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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – October 4, 2020

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In what was likely the last legislative week in Washington before November’s elections, the House was back in full swing conducting the business of the people. Recognizing good policy proposals regardless of party, I cosponsored Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s (D-HI) recently introduced legislation aimed at protecting our elections. Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi does not share our attitude of bipartisanship, and I was disappointed that she rammed through a Democratic wish list masquerading as a COVID-19 aid package.

This week I stood in defense of the First Amendment and religious liberty by sending a letter to Attorney General Barr urging him to investigate the mistreatment of churches and their congregations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, after having been regularly frustrated by the legislative processes these past 21 months, I offered my suggestions to the House Rules Committee on ways in which our chamber can operate in a more transparent and accountable manner. Additionally, I took to the House Floor on Wednesday to honor New Freedom Farm in Buchanan for the work they do supporting our veterans. It was a busy week, and I am very much looking forward to returning to the Sixth District for the month of October. I hope to have the opportunity to chat with as many constituents as possible over the next few weeks. And finally, I’d also like to take a moment to extend my thoughts and prayers to the President and First Lady as they battle COVID-19.

New Freedom Farm:
Founded in 2016, New Freedom Farm in Buchanan, Virginia is a non-profit community that aids veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, substance abuse, and Traumatic Brain Injury. Through animal therapy, farming, and peer-to-peer support, this tremendous organization strives to empower veterans and help them heal through the realization of their own efforts and contributions. New Freedom Farm helps our service members reintegrate into civilian life by fostering physical, emotional, and spiritual health. I applaud the entire team at New Freedom Farm for their passion and commitment to serving those who served our Nation, and it was a privilege to recognize their great work on the House Floor this week.

Protecting our Elections:
The heart of our democratic republic lies in the integrity of our elections. For that reason, I cosponsored H.R. 8285, the Election Fraud Prevention Act, which was introduced by Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI). This bill would amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to prohibit payments to States that permit ballot harvesting. Currently, depending on the state or locality, voters have the option of mailing their ballot, leaving their ballot in a dropbox, having their ballots collected and submitted by a third party, or returning them at the polls or a local election office. The Election Fraud Prevention Act ensures that voters seeking to turn in their absentee ballots may only be assisted by an election official or mail carrier acting in their official capacities as well as family members, household members, or caregivers. This legislation will help ensure our elections remain free and fair, and I am proud to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in supporting this bill.



Defending Religious Freedom:
In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many state and local governments have taken appropriate action to implement temporary health and safety guidelines to mitigate the risk the virus poses to our communities. However, the country has seen a concerning number of cases where misguided efforts have resulted in an intolerable infringement on the constitutional First Amendment rights of churches, their congregations, and other religious entities. That is why I joined my colleagues this week in writing to Attorney General Barr urging the Department of Justice to investigate possible violations of the First Amendment and remain vigilant in the preservation of our rights and protection of religious liberties for all Americans. To read the full letter, click the graphic below.

COVID-19 Legislative Update:
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress has authorized trillions of dollars in aid to help struggling families and businesses. However, as our Nation continues to deal with the effects of the coronavirus, there is no denying that the American people are in need of additional relief. Unfortunately, for months, Democrats have stood in the way of multiple attempts to provide targeted aid to those most in need. And sadly, as November approaches, Speaker Pelosi decided this week to introduce a partisan $2.2 trillion coronavirus bill that included poison pills that prevented it from attracting bipartisan support. Instead of actually working with Republicans, the Speaker instead decided to pass an election year messaging bill that has no chance of being signed into law. Some of the most egregious provisions contained in the bill include:

• Fails to provide sensible liability protections to businesses, hospitals, and schools to protect them from frivolous lawsuits

• Allows illegal immigrants to receive direct stimulus payments

• Mandates a blanket release for certain covered federal prisoners and alleged criminals

• Uses taxpayer dollars to bail out failing multiemployer pension plans while failing to include any needed reforms to fix the problem

• Federalizes elections, by including stringent, impossible to achieve mandates on how states must run elections

• Bails out poorly run states and localities to the tune of $436 billion (Almost 1/5 of the bill’s total spending)

• Defunds the police by removing $600 million from the original Heroes Act intended for the COPS Hiring program

Reforming Government:
Many of the House Rules that are in place provide the necessary transparency and accountability in the legislative process, but sadly, these rules are often worked around or waived when it matters most. For this reason, I testified before the Rules Committee to express my thoughts on how our Chamber could practice better governance moving forward. First and foremost, we need to ensure that both legislators and the American people have adequate time to review bills before they are voted on.

