While the House addressed a number of important issues this week such as the National Defense Authorization Act and passed a short-term funding bill to keep the government open, I was disappointed that we did not take up a much-needed targeted COVID-19 relief bill to help individuals and small businesses in need. However, there was exciting news this week on the coronavirus front as the FDA granted Pfizer an emergency use authorization for their vaccine. I was also pleased this week to support legislation promoting research that could have significant medical benefits, as well as advocate for our ally, Israel. And finally, as always, it was a pleasure to meet virtually with constituents and advocacy groups to discuss the issues most important to them. As we head back to Washington next week, know that I will continue fighting for residents of the Sixth District.
This week the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, and doses will be available to folks in the next several days.
Despite this great news, Governor Northam has implemented further restrictions on small businesses and infringed on individuals’ liberties. He has taken the light at the end of the tunnel that is the vaccine and turned it into a light at the head of a train that is now barreling toward our business community.
Per WDBJ7, the following restrictions took effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday, December 14:
• Modified Stay at Home Order: All individuals in Virginia must remain at their place of residence between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Exceptions include obtaining food and goods, traveling to and from work, and seeking medical attention.
• Universal mask requirement: All Virginians aged five and over are required to wear face coverings in indoor settings shared with others and when outdoors within six feet of another person. This order expands the current statewide mask mandate, which has been in place since May 29 and requires all individuals aged five and over to wear face coverings in indoor and outdoor public settings outside their own household.
• Reduction in social gatherings: All social gatherings must be limited to 10 individuals, down from the current cap of 25 people. Social gatherings include, but are not limited to, parties, celebrations, or other social events, regardless of whether they occur indoors or outdoors. This does not apply to religious services, employment settings, or educational settings. Restaurants and retail stores are already governed by strict social distancing requirements and are not included in this limit.
Paycheck Protection Program Update:
Every day across the country workers are losing their jobs and small businesses are being forced to shutter their doors. Instead of taking action and offering a lifeline to these businesses by moving to vote on legislation that would extend the Paycheck Protection Program, Speaker Pelosi has chosen to use these Americans as leverage and has openly admitted it. Forty-one times, Republicans have tried to bring to the Floor H.R. 8265 which would extend the PPP so small businesses in desperate need of relief could access the more than $138 billion that remains in the program’s coffers. Forty-one times, Democrats have said no. This week, the SBA also released a Paycheck Protection Program Myth vs Fact document which can be found here.
National Defense Authorization Act:
While I strongly support our troops and believe they should have every necessary resource to ensure their and our country’s safety, I could not support this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). First and foremost, this legislation committed the United States to continue fighting endless wars by tying the hands of the President, Republican or Democrat, to withdraw troops from theaters around the world. Further, the bill failed to make crucial reforms to the Authorized Use of Military Force and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. It also created and codified duplicative positions at the Department of Defense, which unnecessarily expanded the federal bureaucracy. And finally, the NDAA as a whole pushed a Green New Deal environmental agenda – just one such example is requiring the Secretary of Defense to carry out a pilot program on alternative fuel vehicle purchasing. For decades, taking care of our men and women in uniform has been a nonpartisan issue, but sadly, it was not the case this year.
Medical Marijuana Research Act:
As a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, I sponsored and passed legislation to allow physicians to recommend cannabidiol oil to their patients, create legal dispensaries, and to create an affirmative defense for possession of cannabidiol oil for medicinal use. This is an issue I am open to reform on; however, I could not vote for the MORE Act last week which sought to legalize marijuana. With that said, I did support H.R 3797 – the Medical Marijuana Research Act this week. There were clear differences between these bills. While the MORE Act would have legalized marijuana, H.R. 3797 simply allows researchers the ability to study the medicinal benefits of cannabis, which is essentially prohibited by federal law at this time. Congress must root marijuana policy in science, and passing the Medical Marijuana Research Act will allow Congress’ decision-making to be led by facts moving forward.
Israel is a vital partner in the United States’ fight against terrorism and is a pillar of strength in the Middle East. We must continue to support our closest ally and the only democracy in the region, and that is why I recently wrote a letter to Congressional leadership urging the denial of any federal funds from being used to relocate our Embassy from Jerusalem. A promise was made, and it should be kept. To read the full letter, click here.
