~ More than 39 million Americans live in a food desert, including more than one million in Virginia alone ~
~ Bill incentivizes grocers and non-profits to fulfill food gap need in rural and urban areas ~
On February 3, 2021, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), joined by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), introduced the Healthy Food Access for All Americans (HFAAA) Act. The legislation aims to expand access to affordable and nutritious food in areas designated as “food deserts” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“Today, too many Americans lack access to fresh nutritious and healthy foods. Unfortunately, that reality has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, which has made it even more difficult for working families to seek out and afford healthy foods,” said Sen. Warner. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill that will serve as an important tool to combat food insecurity in our communities.”
“Over the past year, we have seen unprecedented need at food banks as Kansans line-up seeking access to nutritional food,” said Sen. Moran. “Even while living in the breadbasket of our nation, food insecurity affects far too many Kansans, a need that has only increased during COVID-19. This bipartisan legislation, which would incentivize food providers to establish and renovate grocery stores, food banks, and farmers markets in communities that traditionally lack affordable, healthy, and convenient food options, is now more important than ever during this pandemic.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made routine tasks like going to the grocery store difficult for millions of Americans—especially for families who live in a food desert and have to travel an extended distance to access healthy foods,” said Senator Casey. “No one in America should be burdened by a simple trip to the grocery store. The bipartisan Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act would provide critical support to expand access to healthy food in underserved communities,” said Sen. Casey.
“Many Americans living in rural communities—including those in West Virginia—have difficulty accessing fresh and nutritious foods. I’m proud to reintroduce this legislation, which will go a long way in helping to improve access to groceries and healthy foods across West Virginia and make it easier for businesses and non-profit organizations to serve our rural communities,” said Sen. Capito.
According to recent data from USDA, nearly 40 million Americans live in food deserts, areas defined to be without grocery stores within one or more miles in urban regions, and ten or more miles in rural regions. In Virginia alone, there are more than one million individuals living in food deserts. Studies have shown that Americans who live in communities with low-access to healthy food options are at higher risk for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Additionally, according to USDA’s own study, people of color are more likely to reside in a food desert.
In an effort to eliminate food deserts in the U.S., the Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act would provide incentives to food providers to expand access to healthy foods in these underserved communities and reduce the number of food deserts nationwide.
Specifically, the Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act, which defines a grocery market as a retail sales store with at least 35 percent of its selection (or forecasted selection) dedicated to selling fresh produce, poultry, dairy, and deli items – would spark investment in food deserts across the country that has a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher, or a median family income of less than 80 percent of the median for the state or metro area. It would grant tax credits or grants to food providers who service low-access communities and attain a “Special Access Food Provider” (SAFP) certification through the Treasury Department. Incentives would be awarded based on the following structure:
• New Store Construction – Companies that construct new grocery stores in a food desert will receive a one-time 15 percent tax credit after receiving certification.
• Retrofitting Existing Structures – Companies that make retrofits to an existing store’s healthy food sections can receive a one-time 10 percent tax credit after the repairs certify the store as an SAFP.
• Food Banks – Certified food banks that build new (permanent) structures in food deserts will be eligible to receive a one-time grant for 15 percent of their construction costs.
• Temporary Access Merchants – Certified temporary access merchants (i.e. mobile markets, farmers markets, and some food banks) that are 501(c)(3)s will receive grants for 10 percent of their annual operating costs.
The Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act boasts the support of numerous organizations, including Feeding America, the National Grocers Association, Share Our Strength, and Bread for the World.
“Feeding America commends Senator Warner for confronting the unfortunate fact that the burdens faced by the 40 million Americans living with hunger are even worse for those who live in food deserts. Our network of 200 member food banks understands that areas without affordable, healthy food options have higher rates of food insecurity exacerbated by the lack of access to adequate transportation to the nearest food pantry or grocery market. Feeding America supports the Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act and believes it is a critical step to give nonprofits and retailers support to increase food access in underserved areas,” said Kate Leone, Chief Government Relations Officer at Feeding America.
“The National Grocers Association embraces Senator Warner’s efforts to remove the obstacles faced by grocers looking to expand access to nutritious food for rural and urban communities without a supermarket,” said Molly Pfaffenroth, Senior Director of Government Relations at National Grocers Association. “Independent community grocers are the heartbeat of the areas they serve and historically are leaders in reaching out to those most in need of better food options. Communities are stronger both physically and economically when they have better access to healthy food, so we look forward to working with Congress on this important bipartisan legislation.”