That is why I took this opportunity to discuss with Committee members my proposal to institute the 48-Hour Bill Review Resolution. Additionally, I urged the Committee to once again allow bills to be brought to the Floor under an “Open Rule”. This would enable Members to have greater input on legislation before it is voted on by allowing them the opportunity to offer an amendment to a bill outside the committee process. No piece of legislation has been considered under an Open Rule in nearly four years, despite this practice having been commonplace in Congress for decades. And finally, I stressed to the Members of the Rules Committee the importance of individual bill consideration when it comes to appropriations measures. Far too often Members are asked to vote on massive packages that contain multiple programs that are wholly unrelated to one another, which makes it difficult to responsibly and thoughtfully consider legislation. I am hopeful that these rule changes will be implemented in the 117th Congress.

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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Legislative Update

US Senator Mark Warner gives area update on American Rescue Plan

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Following a multi-day swing through the Shenandoah Valley and Roanoke Valley, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) held a remote media availability to discuss what he heard from business owners, community leaders, and health experts regarding the American Rescue Plan and the much-needed support it will provide to end the COVID-19 economic and health crisis.

Signed into law last month, the American Rescue Plan includes robust funding to boost vaccination efforts, financial aid for struggling Virginia businesses, assistance for state and local governments, funding for broadband infrastructure expansion, and more.


How Virginia benefits under the American Rescue Plan

 

 

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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – April 3, 2021

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This week we mourn the loss of Capitol Police Officer William “Billy” Evans, who was killed during an attempted breach of the Capitol Building Complex with a vehicle. Those who protect the institution of Congress do so selflessly and provide security and safety to Members of Congress, their staff, and the community. Elizabeth and I offer our condolences to the Evans family and continue to pray for a second officer who was injured. We extend our thanks to the entire Capitol Police Force for their continued service to our Nation.

Signed Into Law:
In 2019, I introduced and had signed into law the Small Business Reorganization Act, which simplified the process for entrepreneurs to use bankruptcy as a means of reorganization instead of closing down. Under this bill, businesses with less than $2.7 million of debt could file for bankruptcy in a timelier and more cost-effective manner. While in bankruptcy reorganization, a small business can negotiate with creditors while keeping the doors open, employees on the payroll, and suppliers and vendors paid. In 2020, a provision in the CARES Act raised the $2.7 million threshold in my initial bill to $7.5 million. While this provision was set to expire on March 27, 2021, Judiciary Chairman Nadler and I introduced the COVID–19 Bankruptcy Relief Extension Act of 2021, which extends this provision, and thus the $7.5 million threshold, for an additional year. I was pleased that on March 27 the President signed this bill into law, meaning significantly more businesses struggling from the pandemic can take advantage of this bill. Having this legislation signed into law is a great example of how both parties can put partisanship aside and work to find realistic solutions to benefit the American people.

Deficit Spending:
Unfortunately, as we’ve come to know, not all legislation in Congress is bipartisan. While improving our Nation’s infrastructure should be, the Biden Administration has proposed a massive $3 trillion package that fails to prioritize our crumbling roads, bridges, ports, and rail systems. Instead, it includes $174 billion to build 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, $213 billion for sustainable housing, $35 billion for climate science research, $45 billion for the EPA, $10 billion for a Civilian Climate Corps, and $27 billion for a National Green Bank. To make matters worse, the Biden Administration plans to pass the largest tax increase in more than 30 years to help pay for it. I stand ready to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to help revitalize our Nation’s infrastructure such as I-81. But any plan must be fiscally responsible, a true transportation bill and not climate legislation, and fair for rural communities like ours.


Connecting with Constituents:

Before the Coronavirus pandemic began, I promised to hold in-person town halls throughout the Sixth District. In fact, since being elected, I have hosted 25 in-person town halls – with at least one being held in each locality throughout our region. I hope to continue those sorts of in-person forums in the near future but, for now, as restrictions on public gatherings remain in place, virtual town halls remain one of the best and safest options to connect directly with constituents to ensure their voices are heard in Washington. While my first seven telephone town halls were District-wide, I’ve begun hosting regional forums, which allow me to focus on the unique issues facing each of our individual communities. This week, I was pleased to host my ninth telephone town hall for residents of Roanoke City and Roanoke County. I look forward to holding similar events like this throughout the District in the future.



Vaccine Clinic:
Frontline workers across the Sixth District have been working tirelessly to administer COVID-19 vaccines to those who choose to get it since December of last year. One of the largest vaccination sites in the area is hosted by the Roanoke City Alleghany Health District and Carilion Clinic at the Berglund Center in Roanoke. On Wednesdays, the site vaccinates around 3,500 people and upwards of 1,500 individuals on Thursdays. This week, I was pleased to tour the facility and take time to thank those working there. Their efforts are paying off, and on Wednesday, the clinic celebrated the vaccination of more than 100,000 people. As someone who has chosen to receive the vaccine, I am grateful to these dedicated folks for all their hard work.


