July 2020

  1. Memorial Service for Dianne T. Mitchell Saturday

    A memorial service for Dianne T. Mitchell, formerly of Emporia, will be conducted at Monumental United Methodist Church in Emporia on Saturday, August 1, at 2 p.m. A subsequent service on will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina the following Saturday, August 8, also at 2 p.m.

     

    Persons wishing to pay their respects are invited to attend either or both of the services. Face masks must be worn by all persons entering the site of the services. Also, in Emporia, a brief health questionnaire must be completed, signed, and submitted before being allowed inside.

     

    The Health Qustionnaire may be downloaded for printing here.

  2. Christian Lee Brock

    January 14, 1989 - July 26, 2020

    Visitation Graveside Services

    Sunday, August 2, 2020, from 4:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M.

    Echols Funeral Home
    806 Brunswick Avenue
    Emporia, Virginia

    Monday, August 3, 2020, 11:00 A.M.

    Forrest Hill Baptist Church
    2103 Pine Log Road

    Skippers, Virginia

    Christian Brock Lee aka (Tubbz) 31, passed away suddenly on July 26, 2020. He was preceded in death by his paternal grandfather, Bernard Spades Lee; Maternal grandfather, Marvin Gay; and his aunt Frances Mountjoy.

    He is survived by his paternal grandmother, Doris H. Lee of Garysburg, NC., maternal grandmother, Irene Bass of Emporia, VA., mother, Marie Lee of Garysburg, NC., father, Larry M. Lee of Petersburg, VA., sister, Alicia Lee Reeves (Steven) of Skippers, VA., nephews, Holden B. Lee, Dakota Lee, along with several aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.

    The family will receive friends at Echols Funeral Home, Sunday, August 2, 2020, from 4:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M.

    A graveside service will be held on Monday, August 3, 2020, 11:00 A.M., at Forrest Hill Baptist Church, with Rev. Rick Ragan and Rev. Brad Barbour officiating.

    Online condolences may be made to www.echolsfuneralhome.com

  3. Residents Learn About God Through Hands-On Project

     

    The Rev. Dr. Robin Moore, chaplain at Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services, is continually developing creative ways to teach residents about God.

    For some kids, “church” has a negative connotation, reminiscent of stiff pews and seemingly endless monotone sermons. Dr. Moore shows our residents daily that there is so much more to spirituality than that. Most recently, she involved residents in a project to prune the 30 crape myrtle trees around the campus.

    This project allowed them to learn about the physical concept of pruning as well as encouraging them to contemplate spiritual pruning. It also gave Dr. Moore an opportunity to interact and develop a relationship with residents that she otherwise would not see.

    The pruning project was a way for the residents to approach discussions of God and spirituality in a non-intimidating manner. In addition, through this project, residents gained a sense of self efficacy in taking care of not only themselves and their own spirituality, but also our campus, their temporary home.

    Our facility is unique in that we focus on helping residents not only in a psychiatric setting, but also in every other aspect of their lives. Each child is seen as more than just their illness or trauma, and at Jackson-Feild, they are given the tools to manage their trauma and mental illness in a well-rounded way.

    Through this endeavor in particular, residents learned how a physical activity like pruning trees can also translate to a spiritual awakening. Thanks to Dr. Moore, our residents have a more beautiful campus and are building stronger relationships with God.

     

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  4. Benchmark Bankshares, Inc. Reports Earnings for Three and Six Months Ended June 30, 2020

    KENBRIDGE, VA – Benchmark Bankshares, Inc. (BMBN), the Kenbridge-based hold­ing company for Benchmark Community Bank, announced unaudited results for the three- and six-month periods ending June 30, 2020.  Net income for the second quarter amounted to $2,533,893, a 5.3% increase from the $2,406,449 posted for the second quarter of 2019, while earnings per share increased from $0.48 to $0.57 for the period.  Net income for the first six months of the year amounted to $4,644,879, up 3.1% from the $4,506,033 earned last year, while earnings per share increased from $0.91 to $1.03.

     

    Notable Items:

     

    • Net interest income increased by 4.1%, from $14.7 million to $14.8 million, when comparing the first six months of 2020 to the same period last year.
     
    • Noninterest income increased from $3.2 million to $3.7 million as the bank’s mortgage demand and financial services business remained strong.
     
    • The bank has made 923 loans, totaling $45.5 million, under the Paycheck Protection Program as of June 30, 2020. These loans carry a required interest rate of 1.00%, which will also put downward pressure on net interest margin; however, fees earned from these loans will provide additional income during 2020 and beyond as these loans are paid off or forgiven by the SBA.
     
    • A total of $471,596 was provisioned to the loan loss reserve during the first six months of 2020, compared to a provision of $499,811 during the same period last year. The allowance for loan losses as a percentage of net loans was 0.90% at June 30, 2020 compared to 1.04% last June.
     
    • Interest expense on borrowings, used to support the company’s stock repurchase program, amounted to $147,247 year-to-date. No expense was recognized last year during the same period.
     
    • A total of 58,774 common shares have been repurchased year-to-date at an average price of $16.72 per share.  A total of 426,774 shares were repurchased at an average price of $19.97 during the first six months of 2019. Total shares outstanding as of June 30, 2020 were 4,463,318.
     

    As of June 30, 2020, total assets were $790.8 million, an increase of $88.5 million, or 13.4%, over the June 30, 2019 balance of $702.3 million. Over the past twelve months, total loans have increased by $85.7 million, or 16.1%, while total deposits have increased by $83.5 million, or 13.4%. Shareholders’ equity, net of unrealized gains on investment securities, was $70.2 million at June 30, 2020, an increase of $3.9 million, or 5.9%, over the June 30, 2019 balance of $66.2 million. All capital ratios exceeded regulatory guidelines for a well-capitalized financial institution under the Basel III regulatory requirements at June 30, 2020.

     

    Key Financial Ratios:

     

    • Return on average equity (ROAE) increased from 12.49% to 13.19% and Return on average assets (ROAA) decreased from 1.33% to 1.27% year to date.

     

    • Yield on loans decreased from 5.58% to 5.42%.

     

    • The bank’s cost of funds decreased from 0.60% to 0.54%.

     

    • Net interest margin has declined from 4.55% to 4.40%.

     

    • Current book value of the company is $16.01 per share compared to $14.51 one year ago.

     

    The common stock of Benchmark Bankshares, Inc. trades on the OTC Pink marketplace under the symbol BMBN. Any stockbroker can assist with purchases of the company's stock, as well as with sales of holdings.

     

    Benchmark Community Bank, founded in 1971, is head­quartered in Kenbridge, VA. It is the company's sole subsidiary which oper­ates seventeen banking offices through­out central Southside

    Vir­ginia and northern North Carolina. Additional information is available at the company’s website, www.BCBonline.com.

     

  5. McEachin Votes to Support Working Families and Stabilize Child Care During COVID-19 Crisis

     

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) today issued the following statement on his votes in favor of the Childcare is Essential Act and Childcare for Economic Recovery Act, legislation to stabilize the child care sector and provide support for working families and providers looking to safely reopen and operate.

    "Reliable, safe and available child care is essential for working families, including the frontline workers who are keeping our communities safe and healthy during this pandemic," said Congressman McEachin. "Sadly, our child care system is struggling – decreased revenue, alongside increased expenses associated with necessary safety measures such as social distancing, masks and disinfection regimens, have caused too many to close their doors. Today, I was very pleased to vote for two urgently-needed bills to provide child care relief for families and providers across our country. The Child Care is Essential Act and the Child Care for Economic Recovery Act ensure that all families have access to child care today and in the future."

  6. Ola Mae Parks Draper

    Graveside Services

    1:00 a.m. Thursday, July 30, 2020

    Warfield Baptist Church
    7318 Flat Rock Road
    Warfield, VA

    Ola Mae Parks Draper died on July 27, 2020 at the age of 91. Mae is survived by her children, Brenda Byrum (Joe) of Margarettesville, NC, Donna Newsome (Glenn) of Huntington, WV, and Calvin Draper (Betsy) of Emporia, VA, ten grandchildren, sixteen great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild. A graveside service will be held at 11:00 a.m. Thursday, July 30, 2020 at Warfield Baptist Church in Warfield, VA. Condolences may be expressed at www.williamsfuneralhomeva.com.

  7. Governor Northam Announces $644.6 Million in Federal Coronavirus Relief Fund Dollars Distributed to Local Governments

    Second round of payments completes allocation of funding Virginia received under federal CARES Act, provides a total of $1.3 billion to localities

    RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that the Commonwealth will distribute $644.6 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding to local governments in its second and final round of allocations. These payments represent the remaining 50 percent of local allocations and do not include $200.2 million that Fairfax County received directly from the federal government. The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) established the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) to provide funding to states and eligible units of local government navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Virginia received approximately $3.1 billion as its share of the $150 billion CRF. While the CARES Act does not require that states distribute funding to local governments with populations less than 500,000, the Governor recognizes that cities and counties of all sizes have expenses related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and directed these federal dollars to localities.

    “Virginia was one of the first states to provide such a large share of its federal aid directly to local governments,” said Governor Northam. “We are committed to making sure localities of all sizes get the assistance they need to respond to COVID-19 and keep Virginians safe during these unprecedented times.”

    Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne sent a memorandum to cities and counties in Virginia on May 12, 2020 outlining the distribution of the first round of allocations to local governments, totaling $644.6 million. Once the second and final round of payments are disbursed, the Governor will have distributed 100 percent of the local allocations the Commonwealth received under the CARES Act, providing a total of $1.3 billion to localities.

    “Local governments are responsible for spending the money they receive, and we need them to step up and make sure that these federal dollars are going to the right places,” said Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne. “Localities must be able to demonstrate to taxpayers that they are spending these funds wisely.”

    Similar to the first round, the second round of funding will be allotted proportionally based on population. Consequently, the second round of allocations will be equivalent to the amount each locality received in the first round on June 1, 2020. The Secretary of Finance issued an updated memorandum to cities and counties regarding the second and final allocation of federal CRF dollars. The updated memorandum, which includes the distributions by locality, is available here.

    To receive the second allocation, localities must submit a new certification form and complete an online survey regarding the use of their CRF dollars. After these two documents are completed and submitted, the Department of Accounts will initiate the transfer of funds to the local Treasurer. Localities can expect to receive the transfer from the State Comptroller within five business days following confirmation of receipt of the completed documents.