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities:
Independent Colleges and Universities play a meaningful role in their communities and substantially contribute to local economies. Just right here in the Sixth District, we have 12 such institutions who are not only vital in providing tremendous educational opportunities to students in our region but also serve as the largest employer in many localities. This week, I was pleased to chat with the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and was honored to be recognized in their “Member Spotlight.” As a member of the Education and Labor Committee, I have been proud to represent the interests of these institutions during my first term in Congress.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your congressman. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the latest updates. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – January 13, 2021
Above the entrance to the House of Representatives is a sculpture called the “Apotheosis of Democracy.” This piece of artwork, sculpted in 1916 by Paul Wayland Bartlett, has at its center the figure of allegorical Peace, who is dressed in armor and is depicted protecting the Genius of America. Last week, that peace was tragically disturbed as our U.S. Capitol was invaded for the first time since the War of 1812. A violent mob, including many with hostile intentions, broke past security barriers and unleashed destruction and chaos throughout the Capitol complex. When it was over, five individuals were dead, including a Capitol Police officer and an Air Force veteran from San Diego, California. While I have always supported the right of citizens to peaceably assemble, those who breached the Capitol and assaulted Capitol Police officers should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Remembering Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick
Condemning Political Violence:
As we continue to mourn the loss of life at the U.S. Capitol, I hope all of us across the ideological spectrum would come together to condemn all forms of political violence, rather than just condemning the violence on one side or the other. Whether I was Tweeting against the violence in Charlottesville, denouncing the BLM/ANTIFA riots this summer, or condemning the mob this week that entered the U.S. Capitol, I have been consistent in my position that violence is not the answer. I hope everyone, regardless of his or her political background, will reject violence and support civil dialogue so that we can more effectively address the pressing issues facing our Nation. Whether in Richmond, or in Washington, that is how I have always approached my job as your representative, and it’s my pledge to you as we continue to move forward during this challenging time.
Reports indicate that some of the individuals who broke into the Capitol were seeking to disrupt the counting of Electoral College votes cast on December 14. If true, these individuals were engaged in and should be prosecuted for, insurrection against the government of the United States. The Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution states that “The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted.” A separate statute, the Electoral Count Act of 1887, mandates that the count occurs on January 6 at 1:00 PM. The Capitol was closed to the public due to the coronavirus, but as the count was taking place, invaders broke windows and forced open doors. While they did temporarily delay the count, Congress reconvened later that night to finish the count and perform its duty as required under the Constitution. Ultimately, Joseph Biden’s election by the Electoral College on December 14 was confirmed by Vice-President Mike Pence, and he will be inaugurated as President next week on January 20, 2021. President Trump has said he is working toward a smooth transition to the new administration, and I am committed to working with President-elect Biden on potential areas of agreement in the upcoming 117th Congress.
It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve the residents of Virginia’s Sixth District in Congress, and I was honored to be sworn into a second term last week. When I took office in January 2019, my staff and I hit the ground running not only pursuing legislative initiatives that would benefit area residents but also in assisting folks to deal with federal agencies to ensure they received the federal benefits they have earned. Over the course of these past two years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to connect with hundreds of thousands of constituents and visit with so many of the groups and places that make our region special. As we begin the 117th Congress, know that I will continue to advocate for conservative values like defending the Constitution, promoting fiscal responsibility, protecting the sanctity of life, defending the Second Amendment, securing our borders, and lifting regulatory burdens on businesses and farmers.
While I am pleased that several COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed across the country, I have been very disappointed in Virginia’s distribution plan and slow roll out across the Commonwealth. According to the CDC, Virginia’s current vaccination rate of 23% is the fifth-worst in the country, trailing only behind Kansas, Georgia, Arizona, and Louisiana. This is unacceptable, and changes must be made. With 8.5 million people in the Commonwealth, I hope Governor Ralph Northam can at the very least meet his goal of distributing 25,000 vaccines a week, rather than the 14,000 currently being allocated. With the new appointment of Dr. Danny TK Avula, Director of the Richmond and Henrico health districts, to lead the vaccination effort in Virginia, I am hopeful that the distribution of this important vaccine can get on track.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your congressman. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the latest updates. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – January 4, 2021
The 116th Congress adjourned this week, and it has certainly been one for the history books. Beginning in January 2019 in the middle of a government shutdown, we should’ve known it would be a session full of challenges. It was an honor to be appointed to the Judiciary and Education Committees during my freshman term, and I hit the ground running in pushing policy initiatives that would benefit our community and advance the values that I was sent to Washington for which to fight. Further, my office worked tirelessly to provide critical constituent services on behalf of residents of Virginia’s Sixth District. Whether helping folks deal with the impact of the COVID-19 virus, assisting with a federal agency, or facilitating tour and flag requests, I have made every effort to make myself and staff available to the citizens of our District. Through town hall meetings, community events, mobile office hours, and direct outreach, I have been able to connect with hundreds of thousands of area residents. It has truly been an honor to serve the people of the Sixth District, and I am returning to Washington this week in the 117th Congress with the same passion to move this country forward and advocate for those whom I am blessed to represent.
