with my fellow Americans in condemning the brutal killing of George Floyd and so many others who have been denied that equal justice under the law. This week, the Judiciary Committee held a hearing to discuss bipartisan solutions to encourage greater transparency, training, and accountability in our police departments. And while this Committee has enacted significant reforms to our criminal justice system in the recent past, I am disappointed that so many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle seem less focused on enacting real reforms and more focused on “defunding the police.” This simply is not a realistic option. Our dedicated police officers who serve our communities work to ensure that lawlessness does not prevail in our streets and neighborhoods. The anarchy unfolding within Seattle’s “Autonomous Zone” is a perfect example of what “Defund the Police” would look like across America.

Walter Scott Notification Act
As Congress strives to make reforms to policing, I was proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Walter Scott Notification Act this week. Named for Walter Scott, an unarmed black man who was shot and killed by the police, this bill will require states that receive federal policing grants to include in their reporting additional information about officer-involved shootings. Under the legislation, states would be required to submit several data points including, name, race, description of the event, and overall circumstances that led to the weapon being discharged. States that fail to abide by the requirements could be subject to a reduction in federal grant funds.

Shenandoah National Park
As of June 11, the Shenandoah National Park began to increase access within the park as part of Phase Two of the SHEN COVID-19 Adaptive Recovery Plan which is in line with the statewide Phase Two of Forwarding Virginia.

The National Park Services have worked diligently to ensure a safe reopening of our beloved parks. Park opening information is as follows:

• The entire park will be open 24 hours a day.

• The backcountry, including shelters and huts, will be open for overnight camping. Backcountry campers should be self-reliant and review camping regulations online or at kiosks to self-register their backcountry permits. Kiosks are located at Entrance Stations, Loft Mountain Wayside, North and South entry points of the Appalachian Trail, and the Old Rag Trailhead parking area.

• Campgrounds will open at 12:00 p.m. noon at a limited capacity to meet the Forward Virginia guidelines of a 20-foot separation between campsites to encourage distancing. There will be limited first come-first served sites at this time. No new reservations can be made, but we will honor reservations previously made.

• Old Rag and Whiteoak Canyon/Cedar Run circuit trails will reopen from both Skyline Drive and the boundary. Entrance fees will be collected at the boundary trailheads unless you have a current pass, and parking will be limited to available parking spots in designated parking areas only. Vehicles parked along the roadside will be ticketed and towed.

• Boundary trailheads will reopen. Vehicles parked illegally will be ticketed and towed.

• Picnic Grounds will reopen at 12:00 p.m. noon. Dickey Ridge Picnic Grounds (mile 4.7) is currently closed and will reopen when construction activities are completed.

• The Park Store at Byrd Visitor Center will open. It will operate 5 days a week (Thursday through Monday) from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. A limited number of patrons will be allowed at one time and masks will be required.

Concession-operated services by Delaware North will open as follows, masks will be required:

• June 11, 2020: Elkwallow Wayside (mile 24), Skyland Lodge 9mile 41.7 or 42.5), Big Meadows Showers and Woodyard (mile 51), Lewis Mountain Cabins and Campstore (mile 57.2), Loft Mountain Campstore (mile 79.5)

• June 25, 2020: Big Meadows Lodge

• June 25, 2020: Loft Mountain Wayside
With public health in mind, the following facilities remain closed at this time:

• The picnic pavilion within Pinnacles Picnic Grounds (mile 36.6)

• Dickey Ridge Visitor Center (mile 4.6) and the information desk and exhibit in Byrd Visitor Center (mile 51).

• Massanutten Lodge and Rapidan Camp historic structures

More information about the parks reopening process can be found on their website at nps.gov/shen/phase-two.htm.

Salem VA Medical Center
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been hard at work making sure our Nation’s veterans receive top-notch care while testing over 195,000 veterans and employees for COVID-19. To read the VA’s weekly report on COVID-19 pandemic response, click here.

Additionally, Veterans will benefit from Salem VA Medical Center having been selected as the Lead Site to begin resumption of health care services in a slow phased approach in order to ensure a safe environment for Veterans and staff. The Department of Veterans Affairs announced that on May 26 the Salem VA Medical Center entered Phase 1 which resumed services which included the addition of some imaging studies such as MRIs and CTs.

On June 15, Salem VA Medical Center will enter Phase 2 in a staggered manner. They will gradually increase health care services and appointments in various clinics with the understanding that they will reassess based on any rise in facility or community positive COVID-19 cases. The increases in Phase 2 services will be based on the patient volume levels before the coronavirus pandemic.

Operating room cases will increase to 50%, outpatient clinics to 25%, imaging studies to 50%, and medical procedures to 50%.

During all phases, the medical center will continue to encourage Veterans to call their provider any time they feel ill and encourage the continued use of VA Video Connect and telephone appointments when clinically appropriate. All Veterans coming onto the Salem campus are screened upon arrival for any signs of coronavirus infection, and a no visitor policy will continue to be implemented. Those Veterans who do visit the campus are encouraged to wear face coverings and should contact their provider if they are medically unable to cover their face. Ongoing precautions will be taken to ensure the safety of staff and the Veterans who visit the medical center.

