On February 23, 2021, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) participated in a virtual Senate Banking Committee hearing with Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, where he stressed the importance of including robust funding for broadband in any future COVID-19 relief package. According to current estimates, there are approximately 700,000 Virginians who still lack access to high-speed internet, which has become increasingly essential for telecommuting, distance learning, telemedicine, and more amid the COVID-19 crisis.
“I would argue, over the last eleven months, we’ve seen broadband is a necessity. I think it is absolutely COVID-19 related,” said Sen. Warner in questioning with Chairman Powell. “I hope that the current package can be changed to actually include a sizeable investment in broadband as good as our four bipartisan packages have been to date.”
He continued, “Experts like Tom Wheeler and Blair Levin have said somewhere in the $40 to $50 billion range, we can get about 97 percent coverage along with better affordability.”
In response, Chairman Powell said, “I would agree that it is a classic piece of infrastructure for the modern economy, for the service economy, for the technologically advanced economy and having it…as broadly available as possible could be a significant benefit economically.”
As a former governor and now in the Senate, Sen. Warner has long fought for increased access to broadband in the Commonwealth. In December, Sen. Warner negotiated and passed COVID-19 relief legislation that included $7 billion towards broadband, including $3.2 billion for an Emergency Broadband Benefit to help low-income families maintain their internet connections, $285 million to support broadband access in minority communities, and $300 million in broadband grants modeled on bipartisan provisions Sen. Warner drafted with his colleagues. Sen. Warner has also introduced comprehensive broadband infrastructure legislation to expand access to affordable high-speed internet and has also introduced bipartisan legislation with Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott (R-SC) to establish a $10 billion Broadband Development Fund to prioritize funding for areas that currently lack service, support the deployment of advanced technologies in areas where there is the greatest need, and encourage projects that can quickly provide internet service.
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), about 21 million Americans do not have access to 25/3 Mbps internet, which is the FCC’s standard for high-speed broadband. Of that 21 million, 16 million live in rural areas, while 5 million live in urban areas.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – April 18, 2021
Following a productive District Work Period where I met with constituents and toured a number of businesses, the House gaveled back into session on Tuesday. I continue to monitor the crisis on our southern border and in a subcommittee hearing this week, I questioned HHS Secretary Becerra about the Administration’s lack of a plan to address the worsening crisis. Additionally, the Majority introduced a reckless bill to add four Justices to the Supreme Court, which should be of grave concern to all Americans. However, in a moment of bipartisanship, fellow members of the Problem Solvers Caucus and I wrote to House Leadership urging an end to the practice of going around congressional rules to pass legislation. Further, the House passed a number of bipartisan bills to aid small businesses that are struggling. While it was a busy week, I always appreciate the opportunity to advocate for those I am honored to represent here in Washington.
Trivium Packaging has facilities all over the world, including a manufacturing plant in Roanoke, which employs 125 area residents. This company delivers innovative and sustainable metal packaging to help leading brands protect their products and stand out. And since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Trivium has been essential in ensuring our shelves remain stocked by supplying packaging to America’s food and beverage industries. This week, before my return to Washington, I enjoyed the opportunity to tour the plant and see their innovative work firsthand, as well as hear from management and staff about how Congress can help them continue to grow.
Disorder at the Border:
This week, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released new data regarding the crisis at our border. Last month alone, more than 170,000 migrants illegally crossed our border, which is a 400 percent increase from March of last year and a 71 percent increase from February. This now means more than 350,000 migrants have tried to cross the border in 2021. Further, there is double the record number of unaccompanied minors in custody, which currently stands at 20,000+ between CBP and HHS holding facilities. To make matters worse, the President’s $1.52 trillion budget proposal includes a zero percent funding increase for the Department of Homeland Security to help CBP do their jobs effectively. Finally, the President has tasked Vice-President Harris as the de facto “Border Czar,” yet she has yet to visit our border to see the crisis firsthand. This Administration must address this worsening humanitarian and economic crisis.
A baby born alive, even after an attempted abortion, should be afforded the same constitutional protections as every other American. That’s why, this week, I joined my GOP colleagues in signing a discharge petition to force a vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. This legislation would require health care practitioners who are present at the live birth of a child following a failed abortion to exercise skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the baby—the same degree of care that would be offered to any other child born prematurely of the same gestational age. After those efforts, the health care workers must transport and admit the child to a hospital. Further, it requires health care practitioners and hospital employees to report violations to law enforcement authorities, thus reducing the number of born-alive abortions that go unreported. It also penalizes the intentional killing of a born-alive child by a physician through fines or up to 5 years imprisonment. Protecting living and breathing babies outside the womb should not be a partisan issue. However, since Speaker Pelosi has refused to call this bill for a vote, I am hopeful that the discharge petition will garner the 218 signatures necessary to trigger an immediate vote on the House Floor.