Navigating Washington as a freshman Member of Congress can often be tricky. However, my staff and I committed ourselves to build relationships on both sides of the aisle and pursuing commonsense conservative legislation that could make it through both Chambers of Congress, despite facing a politically divided government. These efforts culminated in 6 bills being signed into law that I either introduced myself or co-introduced with a Member of the majority party. Below please find a list of the legislation I have championed that has become law.
• LEGION Act — expands American Legion membership criteria to include all honorably discharged veterans who served during unrecognized times of war.
• Small Business Reorganization Act — simplifies the process for small businesses to use bankruptcy as a means of reorganization, helping them to keep their doors open, employees on payroll, and suppliers and vendors paid.
• National Guard and Reservists Debt Relief Act — ensures that certain members of the National Guard and Reserves who fall on hard economic times after returning from active duty deployment will continue to obtain bankruptcy relief without having to fill out the substantial paperwork required by the so-called “means test” under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code.
• Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act — creates a process within the Copyright Office to provide for an efficient and less expensive forum for small creators to better enforce their rights.
• Danger Pay for US Marshals Act — ensures US Marshals qualify for danger pay in certain countries as do employees of other federal law enforcement agencies.
• National George C. Marshall Museum — designates the ‘George C. Marshall Museum’ as the ‘National George C. Marshall Museum’.
In addition to legislation I have introduced myself, I have sought to sign onto bills and resolutions that if passed would serve the best interests of Sixth District residents. While I have cosponsored bills that promote conservative values like protecting the sanctity of life, defending the Second Amendment, securing our borders, lifting the regulatory burden on businesses and farmers, putting America first, and promoting fiscal responsibility, I have also worked tirelessly to reach across the aisle. In fact, over 80 percent of legislation I have introduced or co-led has included members of both parties as cosponsors. As we begin the 117th Congress, I will continue to seek out opportunities to cosponsor legislation that will benefit our region. For a full list of legislation I have cosponsored, click here.
Working on Your Behalf:
While the work that occurs in Washington is important, one of the most vital functions of a Member of Congress’ office is helping folks in the District. The staff in my District offices in Harrisonburg, Staunton, Roanoke, and Lynchburg are committed to hearing constituents’ questions, comments, and concerns, and are also dedicated to helping folks deal with the Federal Government. If you cannot get an answer from a federal agency in a timely fashion, or if you feel you have been treated unfairly, our office may be able to help resolve the problem or get you the information you need. If you ever need help dealing with a federal agency, whether it be the Department of Veterans Affairs, IRS, State Department, or any other, please know that my office is here to help. Since January of 2019, my staff and I have worked to close more than 3,000 cases and fought to ensure constituents receive their benefits. To request help with a federal agency, please click here.
Accessible to You:
Reaching from Front Royal in the North to Lynchburg and Roanoke in the South, Virginia’s Sixth District stretches nearly 200 miles long, which is larger than most Congressional Districts across the country. In order to accommodate the size, I opened four District offices at the beginning of my term. However, in an effort to make my staff even more available to constituents, my office regularly hosted Mobile Office Hours prior to the pandemic and will again do so when it is safe. During Mobile Office Hours, my staff travel to localities throughout the District on a rotating basis and meet with constituents to listen to questions, comments, or concerns, as well as help with any issues with the Federal Government. To date, my office has held 130 Mobile Office Hours. To stay up to date on where and when these events will occur, sign up for my newsletter here.