Chris’s Coffee & Custard:

Beth and Alan Woodrum of Roanoke are the proud parents of three boys – their youngest of whom, Chris, has Down Syndrome. Amazing folks like Chris with a disability oftentimes struggle to find employment – not because they are incapable of doing the job, but because many aren’t willing to give them a chance. As of 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 17.9 percent of people with a disability were employed. To help bridge this gap, the Woodrum family recently opened Chris’s Coffee & Custard in Roanoke. This tremendous coffee shop creates opportunities for gainful and meaningful employment for individuals with intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities. I enjoyed visiting with the staff this week to see their operation first-hand and try their tasty treats. I must say, their custard was out of this world.


Integrated Textile Solutions:

Integrated Textile Solutions (ITS), headquartered in Salem with a brick-and-mortar shop in Vinton, is one of the Department of Defense’s most trusted manufacturers in Virginia. Since its founding in 1936, the company has grown both in size and in the products it makes. For the past 30 years, the company has worked to protect those whose job it is to protect all of us. Not only do they provide equipment to the U.S. Military like shelters, body armor, decontamination products, and tactical gear, but they also provide products that have been invaluable during the pandemic such as masks, medical gowns, hoods, and tunics. I appreciated the chance to tour ITS’ facility this week and hear from the owner about the company’s mission to serve those serving us.


Roanoke Rescue Mission:

The Roanoke Rescue Mission has been dedicated to providing assistance to struggling individuals and families since 1948. This week, I had the privilege of touring the Mission and volunteered for a shift serving meals to those in need. On any given night, the Roanoke Rescue Mission’s dedicated staff and volunteers provide emergency shelter for nearly 250 men, women, and children and serve upwards of 600 meals a day. Not only do they provide food and shelter, but also offer several other services to those suffering from homelessness, disabilities, addiction, or abuse. The overwhelming contributions this organization makes to the Roanoke community simply cannot be overstated.


Other District Travels:

 

Valley Health Vaccine Clinic (Woodstock)

 

Rocco Building Supplies (Harrisonburg)

 

Roanoke Economic Development Update

COVID-19 Update:
As of April 3, 2021, Virginia has had 623,881 total cases of COVID-19, including confirmed lab tests and clinical diagnoses, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The current death toll in the Commonwealth stands at 10,287. Further, according to the VDH’s COVID-19 vaccine data dashboard, as of April 3rd, 2,704,038 people have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 1,467,640 people are fully vaccinated.

Happy Easter:
To those celebrating throughout the Sixth District, I wish you a blessed and healthy Easter.

“Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” ~ Matthew 28:5-6

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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – March 29, 2021

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It was great to be home in the Sixth District as the House met for a Committee Work Week. In between several virtual Appropriation subcommittee hearings, I met with various advocacy groups and constituents about the issues that matter most to them. And while Members of Congress were home in their Districts, that does not mean legislative work is not ongoing. I continue to monitor the crisis at our border, and I am following developments on a potential infrastructure package that may come before the House when Congress returns to Washington. With Spring weather right around the corner, I was pleased that the Governor plans to lift some capacity restrictions on recreational activities, but I would encourage him to go further in restoring the freedoms that Virginians enjoy. As always, I appreciate the opportunity to serve as the Sixth District’s representative and look forward to connecting with folks in-person over the next two weeks before returning to the session.

Immigration Crisis:
President Biden stopped the construction of the border wall, rescinded Trump-era policies that prevented the mass flow of migrants into our country, and promised a pathway to citizenship for more than 11 million illegal immigrants. Now, just less than 90 days into his presidency, our country is facing a historic crisis at our southern border – more than 16,000 migrant children are in U.S. custody, migrants are being released into our country without a court date, and even his own DHS secretary admits “we are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.” This entire situation poses a humanitarian, economic, and national security threat to our Nation. With CBP encountering more than 3,000 migrants illegally crossing the border a day and 200,000 already having entered the country in 2021, it’s time for President Biden to act. We must finish building the wall and invest resources to ensure border patrol agents have the tools necessary to do their jobs safely and effectively.



