Ralph Northam

Governor Northam Announces Virginia’s Unemployment Rate Drops for 15 Straight Months, to 4.0 Percent in August

 

Virginia outpaces the nation in economic recovery

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 4.0 percent in August, 3.0 percentage points below the rate from one year ago.

The labor force increased by 5,550 to 4,247,321, as the number of unemployed residents decreased by 7,678 to 168,515. The number of employed residents rose by 13,228 to 4,078,806. In August 2021, Virginia saw over-the-year job gains of 2.2 percent. Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continues to be below the national rate of 5.2 percent.

“Virginia’s economic recovery continues to outpace the nation," said Governor Northam. “Our unemployment rate remains well below the national average and has fallen consistently every month for the past fifteen months. More people are working and businesses are continuing to flock to our Commonwealth—even with the ongoing threat of COVID-19. I'm proud of our roaring economic growth, and I look forward to seeing these trends continue."

“This month’s declining unemployment rate is made possible through the hard work and determination of Virginia’s workers and employers, who are the true champions of economic recovery in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Labor Megan Healy. “While we have more work to do, we can all be proud of how far we've come.”

“The overall trend in the unemployment rate we see is very encouraging, as the number of jobs being added to payrolls across Virginia continues to increase,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “The trends are clear—businesses are hiring and folks are getting back to work.”

In August, private sector employment increased by 1,500 jobs to 3,208,700, and employment in the public sector gained 9,000 jobs to 704,500. Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 10,500 jobs in August. Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, nine of eleven major industry divisions experienced employment gains. The largest over-the-year job gain occurred in leisure and hospitality, up 37,100 jobs or 12 percent. The next largest over-the-year job gain occurred in professional and business services, up 20,600 jobs or 2.7 percent. Trade and transportation experienced the third-largest over-the-year job gain of 16,600 jobs or 2.6 percent.

For a greater statistical breakdown, visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website.

Governor Northam Encourages Virginians to Celebrate Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month

Month proclaimed in recognition of contributions of Hispanic and Latino Virginians

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today proclaimed September 15 to October 15 as Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month.

“As we mark 53 years of commemorating National Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month, Pam and I encourage all Virginians to join us in celebrating the important history and enduring contributions of the Hispanic and Latino community throughout Virginia and our country. They enrich our communities by sharing their vibrant culture and heritage.

“Throughout this month, we honor and celebrate the hard work and dedication of our Hispanic and Latino men and women who have contributed greatly to the success of our Commonwealth. Hispanic and Latino Virginians continue to make great strides in public office and civil rights issues, supporting the fight for justice and equality for all, and successfully advocating for the historic passage of language access and of protections for all immigrants regardless of citizenship status.

“We acknowledge their deep-rooted history and foundation in our country and in our Commonwealth. We highlight their leadership in business and education, and their service in the fight against COVID-19 as healthcare and frontline workers. We recognize the dedication of our public servants as teachers and government employees. We commend the service of Hispanic and Latino men and women in the military protecting our democracy and freedom.

“The stories of Hispanic and Latino people are woven into the fabric of our communities. I invite all Virginians to participate in virtual and other safe celebrations of Hispanic and Latino heritage taking place in communities around the Commonwealth. Hispanic and Latino history is Virginia’s history.”

The text of Governor Northam’s Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month proclamation can be found here in English and here in Spanish.

Governor and First Lady Northam shared a video message with Virginians during Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month. Watch the video here.

Governor Northam Announces Service Center Metals to Invest $101.7 Million in Prince George County, Creating 94 New Jobs

Manufacturing company to construct two new facilities, increase production capacity

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Service Center Metals, a manufacturer of aluminum extrusions, will invest more than $100 million to expand in Prince George County. The company will construct two new facilities, an aluminum extrusion plant and a Compact Remelt plant, in Crosspointe Centre. The facilities will increase production capacity to meet customer demand. Virginia successfully competed with Tennessee for the project, which will create 94 new jobs.

“Service Center Metals has experienced tremendous success in Prince George County over the past two decades, and an investment of this magnitude is extremely significant for the region,” said Governor Northam. “The advanced manufacturing sector is strong in Virginia and has played an important role in helping the Commonwealth achieve the Best State for Business title. We look forward to the expansion of Service Center Metals and its continued success in the Commonwealth.”

Service Center Metals, founded in 2002, began its operations in Prince George County in 2003 and has since evolved into a top aluminum extrusion and billet company. Service Center Metals produces aluminum rods, bars, shapes, and tubing, all of which are shipped to metal service centers across the United States. The company is vertically integrated with two plants on its 30-acre campus in SouthPoint Business Park. Its flagship extrusion plant has two state-of-the-art presses, and its Compact Remelt plant, the world’s largest horizontal billet casting plant, recycles scrap and produces aluminum logs for extrusion presses. The new facilities will be constructed to mirror the existing SouthPoint Business Park plant.

“We are proud that Service Center Metals will expand its production capabilities in the Commonwealth with the construction of two new facilities and the creation of 94 new, well-paying jobs,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Securing a competitive project of this caliber demonstrates that Virginia’s strategic location, competitive operating costs, and first-rate workforce provide unparalleled advantages to businesses. We look forward to supporting Service Center Metals in its next phase of growth in Prince George County.”

“The Commonwealth of Virginia and Prince George County have both played significant roles in catapulting Service Center Metals from a Greenfield startup in 2002 into the North American benchmark for safety and productivity today,” said Service Center Metals President and Chief Executive Officer Scott Kelley. “Our next expansion will be the largest in our history, adding significant capacity to both our billet casting and extrusion operations that will further satisfy our customers’ needs. Virginia’s excellent business climate, including its business-friendly regulatory environment, and access to a world-class workforce, was significant in our site selection process. As the saying goes, ‘there’s no place like home,’ and we’re proud and excited to be expanding in Virginia.”

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Prince George County to secure the project for Virginia. Governor Northam approved a $350,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist Prince George County with the project. The Governor also approved a performance-based grant of $900,000 from the Virginia Investment Performance Grant, an incentive that encourages continued capital investment by existing Virginia companies. Service Center Metals is eligible to receive state benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program, administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Funding and services to support the company’s employee training activities will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.

Governor Northam Grants Posthumous Pardons for ‘Martinsville Seven’ 70 Years After Unjust Executions

With today’s act, Governor Northam has granted more pardons than previous nine governors combined

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today granted posthumous pardons for the Martinsville Seven, a group of young Black men executed by the Commonwealth for alleged rape of a white woman in 1951. While these pardons do not address the guilt of the seven, they serve as recognition from the Commonwealth that these men were tried without adequate due process and received a racially-biased death sentence not similarly applied to white defendants.

With today’s action, Governor Northam has granted a record-breaking 604 pardons since his term began—more pardons than the previous nine governors combined.

“This is about righting wrongs,” said Governor Northam. “We all deserve a criminal justice system that is fair, equal, and gets it right—no matter who you are or what you look like. I’m grateful to the advocates and families of the Martinsville Seven for their dedication and perseverance. While we can’t change the past, I hope today’s action brings them some small measure of peace.”

Frank Hairston Jr. (18), Booker T. Millner (19), Francis DeSales Grayson (37), Howard Lee Hairston (18), James Luther Hairston (20), Joe Henry Hampton (19), and John Clabon Taylor (21) of Martinsville were executed in 1951 on charges of raping a white woman. Prior to abolishing the death penalty earlier this year, Virginia had executed more people than any other state—and studies have shown that a defendant is more than three times as likely to be sentenced to death if the victim of a crime is white than if the victim is Black. From 1908 to 1951, all 45 prisoners executed for rape in Virginia were Black men. In 1977, the Supreme Court ruled that imposing the death penalty for rape was cruel and unusual punishment. 

Governor Northam’s pardons recognize the unjust, racially-biased sentences these men received, as well as the disturbing lack of due process in their trials and convictions. All members of the Martinsville Seven were convicted and sentenced to death within eight days, and each defendant was tried by juries made up entirely of white men. Some of the defendants were impaired at the time of arrest or unable to read the confessions they signed, and none had attorneys present during their interrogation. Governor Northam made the announcement in a Richmond meeting with descendants of the Martinsville Seven.

“Pardons should not have to be a part of the process to ensure a fair and equitable justice system, but unfortunately that’s been case for far too long and I’m happy we have a Governor that believes in using his clemency powers to right the wrongs and provide second chances,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson. “Governor Northam is committed to criminal justice reform, and has made it a priority to thoroughly review and act on pardon petitions. We’re seeing the results today.”

To date, Governor Northam has granted a record-breaking 604 pardons and acted on over 2,000 pardon petitions. The large number of pending petitions is a result of an influx received by the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth under the Northam administration, coupled with the thousands of petitions that were already pending review when former Governor Terry McAuliffe took office in 2014.

In May, Governor Northam announced new steps to streamline the pardon process, including increased staff, a redesigned pardons website, and a new petition portal that allows electronic tracking submission and tracking of pardon requests.

The pardon grant for the Martinsville Seven is here.

Governor Northam Announces Artifacts for New Time Capsule

New handmade capsule will replace capsule in Lee Monument Base

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced the artifacts for the new time capsule, crafted by Richmond sculptor Paul DiPasquale. The capsule will be placed in the concrete pedestal of Richmond’s Lee Monument.

Historians believe a copper time capsule was placed in the cornerstone of the Lee pedestal on October 27, 1887. Records from the Library of Virginia suggest that 37 Richmond residents, organizations, and businesses contributed about 60 objects to the capsule, many of which are believed to be related to the Confederacy.

The statue itself will be removed on Wednesday. On Thursday, the original time capsule will be removed and handed over to the Department of Historic Resources. This new time capsule will be put in its place in the statue’s base, as that will remain for the time being. Should it be removed later, the time capsule will be buried nearby.

“This monument and its time capsule reflected Virginia in 1890—and it’s time to remove both, so that our public spaces better reflect who we are as a people in 2021,” said Governor Northam. “The past 18 months have seen historic change, from the pandemic to protests for racial justice that led to the removal of these monuments to a lost cause. It is fitting that we replace the old time capsule with a new one that tells that story.”

The new capsule was crafted by Paul DiPasquale who also created Richmond’s Arthur Ashe monument and Virginia Beach’s King Neptune statue.

“The 1887 capsule we will remove this week offers us an incisive bite of time when the Lee Monument was erected. Now in 2021, this capsule gives future Virginians artifacts of the tectonic transition that has happened to us,” said DiPasquale. “The pedestal marks the past and has a new message for the future: we, all of us, are the New Virginia.”

