National Commentary

Senator Dick Saslaw’s Richmond Report

Virginia and the nation are at a critical point of the pandemic recovery. With sound leadership and major investments in our country, President Biden is turning this around. The American Jobs Act is another positive step toward moving forward, retooling the workforce and investing in much needed infrastructure. It is a bold plan to make long-term improvements in our water systems, retrofitting homes, building out broadband, and modernizing the electric grid. Alongside this initiative is The American Families Plan, which will bring opportunity and support for children and working families. These programs address the middle class need to re-enter the workforce as well as have the skills and funds necessary to Build Back Better.

Closer to home, I am pleased to share that approximately 200,000 Virginians finally received a well-deserved raise, as the Commonwealth’s minimum wage increased on May 1 from $7.25 per hour to $9.50 per hour. This marked the first increase in the minimum wage in Virginia since 2009. Thousands of other Virginians will also see their wages increase as employers adjust their wage scales to reflect the increase at the lowest level. I commend my fellow legislators who supported the bill I championed (SB 7) in 2020 to give working-class Virginians a raise. The minimum wage will increase to $11.00 per hour in January 2022 and $12.00 in January 2023.

Just in time for the warmer weather, the CDC recently revised its mask guidance for fully vaccinated Americans in outdoor locations. Fully vaccinated people can now go without a mask at small outdoor gatherings or when socializing outside with friends from different households. This is one of the first of many expected benefits for vaccinated individuals looking to return to normal life.

While overall vaccination rates continue to climb, many individuals have unfortunately elected to skip the crucial second dose. The second dose of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines offer extensively more durability and protection against getting seriously ill from Covid-19. It is also unclear whether people skipping the second dose may prevent the country from eventually reaching “herd immunity.” Virginia is in Phase 2 affording everyone ages 16 and older to receive the vaccine. Let’s keep up the progress and stomp out Covid-19.

Effective May 15, the maximum number of individuals permitted at a social gathering will increase to 100 people for indoor settings and 250 people for outdoor settings. Indoor entertainment and public amusement venues will be able to operate at the lesser of 50 percent capacity or 1,000 people and outdoor venues will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity, with no specific cap on the number of attendees. Additionally, “last call” at bars and restaurants will shift from midnight to the old normal of 2 a.m. Working from home may be reconsidered as businesses continue to review their staffing needs and work deliverables.

A reminder that the Virginia Democratic Primary is fast approaching on June 8. Monday, May 17 is the deadline to register to vote in this primary. Absentee and early voting is underway across the Commonwealth. Absentee voters no longer need a witness signature for their ballot. In Falls Church, registered voters can vote early in-person at the Office of Elections in City Hall (300 Park Ave.) on weekdays from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. until Friday, June 4 (except on Monday, May 28 due to Memorial Day), and on Saturday, June 5 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

I am supporting Terry McAuliffe for Governor. Having served in the Senate when Mr. McAuliffe was previously governor, I know firsthand the skillset he brings to the office. His vision and decisive leadership are what we need to “Build Back Better” post pandemic. Mark Herring has been one of the strongest attorney generals we have seen in decades. He has the experience and remains dedicated to the job that makes the Commonwealth fair and just.
Please continue to stay safe and let’s close the chapter on Covid 19.