    The CARES Act requires that CRF dollars only be used to cover costs that (1) are necessary expenditures incurred due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, (2) were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 (the date of enactment of the CARES Act) for the state or government; and (3) were incurred during the period of March 1, 2020 and December 30, 2020.

    Current federal rules prohibit state and local governments from using the CRF to replace lost revenues and address significant budget shortfalls. State and local government officials have requested that this restriction be lifted in future stimulus packages, or that additional federal funds are provided to address the loss of state and local revenue.

    The Governor previously announced $246 million to support the state’s response to COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, including $205 million in federal CARES Act funds. Governor Northam also allocated an initial $50 million to launch the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program and help Virginians who are unable to pay their rent or mortgage due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Virginia also recently unveiled a $70 million economic recovery fund to assist small businesses and nonprofit organizations whose normal operations were disrupted by the ongoing health crisis.

    The Commonwealth has distributed more than $600 million to K-12 schools and higher education institutions and $70 million to assist child care facilities in providing services for essential personnel. Virginia also allocated $85 million in CARES Act funding to support child nutrition programs, and $219 million for the Pandemic EBT program through the Department of Social Services.

     

  8. Important Information About Reaching Social Security During the COVID-19 Pandemic

     

    By Jacqueline Weisgarber, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Richmond, VirginiaDuring the current coronavirus pandemic, we continue to provide help to you and other people in your communities.  While our offices are not providing service to walk-in visitors due to COVID-19, we remain ready and able to help you by phone with most Social Security business.  You can speak with a representative by calling your local Social Security office or our National 800 Number.  You can find local office phone numbers online by using our Social Security Office Locator at www.ssa.gov/locator

    We offer many secure and convenient online services at www.ssa.gov/onlineservices, where you can:

    • Apply for Retirement, Disability, and Medicare benefits;
    • Check the status of an application or appeal;
    • Request a replacement Social Security card (in most areas);
    • Print a benefit verification letter; and 
    • Much more.

    Although you can do most of your business with us online, we know that service channel isn’t right for everyone.  You can still count on us by phone.  If you have a critical situation and we cannot help you with by phone or online, we may be able to schedule an appointment for you.

    If you need help, please don’t wait until we can see you in person.  Call us now and get the help you need.  We also understand that getting medical and other documentation can be difficult due to the pandemic, so we are continuing to extend certain deadlines wherever possible.

  9. Governor Northam Signs Legislation to Ease Transitions for Military Families

    New laws improve expedited licensure process for military spouses

    RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today signed legislation to expedite the occupational and professional licensure process for military spouses during a special ceremony that kicked off the quarterly Virginia Military Advisory Council meeting.

    Joining the Governor at today’s event at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond were Blue Star Families CEO and Board President Kathy Roth-Douquet, Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Carlos Hopkins, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, State Senator David Suetterlein, Delegate Rodney Willett, and Delegate Carrie Coyner. Watch the video of today’s event here.

    “As an Army veteran and as a Virginian, I am committed to ensuring the Commonwealth continues to provide an environment where our veterans and military families can thrive,” said Governor Northam. “Complex rules about license equivalence and the portability of certifications too often result in the unemployment or underemployment of military spouses. This legislation will enable the spouses of the men and women who serve our country to maintain their professional licenses and continue their careers in Virginia with a streamlined and simple process.”

    Governor Northam was also joined by representatives of the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, and the Northern Virginia Regional Commission to sign a Regional Intergovernmental Support Agreement that will improve the delivery of resources to their military installations in Northern Virginia. The support agreement strengthens the partnership between the Department of Transportation, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, Marine Corps Installations National Capital Region – Marine Corps Base Quantico, and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall to find opportunities for the use of transportation goods and services throughout the Northern Virginia region.

    Virginia’s existing expedited application process for military spouses requires licensing boards to determine if a military spouse’s out-of-state license is equivalent within 20 days and issue an automatic one-year temporary license, affording the spouse the opportunity to begin finding employment immediately upon settling into their new communities. This legislation and process address the issue of portability of the professional and occupational licenses of military spouses.

    “Taking care of military families is of the utmost importance to us,” said Delegates Rodney Willett and Carrie Coyner, and Senator David Suetterlein. “We are grateful for the opportunity to assist our service members, their families, and for being able to improve upon Virginia’s existing professional and occupation licensure process. This legislation expands access to transitioning service members, our National Guardsmen, and all of the military spouses of our neighboring states and Washington, D.C.”    

    House Bill 967, sponsored by Delegate Rodney Willett and Senate Bill 981, sponsored by Senator David Suetterlein, improve Virginia’s expedited licensure process for the spouses of military service members assigned to installations and residing in the Commonwealth by:

    • Expanding access and eligibility to the spouses of service members in all surrounding jurisdictions;
    • Expanding access to the spouses of National Guardsmen who are active on federal orders to deploy oversees;
    • Expanding eligibility to the spouses of recently transitioned service members; and
    • Granting the Commonwealth’s licensing boards greater authority to determine a substantially equivalent license.
       

    “This enhanced process will help our military spouses find employment opportunities quicker and without the stress of worrying if their credentials will carry over to Virginia,” said Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Carlos L. Hopkins. “Implementing innovative ways to support our military families is one of the reasons Virginia continually ranks as one of the best states for service members, veterans, and their families.”

    “Military spouses were hobbled before COVID-19, and our research forecasts that military spouse unemployment and underemployment rates could climb upwards of 30 percent and 77 percent, respectively, as we emerge from this public health and economic crisis,” said Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO of Blue Star Families. “That’s why the expansion of Virginia’s expedited licensure policy is so key—it removes a critical barrier to military spouses working in the fields of their training. We are grateful to Governor Northam and the Virginia legislature for taking action on this important issue.” 

    According to the United States Department of Labor, more than 34 percent of all military spouses in the labor force require an occupational or professional license. The Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation and the Department of Health Professions administer the process of granting professional licenses for all professions regulated under Title 54.1 of the Code of Virginia. Additional information about the licensure process for military personnel and their spouses is available here.



  10. VIRGINIA STATE POLICE SEEKS PUBLIC INPUT FOR REACCREDITATION ASSESSMENT

    RICHMOND – The public will have an opportunity to offer comments regarding the Virginia State Police when a national accreditation team assesses the Department in August. The Virginia State Police is in the process of reaccreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA).

    “Accreditation provides both the Department and the public with quality assurance that the Virginia State Police is in step with today’s policing standards and practices,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “We welcome the CALEA assessment team and the public’s input concerning this process and our abilities to fulfill our mission to best serve and protect the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

    When the Virginia State Police achieved its initial accreditation from CALEA in 1986, the Department was only the second state law enforcement agency in the nation to receive this prestigious recognition.  Since then, the Virginia State Police has successfully maintained an accredited status. The reaccreditation process takes place every four years.

    The public is invited to share its comments with the CALEA site-based assessment team on Aug. 3, 2020, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. through a public information session on the Virginia State Police official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/VirginiaStatePolice.

    If for some reason an individual cannot participate during the public information session, but would still like to provide comments to the assessment team, he/she may do so by telephone or written correspondence.  The assessment team will be available to take phone calls Aug. 3, 2020, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. A toll-free telephone number has been established for those wishing to contact the team: 1-866-468-4903. Telephone comments during the public information session are limited to 10 minutes and must address the Department’s ability to comply with CALEA standards.

    Those wishing to offer written comments about the Department’s ability to meet reaccreditation standards are requested to write: Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc., 13575 Heathcote Boulevard, Suite 320, Gainesville, Virginia 20155 or email calea@calea.org with a subject line of, “VSP Public Comment.”

    The CALEA assessment team is comprised of the following law enforcement practitioners:  Mr. W. Dean Register, Director of the Criminal Justice Professionalism Division of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and Mr. Geoffrey Ice, (retired) of the Connecticut State Police.

    Through the review of written materials, and interviews, the assessors will examine the Department’s policy and procedures, administration, operations, and support services for compliance with CALEA standards. The assessment process ensures that the Department regularly reviews all aspects of its operations and is in compliance with law enforcement standards established by the Commission.

    A copy of the CALEA standards can be viewed by the public at the State Police Administrative Headquarters at 7700 Midlothian Turnpike in North Chesterfield County.  For those with additional questions, please contact Ms. Vanessa Casale, Virginia State Police Accreditation Manager, at 804-674-2005.

    CALEA was created in 1979 to develop a set of law enforcement standards and to establish and administer an accreditation process through which law enforcement agencies could demonstrate voluntarily that they meet professionally-recognized criteria for excellence in management and service delivery.

  11. Virginia State Police investigate a fatal accident that claimed the lives of three Emporia children.

    On July 23, 2020 at approximately 11:33 PM, the Virginia State Police Communications Center was notified of a motor vehicle crash which had the left lane blocked, of southbound I-95 at the 6 mile marker in Greensville County.

    Preliminary investigations reveal that Shaketa Denise Williams was traveling southbound in a 2013 Honda CRV when she was struck in the rearby a 2016 Dodge Ram. The impact of the crash caused the Honda to strike the guard rail and spin out of control, causing the Dodge Ram to lose control, overturning in the median.

    Ms. Williams suffered non-life threatening injuries, but two of the female passengers, ages 9 and 11 years old, died upon impact. A third 12 year old female was transported to Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center (SRMC) with life threatening injuries and later flown to Virginia Commonwealth University where she later succumbed to her injuries on the 25th of July.

    The driver of the Dodge Ram, Travis Benjamin Vigil, 49 YOA, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, suffered non-life threatening injuries and was transported to SRMC. 

    Alcohol was a contributing factor.

    Currently all charges are pending review with the Commonwealth Attorney, the investigation is on-going.

    Families of the deceased have been notified. Updated information of the investigation will be provided when it becomes available for release.

  12. Walter C. Whitehead, Sr.

    April 10, 1935 - July 26, 2020

    Graveside Services

    2 p.m. Wednesday, July 28 at

    Greensville Memorial Cemetery
    1250 Skippers Road
    Emporia, Virginia

     

    Mr. Walter C. Whitehead, Sr., 85, passed away on Sunday, July 26, 2020. He was preceded in death by a son, Wayne; sister, Linda and a brother, Bill.

    Mr. Whitehead is survived by his wife, Carolyn D. Whitehead; daughter, Betty Turner; (Cleveland) three sons, Cliff Whitehead (Carolyn), Bryan Whitehead (Lisa) and Anthony Whitehead (Sandra) nine grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; a sister, Audrey and a number of nieces and nephews.