Artifacts for the new time capsule were suggested by members of the public, and narrowed down to 39 final choices by a committee that included historians from the Richmond region’s leading historical and cultural museums and members of Governor Northam’s cabinet. The committee included:

  • Heather Anderson, Community Engagement Coordinator at Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia
  • Alaysia Black Hackett, Deputy Chief Diversity Officer
  • Jamie Bosket, Chief Executive Officer of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture
  • Christy Coleman, Executive Director of Jamestown Yorktown Foundation
  • Rita Davis, Former Counsel to the Governor
  • Grindly Johnson, Secretary of Administration
  • Julie Langan, Director of the Department of Historic Resources
  • Bill Martin, Director of The Valentine
  • Jennifer McClellan, Senate of Virginia, District 9
  • Pamela Northam, First Lady of Virginia 
  • Alex Nyerges, Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
  • Atif Qarni, Secretary of Education
  • Scott Stroh, Executive Director of Gunston Hall
  • Andrew Talkov, Senior Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture
  • Sandra Treadway, Librarian of Virginia
  • Janice Underwood, Chief Diversity Officer 

The 39 artifacts are intended to reflect the cultural moment in Virginia’s, and the nation’s, history. In the past year and a half, Virginia has faced a global pandemic and a deep reckoning with racism. Protests for racial justice, sparked by the death of George Floyd, led to the removal of statues originally placed to memorialize those who fought to continue a way of life that enslaved other human beings. The artifacts are a snapshot of that moment in time, capturing both the protests of last year and the pandemic. They include a vaccination card, a photo of a Black ballerina in front of the statue, a Black Lives Matter sticker, a face mask, and a poem written in Unified English Braille. A full list of time capsule artifacts is here.

"In the midst of demonstrations and reclaiming space, my photo of Black ballerina at America's largest Confederate statue made national headlines in June 2020, surprising and inspiring viewers," said photographer Marcus Ingram, whose photo will be included in the time capsule. "I am thrilled to have my print, my piece of history, be included in the new time capsule that aims to represent the Virginia of today. I am hopeful that future generations will see my photograph and understand what we stood up for."

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).

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.

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.

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.

Governor Northam Announces Public Health Order to Require Universal Masking in K-12 Schools

Order reinforces state law SB 1303

RICHMOND—Governor Northam today announced a Public Health Emergency Order requiring universal masking in all indoor settings in Virginia’s K-12 schools. This order reinforces current state law, which requires Virginia schools adhere to mitigation strategies outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As of July 28, CDC guidelines include universal masking for all students, teachers, and staff. SB 1303 was passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the General Assembly earlier this year.
 
“We all share the same goal of keeping our schools open and keeping our students safe,” said Governor Northam. “That’s why the General Assembly passed this law with overwhelming bipartisan support. This Public Health Order makes it very clear that masks are required in all indoor K-12 settings, and Virginia expects all schools to comply. I’m grateful to the work of the General Assembly and the Health Department, and I look forward to a safe start to the school year.”
 
73 percent of all adults in Virginia have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. As of August 10, 40.3 percent of 12-15 year-olds in Virginia and 51.7 percent of 16-17 year olds in Virginia are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Children under 12 are not yet eligible to receive any available vaccination, which is one reason CDC updated its guidance to recommend universal masking in all K-12 schools. Masks are a proven tool to reduce in-school transmission, even in communities with high levels of spread. 
 
“We know that masking is an effective tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19, particularly among children who are not yet eligible for vaccination,” said Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norm Oliver. “As cases rise in our communities, universal masking and other mitigation measures will ensure our schools continue to be the safest place for Virginia’s children.”
 
“The vast majority of school districts have chosen to follow the CDC and keep their school communities safe,” said State Superintendent Dr. James Lane. “Universal masking has worked in school settings across Virginia for the past year and a half, and it remains a critical part of our safety protocols. I’m grateful to Governor Northam and Dr. Oliver for this order, which will ensure uniformity across all school districts and keep students safely in their classrooms—no matter where they live in Virginia.”
 
In addition to this Public Health Order, Governor Northam has dedicated significant resources to improve the safety of K-12 schools. On Tuesday, Governor Northam signed House Bill 7001, which provides a total of $500 million to improve ventilation and air quality in public schools. Ventilation systems clean and disperse air, decreasing the risk of various airborne illnesses including COVID-19.
 
In 2020, Governor Northam directed $492 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to public schools and PreK-12 state-level education initiatives. This year, Virginia received approximately $939 million in ESSER II funds under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act of 2021. Additionally, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III funds directly allocate $1.9 billion to school divisions, with an additional state set aside of $211 million.
 
The Public Health Emergency Order is available here.

Governor Northam Announces $111 Million Investment to Make College More Affordable for Virginians

New funding commitment supplements $833 million going directly to Virginia higher education institutions through American Rescue Plan

BLACKSBURG—Governor Ralph Northam today visited Virginia Tech where he announced that Virginia plans to use $111 million in American Rescue Plan funding to increase access to financial aid for low- and moderate-income undergraduate students. The proposal designates $100 million for public higher education institutions through the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia, and $11 million for private institutions eligible for the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant program.

“The economic uncertainty of this pandemic has led many to question whether a college degree was still an affordable reality,” said Governor Northam. “Our Administration has worked hard to make higher education accessible to every Virginian, and this targeted investment is a significant stride towards that goal. Increasing access to financial aid will help create more equitable pathways to opportunity and put a world-class education within reach of even more students.”

“In order for Virginia to be the best-educated state in the nation, we must continue to invest in financial aid and improve access to affordable higher education,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “It is critical that we dedicate federal relief funds to build on our past investments in financial assistance and bolster our education and talent pipelines.”

This proposed investment supplements more than $833 million that will be made available to Virginia colleges and universities through the American Rescue Plan Act’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III. These funds will be received directly by institutions of higher education and must be used for financial assistance for students as well as for qualifying institutional purposes.

“Virginia’s colleges and universities rank amongst the top in the nation, and we must do everything in our power to ensure that all Virginians have equitable access to these institutions, regardless of wealth or income-level,” said Senator Mamie Locke, Chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee. “I am proud of the work that we have done in recent years to address the affordability of higher education. The dedication of these federal funds continues those efforts and is particularly impactful during these challenging times for students.”

The Governor’s proposal also commits $10 million to enhance the Online Virginia Network, which facilitates online coursework and degrees from George Mason University, Old Dominion University, James Madison University, and community colleges.

“Over the last year, we saw students delay or pause their pursuit of higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Delegate Betsy Carr, Chair of the House Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee. “This funding signals our dedication to ensuring that students in need of financial aid are able to access it, especially as we confront the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Today, we are following through on our commitment to Virginia’s students and investing not simply in financial aid but in the Commonwealth’s future,” said Delegate Chris Hurst, member of the House Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee. “This funding will open the doors for higher education to low- and middle-income Virginians across the Commonwealth.”

“Higher education faced numerous challenges over the past 16 months and it was an especially difficult time for our students,” said Timothy Sands, President of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. “For many who were already facing financial strain, the impact of COVID-19 threatened to push their higher education dream out of reach. We are grateful to the Governor and General Assembly for these additional funds to support financial aid at this critical time, and for their continued investment in the future of our students and the Commonwealth.”

In May, Governor Northam and General Assembly leaders released a joint statement outlining shared priorities for allocating the $4.3 billion in federal funds available to the Commonwealth from the American Rescue Plan. Throughout this week and in advance of the August 2nd special session, Governor and legislative leaders are highlighting proposals for allocating these funds and have announced $250 million for school modernization and air quality improvements in school buildings, $411.5 million to reduce water pollution and increase access to clean water, $935.6 million to replenish the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and accelerate critical upgrades to the Virginia Employment Commission, and $485 million to strengthen Virginia’s behavioral health system.

Governor Northam Announces Landmark Virginia Company to Expand in Sussex County, Doubling Production of Iconic Gourmet Peanuts

Virginia Diner will invest over $4.5 million to grow manufacturing and distribution operation

WAKEFIELD—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia Diner will invest over $4.5 million to nearly double production of its iconic gourmet peanuts. Founded in 1929, Virginia Diner is known for its landmark restaurant on Route 460 in Wakefield and line of gourmet seasoned peanuts, snack mixes, peanut brittles, and other candies. The company currently sources Virginia-variety peanuts exclusively from Florida and as part of this expansion, will create 16 new jobs and commit to sourcing 100 percent of its peanut purchases from the Commonwealth, leading to the purchase of nearly four million pounds of peanuts from Virginia shellers over the next four years. Governor Northam celebrated the announcement with company leaders and local economic development officials during a visit to the restaurant.

“Agriculture is Virginia’s largest industry, and that means it is vital to our economy and the well-being of our residents,” said Governor Northam. “Virginia Diner celebrates all of the culinary traditions of the Southeastern corner of our Commonwealth, most notably, Virginia peanuts. This expansion will not only bring new jobs and investment to Sussex County, but will create important new markets for Virginia peanuts and help secure the future of one of our most iconic businesses.”

Opened in 1929 in a refurbished railroad dining car, Virginia Diner soon became famous for serving patrons not the traditional after-dinner mints, but local peanuts fresh-roasted in the diner’s kitchen. By the late 1940s, customer demand for their famous peanuts led to the creation of a small mail order business. Today, Virginia Diner’s gourmet peanut business accounts for more than 80 percent of the company’s annual sales, with half their sales going through major retailers with the remainder direct to customers through the company’s mail order catalogs and website. 

“Peanuts have been an iconic part of the Commonwealth’s agricultural history since we became the first state in the country to begin commercial peanut production nearly 200 years ago,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “Thanks to companies like Virginia Diner, the Commonwealth’s reputation as a producer of the world’s best peanuts continues to thrive. I’m thrilled that we could partner with Sussex County through the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund to support this cornerstone of Virginia agriculture.”

“Virginia Diner has been an icon throughout Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic region for 92 years in large part due to the support of our local Wakefield community, regular customers throughout Sussex and surrounding counties, and families who have been visiting for several generations,” said Virginia Diner President and COO Andrew Whisler. “We are thankful for the support of the Commonwealth of Virginia and Sussex County as we embark in a multi-year, multi-phase investment to bring more jobs, revenue, and agricultural purchases to the region.”

The planned expansion is expected to occur in two phases over the next four years. The first phase includes construction of a 22,000 square-foot addition to the existing building for warehousing, distribution, and office space. This new facility will also enable the company to store all of its products on-site. The second phase of the project is an expansion of Virginia Diner’s manufacturing facility, which will increase the company’s production capacity, improve operational efficiencies, and decrease costs, thereby improving product margins. Virginia Diner roasts an average of 4,200 pounds of peanuts per day, scaling up to more than 7,000 pounds per day during peak holiday season.

“Virginia Diner’s commitment to sourcing their peanuts from the Commonwealth is something to celebrate, not just for our state’s progressive economy but for Sussex County as a whole,” said Senator Louise Lucas. “A few weeks ago, Virginia was named the nation’s top state for business by CNBC. Today, we are proud to continue to uphold that standard by celebrating this economic development announcement in Sussex County, one of the rural parts of my district.”

