My colleagues in Virginia’s House of Delegates and the Senate have passed an amended budget allocating the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) emergency relief funding to Virginia.
Following the passage of the amended budget, the Democratic House Caucus made a formal announcement, covering how Virginia’s 2021 Special Session II concluded on Aug. 10, with the House Democrats keeping their promises on how they would allocate federal American Rescue Plan funding.
Myself and fellow members of House Democratic Caucus advocated successfully for the following funding:
- Broadband expansion: Over $700 million in funding to expedite the deployment of last-mile broadband infrastructure to unserved areas and close the digital divide within the next three years.
- Small businesses: $250 million to fully fund the Rebuild VA program, to reinvest in our economy and take strides to build a better Virginia in the aftermath of the pandemic.
- Virginia Employment Commission: $862 million added to the Unemployment Trust Fund, with another $73.6 million is being allocated to update and modernize VEC systems to improve claimant services.
- Public school infrastructure: $250 million to upgrade our public schools’ infrastructure by enhancing their HVAC systems. This will address ventilation needs and ensure improved air quality so our children only have to focus on learning in their classrooms.
- Public health systems: This funding will go toward making sure our medical infrastructure is up to date and as safe as possible. $238 million is being allocated for substance abuse and mental health systems, and $280.8 million will go toward public health initiatives.
- Clean water: $411.5 million to fortify wastewater treatment infrastructure, provide funds for homeowners who live below the poverty line to improve their wells and septic systems, and increase access to drinkable water in every corner of the Commonwealth.
- Financial aid for higher education: $111 million to provide aid for students who might not have been able to afford higher education otherwise.
In addition, we continued to support voting rights during the Special Session, where we assigned $3 million to assist localities with the expansion of early voting, including Sunday voting, and $1.5 million to combat election misinformation. HB 7001 also left approximately $1.1 billion available if needed for the Commonwealth to manage another Covid-19 resurgence.
The House of Delegates and Senate also reached an agreement to confirm eight candidates nominated for certification and election to the Virginia Court of Appeals. With cooperation between both chambers and in-depth review and vetting of all the candidates, this historic agreement will diversify the Court to more adequately reflect the makeup of our Commonwealth of Virginia. The nominees also reflect the diversity of our Commonwealth.
I stand with Majority Leader Charniele Herring’s statement regarding the judicial appointments:
“This is an historic vote. The General Assembly has elected eight impressively qualified candidates to the Court of Appeals of Virginia. This will be the most diverse bench in the history of this Court. I am proud of this step toward making our legal system more equitable and accessible.”
The agreed-upon list of confirmed justices includes:
- Dominique A. Callins of Front Royal;
- Doris H. Causey of Henrico;
- Vernida R. Chaney of Alexandria;
- Frank K. Friedman of Roanoke;
- Junius P. Fulton of Norfolk;
- Lisa M. Lorish of Charlottesville;
- Daniel E. Ortiz of Fairfax;
- Stuart A. Raphael of Arlington