    The funeral will be held graveside 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 28 at Greensville Memorial Cemetery. Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

  13. "Just Looking Back"

    I can still remember my school days
    and the routine I went through
    yet the resemblance to those days gone bye
    today they are but few,
     
    We used to wake up early
    for the breakfast mom would prepare
    she knew she didn't have to
    but she showed her loving care.
     
    Then we hurried up to get ready
    for the bus coming down the hill
    I never cared for busses then
    and probably never will.
     
    We made it to the school on time
    with a little time to spare
    yes then we sat in our assigned seats
    so the teacher knew we were there.
     
    At the end of the day when the bell did ring
    we made our plans for home
    now I had books and homework in my hands
    but I was not alone.
     
    Just as soon as I stepped off the bus
    I started on my chores to do
    for the most part there weren't many
    yet at times they added a few.
     
    In a short time we were called inside
    for the evening meal was prepared
    together by mother and father
    still showing us they cared.
     
    We all filled up rather quickly
    and left the table one by one
    there was no free time for fun and games
    until our homework all was done.
     
    Well nite time was upon us
    and another day ahead
    we said our prayers and got our hugs
    then all did go to bed.
     
    Now if this method was used today
    school problems could be solved
    hold back cell phones and video games
    and let the parents get involved!

     

                             - Roy E. Schepp
  14. WARNER BILL TO ADDRESS $1.1 BILLION IN MAINTENANCE NEEDS AT VIRGINIA NATIONAL PARKS HEADS TO PRESIDENT’S DESK

    ~  The Great American Outdoors Act could create 10,000 Virginia jobs and now heads to the President’s desk for signature ~

    WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) applauded the House passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill he championed that would address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at National Park Service (NPS) sites across the country and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). With the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this bipartisan bill will help create more than 100,000 jobs across the country and stimulate local economies that rely on outdoor tourism industry. In June, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan legislation and with today’s passage in the House of Representatives, the bill will now head to President Trump’s desk for his signature.

    “In passing the Great American Outdoors Act, the House has reaffirmed Congress’ bipartisan commitment to preserving America’s irreplaceable natural and historic resources for future generations. The House vote clears the final hurdle to getting this bill to the President’s desk, closing a years-long effort to address the mounting deferred maintenance costs that have accumulated at national parks across the Commonwealth and the country,” said Sen. Warner. “After the economic devastation we’ve seen come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is another tool in the toolbox to help stimulate our nation’s struggling economy and create up to 110,000 additional infrastructure-related jobs. I am grateful for all those who contributed to this process. I look forward to the President quickly signing this momentous legislation into law, which could create 10,000 new jobs in the Commonwealth, help preserve vital tourism for communities, and ensure that future generations of Americans will continue to experience and take advantage of America’s historical and natural treasures.”

    Congressional passage of the bill comes nearly three years after Sen. Warner’s initial effort to provide relief to national parks in Virginia, where the maintenance backlog currently sits at $1.1 billion dollars.

    In June, the National Park Service released a report that estimated that an average of 40,300 direct jobs and 100,100 direct and indirect jobs would be supported nationally by the Restore Our Parks Act if passed as part of the Great American Outdoors Act. In Virginia, it is estimated that 10,340 jobs would be created or supported as a result of Sen. Warner’s push to address the national parks backlog. 

    In addition, a recent NPS study highlighted the financial impact national parks sites have on Virginia’s economy. Last year, 22.8 million individuals from around the world visited national parks in Virginia, spending $1.2 billion. Additionally, national parks in Virginia helped support 17,300 jobs and contributed over $1.7 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy. Because of the economic impact national parks have on communities across the country, more than 800 organizations have pledged their support for the Great American Outdoors Act.

    Sen. Warner’s effort to address the maintenance backlog began in March 2017, when he worked with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to introduce the National Park Legacy Act, which would have eliminated the NPS maintenance backlog by creating a thirty-year designated fund to take care of maintenance needs at visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds, as well as transportation infrastructure operated by NPS such as the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Arlington Memorial Bridge. That same year, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced its own proposal, drawing heavily on the initial proposal from Sens. Warner and Portman. However, the Administration proposal – which was introduced in the Senate as the National Park Restoration Act by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME) – would not have established a dedicated funding stream for NPS maintenance.

    In March 2018, after extensive negotiations among Sens. Warner, Portman, Alexander, and King, the bipartisan group introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, a bipartisan consensus proposal endorsed by the Trump Administration, to invest in overdue maintenance needs at NPS sites. The bill would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and allocating existing revenues from onshore and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury, not exceeding $1.3 billion each year for the next five years. In February 2019, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Restore Our Parks Act and, the bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November.

    In March 2020, following the President’s announcement that he would back the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act as well as full and permanent funding for LWCF, Sen. Warner, along with Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Portman, King, Alexander, and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced the Great American Outdoors Act, which would provide $9.5 billion over five years to the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education to address the deferred maintenance backlog at these agencies. The legislation would also provide permanent, mandatory funding for the LWCF, which provides states and local communities with technical assistance, recognition, and funding to help preserve and protect public lands. Virginia has received approximately $368.5 million in LWCF funding over the past four decades to help protect dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails and more.

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  15. McEachin Applauds Passage of Great American Outdoors Act

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) today applauded bipartisan passage of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), legislation to address priority repairs in our national parks and other public lands, as well as establish permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Last month, the GAOA passed overwhelmingly in the U.S. Senate. The bill will now move to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

    “The COVID-19 crisis has shown us how critical our parks, trails, and public lands are to public health and local economies across our country,” said Congressman McEachin. “Today’s strong bipartisan vote on the Great American Outdoors Act is a significant win for conservation and will ensure that our public lands are preserved and accessible for Virginians and communities across our country for generations to come.”

    The bill, which includes Sen. Mark Warner’s (D-VA) Restore Our Parks Act, will address the $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog at National Park Service sites across the country, including more than $1.1 billion dollars in deferred maintenance affecting national parks within the Commonwealth of Virginia. 

    The passage of the GAOA follows the announcement this month of two recent land acquisitions funded by the LWCF at the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia.

    “The Land and Water Conservation Fund is one of America's most successful conservation programs and has helped preserve many treasured places across the United States, including the Great Dismal Swamp,” added Congressman McEachin. “The Swamp is a great American storyteller – commemorating people, cultures, and events that are key to both the history of the Commonwealth and the United States – and I am pleased to support legislation that will enable us to further conserve sacred lands, like the Swamp.”

    “Right here in Virginia, two recent acquisitions funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund [will] provide Virginians expanded opportunities to enjoy the outdoors at the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Aurelia Skipwith. I appreciate Congressman McEachin's support for the Refuge and leadership in supporting public lands and conservation for Virginians and Americans across the nation."

    Congressman McEachin counts the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge among his favorite places in Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District. This Congress, he introduced H.R. 5853, the Great Dismal Swamp National Heritage Act, to provide local and regional communities with the resources needed to ensure future generations can share in its quintessentially American story.

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  16. A Letter from Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services CEO

    Dear Friends,
     
    This year has brought monumental changes that included a global pandemic and a renewed call for social justice. We are reminded that we live in a rapidly changing world, and Jackson-Feild is a reflection of this world.
     
    We are ever ready to adjust and adapt, always drawing upon our core values of service, compassion, dedication, integrity, and leadership. These values have guided us through 165 years of helping children who are experiencing the painful effects of trauma and/or mental illness.
     
    I am proud of how we have proven our ability to acclimate to new and uncertain global environments. Confronted with this pandemic, each week has presented new challenges providing us with opportunities to demonstrate our flexibility and inventiveness. Our proactive and recurring measures have ensured that we have not had a positive case of COVID-19. Without hesitation, and through innovation, we have found new ways to better serve our children.
     
    We continue to educate our children who could ill afford to miss instruction. We find ways to enrich and engage residents during these “dog days” of summer.
     
    Our founder, the Rev. William M. Jackson, noted we have to be revolutionary from time to time. Now is such a time. Jackson-Feild provides daily opportunities to transform young lives thanks to caring folks like you. We embrace change that will strengthen us, as we remain true to our core values.
    Warm regards,
     
    Patricia H. Delano
    President & CEO 
  17. McEachin Votes to Pass Historic 60th Consecutive NDAA

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) today voted to pass H.R. 6395, the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021, which passed the House by a vote of 295 to 125 and authorizes $732 billion in national defense spending.

    “During a time of significant uncertainty, this bipartisan NDAA advances critical support for our servicemembers, improves our nation’s readiness and reasserts the importance of our international alliances and partnerships,” said Congressman McEachin. “This defense bill, which includes a number of provisions that are of critical importance to the Commonwealth of Virginia, promotes a more inclusive military, while responding to our climate crisis and ensuring we will not be caught off-guard by future pandemics like COVID-19. I am proud to stand with my colleagues as we continue the important work of taking care of those in uniform, while promoting a strong national defense.”

    Background:

    The FY21 NDAA creates a Pandemic Preparedness and Resilience National Security Fund, directing $1 billion to efforts to proactively increase the country’s ability to prepare for and respond to future pandemics. 

    The bill requires the Department of Defense to identify, report on a process, and change the names of all military bases and infrastructure named for individuals who served in the Confederacy within one year and prohibits the public display of the Confederate flag on Department of Defense installations.  

    The FY21 NDAA has strong provisions to take care of our troops and our military families – authorizing support for a 3.0 percent pay raise, authorizing increased funding to clean up contamination of drinking water on our military bases by PFAS chemicals, continuing to invest in improving the oversight and management of housing for military personnel and their families, making improvements to sexual assault prevention and response programs, and developing several key programs to promote and enhance diversity and inclusion programs in our military.

    The bill establishes Chief Diversity Officer reporting directly to the Secretary of Defense as well as establishing a Chief Diversity Officer in each of the military services reporting directly to the Secretary of that service, to include the Coast Guard. The bill also requires the Secretary of Defense to establish a Diversity and Inclusion Council to help develop a strategy to be included in the National Defense Strategy to increase diversity in the military mirroring the US population.

    The bill makes corrections to the paid parental leave benefit provided through the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act to ensure that the FAA, Department of Veterans Affairs, and certain other civilian employees inadvertently omitted from the legislation receive the paid parental leave benefit.

    The bill also honors America’s values in many ways, including prohibiting use of DOD funds to provide logistical support to the Saudi-led coalition for strikes in Yemen, limiting the funding under the national emergency military construction authority to prevent its misuse on the President’s wasteful border wall, and not containing any restrictions on transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

    In addition, the measure also includes several provisions to confront the climate crisis.