“Virginia Diner is known for its delicious peanut products all over the country,” said Delegate Roslyn Tyler. “As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I am pleased to work with Governor Northam, Secretary Ring, and state agencies to fund small businesses and create job opportunities that are vital to the economy of rural communities like Sussex County. We must continue to move Virginia forward and we can’t turn back.”

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services worked with Sussex County and the Sussex County Economic Development Authority to secure this project for the Commonwealth.  Governor Northam approved a $100,000 grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, which Sussex County will match through a rebate of taxes and infrastructure improvements that will directly benefit Virginia Diner as well as two adjacent agriculture-related businesses. 

“For nearly 100 years, Virginia Diner has been a fixture of Sussex County’s business community and this expansion project is evidence of their continued long-term commitment to our county,” said Sussex County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Susan Seward. “In addition, this project will further promote our strong agricultural heritage and provide opportunities for our peanut growers. We appreciate the support of the state and look forward to working with Virginia Diner on this expansion.”

“We are delighted that Virginia Diner has made the decision to continue to grow and prosper in the Gateway Region,” said Keith Boswell, President and CEO of Virginia’s Gateway Region Economic Development Organization. “We look forward to continuing our strong partnership with the company and celebrating this next chapter of their growth for Sussex County.”

Governor Northam Announces $500 Million Investment to Improve Air Quality in Virginia Schools

$250 million in American Rescue Plan funding, $250 million in local matching funds, will complete nearly all currently planned school HVAC projects

HOPEWELL—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia plans to invest $500 million to improve ventilation and air quality in public schools, securing the completion of nearly all currently planned HVAC projects. The Commonwealth will allocate $250 million in federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding for necessary ventilation upgrades, which will be matched 1:1 by local ARP or other relief funding. Ventilation systems clean and disperse air, decreasing the risk of various airborne illnesses including COVID-19.

Governor Northam made the announcement at Hopewell High School, joining school officials to celebrate the launch of their year-round school initiative. This announcement marks the start of “Investment Week,” during which the Governor and legislative leaders will highlight proposals for allocating the $4.3 billion in ARP funding available to the Commonwealth in advance of the August 2nd special session.

“Air quality is a key part of maintaining safe and healthy learning environments for our students across the Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “This investment will help families, educators, and students feel more confident about the quality of the air they breathe as we return to in-person learning five days a week this fall.”

In a recent report to the Commission on School Construction and Modernization, the Virginia Department of Education analyzed 117 Capital Improvement Plans (CIPs) from school divisions detailing the projects they plan to complete in the next decade. Following plans for new buildings and renovations, school divisions most frequently planned for HVAC repair and replacement projects, with a total of 463 HVAC projects amounting to $623 million. Governor Northam’s investment will secure the completion of nearly all currently planned projects.

“Ensuring there is clean air in our classrooms helps assure staff and students that schools are safe places so they can focus on learning,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “We know high quality ventilation systems reduce the number of virus particles in the air, and this investment means that Virginia schools will have updated HVAC systems for years to come.”

Funding will be allocated to school divisions based on their average daily membership, with a minimum allocation of $200,000 per school division. The funds will be granted as reimbursements to divisions completing HVAC projects.

“This funding is incredibly important for schools across the Commonwealth in dire need of upgrading their ventilation systems,” said Senator Louise Lucas, Chair of the Senate Education and Health Committee. “I’m proud we can provide this necessary support on behalf of teachers, staff, students, and communities.”

“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools have recognized the need to improve their air quality and HVAC systems,” said Delegate Roslyn Tyler, Chair of the House Education Committee. “Now more than ever, this funding is critical to ensuring we provide a safe and supportive learning environment to students in Virginia schools.”

Every schools in Virginia is required to make in-person instruction available to all students in the 2021-2022 school year, pursuant to Senate Bill 1303 which was passed during Virginia’s 2021 special session.

“When the special session convenes next week, the Commonwealth has the opportunity to invest in its future, beginning with its students,” said Senator Janet Howell, Chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee. “This investment is another prime example of how we will be utilizing American Rescue Plan funding to move Virginia forward and build on the investments of last year’s CARES Act funding.

“Together with the localities, we are working to address school modernization needs across the Commonwealth,” said Delegate Luke Torian, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “This partnership will support our collective efforts to create healthy learning environments for all of our students.”

In 2020, Governor Northam directed $492 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to public schools and PreK-12 state-level education initiatives. This year, Virginia received approximately $939 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) II funds under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act of 2021. Ninety percent of the funding was distributed to school divisions in January, with the other 10 percent set aside for targeted state-level initiatives to address the impact of the pandemic on students and schools. Additionally, the American Rescue Plan Act ESSER III funds directly allocate $1.9 billion to school divisions, with an additional state set aside of $211 million.

Governor Northam Announces Virginia’s Unemployment Rate Dropped Again, Falling to 4.3 Percent in June

Payroll employment increased by 3,200 jobs

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia’s unemployment rate dropped 0.2-percentage point to 4.3 percent in June, compared to 8.8 percent one year ago. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the Commonwealth continues to be below the national rate of 5.8 percent.

“Virginia’s falling unemployment rate and expanding labor force show the strength of our economy and business climate,” said Governor Northam. “We continue to be recognized as best place in America to do business because we are building a Commonwealth where both workers and employers can thrive. We can all be optimistic about what the future holds as we move beyond this pandemic.”

Virginia had the fourth lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate among the Southeast states behind Alabama, Oklahoma, and Georgia.

“The Commonwealth’s positive job growth and falling unemployment rate are welcome signs that workers are finding safety and opportunity in the job market,” said Secretary of Labor Megan Healy. “I look forward to maintaining this positive momentum in partnership with our business and workforce development partners, who are working diligently to ensure Virginians have all the support they need to transition back into employment.”

“Another drop in the Commonwealth’s unemployment rate is a great way to conclude this exciting week,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “We expect to see continuing job growth in the coming months.”

In June, Virginia saw over-the-year job gains of 2.8 percent, and total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 3,200 jobs. The labor force increased by 4,343 to 4,234,360, as the number of unemployed residents decreased by 5,448 to 183,799. The number of employed residents rose by 9,791 to 4,050,561.

The private sector recorded an over-the-year gain of 179,900 jobs, and employment in the public sector added 10,500 jobs. Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, 10 of 11 major industry divisions experienced employment gains. The largest over-the-year job gain occurred in leisure and hospitality, up 67,200 jobs, or 25.5 percent. The next largest over-the-year job gain occurred in trade and transportation, up 40,100 jobs, or 6.5 percent. Professional and business services experienced the third largest over-the-year job gain of 26,300 jobs, or 3.5 percent.

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

Governor Northam Announces Virginia to Invest $700 Million in American Rescue Plan Funding to Achieve Universal Broadband by 2024

Proposal will allow the Commonwealth to connect remaining unserved locations, accelerate 10-year plan to close the digital divide

ABINGDON—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia plans to invest $700 million in American Rescue Plan funding to expedite the deployment of last-mile broadband infrastructure to unserved areas and close the digital divide within the next three years. This proposal will accelerate the Governor’s 10-year goal for achieving universal internet access from 2028 to 2024, with the majority of connections obligated within the next 18 months. In May, Governor Northam and General Assembly leaders released a joint statement outlining shared priorities for allocating the $4.3 billion in federal funds available to the Commonwealth from the American Rescue Plan.

The Governor made the announcement at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon and was joined by U.S. Senator Mark Warner, State Senator Janet Howell and Delegate Luke Torian, who chair the General Assembly’s money committees, and State Senator Jennifer Boysko and Delegate Roslyn Tyler, who lead Virginia’s Broadband Advisory Council. Governor Northam also reported that the Commonwealth has successfully bridged half of the digital divide, with an estimated 233,500 unserved locations remaining.

“It’s time to close the digital divide in our Commonwealth and treat internet service like the 21st century necessity that it is—not just a luxury for some, but an essential utility for all,” said Governor Northam. “The pandemic has reinforced how important high-quality broadband is for the health, education, and economic opportunity, and we cannot afford to leave any community behind. With this historic $700 million investment, universal broadband is now within our reach. I am grateful to Senator Warner for fighting to include this funding in the American Rescue Plan, which will be key to the success of local connectivity efforts and to ensuring every Virginian has affordable, reliable, and equitable access to high-speed internet.”

Since 2018, the Commonwealth has awarded approximately $124 million in broadband grants and connected over 140,000 homes, businesses, and community anchors. Governor Northam and the General Assembly made historic investments—$50 million in 2020 and an additional $50 million in 2021—in the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI), a public-private partnership that provides targeted financial assistance to extend broadband service to areas currently unserved by a provider. With this $700 million allocation of federal dollars and continued state investment, the Commonwealth has the necessary resources to meet the tremendous demand from localities and broadband providers and close the digital divide in Virginia.

“With telehealth and telework becoming permanent staples across the nation, access to broadband is more critical than ever,” said U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner. “Earlier this year, I was proud to help deliver more than $3.7 billion dollars in direct fiscal relief for the Commonwealth through the American Rescue Plan, including hundreds of millions of dollars for broadband. I’m hopeful that my friends in the General Assembly will use $700 million of that funding to expand access to broadband, thereby creating economic opportunity and ensuring that every Virginian can meaningfully participate in our 21st century economy.”

“Localities and broadband providers have stepped up over the past three years and helped the Commonwealth connect thousands of unserved Virginians,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “With today’s announcement, large regional projects that achieve universal service can be funded across the Commonwealth without delay.”

Because Governor Northam prioritized broadband expansion well before the pandemic, Virginia is on track to be one of the first states in the country to achieve universal broadband service. In 2019, the Governor worked with the General Assembly to establish a pilot program that promotes collaboration between localities, electric utilities, and internet service providers to connect unserved areas to high-speed internet. In just two years of the pilot program, Virginia’s utility companies have helped connect more than 13,000 homes and businesses across the Commonwealth. Earlier this year, Governor Northam signed bipartisan legislation that makes the pilot program permanent.

“The Commonwealth continues to prioritize funding for universal broadband access and I’m encouraged to see these investments coming ahead of schedule,” said Senator Janet Howell, Chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee. “This appropriation of federal dollars will go a long way towards supporting the investments that the Commonwealth has already made to bridge the digital divide.”

“Funding for broadband is more critical now than ever,” said Delegate Luke Torian, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “We must continue to ensure that all citizens of the Commonwealth have access to quality internet access.”

“The Broadband Advisory Council has long prioritized funding to reduce the cost of broadband access and connect unserved Virginians,” said Senator Jennifer Boysko, Chair of the Broadband Advisory Council. “With this investment of American Rescue Plan dollars, we will greatly accelerate our progress.” 