Holding Town Halls:
Hearing directly from constituents is why I promised to hold town halls throughout the Sixth District during my campaign. I kept my word, and since being elected I have hosted 25 town halls – with at least one being held in each locality throughout the District. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was on track to hold the second one in each locality, but unfortunately, that plan was hindered due to state-mandated restrictions on public gatherings. I hope to continue these sorts of in-person forums in the future, but for now, virtual events remain the best option to connect directly with constituents on a larger scale and ensure that their voices are heard in Washington. For that reason, beginning in March, I started hosting telephone town halls. Since then, I have hosted seven such events and between in-person and telephone town halls, I have held 32 forums during my first term in Congress. I plan to host additional events in the near future. As we continue to navigate this pandemic, I will continue to make myself available as your representative.
Corresponding With Constituents:
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees citizens the right to petition their Government for a redress of grievances. Therefore, as your Congressman, one of the greatest responsibilities I have is to listen to the concerns of my constituents and provide responses to those who contact my office. Over the course of the past two years, thousands of Sixth District residents have called, emailed, and written to my office with questions and comments. To date, my office has responded to 155,527 constituent inquires. My staff and I pride ourselves on providing timely and thorough responses to address the issues brought to our attention by those we serve. If you would like to express your thoughts on a matter before Congress, please click here.
Meeting With Constituents:
In a representative democracy, having an open dialogue with your elected officials is critically important. Therefore, in order to best serve the interests of the Sixth District, I take regular meetings with constituents both in Washington and in the District. These opportunities allow me to better understand the issues most important to folks in our area and enables me to ensure their views are arcuately represented in Congress. Since January 3, 2019, I have taken 615 meetings with constituents and advocacy groups, which have been invaluable during my tenure. And while in-person meetings have certainly slowed down since March, these have been supplemented with regular Zoom and Skype meetings. If you would like to schedule a meeting, please do not hesitate to reach out by clicking here for a meeting in DC or here for a meeting in the District.
Out and About in the Community:
Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of serving as Congressman for the Sixth District is traveling throughout our region and meeting great folks along the way. I have been honored to participate in various community events from the day I took office. Whether touring local businesses or farms, attending ribbon cuttings for new opportunities helped by federal assistance, volunteering with charitable organizations, or visiting service groups like Rotary or Kiwanis for their monthly meetings, I have been so grateful for the opportunity to experience so many of the different groups and places that make the Sixth District special. From Roanoke and Lynchburg to Bath and Highland to Shenandoah and Warren, I have enjoyed visiting nearly every corner of our District. Throughout my first term, despite nearly ten months of government restrictions on public gatherings, I have still managed to attend 234 events throughout our community. I look forward to continuing my travels throughout the District in the 117th Congress.
Visiting With Students:
Since taking office, it has been a priority of mine to meet with students across the region. It has been a pleasure engaging with these bright young minds who will soon be tomorrow’s leaders. As they prepare for the next steps in their lives, whether that be college, joining the military, or entering the workforce, I wish to instill in them the importance of service to others. Since being sworn in, I have had the pleasure of visiting 42 elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as colleges and universities. Whether it’s reading House Mouse, Senate Mouse to youngsters, or discussing the issues of the day with older government classes, I always appreciate the opportunity to foster the value of public service within our District’s youth.
Service Academy Nominations:
One of the greatest honors I have serving as the Representative for Virginia’s Sixth District is the privilege of nominating individuals to one of four United States Service Academies. Applicants to the U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy, and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy require a recommendation from a Member of Congress or another nominating authority. An academy appointment has an estimated value of over $400,000 and admission is competitive. Each academy selects nominees based on moral character, scholastic achievement, physical fitness, leadership, and college admission test scores. I make it a priority to meet with each qualified individual who requests a nomination, and to date, have nominated 16 individuals to the U.S. Service Academies. Those that I have had the pleasure of meeting during this process are truly some of the best and brightest of their generation. The passion for service and love of country that these students often exude is truly inspiring. If you are interested in applying to a U.S. Service Academy, please click here.
Our Nation’s Capital of Washington, DC provides visitors with numerous opportunities to explore and experience the many facets of history, culture, and government that the city has to offer. One of the many services in which my office provides is helping constituents book and arrange tours throughout Washington. My tour coordinator will work to help ensure your visit to Washington is enjoyable. My office can help you book tours of the Capitol Building, White House, Smithsonian museums, and many other federal buildings. In the past two years, my office has arranged tours for more than 560 families from the Sixth District. While most tours in Washington remain suspended due to COVID-19, click here to learn more about tour options.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your congressman. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the latest updates. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – December 30, 2020
Driving home from Washington to Botetourt for Christmas last week gave me a chance to reflect on the challenges all Americans have faced this year. Our way of life was fundamentally altered by COVID-19, and each of us was asked to make sacrifices for our fellow Americans. I have been so incredibly proud of how Americans have responded, and I pray that with the approval of these vaccines we may soon begin to put the coronavirus behind us. While we may have celebrated Christmas last week, the spirit of giving and helping neighbors in need has been embodied every day throughout these past 10 months. I have no doubt that our country and our people will come out of this pandemic stronger and more united than ever before.
