VA. earmarks funds for safety and crime prevention

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Gov. Northam announced that Virginia plans to direct more than $114 million in federal and state funding to support public safety initiatives.

The funding will be state wide and help in addressing many issues from hazard pay to victims of crimes.

The plan includes $62 million in hazard pay and compensation for public safety officials.

$35 million are earmarked for addressing COVID 19 concerns in correctional facilities.

$17 million will go toward crime reduction and prevention programs as well as services for victims of crimes.

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Gov. Norhtam on latest COVID-19 recommendations

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Gov. Northam made an announcement on the latest recommendations on COVID-19 in Virginia.

The governor recommends that Virginians follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

Suggesting that all Virginians should consider wearing a mask at indoor settings where spacing is not possible.

However the governor will not make mask wearing a mandate at this time.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) still recommends getting the vaccination to decrease the risk of getting the COVID-19 Variant.

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Northam’s budget covers water projects, unemployment fund

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By SARAH RANKIN

By Associated Press | Published Jul. 28, 2021 11:45 a.m.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam introduced two more spending proposals Tuesday for the state’s $4.3 billion share of federal coronavirus relief money, calling for investments in clean water projects and over $860 million to replenish the fund that pays unemployment benefits.

The Democratic governor has been incrementally rolling out his spending plans ahead of the special legislative session that begins next week, when lawmakers will vote on how to allocate the money from the American Rescue Plan.

While the governor’s budget proposals are typically a starting point for lawmakers who then make extensive changes, these spending plans have been crafted in collaboration with legislators and budget committee staff, according to Northam’s chief of staff, Clark Mercer. Each announcement has been accompanied by statements of support from key Democratic lawmakers who control both the House and Senate.

Republicans, meanwhile, criticized Democrats’ approach to budgeting the enormous influx of taxpayer money as lacking in transparency.

On Tuesday, the governor outlined two proposed tranches of spending, calling first for a $411.5 million investment in various projects to reduce water pollution and improve drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure.

The proposal includes $186.5 million for wastewater treatment and nutrient removal, $125 million for combined sewer overflow projects in Richmond, Alexandria, and Lynchburg, and $100 million to assist water systems in small and disadvantaged communities, Northam’s office said in a news release.

Combined sewer overflows, often called CSOs, occur in systems with one pipe to convey both sewage and rainwater runoff. During periods of heavy rain, the system often can’t handle the volume, leading to the release of untreated water. Alexandria’s problem in particular has been the subject of partisan fights in the General Assembly.

The governor also outlined plans to direct nearly $1 billion to both replenish the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund and speed up modernization efforts at the Virginia Employment Commission, which has struggled to keep up with a surge in applications due to the pandemic.

Under the proposal, $862 million would go to the trust fund, which pays benefits for laid-off workers and is financed through taxes paid by employers, who have been staring down the prospect of a steep increase.

Nicole Riley, Virginia’s state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said the group’s members appreciated the large sum but that it wouldn’t fully restore the fund to pre-pandemic levels.

For the employment commission, Northam’s spending plan includes $37.4 million to boost call center capacity, $29.8 million to upgrade technology, nearly $4.6 million to hire additional adjudication officers, and $1.8 million for personnel support, according to the news release.

Republican House leaders criticized Democrats on Tuesday, saying they were blocking bipartisan discussion about how the money should be used. They shared a memo sent earlier this month by Del. Luke Torian, chair of the House appropriations committee, that said neither chamber’s money committees would be accepting any member amendment requests to the governor’s introduced bill.

“Democrats don’t want to engage in a transparent legislative process that lets all 100 members of the House of Delegates have a say in how tax dollars are spent; they are making backroom deals and in doing so are excluding all of Virginia’s citizens from the process,” GOP House Whip Jay Leftwich of Chesapeake said.

Northam has previously laid out plans for investing $250 million of the state’s funding in projects that will improve air quality in public schools, $700 million in expanding broadband infrastructure and $353 million in relief for small businesses and hard-hit industries like tourism. Additional announcements were expected later in the week.

Lawmakers also will be filling judicial vacancies during the special session.

(All contents © copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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VA. offers funding to improve public school ventilation

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Virginia plans to invest $500 million to improve ventilation and air quality in public schools.

Gov. Northam made the announcement at Hopewell High School with the plan securing funding to complete all HVAC projects planned.

The Commonwealth will allocate $250 million in Federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding for necessary ventilation upgrades.

The upgrades will help decrease airborne illnesses including COVID-19.

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Virginia doctor faces child porn-related charges

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By Associated Press | Published Jul. 26, 2021 7:25 a.m.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — A doctor at the University of Virginia has been arrested and accused of possessing child pornography, according to Charlottesville police and local news outlets.

A cyber-tip led to the arrest of David Lapides of Charlottesville, the city’s police department said in a news release Saturday.

Lapides is charged with two counts of possession of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography with the intent to distribute. He was in custody at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Jail, police said.

Local news outlets report Lapides, 37, is a neurologist at the university’s medical center. He’s currently on administrative leave, a spokesman told The Daily Progress.

Online court records show Lapides has a bond hearing scheduled for Friday morning. Attempts by The Associated Press to reach a defense attorney listed for Lapides were not immediately successful.

(All contents © copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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Body found, believed to be that of missing Virginia woman

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By Associated Press | Published Jul. 24, 2021 7:15 a.m.

LURAY, Va. (AP) — A body believed to be that of a missing Virginia woman has been found in the Shenandoah National Park, officials said Saturday.

Based on the preliminary identification of the remains, the search for Julia Christine Devlin has been suspended, the park said in a news release.

