August 2021

UPDATE to Fatal accident in Brunswick County

The crash investigation revealed that a 2012 Lincoln Navigator was traveling eastbound on Route58/Governor Harrison Parkway when the driver ran off the roadway and struck a tree. The force of the impact caused the vehicle to catch on fire. The driver, and front seat passenger, both males, died upon impact. The back seat passengers, a 19 year old female and a 16 year old male were transported with serious life threatening injuries. Speed was a contributing factor. At this time, next of kin has not been made or located.

Brunswick Academy wins big over Chincoteague High School

The Brunswick Academy Vikings traveled to Chincoteague High School on Friday, August 27. The Vikings were up, first quarter 40-0.The final was 48-8...Vikings with the win! Sophomores, JP Powell from Emporia (#1) scored 4 touchdowns and Shaun Powell (#8) from Emporia scored 2 touchdowns. The Vikings also made all of their 2 point conversions. Bubba Weidman and Dwayne Farmer are the head coaches along with Assistant Coaches John Randolph, Joe Jackson and Tim Powell. The Viking boys or fall are young but have been working hard to have a winning season. The Vikings play at home this Friday, September 3 at 7 pm vs Richmond Christian.

Ladies of the Lake Donate to CMH Foundation Cancer Care Fund

South Hill, VA (8/27/21) – The Ladies of the Lake Cancer Support team assists men, women and children who have cancer and live around the five counties of Lake Gaston. They raise money at annual fundraisers to include a holiday homes tour, yard sale, and cookbook sales. They also host monthly Bunko games. They recently donated $2,500 to the Community Memorial Hospital Foundation Cancer Care Fund.

“There are just 19 of us and we are very proud that every cent we make from everything goes to help all of these people in need,” said Susan Williams, of Ladies of the Lake. “We had to host the Holiday Home Tour virtually last year. Even doing that we made more money than the previous year!” 

“The Ladies of the Lake Cancer Support team has donated $49,000 through the years,” said Ken Kurz, Director of Marketing and Development at VCU Health CMH. “That is a tremendous level of giving from a small volunteer group and we are so thankful for their generosity.”

“Many patients may lose their insurance or face other financial issues like being unable to work, which makes nausea and pain medications very difficult to afford,” explained Teresa Collins, Director of the Radiation and Medical Oncology Department at VCU Health CMH.

The VCU Health CMH Cancer Care Fund was started by the CMH Foundation and generous donors to help patients in our community who are dealing with cancer.

As patients visit the Hendrick Cancer Center or Solari Radiation Therapy Center daily for chemotherapy and/or radiation services the distance a patient travels can become costly; this fund has been used to assist with these travel expenses.

Each case is thoroughly evaluated by the cancer care team, to determine exactly what assistance is needed, and if the Cancer Patient Care Fund is an appropriate resource.

Support for the Cancer Care Fund can give these patients a hand, and also give them peace of mind, knowing that the inability to cover these costs will not stand in the way of their treatment.

When a need is identified, patients are carefully screened by the oncology social worker and Director of Oncology to determine need and to assure that these funds are used in the way donors intended.  The oncology social worker does extensive research to identify grants or other resources which may be available for the patient on top of looking at the Cancer Care Fund. 

If you are interested in donating to the VCU Health CMH Cancer Care Fund you can call (434) 447-0857 or visit vcu-cmh.org.

Help for Parents of Children who Stutter is as Close as Your Library

Thanks to some generous donations, the Stuttering Foundation has donated a new DVD, entitled Kids Who Stutter: Parents Speak, to public libraries across the country.

In this 16 minute DVD, parents and speech-language experts talk about how to promote easier talking as they interact with their children.  The professionals offer simple tips that parents can follow easily.

The DVD features some of the world's leading therapists with children who stutter: Lisa A Scott, Ph.D. of the Florida State University's School of Communication Science and Disorders; Ellen Kelly, Ph.D., of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine; speech-language consultants Frances Cook, MBE, MSc, Willie Botterill, MSc, and Elaine Kelman, MSc., from the Michael Palin Centre for Stammering Children in London.
“This is an important tool for families and teachers of children who stutter,” added Jane Fraser, president of the nonprofit Stuttering Foundation.  "Our latest DVD is designed to give parents and teachers the tools they need to play a vital role in the process of helping children who stutter."

For more information about stuttering write the 74-year-old nonprofit Stuttering Foundation, PO Box 11749; Memphis, TN 38111-0749, call 800-992-9392, or visit www.stutteringhelp.org.

A public library that will shelve any of the 16 free books and DVDs the Foundation offers to public libraries can email info@stutteringhelp.org or call 800-992-9392.

VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital Cardiac Rehab Program Recertified by Industry Leader

South Hill, VA (8/26/21) – VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital (VCU Health CMH) is proud to announce the recertification of its cardiovascular rehabilitation program by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR). This certification is recognition of VCU Health CMH’s commitment to improving the quality of life of patients by enhancing standards of care.

“This recertification shows our commitment to quality and ensures our patients get the best care,” said Todd Howell, VP of Professional Services.

Cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation programs are designed to help people with cardiovascular problems (e.g., heart attacks, coronary artery bypass graft surgery) and pulmonary problems (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD], respiratory symptoms) recover faster and live healthier.  Both programs include exercise, education, counseling and support for patients and their families.

“Cardiac rehab is important after a heart attack or other heart problems,” said Dr. Bethany Denlinger, Medical Director of Cardiac Rehab. “Rehab will help you get active again in a safe environment. It is not only exercise but education, which can prevent another cardiac event.  My cardiac rehab patients do better long term, and I'm proud of the work of our cardiac rehab staff.”

To earn accreditation, VCU Health CMH’s cardiovascular rehabilitation team participated in an application process that required extensive documentation of the program’s practices. AACVPR Program Certification is the only peer-review accreditation process designed to review individual programs for adherence to standards and guidelines developed and published by AACVPR and other related professional societies. Each program’s application is reviewed by the AACVPR Program Certification Committee, and certification is awarded by the AACVPR Board of Directors.

In 2018, AACVPR moved to an outcomes-based process with performance measurements that represent more meaningful outcomes. Therefore, AACVPR-certified programs are leaders in the cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation field because they offer the most advanced practices available and have proven track records of high- quality patient care. AACVPR Program Certification is valid for three years.

Commonwealth Invests in Southside Businesses Through RebuildVA

Delegate Roslyn Tyler highlights RebuildVA small business grants in her district

EMPORIA, Va.—Today, Delegate Roslyn Tyler (HD-75) held a press conference in Emporia highlighting the RebuildVA grants issued by the Commonwealth to help small businesses in Southside Virginia. 

“The RebuildVA program is essential to fostering economic growth in rural Virginia. These grants allowed our local businesses to receive vital assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Del. Tyler. “I am excited to continue working in the House of Delegates to make sure to maintain Virginia’s status of being ‘the best state to do business.’” 

In House District 75, which encompasses most of Southside, had 13 businesses receive a total of $609,000 in RebuildVA grants. The grant recipients include a diner, a law office, a body shop, a trucking company, and two nonprofit organizations providing community-based services. Three of the recipient businesses are Black-owned.

“We still have a lot of work to do, but the RebuildVA grants are vital to the families here in Southside Virginia,” said Alfreda Jarrett-Reynolds, Brunswick County Director of Economic Development. “The funds will afford us the opportunity to not only survive during the pandemic but thrive afterward. Businesses need help to be able to adjust to new realities, and we are grateful for the assistance.”

During the General Assembly’s Special Session II, House Democrats allocated $250 million of federal American Recuse Plan relief to fully fund the Rebuild VA program, to reinvest in our economy and to take strides toward building a better Virginia.

