Chesapeake Bay Program pushes forward

Governor Ralph Northam and the other members of the Chesapeake Executive Council met yesterday to sign a directive for the Chesapeake Bay Program.

The meeting served to address the threat of climate change and how it affects the Bay.

Governor Northam is proud of the actions taken so far.

Over $700 million dollars has already been invested in the Chesapeake Bay which has shown positive impacts.

A clean bay can generate more than $22 billion dollars each year from improved fishing, increased property value, and reduced water filtration costs.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

Governor Northam Announces New Grant Program Supporting Local Food and Farming Infrastructure

A new grant program was designed to support local food systems for small-scale agricultural producers, farmers markets, and food hubs. It is a new component of the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund.

Applications for these grants can be submitted October 1st through November 15th . Final award announcements will be made no later than December 31, 2021.

Full Press Release Available

Northam order aims to speed up complex unemployment cases

extended benefits program

By Associated Press | Published May 19, 2021 7:10 a.m.

By SARAH RANKIN

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Following months of complaints from laid-off workers, Gov. Ralph Northam said Tuesday he was taking steps to expand the Virginia Employment Commission’s ability to process complex unemployment claims.

While data show Virginia has done quite well in quickly processing simple unemployment benefits for eligible individuals as applications surged amid the pandemic, the state has recently been dead last for timely processing of certain claims that require additional adjudication.

In a directive signed Tuesday, Northam wrote that “we must do more to ensure that Virginians’ unemployment benefit claims are resolved in a timely manner and that those who are eligible for benefits receive them quickly. VEC must have access to and mobilize additional staff and funding to carry out this critical role.”

The order directs the commission to increase the number of adjudications being processed per week from 5,700 to 10,000 by June 30, and to 20,000 by July 31.

In a news release, Northam’s office said that would be done in part by finalizing a $5 million contract for over 300 additional adjudication officers. The directive also tells the commission to work with the state’s human resources agency to identify non-VEC state workers who can temporarily assist.

It further orders the commission, which uses a 41-year-old benefits system, to complete a modernization project to launch a new system by October. And it directs the agency to hire staff and upgrade and enhance technology to improve call wait times.

Complaints from Virginians unable to get through to customer service call centers in a timely way — or at all — have been widespread over the past year.

The governor’s announcement came on the same day a judge was holding mediation talks in a federal lawsuit filed last month over the processing delays.

The lawsuit alleged the commission had violated the rights of Virginians who had either applied for benefits and gotten no response or who had their benefits abruptly halted and faced lengthy delays in having their case adjudicated.

Jeff Jones, a spokesman for the Legal Aid Justice Center, one of the firms representing the plaintiffs, said the parties had reached an agreement Tuesday, which the judge still must approve. If approved, he said the judge was expected to enter an order later in the week that would put the lawsuit on hold while the commission worked to meet the order’s terms.

“This is a really good step in the right direction,” he said.

Megan Healy, Northam’s chief workforce development advisor, said that while the legal process remained underway, the administration was hopeful for a positive outcome.

Asked if the changes Tuesday’s directive will implement had come quickly enough, Healy emphasized the enormous challenge the past year had presented, with both a surge in applications for benefits and a slew of new federal programs to implement. She said the directive had been in the works for a couple of weeks.

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

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Gov. Northam allocates $6.3 million for 15 projects

emergency funding for homeless

Gov. Northam announced an allocation of more than $6.3 million in Growth and Opportunity for Virginia grants.

The monies will help the Commonwealth continue addressing the economic impact of the pandemic.

The funding is set to support 15 projects in the state.

Those projects include $821,000 to be shared by Frederick, Shenandoah, Warren and Rockingham Counties to advance 6 sites for new or expanding businesses.

Over $60,000 will be shared between Page with the cities of Harrisonburg and Roanoke to support farmers, local producers and distributors impacted by COVID-19.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.