More Reckless Spending?:

The next big push by the Biden Administration seems to be to pass portions of the “Green New Deal” and call it an infrastructure package. While improving our roads and bridges is necessary, early reports indicate that the proposal will have a massive price tag of $3 trillion and will include countless unrelated initiatives, including charging stations for electric vehicles, free community college, and expanding the failed Obamacare policies. To make matters worse, President Biden plans to pass the largest tax increase in the past 30 years – in the middle of a pandemic. At a time when millions of Americans are struggling with COVID-19, imposing hefty tax increases on families and businesses will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and hurt our fragile economy. Further, on the heels of a $1.9 trillion spending boondoggle that spent little on programs to actually combat COVID-19, our Nation cannot afford to maintain these levels of spending. Even drunken sailors are embarrassed by Biden’s outrageous spending plans.

Reopen Virginia:
This week Governor Northam announced that he would be rolling back certain COVID-related capacity restrictions throughout the Commonwealth. This comes on the heels of writing to the Governor encouraging him to increase the maximum number of spectators allowed at outdoor recreational sporting events like high school football – a copy of the letter can be found here. While I’m pleased that the Governor upped maximum attendance at high school football games to 500, I’m disappointed occupancy will still be capped at 30% capacity and that cheerleaders and band members will continue to be considered spectators. As a whole, lifting some of these restrictions was a good start, but the Governor did not go far enough. With vaccination rates rising and case numbers dropping, I encourage the Governor to continue restoring the freedoms that Virginians enjoy by fully reopening our economy and schools. It’s time to get folks back to work, kids back in the classroom, and allow residents of the Commonwealth to go about their daily lives.


Constituent Meetings:
Regardless of whether I’m in Washington or home in the Sixth District, I always make time to meet with constituents. This week I met with a number of Sixth District residents to discuss several health care-related initiatives. Among the many groups, I met with this week were the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the GO2 Foundation of Lung Cancer, VCU Health System, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. I also met with members from the Energy Independence Summit, the Citizens Climate Lobby, and the leadership of the University of Virginia. As the Commonwealth begins to reopen, I look forward to meeting with constituents in person again. If you would like to schedule a meeting with me or my staff, please do not hesitate to reach out to one of my offices listed at the bottom of this page.

American Association of Colleges of Nursing

 

American Academy of Physician Assistants

 

GO2 Foundation of Lung Cancer

 

VCU Health System

American Society of Addiction Medicine

COVID-19 Update:
As of March 28, 2021, Virginia has had 615,336 total cases of COVID-19, including confirmed lab tests and clinical diagnoses, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The current death toll in the Commonwealth stands at 10,198. Further, according to the VDH’s COVID-19 vaccine data dashboard, as of March 27th, 2,337,858 people have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 1,253,021 people are fully vaccinated.

This week President Biden signed the Save Lives Act into law, which recently passed through Congress unanimously. This legislation removes legal barriers that prevented veterans who were not enrolled in the VA system from receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at one of the Department’s facilities. This bill now makes all veterans, their spouses, and their caregivers eligible to receive a vaccine at a VA facility.

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Legislative Update

Warner & Blunt introduce legislation to amend legislative error, protect rural health clinics

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U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced legislation today to prevent further financial instability for rural health clinics and safeguard the care they provide to underserved communities. The bipartisan Strengthening Rural Health Clinics Act of 2021 would make a technical fix to protect existing rural health clinics from a sudden and unexpected Medicare payment rate change that was erroneously brought on by the December 2020 COVID-19 relief bill.

“In the past year, rural health clinics have played an essential role in bringing urgent and lifesaving care to some of our most vulnerable communities. Unfortunately, this crisis has served to further throw these facilities into financial distress,” said Sen. Warner. “By fixing a legislative error, our bill will help avoid further financial volatility and allow rural health clinics in Virginia and across the country to continue serving the communities that need it the most.”

“Many Missourians rely on rural health clinics for affordable, quality care close to home,” said Sen. Blunt. “This bill will fix a technical error to protect these clinics from added financial strain on top of the challenges they’ve faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. I urge our colleagues to join us in supporting the vital role these clinics play in improving health care – and the quality of life – in rural communities.”

The emergency COVID-19 relief bill that was signed into law in December included a provision to reform Medicare payment rates for future rural health clinics. While this provision intended to “grandfather” existing rural health clinics at their current payment rates in order to ensure their financial stability, a technical error ultimately excluded clinics that were established after December 2019. As a result, hundreds of rural health clinics nationwide, and even more clinics that were in the “mid-build” phase, now face serious financial uncertainty. Among these are nearly 30 clinics in Virginia:


Shenandoah Medical Associates Front Royal, VA
Valley Health Family Practice Rutherford Crossing, VA
New Warren Memorial Hospital Campus Front Royal, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Clifton Forge, VA
Carilion Clinic Internal Medicine Hardy, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Buena Vista, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Rocky Mount, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Buchanan, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Floyd, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Rocky Mount, VA
Carilion Clinic Family & Internal Medicine Galax, VA
Carilion Clinic Family & Internal Medicine Martinsville, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Tazewell, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Wytheville, VA
Carilion Clinic Family & Internal Medicine Boones Mill, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Bedford, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Hillsville, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Bluefield, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Raphine, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Lexington, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine – Westlake Hardy, VA
Volens Family Medicine Nathalie, VA
Clarksville Family Medicine Clarksville, VA
Sentara Obstetrics & Gynecology South Boston, VA
Halifax Pediatrics South Boston, VA
Chase City Family Medicine Chase City, VA
Halifax Family Medicine South Boston, VA

In order to protect these clinics from the chaos associated with a sudden payment rate change, this legislation would amend existing law to grandfather at the 2020 or first-year payment rate any qualified rural health clinic that was in existence, in “mid-build”, or that had either submitted an application or had a binding written agreement with an outside unrelated party for the construction, purchase, lease, or other establishments of such a rural health clinic prior to December 31, 2020.

This legislation has the support of a number of organizations including the National Association of Rural Health Clinics (NARHC), National Rural Health Association (NRHA), Virginia Rural Health Association (VRHA), Virginia Healthcare and Hospital Association, Missouri Hospital Association, Missouri Rural Health Association, West Virginia Hospital Association, Carilion Clinic, Valley Health System, Sentara Healthcare, Forrest General Hospital, Highland Community Hospital, Marion General Hospital, Walthall General Hospital, Jefferson Davis Community Hospital, Pearl River County Hospital, Braden Health, Braden Patient Safety Organization, Mississippi Hospital Association, and McLaren Health Care.

“In December, Congress passed significant and positive payment reforms for rural health clinics,” said Nathan Baugh, Director of Government Affairs for the National Association of Rural Health Clinics. “This legislation will ensure that all rural health clinics in existence at the time the law was changed, as well as those who were in the process of becoming a rural health clinic, are fairly grandfathered into the program.”

“On behalf of Valley Health which serves communities in VA and WVA, I would like to thank Senators Warner and Blunt for introducing this important legislation. Rural health clinics are the lifeblood of healthcare delivery in these rural underserved areas. Ensuring that Rural Health Clinics receive proper reimbursement is critical to their continued sustainability. This legislation addresses the concerns of many across the country that was developing rural clinics in previous years and will go a long way in protecting access to care in these communities which is especially important during the pandemic,” said Mark Nantz, President & CEO of Valley Health System.

“The past year has again reminded us of the critical importance of protecting and strengthening access to health care for all people, including those in rural communities,” said Sean T. Connaughton, President and CEO of Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association. “This legislation aims to correct an oversight in existing law to ensure the adequacy of Medicare reimbursements for designated health care providers treating patients in underserved rural communities. We appreciate the work of Senator Warner and Senator Blunt in sponsoring the Strengthening Rural Health Clinics Act of 2021 and we are proud to support it.”

“Thank you to Senator Warner for his ongoing efforts to assist citizens in rural areas of the Commonwealth with sustainable and expanded access to affordable, high-quality health care,” said Nancy Howell Agee, President, and CEO of Roanoke-based Carilion Clinic. “Much of Carilion’s service area is rural with an aging population. Our community needs assessments consistently reflect concerns about access to primary and specialty care. Our Rural Health Clinics and expanded digital solutions, including telehealth, help us better serve the health care needs in the region and provide more sustainable access to care. Senator Warner has consistently worked to ensure that health care services are available for our rural citizens to the greatest degree possible. His efforts to help stabilize access to these services through our Rural Health Clinics is important and appreciated.”

A copy of the bill is available here. A one-page summary can be found here.

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Legislative Update

Warner presses IRS to fix problems delaying relief checks

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With more than 7 million Virginians slated to get over $9 billion in relief as a direct result of the American Rescue Plan, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) urging the agency to ensure that families receive their promised COVID-19 stimulus payments by quickly and proactively addressing three common issues that Virginians experienced with the last round of economic impact payments (EIPs) earlier this year.

“I write today following the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to raise specific issues my constituents had in accessing their second economic impact payments (EIP) in hopes those problems can be resolved and taken into consideration as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) administers the third round of economic impact payments,” wrote Sen. Warner in his letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig.

In his letter to the IRS, Sen. Warner identified the three most prevalent issues Virginia families ran into when attempting to access their second round of COVID-19 stimulus payments. The issues commonly heard from Virginians were:

1. Couples who filed a 2019 tax return as married filing jointly reported that only one spouse received a second EIP even though they received a joint EIP in the first round.


2. Social Security recipients who received the first EIP via direct deposit or direct express card but did not receive the second EIP.