Virginia Department of Health and Governor Northam Recognize August as Immunization Awareness Month

(Richmond, Va) – On Thursday, August 26, Governor of Virginia Ralph Northam and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) joined Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to celebrate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). NIAM is an annual observance held in August to highlight the importance of immunization for people of all ages. ImmunizeVA, a statewide coalition of immunization stakeholders, received the Governor’s Proclamation in recognition of the month. Governor Northam was also joined by mascots of various Virginia colleges and universities to hype up and help spread awareness among families in their respective communities. 

In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation to align Virginia’s immunization requirements with the CDC’s ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) recommendations. Including previously required immunizations, all children in Virginia will need immunizations to protect against Rotavirus, Meningitis, HPV, and Hepatitis A. Without them, students may not be able to start school on time and children may not be able to attend daycare. For families of school-aged children, now is the time to get these required vaccines.

“Back to School is a great time for students of all ages to visit their pediatrician,” said Governor Ralph S. Northam, M.D., a pediatrician. “During these check-ups, babies, children and adolescents can receive their routine immunizations to ensure we have a healthy school year. It is also a good idea for everyone eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to get the life-saving shot.”

In Virginia, VDH provides free childhood immunization through the Virginia Vaccines for Children’s program. Families can find providers at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/immunization/vvfc/locatevvfcprovider/ or can visit their local health department to access these free resources. 

“COVID-19 disrupted both in-person learning and routine well-child visits for Virginian children over the last year and a half,” said Dr. Avula, Virginia’s State Vaccination Coordinator. “The CDC’s immunization ordering data shows a 14% drop in 2020-2021 compared to 2019, and measles vaccine ordering is down by more than 20%. Especially now, it is critical that children receive their immunizations so we don’t overwhelm our health systems with the co-circulation of illness.”

The Virginia Department of Health wants to reiterate that having a trusted health care provider  makes it easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Regular medical visits help families and caregivers understand and monitor their child’s growth and development, manage illness and preventative care, and keep up with their immunization schedule. 

“Misinformation around vaccines can be really difficult to navigate, but your child’s pediatrician or family medicine doctor is ready and equipped to answer your questions and explain the science behind immunizations,” said Dr. Tiffany Kimbrough, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, and a mother of two young children. “As providers, we are here to partner with you to address concerns and keep your children healthy.”

Lastly, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination is available for children ages 12 and up. It’s safe, free and effective. As your student goes back to school, be sure to identify and monitor your locality and school division’s COVID-19 protocols. For more information on COVID-19 in Virginia, visit the VDH Coronavirus website. Anyone age 12 or older can find free vaccination clinics near them by visiting Vaccinate.Virginia.gov or by calling 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users may call 7-1-1).

Virginia Launches 20th Annual Checkpoint Strikeforce DUI Enforcement and Public Education Campaign

New data shows that ninety percent of men in Virginia ages 21-35 have driven after having a few drinks or been driven by someone who had a few drinks in the last year

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today kicked off the Commonwealth’s 20th annual Checkpoint Strikeforce DUI enforcement and public education campaign. The enforcement aspect of the traffic safety campaign will take place from August 20 through Labor Day weekend and resume throughout the 2021 winter holiday season.

"It is great news that restaurants are open again and everyone is eager to celebrate, but let's all remember to do so safely and take care of each other,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “The tireless efforts of Checkpoint Strikeforce over the past 20 years have been critical in reminding Virginians of the importance of getting a safe ride after drinking. This year, as they have for the last two decades, Checkpoint Strikeforce will help keep drunk drivers off the road and save the lives of countless Virginians."

Last year in Virginia, nearly a third (32 percent) of all traffic fatalities in Virginia were due to alcohol-related crashes. 14,105 people were convicted of a DUI in the Commonwealth in 2020. During last year’s Labor Day weekend alone, Virginia State troopers arrested 55 drunk drivers, averaging a DUI arrest every 104 minutes. Checkpoint Strikeforce is a crucial joint effort between public and private partners that works to stop these fatalities through surround-sound persuasion campaigning and high-visibility enforcement that reminds Virginians to get a safe ride after drinking or face arrest.

Virginia State Police will work through Labor Day as part of Operation CARE, or Crash Awareness Reduction Effort. Operation CARE is a nationwide, state-sponsored traffic safety program that aims to reduce traffic crashes, fatalities, and injuries caused by impaired driving, speeding, and failing to use occupant restraints. Virginia State Police will participate in this program starting on Friday, September 3, 2021, at 12:01 a.m., and continue through midnight on Monday, Sept. 6, 2021.

“As a trauma surgeon, I’ve seen first-hand the destruction that impaired driving causes for families and communities,” said medical director of VCU Medical Center’s Level I Trauma Center and VCU’s Injury and Violence Prevention Program Michel B. Aboutanos, M.D.. “Drunk driving-related injuries can be devastating for not just the driver but innocent people on the roadways. Treating injuries begins by preventing them from happening in the first place and we need everyone in the community to play a role in preventing impaired driving.”

“The nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program is proud to partner with Virginia for the 20th annual Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign—marking two decades of saving the lives of Virginians from alcohol-related driving fatalities,” said President and CEO of the Virginia-based Washington Regional Alcohol Program Kurt Erickson. “Since Checkpoint Strikeforce’s inaugural campaign in 2001, alcohol-related crashes have decreased 41.2%, fatalities have decreased by 24%, and injuries have been halved.”

The campaign launch is supported by new research from local partner Lake Research Partners who conducted a survey that found 21 to 35-year-old males are most likely to drive after drinking. The research also showed that in the last year, 90 percent of men surveyed admitted to having driven after having a few drinks or being driven by someone who had a few drinks. However, 93 percent of young men indicated that they believe it is important to make a plan to get home safely after a night of drinking. Of the men surveyed, 61 percent expect to need a safe ride after drinking.

128 Virginia law enforcement agencies will participate in the first wave of Virginia’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign. Law enforcement officers will conduct 559 individual saturation patrols and 74 sobriety checkpoints across the Commonwealth.

Complementing the enforcement, Checkpoint Strikeforce is continuing its advertising campaign called “Act Like It.” The 30-second ad is an updated version of the spot which debuted in 2018. To address the changing environment in 2021 with COVID-19 restrictions lifted and restaurants open, the traffic safety campaign’s “man-baby” character returns to the bar, considering dangerous choices after drinking. The spot was built on public opinion research that shows the campaign’s primary audience strongly agrees that “people who drink and drive are not acting like responsible adults.” The advertisements remind viewers that drinking and driving is irresponsible—if you’re old enough to drink, act like it. Don’t risk a DUI. The latest ad can be viewed here: http://actlikeit.org/.

Checkpoint Strikeforce is part of a research-based multi-state, zero tolerance initiative designed to get impaired drivers off the roads using sobriety checkpoints and patrols along with education about the dangers and consequences of driving while impaired. Virginia’s Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign is supported by a grant from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to the nonprofit and Virginia-based Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP).

Virginia Department of Health Confirms Age 0-9 Fatality with COVID-19

A Child in the Northern Region has Passed Away 

(RICHMOND, Va.)  — Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced that a child in the Northern Region with COVID-19 has died. VDH will disclose no further information about the child to protect privacy and out of respect for the patient’s family. This is the first reported death of a child in the Northern Region with COVID-19 in Virginia.

“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of this child for their tragic loss,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A. “Across the country, COVID-19 continues to cause illness and death. The Delta variant is now the most predominant strain across the country, and it spreads more easily from one person to another. We urge everyone to take precautions to protect themselves and those around them. Everyone aged 12 and older who is eligible to get vaccinated is encouraged to do so as soon as possible.”

To lower the risk of spreading respiratory infections, including COVID-19, VDH encourages everyone to:

  • Get a COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you or your children. To locate a free vaccine near you, visit vaccinate.virginia.gov/.
  • Wear a mask in indoor public settings, even if you are fully vaccinated. Virginia is currently experiencing high levels of COVID-19 spread.
  • Practice physical distancing. Maintain at least 6 feet of space between yourself and others.
  • Avoid large gatherings, crowds, and indoor spaces with poor ventilation (airflow).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in public spaces; use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay home when you are sick. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, get tested.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

For more information on COVID-19 in Virginia, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus and www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.