    Finally, the bill does not authorize an additional Base Realignment and Cloture (BRAC) round in FY 2021.

    A summary of the provisions in the FY21 NDAA is available here.

  18. Seventh Annual Freeman Community Empowerment Day Set for August 1st 2020

    The 7th Annual Freeman Community Empowerment Day is scheduled for Saturday, August 1st from 10:00AM to 1:00PM at the Inspiration Center (formerly Meljo’s) in Freeman, Virginia. The planning committee is excited to bring this free event back to the community.

    Due to the pandemic, this year's event will follow a drive-thru, Grab & Go layout. Seven hundred free backpacks with school supplies will be given out to local children and food will be distributed to families while supplies last. 

    Pre-registration is required and can be completed at https://bit.ly/3eb6VRd.

    For more information, please contact info@freemanstrong.org or visit freemanstrong.org. Freeman Community Empowerment is a registered 501(c)3 organization.

  19. VSP Investigate Fatatal Single Vehicle Crash in Brunswick County

    Virginia State Police investigate a single vehicle crash that results in a fatality. 
     
    Tuesday evening, at approximately 8:04PM, the Virginia State Police was called to investigate a single vehicle accident on Route 58, east of Route 638, in Brunswick County.
     
    Preliminary investigations reveal that the driver of a 2001 Chevrolet Geo, Larry Jones, was traveling in the eastbound lanes of Route 58 when the driver lost control, ran off the roadway, striking several trees and overturned, killing Jones.
     
    Larry Jones, 71 YOA, of the 800 block of Glendale Mill Road, of Freeman, Virginia, was wearing his safety belt and it is unknown at this time if alcohol was a contributing factor.
  20. VSP Investigate Single Vehicle Pursuit that Ended in Fatality in Brunswick County

    Virginia State Police investigate a single fatal accident as a result of  vehicle pursuit.
     
    Earlier this morning, July 20, at approximately 5:21 AM, the Virginia State Police Communications Center received a call from Brunswick County Sheriff's Office requesting a trooper and the Virginia State Police Crash Reconstruction Team to investigate a single vehicle fatality crash that resulted from a traffic pursuit, initiated by the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office.
     
    Preliminary investigations reveal that a 2019 Porsche Cayenne was traveling at a high rate of speed in the northbound lanes of Interstate 85, when the driver lost control of the vehicle at the 37mm, Brunswick County. The male driver ran off the roadway, ejecting the unrestrained driver. The vehicle overturned into the tree line, killing the driver, and seriously injuring the passenger. The male passenger was wearing his safety belt and had to be airlifted to Virginia Commonwealth University Hospital with life threatening injuries. 
     
    Identification and notification to family members is currently pending. The investigation remains on-going. 

    The driver has been identified as 29 year old Brian Alexander Thompson II of the 1100 block of Piazza Place, Hampton , Virginia. Notification has been made to family members. 

    The passenger, 35 year old Marcus L. Jones of Hamlett, North Carolina, remains at VCU.

  21. Robert Edward “Bob” Etheridge

    July 15, 1944-July 19, 2020

    Services

    11 a.m. Wednesday, July 22

    Calvary Baptist Church
    310 North Main Street
    Emporia, Virginia

     

    Robert Edward “Bob” Etheridge, 76, passed away peacefully July 19, 2020.

    Bob is survived by his wife of 17 years Donna Falls Etheridge, his son, Mark Etheridge (Jodie), His grandchildren, Joshua, Caroline, and Christian.  His brothers Jimmy Etheridge (Sue) and Ricky Etheridge (Doris). His wife's children Melody Thorpe (Henry) and Byron Falls. His wife's grandchildren Matthew Thorpe, Todd Thorpe (Jordan), Jackson Falls and Waverly Clements-Falls and a great grandchild Watson Thorpe.

    Bob was born in Martin County, North Carolina on July 15, 1944 to Esther Ruth and James Clinton Etheridge. He loved working on his cars and playing his guitars.

    The funeral service will be held 11 a.m. Wednesday, July 22 at Calvary Baptist Church 310 N. Main St., Emporia, Virginia. A graveside committal will follow at 3:00 pm at Hamilton Cemetery, North South St. Hamilton, North Carolina.

    In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be to Calvary Baptist Church in Emporia, Virginia.

    Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

  22. Virginia Celebrates First Mission Using New Payload Processing Facility After Successful Rocket Launch from Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport

    Minotaur IV rocket will carry classified payload for National Reconnaissance Office

    RICHMOND—The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, the United States Space Force, and Northrop Grumman celebrate the successful launch of a Minotaur IV rocket carrying a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. The mission, named NROL-129, launched today at 9:46 a.m. EDT from Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0B located at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

    This launch marks the first time that Virginia Space’s new Payload Processing Facility (PPF) was used for space vehicle processing and payload integration. The facility, which opened in July 2019, can accommodate national security and classified missions like today’s, opening the door to a variety of customers and payloads. The PPF offers segregated cargo bays to provide both government and commercial businesses the ability to process multiple payloads in a single facility from arrival at Wallops Island to encapsulation.

    “The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport continues to serve the aerospace industry as a competitive, state-of-the-art facility,” said Governor Northam. “Today’s successful launch is a reflection of the Commonwealth’s ongoing commitment to ensuring Virginia remains a premier leader in space exploration, research, and commerce. With its ability to attract diverse customers and support many types of missions, Virginia Space is well-positioned to play an important part in boosting our economic recovery and sustaining future growth.”

    Launch services for this mission were provided by the United States Space Force (USSF) Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Enterprise Program. NROL-129 is the first USSF mission from Wallops Flight Facility and the National Reconnaissance Office’s (NRO) first dedicated launch from Wallops Island. An integral component of the intelligence community, the NRO is an agency of the United States Department of Defense (DoD) responsible for developing, acquiring, launching, and operating intelligence satellites to satisfy the country’s national security needs. 

    “The Commonwealth’s investment in the Payload Processing Facility demonstrates our ongoing commitment to maintaining the leadership of Virginia Space in the aerospace industry,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “The National Reconnaissance Office recognizes this national strategic asset and the world-class facilities available to launch a range of critical missions from this gateway to space.”

    The 78-foot tall Minotaur IV launch vehicle was built and operated by Northrop Grumman and consists of three solid-fueled motors from decommissioned Peacekeeper ICBMs and a commercial solid rocket upper stage. This mission is the seventh for the Minotaur IV over its 10-year launch history. Today’s launch from Pad 0B is the first launch from this recently upgraded pad since 2013. The previous two launches from Pad 0B were a Minotaur I rocket in November 2013 in support of the DoD Operationally Responsive Space Office’s ORS-3 mission and a launch of the Lunar Atmosphere Dust and Environment Explorer (LADEE) in September 2013, a robotic mission that orbited the moon collecting data for NASA.

    “We are very proud to be part of the NROL-129 team,” said Dale Nash, CEO and Executive Director of Virginia Space. “We consider it an honor to support this vital national security mission with our unparalleled facilities and elite workforce. Virginia Space is also proud to be delivering tangible results on the significant investment that the Commonwealth has made in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.”

    The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (Virginia Space) is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Virginia Space owns and operates the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), the MARS Payload Processing Facility, and the MARS Unmanned Systems Test Range. Collocated on the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, the mission of Virginia Space and MARS is to provide low-cost, safe, reliable, “schedule-friendly” access to space and secure facilities for testing of unmanned vehicles for integration into the National Air Space. Virginia continues to play a key role in national security and assured access to space, as one of only four states in the United States hosting a spaceport licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to launch spacecraft into orbit or on interplanetary trajectories. For more information, visit vaspace.org.

  23. Governor Northam Announces General Assembly to Convene August 18

    Special session will focus on budget, criminal and social justice reform

    RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced he is calling the General Assembly into special session on Tuesday, August 18, following the Governor’s traditional end-of-fiscal-year report to the General Assembly’s money committees. A special session is necessary to adopt a budget based on the revised revenue forecast in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Governor Northam will work closely with legislative leaders and advocates to propose additional criminal justice and policing reform.

    “I look forward to bringing legislators back in session as we continue to navigate these unprecedented times,” said Governor Northam. “We have a unique opportunity to provide critical support to Virginians, invest strategically in our economic recovery, and make progress on policing and criminal justice reform. Let’s get to work.”

    The General Assembly will meet to adopt a final budget, a process that was postponed earlier in the year due to COVID-19. In April, Governor Northam worked with legislators to “unallot,” or freeze, over $2.2 billion in new spending in Virginia’s new biennial budget. This strategy allowed time for the Commonwealth’s fiscal outlook to stabilize and avoided major cuts to important new programs and state services. Legislators will now consider a number of items previously “unalloted”—including the Governor’s historic investments in early childhood education, tuition-free community college, affordable housing, and broadband.

    Policing initiatives are expected to include measures aimed at police accountability and oversight, use of force, increased training and education, and officer recruitment, hiring, and decertification. Governor Northam has directed the Department of Criminal Justice Services, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the Virginia African American Advisory Board, and the Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law to assist the administration in developing policy initiatives. The Governor will continue to work closely with legislators and community advocates on specific legislative proposals.

    The full text of Governor Northam’s proclamation is available here.

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  24. F.J. "Jerry" Daughtrey, Jr.

    October 25, 1930 - July 18, 2020

    F.J. (Jerry) Daughtrey, Jr. of Emporia and Greensville County, Va. died on Saturday, July 18, 2020 at the age of 89.

    He was the son of F.J. and Gertrude B. Daughtrey who preceded him in death as well as his wife Judy W. Daughtrey. He is survived by his son Douglas Daughtrey and his wife Brenda, a step-daughter Sandy Webb and her husband David, two grandchildren, Lauren Ashley Collins and Dylan Allen, all of the Emporia area. Jerry was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Emporia, where he served as Elder for a number of years. He was quite active in public service, civic organizations and local Government where he served as president of City Council during his two terms. He served on a number of boards including the Industrial Development Corporation, as its president, the board of Citizens National Bank, the Emporia Country Club and the Virginia Automatic Merchandising. He was a member of the Boy Scout Order of the Arrow and chairman of Explorer Post #222, a former Jaycee and Rotarian, and a member of the R & R Hunt Club. Jerry was among the founders of the Greensville Volunteer Rescue Squad and served as the first President. He was President and developer of the Emporia Shopping Center. Jerry enjoyed boat racing, golf, fishing and hunting. He was passionate about hisyears in politics, the Rescue Squad as well as his love for his church.