It was also announced last week that the Salem VA Medical Center was chosen to be a recipient of the Moderna vaccine, and distribution began throughout the Commonwealth. I am thankful to the Department of Veterans Affairs for their efforts to get the COVID-19 vaccine to our veterans in as expeditious a manner as possible. To read more about the administration of the vaccine at the Salem VA, click here.
COVID Relief Bill:
The coronavirus has been both a health disaster and an economic disaster for Virginia. In addition to the tragic loss of thousands of lives, the economic impact of Governor Northam’s shutdowns has been devastating for millions of Virginians. Businesses have gone bankrupt or are on the brink, thousands are unemployed or at risk of losing their jobs, and the shutdowns have produced spikes in depression and suicides, alcohol and drug addiction, and incidents of domestic violence.
These shutdowns amount to a “taking” by the government of the ability of Virginia workers and businesses to earn a living. It’s similar to the taking of private property by the government under the power of Eminent Domain. But when the government normally uses this power to take property, the Constitution requires that the government must provide “just compensation” to the owner.
For the workers and businesses who are the victims of Governor Northam’s “taking,” however, there has been no such compensation. That is why coronavirus relief from Congress is so important for Virginia, and why I voted for passage of the COVID relief bill – to help Virginians impacted by the shutdowns and provide critical assistance to those in need.
The COVID relief bill includes an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and adds deductibility for PPP expenses, provides $600 Emergency Assistance checks for Americans earning less than $75,000 per year, temporarily provides unemployed individuals an additional $300 per week for 10 weeks, includes $8 billion for vaccine distribution and $20 billion for the purchase of vaccines to make the vaccine available at no charge for anyone who needs it, $20 billion to assist states with testing, and $82 billion in funding for schools and universities to assist with reopening for in-person learning. While the bill provides no money to bail out mismanaged state governments like California and New York, I was frustrated that it was attached by Speaker Pelosi to an appropriations bill that included billions in wasteful and unnecessary spending.
I agreed with President Trump that the appropriations bill attached to the COVID relief bill wasted taxpayer dollars on foreign aid and did not provide enough help for the American people. I supported his effort to modify the bill to increase Emergency Assistance payments to $2,000 and pay for it by cutting wasteful spending in the appropriations bill. Unfortunately, Democrats blocked our efforts on Christmas Eve to make these important changes. When Democrats would not cut the pork, I joined my colleagues in voting against the increased emergency payments. In the end, this entire process exemplifies just how broken Washington is. We must return to the regular appropriations process, work to eliminate wasteful spending and restore the integrity of the legislative process to best serve the American people.
Telephone Town Hall:
Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, I had promised to hold in-person town halls throughout the Sixth District. In fact, since being elected, I have hosted 25 town halls – with at least one being held in each locality throughout the District. I was on track to hold the second one in each locality, but unfortunately, that plan was hindered due to state-mandated restrictions on public gatherings. I hope to continue those sorts of in-person forums in the future, but for now, virtual events remain the best option to connect directly with constituents on a larger scale and ensure that their voices are heard in Washington. Last week, I enjoyed hosting my seventh telephone town hall and was joined by Representative Phil Roe, M.D., Chairman of the Congressional Doctors’ Caucus, and Dr. Laura Kornegay, Health Director for Central Shenandoah Health District. We discussed a number of topics related to the coronavirus and a great deal of information were shared.
To listen to a full recording of the event, please click here. As we continue to navigate this pandemic, I will continue to make myself available as your representative.
One of the greatest honors I have serving as the Representative for Virginia’s Sixth District is the privilege of nominating individuals to one of four United States Service Academies. Applicants to the U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy, and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy require a recommendation from a Member of Congress or another nominating authority. An academy appointment has an estimated value of over $400,000 and admission is competitive. Each academy selects nominees based on moral character, scholastic achievement, physical fitness, leadership, and college admission test scores. Last week my office began the second round of the nomination process as I interviewed a number of interested applicants. Those that I had the pleasure of meeting are truly some of the best and brightest of their generation. The passion for service and love of country that these students exuded was truly inspiring, and with this pool of applicants, I know that the Sixth District will inevitably be represented well at our Nation’s Service Academies.