3. Virginians who reported that the IRS’s Get My Payment application showed that they would either receive their payment via direct deposit or check but never received it.

During the COVID-19 crisis, Sen. Warner has been a strong advocate for Virginians, working to ensure that they get the funds to which they are entitled. Last April, he pressed the Treasury Department to ensure that families who are not normally required to file taxes do not need to wait until the following year to receive the additional $500 payment per dependent child that they were promised. He also successfully pushed the Treasury Department to allow Social Security recipients to automatically receive CARES Act direct cash assistance without needing to file a tax return.

Here is a copy of the letter.

Dear Secretary Yellen and Commissioner Rettig,

I write today following the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to raise specific issues my constituents had in accessing their second economic impact payments (EIP) in hopes those problems can be resolved and taken into consideration as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) administers the third round of economic impact payments.

The Administration is well aware of the millions of Americans facing economic hardship and should be applauded for its tireless work to deliver more relief as part of the ARPA. Further, I am appreciative of the IRS’s hard work throughout the pandemic. IRS employees have worked diligently to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in EIPs to Americans while managing the risks associated with COVID-19.

Virginians continue to reach out with specific problems they are having, particularly those trying to access their second EIP. Below, I lay out the three most prevalent issues my staff has identified. To help me respond adequately to my constituents, please review the three issues and answer the following related questions.

1. Couples that filed a 2019 tax return as married filing jointly are reporting that only one spouse received a second EIP even though they received a joint EIP in the first round. When the spouse not receiving the payment checked the IRS’s Get My Payment App, there was no information. Is the couple’s only recourse to claim a Recovery Rebate Credit (RRC)? Is there a reason why the second EIP was treated differently in this situation? Can the IRS take steps to ensure the same problem does not occur with the third EIP?

2. A number of my constituents who are Social Security recipients received the first EIP via direct deposit or direct express card but did not receive the second EIP. The IRS has said those constituents can file a tax return and claim a RRC but I am concerned for those Social Security recipients who are non-filers and are less equipped to file a tax return to claim their RRC. I am also concerned that these same constituents will not receive their third EIP. Please explain why the IRS did not send the second (December) round of EIPs automatically to Social Security recipients. Will the IRS commit to sending past due checks to Social Security recipients who should have received them? For the third round of EIPs, can the IRS commit to automatically sending checks to Social Security recipients? If not, why not?

Last year, the IRS created a Non-Filers tool to allow non-filers to gain access to the first round of EIPs to address this problem and make it easier for non-filers to access their EIP. Why did the IRS not reopen the Non-Filers tool to help Americans access their second EIP? Will the IRS commit to reopening the Non-Filers tool for the third round of EIP to ensure non-filers can easily access their third EIP? And will they be allowed to use this tool to claim checks owed to them from the first two rounds?

3. A number of constituents reported that the IRS’s Get May Payment application showed that they would either receive their payment via direct deposit or check but they never received it. Although the payment was issued to them and they qualified based on their 2019 tax return, the RRC is based on their 2020 tax filing. In some situations this has eliminated constituents’ eligibility for the second EIP. Will the IRS offer any flexibility or recourse for constituents in these circumstances?

I know the IRS is working diligently to serve the American people, and I welcome our continued collaboration to help Americans across the country. Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

Sincerely,

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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – March 22, 2021

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This past week was a continuation of Speaker Pelosi’s House passing legislation that didn’t go through the normal committee process and allowed few if any, amendments from the Republican minority. However, in a rare show of bipartisanship, the House did pass my COVID–19 Bankruptcy Relief Extension Act, which will provide significant aid to struggling small businesses. Last week I also had the opportunity to visit with constituents in Verona and hear from advocacy groups about the issues that matter most to them. As the House wrapped up a busy two months of session, I am looking forward to being home in the Sixth District these next few weeks connecting with those I am honored to represent.

Immigration Crisis:
When I visited the southern border two years ago, I saw firsthand the tremendous job that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was doing to curbing the influx of illegal immigration. These dedicated men and women put themselves on the line each day to ensure the safety and security of the American people. The difference between then and now was that President Trump made sure our border patrol agents had the resources necessary to do their jobs effectively when there was an uptick in illegal crossings. Sadly, however, we are once again facing an immigration crisis. When President Biden assumed office, he essentially slapped an open sign on our southern border. In the past two months, the President has halted the construction of the border wall, reduced immigration enforcement, reimplemented “catch and release”, promised citizenship for millions, and canceled asylum agreements with our Central and South American partners. These actions have created a disastrous situation.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 200,000 individual migrants have already illegally crossed the border, which is a seven-year high and a 173 percent increase from this time last year. There has also been a 163 percent increase in families apprehended these past two months. On top of this, at least four individuals on the FBI’s terrorist screening database have come across our border illegally in recent months, and apprehensions at the border jumped 28 percent last month compared to January. Even President Biden’s own Secretary of Homeland Security said we are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years. There is no denying that the entire situation is a humanitarian, economic, and national security crisis. Yet despite all of this, the House passed two bills last week that reward illegal immigration and say to the world that our laws no longer matter – I voted against both pieces of legislation. As your Congressman, I will fight to secure our borders and protect the homeland of the United States.