With narrow majorities in the House and Senate, we need bipartisan support and solutions to get bills passed in both houses and ultimately signed into law by the President. The best way to do this is by having a deliberative and open process that promotes transparency and allows members to help shape legislation through committee hearings, markups, and Floor amendments. Unfortunately, with a majority of only six seats, Speaker Pelosi has been rushing bills to the Floor, bypassing committees, and limiting amendments. This is not how the legislative process should work, and I recently joined my colleagues in the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus in writing to House leadership urging a return to regular order. Doing so will make for a higher functioning representative government that truly works for the American people. To read the letter, click here.
This week, President Biden launched a commission to study expanding the Supreme Court and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler introduced legislation to increase the number of Justices from 9 to 13. This is ridiculous and packing the Supreme Court simply because one party doesn’t like the current makeup or is seeking revenge for past appointments is as reckless as it gets. This would set a wildly dangerous precedent and be detrimental to the American Justice System. Democrats are showing their willingness to dismantle our institutions simply to consolidate power. Throughout modern history, the idea of packing the court has been viewed as nonsensical even by prominent members of the Democrat Party and the High Court’s most liberal Justices. Hopefully, the House Majority will listen to the words of those that came before them.
• When President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose portrait is prominently displayed above the fireplace in President Biden’s Oval Office, attempted to pack the Supreme Court to push his political agenda, Democrats in 1937 argued this plan should be so “emphatically rejected that its parallel will never again be presented”.
• Then-Senator Joe Biden warned in 1983 that court-packing could “put in question, if for an entire decade, the independence of the most significant body…in this country, the Supreme Court of the United States of America.”
• Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said: “There are some people on the Democratic side who would like to increase the number of judges. I think that was a bad idea…if anything would make the court appear partisan.”
• Justice Steven Breyer said recently: “Structural alteration [to the Court] motivated by the perception of political influence can only feed that perception, further eroding that trust.”
Fighting for Small Businesses:
This week, I was pleased that the House considered a number of pieces of legislation to aid small businesses. Far too many mom and pop shops have been forced to close their doors this past year, and Congress continues to work to assist those in need. I am hopeful that the legislation listed below, all of which I voted in favor of and passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support, will serve as lifelines to the small business community and help them keep their doors open as many still face hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
• H.R. 1502 – Microloan Improvement Act of 2021 – H.R. 1502 builds on the strengths of the Microloan Program by introducing flexibility and more features for small dollar borrowers to utilize as they move through the Microloan lending process.
• H.R. 1487 – Microloan Transparency and Accountability Act of 2021 – H.R 1487 requires the SBA to perform an annual portfolio risk analysis of the Microloan Program to examine defaults and charge-off rates to ensure taxpayer money is safeguarded.
• H.R. 1490 – 504 Modernization and Small Manufacturer Enhancement Act of 2021 – H.R. 1490 modernizes the 504/CDC (Certified Development Company) Loan Program and enhances how the program assists small manufacturers by increasing the loan amount and resource availability. The legislation also streamlines the complicated 504 Loan Program closing process for small businesses.
• H.R. 1482 – 504 Credit Risk Management Improvement Act of 2021 – The 504 Credit Risk Management Improvement Act strengthens the oversight capabilities of the SBA as it pertains to the 504 Loan Program.
Congressional Art Competition:
This week, my office announced its participation in the 2021 Congressional Art Competition. The Congressional Art Competition is sponsored by the Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and is an opportunity to recognize and encourage the artistic talent in the Sixth Congressional District of Virginia. The competition is open to all high school students in the District and the winning artwork will be displayed for one year in the U.S. Capitol alongside other pieces from across the country. For more information including rules, deadlines, and submission requirements, visit my website here. Emily McClung of Lexington was the Sixth District’s 2020 winner, and her painting “Lemonade,” featured below, currently hangs in the U.S. Capitol.
As of April 17, 2021, Virginia has had 644,828 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 10,564. Further, according to the VDH’s COVID-19 vaccine data dashboard, as of April 17th, 3,345,853 people have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 2,059,882 people are fully vaccinated.
US Senator Mark Warner gives area update on American Rescue Plan
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.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – April 3, 2021
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.
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.
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:
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.
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
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – March 29, 2021
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Warner & Blunt introduce legislation to amend legislative error, protect rural health clinics
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.
Warner presses IRS to fix problems delaying relief checks
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.