Rockbridge Christmas Baskets:
The Rockbridge Christmas Baskets Program has been a blessing to Valley residents since 1948. Originally founded as the Santa Claus Truck, this tremendous, all-volunteer organization assembles and delivers thousands of food and toy care packages to struggling families each year. This year the group donated a record 68,000 pounds of food and 1,300 toys to families throughout Lexington, Rockbridge, and Buena Vista. Having worked side-by-side with this group many times over the years, it is truly inspiring to see folks from all walks of life coming together to help their neighbors in need. It was my pleasure to recognize the Rockbridge Christmas Baskets Program on the House Floor and highlight their efforts.
It has undoubtedly been a trying year for all Americans. The past 10 months have tested our collective spirits, especially during the holidays as we would typically be surrounded by all of our friends and family. As we celebrate the holidays in modified fashion this year, take solace in the true meaning of Christmas. From my family to yours, I wish you a very merry Christmas and a joyous and healthy New Year.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – December 21, 2020
Americans have become used to two things in December – the holiday season and a looming government shutdown right before Christmas. This year was no different. After being called back to Washington for an additional week of legislative business, Congressional leaders still could not reach a long-term deal to keep the government open and secure additional COVID-19 relief. However, despite the inefficiencies of Congress, we were able to pass historic legislation supporting female veterans this week. Further, I was pleased to see the Senate pass my bill protecting inventors and look forward to it being signed by the President. Finally, with FDA approval of two separate vaccines, hopefully, we have arrived at the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 Vaccine Update:
After months of tireless efforts by doctors and researchers, a COVID-19 vaccine is finally here – two of them in fact. This week not only did Pfizer begin distribution and inoculation of its vaccine, which was approved late last week, but the FDA granted Moderna an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for its vaccine as well. According to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, based on the distribution plan outlined by Operation Warp Speed, 20 million individuals will be vaccinated this month, 50 million people will have received the vaccine by the end of January, and 100 million will have gotten it by the end of February.
Coronavirus Telephone Town Hall:
As a Member of Congress, a top priority of mine is to be accessible to the constituents of the Sixth District. For this reason, I made a commitment to hold town halls throughout the District to hear first-hand from those I represent and bring their views back to Washington. While I enjoy in-person town hall meetings and hosted 25 of them prior to the pandemic, state gathering restrictions currently prohibit me from doing them. While not preferable, I have hosted an additional six telephone town halls during the pandemic. On Monday, December 21, at 6:30 pm I will be hosting my seventh telephone town hall. This event will focus on COVID-19 and the recently approved vaccines. I will be joined by two special guests – Representative Phil Roe, the Chairman of the Congressional Doctor’s Caucus, and Dr. Laura Kornegay, Health Director for Central Shenandoah Health District. To participate, register at cline.house.gov/live or dial (855) 933-0825 during the event. I look forward to an informative event and hope you will join me.
Small Business Visits:
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been committed to visiting small businesses across the Sixth District to hear first-hand their experiences. These meetings have demonstrated how economically devastating the state government-mandated restrictions have been. Here in Washington, I have echoed their pleas to safely lift the lockdowns in order to save jobs and get our kids back in school. This week, I had the chance to visit Yelping Dog Wine and Skipping Rock Beer Co., both in Staunton. There I listened to both the owners and employees to gain a better understanding of how the pandemic has affected their lives and livelihoods. I will continue meeting with business owners and others impacted by the pandemic to ensure their requests for help are heard in DC.
Patents for Humanity:
In late-June I was pleased to introduce and have the House unanimously passed the Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act. 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. I was excited for this legislation to be passed by the Senate this week, and I am looking forward to the President signing it into law.
Currently, women veterans comprise the fastest-growing demographic within the Veteran community, yet there is no consistency of services to meet the unique needs of females within the VA system. Fortunately, the Deborah Sampson Act, which passed in the House this week, seeks to change that. This legislation requires the VA to establish policies to report and respond to harassment and sexual assault at its facilities, establish a new VA Office of Women’s Health, expands services for veterans who experience intimate partner violence or military sexual trauma, and extends and expands VA assistance for veterans with newborns. This legislation is historic, and I was pleased that it passed in the House unanimously. In fact, this legislation had been rolled into a larger bill, the Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvements Act, which also expands education and training opportunities for transitioning service members and further ensures veterans impacted by COVID-19 have access to proper care. One of my top priorities as a Member of Congress is making certain that we take care of our service members, and this legislation continues that ongoing effort.