    A Memorial Service will be held at a later date due to the Covid 19 pandemic. In lieu of flowers the family request donations be made to Greensville Volunteer Rescue Squad of Emporia or First Presbyterian Church of Emporia.

     

  25. Sandra Kay O’Bannon,

    September 24, 1958 - July 17, 2020

    Visitation Graveside Service

    9 a.m. Monda, July 20, 2020

    Owen Funeral Home
    303 S. Halifax Rd
    Jarratt, Virginia

     

    10 a.m. Monda, July 20, 2020

    High Hills Memorial Cemetery
    Kientz Road
    Jarratt, Virginia

     

    Sandra Kay O’Bannon, 61, of Emporia, passed away Friday, July 17, 2020. She was the daughter of the late William Watson Masterson, Sr. and Pearline Masterson and was also preceded in death by two brothers, Richard Jackson Masterson and William Watson Masterson, Jr.

    Sandy is survived by her husband, Robert O’Bannon; daughters, Priscilla Ann O’Bannon and Brittany O’Bannon; grandchildren, Kameron Jace O’Bannon and Messiah O’Bannon and several more grandchildren; sister, Patricia Mounce and a number of nieces and nephews.

    A graveside funeral service will be held 10 a.m. Monday at High Hills Memorial Cemetery. The family will receive friends one hour prior to the service at Owen Funeral Home.

    Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

  26. Faye Kitchen Francis

    September 25, 1944-July 17, 2020

    Services

    11 a.m. Tuesday, July 21

    Calvary Baptist Church
    310 North Main Street
    Emporia, Virginia

    Faye Kitchen Francis, 75, of Emporia, passed away Friday, July 17, 2020. She was the daughter of the late Owen and Virginia Kitchen and was also preceded in death by her sister, Ann Scarboro and brothers, Waverly, Herman, James and Donnie Kitchen.

    Faye is survived by her son, Robert “Robbie” Francis, Jr. (Deste); grandchildren, Tyler Francis and Kim Gillam; sister, Anita Jarratt (C.D.); brother, Clyde Kitchen (Shelby) and a number of nieces and nephews.

    The funeral service will be held 11 a.m. Tuesday, July 21 at Calvary Baptist Church, 310 N. Main St. in Emporia. Interment will follow at Capron Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Calvary Baptist Church.

    Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

  27. VCU details August return with in-person, online courses, free COVID-19 testing

    By Hannah Eason, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND -- Virginia Commonwealth University's fall semester classes are slated to begin Aug. 17 with a mixture of in-person, hybrid and online courses, per a release from President Michael Rao on Tuesday.

    Students received updated information to their VCU emails on Wednesday morning regarding courses and resources available to “navigate any changes.” 

    “We recognize that not every member of our community has equal access to the technology, support, and personal space that makes remote learning possible,” Rao said. “We will leave no one behind because our mission needs the vital perspectives and clear voice of all of us.”

    The release stated that to ensure a safe return to campus, every member of the VCU community must adhere to safety guidelines like social distancing, wearing masks, disinfecting spaces and frequent hand-washing.

    The university will provide masks, hand sanitizer and other items to help students and employees stay healthy. Before returning to campus, all students and faculty members will complete online safety protocol training and undergo daily health assessments. 

    Students who plan to live on campus must test negative for COVID-19 before moving in. On-campus housing is available to students enrolled in both in-person and online classes, and online-only courses do not break a student housing contract, per VCU Residential Life and Housing. Students can cancel fall-semester housing contracts by visiting this site

    The Graduate hotel at 301 W. Franklin St. is listed as a residence hall for first-year students. Honors College students can choose to stay in either the hotel or the Gladding Residence Center. The Honors College Residence Hall will hold low-acuity patients for VCU Health Systems during the academic year.

    Students will receive move-in details through their VCU emails by the week of July 20. VCU will provide COVID-19 testing kits for students moving on campus. Non-residential students and employees with COVID-19 symptoms will also receive free testing. Asymptomatic students and employees will receive COVID-19 testing for an undetermined fee.

    “This is, and will continue to be, a time of necessary adherence to safety measures and to supporting our classmates and colleagues. This includes continued access to mental health resources,” Rao stated. “And it includes remaining flexible and recognizing that our circumstances and plans may change, and we all may need to adapt to the changing situations around us.”

    Virtual appointments and other mental health resources are available to students at the Health Promotion and Well-Being Center and University Counseling Services

    Additional information from VCU on COVID-19 and fall semester can be found at together.vcu.edu/protocols.

  28. Crater Community Hospice Welcomes Mr. Zach Holt as Chief Executive Officer

    Crater Community Hospice is pleased to announce that its Board of Directors has selected Mr. Zach Holt as our new Chief Executive Officer, effective August 3, 2020. 

    Special thanks to Linda Maitland, Office Manager and Acting CEO for leading us through the interim.

    Mr. Holt is highly qualified to hold the position of Chief Executive Officer. He has worked in the hospice industry for many years and has strong leadership skills. His experience includes both operations as well as marketing and he is well known in the Central Virginia market. He has an extensive background in working with multidisciplinary teams to provide clinical excellence, which includes a commitment to serving our nations veterans.

    Zach completed his BS in Business Management and his Master’s in Business Administration from East Carolina University. He is originally from Fargo, North Dakota and lived in North Carolina for 17 years where his career in hospice began. Zach and his wife, Amy, sons, Wyatt and Nash, moved to Virginia in 2015 and currently reside in Moseley. In his spare time, he enjoys playing golf and spending time with his family.

    The Board of Directors interviewed several excellent CEO candidates; after very thoughtful and careful consideration, they felt that Mr. Holt best represents the mission of Crater Community Hospice and is uniquely qualified to lead our organization.

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  29. Virginia Adopts First-in-the-Nation Workplace Safety Standards for COVID-19 Pandemic

    In the absence of federal guidelines, newly adopted workplace safety rules will help protect Virginia workers from the spread of COVID-19

    RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced the adoption of statewide emergency workplace safety standards in response to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. These first-in-the-nation safety rules will protect Virginia workers by mandating appropriate personal protective equipment, sanitation, social distancing, infectious disease preparedness and response plans, record keeping, training, and hazard communications in workplaces across the Commonwealth. The actions come in the absence of federal guidelines.

    “Workers should not have to sacrifice their health and safety to earn a living, especially during an ongoing global pandemic,” said Governor Northam. “In the face of federal inaction, Virginia has stepped up to protect workers from COVID-19, creating the nation’s first enforceable workplace safety requirements. Keeping Virginians safe at work is not only a critical part of stopping the spread of this virus, it’s key to our economic recovery and it’s the right thing to do.”

    Newly adopted standards require all employers to mandate social distancing measures and face coverings for employees in customer-facing positions and when social distancing is not possible, provide frequent access to hand washing or hand sanitizer, and regularly clean high-contact surfaces. In addition, new standards require all employees be notified within 24 hours if a coworker tests positive for the virus. Employees who are known or suspected to be positive for COVID-19 cannot return to work for 10 days or until they receive two consecutive negative tests. 

    The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Safety and Health Codes Board voted today to approve an emergency temporary standard on infectious disease prevention after Governor Northam directed the creation of enforceable regulations in May. These temporary emergency standards will remain in effect for six months and can be made permanent through the process defined in state law.

    “As a top state for workforce development, it should be no surprise that Virginia is also the first in the nation to establish such a robust set of emergency workplace safety regulations,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “Our workers are our greatest asset, and I am confident that these temporary standards will provide Virginians with the peace of mind they need to return to work and fuel the Commonwealth’s economic recovery.”

    “Keeping Virginia’s economy moving forward has never been more important, and keeping our workers safe is critical to sustained economic recovery,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “COVID-19 is unfortunately going to continue impacting our everyday lives, and these regulations will provide for safer, more predictable workplaces for Virginians.”

    “The Commonwealth’s new emergency workplace safety standards are a powerful tool in our toolbox for keeping Virginia workers safe and protected throughout this pandemic,” said C. Ray Davenport, Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry. “Many employers have already enacted these evidence-based practices, and we are committed to working collaboratively with those who have not to ensure they are in compliance with the new emergency temporary standard.” 

    The emergency temporary standards, infectious disease preparedness and response plan templates, and training guidance will be posted on the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry website at doli.virginia.gov. Workers who feel unsafe in their workplace can file a formal complaint with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration here.

  30. Grace Episcopal – Waverly Helps Jackson-Feild

    The vestry and members of Grace Episcopal Church in Waverly have been making a monthly contribution to Jackson-Feild to help its children since 1993.

    The vestry recently voted to add an additional $500 to be used to purchase items on its “wish list”. These items are used to directly benefit the children.

    The COVID-19 restrictions have been a challenge for both Jackson-Feild’s children and staff. They children are not allowed off the campus nor are they able received visitors. It has been a challenge to occupy their time when they are not in school or receiving 21 hours of mental health services weekly.

    The funds provided by the members of Grace will be used for recreational materials and supplies for events and activities this summer and beyond.

    The children at Jackson-Feild have been blessed to have the support of caring and concerned Episcopalians throughout the Diocese of Southern Virginia.

  31. Doris Williams Allen

    December 4, 1925-July 12, 2020

     

    Doris Williams Allen, 94, of Skippers, Va., passed away on July 12, 2020. She was preceded in death by her parents, Richard Williams and Laura Woodruff Williams, as well as her husband, John William Allen. She is survived by her loving family, Daughter Belinda Bullock (Don), Son William Allen (Connie) Granddaughters, Shelia Gay (Bubba), Sandee Newsome (Don), Rolanda Sasser (Alicia), Tracee Williams (Michael), Tanya Brown (Ryan), Summer Dickens (Doug) and Grandson Michael Huff and twelve Great Grandchildren. She is also survived by her Sister Jeannette Carroll.

    A private graveside service will be conducted on Wednesday, July 15, 2020 at Fountain Creek Baptist Church Cemetery with Rev. Bobby Griles officiating. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Fountain Creek Baptist Church or Kindred Hospice. Condolences may be expressed at echolsfuneralhome.com.

  32. William Richard Gay

    April 10, 1962-July 11, 2020

    William Richard Gay, 58, of Emporia, passed away Saturday, July 11, 2020. He was the son of the late William Rufus Gay and Paige Harrell Gay and was also preceded in death by his wife, Sherry Woodruff Gay and sister, Tammy Gay Harrington.

    Richard is survived by his son, Christopher Gay (Amanda Harris); two grandsons, Christopher Michael Gay, Jr. and Jace Alexander Gay; brothers, Timothy Russell Gay and Tony Craig Gay; sister, Jessica Gay and six nieces and nephews.