Lavinia Newsome Parrish

November 13, 1920 - August 24, 2021

Services

Friday, August 27, 2021 at 11:00 A.M.

Independence United Methodist Church Cemetery
4438 Independence Church Road
Emporia, Virginia

Lavinia Newsome Parrish, 100, passed away on August 24, 2021. She was the daughter of the late J. N. Newsome and Bertha Odell Allen. She was preceded in death by her parents, husband, Jesse H. Parrish, Sr., daughter, Dorothy Parrish Moseley, brother, Robert Newsome, sister, Louise Doyle. She is survived by her son, Jesse H. Parrish Jr. (Patsy) of Emporia, VA., son-in-law, Frank N. Moseley of Emporia, VA., grandchildren, Christine P. Johnson (Michael) of Emporia, VA., Michelle P. Crane (Ed) of Lawrenceville, VA., step-grandchildren, Terri Moseley (David) of Emporia, VA., Heath Clements (Lisa) of Emporia, VA., Jami Clements of Rocky Mount, VA., along with numerous great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.

A graveside service will be held at Independence United Methodist Church Cemetery on Friday, August 27, 2021 at 11:00 A.M. with Rev. Shawn Smith officiating. The family will receive friends following the service.

Online condolences may be made at www.echolsfuneralhome.com

VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital Workers Awarded Scholarships

Front Left to Right: Willis Woodall, Dorothy Minter-Saunders, Angie Tanner, Jennifer Weston, Darleen Ferguson. Back Left to Right: Tyanna Jones, Scott Burnette, Nancy Bradshaw and Tamara Starke.

South Hill, VA (8/20/21) – Twice a year, Community Memorial Hospital (CMH) Auxiliary awards hospital employees with a $500 scholarship toward furthering their education through the Tree of Love - Elizabeth T. Moseley Scholarship Fund. The Scholarship is funded by community donations made to the “Tree of Love” in memory of, in honor of, or a military salute to a loved one. Recipients must meet certain criteria, like be employed by VCU Health CMH for at least a year, provide a letter of recommendation from their department director, maintain a 3.0 GPA or greater, and write a 100-word essay on how the scholarship would enhance their lives. The degree or certification pursued must enhance the employee’s capabilities in a position at the hospital.

This year the Auxiliary was able to award four winners due to not having any last year during the pandemic. Winners are: Tyanna Jones, of Brodnax; Tamara Starke, of Emporia; Angie Tanner, of La Crosse; and Jennifer Weston, of South Hill.

Tyanna Jones is a patient access representative pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Health Service Administration from Old Dominion University. She said in her essay, “My goal is to work in Public Health concentrating on maternal and infant health. With this scholarship and the need-based grants I have been awarded, I can complete my education and continue to solve problems and increase healthcare within my community.”

Tamara Starke is a certified pharmacy tech earning her associate degree in Nursing from Southside Virginia Community College. She plans to go all the way through to a master’s degree. She said, “This scholarship gives me the opportunity to not only fulfill my dreams but hopefully keep the community healthy. I appreciate the opportunity to accomplish this goal and make it my duty to always advocate for the patients in my community.”

Angie Tanner is a clinical quality analyst obtaining her bachelor’s degree in business with a concentration in Healthcare Administration from Capella University, Inc. A 20-year veteran of VCU Health CMH, she has held off on her own education to put her two daughters through school and now it is her turn. She explained, “Being the recipient of this scholarship would enhance my life by easing some of the financial burden placed on my family for this tremendous opportunity to learn, grow and enrich my future.”

Jennifer Weston is a cardiac monitor tech also getting her associate degree in Nursing from Southside Virginia Community College. At the age of 20, she had a kidney transplant. “I didn’t know anything about the medical field, but I got exposed to all types of health care professionals and decided that’s where I wanted to be,” explained Jennifer. “I worked as a pharmacy tech for 15 years and decided to switch to the broader field of nursing, where I can move up and choose my own specializations.”

VCU Health CMH is proud of their employees who are pursuing additional education to benefit their career path and improve patient care.

Children Helping Children

 

In 2020, Ava Rajappa of Richmond founded Art Love – a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing art supplies to children and youth facing hardship.

I started fifth grade in the fall of 2020,” says Rajappa, “and arts and crafts have helped me in life. Sometimes, when I am scared or overwhelmed, I do arts and crafts to calm me down. They are very fun to do and I am hoping other kids who have similar feelings would be able to use the art kits we donate to feel better when they are anxious.”

With the help of her parents, donors, and a grant from Dominion Energy, Rajappa and a team of 50+ volunteers collects art supplies, organizes them into kits, and delivers them to schools, hospitals, homeless shelters, and more.  To date, more than 4,200 kits have been delivered to organizations in nine states, Washington DC, and two countries. 

Jackson-Feild was thrilled to receive a supply of kits from Art Love.  Art teacher Tracie Wilder says, “Youth at Jackson-Feild often are unable to verbalize their thoughts and feelings.  Art is the perfect outlet, and these kits from Art Love will help them tremendously in the healing process.”

For more information about Art Love, visit www.art-love.org.  To make a donation to help supplement and replenish art supplies at Jackson-Feild, please call 434-634-3217.

 

Committee to Protect Health Care announces first-ever endorsements for House of Delegates candidates

Doctors, medical professionals will lend support to “Health Care Heroes”

RICHMOND — The Committee to Protect Health Care today announced in a virtual press conference its first-ever endorsements for the Virginia House of Delegates. The doctors, health care professionals, and advocates who comprise the Committee have chosen to lend their support to:

  • Delegate Wendy Gooditis, HD 10
  • Debra Gardner, HD 27
  • Delegate Joshua Cole, HD 28
  • Katie Sponsler, HD 66
  • Delegate Roslyn Tyler, HD 75
  • Dr. Jeffrey Feld, HD 81
  • Kim Melnyk, HD 84
  • Finale Norton, HD 100

“As Virginia physicians, we are excited to endorse these candidates for the House of Delegates because of their commitment to putting people’s health and access to health care ahead of partisan politics,” said Dr. Rommaan Ahmad, a pain management physiatrist in Alexandria and Virginia State Lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care. “By designating them as Health Care Heroes, we’re making clear to the voters of Virginia that these candidates will prioritize affordable health insurance and prescription drugs, as well as paid sick leave for working people. We look forward to helping these health care champions get elected so that they can look out for the health of our patients and all Virginians.”

The designated candidates were selected because of their:

  • Support for expanding paid sick leave (1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked), which currently only applies to home health workers, to include other private employees
  • Support for the establishment of an independent prescription drug affordability board with the power to review unsupported price increases on expensive prescription drugs 
  • Support for establishing a public insurance option with quality benefits and affordable premiums
  • Promise to fight to protect gains made in Virginia on Medicaid expansion

“All of these Health Care Heroes focus on, and care about, making medical care affordable, in particular the cost of prescriptions,” said Dr. Stewart Pollack, a cardiologist in Albemarle County. “Virginians need affordable health care and prescriptions, and by electing delegates who promote these ideas, we can achieve that.”

Dr. Bickley Craven, a family physician in Big Stone Gap, said: “Virginia has made great progress on health care in recent years by expanding Medicaid. This covers more than 400,000 more people, and enacting paid sick leave for home health care workers has been essential as well. But until all our patients and everyone in the state can access the care they need to thrive and paid time off when they’re sick, we have more work to do. The candidates we’ve endorsed today can be the leaders we need to build on our progress, strengthen families, and save lives.”

About the Committee to Protect Health Care

The Committee to Protect Health Care, formerly known as the Committee to Protect Medicare, is a national mobilization of doctors, health care professionals, and advocates who are building a pro-patient health care majority in Congress and in states so that we can live in an America where everyone has the health care they need to thrive. To learn more: www.committeetoprotect.org

McEachin Helps Protect the Right to Vote for All Americans

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) voted to pass H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, to restore critical provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and ensure the right to vote is protected. The landmark legislation prevents states and localities with a recent history of voter discrimination from restricting the right to vote by requiring them to obtain federal preclearance for any election changes.