Rep. Cline, accompanied by medical professionals, to host telephone Town Hall focused on COVID-19
On December 17, 2020, Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06) announced that he will host a District-wide Telephone Town Hall. Cline will be joined on this call by the Chairman of the Congressional Doctors Caucus, Representative Phil Roe, M.D. (TN-01), and Dr. Laura Kornegay, Health Director for the Central Shenandoah Health District.
The telephone town hall will take place Monday, December 21, 2020, from 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Constituents planning to participate should register at cline.house.gov/live or dial (855) 933-0825 during the time of the call.
“I look forward to hearing from constituents and providing them with the latest information regarding the recently approved COVID-19 vaccine,” Cline said. “This telephone town hall will allow me the opportunity to engage directly with those I represent and answer any questions related to the coronavirus pandemic.”
This event will mark the seventh telephone town hall held by Congressman Cline since March and the thirty-second overall since taking office.
Congressman Ben Cline represents the Sixth Congressional District of Virginia.
Warner leads colleagues in urging relief for foster youth facing unique COVID-19 challenges
U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) led Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Angus King (I-ME), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) in urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide relief for young people in the foster care system as they continue to face a number of unique challenges as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. In a letter to Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson, the Senators asked that HHS work with states to extend relief to foster families and implement temporary and long-term changes to help foster youth weather this crisis and secure a better future.
“Almost all families in the United States have had to make significant adjustments in their daily lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, for the children and young adults in our nation’s foster care system, periods of change and adjustment are not new,” wrote the Senators. “Foster youth have survived a lifetime of uncertainty before and after entering foster care. The serious health challenges and economic downturn brought by the COVID-19 pandemic have merely exacerbated existing challenges faced by the approximately 424,000 children in the foster care system and the more than 20,400 young adults who ‘age out’ of foster care each year.”
“As of December 10, 2020, over 70 million applications for unemployment benefits had been filed since March 21, 2020. Given this high unemployment rate—the highest we have seen in the U.S. in recent memory—we are increasingly concerned about the potentially dire consequences to foster youth may face during the economic recession brought on by the pandemic,” they continued. “Even before the public health emergency, only about half of the youth aging out of the foster care system each year were anticipated to have some form of gainful employment by the age of 24. We believe that if temporary changes are made to strengthen support and resources for foster youth, they will be better equipped to pursue their goals and become active members of our nation’s workforce.”
In their letter, the Senators expressed particular concern about the impact of the digital divide on foster youth, who often lack the proper equipment and internet services needed to participate in virtual learning. Specifically, the Senators noted findings from a report indicating that only 21 percent of foster youth have regular access to a computer, with that number dipping as low as five percent for foster youth in rural settings.
Specifically, the Senators asked HHS to:
- Continue to encourage states that have not previously exercised the title IV-E program option to extend foster care programs and extend the Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood Program (Chafee Program) services until age 23
- Direct guidance to states regarding additional payments to foster care families and providers as part of states’ response to COVID-19
- Provide a temporary moratorium on work and study requirements for foster youth during the pandemic
- Allow title IV-B funds to be used to provide internet and other technology to vulnerable foster youth and families
- Work with states to address the impact of the digital divide on foster youth
As Governor and during his time in the Senate, Sen. Warner has been a longtime champion for increased access to broadband and measures to help address the digital divide. In March, he led 17 of his colleagues in urging major internet service providers to take steps to accommodate the incoming unprecedented reliance on telepresence services. After this effort, a number of major internet service providers announced the adoption of practices to better accommodate the use of remote technologies. Earlier this year, Sen. Warner also introduced legislation to help ensure adequate home internet connectivity for K-12 students during COVID-19. He has also pushed the FCC to ensure that millions of Americans are made aware of their eligibility for the FCC’s Lifeline program – the primary federal program charged with helping low-income families obtain broadband and telephone services. Most recently, he called on the seven largest internet service providers (ISPs) to do their part to limit the economic and social disruption caused by COVID-19 and help ensure that children are able to meaningfully participate in their education.