    The family will schedule a memorial service at a later date.

    Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

  33. Challenges and Opportunities

     

    By Quentin R. Johnson, Ph.D.

    In recent months, our nation has struggled with its responses to two diseases, COVID-19 and racism. One stems from a viral threat, and the other is a symptom of systemic and institutional dysfunction. As news reports have amply documented, both can be deadly.

    I was devastated to witness the murder of George Floyd and am saddened by the upheaval that has followed in cities around the country. Some people mistakenly believe civil rights disparities have been relegated to history. Alas, this is not so. In several states, I have been stopped by police and racially profiled while driving through predominantly white communities. My two sons have also had similar experiences. These have been very humiliating situations. People who are not members of racial minority groups are frequently surprised to learn how often this happens.

    In addressing racial concerns, Dr. Glenn DuBois, Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System, said, “Equity and access to opportunity have been at the heart of our community college mission since we first opened our doors in 1966. However, our efforts to translate those ideals into action for all Virginians have not always yielded the results that we seek as quickly as we would like. Simply stated, we must do better, and we will.”

    As part of this effort, the Chancellor asked me to lead a task force that will examine curricula for law enforcement programs across all community colleges in the Commonwealth. These programs, which enrolled nearly 2,200 students last year, represent one of Virginia’s largest sources of training for law enforcement officers.

    Front-line personnel who will offer input include Chad Patton, Ph.D., SVCC’s Dean of Career and Occupational Technology. Patton served as a law enforcement officer for ten years before beginning a teaching career in SVCC’s Administration of Justice program. Patton remarked on the need to improve instruction regarding the use of force. He said, “There is not a dedicated course that has at its core the ethical and legal use of deadly force. I think such a course is needed, and it is needed at the community college level.”

    Alfonzo Seward, Ph.D, Professor and Program Head of SVCC’s Administration of Justice Program, emphasized the importance of strengthening relationships between police and communities. “Law enforcement needs to work on building community trust through community policing programs. Law enforcement departments should provide citizens academies to educate the public on police tactics, methods, resources and reasons. The public’s trust will increase when they understand why the police do what they do,” he said.

    Travon Smith, an African American Virginia State Trooper and recent SVCC Administration of Justice graduate, commented on the importance of constant diligence. “Racial injustice and inequality need to be addressed all the time and not just when something bad happens,” he observed.

    This broader spectrum of concern is echoed in other work underway at SVCC and throughout the Virginia Community College System. A system-wide initiative called Search Advocate is being implemented to reshape the hiring process in a way that ensures inclusive practices and avoids implicit bias. In addition, I am serving on a separate VCCS long-term strategic planning task force that has been refocused with a heavy emphasis on equity, diversity, and inclusion.

    Embracing challenges provides an opportunity to do great things. By working together, I am confident that our community can forge a path to a brighter future for all.

    Dr. Quentin R. Johnson is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the City of Emporia. He can be reached via email at quentin.johnson@southside.edu.

  34. Del. Jay Jones Announces Historic Campaign for Attorney General

    ~ Grabs endorsements from over 30 General Assembly members on first day of campaign, Congresswoman Elaine Luria ~

    Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk) announced today that he will seek the Democratic nomination for Attorney General of Virginia in 2021.

    Delegate Jones released a new video announcing his historic campaign to become Virginia’s first African American Attorney General entitled “Generations in the Making.”

    “This decision is truly generations in the making,” said Delegate Jay Jones. “Five generations ago, my ancestors were freed from the shackles of slavery. Just two generations ago, my grandfather endured systematic racism and discrimination on his journey to becoming a pioneering black lawyer in Virginia.  And in 1960 my father and my uncle were two of the first black students to attend an all-white elementary school in Norfolk, Virginia.”

    “Today, I am announcing that I’m running for Attorney General of our great Commonwealth, not just because it is time for a new generation of leadership, but because it is time for a Commonwealth that embraces everyone and lifts everyone, no matter who you are, where you come from, or what you look like,” Delegate Jones added.

    "I am fortunate to have Jay Jones represent me in the House of Delegates, and I am proud to endorse him for Attorney General,” said Congresswoman Elaine Luria. “Jay is the type of leader that lifts everyone up and leaves no one behind. During my first term in Congress, we have worked together to fight for the people of Hampton Roads, and I know Jay has the conviction, integrity and experience to fight for every Virginia family as our next Attorney General."

    "Jay represents a new generation of leadership in our Commonwealth that is committed to progressing our Commonwealth forward,” said Senator L. Louise Lucas. “As the first African American woman to serve as President Pro-tempore of the Virginia Senate, I could not be more honored to support Jay’s campaign to serve as Virginia's first African American Attorney General.”

    “Having spent three years in leadership at the Office of the Attorney General, I have seen first hand the qualities, skills, and abilities that are necessary to be an effective AG,” said Delegate Jeff Bourne. “Jay Jones has all of the tools that will be required when he is Attorney General. Virginia is at a crossroads. We need a new voice with new solutions to old problems that have plagued our Commonwealth for too long.”

    “I have seen Jay's leadership and effectiveness up close in the Virginia House of Delegates,” said Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg. “As a civics teacher, I know Jay’s statewide election would be not only historic but also vital to showing our young people that our Commonwealth is inclusive and open to everyone. Jay will make Virginia proud as our next Attorney General. We need new voices and a new generation of leaders to lift everyone up in our Commonwealth.”

    Delegate Jones announced last week that he raised over $255,000 in the first financial reporting period of 2020.  Since announcing that he was exploring a bid for Attorney General in 2021, Delegate Jones has received strong financial support from all across the Commonwealth and has more than $330,000 in cash on hand as of June 30, 2020.

    Delegate Jay Jones was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2017 representing the 89th District.

  35. Virginia Issues Year-End Revenue Report

    Total General Fund revenue collections increased 2.0% over prior year, but $236.5 million below official forecast

    RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia ended fiscal year 2020 with a deficit of approximately $236.5 million in general fund revenue collections. While the shortfall was expected due to the impacts of COVID-19 on the state’s economy and budget, it is smaller than anticipated, and overall, revenues increased 2.0 percent over fiscal year 2019.

    “COVID-19 has created both a health crisis and an economic crisis, and we have to box in this virus before we can fully address its fiscal impacts,” said Governor Northam. “While I am pleased that our revenue shortfall is less than initially expected, we know this pandemic will continue to negatively affect our state’s finances as long as this virus is with us. We must all keep taking steps to protect public health so we can continue our economic recovery and ensure the Commonwealth remains on strong financial footing.”

    Total revenue collections rose by 2.0 percent in fiscal year 2020, behind the forecast of 3.1 percent growth. The main drivers of the revenue shortfall were payroll withholding and sales taxes—these two sources contributed $351.5 million to the deficit. Nonwithholding income tax payments—mainly from 2019 tax returns—were on target and income tax refunds contributed positively to the bottom line revenues by $146.3 million. Total revenues were $3.1 billion in June, a 26.7 percent increase, as the due date for payments from individuals and corporations was extended to June 1. 

    “While this is good news as it relates to the final fiscal year 2020 projected shortfall, I am concerned that payroll withholding fell 2 percent and retail sales declined by 7 percent for the months of April, May, and June contributing to a $496.5 million shortfall in the fourth quarter,” said Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne. “We were helped by prior year income tax payments and current year payroll withholding and sales tax revenues not falling as much as initially anticipated.  But the fact remains, the Commonwealth has had a significant contraction in jobs and those effects on payroll withholding and the ability for consumers to spend is an obvious concern going forward into fiscal year 2021 for the state budget.” 

    In reviewing the State Comptroller’s report on the preliminary revenue shortfall, the Commonwealth will conduct an interim forecasting process with an updated economic and revenue outlook for fiscal years 2021 and 2022. These forecasts will be released on August 18 at the Joint Money Committee meeting.

    Analysis of Fiscal Year 2020 Revenues
    Based on Preliminary Data

    • Total general fund revenue collections, excluding transfers, fell short of the official forecast (Chapter 1283) by $236.5 million (1.1 percent variance) in fiscal year 2020.
      • The 30-year average general fund revenue forecast variance is plus or minus 1.6 percent.

    • Payroll withholding and sales tax collections, 85 percent of total revenues, and the best indicator of current economic activity in the Commonwealth, finished $351.5 million or 2.1 percent behind the forecast.
      • Payroll withholding growth of 3.0 percent was behind the forecast of 4.7 percent growth.

      • Sales tax collections increased 3.5 percent as compared to the annual forecast of 7.4 percent.

      • Fourth quarter results show that payroll withholding fell 2.0 percent and sales tax revenues fell 7.0 percent.

    • Nonwithholding income tax collections finished the year in line with expectations, down 4.3 percent. 2019 tax year final payments due June 1 were ahead of expectations; however, estimated payments due in June for 2020 were below expectations.
    • Individual income tax refunds were a positive to the forecast, as the average check size did not increase. Tax refunds were $146.3 million below expectations and is a positive to the bottom line.

    • Corporate income tax collections increased 7.2 percent for the year, behind the annual forecast of 9.3 percent mainly due to the lower than expected payments in the April to June period.

    • A complete analysis of all final receipts for revenue sources, including transfers, will not be available until the Joint Money Committee meeting on August 18.

  36. Osteoporosis: What you can do

    If you are concerned about a loved one’s osteoporosis—brittle bones—it’s a good idea to bring this up with the doctor. He or she will likely discuss various medicines that can help.

    In addition, changes in daily life outlined below can go a long way to making stronger bones. Consider:

    Calcium. The best food sources are low-fat dairy products; dark green leafy vegetables; canned salmon, mackerel, or sardines (with bones); and tofu. Women over age 50 should consume a total of 1200 mg of calcium per day. Men need 1000 mg/day until age 70. Then they too should get 1200 mg/day. A supplement is fine. But be sure to pick a dose that factors in the calcium your relative already receives from food. More than 2000 mg/day may increase the risk of heart disease and kidney stones.

    Vitamin D. Exposure to sunshine yields vitamin D. But only when sunscreen is not used (no free lunch!). Look for foods such as milk that have been fortified with vitamin D. Or get a supplement. Adults age 51–70 are advised to take 600 international units (iu)/day. Those over age 71 need 800 iu/day. African Americans don’t absorb vitamin D well through the skin, so 2000 iu is the recommended supplement. Most people can safely take up to 4000 iu/day.