Personal Protective Equipment
FEMA is now leading the federal response for operations for the Vice President’s Task Force. FEMA is requesting that entities requiring supplies including PPE first seek additional supplies through commercial channels. If supplies are not available, entities should work through their State Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs), as they would in any FEMA response effort. Requests for assistance from local entities must go through the state for fulfillment. Through the state EOCs and FEMA Regional Offices, FEMA is receiving requests for masks, swabs, test site supports, ventilators, and more. Providers, such as hospitals, should contact local and state officials for assistance. Additionally, if a constituent or health care provider has questions or is experiencing spot shortages of personal protective equipment or other supplies, they should call the FDA’s toll-free line at 1-888-463-6332 (1-888-INFO-FDA), then choose option (*).

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.

For the latest updates from Washington, please follow my social media accounts: FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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Legislative Update

House GOP Leader Gilbert: Governor Northam must condemn calls to ‘Defund the Police’

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House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert issued the following statement:

“As national, state, and local Democrats across the country have begun to acquiesce to calls to ‘defund the police,’ it is crucial that Governor Northam and Virginia Democrats condemn this destructive position. The overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers are men and women of good character who put their lives on the line daily to protect their fellow citizens, regardless of their race or station in life.

“The need for reform and accountability is incompatible with calls to defund or dismantle our police departments. Failing to stand up for law enforcement now would send the wrong message to Virginians and those who would do business here — that public safety in Virginia is no longer a serious priority.”

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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – June 8, 2020

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As our Nation mourns the loss of more than 100,000 American lives from the coronavirus pandemic, our country was struck by yet another tragedy – the brutal killing of George Floyd. We share the grief and anger of Mr. Floyd’s family, who remain in our prayers during this difficult time. Mr. Floyd’s killing was an outrageous act of violence committed by a member of law enforcement, and with the recent charging of all the now-former officers involved, I look forward to justice being served and being served quickly.

Over the last week, thousands of Americans have gathered peacefully in cities across the country to express their outrage and anger over Mr. Floyd’s death. I want to express my respect and appreciation to those who protested peacefully regarding Mr. Floyd’s killing and who exercised their First Amendment rights, including those who participated in events in Roanoke, Lynchburg, Staunton, and Harrisonburg. Let us together turn our collective voice into positive action, and through outreach, dialogue, and understanding, we can work to achieve justice and greater unity as a Nation in the days ahead.

Reopening the Country:

Early last month, the Trump Administration released its Guidelines For Reopening America developed by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and since then, the majority of U.S. states have begun the process of reopening.

Starting May 15, Virginia began its first phase of a gradual reopening plan put in place by Governor Northam, when salons could open by appointment, and restaurants and bars could allow outdoor dining in most counties. Excluding northern Virginia and Richmond, which remain in Phase One, Virginia’s second phase of reopening began June 5, as key statewide health metrics continue to show positive signs. Virginia’s hospital bed capacity remains stable, the percentage of people hospitalized with a positive or pending COVID-19 test is trending downward, no hospitals are reporting PPE shortages, and the percent of positive tests continue to trend downward as testing increases.

Under Phase Two, the Commonwealth will maintain a Safer at Home strategy with continued recommendations for social distancing, teleworking, and requiring individuals to wear face coverings in indoor public settings. The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase from 10 to 50 people. Restaurant and beverage establishments may offer indoor dining at 50 percent occupancy, fitness centers may open indoor areas at 30 percent occupancy, and certain recreation and entertainment venues without shared equipment may open with restrictions.

The current guidelines for religious services, non-essential retail, and personal grooming services will largely remain the same in Phase Two. Phase Two guidelines for specific sectors can be found here.

Please note that health officials are warning that mass gatherings and protests around the country could exacerbate the spread of the virus, just as the economy is beginning to slowly and safely restart. Peaceful demonstrators should take appropriate measures to maintain their safety and the safety of others by adhering to social distancing guidelines and other CDC recommendations.

Emergency Relief Payment:
In the past week, I have heard from many of my constituents who are still waiting to receive their Emergency Relief Payments from the IRS. Please be aware that it may arrive in the form of a prepaid debit card. Please take the time to examine the contents of any mail received from the IRS, Treasury Department, or Money Network before you shred or throw it away. For answers to frequently asked questions surrounding the prepaid debit cards, visit eipcard.com/faq. To contact the card vendor, call 1-800-240-8100.

Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act:
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has provided over $511 billion in much-needed relief to over four million small businesses and their employees, including over $12 billion to almost 100,000 businesses in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

As small businesses adapt to different stages of reopening restrictions, many need more flexibility for the terms of their PPP loans. To address the varying needs of small businesses and ensure that they can focus on getting back on their feet, the House and Senate recently passed, and the President signed, the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act. Specifically, the bill:

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program:
The United States Department of Agriculture is accepting applications for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program until August 28. If you are a farmer or rancher who has been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, I would encourage you to apply for financial relief at farmers.gov/cfap.

As part of the Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture also created the Farmers to Families Food Box initiative to help those affected by the pandemic. And this week, I enjoyed the opportunity to join volunteers at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg to help distribute 7,000 meals to folks in need.

D-Day:
On June 6, 1944, Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy. Their fortitude laid the foundation for victory in Europe. This weekend, we honor the memory of the more than 4,000 soldiers who perished and the thousands who were wounded or missing.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.

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