“To end childhood hunger in America, we must ensure that low-income families, have equitable access to healthy, affordable food options no matter their zip code or circumstances. Ending food deserts will help more families put food on the table and help children get the nutrition they need to grow up healthy and strong. Share Our Strength supports The Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act and thanks Sens. Warner, Moran, Casey, and Capito for their leadership on this issue,” said Billy Shore, Founder and Executive Chair of Share Our Strength.
“Bread for the World is once again excited to see a bipartisan effort to address food deserts and improve access to nutritious food in low-income areas across America. With 1 in 6 Americans and 1 in 4 children experiencing food insecurity during this pandemic, this legislation is desperately needed. Bread for the World thanks Senators Warner, Moran, Casey, and Capito for introducing this bill to reduce hunger in communities and improve health across the country,” said Heather Valentine, Director of Government Relations of Bread for the World.
Companion legislation will soon be introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH) and A. Donald McEachin (D-VA).
Sen. Warner has been a strong advocate of expanded access to food assistance for families in the Commonwealth amid the COVID-19 crisis. He has put pressure on the USDA to formally authorize Virginia’s request to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Online Purchasing Pilot Program, successfully pushed USDA to waive a requirement that made it more difficult for families to receive USDA-reimbursable meals, and secured a USDA designation that allows food banks to distribute food directly to Virginia families in need while limiting interactions between food bank staff, volunteers, and recipients. In August, Sen. Warner also successfully pushed for USDA to extend critical food waivers to help make sure students have access to nutritious meals while school districts participate in distance learning. The COVID-19 relief package signed into law in December provides $13 billion in nutrition assistance, including a 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits. Last month, Sen. Warner introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation that allows the federal government to pay all costs to states to partner with restaurants and provide food to vulnerable populations.
The population of Virginians by city or county living in food deserts as defined in this bill*
James City: 4014
King and Queen: 3881
Prince Edward: 10624
Prince George: 8543
Prince William: 55128
Buena Vista: 6650
Franklin City: 8582
Manassas Park: 6248
Newport News: 38292
Richmond City: 62381
Roanoke City: 39950
Virginia Beach: 27205
*The most recent year for which data is available is 2017.
Warner & Kaine statement on bipartisan bill commemorate Moton Museum in Farmville becoming law
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On May 12, 2022, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement after their bipartisan bill to commemorate historic sites that catalyzed litigation leading to the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, was signed into law by President Biden:
“We’re excited our legislation to commemorate the Moton Museum in Farmville and other historic sites associated with the Brown v. Board of Education decision was signed into law today by President Biden,” said Senators Warner and Kaine. “This bill will preserve the site and help ensure future generations can learn about its significance, as well as the history of Barbara Johns, who led her classmates in a protest against school segregation at the Moton School.”
The Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park Expansion and Redesignation Act will expand the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Kansas and designate National Park Service (NPS) Affiliated Areas in Delaware, South Carolina, Kansas, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Specifically, it will recognize the Moton Museum, formerly the Robert Russa Moton High School, in Farmville, Virginia, where Barbara Johns led a protest against school segregation and demanded better conditions for Black students. This designation would help protect the site.
The 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka transformed the United States, overruling Plessy v. Ferguson and striking down school segregation as unconstitutional. The Brown decision was a major catalyst of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
The bill unanimously passed the Senate and the House of Representatives in April. U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) led the Senate version of the bill. Representative Jim Clyburn (D-SC 6) led companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
Senators Warner and Kaine secured $500,000 in funding for critical facility upgrades at the Moton Museum in Farmville through the Fiscal Year 2022 omnibus appropriations bill, and supported efforts to honor Barbara Johns as one of Virginia’s two statues in the United States Capitol.
U.S. Senator Mark Warner: Senate’s failure to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, released the statement below after voting for a procedural motion to advance legislation to codify reproductive rights into law. The legislation failed to move forward by a vote of 49-51 after falling short of the 60-vote threshold needed to open debate on the bill.
“I’m gravely concerned by the Senate’s failure to codify Roe. For almost 50 years, women have had the right to make private medical decisions about their own reproductive health. If the Supreme Court does overturn Roe soon, women in many states will be stripped of their right to a safe abortion – including in cases of sexual assault, incest, or high-risk pregnancies. This is not what the majority of Virginians or Americans support, and it sets an extremely dangerous precedent for rolling back established rights. I’m extremely disappointed that the Senate chose inaction, but I’ll keep supporting measures to allow women to access the care they need.”