Devlin, a 55-year-old University of Virginia economics department lecturer, was last seen in Charlottesville on July 14, news outlets reported.

Security footage showed Devlin’s car entering the park late that Wednesday, park officials have said. Her sedan was found wrecked and abandoned July 17 on Skyline Drive in the southern part of the park.

Canine teams and officials with the FBI, Albemarle County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia Department of Emergency Management assisted in the search effort, along with many search-and-rescue groups, according to Saturday’s news release.

The body was found around 10 a.m. in “extremely steep and rough terrain in the southernmost part of the park,” the news release said. It was being transported to a medical examiner, who will confirm the identity and determine the cause of death.

Authorities didn’t say whether foul play was suspected in the death or where exactly the body was found in relation to the wrecked vehicle.

(All contents © copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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School Required vaccines

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Virginia is adding to it’s list of required vaccines for the upcoming school year. Students entering kindergarten, 7th, and 12th grade.

Kindergarten age children must have 2 doses of the Hepatitis A vaccine while 7th and 12th grade students must have had their first dose of the Meningitis B vaccine. If your 12th grader has already had one Meningitis B vaccine they must have another one after they turn 16.

For more information on vaccine requirements visit https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/immunization/requirements/

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Gov. Northam Announces Extension of Expanded Child Care Subsidy

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Virginia Governor Ralph Northam – July

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia families with young children will have improved access to quality, affordable child care through an extension of the expanded Child Care Subsidy Program.

Earlier this year, Governor Northam signed House Bill 2206, sponsored by Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, which established a new short-term eligibility category for parents seeking financial assistance for child care while looking for employment and temporarily increased the income eligibility criteria through July 31, 2021.

The Governor has directed the Virginia Department of Education to use existing federal funding to continue covering co-payments for families through December 31, 2021.

Families can apply and learn more at www.ChildCareVA.com

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Northam urges but won’t require continued masking in schools

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By SARAH RANKIN

By Associated Press | Published July 22, 2021 10:13 a.m.

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration issued new guidance Wednesday on COVID-19 prevention measures for the upcoming school year, urging but not requiring continued masking in many circumstances.

With a statewide public health order that had mandated masking in schools coming to an end Sunday, school divisions will have the ability to implement local policies “based on community level conditions and public health recommendations,” the Democratic administration said in a news release.

The departments of health and education released a 14-page document with advice about reducing the spread of the coronavirus, addressing issues like ventilation and physical distancing, in addition to masking.ADVERTISEMENT

The recommendations urge school divisions for now to adopt a universal masking policy for students and adults in elementary schools, regardless of vaccination status, because no vaccine has been approved yet for children under 12.

For middle and high schools, the state guidance says that “at a minimum” teachers, students and staff who aren’t fully vaccinated should wear masks indoors.

The guidance provides flexibility for school divisions while ensuring a safe and healthy environment, Northam said in a statement, which also encouraged Virginians to get vaccinated if they have not already.

“Getting your shot will protect you, your family, and your community — and it is the only way we can beat this pandemic once and for all,” said Northam, the nation’s only doctor-governor.

House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert said in a statement that the new guidance amounted to a “cruel” requirement for young children, who are far less likely than adults to get seriously ill from COVID-19. He also said the guidance “passes the buck to local school divisions, will spark mass confusion, and will make it more difficult as our students return to the classroom this fall.”

Meanwhile the Virginia Education Association, a union of teachers and school staff, called on school divisions to implement universal masking to help stop the spread of the virus.

Northam lifted the state’s indoor mask mandate in May, in line with guidance at the time from the federal government. But he said at the time that masks would still be required in K-12 public schools, given low rates of vaccination among children. The public health order from the state’s health commissioner on June 30 extended the mask mandate further.

Across the country, schools districts are navigating polarizing mask requirements, vaccine rules and social distancing in widely divergent ways.

The American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday recommended universal masking in schools, even for those who are vaccinated. That’s a different approach than that urged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which earlier this month recommended mask-wearing indoors only for students and staff who are not fully vaccinated.

Northam said the state’s guidance considered both sets of recommendations.

School divisions should “consult with their counsel in determining if and how to confirm student and staff COVID-19 vaccinations,” the news release said.

All of Virginia’s school divisions are required to provide in-person instruction for the 2021-2022 school year under a measure lawmakers passed earlier this year.

Wednesday’s guidance urges school divisions to implement physical distancing of at least 3 feet to the greatest extent possible but says districts should not reduce in-person learning to keep a minimum distance requirement.

Also Wednesday, more than two dozen Virginia health care organizations issued a joint statement urging Virginians who have not already gotten vaccinated to do so. It noted rising case counts and hospitalizations.

“Being vaccinated against COVID-19 represents a path to a healthier post-pandemic world by offering the best available protection for people against serious illness, the spread of infection, hospitalization, or worse health outcomes,” the statement from groups including the Medical Society of Virginia and Virginia Nurses Association said. “Getting vaccinated offers protection to those who have been inoculated as well as the people around them in their personal and professional lives.”

About 64% of the adult population in Virginia has been fully vaccinated, according to state dataCase counts have been steadily increasing for about a month but are nowhere near the levels seen during the winter surge.

(All contents © copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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VA. ends the fiscal year with historic surplus

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The state of Virginia reached the end of the fiscal year 2021 with a historic $2.6 billion surplus.

That is the largest surplus in the Commonwealth’s history.

All major general fund revenue sources exceeded their forecasts for the fiscal year.

The Secretary of Finance Joe Flores said they expected a strong performance and this surplus is stronger than initially anticipated.

Showing that Virginia’s underlying economic foundation is strong.

The state will release final figures for the fiscal year on Aug. 18.

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