    Strength exercises. Weight-bearing exercise works with gravity to produce strong bones: Brisk walks, hiking, dancing, climbing up stairs. Resistance training also helps: Lifting weights or using exercise bands. Talk to the doctor about the safest way to build up strength.

    Lifestyle changes

    • Get up off the couch! A sedentary lifestyle leads to brittle bones.
    • Limit alcohol to no more than two drinks/day. Alcohol kills bone cells and leaches calcium from the bones.
    • Stop smoking. Smokers’ bones heal more slowly.
  37. Virginia Newsom Boney

    Services

    Thursday, July 9, 2020, at 7:00 P.M.

    Echols Funeral Home
    806 Brunswick Avenue
    Emporia, Virginia 23847

    Virginia Newsom Boney, 69, passed away on July 6, 2020. She was born in Roanoke Rapids, NC., and worked many years at Simmons Truck Stop in Emporia, VA. She was preceded in death by her parents, Bobby Thomas Newsom and Ocie Odell Finch. She is survived by her husband, John Howard Boney, her sons, Thomas Wayne Boney (Rebecca Jarrett) of Emporia, VA., Stephen Michael Boney (Mary) of Roanoke Rapids, NC., daughter, Tiffany Spenla (Ian) of Houston, TX., sisters, Laura Newsom of Gaston, NC., Betty Stephenson of Roanoke Rapids, NC., Dorothy Cannon (Joe) of Jackson, NC., Susan Newsom of Gaston, NC., brother-in-law, Gerald Allen of Emporia, VA., sister-in-law, Barbara Allen of Emporia, VA., grandchildren, Ivey, Evelyn, Zachary, Megan, Mathew, and her cat, Peaches.

    A memorial service will be held at Echols Funeral Home, Thursday, July 9, 2020, at 7:00 P.M. with Rev. Brad Barbour officiating.

    Online Condolences may be made at www.echolsfuneralhome.com

  38. new feature in my social security puts you in control

     

    By Jacqueline Weisgarber, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Richmond, Virginia

    ­The future can be uncertain.  However, Social Security’s new Advance Designation program can help put you in control of your benefits if a time comes when you need a representative payee to help manage your money.  Advance Designation enables you to identify up to three people, in priority order, whom you would like to serve as your potential representative payee.

    The following people may choose an Advance Designation:

    o    Adults applying for benefits who do not have a representative payee.

    o    Adult beneficiaries or recipients who do not have a representative payee.

    o    Emancipated minors applying for benefits who do not have a representative payee.

    o    Emancipated minor beneficiaries or recipients who do not have a representative payee.

    If you fall into one of the above categories, you may provide and update Advance Designation information when you:

    o     File a claim for benefits online.

    o     Use the application available in your personal my Social Security account at www.ssa.gov/myaccount.

    o     Call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

    You may also change your Advance Designation(s), including the priority order, at any time while you are still capable of making your own decisions.  In the event that you can no longer make your own decisions, you and your family will have peace of mind knowing you already chose someone you trust to manage your benefits.

     

  39. Therapy Dog Program Seeking Volunteers

    VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital is seeking volunteers with friendly and well-behaved dogs to participate in a program that aims to bring cheer to hospital patients, visitors and staff.

    The Dogs On Call Therapy Dog Program provides complementary therapy to enhance the well-being of patients, staff, and students through canine-assisted interventions.  The dog and handler would visit patients that requested to have a visit and visit hospital departments to lift spirits of staff.

    If you have a dog that would be a good fit for this program and would like to learn more about volunteering as a Dogs On Call team, please call 434-584-5411.

  40. Church Street Independence Day Celebration Cancelled, But Say Thank You Anyway

    Anne and Bobby have been celebrating Independence Day on Church Street for more than half a century. This year's event is cancelled due to the Coronavirus Outbreak. A reader has suggested that we show our appreciation to the Wrenns for their dedication by filling their front yard with tiny American Flags from the the dollar stores. Sneak by this evening and place a flag in the front yard so that it will be there when Bobby wakes up - it will be the perfect "THANK YOU" for all those years of fun! See you next year!

  41. Let OLE Glory Fly

    No greater sight can we behold
    Than our own Red, White and Blue
    Yes unfurling from a pole top
    Noting freedom for me and you.
     
    We owe this display to all the veterans
    Who have fought on thru the years
    In their dedication lives were lost
    and many familes brought to tears
     
    Yes we fly the flag with deepest respect
    For our soldiers then and now
    Yet sometime we don't do justice
    Not by flying it but how.
     
    We take our car fast to the shop
    If it seems to need repair
    Still I know of a flag that's seen by most
    Waving shredded in the air.
     
    Now I don't know the procedure
    But there must be some nice way
    One could ask the before mentioned
    To change the flag they've on display.
     
    I'm sure it's not intended
    And to their knowledge might not know
    Yet I hope soon it's discovered
    So our Stars and Stripes will flow.
     
    Roy E. Schepp
  42. Sidney Stanley "Stan" Prince

    October 16, 1946 – June 24, 202

     

    Sidney Stanley "Stan" Prince, October 16, 1946 – June 24, 2020. A native of Emporia, VA, he graduated from Greensville County HS in 1965. A member of the class of 1969 at VPI, he graduated with a Bachelors of Architecture in 1970. Stan was a retired Licensed Architect in the Commonwealth who practiced commercial architecture in Norfolk, Chesapeake, and Richmond, where he retired as Corporate Architect for the Covington Company, having served as Corporate Architect for Heilig-Meyers Furniture for 23 years, and an Associate with Williams and Tazewell in Norfolk, where he managed projects for the building of Scope and Chrysler Hall, and subsequently for 3M Architects, designing furnishings for Kuwaiti Air Force Bases. He is survived by his wife of almost 50 years, Dr. Anita H Prince, and only child, daughter, Meghan E P Bryant (husband, Blanton F Bryant, Jr). Stanley was a devoted Hokie, having rarely missed a game in more than 30 years after he became a season ticket holder. In remembrance, any act of kindness or support would honor him because he was a kind and decent human being. He had a special love for Feed More, Habitat for Humanity, and the Boy Scouts of America to which he belonged as a youth and young man achieving Eagle Scout, God and Country, and Order of the Arrow. Arrangements are pending with Echols Funeral Home, Emporia, Virginia.

     

  43. VIRGINIA STATE POLICE URGES MOTORISTS TO CELEBRATE SMART, SAFE & SOBER DURING JULY 4 HOLIDAY WEEKEND

    RICHMOND – With Virginia having moved into Phase Three of Governor Northam’s COVID-19 guidelines, the Virginia State Police is encouraging everyone to plan ahead for their celebratory travel plans this coming holiday weekend.
     
    “Summer days are filled with celebration, including vacations, outdoor festivals and backyard cookouts, but no matter where your plans take you, please make safety your priority,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Regardless of the distance you’re traveling this week – across the country or around the corner – remember to buckle up, eliminate distractions and never drive buzzed or drunk. If we all do our small part, we increase everyone’s chances of having a safer holiday weekend.”
     
    As part of its ongoing efforts to increase safety and reduce traffic fatalities on Virginia’s highways during the coming holiday weekend, Virginia State Police will increase patrols from 12:01 a.m. Friday (July 3, 2020) through midnight Sunday (July 5, 2020) as part of the Operation Crash Awareness Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.). Operation C.A.R.E. is a state-sponsored, national program intended to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries due to impaired driving, speed and failing to wear a seat belt.
     
    During last year’s three-day Independence Day Operation C.A.R.E initiative, Virginia troopers arrested 79 drunk drivers. In addition, state troopers cited 5,517 speeders and 1,774 reckless drivers, issued 742 individuals for failing to obey the law and buckle up. During the three-day July 4, 2019 holiday counting period, there were seven traffic deaths on Virginia highways.
     
    If planning to drink alcohol at a July 4 function, plan ahead and arrange a designated driver, use a rideshare service or taxi, or utilize public transportation to be certain you get home safely.  Party hosts are encouraged to serve non-alcoholic beverage options, and to help prevent any guests from drinking and driving home from their event.
     
    With increased holiday patrols, Virginia State Police also reminds drivers of Virginia’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road. If unable to move over, then drivers are required to cautiously pass the emergency vehicle. The law also applies to workers in vehicles equipped with amber lights.
  44. Governor Northam Launches Rent and Mortgage Relief Program to Assist Virginians Facing Eviction or Foreclosure

     
    RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today launched the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP), which will provide $50 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding for households facing eviction or foreclosure due to COVID-19. RMRP will provide short-term financial assistance on behalf of households in the form of rent and mortgage payments.
     
    “Expanding access to safe, affordable housing has been and will continue to be a top priority of my administration, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” said Governor Northam. “The Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program will help Virginians experiencing financial instability as a result of this unprecedented health crisis by preventing evictions and foreclosures and keeping Virginia families safely in their homes as we battle this virus.”
     
    The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will administer the $50 million program through a variety of partners, including nonprofit organizations and local governments, which will receive upfront funds that they will distribute on behalf of eligible households. Individuals and families receiving funding will also be connected to housing counseling and receive other technical assistance.
     
    Eligible households must demonstrate an inability to make rent or mortgage payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Monthly rent or mortgage must be at or below 150 percent Fair Market Rent (FMR), and eligible households must have a gross household income at or below 80 percent of area median income (AMI).
     
    “Safe, stable housing is essential for public health,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “As we continue to secure funding for rent and mortgage assistance, this $50 million investment will serve the most vulnerable Virginians while providing a roadmap for future relief.”
     
    To ensure RMRP funding assists households most in need, the program will complete targeted outreach to communities of color across Virginia. Before the pandemic, analysis from RVA Eviction Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University found that minority communities had higher eviction rates, even after controlling for income, property value, and other characteristics. The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a disproportionate impact on people of color.
     
    “DHCD delivers programs through our partners that are closest to the Commonwealth’s communities, and our team is deeply appreciative of the local and regional network that has rapidly developed this program to assist in meeting this critical housing and health need,” said DHCD Director Erik Johnston. “We urge all tenant advocates, landlords, lenders, philanthropy, local governments and faith communities to partner with your local program providers to ensure that these funds stretch as far as possible to Virginians most in need of this assistance.”
     
    The program will also give precedence to households without other federal and state eviction or foreclosure protections. From June 29 to July 20, priority will be given to households with current gross incomes equal to or below 50 percent of AMI. After July 20, households with current gross incomes at or below 80 percent of AMI will be also be included. In addition, households with an unlawful detainer action dated prior to June 8 will be given top consideration.
     