“Voting is among the most sacred rights afforded to Americans, which is why I am proud to be an original cosponsor of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and help pass this historic legislation,” said Rep. McEachin (VA-04). “Congressman Lewis and other warriors in the Civil Rights movement fought, and even died, to protect the right to vote. Voting rights should not be a partisan issue, yet we are seeing coordinated state-level attacks on voter protections across the nation. H.R. 4 will help ensure national standards for voting rights and safeguard Americans’ access to the ballot box. I urge the Senate to pass this legislation, protect our democracy, and restore the vote.”

For decades, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) prevented states and localities from restricting the right to vote. However, in its Shelby County v. Holder decision in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the law, invalidating Section 4 and striking down the formula used to determine which jurisdictions are subject to federal oversight. In July 2021, the Court further weakened the law in its decision in Brnovich v. DNC which made it more difficult to challenge discriminatory voting laws in Section 2.

The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act:

  • Allows federal courts to immediately halt questionable voting practices until a final ruling is made. This provision recognizes that when voting rights are at stake, prohibiting a discriminatory practice after the election has concluded is too late to truly protect voters' rights.
  • Gives the Attorney General authority to request that federal observers be present anywhere in the country where discriminatory voting practices pose a serious threat.
  • Increases transparency by requiring reasonable public notice for voting changes.
  • Includes a retrogression standard for already-enacted but not-yet-implemented measures.
  • Helps plaintiffs to seek injunctive relief for voting rights violations in the lead-up to an election. 
  • Establishes a grant program for small jurisdictions to help them comply with the bill’s various notice requirements. 

Read the full bill text of H.R. 4 here.

 

VCU Health CMH Partners with American Red Cross to Host Community Blood Drive

South Hill, VA (8/23/21) – VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital (VCU Health CMH) will host a community blood drive with the American Red Cross on Friday, August 27, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the C.A.R.E. Building, located next to the hospital at 1755 N. Mecklenburg Avenue in South Hill. The drive will be in Education Rooms 1114 and 1116.

For more information or to make an appointment to donate, call (800) 733-2767 or sign up online at redcrossblood.org with sponsor code VCUHEALTH. Please note you will need to wear a mask and check in as a visitor to the C.A.R.E. Building with a temperature screening and wristband in order to gain entrance to the blood drive.

VCU Health CMH is committed to strengthening our community and helping meet hospital and patient needs through blood donations,” said Christina Duke, Director of Laboratory Services. “This blood drive is our way of giving staff, colleagues and neighbors an opportunity to help save lives.”

Blood is a perishable product that can only come from volunteer blood donors. With someone in the U.S. needing blood every two seconds, blood products must be constantly replenished, according to the Red Cross.

“We urge community members to donate blood and help ensure that patients in local hospitals have a supply of blood ready and waiting before an emergency occurs,” Christina added. “There’s no better feeling than knowing that your blood donation may give someone a second chance at life.”

According to the Red Cross, donors with all blood types are needed, especially those with types O negative, A negative and B negative.

Governor Northam Announces Grants to Replace 83 Diesel School Buses with Clean Alternatives

More than $10.5 million awarded to 19 school districts

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced more than $10.5 million in funds from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust, administered by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, to replace 83 diesel school buses with electric and propane buses in 19 school districts across Commonwealth.

By providing funds for clean school buses, the Department of Environmental Quality will help Virginia achieve clean energy goals, reduce air pollution, and mitigate climate change. The grant that provides the money for this initiative came from a Trust funded by the Volkswagen settlement that is working to reduce emissions and support environmental programs.

“We all benefit from transitioning away from diesel school buses and investing in clean alternatives for our transportation system,” said Governor Northam. “I know how important clean air is for children’s health. Since I took office, the Commonwealth has been focused on transforming the electric grid, developing clean energy resources, and addressing the climate crisis through initiatives that allow Virginia to invest in a clean and healthy future.”

Governor Northam announced the launch of the $20 million program in May 2021 to help transition school buses away from diesel and toward cleaner fuels like electricity and propane. The program’s investments in clean alternatives, which are intended to reduce harmful vehicle pollution, have helped accelerate an equitable transition to a cleaner economy for all Virginians.

“It is encouraging to see how successful the funds from the Volkswagen settlement have been in supporting clean alternatives for transportation,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “We have been clear that Virginia's environment is a top priority. I am proud that this settlement is being used to support important causes, like providing clean, safe, and healthy transportation for children going to and from school.”

The attorney general's office announced a settlement with Volkswagen in 2016 that committed $2.7 billion to environmental mitigation. This settlement has provided the funding for many eco-friendly initiatives across the Commonwealth. The attorney general's negotiations of this settlement secured resources for environmental causes for many years to come, and reinforces Virginia’s commitment to a clean economy.

“The Northam administration has remained committed to fighting the impacts of climate change and finding solutions that help Virginians every day,” said Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “Replacing aging and dirty buses is not only better for the health of school children, it also saves school divisions tens of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of a bus and helps advance Virginia’s clean energy goals.”

“Virginia’s investments in electrifying the school bus fleets is an important and critical part of our comprehensive approach to reducing pollution,” said Department of Environmental Quality Director David Paylor. “Collectively, the replacement of these school buses is calculated to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10,000 tons per year, and will save one million gallons of diesel fuel, equivalent to removing 2,000 cars from the road.” 

As part of this round of funding, Southampton County will receive $530,000 for two electric busses.

In September 2019, Governor Northam directed $20 million from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust to support new initiatives aimed at deploying electric school buses across the Commonwealth.

“Many of our families struggle to make ends meet,” said Halifax County Public Schools Director of Transportation Tammy Lacks Moore. “These funds will enable us to replace 10 diesel buses without raising taxes on our already burdened population, all while making sure we are doing everything we can to help improve our community.”

“The clean bus award will make a powerful impact for Essex County Public Schools and advance our transition to an electric fleet,” said Essex County Public Schools Transportation Supervisor Crystal Blowe. “This is a wonderful opportunity for Essex County students to ride the bus to and from school in an emissions free environment.”

“We are proud to set an example for our students and show that we are intently working towards, and contributing to, a brighter environmental future,” said Augusta County Public Schools Director of Transportation Terry Lafon. “With these funds, we will be doubling our fleet of electric buses and replacing 1996 and 1997 diesel buses, which will immediately benefit riders with a major reduction in both noise pollution and carbon fuel emissions.”

“Being selected to receive funds for 10 propane buses expands our ability to provide safe, reliable, and clean transportation for our students who deserve nothing but the best,” said Newport News Public Schools Director of Transportation Shay Coates. “As a major organization within our community, we feel we must set the example in protecting our environment.”

The Department of Environmental Quality is responsible for distributing Virginia’s share of $93.6 million from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust by investing in a diverse range of technologies that provide cost-effective, near-term emission benefits coupled with zero-emission technologies that provide long-term benefits. 

To date, approximately $62 million has been awarded for innovative projects including electric transit, school and shuttle buses, electric equipment at the Port of Virginia, and the development of a statewide electric-vehicle charging network.

The Department of Environmental Quality will begin accepting applications in October for an additional round of funds for public school districts to purchase more propane or electric school buses. Sign up here to receive updates on funding opportunities.

Additional information on the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust and efforts to reduce air pollution in Virginia is available on the Department of Environmental Quality’s website.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING OUTLINES UPDATED TENANT PROTECTIONS

~ Herring is outlining current state and federal tenant protections to help Virginians stay in their home as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the Commonwealth ~

RICHMOND(August 19, 2021) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring is outlining the various state and federal tenant protections that are currently in place to help Virginians stay in their homes as the deadly COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the Commonwealth.
 