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – May 9, 2022
While I was home in Virginia this week for District Work Period, it was still a busy few days policy-wise. The week began with an unprecedented leak from the Supreme Court. While I was disturbed by the violation of this sacred institution’s confidentiality, I am hopeful that the court reaffirms the sanctity of life when it rules on Roe v. Wade later this summer. Further, this week, I introduced legislation with my colleagues to defund the Biden Administration’s recently announced “Disinformation Governance Board,” which is a gross federal overreach and an assault on the First Amendment. Additionally, I was pleased that the Department of Interior responded to calls from me and other Members of Congress to resume Park Police escorts for the Honor Flight Network, an organization dedicated to bringing Veterans to the war memorials recognizing their service. Finally, as the United States continues to face an economic downturn, I visited several small businesses and with other groups to ensure the voices of Sixth District residents are heard in Washington. It is an honor to serve the people of western Virginia, and I will continue fighting for the values that make our region a great place to live and raise a family.
Recently, in an unprecedented moment for the Supreme Court, a draft opinion was leaked, which indicates the High Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. This leak is of great concern, as the judicial process must be non-political and always be rooted in the letter of the law. A breach of this nature undermines the confidence the American people have in the Supreme Court, it erodes the trust the Justices have in one another, and it hurts the confidentiality necessary for the Court to discuss cases before them. This was a disgraceful attempt to leverage public pressure to influence the Justices, and it will now be used by the Left to try to end the filibuster and pack the Court with radical liberals. With that said, I will always seek to protect the sanctity of life, and I hope and pray that the Supreme Court will do so when it rules on the case later this year.
The Biden Administration’s decision to create a Disinformation Governance Board, or probably better known as the ‘Ministry of Truth,’ is dystopian in design, almost certainly unconstitutional, and clearly doomed from the start. The government has no role whatsoever in determining what constitutes permissible truth or acceptable speech, and further, the President’s choosing of Nina Jankowicz to serve as the Board’s Executive Director is of equal concern. Jankowicz, who refers to herself as the “Mary Poppins of Disinformation,” is a frequent purveyor of falsehoods, and appears sympathetic to the cause of censoring Americans. President Biden should dissolve this Board immediately, but assuming he won’t do so, my colleagues and I introduced legislation this week to bar federal tax dollars from funding it. Additionally, several Members of Congress also wrote to the Secretary of Homeland Security expressing our concerns that this Board’s creation is an alarming attempt by the Biden Administration to use the Department as a political tool. The full letter can be found here.
Honor Flight Network:
Since its founding in 2005, the Honor Flight Network has taken more than 250,000 World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and terminally ill Veterans on an all-expense-paid trip to visit our Nation’s capital. Veterans visit – many for the first time – the very war memorials dedicated to their service to our country. During these trips, Veterans share memories and accounts from their time in service, pay tribute to their lost comrades, and build important bonds with fellow participants. Honor Flights Hubs meticulously plan these experiences to further the Honor Flight Network’s vision of a country where “all of America’s Veterans experience the honor, gratitude, and community of support they deserve.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the National Park Police halted their escorts of the groups’ buses. This made the trips far more difficult as parking near the memorials is limited, and many of the Veterans are handicapped. That is why my colleagues and I wrote to the Secretary of Interior requesting that Park Police once again be allowed to provide such escorts. Fortunately, following our letter, the decision was reversed, and escorts will resume on June 1. To read the full letter, click here.
Over the last two years, the CDC found the power to shut down the cruise ship industry, stop landlords from evicting tenants who had not paid their rent and required that people using public transportation wear masks. These actions were a gross federal overreach, and the CDC blatantly violated the law by using the Public Health Services Act as justification for these mandates. The interpretation of this statute was unconstitutional and egregious, and I recently asked Attorney General Garland why he was appealing a federal judge’s ruling specifically overturning the mask mandate.
President Joe Biden and House Democrats’ liberal policies and out-of-control government spending are driving the American economy off the cliff. Inflation is at a 40-year high, and according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, America’s GDP decreased at an annual rate of 1.4% in the first quarter of 2022. Instead of addressing the economic crisis they created, Biden and House Democrats continue to double down on their Far-Left policies and out-of-control spending. Gas prices have soared, grocery costs are through the roof, folks are spending more to heat/cool their homes, and now, interest rates are rising .5% – the highest one-time raise in over two decades. This means, on top of all of the other cost increases Americans are facing, folks will now pay more for home, auto, and business loans. Families are already struggling, and this is yet another example of how Biden’s broken economy will hurt their bottom lines.
Small Business Week:
As we celebrated National Small Business Week, I took time to visit small businesses in our area, such as Deb’s Frozen Lemonade in Cave Spring, to hear from owners like Keith Liles about how they’re handling the current economic downturn. Small businesses are vital to the economic success of our Nation, employing more than 61 million Americans or nearly 47% of the workforce. Further, small businesses create two-thirds of new jobs and deliver 43.5% of the United States’ GDP. As mom-and-pop shops continue to recover from COVID lockdowns and struggle to cope with inflation, I wanted to ensure I can take their concerns up to Washington. In Congress, I will continue fighting for pro-business policies that help spur economic growth.