“I have lived in a rural area my entire life and I know that the Commonwealth benefits as a whole when we lift up all communities,” said Delegate Roslyn Tyler, Vice Chair of the Broadband Advisory Council. “This investment will have a tremendous impact on countless Virginians and allow our communities to prosper and grow.”

Video of today’s announcement is available on Governor Northam’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Governor Northam Launches #YourSayVA Digital Town Hall on Speeding

Virginians are encouraged to participate through August 13

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced a new summer travel safety campaign and survey designed to engage Virginians in efforts to reduce speed-related crashes, injuries, and fatalities on the Commonwealth’s roadways.

The “Don’t Speed Thru Summer. Make it Last.” initiative uses both online and traditional media to focus on the dangers of speed and aggressive driving. According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and the Governor’s Executive Leadership Team on Highway Safety, preliminary numbers indicate speed-related crashes have already claimed 182 lives on Virginia’s roadways and injured another 4,248 people within the first six months of 2021. Last year, 22,479 speed-related crashes on Virginia roadways resulted in 406 fatalities, the highest number in at least 10 years.

“Speed is driving up the number of crashes, injuries, and fatalities on our roadways to record high levels,” said Governor Northam. “But these are not just statistics, these are the lives of parents, children, siblings, spouses, friends, and loved ones. As the summer continues, I urge all Virginians to make safe driving a priority as you travel throughout the Commonwealth and beyond.”

In addition, Governor Northam is inviting Virginians to participate in the #YourSayVA Digital Town Hall on speeding through Friday, August 13. To participate, visit the Commonwealth’s new highway safety portal, TZDVA.org, and click the icon for the #YourSayVA Digital Town Hall to access the anonymous survey. The data collected from the #YourSayVA Digital Town Hall will better inform state leaders of driving behaviors related to speeding. 

Speeding is the latest traffic-safety priority to be addressed by the Governor and his Executive Leadership Team on Highway Safety, which is composed of representatives from the Virginia Departments of Motor Vehicles, Transportation, Health, Education and State Police, and led by the Secretaries of Transportation and Public Safety and Homeland Security. The team is charged with reducing fatalities on Virginia’s roadways and driving change in the Commonwealth’s highway safety culture. 

“While this may be hard to believe, driving seven miles per hour faster than the posted speed limit of 65 miles per hour saves approximately five minutes when traveling to a destination 60 miles away,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “Speeding reduces a driver’s ability to safely maneuver around curves, adds to the time it takes to come to a complete stop, and increases the risk of crashes and injuries.”

“Every driver in Virginia plays a role in helping prevent a crash on our roadways by following the posted speed limits,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “Complying with the posted speed limits not only protects your life but the lives around you.”

The Executive Leadership Team on Highway Safety will be promoting the “Don’t Speed Thru Summer. Make it Last.” campaign, both as a group and as individual agencies throughout the summer season. To stay up to date, follow the hashtag #SlowDownVA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

 

Virginia Finishes Fiscal Year 2021 with Record-Breaking $2.6 Billion Surplus

Revenue collections surged 26.4 percent between April and June, resulting in largest budget surplus in Virginia history

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today reported that Virginia reached the end of fiscal year 2021 with an historic $2.6 billion surplus, the largest in the Commonwealth’s history. Total revenue collections soared 14.5 percent over fiscal year 2020, ahead of the forecast of 2.7 percent growth.

“We have effectively managed Virginia’s finances through the pandemic, and now we are seeing the results—record-breaking revenue gains, a recovery that has outpaced the nation, and recognition as the best place to do business,” said Governor Northam. “Fueled by a surging economy, federal American Rescue Plan funds, and the largest surplus in Virginia history, we have significant resources available to make transformational investments in this Commonwealth. I look forward to working with the General Assembly in the fall to seize this opportunity so we can build a brighter future for all Virginians. ”

All major general fund revenue sources exceeded their forecasts for the fiscal year. Individual nonwithholding taxes, one of the Commonwealth’s most volatile revenue sources, accounted for about half of the surplus, although collections in payroll withholding, sales, and corporate income taxes were also well above their respective forecasts.

Total revenue collections reached $8.6 billion in the final quarter of fiscal year 2021. In June, revenues decreased by $180.8 million, or 5.8 percent, compared to the previous year, which can be attributed to the extension of the individual income tax filing deadline to May 17.

“We expected a strong revenue performance and this surplus is even larger than initially anticipated,” said Secretary of Finance Joe Flores. “We are encouraged that for the fiscal year, payroll withholding and retail sales taxes increased by 6.4 percent signifying that Virginia’s underlying economic foundation is strong.” 

The Commonwealth will release the final figures for fiscal year 2021 on August 18 at the Joint Money Committee meeting.

Analysis of Fiscal Year 2021 Revenues
Based on Preliminary Data

  • Total general fund revenue collections, excluding transfers, exceeded the official forecast (Chapter 552) by $2.6 billion (11.7 percent variance) in fiscal year 2021.
    • The 30-year average general fund revenue forecast variance is 1.6 percent.
  • Payroll withholding and sales tax collections, 80 percent of total revenues, and the best indicator of current economic activity in the Commonwealth, finished $560.2 million or 3.3 percent ahead of the forecast.
    • Payroll withholding grew by 4.7 percent, exceeding the forecast of 2.7 percent growth.
  • Sales tax collections increased 12.4 percent as compared to the annual forecast of 4.7 percent. Brick and mortar store sales increased 7.6 percent and internet sales increased 32.3 percent.
  • Fourth quarter results show that payroll withholding and sales tax grew 12.5 percent.
  • Nonwithholding income tax collections finished the year ahead of expectations, up 37.1 percent. This was mainly due to a 68.0 percent increase in final payments to the Department of Taxation. Estimated payments increased 19.8 percent.
  • Individual income tax refunds were a positive to the forecast as the average check size did not increase. Tax refunds were $339.4 million below expectations, a positive to the bottom line.
  • Corporate income tax collections increased 49.8 percent for the year, ahead of the annual forecast of 27.4 percent. A preliminary analysis of the data reveal a broad based increase from larger corporations based on economic related growth.
  • A complete analysis of all final receipts for revenue sources, including transfers, will not be available until the Joint Money Committee meeting on August 18.

Virginia Earns Back-to-Back Titles in CNBC Ranking, Remains “America’s Top State for Business”

Commonwealth becomes the first to claim consecutive wins with education system, workforce, and inclusiveness highlighted

NORFOLK—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that CNBC, a world leader in business news, has named Virginia as America’s “Top State for Business” in 2021. The Governor joined CNBC at the Port of Virginia for a live broadcast where the winner was revealed following an extensive study of 85 distinct metrics across 10 competitiveness categories. CNBC’s scorecard highlighted the Commonwealth’s education system, workforce, and commitment to equity and inclusion. 

Following the announcement, Governor Northam held a press conference with leaders from the General Assembly to discuss the pragmatic, forward-looking policies that propelled the Commonwealth to reclaim the top spot in 2019 and made Virginia the first state to win back-to-back titles in CNBC’s ranking.

“Virginia continues to be the best place to do business because of our world-class education institutions, talented workforce, and shared commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion,” said Governor Northam. “I am proud of what this coveted recognition says about the policies we have put in place and how they are driving growth and innovation across our Commonwealth. Our success is a blueprint for creating a vibrant economic climate in the post-pandemic world—and proves that when you lift everyone up, when you treat people right, and when you celebrate diversity, it’s also good for business.”

With previous wins in 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2019, Virginia surpassed Texas for most years as the top state for business since CNBC debuted its ranking in 2007. This year, CNBC adapted its formulas to address the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impacts, with a new focus on areas like health care, inclusiveness, and sustainability. Information about the methodology used by CNBC to determine America’s Top States for Business in 2021 is available here.

States can earn a maximum of 2,500 points across the 10 categories, and Virginia received a total of 1,587 points. In its 2021 ranking, CNBC noted Virginia’s highly educated workforce, strong economy, and stable business environment. The study also gives Virginia top scores for education, infrastructure, and technology and innovation. Read more about Virginia’s 2021 ranking here.

Since Governor Northam took office in January 2018, the Commonwealth has created nearly 90,000 new jobs and secured more than $45.4 billion in statewide capital investment, including approximately $7 billion in distressed communities. With major investments from global leaders like Amazon, Facebook, and Micron, and companies of all sizes choosing to locate or expand their operations in Virginia, businesses continue to recognize the Commonwealth’s competitive advantages.

Under Governor Northam’s leadership, Virginia has made historic investments in early childhood education, increased funding for historically Black colleges and universities, and worked to expand degree programs in computer science and technology at public higher education institutions to help meet the increased demand for tech talent. Virginia’s workforce investments also include the new G3 program, which launched this month and makes tuition-free community college and financial support for other expenses available to low- and middle-income students who pursue jobs in high-demand fields.

Investing in infrastructure has been an essential component of Virginia’s ongoing work to create economic opportunity, facilitate commerce, and improve the quality of life. This includes improvements to the heavily traveled I-81 corridor, an expansion project that will once again make the Port of Virginia the deepest port on the East Coast, and the Transforming Rail in Virginia initiative to build a 21st-century statewide rail network across the Commonwealth.

The Northam Administration has also put a strong focus on advancing policies that make Virginia more welcoming and inclusive, ensure people are treated fairly and equitably, and make it as easy as possible for Virginians to participate in democracy.

Watch the full CNBC interview with Governor Northam here.

Governor Northam Announces Extension of Expanded Child Care Subsidy Program for Virginia Families

First Lady Pamela Northam kicks off Child Care Access Month of Action to raise awareness about new resources

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia families with young children will have improved access to quality, affordable child care through an extension of the expanded Child Care Subsidy Program. Earlier this year, Governor Northam signed House Bill 2206, sponsored by Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, which established a new short-term eligibility category for parents seeking financial assistance for child care while looking for employment and temporarily increased the income eligibility criteria through July 31, 2021. The Governor has directed the Virginia Department of Education to use existing federal funding to continue covering co-payments for families through December 31, 2021.

“Access to high-quality child care is not only critical to the health and safety of Virginia’s children, but it is also important for advancing a strong, equitable recovery,” said Governor Northam. “Extending these resources through the end of 2021 will help close the affordability gap for parents and providers, allowing thousands of Virginians to return to work, support their families, and grow our economy.”

The expanded Child Care Subsidy Program makes financial assistance for child care available to families with at least one child under age five who is not yet in kindergarten, with a household income up to 85 percent of the state median income. This expansion nearly doubles the previous income threshold in many regions of the Commonwealth and is the highest eligibility level in Virginia history. Families approved for the subsidy will remain eligible to receive benefits for 12 months, or until their income exceeds 85 percent of the state median income. More than 1,000 additional Virginia families were receiving child care assistance through the expanded Child Care Subsidy Program as of July 1, 2021.