“The sad reality is that too many Virginians across the Commonwealth continue to find themselves in tough financial situations because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and they may have a hard time making ends meet or paying their rent,” said Attorney General Herring. “I want to help all Virginians and their families stay in their homes during this ongoing global health crisis, which is why it’s so important to make sure that tenants stay up to date on eviction protections, as they have changed over the past year.”
 
Virginia Eviction Protections Effective Through June 30, 2022
  • If someone in a tenant’s household has experienced a financial hardship related to COVID-19, their landlord may not take any action to get possession or evict for nonpayment of rent unless the landlord:
  • Gives tenant a 14-day nonpayment notice informing the tenant about the Rent Relief Program (RRP), and
  • Unless the tenant pays in full, enters into a payment plan, or has already has applied for RRP, the landlord must apply for RRP on the tenant’s behalf within the 14-day period.
  • Landlords must cooperate with RRP applications by providing all information and documents needed.
  • After application for rent relief funds, landlords may not take any action to evict unless:
  • The tenant is not eligible for RRP, or
  • The tenant refuses to cooperate with RRP application, or
  • RRP funds are not approved in writing within 45 days of the first completed application, or
  • For any subsequent application, RRP funds are not approved in writing within 14 days of a complete application, or
  • RRP funds are depleted.
  • If a tenant is complying with a written payment plan, their landlord may not evict for nonpayment of rent.
Virginia Rent Relief Program
  • Tenants may apply for the statewide Rent Relief Program at http://www.dhcd.virginia.gov/rmrp.
  • Chesterfield County tenants should apply for rent relief with Chesterfield Emergency Rent Assistance (CERA) at http://actsrva.org/chesterfield-emergency-rent-and-utility-assistance-cera.
  • Tenants in Fairfax County can apply for rent relief through Coordinated Services Planning at https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/health-humanservices/eviction-prevention
  • Basic eligibility requirements:
  • Household income at or below 80% Area Median Income
  • Rent amount at or below 150% Fair Market Rent
  • Loss of income related directly or indirectly to COVID-19, or increase in expenses related directly or indirectly to COVID-19
  • Required documentation:
  • Rental agreement (valid lease or alternative lease documentation)
  • Tenant/landlord ledger
  • Tenant income documentation
  • Landlord’s Virginia W-9
  • RRP landlord/tenant agreement
  • Rent arrears can be covered back to April 1, 2020, plus current rent and up to 3 months’ future rent for a maximum of 18 months. Payments are made directly to landlords.
  • A landlord that refuses to accept rent relief may be illegally discriminating on the basis of a tenant’s source of funds. You can report suspected housing discrimination to the Virginia Fair Housing Office: https://www.dpor.virginia.gov/FairHousing.

Other State Protections
  • A landlord may not evict a tenant without following court eviction process. That landlord first sends a written notice and next the landlord files an unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit. The landlord must get a court order of possession, followed by a Writ of Eviction.
  • Through September 28, 2021, tenants in eviction lawsuits for non-payment of rent can get a case postponed for 60 days by coming to court with written proof of reduced income due to COVID-19.
  • After an eviction lawsuit for nonpayment of rent, tenants have the right to pay to a zero balance on or before the court date and have the lawsuit dismissed. After that, tenants have the right to pay to a zero balance up to 48 hours before a Sheriff’s eviction and have the eviction cancelled. If the landlord has 5 or more rentals, tenants may use these rights at any time. Otherwise, tenants may use these rights only once in a 12-month period.
Federal CDC Eviction Protections Effective Through October 3, 2021
  • On August 3, 2021, the CDC issued a new temporary halt in residential evictions in communities with substantial or high levels of transmission of COVID-19.
  • To qualify for the CDC eviction protections, a tenant must prove:
  • They have used their best efforts to obtain all available government rent assistance.
  • They are below income requirements:
  • Earned no more than $99,000 ($198,000 if joint return) in 2020, or
  • Expects to earn no more than $99,000 ($198,000 if joint return) in 2021, or
  • Not required to report any income to the IRS in 2020, or
  • Received stimulus check.
  • They are unable to pay rent due to income loss or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses.
  • They will use best efforts to make timely partial rent payments considering other expenses to be paid.
  • They would become homeless or need to move into close quarters (double up) if evicted.
  • Must provide CDC Declaration to landlord. Note that a previously given CDC Declaration remains in effect as long as information remains truthful and the tenant lives in locality where COVID-19 transmission rate is high or substantial.
  • Current CDC eviction protections only apply to:
  • Counties and Independent Cities where COVID-19 transmission rate is high or substantial.
  • These CDC protections do not apply where COVID-19 transmission rate is moderate or low.
  • A locality which moves into a transmission rate of high or substantial, from a rate of moderate or low, it will immediately trigger CDC eviction protections.
  • A locality which moves into a transmission rate of moderate or low for 14 consecutive days, from a rate of high or substantial, will lose CDC eviction protections after the 14 days.
  • Transmission rates by locality: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view.

 Additional Resources

 

 

Governor Northam Announces Virginia’s Unemployment Rate Dropped to 4.2 Percent in July

Rate outpaces the country—Virginia added 144,000 jobs over 12 months across nearly every economic sector

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 4.2 percent in July, which is 3.7 percentage points below the rate from one year ago. The labor force expanded by 7,818 to 4,241,686, as the number of unemployed residents decreased by 7,595. The number of employed residents rose to 4,065,473, an increase of 15,413. In July 2021, Virginia saw over-the-year job gains of 3.8 percent. Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continues to be below the national rate of 5.4 percent.

“Our administration is focused on creating an economic climate that will help Virginia’s workers and businesses thrive,” said Governor Northam. “The impressive gains in payroll employment and the downward trend of unemployment rates continue to show the strength and resiliency of our economy and our workforce as we recover from the pandemic. Virginians have shown great resolve over the last year and a half, and it is evident in the numbers we are seeing in this report.”

Virginia has once again been named America’s “Top State for Business” by CNBC. This achievement, paired with the data in this report, shows how Virginia has created a strong business environment.

“The continued decline in Virginia’s unemployment rate and the increase in payroll employment are all signs of a strong job market,” said Secretary of Labor Megan Healy. “We believe that workers will continue to re-enter the labor force and that the strong job market will continue in the coming months. Governor Northam and his administration remain committed to working with businesses and workforce development partners to ensure that every Virginian has the help and resources they need to find work.”

“It is exciting to see the unemployment rate in the Commonwealth significantly lower than it was at this time last year,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “As our labor force keeps growing month-over-month, we are very optimistic about what the future holds for Virginia’s businesses.”

In July, the private sector recorded an over-the-year gain of 134,100 jobs, while employment in the public sector gained 9,700 jobs. Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 2,300 jobs over-the-month. Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, ten of the eleven major industry divisions experienced employment gains. The largest over-the-year job increase occurred in leisure and hospitality with 46,000 new jobs, a 15.5 percent increase. The next largest over-the-year job increase occurred in professional and business services with 30,000 new jobs, a 4.0 percent increase. Trade, transportation and utilities experienced the third largest over-the-year job increase of 27,300 jobs, a 4.3 percent increase.

For a greater statistical breakdown visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website at vec.virginia.gov.

Greensville School Nutrition Team Meets the Need of Students and Families throughout the Summer

The cafeteria staff at Greensville Elementary School start each morning by serving breakfast to over 200 students arriving for summer school instruction. After kids filter through the line and head to their classrooms, the cafeteria team cleans-up and breaks at 9:30 a.m. to share a meal together. Each day of summer meals service, a member of the cafeteria team brings in a special home-cooked meal to share among one another. Shortly after, the cafeteria crew quickly cleans up after themselves and prepares for summer lunch service. 