A copy of the letter is available here and text can be found below.
Dear Assistant Secretary Johnson:
We write today in support of children and youth in the foster care system across the country as they face additional challenges due to the economic and health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the unprecedented and long-term economic and public health consequences of the pandemic, we ask that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provide relief for those currently in the foster care system and those transitioning out of foster care to maximize future opportunities for these young people.
Almost all families in the United States have had to make significant adjustments in their daily lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, for the children and young adults in our nation’s foster care system, periods of change and adjustment are not new. Foster youth have survived a lifetime of uncertainty before and after entering foster care. The serious health challenges and economic downturn brought by the COVID-19 pandemic have merely exacerbated existing challenges faced by the approximately 424,000 children in the foster care system and the more than 20,400 young adults who “age out” of foster care each year. For this reason, we ask that you make both temporary and long-term changes to act in the best interest of the future of our nation’s foster youth.
As of December 10, 2020, over 70 million applications for unemployment benefits had been filed since March 21, 2020. Given this high unemployment rate—the highest we have seen in the U.S. in recent memory—we are increasingly concerned about the potentially dire consequences foster youth may face during the economic recession brought on by the pandemic. Even before the public health emergency, only about half of youth aging out of the foster care system each year were anticipated to have some form of gainful employment by the age of 24. We believe that if temporary changes are made to strengthen support and resources for foster youth, they will be better equipped to pursue their goals and become active members of our nation’s workforce.
We are also concerned that foster youth are especially harmed by the growing digital divide caused by the pandemic. According to a report conducted by iFoster, only about 5% of youth in foster care in rural settings and 21% of youth in foster care in urban settings have regular access to a computer. For many young people in the foster care system, working and learning virtually is near impossible without access to the proper equipment and internet services.
We respectfully ask that you continue to encourage states to take full advantage of existing flexibilities and make additional changes to best support foster youth:
- Continue to encourage states that have not previously exercised the title IV-E program option to extend foster care programs and extend Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood Program (Chafee Program) services until age 23. We appreciate that you have encouraged Child Welfare Directors in states that have not exercised the title IV-E program option to serve youth up to age 21 to do so during the pandemic. Extended foster care payments are essential for ensuring the financial stability of our nation’s foster youth as they transition out of the system. During these unprecedented times, we also encourage the Administration to continue to encourage states to extend Chafee Program assistance until age 23 to achieve consistency of support after the public health declaration.
- Direct guidance to states regarding additional payments to foster care families and providers as part of states’ response to COVID-19. In order to ensure stability for foster youth, we need to ensure that foster parents have the resources to weather the economic effects of the crisis and confront the day-to-day challenges of caring for children during the pandemic. In this effort, certain states have already provided one-time payments to foster care families. We ask that the Administration direct guidance to states on their existing authority to issue relief payments to foster families and providers to ease the burden of the pandemic.
- Provide a temporary moratorium on work and study requirements for foster youth during the pandemic. Public health guidelines during the pandemic have made physically going to work or school impossible for many. COVID-19 has highlighted the inequities of access to reliable high-speed internet and devices. In fact, foster youth face multiple barriers trying to work or study remotely. They may lack a laptop or desktop computer, have slow speeds, or no internet altogether. We encourage the Administration to lift work and study requirements now until at least 180 days after the public health crisis ends, so foster youth are not punished for circumstances outside their control. Additionally, if you determine you do not have the authority to make this change, we ask you to promptly inform the Committees of jurisdiction in Congress, the Committee on Finance in the Senate and the Committee on Ways and Means in the House.
- Allow title IV-B funds to be used to provide internet and other technology to vulnerable foster youth and families. We appreciate the Children’s Bureau letter permitting the purchase of cell phones as an allowable expense under title IV-B and/or the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood. To ensure that foster youth do not continue to fall behind in meeting their work and education obligations, we ask that allowable expenses be expanded to include laptop computers, tablets, and internet access for children and families in the child welfare system.
- Work with states to address the impact of the digital divide on foster youth. Beyond waiving work and study requirements for foster youth during the pandemic, we ask that you consider long-term solutions to help foster youth facing significant technology-access challenges—the consequences of which have been intensified by the pandemic. We ask that you work with states on state-specific plans to ensure foster youth have the resources necessary to participate in online instruction or work virtually.
We appreciate your attention to this critical matter. We look forward to working together on behalf of our nation’s foster youth moving forward.