“Our team has visited programs in every region of the Commonwealth this year and the benefits of in-person instruction for our littlest learners are clear,” said First Lady Pamela Northam. “Virginia’s early educators are truly superheroes, and we want to ensure all families have access to these vital programs.”

As of June 2021, over 90 percent of licensed early childhood programs in Virginia were open, yet enrollment in the Child Care Subsidy Program was only 78 percent of what it was prior to the pandemic. The effort to continue assistance coincides with projected increases in demand for child care as parents and caregivers seek new employment or return to in-person work settings.

“Every child in Virginia is capable of success in school and beyond if they have access to the right resources,” said Speaker Filler-Corn. “I know, as a mom myself, that parents want what is best for their children. By reducing barriers to quality child care, this extension will be of great help to working families.”

The General Assembly allocated $62.1 million to the Department of Social Services and the Department of Education across state fiscal years 2021 and 2022 to expand access to the Child Care Subsidy Program. On July 1, 2021 the Department of Education became the lead agency for oversight of early childhood care and education programs in Virginia, a change that will help build a more unified and equitable system.

“Co-payments can be an insurmountable barrier for families who are already struggling economically as a result of the pandemic, said Senator Louise Lucas. “We want every parent and family in Virginia with a little learner to know that there are new resources available for quality care and education.”

On Wednesday, July 7, First Lady Northam will kick off a Child Care Access Month of Action with visits to early childhood care and education programs to raise awareness about these new resources. Information about upcoming events will be posted on here.

“School readiness begins years before the first day of kindergarten,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. James Lane. “We are dedicated to improving the subsidy program experience for parents and providers alike as we simultaneously increase access.”

The Virginia Early Childhood Foundation will host a webinar for child care providers, advocates, and other frontline workers who are interested in helping families access these resources at 12:00 PM on Wednesday, July 7. Register here to access this virtual event.

For more information about child care assistance in Virginia or to apply for the Child Care Subsidy Program, visit ChildCareVA.com.

Governor Northam Announces $304.5 Million in Federal American Rescue Plan Act Funding Distributed to Virginia’s Towns

Payments follow funds received from U.S. Treasury for counties and cities

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that the Commonwealth has distributed approximately $304.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to 190 towns. These payments represent the first half of funding provided by the U.S. Treasury for Non-Entitlement Units of local government, with the same amount to be provided in June 2022. These funds are in addition to $2.3 billion available to Virginia’s 133 counties and cities directly from the federal government, as well as $4.3 billion that Governor Northam and the General Assembly will allocate during a special session beginning August 2. 

“Our Administration is committed to ensuring that communities of all sizes get the assistance they need to recover from the impacts of the pandemic—that’s why we expedited the distribution of funding for Virginia’s towns,” said Governor Northam. “These federal dollars represent an unprecedented opportunity to meet local response needs while also making transformative investments to support broad-based, equitable growth in every corner of the Commonwealth. We encourage collaboration across localities to maximize these funds for the benefit of all Virginians.” 

The Secretary of Finance issued a memorandum to local officials of Non-Entitlement Units of government on June 9, 2021 with guidance on distributing the first round of CSLFRF allocations.

“ARPA funding will provide significant assistance to state and local governments in a wide range of areas,” said Secretary of Finance Joe Flores. “We have worked diligently to ensure that all localities receive the funds designated for them, and we are excited to see the positive outcomes that will result for communities across Virginia.” 

The ARPA established the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (CSLFRF) to assist states and eligible units of local and tribal government with COVID-19 recovery and infrastructure improvements. Within the categories of eligible uses, recipients have broad flexibility to decide how best to use this funding to meet local needs. Eligible uses of CSLFRF funds include: 

  • Supporting public health expenditures, including COVID-19 mitigation efforts, medical expenses, behavioral health care, and certain public health and safety staff;
  • Addressing economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, including to workers, households, small businesses, impacted industries, and the public sector;
  • Replacing lost public sector revenue, providing government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue experienced due to the pandemic;
  • Providing premium pay for essential workers, offering additional support to those who have and will bear the greatest health risks because of their service in critical infrastructure sectors; and 
  • Investing in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, making necessary investments to improve access to clean drinking water, support vital wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, and expand access to broadband internet.

Governor Northam Commemorates 50th Anniversary of the Virginia Constitution

1971 document replaced regressive constitution in place since 1902 that enshrined segregation, disenfranchisement

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today marked Constitution Day by visiting the Library of Virginia to view original copies of four of Virginia’s Constitutions and commemorate 50 years since the current Virginia Constitution took effect on July 1, 1971. Until 1971, the Virginia Constitution included detailed provisions intended to disenfranchise Black voters and prohibit racially integrated public schools.

In the years after the Civil War, the brief period of Reconstruction was characterized by state and federal laws that expanded the rights and freedoms of citizens. But Virginia leaders re-wrote the state constitution explicitly to restore white supremacy, culminating in the Constitution of 1902 that instituted poll taxes, literacy tests, and other barriers to voting. The Constitution also required segregated schools by prohibiting the teaching of Black and white children in the same school. While some of the most discriminatory provisions of the 1902 Constitution were reversed by federal law or court decisions, it remained in effect in Virginia for most of the 20th century, until voters approved a new constitution in 1971.

“The 50th anniversary of Virginia’s 1971 Constitution is an important opportunity to acknowledge how our Commonwealth has evolved,” said Governor Northam. “Virginia has 400 years of history—good and bad—and it is important that we tell the accurate, honest story of our past. Understanding our full history means learning about these events and the ways they are connected to the present day, so we can work together to build a better future for all Virginians.”

The 1971 Virginia Constitution took important steps to renounce the constitution in place since 1902 by eliminating the poll tax, enshrining a ban on racially segregated schools, providing free public education for every school-aged child, and prohibiting governmental discrimination based on race, color, national origin or sex. 

Work on the 1971 Virginia Constitution began in 1968 when Governor Mills E. Godwin, Jr. appointed a commission to revise the 1902 document. This action came in response to the momentous social changes of the 1960s, including the passage of the Civil Rights Act and other laws that superseded discriminatory provisions in state constitutions, including that of Virginia.

A.E. Dick Howard, the Warner-Booker Distinguished Professor of Law at University of Virginia School of Law, served as executive director of the Commission on Constitutional Revision 50 years ago and directed the successful referendum campaign for the ratification of a new constitution.

“Thomas Jefferson famously called for each generation to consider the extent to which a constitution serves the needs of its own time,” said Professor Howard. “In 1971, the revision commission’s purpose was to repudiate the racism of the 1902 constitution, and to put Virginia on a sound and progressive footing. I consider Virginia to have been well served by the commission—they handed us a good constitution, and the proof lies in the fact that it continues to serve the purpose of upholding a democratic government.” 

Virginia adopted its first Constitution on June 29, 1776, declaring the total dissolution of the rule of Great Britain and its monarch over the citizens of the Commonwealth. Virginia also led the nation by adopting the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which later influenced the United States Constitution Bill of Rights. 

Virginians are encouraged to participate in events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Virginia Constitution of 1971. A list of some of those events can be found here

The public can view original copies of Virginia’s Constitutions of 1776, 1869, 1902, and 1971 from June 29 – July 1, 2021 at the Library of Virginia in Richmond.

Governor Northam and Professor Howard viewing original copies of Virginia’s Constitutions at the Library of Virginia.

Governor Northam Awards Grants to Brunswick, Lee, Lunenburg, and Rockingham Counties to Support Innovative Agricultural Projects

Funding to help farmers transitioning from tobacco to vegetable production, explore feasibility of sustainable organic waste disposal

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Brunswick, Lee, Lunenburg, and Rockingham Counties will each receive grants from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund Planning Grant program to support local agriculture initiatives.

“We are pleased to see localities continue to use AFID Planning Grants to further embed agriculture into their current recovery efforts and long-term economic development plans,” said Governor Northam. “Identifying and supporting local initiatives like these that strengthen and diversify Virginia’s agricultural economy is critical to positioning this vital industry for success in the years to come.”

Brunswick and Lunenburg Counties submitted a joint application for $35,000 in AFID funds to help develop architectural and engineering plans for a proposed large-scale produce processing facility. The facility will be operated by Southside Virginia Vegetable Packing, LLC (SVVP) and provide infrastructure that allows the region’s former tobacco producers to transition to vegetable production. Organic and conventional vegetable crops offer former tobacco farmers a stable and growing market opportunity that leverages existing farmland, labor, and production equipment to maintain and expand their operations. SVVP has seen tremendous growth through its existing fruit and vegetable production, aggregation, and distribution, leading to the need for a larger produce processing facility to meet increasing demand. The AFID Planning Grant award will leverage an additional $90,000 in local funds.

Lee County and the surrounding region is also experiencing a shift from tobacco to vegetable production. The $20,000 AFID Planning Grant will be used to fund a feasibility study for locating a produce auction in the county. The AFID award will leverage $20,000 in funding from the county and the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission to develop a business and marketing plan, identify a suitable site, and create a design for the proposed produce auction facility.

Lastly, Rockingham County is exploring the feasibility of an anaerobic digester to provide the county’s large agriculture and food and beverage manufacturing sectors with a sustainable disposal option for their organic waste streams. Anaerobic digesters are an established technology that accepts organic wastes and processes them into useful soil amendments and fertilizers, while also producing a methane bio-gas that can be used locally or sold back to a gas utility. The $20,000 AFID Planning Grant will be matched with local funds and will explore the financial feasibility of such a facility, available waste streams, potential locations, and ownership structures. 

“Embracing innovation and exploring new opportunities in agriculture is key to the growth and prosperity of rural communities,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “Congratulations to Lee County, Rockingham County, and Brunswick and Lunenburg Counties for recognizing the importance of our local agriculture industries and supporting local farmers and producers by creating and expanding new markets to maintain and grow their farms.”

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which administers the AFID Planning Grant program, accepts applications for the program on a rolling basis. Successful applications demonstrate a clear need, a proposed solution, strong support from local government and the agriculture and forestry community, and the ability to provide matching funds. Additional information about the AFID Planning Grant program is available here. Questions about the program and application process should be directed to Jennifer.Perkins@vdacs.virginia.gov.

Governor Northam Welcomes Air Force F-22 Training Unit Move to Joint Base Langley-Eustis

Virginia’s congressional delegation and General Assembly members united in support of relocation to Hampton Roads

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today welcomed the decision by the United States Air Force to permanently locate the F-22 Raptor formal training unit (FTU) at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton.

In 2019, Governor Northam joined Virginia’s bipartisan congressional delegation and General Assembly members in urging the Air Force to select Joint Base Langley-Eustis as the new home for the F-22 FTU after it was displaced from Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida due to Hurricane Michael.