“The teamwork I am seeing among my colleagues this year is amazing! This pandemic has actually strengthened the communication skills, work ethic, and camaraderie within our department. I applaud each of our staff members for the fantastic job that they have done and continue to do.”– MaRendia Garner, School Nutrition Director

It is this very spirit of teamwork and community that has propelled the entire nutrition department forward to adapt to the challenges brought on by the pandemic. In spring and summer 2020, the school division was forced to shut down as the result of a high number of COVID-19 cases within the community. The resilient school nutrition team sprang into action, partnering with Pepsi Co to distribute meal kits to kids across the county. With the help of the local YMCA, seven staff members took on the important responsibility of delivering meals to nine sites to ensure families had access to meals during the difficult time.

This summer, the school nutrition team is thrilled to be back to more normal operations, serving kids and summer school students out of cafeterias and apartment complex sites. Garner applied for nearly every Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) waivers offered by USDA that provide flexibilities this year. 

“These waivers allowed us to provide students with multiple days’ worth of meals at one time, allowed students to eat meals in a non-congregate setting (at home), and allowed us to have some flexibility as to what time the meals are served. The waivers lifted restrictions that would have made it nearly impossible to feed our students during this time.” – MaRendia Garner

In a rural community like Greensville, these waivers enable kids and students to more easily access the nutrition they need to carry them into the following school year. In some instances, parents are able to come pick-up multiple days’ worth of meals for their kids on their way home from work.  

In addition to utilizing waivers, the nutrition team sought out grant funding to help adapt to changing meal distribution plans. From home delivery, to bus stop drop offs, to meals in the classrooms, the team needed equipment and packaging supplies that would ensure students safely received nutritious meals. A $33,000 grant from No Kid Hungry helped provide the department with necessary equipment like sealing machines, new refrigeration units, and cold/hot carriers. 

 

As the team wraps up their summer meals program, they’re already looking forward to the 2021-2022 school year. In the wake of the challenges faced these past 16 months, Garner is excited to try new menu options like Mashed Potato Bowl and Chicken Philly Subs. They’re also ready to see kids in-person and continue building relationships with each and every student. 

“The thing we really miss is getting to see the kids! Most of these ladies know all the kids in the school by name and their grade. I think the meals and the cafeteria give them a sense of normalcy that they need.” – Rhena King, Greensville Elementary Cafeteria Manager

Garner is encouraged that more families and school staff see the importance of school nutrition within the broader education community. In May, the Superintendent and school division helped celebrate School Lunch Hero Day with an award to the department for all their hard work throughout the past year. 

Garner looks forward to continue collaborating with school staff and departments to ensure students have equitable access to nutritious meals. 

VSU Offers Mobile Processing Unit Certification Program

Virginia State University’s (VSU) is offering a certification program for its new Small Ruminant Mobile Processing Unit. The program will be held on Saturdays beginning Aug. 28 through Sept. 25 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. to train producers how to use the new unit to process their sheep and goats for market. Only certified producers who have completed the five-module certification program will be allowed to lease and use the unit. 

The certification includes four online virtual sessions that will be held on Aug. 28, Sept. 11, Sept. 18 and Sept. 25. After completing the online sessions, producers must also complete a two-day hands-on training session at Randolph Farm at 4415 River Road, Petersburg, Virginia. The two-day session, which is required for certification, will be offered on Oct. 9-10, Nov. 6-7 and Dec. 4-5. Additional sessions will be added based on participant demand. Participants can select which two-day session they want to attend. The program fee is $100. Registration is required for every participant. To register, visit http://www.ext.vsu.edu/calendar, click on the event and then click on the registration link.

Modules will include mobile processing unit design and usage; sheep and goat harvesting; carcass fabrication; state and federal regulations; marketing your products; and hands-on training on operating the unit. Participants will learn all the steps needed to ensure the equipment operates safely before processing, during processing, humane harvesting, carcass cooling/hanging and fabrication. A certificate of competence will be awarded upon completion of assignment(s), including passing a quiz and demonstrating required butchering and fabrication skills.

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT ATTENDING THIS PROGRAM DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) will follow all current CDC guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 during this program. Additionally, all VCE employees and members of the public attending a VCE public program are required to: 1) wear a face shield or mask over their nose and mouth, 2) stay a minimum of six feet away from others, 3) wash or disinfect their hands frequently, and 4) stay home if they or anyone close to them have experienced any COVID-19 symptoms any time two weeks prior to the program or if they have been knowingly exposed to someone with COVID-19 two weeks prior to the program.

If you have any questions about this event or are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact Tina Cabrera at tcabrera@vsu.edu. or call (804) 524-5836 / TDD (800) 828-1120 during the business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations five days prior to the event.

Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments. Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. An equal opportunity/ affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

SBA Announces Plan to Open Supplemental Grants for Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Applicants Encourages all potential SVOG applicants to apply

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Small Business Administration is announcing a call to all eligible Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) applicants seeking economic aid for live entertainment small businesses, nonprofits, and venues. New applications will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. PT on Friday, August 20, 2021. The SVOG program has so far awarded $8.4 billion in grants to more than 10,800 businesses to assist in getting the nation’s cultural institutions, which are critical to the economy and were among the first to shutter, back on track.

While the application portal will close to new applicants, the SBA will continue delivering economic aid to help venues recover by providing critical relief through the supplemental awards program. Later this month the SBA will open the program for supplemental SVOGs for 50% of the original award amount, capped at a total of $10 million (initial and supplemental combined). Details will be announced at a later date. Additionally, to ensure no eligible venue is left behind, the SBA is currently accepting, by invitation, applications for reconsideration of award amounts and appeals. This rare opportunity gives applicants a chance to prove their eligibility and reverse a prior decision. SBA is committed to delivering relief to entertainment venues through these various options. Should the need arise, the SBA may reopen the portal or make other adjustments to its plan to best meet the needs of small businesses.

“After making much-needed improvements to this vital program, we’ve made swift progress getting more than $8 billion in funds into the hands of more than 10,800 performing arts venues and other related businesses – two-thirds of which employ less than 10 employees. These small businesses suffered disproportionate impacts from the pandemic and were often left out of early rounds of relief,” SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said. “However, we also know so many small businesses continue to struggle. That’s why, as this program nears the finish line, we’re providing additional funding options for our hardest-hit venues through our supplemental awards program, which will provide another critical lifeline to ensure businesses can reopen and stay open.”

“Simply stated, the Shuttered Venues Operator Grant was our lifeline. The grant has allowed us to return to full operation, including staffing and programming,” stated President and CEO of The Palace, a theater in Stamford, CT, Michael Moran.  “In early 2020, we planned for closing just three or four weeks. As the pandemic continued to worsen, so did our fears of never reopening. The Palace closed for 15 months, with expenses continuing to accumulate against bleak revenue prospects.  The SVOG grant through the SBA saved us and can be credited with not only our recovery but that of Stamford’s entire theater district.”

Moran continued, “Our theatrical community is so appreciative of the exceptional support of the SBA. The program and funds ensure the preservation of our community, allowing artists and audiences the unique experience of joy and enrichment through the arts.”

Since receiving the SVOG, The Palace and other venues have raised their curtains and welcomed back artists and audiences. SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET to provide technical assistance with the SVOG application portal and can be reached at 1-800-659-2955 or, for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, at 1-800-877-8339. For additional information on SBA’s Economic Relief programs, visit COVID-19 relief options (sba.gov).

Further, SBA’s resource partners, including SCORE Mentors, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, and Veterans Business Outreach Centers, are available to provide entities with individual guidance on their applications. Applicants can find a local resource partner via a zip code search at  http://www.sba.gov/local-assistance. For weekly SVOG funding data reports, visit www.sba.gov/svog.  

Shuttered Venue Operators Grant background

The SVOG program was appropriated more than $16.2 billion for grants via the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act, and the American Rescue Plan Act. Of these funds, at least $2 billion is reserved for eligible SVOG applications with up to 50 full-time employees. Eligible applicants may qualify for grants equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue up to a maximum amount of $10 million for a single grant. 