    To identify the local RMRP administering organization for a household and to conduct a self-assessment for eligibility, visit dhcd.virginia.gov/eligibility or call 211 VIRGINIA by dialing 2-1-1 from your phone. Tenants and homeowners are encouraged to know their rights and responsibilities and pay their rent and mortgages on time if they are able. Visit StayHomeVirginia.com for additional information and resources.
     
  45. Virginia Department of Health Urges Virginians to Engage with Legitimate Contact Tracers, Avoid Scams

    Contact Tracers Will Not Ask for Social Security Numbers or Bank Details

    (Richmond, Va.) — The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) encourages all Virginians to respond and engage with legitimate contact tracing calls and emails while remaining vigilant against scams. Caller ID will read “VDH COVID Team.”

    The Commonwealth employs contact tracers to notify individuals who have been exposed to known cases of COVID-19. Contact tracers will offer information, encourage individuals to monitor themselves for symptoms, and refer those who develop symptoms for medical evaluation and testing to help contain the spread in Virginia.

    Contact tracing saves lives by preventing the spread of COVID-19, so we encourage every Virginian to do their part and answer calls, text messages, or emails from the Commonwealth’s contact tracers.

    Recognizing the signs of a scam is important. Contact tracers will not ask for money or information such as a Social Security Number (SSN), bank account details, or credit card numbers.  The Commonwealth does not charge individuals for contact tracing services.

    Contact tracers will offer to enroll Virginians in a voluntary contact monitoring platform called Sara Alert, which individuals can use to update local health departments on their health status during the period of time they are participating in public health monitoring. The Sara Alert system is secure and always contacts users from the same phone number or email: 844-957-2721 or notifications@saraalert.org.

    In addition to being vigilant, there are several other ways to stay safe from scams:

    • use multi-factor authentication for online accounts;
    • enable auto updates for the operating systems and apps on your electronic devices to ensure you have the latest security;
    • and back up the data on your devices regularly, so you won’t lose valuable information if a device gets malware or ransomware.

    Verizon Communications, Inc provided the Caller-ID feature for VDH contact tracers without charge.

    Additional information from the Federal Trade Commission on contact tracing scams is available here.

  46. House Democratic Majority Leads Sweeping Change in Virginia

    RICHMOND, VA—The seismic shift created by Virginia voters last year when they elected a Democratic majority to the Virginia House of Delegates yielded a parallel shift in public policy, resulting in landmark legislation taking effect July 1, 2020. These new laws, which benefit Virginians in ways obstructed by past General Assembly majorities, include crucial gun violence prevention measures, more expansive voter rights, new anti-discrimination protections for women and the LGBTQ+ community, and energy policies that will reduce the Commonwealth’s use of fossil fuels for electricity. 

    "Last November, voters called for decisive, impactful action to make their communities safe and more prosperous. We have delivered on that mandate. We took that action. And tomorrow, many of these bills become law,” said Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn. “These laws will strengthen our democracy, protect Virginians from gun violence, tackle discrimination to make our Commonwealth fairer, combat the climate change crisis, give women the ability to make their own reproductive decisions, make our criminal justice system fairer (with much work ahead) and build on our economic progress in every corner of the Commonwealth."

    Last week, Speaker Filler-Corn announced that the House Courts of Justice and Public Safety Committees will hold joint public hearings in July and August regarding police and criminal justice reform. Information gathered during the hearings will better prepare the House of Delegates to act in the upcoming special session, and the 2021 regular session, on these matters and others related to racial inequities in Virginia and the nation.

    “Our first year serving in the majority has been marked by new highs in the passage of landmark legislation in the effort to make Virginia a more inclusive and better place to live, work, and raise a family,” said House Democratic Majority Leader Charniele Herring. “Our work reversing systemic inequities and injustices is not over and we look forward to making further progress for the Commonwealth during the special session and 2021.”

    In 2019, a historic blue wave ushered in the first Democratic majority in the House of Delegates in more than 20 years. House Democrats appointed more women and people of color to leadership and committee chair positions than ever before in the legislative body’s 401-year history. Heeding the call of the Virginia voters who put them into the majority, Democratic legislators swiftly advanced legislation to improve the lives of residents all across the Commonwealth.

    “When voters across the Commonwealth stood up and elected Democrats last year, House Democrats listened and passed hundreds of bills based on Virginians' calls for change,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair Rip Sullivan. “July 1 officially marks a new beginning in the Commonwealth, when more Virginians will be heard and recognized. House Democrats are preparing to return to Richmond for the special session and the 2021 regular legislative session with the same level of determination and innovation to create thoughtful solutions benefiting everyone in the Commonwealth.”

    In addition to legislation, the House also passed the House and Senate resolutions to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, becoming the 38th and final state required by the U.S. Constitution. Other important matters were also addressed in joint resolutions, such as Delegate Cia Price’s HJ 111 designating July as Maternal Health Awareness Month in Virginia. This observance, which begins in 2020, will bring public attention to the problem of increased maternal mortality in the nation and the Commonwealth, especially the much-higher rates among African-American women. Unlike bills, resolutions do not involve any action by the governor. 

    Here is a list of some of the House Democrats’ major legislative accomplishments going into effect on July 1:

    • Passing common-sense gun safety legislation. Seven House bills establishing stronger gun safety measures — all introduced in response to the Virginia Beach tragedy in May 2019 — were signed by the governor. These laws implement universal background checks for sales of firearms, require gun owners to report lost and stolen firearms, increase the penalty for recklessly allowing children to have access to loaded firearms, allow localities to ban firearms at certain public facilities or events, establish substantial risk protective orders, prohibit persons subject to domestic violence protective orders from possessing firearms, and restore a limit on the number of gun purchases a person may make per month.

    • Combatting voter suppression with measures to grant people more accessibility and flexibility to vote. These laws include making election day a state holiday in place of Lee-Jackson Day, implementing “no excuse” absentee voting, expanding the types of ID voters may present in order to vote, and ensuring that mail-in ballots postmarked on election day can be counted.

    • Attacking racial inequities by implementing new and increased protections such as outlawing racial discrimination based on styles of hair or dress, promoting equal pay regardless of race, and expanding the justice system’s ability to investigate hate crimes based on race. House Democrats also backed several bills now becoming law that address environmental justice and seek to prevent health risks or disproportionate impacts of environmental pollution or environmental policies on minority communities. 

    • Empowering women through restoring reproductive rights, promoting equal pay, outlawing pregnancy discrimination, prohibiting schools from adopting dress code policies that have a disparate impact on a specific gender, improving treatment for prison inmates who are pregnant or have recently given birth, and making menstrual supplies available in public schools without charge.

    • Enhancing rights for the victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking. Protective measures include prohibiting persons subject to protective orders due to domestic violence from possessing firearms, requiring colleges and universities to grant disciplinary immunity from self-disclosed alcohol and drug violations for victims and bystanders who report sexual assaults, and informing localities and local immigration organizations of human trafficking risks to which immigrants may be more vulnerable.

    • Setting new progressive environmental standards and priorities. In 2020, House Democrats successfully pushed for Virginia to become the most environmentally progressive state in the South by joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and passing the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which puts Virginia on the path toward a 100 percent renewable-energy electricity supply by 2050. Other measures include raising water quality standards, further regulating disposal of coal ash, promoting and expanding access to the use of electric vehicles, and protecting wildlife populations. 

    • Widening discrimination protections for the LGBTQ+ community by banning conversion therapy for minors, requiring the State Registrar to establish a new birth certificate upon request after gender transition, mandating that schools to adopt policies which improve treatment of LGBTQ+ students, and strengthening hate crime laws. The Commonwealth will now also outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, public accommodation, public contracting, apprenticeship programs, housing, banking, and insurance. 

    • Repealing racially discriminatory Acts of Assembly. The injustices in these old laws included de jure school segregation and housing discrimination, as well as restrictions on African Americans relating to voting, public transportation, medical care, public documents, and public facilities.

    • Providing additional food insecurity and housing protections by expanding eligibility for the housing choice voucher tax credit and food stamps, providing school lunches for children who cannot afford them, and funding grocery stores and small food retailers to better serve underserved areas. Newly enacted legislation also provides short-term stays on court actions for eviction or foreclosure for Virginians who were furloughed due to a federal government shutdown or lost their jobs due to a State of Emergency declared by the governor, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

  47. Governor Northam Prohibits Congregating in Bars, Stresses Caution As Virginia Moves to Phase Three

    With cases rising in other states, Virginia will maintain current restrictions on bar seating, congregating

    RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that bar seating will remain prohibited in restaurants as the Commonwealth moves into Phase Three at midnight tonight. While key health indicators in Virginia are improving, the Governor made clear that he is taking a cautious approach and is prepared to implement tighter restrictions if needed.

    To reduce the likelihood of patrons gathering in bar areas without observing social distancing guidelines, bar seating and congregating areas of restaurants will remain closed except for those passing through. Restaurants may use non-bar seating in the bar area, as long as a minimum of six feet between tables is provided.

    “I am watching what is happening in other states—we are taking a cautious approach as we enter Phase Three and maintaining the current restrictions on bar areas,” said Governor Northam. “In Virginia, our hospitalization rates have fallen, our percentage of positive tests continues to trend downward, and we are conducting more than 10,000 tests each day. We want these trends to continue, but if our public health metrics begin moving in the wrong direction, I will not hesitate to take action to protect the health and safety of our communities.”

    Virginia is currently averaging more than 10,400 tests per day—exceeding Governor Northam’s goal—and hospitals continue to report ample supplies of personal protective equipment. The percentage of positive tests has dropped to six percent from a high of 20 percent in mid-April. The number of Virginians hospitalized with a positive or pending COVID-19 test has declined significantly over the past several weeks, and more than 1,200 contact tracers are presently working throughout the Commonwealth.

    Despite these positive trends, Governor Northam is monitoring increases in several states, and taking proactive steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Virginia. Governor Northam also continues to remind Virginians that they are safer at home, especially if they are high-risk or vulnerable. All Virginians must continue to comply with the statewide face covering requirement in indoor public spaces, and Virginians are strongly encouraged to:

    • continue teleworking if possible
    • wash hands regularly
    • maintain six feet of physical distance when outside of home
    • get tested immediately if you have COVID-19 symptoms

       

    Executive Order Sixty-Seven and Order of Public Health Emergency Seven is available here. Read the order in Spanish here.

    Sector-specific guidelines for Phase Three can be found here. View this document in Spanish here.

    Visit virginia.gov/coronavirus/forwardvirginia for more information and answers to frequently asked questions.