“We are thrilled to welcome the F-22 Raptor formal training unit to our Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “Home to a significant number of military installations with critical national security missions and operations, there is no place that welcomes service members more warmly than the Hampton Roads region. Langley-Eustis is the right choice, with the ideal environment to achieve the maintenance and supply efficiencies that are critical to successful F-22 squadron training. This move is good for the Air Force and the Langley-Eustis community, and demonstrates that Virginia is best suited to host this mission and the next generation of air dominance fighter aircraft.”

“After years of advocating alongside the Virginia congressional delegation, we’re pleased that the U.S. Air Force has confirmed what we already knew: Hampton Roads is the ideal location to permanently house the F-22 training squadron,” said United States Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. “We look forward to working with the U.S. Air Force and the Virginia Air National Guard to make sure the relocation process is a smooth one for the service members and their families that will now make the Commonwealth their new home.”

“The United States Air Force has chosen Joint Base Langley-Eustis here in Hampton for the F-22 Flight and Maintenance Formal Training Unit,” said Congressman Bobby Scott. “The Hampton Roads area is vital to our military and national security and we look forward to welcoming these service members to our community.”

“I am proud to welcome the F-22 Flight and Maintenance Formal Training Unit to Joint Base Langley-Eustis and Hampton Roads,” said Congresswoman Elaine Luria. “This decision from the Air Force and the Department of Defense sends a strong message about our community’s commitment to active duty personnel, our veterans, and their families.”

The rebasing of the F-22 FTU will include the relocation of more than 31 F-22 and 16 other training aircraft, along with an estimated 700 skilled military and civilian personnel and contractors and approximately 1,600 dependents. The personnel will settle in communities near Joint Base Langley-Eustis to support the unit’s training mission and operations. 

Joint Base Langley-Eustis is home to the Virginia Air National Guard 192nd Fighter Wing, which flies the F-22 Raptors. The Virginia Air Guard has experienced instructors and maintainers to help support the FTU.

“Consolidating the F-22 FTU at Langley-Eustis is the sensible move, and will allow the Air Force greater training opportunities while ensuring that investments in Langley-Eustis and its infrastructure get the use for which they were intended,” said Senator Mamie Locke. “This is important for our region and for the entire Langley-Eustis community.”

“One in 12 Virginians is a veteran, which speaks to the value and welcome we have for our military and its installations,” said Delegate Jeion Ward. “We welcome the F-22 FTU and its airmen to Langley-Eustis and the Hampton Roads community.”

Governor Northam Appoints Eric J. Reynolds as Virginia’s First Children’s Ombudsman

Independent agency is authorized to investigate and resolve issues related to families of children served by state agencies

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced the appointment of Eric J. Reynolds as Virginia’s first Director of the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman. The Office was established by the General Assembly and approved by Governor Northam during the 2020 legislative session to serve as a mechanism for reporting concerns about the treatment of children within Virginia’s foster care system.

“The role of the Children’s Ombudsman is to ensure every child in Virginia has a safe and permanent home,” said Governor Northam. “Eric Reynolds is a compassionate leader with extensive experience working in our foster care system and with agencies that serve children—he is the right person for this important position.”

The Office is an independent agency that is authorized to receive complaints and investigate and review actions of the Virginia Department of Social Services, local departments of social services, child-placing agencies, or child-caring institutions. Prior to the creation of this office, the only way for families to file a complaint with a local department of social services was with the agency itself or with the Department of Social Services. It will also monitor and ensure compliance with relevant statutes, rules, and policies pertaining to child protective services and the placement, supervision, treatment, and delivery of care to children in foster care and adoptive homes. The Children’s Ombudsman has the ability to advocate for legislation.

“I am honored to serve in this inaugural role,” said Reynolds. “I was drawn to this position because I know how much of an impact it can make. I look forward to working alongside the Department of Social Services to ensure that the needs of foster care children across Virginia are put first.”

“I was thrilled to champion this legislation creating the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman,” said Delegate Chris Hurt. “The work of the Ombudsman will be a critical step forward in keeping the best interests of the child at the center as complicated decisions are made.”

Reynolds most recently served as Staff Attorney for Court Improvement Programs at the Virginia Supreme Court. Reynolds previously served as Assistant Attorney General in the Division of Health, Education, and Social Services at the Office of the Virginia Attorney General. He also served as legal counsel for the Department of Social Services, Office of Children’s Services, Department of Medical Assistance Service, and Department of Aging and Rehabilitation Services. In this role, he provided analysis for agency programs and assisted in drafting proposed legislation and regulation.

As an attorney, Reynolds has represented both parents and children in child welfare cases and family law. Reynolds earned his law degree from the University of Richmond and his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York. Reynolds will assume his role on Friday, June 25, 2021.

“The creation of this office is an important step in our ongoing work to strengthen Virginia’s foster care system,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Daniel Carey, MD, MHCM. “I am confident that Director Reynolds will build an office that improves outcomes and delivers results for children in foster care and their families.”

The Office of the Children’s Ombudsman is headed by the Children’s Ombudsman, who is appointed for a term of four years by the Governor and subject to confirmation by the General Assembly. The Office is required to annually report its activities and findings to the Governor, the General Assembly, and the Commissioner of the Department of Social Services.

Governor Northam Announces Over $11.1 Million in GO Virginia Grants

Funding will support workforce and site development, infrastructure, entrepreneurial ecosystems

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced an allocation of more than $11.1 million in Growth and Opportunity for Virginia (GO Virginia) grants to help advance economic recovery efforts across the Commonwealth. This funding will support 20 projects focused on expanding workforce development and talent pipelines in key industries, growing startup businesses and entrepreneurial ecosystems, and increasing Virginia’s business-ready sites portfolio.

“The targeted support that GO Virginia provides is critical to ensuring communities across our Commonwealth are well positioned to succeed in a post-pandemic economy,” said Governor Northam. “These projects demonstrate how regional collaboration can drive innovation and deliver positive economic results, including diversifying our workforce, supporting entrepreneurs, and upgrading our infrastructure.”

Included in this round of GO Virginia funding is one statewide project, 16 regional projects, and three projects through GO Virginia’s Economic Resilience and Recovery Program. The awarded projects will leverage an additional $7.1 million in local and other non-state resources.

“The regional approach of GO Virginia continues to spur creative economic development strategies throughout the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “These projects will support regional priorities and help communities achieve economic growth goals now and in the future.”

“The collaboration inspired by GO Virginia is evident in these projects,” said Nancy Howell Agee, who was elected to serve as Chair of the GO Virginia Board at the June 15th meeting. “It is important to recognize the leadership of the GO Virginia regional councils and the localities partnering on these important initiatives and acknowledge their continued efforts to build stronger regional economies that provide quality job opportunities for Virginians.”

Since the program’s inception in 2017, GO Virginia has funded 182 projects and awarded approximately $68 million to support regional economic development efforts. To learn more about the GO Virginia Program, visit dhcd.virginia.gov/gova.

2021 ROUND TWO STATEWIDE GRANT AWARDS

Cybersecurity Job Creation System | $1,450,000
Region 5 (lead): Counties of Isle of Wight and Southampton and cities of Chesapeake, Franklin, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach
Region 7: Fairfax County
Regions 3, 4, 6

Old Dominion University Research Foundation will develop and deliver a cost-effective, cloud-based compliance system to help Virginia’s Department of Defense contractors achieve Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) accreditation. A NIST 800-171/CMMC education program will be developed and delivered by Old Dominion University, Eastern Shore Community College, and as part of the four VA-affiliated universities and participating community colleges.
 

2021 ROUND TWO REGIONAL GRANT AWARDS

Southwest Virginia Regional Ecosystem Initiative Implementation | $290,850
Region 1: Cities of Bristol, Galax, and Norton and the town of St. Paul

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise is partnering with SWVA Startup and Opportunity SWVA to increase the number of entrepreneurs in the region by 2027 and ensure they have access to a robust ecosystem, including support for existing, early-stage businesses. The multi-prong strategy includes hiring a regional ecosystem builder, implementing a virtual accelerator program, and focusing on increased outreach and programming to develop a more diverse entrepreneurship community.

Project Fuse | $70,000
Region 1: Counties of Dickenson, Lee, Scott, and Wise, and the city of Norton

Project Fuse will develop an action-oriented plan with business retention and recruitment tools for local economic developers to promote telework employment strategies in the Lonesome Pine Regional Industrial Facilities Authority territory. This project supports the needs of companies and economic developers looking to expand the use of teleworking strategies as well as residents interested in remote employment opportunities.

Project Thoroughbred | $100,000
Region 1: Counties of Lee and Scott

Project Thoroughbred will add capacity to the maximum output farmers can produce, strengthen market confidence in the region’s ability to meet quality specifications, diversify products, and take the first step toward creating jobs for graduates of the Mountain Empire Community College’s Grain Management Program. 

Dearing Ford Industrial Park | $506,000
Region 2: Campbell County and the town of Altavista

The Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance will manage a project to extend gas service to the Dearing Ford Industrial Park and the adjacent publicly-owned development parcels. This project will create the only gas-serviced site in the Lynchburg sub-region and significantly increase the marketability of the sites.

Helping Local Employers Prepare the Existing and Future Workforce for Industry 4.0 | $45,360
Region 2: Counties of Alleghany, Botetourt, Franklin, and Roanoke, the cities of Covington, Roanoke, and Salem, and the town of Vinton

The Learning Factory in Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech, in partnership with the Virginia Tech Roanoke Center, will address the need for trained talent in Industry 4.0 technology skills in the region and increase competitiveness for manufacturers. The project will convene employers and stakeholders to help identify areas of needed growth in Industry 4.0 such as necessary new technology, skill gaps among the current and future workforce, areas of potential collaboration and others. 

Lynchburg Beacon of Hope | $97,740
Region 2: Amherst County and the city of Lynchburg

Lynchburg Beacon of Hope will develop a Playbook for Future Centers to provide a programmatic guide of its existing Future Centers model that will focus on in-demand careers in the region’s targeted industries of manufacturing, information technology, and life sciences. The playbook will guide the operations and sustainability of the Future Centers model, a template for hiring a director of each Future Center, and a professional development and training module for effective Future Centers. 

Building a Regional Health Sciences Talent Pipeline | $100,000
Region 2: Counties of Alleghany, Botetourt, Franklin, and Roanoke, the cities of Covington, Roanoke, and Salem, and the town of Vinton

The project will establish the Blue Ridge Partnership for Health Science Careers to work as a consortium with public institutions and private employers, helping them to more systematically collaborate to leverage resources and align curriculum with employers’ future growth strategies. This project will accelerate the development of a new model for widespread business-education collaboration, increase the number of health and life science graduates, and begin to formalize a health science talent pipeline focused on engineering, cybersecurity, mechatronics, and the broader life sciences trade sector.