As the Representative for Virginia’s Sixth District, one of my top priorities is making myself available to meet with constituents whether I’m here in the Commonwealth or in Washington. This week, I enjoyed visiting with small businesses, student groups, manufacturing facilities, and more.
Last week in Virginia, there was an average of 18.6 daily cases of COVID-19 per every 100,000 residents. This is up from an average of 15.3 cases from one week prior. This week’s positivity rate was 9.3%, up from an average of 7.8% last week. For more information, 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.
Warner & Kaine applaud administration’s new efforts to lower internet costs
On May 9, 2022, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded President Biden’s announcement of new efforts to lower high-speed internet costs for Virginians and all Americans, including commitments from 20 internet providers to either increase speeds or cut prices to no more than $30/month for Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)-eligible households. Warner and Kaine helped create the ACP, which was established by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Warner negotiated, and they both voted to pass. 1,908,000 or 23% of people in Virginia will be eligible for the ACP.
“We’ve made great progress in expanding broadband in Virginia, but too many Virginians still face challenges in accessing the internet due to high costs. These steps to lower internet costs for families are critical to address that gap. We’re glad the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will help more families stay connected with friends and loved ones, access telehealth services, and find job and educational opportunities online,” said Senators Warner and Kaine.
Specifically, the ACP program provides a $30 per month discount, or $75 per month for households on tribal lands, for low-income families to use toward any internet service of their choosing. The commitments from the 20 internet providers will mean tens of millions of ACP-eligible households will receive high-speed internet at no cost. Households can also receive a one-time $100 discount for a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet. Eligible households must have an income at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or have a family member that meets at least one of these criteria outlined by the Federal Communications Commission. Virginians can go to GetInternet.gov to sign up for the ACP and find participating providers in their area.
As Governors and Senators, Warner and Kaine have long supported expanding broadband access in Virginia. During the pandemic, they secured significant funding for broadband through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the December 2020 government funding bill, which included COVID relief, and the American Rescue Plan. They also introduced legislation to help students access the internet at home. The Fiscal Year 2022 government funding bill supported by Warner and Kaine included $550 million to expand access to broadband and $450 million for the ReConnect program to help rural communities access the internet.
US Senator Mark Warner: Boeing announced their intent to relocate its headquarters from Chicago to Arlington.
Wheels up, Arlington! Sen. Warner revealed this week that his years of persuasion had paid off as Boeing announced their intent to relocate its headquarters from Chicago to Arlington. This move by Boeing, a leader in the aeronautics industry, represents the relocation of their corporate headquarters and their research and development hub, solidifying Virginia’s status as a leader in the “innovation ecosystem,” as Sen. Warner likes to say.
As a longtime advocate for this relocation, Sen. Warner lauded this announcement as both a short-term gain for Virginia’s prominence as a home for businesses but also a long-term investment in making Virginia a research and technology hub that could create even more jobs across the entire Commonwealth over the next several decades. Fortunately, this move is not expected to cause major population density changes in Arlington that might exacerbate local traffic or housing shortages.
In a statement on the decision, Sen. Warner said,
“For well over a year, I’ve been making my case to Boeing senior leadership that Virginia would be a great place for its headquarters, and late last year, I was happy to learn that my efforts were successful. As the former Governor of Virginia, I was proud to secure Virginia’s standing as the best state for business and the best-managed state, among other honors, and I’ve been proud to work in my role as Senator to help continue to cultivate the kind of pro-business environment that world-class companies like Boeing need to grow and thrive.”
U.S. Senator Mark Warner statement on the proposed change to Community Reinvestment Act regulations
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, released the following statement after the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency announced a proposed change to regulations surrounding the Community Reinvestment Act:
“I am pleased that federal banking agencies worked together to produce this joint notice of proposed rulemaking to modernize and strengthen their regulations implementing the Community Reinvestment Act. The CRA is one of the best tools we have to drive investments in underserved and underbanked communities, but it needs to be updated to reflect the fundamental changes we have seen in the banking sector since 1995, the last time there were significant revisions to the rules. As a former entrepreneur, I understand how important access to capital is to start a business and build wealth. Ensuring broader access to affordable credit, whether it’s to buy a house, start a business, or pay for emergency expenses, is vital to address inequalities and close the racial wealth gap. I look forward to reviewing the proposed rule in coordination with all stakeholders to ensure we end up with a strengthened, 21st-century CRA that can continue to drive meaningful change in low- and moderate-income communities.”