 

Aiding our Small Businesses:
In 2019, I introduced and had signed into law the Small Business Reorganization Act, which simplifies the process for entrepreneurs to use bankruptcy as a means of reorganization. Under this bill, when initially passed, businesses with less than $2.7 million of debt were able to file for bankruptcy in a timelier and more cost-effective manner. While in bankruptcy reorganization, a small business can negotiate with creditors while keeping the doors open, employees on the payroll, and suppliers and vendors paid. In 2020, a provision in the CARES Act raised the $2.7 million thresholds to $7.5 million. This provision was set to expire on March 27, 2021. Therefore, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, and I introduced, and the House passed, the COVID–19 Bankruptcy Relief Extension Act of 2021, which extends this temporary provision, and thus the $7.5 million thresholds, for an additional year. By extending the debt threshold for eligibility, significantly more businesses who have been impacted by government-mandated lockdowns will benefit from the Small Business Reorganization Act, which has served as a lifeline for struggling businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, since the inception of the bill, 80 percent of small business debtors have chosen to proceed under the provisions of my bill.


Domestic Violence Legislation:
Domestic violence is a persistent problem across our nation, and the effect of lockdowns on families in many states has led to an increase in reports of domestic violence. As a former domestic violence prosecutor, I have supported efforts at the local, state, and federal levels to provide resources to those programs that help domestic violence victims. Last year, I introduced the bipartisan POWER Act with Congresswoman McBath (D-GA), which aimed to ensure that support services remained available to domestic violence victims during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two bills affecting domestic violence programs came before the House last week, and while I supported the intent of both bills, one of the bills was unfortunately hijacked for partisan purposes. The first bill, which I supported, was a bill to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund, H.R. 1652. The bill strengthens the Victims of Crime Act, or VOCA, which funds thousands of victim service providers around the country, including programs serving victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, trafficking, and drunk driving. VOCA grants also fund victim compensation, including paying medical bills, covering lost wages, and paying for funeral costs. It is critical that we ensure that these important grants continue to support victims across the country, and I was pleased to support the passage of this bill. The second bill was to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, a law that I strongly support. Unfortunately, the previously bipartisan law that I have supported and voted for was amended to include several controversial provisions that I could not support. These included provisions that undermine and jeopardize due process; that curtail prosecutorial discretion; that weaken programs for female victims; that could re-victimize abused women, and that fail to provide religious hiring exemptions for faith-based grant recipients. For these reasons, I could not vote for the VAWA reauthorization proposed by Democrat leadership, and instead, I supported and voted for the Republican substitute to re-enact the most recent bipartisan version of the VAWA law.

Project GROWS:
I enjoyed the opportunity to visit Project GROWS in Verona last week. Founded in 2010, the group partners with various community organizations to address childhood obesity, malnutrition, and diabetes in the Shenandoah Valley through farm-based education. The group also strives to support its students’ physical, mental, and social well-being. Our region thanks Project GROWS for addressing these pressing issues affecting our region’s youth.

 

 

AIPAC:
I was pleased to meet with members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s national board to discuss continued steps to ensure the safety and security of this vital ally. I have always been a staunch supporter of Israel, and in the 116th Congress, I cosponsored several pieces of legislation seeking to protect the Holy Land. One such bill was H.R. 1837 – the United States-Israel Cooperation Enhancement and Regional Security Act, which authorizes increased security assistance to Israel, including the transfer of reserve stock weapons and boosting defense funding over the next five years. Further, I cosponsored H. Res. 246 – Opposing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement targeting Israel. The BDS movement seeks to weaken the Jewish State’s footing on the international stage, which is simply unacceptable. I will continue to support our closest ally in the Middle East in the 117th Congress, and I look forward to co-sponsoring similar legislation when introduced.

COVID-19 Update:
As of March 21, 2021, Virginia has had 604,904 total cases of COVID-19, including confirmed lab tests and clinical diagnoses, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The current death toll in the Commonwealth stands at 10,117. Further, according to the VDH’s COVID-19 vaccine data dashboard, as of March 20th, 2,039,437 people have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 1,114,156 people are fully vaccinated.