Minority Small Business Launch Center at Virginia State University | $453,000
Region 4: Counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Greensville, Henrico, Prince George, Surry, and Sussex and the cities of Colonial Heights, Emporia, Hopewell, Petersburg, and Richmond

The Division of Research and Economic Development and the Center for Entrepreneurship at Virginia State University will create a Minority Small Business Launch Center that will provide a comprehensive suite of services for minority business founders and early-stage businesses. Funding will support the creation of 90 jobs and 40 new businesses.

Virginia’s Gateway Region Sites | $1,634,407
Region 4: Counties of Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Greensville, Prince George, and Powhatan and the city of Petersburg

Virginia’s Gateway Region will advance site readiness in Region 4 by three-fold, elevating 15 sites (totaling 1,652 acres) to Tier 4 on the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s Virginia Business Ready Sites Program. This effort will promote the availability of shovel-ready sites to prospective businesses, which will in turn help to create higher-paying jobs in the region.

Sussex County Water Study | $96,000
Region 4: Counties of Isle of Wight, Sussex, and Surry

Virginia’s Gateway Region will facilitate a preliminary engineering report for the evaluation of water supply alternatives to serve a 1,000-acre development site in Sussex County. Funding will support the expanded marketability of the site by identifying strategies to provide additional water capacity.

Campus 757 | $500,000
Region 5: Cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, and Portsmouth 

The Hampton Roads Workforce Council will create an initiative to increase the percentage of college students who stay and work full time in Hampton Roads. The project aims to assist up to 400 companies and connect 700 to 1,500 students with employment opportunities. 

757 Collab | $2,415,573
Region 5: Cities of Hampton, Newport News, and Norfolk

757 Collab, an ongoing venture of 757 Accelerate, 757 Startup Studios, and 757 Angels, will continue building and delivering new innovation and entrepreneurship programming, capacity, and services to early-stage companies by bringing together an accelerator, private capital, collaborative space, and community outreach programs. 

Establishing a Regional Internet of Things Accelerator Program in the Rappahannock Regional Entrepreneur Ecosystem | $215,000
Region 6: Counties of King George and Stafford and the city of Fredericksburg

Stafford County and partnering localities will collaborate with the Center for Innovative Technology to expand entrepreneurial programs in the Rappahannock Region. Programs will also support the technology-based Virginia Smart Community Testbed in Stafford and provide entrepreneurs with access to the proven Regional Internet of Things Accelerator Program and additional community-focused programming.

Northern Virginia Community College Dual Enrollment Expansion Program for Information and Engineering Technology | $1,106,777
Region 7: Counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park

Northern Virginia Community College, in conjunction with multiple partners, will implement the Dual Enrollment Expansion Program for Information and Engineering Technology (DEEP-IET) to develop regional workforce capacity in IET, specifically targeting information technology and engineering technology. The DEEP-IET approach will target successful student outcomes with multiple touch points on the STEM talent pipeline and will result in 288 additional graduates, 96 new internships, and expand the number of certified dual enrollment teachers in the region.

Innovation Forward | $100,000
Region 7: Counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park

The Northern Virginia Economic Development Alliance will undergo a strategic planning process to determine the best approaches to organization and management, budgeting and funding, staffing, policy development, business development activities, and brand development. This project will ultimately develop regional capacity and leverage combined assets to grow and diversify the regional economy.

Accelerating Regionally Significant Sites | $786,333
Region 9: Counties of Culpeper and Louisa

The Central Virginia Partnership for Economic Development will elevate one 700-acre site to Tier 4 on the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s Site Characterization scale and enhance the marketability of a 266-acre Tier 4 site by completing water and sewer engineering studies for the sites. The project will benefit the region by increasing the number of shovel-ready sites and supporting economic development efforts that will increase the business tax base and create high-paying jobs.
 

2021 ROUND TWO ECONOMIC RESILIENCE AND RECOVERY STATEWIDE GRANT

Expansion of Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program Mentor Network | $882,794
Region 7 (lead): Counties of Loudoun and Prince William and the cities of Alexandria and Fairfax
Region 2, 4, 5, 6 

George Mason University will expand the statewide network of Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program mentors, who will support startups and early-stage companies. Services will include assistance with developing strategic plans and accessing funding and grants through a new regional hub service network.
 

2021 ROUND TWO ECONOMIC RESILIENCE AND RECOVERY REGIONAL GRANTS

The Future of Workforce Development Outreach | $148,689
Region 9: Counties of Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Madison, and Nelson

Virginia Career Works – Piedmont will address newly identified service equity gaps by providing targeted assistance to displaced workers who do not have access to a career center or high-speed internet. They will create face-to-face support for job seekers and increase access to training and employment opportunities.

Accelerate 2022 | $100,000
Region 7: Counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William and the city of Fairfax

Refraction Inc., in partnership with George Mason University, will launch Accelerate 2022, a high-profile, multiday showcase and pitch competition that will bring investors from across the United States to fund Northern Virginia startups and high-growth companies. The project will address the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on raising critical capital, which will lead to more than 100 high-paying jobs and $16 million in follow-on funding within five years.

Governor Northam Urges Virginians to Prepare Now for 2021 Hurricane Season

Early predictions indicate active, above-normal Atlantic hurricane season

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam is calling on all Virginians to prepare now for the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, which starts June 1 and lasts through November 30. The beginning of hurricane season is the ideal time for Virginians learn their risk for inland or coastal flooding, find out which evacuation zone they are in, and develop an emergency plan for their families or businesses.

“Hurricanes and tropical storms can have devastating impacts on every part of our Commonwealth, not just coastal communities,” said Governor Northam. “As the 2021 hurricane season begins, now is the time for all Virginians to prepare for a potential storm by checking your insurance coverage, making an emergency plan, and having a disaster kit ready.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center predicts an above-normal 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, with a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes, including 3 to 5 major hurricanes. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season had a record-breaking 30 named tropical storms, including 13 hurricanes and 6 major hurricanes. Virginia has been prone to many impacts from tropical systems including damaging winds, flooding, and tornadoes. Even storms that start in the lower Atlantic states have the potential to cause significant damage.

“Hurricane preparedness is even more important today, as we have seen an increase in the number and intensity of storms in recent years,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran. “Together with all of our emergency management and public safety partners across the Commonwealth, we have spent months preparing for hurricane season, and we encourage Virginians to make plans to protect their families and property.”

Virginians are encouraged to review the Virginia Hurricane Evacuation Guide During the COVID-19 Pandemic, which includes information on preparedness, response, and recovery activities in the event of tropical weather, particularly for coastal evacuation areas of the Commonwealth. This year’s guide includes pandemic considerations, recognizing that COVID-19 is still circulating and there are still many unvaccinated individuals, including younger Virginians.

“Disasters and emergencies don’t affect everyone equally and we know that low-income and disadvantaged communities are disproportionately impacted,” said Curtis Brown, State Coordinator at the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. “We have made significant progress building equity into Virginia’s emergency management programs and will continue working to support at-risk populations well in advance of any event.”

Before peak storm season gets underway, all Virginians and those visiting the Commonwealth are encouraged to prepare by knowing your risk, purchasing flood insurance or reviewing your policy, and create an emergency plan that includes arrangements for your pets. Learn what to do to protect yourself, your loved ones, your property, and your community by taking these steps:

  • Know your zone. Evacuation may become necessary depending on the track and severity of the storm. Review Virginia’s evacuation zones at KnowYourZoneVA.org. It is important to note that the zone colors have been updated. Users can enter their physical address in the search bar of the website to view and confirm their designated evacuation zone.
  • Complete a family communication plan. Prepare for how you will assemble and communicate with your family and loved ones. Identify meeting locations and anticipate where you will go. Federal Emergency Management Agency guidance on family communications plans is available here.
  • Check your insurance coverage. Remember, there may be a waiting period for a flood insurance policy to become effective, and be aware that not all hurricane-related losses, such as flooding, are covered under traditional policies. Now is the time to review your coverage and contact your insurance agent for any changes. If you are not insured against floods, talk to your insurance agent or visit floodsmart.gov. If you are a renter, now is the time to ensure you have adequate coverage to protect your belongings.
  • Make an emergency kit. Assemble an emergency kit that includes nonperishable food, water, medication, sanitary supplies, radios, extra batteries, and important documents. Learn more about building an emergency supply kit here.
  • Stay informed. Identify where to go for trusted sources of information during emergencies. Check with your local emergency management office to sign up for alerts that go directly to your phone or email. Be sure to monitor local news for watches and warnings in your area and follow directions of local officials. Power outages are always a concern during weather events—make sure you have a battery-operated radio available so you can still receive life-saving alerts.

There are many resources available to assist with hurricane planning efforts. Learn more about preparing your business, your family, and your property against hurricane threats at vaemergency.gov/hurricanes and ready.gov/hurricanes. Additional information about preparing for hurricanes during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

 

Governor Northam Proclaims First Week in May as Virginia Public Service Week

Recognizes approximately 701,500 public sector employees across the Commonwealth

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today declared May 3–7, 2021 as Virginia Public Service Week to recognize the dedication of federal, state, local, and tribal government employees in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The annual observance honors approximately 701,500 public sector employees who work on behalf of Virginia residents.

“The past year has been extremely difficult—and our public employees continue to rise to the occasion, going above and beyond to serve their communities and fellow Virginians,” said Governor Northam. “From those on the front lines to others who are behind the scenes, this week we have an important opportunity to salute the hard work of thousands of people who help make our Commonwealth the best place to live, work, visit, and raise a family.”

Governor Northam shared a new video message celebrating the more than 124,000 state employees in Virginia who are answering the call of public service with commitment, professionalism, and creativity.

In Virginia, an estimated 17 percent of the workforce is employed by the government. During Virginia Public Service Week, public agencies and institutions of higher education recognize their employees through awards and special activities. Virtual programs will be held for state employees again this year, including a special tour of the Executive Mansion grounds, a cooking lesson from Executive Chef Ed Gross, and micro learning sites.

“We depend on our employees and their dedication each and every day,” said Secretary of Administration Grindly Johnson. “As in years past, this week provides an opportunity for team-building, connecting, and interacting among employee teams.”

Virginia Public Service Week is also an opportunity for employees to recognize their co-workers, particularly those who volunteer through the Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign (CVC) in their communities, which raised nearly $2 million in just the last year.

“Taking time to simply say thank you, whether from a manager or a co-worker, lets an employee know they are seen and what they did matters to someone else, too,” said Emily S. Elliott, Director of the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management. “It’s important that we lift each other up during challenging times and remind one another just how important and purpose-driven our service to the Commonwealth really is.”

The full text of Governor Northam’s proclamation can be found here.

As Vaccinations Rise, Governor Northam Announces Expanded Capacity, Social Gathering Limits to Begin May 15

More than half of all adults in Virginia have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that sports and entertainment venues in Virginia may begin to operate with expanded capacity, and social gathering limits will increase beginning Saturday, May 15th. The announcement comes as vaccinations continue to rise in the Commonwealth, and more than half of all adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. All Virginians age 16 and older are now eligible to for the vaccine.