Why You Don’t Want COVID

South Hill, VA (8/19/21) – With Governor Northam’s latest announcement requiring state employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, a lot of people are faced with making a difficult decision. To those state employees who have had COVID, it makes sense to them.

“I have so many continuing issues that I decided in July to retire because I did not feel capable of doing my job any longer.” - Ken Kurz, VCU Health CMH Director of Marketing and Development

I had a severe case of COVID-19 in December of 2020. It was so bad that I thought I was going to die, and there were a few days when I felt like dying would be better than fighting COVID any longer.

I was in bed for 21 days and just getting out of bed to use the restroom required a nap before and after. I had 13 straight days of a fever above 101, while on Tylenol, and nine of those days my fever was above 102. My highest recorded temperature during this time was 103.6 and I was fully dosed on Tylenol. I was never admitted to the hospital, but I did spend an evening in the emergency department, and I believe that saved my life. I was severely dehydrated; my pulse oxygen level was 90 and I told my wife good-bye when she dropped me off because I knew if I didn’t get better, I was going to die. I fully anticipated being admitted to the hospital and if the COVID continued at the rate it was progressing I knew it would kill me.

In other words, I was truly very ill. I had a cough that turned me purple, made me nearly pass out multiple times a day, left me so dizzy I had to lie down and made it difficult to breathe. The cough was worse than any bronchitis I ever had. I lost my sense of taste and smell, lost all desire to eat and was not sure for most of those 21 days if I was going to live through it.

I was not a fan of the vaccine and was pretty sure I was not going to take it when it became available prior to having COVID. But I listened to infectious disease doctors from VCU Health explain the science behind the vaccine’s creation and if there were issues with the vaccine, they would be made apparent quickly. I decided to get the vaccine because I DID NOT WANT COVID AGAIN!

I am now nine months post-COVID and I have significant lingering issues that can only be attributed to COVID.

I had the brain fog people talk about and now, nine months later, I still feel I am significantly impacted mentally from COVID. My memory is really bad – especially my short-term memory. I am still tired EVERY DAY. I get winded walking up a single flight of steps. I have crazy issues with my blood pressure. Pre-COVID my blood pressure was typically 110/70 unless I was doing something that required a lot of exertion.

Now my blood pressure is between 180/110 to 130/99 and I have had crazy spikes as high at 200/150 and drops to as low as 90/60. My heart rate used to be 60-70 and now it is typically 90-100 when at rest. I have had every test known to man, trying to figure out what is wrong with me. In the past six months I’ve had an MRI, MRA, CT Scan, Stress Test, Vascular studies, countless blood tests and every test has come back showing no issues, yet I still have a lot of issues. I wore a heart monitor for 30 days and despite having strange feelings that I was able to record during those 30 days, the monitor showed no issues. My heart would feel like it was racing sometimes and other times I would have pain in my chest. And I haven’t mentioned that in February I went temporarily blind for about 20 minutes that doctors believe was related to a stroke. Again, I attributed that to COVID and doctors did not disagree.

I have so many continuing issues that I decided in July to retire because I did not feel capable of doing my job any longer. I have irrational anger issues; I’ve had mood swings that have taken me to very dark places. I feel poorly most days, and nothing seems to be improving. I have night sweats and chills on a regular basis. All of this is new since COVID.

What I have gone through and continue to go through is not unique to me. In conversations I’ve had with people I know across the country, almost everyone who had a severe case of COVID and lived has similar issues. Even those who did not have serious COVID cases have issues.  My wife had what I would consider a mild case of COVID and she has taste and smell issues nine months post COVID and just doesn’t feel well most of the time.

If you are on the fence about the vaccine, I would ask you to seriously consider getting the vaccine to avoid dealing with issues like I and many others have.

COVID can kill you. And if it doesn’t kill you, it can still change your life dramatically.

“Although I only suffered 2-3 days with concerning COVID issues, I am still dealing with the aftermath 10 months later, and who knows how much longer.” - Brenda Palmore, DHA, VCU Health CMH Vice President of Practice Management and Business Development

In October 2020, I tested positive for COVID.  I was around a close friend, who was exposed from a co-worker and was unaware. The day she told me she tested positive, I felt perfectly fine. I was immediately tested and quarantined while waiting for the results. All I could think about were the people I could have potentially exposed. My husband; our 10-year-old daughter; my father, who suffers from COPD and is on oxygen 24/7; my mother, a cancer survivor who’s missing a portion of her lung from lung cancer; my aunt, age 74, who suffers from dementia; my co-workers at VCU Health CMH; my husband’s co-workers; my daughter’s classmates and teachers. My mind was racing thinking of the trail this could potentially leave and the havoc that it could cause with so many people. What if someone on that trail contracted it because of me and died? I tried to stop stressing and prayed that I was not exposed. The next day I received the dreaded call that I was positive around 8:30 a.m.

I was so emotional. I started calling everyone that I was around to inform them of the results. My daughter was so worried about what would happen to me, as we were constantly watching the news and hearing what this virus could do, so she was hearing the worst. I could hear the fear in my mom’s voice for me and for them as I told her the news.    

The next day, I could barely get off the couch. I did not want anything to eat or drink. I remember going from 10:00 p.m. to 12:00 noon the next day without going to the bathroom because I did not have the energy to get up. 

By 5:00 p.m. I had chills and I could not get warm. By 8:00 p.m. I was on fire and my blood pressure was around 150/90.  All night I went from having chills and shaking all over to burning up and feeling miserable. My blood pressure reached a high of 170/110. I had the worst headache ever and nothing would dull the pain. This continued into the next day. 

By day three, I seemed to level out with blood pressure and body temp, but the headache continued. I had no sense of taste or smell, and the fatigue was horrible. By this point, my husband tested positive, and our 10-year-old daughter had to take care of herself. She was so worried about us and could not come anywhere near us. We shared texts and face timed each other in the same house.   

When I was finally cleared and could return to my normal routine, I was so excited. However, I had no idea of the issues that were waiting just around the corner. I had to push myself to get up and get ready each day. All I wanted to do was crash on the couch. The brain fog was real. Walking from the parking lot to my office became a difficult task. I was short of breath halfway there. I definitely could not talk to anyone while walking. I remember being on a Zoom call one morning and I had to excuse myself to catch my breath. My heart began beating in a weird way and I was lightheaded on several occasions. My PCP referred me to Cardiology for a full work up including a heart echo. My heart function was fine. They explained that some people experienced these issues after COVID and were called “long haulers,” meaning the issues lingered after COVID – but no one knew how long this could continue. Every day after work, I crashed on the couch for about 2 hours. 

In April, I started with several other issues – blurred vision in my left eye, pain in my arms and legs, balance issues/dizziness, continued fatigue, shaking in my hands, extreme sensitivity to heat, sleep issues, and bowel issues. I put it off and tried to ignore it. I returned to my PCP in July convinced that I would be diagnosed with MS. After lab work and an MRI I was informed that everything was normal and they were unsure of the causes of the symptoms. 

My next stop is the Ophthalmologist…

Although I only suffered 2-3 days with concerning COVID issues, I am still dealing with the aftermath 10 months later, and who knows how much longer.

Vaccine Availability

Luckily, vaccines are readily available at retail locations near you. To find available options, visit www.vaccines.gov or call 1-800-232-0233. You can also text your zip code to 438-829 and you’ll immediately get a text message that lists vaccination sites near your home. Vaccination is free!

Industrial Maintenance Student Achieves Dramatic Success

Shaun Phelps, a student in the Industrial Maintenance program at Southside Virginia Community College, will complete his Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree at the end of the 2021 summer semester. The occasion marks a significant milestone in his life’s journey, professionally and personally.

Shaun explains, “On June 30, 2018 I was in a vehicle accident in my truck. I don’t remember the accident, but I’ve been told that I overcorrected on a curve and hit a tree. It turned out that the first responder was a friend who was also a volunteer with the fire department. He said I had been ejected from the truck and was pinned underneath the cab. I was in a coma for a month. I woke up in the hospital, clueless. I was in the hospital for two and a half months.”