Additional COVID Information:
The IRS announced this week that it will delay the federal April 15 tax-filing deadline until May 17. Taxpayers can also delay payment of any money owed to the IRS until said date. Additionally, Virginia extended its filing deadline to May 17 as well.

Further, the Salem VA Health Care System announced recently that vaccination appointments are now open for all enrolled veterans. Individuals are encouraged to reach out to their primary care teams or call the vaccination hotline between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday to schedule appointments. To schedule a COVID-19 vaccination appointment, veterans should call 540-982-2463 and choose Option 2.

Finally, last week the House approved a 60-day extension of the Paycheck Protection Program which is set to expire on March 31. If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the new deadline would be May 31. To apply for a PPP loan, click 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. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for the latest updates.

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Upcoming Events

Apr
18
Sun
9:30 am Forest Bathing Walk @ Sky Meadows State Park
Forest Bathing Walk @ Sky Meadows State Park
Apr 18 @ 9:30 am – 11:30 am
Forest Bathing Walk @ Sky Meadows State Park
Join Kim Strader, ANFT Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide, for a gentle walk (no more than a mile or two) where we will wander and sit. Through a series of invitations and prompts, we[...]
10:00 am 2nd United States Cavalry – Civi... @ Sky Meadows State Park
2nd United States Cavalry – Civi... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Apr 18 @ 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
2nd United States Cavalry - Civil War Encampment @ Sky Meadows State Park
Get up-close and personal with history. Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of a Civil War Encampment. Interact with the 2nd US Cavalry as they perform daily tasks of the Union soldiers. Activities[...]
Apr
20
Tue
all-day Mad Science Kit @ Warren County Community Center
Mad Science Kit @ Warren County Community Center
Apr 20 – Apr 23 all-day
Mad Science Kit @ Warren County Community Center
The Warren County Parks and Recreation Department Mad Science Kit contains experiments that focus on fun, interactivity, and entertainment. Participants ages 6-12 will be able to perform four (4) experiments, including Dyed Carnations, Lava Lamps,[...]
10:00 am Mah Jongg “Players Club” @ Warren County Community Center
Mah Jongg “Players Club” @ Warren County Community Center
Apr 20 @ 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Mah Jongg “Players Club” @ Warren County Community Center
Players will enjoy several hands of Mah Jongg against skilled opponents. This club meets on Tuesdays from April 6, 2021 through April 27, 2021 from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at the Warren County Community[...]
6:30 pm Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Apr 20 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
This class is for all fitness levels and anyone who is looking to have fun dancing to a variety of music styles from hip hop to swing to salsa, all while EXERCISING! This class will[...]
Apr
24
Sat
10:00 am Earth Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Earth Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Apr 24 @ 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Earth Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
On this Earth Day, celebrate safely by doing your part to restore our earth and joining the Great Global Cleanup. Stop by one of our tables at the Explorer Outpost, Picnic Area, or Lost Mountain[...]
12:00 pm Empty Bowl Supper “To Go” @ Downtown Market
Empty Bowl Supper “To Go” @ Downtown Market
Apr 24 @ 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Empty Bowl Supper “To Go” @ Downtown Market
Come out to enjoy our favorite fundraiser to benefit the House of Hope, the Empty Bowl Supper “TO GO”! DATE: Saturday, April 24 from 12noon-3pm Ticket Link: eventbrite.com/empty-bowl-supper LOCATION: Main Street & Downtown Market Check in near the[...]
12:00 pm SHS Band Golf Tournament @ Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club
SHS Band Golf Tournament @ Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club
Apr 24 @ 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
SHS Band Golf Tournament @ Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club
Join us for an afternoon of golf at Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club in Front Royal! 1 pm Shotgun, Registration from 12pm – 12:45pm. $85/Player $340/Team Help us celebrate Skyline High School Band’s success while[...]
12:30 pm Color Run Fundraiser @ Warren County Department of Social Services
Color Run Fundraiser @ Warren County Department of Social Services
Apr 24 @ 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Color Run Fundraiser @ Warren County Department of Social Services
Save Our Children Front Royal is hosting a Color Run/Walk to raise money for The Child Safe Center, located in Winchester, Virginia. The Child Safe Center is a local non-profit who supports sexually abused victims[...]
Apr
25
Sun
4:00 pm Paint with a Superhero @ Downtown Market
Paint with a Superhero @ Downtown Market
Apr 25 @ 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Paint with a Superhero @ Downtown Market
$30 per painter or 4 painters for $100. Bring the whole family and save! Join us for a special Paint with a Superhero event! Be sure to dress up as your favorite hero or villain[...]