2021-8-18

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING DISTRIBUTES CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS STEMMING FROM SHUTDOWN OF DECEPTIVE TELEFUNDING OPERATION

~ Herring shut down massive telefunding operation that placed more than 1.3 billion deceptive fundraising calls including over 40 million into Virginia claiming to support veterans, children, firefighters ~

RICHMOND(August 17, 2021) – After shuttering a massive telefunding operation, Attorney General Herring and a coalition of 38 attorneys general along with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are distributing almost $500,000 from the settlement to nonprofits across the country. In March, Attorney General Herring announced that he had shut down a massive telefunding operation that bombarded 67 million consumers with over 1.3 billion deceptive charitable fundraising calls – mostly illegal robocalls – over 40.3 million of which were made to Virginians. The defendants collected more than $110 million using their deceptive solicitations.
 
“Organizations that not only take advantage of kind-hearted Virginians but also use technology and robocalls to repeatedly harass consumers must be held accountable,” said Attorney General Herring. “I’m pleased we were able to distribute these funds to charitable organizations that deserve it and will make sure the money goes towards the people who need it the most. I want to thank my Consumer Protection Section as well as our state and federal partners for their dedication and hard work on this case.”
 
Associated Community Services (ACS) and a number of related defendants that made deceptive fundraising calls agreed to settle allegations that they duped generous Americans into donating to charities that failed to provide the services they promised. Through the court action, the defendants paid almost $500,000 to the states to be distributed to court-approved nonprofits for the charitable purposes donors originally intended to support.
 
The funds surrendered by the defendants were paid to an escrow fund administered by the Florida Attorney General. The court approved those funds be directed to the American Cancer Society, Semper Fi & America’s Fund, and the Tunnel to Towers Foundation. Each recipient organization will use these funds to support the causes defendants purported to support when soliciting donations from consumers. The funds recovered will now be used to assist Americans with cancer screenings and treatment, military service members and their families, and first responders and their families.
 
Tips to remember when donating to charities and other organizations:
  • On crowdfunding sites:
  • Check the creator or page owner's credentials and try to confirm its authenticity and seriousness
  • Look for indicators of endorsement or legitimacy that the page is actually collecting donations for a particular victim or organization. Some sites offer verification and transparency measures for campaigns. Look for those markers of authenticity, and check out the site's fraud protection measures
  • Be cautious, and if you feel uneasy, contribute to a more established charity in the community
  • Be wary of charities that spring up overnight in connection with a current event or natural disaster. They may make a compelling case for you to make a donation but even if they are legitimate, they may not have the infrastructure or experience to get your donation to the affected area or people
  • Only give to charities and fundraisers you can confirm are reliable and legitimate. Scrutinize charities with consumer advocates or friends and find out how much of your donation will go to the charity's programs and services
  • Beware of “copy-cat” names that sound like reputable charities. Some scammers use names that closely resemble those of respected, legitimate organizations
  • Be especially cautious if you do not initiate the contact with the charity
  • Do not be pressured into giving. Legitimate organizations will not expect you to contribute immediately
  • Ask for written information about the charity, including name, address, and telephone number. Legitimate organizations will give you materials about the charity’s mission, how your donation will be used, and proof that your contribution is tax-deductible. Just because a “charity” has a tax identification number does not mean your contribution is tax-deductible
  • Avoid cash donations. Make checks payable to the charitable organization and not to an individual collecting a donation. For security and tax record purposes, you may wish to pay by credit card
  • If contributing over the Internet, be sure the web site you are visiting belongs to the charity to which you want to donate. See if other legitimate web sites will link to that web site. Make sure the web site is secure and offers protection of your credit card number
  • If a charity is soliciting contributions in Virginia, verify its registration with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs (“OCRP”) at (804) 786-1343, or by searching OCRP’s Charitable Organization Database online
  • While a legitimate charity should be registered with OCRP to solicit contributions in Virginia, registration alone does not mean that the organization will be effective
 
Joining Attorney General Herring and the FTC in this case are the attorneys general of Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming; the secretaries of state of Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Tennessee; and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Utah Division of Consumer Protection.

McEachin Announces Nearly $500,000 HHS Grant to Combat Lead Poisoning

Richmond – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) announced a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to the Virginia Department of Health for $496,328 for the prevention of childhood lead poisoning.

“I am pleased to see these significant funds come to the Commonwealth and aid the Department of Health’s work to prevent lead poisoning and monitor children who may be vulnerable and exposed to lead,” Rep. McEachin said. “We must be proactive in our efforts to reduce lead exposure, as it can cause permanent brain damage, nerve and kidney damage, and even death.

Rep. McEachin has worked to address the threat of lead exposure and promote more equitable health outcomes for all communities. Last Congress, he introduced the Lead Safe Housing for Kids Act to protect children in federally-assisted housing from dangerous lead exposure.

Statement from Virginia State Vaccination Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula On Booster Dose of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines for the General Population, Third Dose for Immunocompromised Persons

(Richmond, Va.) – The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is monitoring discussion at the federal level and the possibility of mRNA vaccine booster doses (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna), following approval last week of third doses for immunocompromised persons.

“In Virginia, we are monitoring the situation and planning through all of the logistical considerations,” said State Vaccine Coordinator Danny Avula, MD, MPH, “If booster vaccine doses are recommended for the general population, the rollout of those boosters will likely take place over several months, as the expected recommendation is that a booster dose should be given within a defined time frame after your second dose. VDH and local health departments now have experience in planning and carrying out the logistics of a large-scale vaccination effort, and rebooting that for booster doses will not be an issue. The infrastructure for administering the booster doses is already in place.”