At the time of his accident, Shaun was employed as a lineman with Dominion Power. His recovery and eventual return to work required an unswerving effort as he worked to overcome the effects of a traumatic brain injury and to restore physical abilities.

Shaun explains that returning to work involved following testing protocols. “Dominion was understandably cautious to have me return as a lineman, but I wanted to come back. I went to brain doctors, including one in Richmond who had studied brain injuries in the NFL.” Finally, after being out of work for six months, Shaun received clearance to return to his job.

His path forward included unexpected obstacles. “People felt differently about me. There’s a stigma associated with brain injuries.”

Shaun persisted in meeting high standards and eventually rose to the position of Lead Lineman. “It is my job to help educate new trainees and to fill in when the supervisor is not there,” he explains. The job also requires a sharp eye and commitment to safety. “You’re the one putting your hand on the wire. You do what needs to be done.”

During a routine safety meeting, Shaun learned about a program at SVCC that offered linemen academic credit for their training and experience. Shaun saw the opportunity as a chance to prove his mental mettle. “I wanted to challenge myself,” he reports.

“School has been great for me,” he says. “Coming back from a brain injury helped me focus. I’ve learned a lot about myself, what I can tolerate, and how to cope with challenges.”

One of those challenges involved learning how to retain information in areas outside his usual interests, such as mathematics. “I had to learn about my limits and found that it helped to constantly write things down and re-read my notes. I have a scary stack of notepads, and I’ve gone through a lot of pens,” he laughs.

Other classes had more immediate practical applications. “My favorite classes turned out to be computer and communication classes. I learned how to make PowerPoint presentations, and I’ve been able to create some for people to learn at work during times such as rain days. I also simplified some instructional materials to make it easier for new recruits to learn.”

With his lineman training and experience, Shaun needed to take only 12 classes to complete his degree. “I was able to take them all online with a flexible schedule,” he reports. That was important because his work schedule places him on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. “There’s no way I could have scheduled regular classes,” he observes.

Shaun started his college journey in May 2020. He will graduate this summer. “Completing the work took a lot of self-motivation,” he says. “My wife and four kids look to me to help make their lives as best as possible. At my work station, I keep a picture of my truck after the accident and one of me in the hospital with all the tubes. These help me realize that there are more important things in life than to get upset. I also keep a paper my son wrote. He said, "When I grow up, I want to be like my dad. He’s a fighter and a survivor.’”

To others considering embarking on an academic journey, Shaun offers this advice, “Never doubt yourself. They first thought I would need care 24 hours a day, but I walked out of the hospital on my own. The odds were stacked against me, but I’ve managed to make it through. When things get hard, buckle up. Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.”

SVCC offers flexible options for students seeking credit for prior learning and work experience. If you would like more information, visit southside.edu or contact Kristie.morris@southside.edu.

McEachin, Clyburn Organize Local Commission, Call for Fort Lee to Be Renamed

Lt. General Arthur J. Gregg Exemplifies American Values

Washington, D.C. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) and Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (SC-06) urged Admiral Michelle Howard, Chair of the Naming Commission at the U.S. Department of Defense, to rename Fort Lee in Central Virginia after Lt. General Arthur J. Gregg. This recommendation follows an independent commission organized by the Members, which agreed that the military base should be rededicated as Fort Gregg.

“You have been tasked with the critical and long-overdue responsibility of beginning the process of renaming military installations honoring individuals who took up arms against the United States to preserve the institution of slavery. This change is long overdue,” the Members wrote in a letter. “The Armed Forces of the United States exemplify the values, identity, and diversity of our nation, and it is imperative that the names of military installations, ships, buildings, and other property reflect that as well.”

Lt. General Gregg was a thirty-five-year veteran of the U.S. Army, a celebrated military logistician, and a barrier-breaker for African American armed forces. He worked to combat racial and institutional barriers for minority servicemembers. Upon his retirement in 1981 as the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, he was the highest-ranking minority general, and the second-highest ranking Black servicemember to date.

“By establishing Fort Gregg, the Army would not only honor a pioneer in military leadership and logistics, but also honor the legacy of all Black servicemembers who offered the best of themselves to a nation that did not always show them the same respect nor recognize their value,” the letter continues.

The U.S. Army post and headquarters is currently named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee, a prominent leader of the Confederacy in Virginia, who fought to preserve slavery and uphold institutional racism in the United States.

Read Rep. McEachin and Whip Clyburn’s full letter here.

Howard Louis Conwell, Jr.

 

November 18, 1944-August 16, 2021

Services

Saturday, August 21, 2021, 11:00 am

Echols Funeral Home
806 Brunswick Avenue
Emporia, Virginia

Howard Louis Conwell, Jr., 76, passed away on August 16, 2021. He was the son of the late, Howard L. Conwell, Sr., and Mayfeild Herrick Conwell. He was preceded in death by his parents, brother, Neal Conwell, sister, Elizabeth Bowden. He is survived by his son, Michael H. Conwell (Caryn) of Midlothian, VA., daughter, Lisa C. Pyffer (Steve) of Perkasie, PA., brothers, Earl Conwell (Diane) of Prattville, AL., Wilson Conwell (Pat) of North Dinwiddie, VA., Larry Conwell of Emporia, VA., sisters, Mildred Spiers of Mickenny, VA., Eloise Stahl (Steve) of Atlanta, GA., Shelia Conwell (Rick Pirkey) of Myrtle Beach, SC., grandchildren, Josh Pyffer (Megan Smith-Buzza), Abigail Conwell, Alex Conwell, great-grandchild, Eva Gwen Smith-Buzza, and former wife, Cathy Conwell of Midlothian, VA.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, August 21, 2021, at Echols Funeral Home, starting at 11:00 A.M. with Rev. Wilson Conwell officiating.

Online condolences may be made at www.echolsfuneralhome.com

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.

Social Security Expands Compassionate Allowances Program for People with Severe Disabilities

Program Expedites Decisions for Disability Benefits

Kilolo Kijakazi, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, today announced 12 new Compassionate Allowances conditions:  Charlevoix Saguenay Spastic Ataxia (ARSACS), Choroid Plexus Carcinoma, CIC-rearranged Sarcoma, Congenital Zika Syndrome, Desmoplastic Mesothelioma, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy – Adult, Pericardial Mesothelioma, Refractory Hodgkin Lymphoma, Renpenning Syndrome, SCN8A Related Epilepsy with Encephalopathy, SYNGAP1-related NSID, and Taybi-Linder Syndrome. Compassionate Allowances is an initiative that quickly identifies severe medical conditions and diseases that meet Social Security’s standards for disability benefits.

“Everyone who is eligible for benefits under the programs we administer should receive them,” said Acting Commissioner Kijakazi.  “Our Compassionate Allowances program helps us address barriers by helping accelerate the disability application process for people who are likely to get approved for benefits due to the severity of their medical condition.”

The Compassionate Allowances program quickly identifies claims where the applicant’s condition or disease clearly meets Social Security’s statutory standard for disability.  Due to the severe nature of many of these conditions, these claims are often allowed based on medical confirmation of the diagnosis alone; for example, certain cancers, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and a number of rare disorders that affect children.  To date, more than 700,000 people with severe disabilities have been approved through this accelerated, policy-compliant disability process, which has grown to a total of 254 conditions.

When a person applies for disability benefits, Social Security must obtain medical records in order to make an accurate determination.  The agency incorporates leading technology to identify potential Compassionate Allowances cases and make quick decisions.  Social Security’s Health IT brings the speed and efficiency of electronic medical records to the disability determination process.  With electronic records transmission, Social Security is able to quickly obtain a claimant’s medical information, review it, and make a fast determination.

For more information about the program, including a list of all Compassionate Allowances conditions, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.

To learn more about Social Security’s Health IT program, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/hit.  

People may apply online for disability benefits by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov.

To create a mySocial Securityaccount, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

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