Should boosters be recommended by the federal government — the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) — VDH will proceed accordingly with providers to administer the vaccines to the general public.

For more information on COVID-19 in Virginia, visit vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus. Anyone age 12 or older can find free vaccination opportunities near them by visiting vaccinate.virginia.gov or calling 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1).

Governor Announces Historic Enrollment in Early Childhood Education Programs

New early childhood investments are spurring greater enrollment in preschool programs

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that increased investment in Virginia’s two largest state-funded preschool programs is expected to result in historic enrollment for the upcoming school year. The Commonwealth has authorized $151.6 million to Virginia Preschool Initiative and Mixed Delivery in fiscal year 2022, a $60.9 million increase from the previous school year and more than twice the investment made in fiscal year 2018. As a result, the Virginia Department of Education’s Virginia Preschool Initiative and the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation’s Mixed Delivery Preschool Grant Program anticipate serving more than 25,000 three and four-year-olds this fall, as employers reopen and students safely return to in-person instruction.

Federally funded early childhood programs are also now open to more families in Virginia than ever before. Families earning up to 85 percent of the state median income with young children are temporarily eligible for Virginia’s Child Care Subsidy Program thanks to HB 2206 sponsored by Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn, which Governor Northam extended last month. The program is serving more than 20,000 children, which is 94 percent of its pre-pandemic total. Federal Head Start and Early Head Start Programs are funded to serve 14,463 children this school year and all sites are working towards full in-person enrollment by January 1, 2022.

“Access to high quality early learning is critical for children’s development, and the Commonwealth’s investment in early childhood education is a major reason Virginia was named the best state to do business for the second year in a row,” said Governor Northam. “Increasing school readiness is more important than ever as we recover from the pandemic, and this historic commitment puts us one step closer to offering a great start for all Virginia children.”

Since 2018, First Lady Pamela Northam has traveled over 10,000 miles to nearly 200 schools and early childhood programs along with staff from the Virginia Department of Education, Virginia Department of Social Services, and members of the General Assembly. Her engagement with parents, educators, business leaders, and other stakeholders led to legislation and investments in early childhood education from the General Assembly in fiscal years 2021 and 2022. Mrs. Northam’s 2021 Back to School Tour kicks off August 18 and 19 with eight stops in Southwest Virginia.

“We’re excited to get back on the road to meet children and families who now have access to quality in-person early learning programs for the first time thanks to these transformative investments,” said First Lady Pamela Northam. “This is also a chance to thank the superhero educators who have adapted to provide safe and supportive environments for our littlest learners to thrive.”

The Virginia Department of Education became the single point of accountability and oversight for all publicly funded early childhood programs in Virginia thanks to new laws that took effect July 1, 2021. Its new Division of Early Childhood Care and Education brings together 120 full time employees, many of whom transitioned from the Virginia Department of Social Services, to focus on increasing access to high-quality, publicly-funded early childhood care and education programs. Recent data from the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program showed that 52 percent of Virginia’s kindergarteners ended the school year still needing support to build foundational skills in literacy, math, self-regulation, and/or social skills.

“We know that 90 percent of a child’s brain development occurs before the age of five, so high quality early childhood education programs are a key strategy to increasing student achievement from kindergarten to after graduation,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane. “A unified approach across all early learning settings is more important than ever as we emerge from the pandemic and equip the next generation of students to succeed in the 21st century workforce.”

More than 23,600 students across 126 school divisions are projected to be served by Virginia Preschool Initiative classrooms in the 2021-2022 school year. This compares with approximately 18,000 total children served by Virginia Preschool Initiative programs in 124 divisions before the pandemic. Thirty-seven school divisions will serve a combined total of about 1,600 three-year-olds in their Virginia Preschool Initiative classrooms. This is the second year of a pilot program to provide young learners with multiple years of preschool experience to prepare them for success in kindergarten and beyond.

Nearly 1,500 three- and four-year-olds will be served by the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation’s Mixed Delivery Grant Program across 45 localities. This compares to 239 children in 9 localities from 2020-2021.

$151.6 million has been authorized to Virginia Preschool Initiative and Mixed Delivery for the fiscal year 2022. This is a $60.9 million increase from the previous school year, and more than twice the investment made in fiscal year 2018.

Head Start and Early Head Start funding will serve more than 14,400 children in Virginia this school year.

More than 20,000 children were participating in Virginia’s Child Care Subsidy Program as of August 16, 2021. This is a 51 percent increase from March 2021, meaning an additional 7,325 children are served through expanded eligibility. $316.3 million from the 2020 federal relief dollars were invested in Virginia’s early childhood system. As a result, 95 percent of licensed and regulated child care and early education programs are now open and serving children in person.

The Child Care and Development Block Grant received $793 million of additional American Rescue Plan dollars approved by the General Assembly in August 2021.

Find more information on the Virginia Preschool Initiative here.
Find more information about the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation and the mixed-delivery grant initiative here.
Learn more about eligibility expansion for the Child Care Subsidy Program, and to apply, click here.
To learn about Head Start and Early Head Start contact your local school division.
To help address workforce shortages in child care, qualifying child care businesses may qualify for up to $500 “Return to Earn” bonuses for new hires without a match requirement.

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