Governor Northam made the announcement in a new video message.

“It’s good news that half of all adults in Virginia have gotten a shot so far,” Governor Northam said. “Vaccination numbers are up, and our COVID-19 case numbers are substantially lower than they were earlier this year. So, we have been able to begin easing some mitigation measures. We took a few more targeted steps this week, and we will do more next month.”

“I’m optimistic that we will be able to take more steps in June. We are working to significantly ramp up vaccinations even further and aim to reduce capacity limits in June, hopefully all the way. But some things need to continue—we all need to keep wearing masks, social distancing, and encouraging each other to get a shot. It’s how we take care of one another.”

The Governor also reminded Virginians that getting vaccinated keeps communities safer, and allows expanded personal activities—for example, people who have been fully vaccinated do not have to quarantine after an exposure, per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The Commonwealth will continue to mandate mask-wearing and social distancing, even as commercial restrictions are further eased. Key changes in the Sixth Amended Executive Order Seventy-Two will go into effect in about three weeks and include: 

  • Social gatherings: The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase to 100 people for indoor settings and 250 people for outdoor settings. Social gatherings are currently limited to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. 
  • Entertainment venues: Indoor entertainment and public amusement venues will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity or 1,000 people, up from 30 percent capacity or 500 people. Outdoor venues will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity—up from 30 percent—with no specific cap on the number of attendees.
  • Recreational sporting events: The number of spectators allowed at indoor recreational sporting events will increase from 100 to 250 spectators or 50 percent capacity, whichever is less. Outdoor recreational sporting events will increase from 500 to 1,000 people or 50 percent capacity, whichever is less. 
  • Alcohol sales: Restaurants may return to selling alcohol after midnight, and dining room closures will no longer be required between midnight and 5:00 a.m.

The full text of Sixth Amended Executive Order Seventy-Two and Order of Public Health Emergency Nine is available here. Updated guidelines for specific sectors can be found here.

Earlier this week Governor Northam made minor changes to the existing mitigation measures, including increased accommodations for cross-country events, school-based fine arts performances, and expanded access to bar seating in restaurants with strict social distancing. These changes are reflected in the current Fifth Amended Executive Order Seventy-Two available here.

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

Virginia has now administered more than 5.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and is currently giving almost 77,000 shots per day. Over 3.5 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, more than half of all adults in Virginia and more than 40 percent of the total population.

Virginians over the age of 16 can schedule an appointment for vaccination by visiting vaccinate.virginia.gov or calling 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1).

Governor Northam Announces Five New State Historical Highway Markers Addressing Black History in Virginia

Students suggested new markers through second annual Black History Month Historical Marker Contest

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced five new state historical highway markers that address topics of national, state, and regional significance to African American history in the Commonwealth. These markers were submitted by Virginia students through the second annual Black History Month Historical Marker Contest. The Governor was joined by First Lady Pamela Northam and members of his Cabinet for a virtual event yesterday recognizing the students and educators with this year’s winning submissions.

“The contributions of influential African Americans have frequently been ignored, underrepresented, and even silenced,” said Governor Northam. “With this initiative, we have asked students and teachers to help us tell a more accurate, comprehensive, and inclusive Virginia story by suggesting new historical markers that recognize Black Virginians and the important ways they have shaped our shared history. I am grateful to all those who have joined in our efforts to build a strong and equitable Commonwealth.”

The Black History Month Historical Marker Contest invites students, teachers, and families to learn more about African Americans who have made important contributions to Virginia history and submit ideas for new historical markers to the Department of Historical Resources. This year, 100 submissions were received and five were selected for installation.

“It was important for us to provide a unique opportunity for our students to get involved with their education by allowing them to think more deeply about Virginia history,” said Dr. Janice Underwood, Virginia’s Chief Diversity Officer. “This contest elevated the need to integrate Black history into the history taught in our classrooms because Black history is American history. As we launch the ONE Virginia plan, we are providing schools with resources that will guide conversation and promote equity by telling a fuller and more complete version of Virginia’s history.”

The student winners and the names and text of five new markers are as follows:

  • “Dangerfield and Harriet Newby” (Culpeper County), nominated by Sofia Rodriguez, Michael Burgess, and Valia Anderson from Kings Glen Elementary in Springfield, Virginia.

    Dangerfield Newby, who was born enslaved in Virginia and later lived free in Ohio, was killed in John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry as he fought to free his wife, Harriet, and their children from slavery.

  • “Mary Richards Bowser (Richmond City), nominated by Larissa Chambers, Sonia Alam, Hailey Solar, and Allison McKenzie from Kings Glen Elementary in Springfield, Virginia.

    Bowser, born enslaved, became a missionary to Liberia, a Union spy in the Confederate White House during the Civil War, and a teacher at freedmen’s schools.

  • “John Lyman Whitehead Jr.” (Brunswick County), nominated by Jashanti Valentine from Brunswick High School in Lawrenceville, Virginia.

    Born near Lawrenceville, Whitehead served in World War II as a Tuskegee Airman and is credited with being the Air Force’s first African American test pilot and the first African American jet pilot instructor.

  • “Edwin Bancroft Henderson” (Falls Church), nominated by Sullivan Massaro from Kings Glen Elementary in Springfield, Virginia.

    Henderson, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame known as the “Father of Black Basketball,” organized athletic leagues for African Americans, wrote The Negro in Sports (1939), organized the first rural chapter of the NAACP, and was president of the NAACP Virginia state conference as he worked for civil rights.

  • “Samuel P. Bolling” (Cumberland County), nominated by Ashley Alvarez, Allecia Mitchell, Anna Parker, Alex Hernandez, Christopher McCoy, Adalie Ruehrmund, and Harley Thurston from Cumberland Middle School in Cumberland, Virginia.

    Born into slavery in 1819, Bolling later became a successful entrepreneur and was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates as a member of the Readjuster Party, a biracial coalition that accomplished significant reforms in the 1880s.
     

“The Historical Marker Contest helped me learn more about Black Virginians who have made a difference, like Dr. Edwin Henderson,”said Sullivan Massaro, a 4th grader in Fairfax County Public Schools. “Dr. Henderson introduced the sport of basketball to Black athletes in Washington, D.C. and is a big part of why basketball is so popular today. As I researched him I learned how much he did not only for the sport of basketball, but for civil rights in Virginia. I couldn’t believe that he did not already have a historical marker, so I chose to nominate him for the contest.”

Governor Northam was joined by First Lady Northam, Secretary of Education Atif Qarni, Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler, and Chief Diversity Officer Janice Underwood to celebrate the students and educators who participated in the contest. The grandson of Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson, selected as one of the markers for installation, provided remarks at the event, and reflected on his journey to educate others on his grandfather’s legacy.

“On behalf of the Henderson Family, I’d like to express my deep appreciation to Sullivan and his teacher Ms. Maura Keaney for the recognition of Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson’s accomplishments in Virginia by placing a historic marker in front of his home in the City of Falls Church,” said Edwin Henderson II. “This contest is part of an important effort to intertwine African American history into all school curriculum, and ensure that Virginia’s diverse history is represented honestly in classrooms across the Commonwealth.”

Virginia’s Historical Highway Marker Program, which began in 1927 with installation of the first markers along U.S. Route 1, is considered the oldest such program in the nation. This program is an effort to recognize and chronicle events, accomplishments, sacrifices, and personalities of historic importance to Virginia’s story. The signs are known for their black lettering against a silver background and their distinctive shape. The Department of Historic Resources and the Virginia Department of Transportation co-manage the program.

“Virginia’s historical markers tell our history in a tangible way, and these students have worked hard to ensure that these markers are inclusive, diverse, and tell the full Virginia story,” said Secretary Strickler. “I am grateful to the Department of Historic Resources for their determination to highlight untold stories, and to all the students and educators who have helped make this vision a reality.”

Virginia has erected more than 2,600 markers along Virginia’s roadways, but only 350 markers highlighted African Americans as of January 2020. Since then, 42 state historical highway markers about African American history have been approved. Ten of these new markers were suggested by students during the Governor’s inaugural Black History Month Historical Marker Contest in 2020, and the five new markers are expected to be approved by the Board of Historic Resources for approval at its upcoming meeting on June 17.

“The Black History Month Historical Marker Contest allows students to participate in place-based, experiential learning,” said Secretary Qarni. “As students research local history and discover newfound heroes, they gain a deeper understanding of their ability to impact the world.”

A recording of the 2021 Black History Month Historical Marker Contest virtual celebration is available here.

Virginia’s COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Opens for All Adults on Sunday

Virginians seeking a vaccination opportunity can find and schedule appointments at vaccinate.virginia.gov or by calling 877-VAX-IN-VA

RICHMOND—As Governor Ralph Northam announced earlier this month, all Virginians age 16 and older will be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine starting Sunday, April 18. This expansion of eligibility comes as Virginia reaches a new milestone in its vaccination program—approximately half of all adults in the Commonwealth have received at least one dose.

Governor Northam shared a new video message today encouraging Virginians seeking a vaccination opportunity to use the statewide call center or the new Vaccinate Virginia website to find vaccine providers starting Sunday. Virginia’s eligibility expansion meets a nationwide goal set by President Joe Biden that all adults be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by April 19.

“Over the past few months, we have made tremendous progress vaccinating Virginians as quickly, safely, and equitably as possible, and we need to keep up the good work,” said Governor Northam. “With COVID-19 cases on the rise in many parts of Virginia and across the country, it is important that everyone has an opportunity to make a vaccination appointment. If you are over 16 and want to get the safe, effective, and free vaccine, please make a plan to get your shot. The more people who get vaccinated, the faster we can end this pandemic and get back to our normal lives.”

With this move into Phase 2, appointments will still be required for most vaccinations. Starting Sunday, Virginians will be able to find and schedule appointments directly through the Vaccinate Virginia vaccine system by visiting vaccinate.virginia.gov or by calling 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1). The vaccinate.virginia.gov site will link to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s VaccineFinder website, which has a searchable map-based tool to find appointments at Community Vaccination Centers, local health departments, pharmacies, and hospitals.

Virginians seeking an opportunity to get vaccinated may have to wait for an appointment, as demand for vaccination is expected to continue to outpace supply in many parts of the Commonwealth. Those who were eligible under Phase 1 who cannot find an appointment should pre-register for a priority appointment at vaccinate.virginia.gov or by calling 877-VAX-IN-VA. The Northam Administration anticipates that all Virginians who want a vaccine will be able to get at least their first dose by the end of May.

Only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for individuals aged 16 and 17. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for ages 18 and up.

More than 5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Virginia. Approximately half of the adult population has received at least one dose, and one in five Virginians are fully vaccinated. The Commonwealth continues to work with a statewide network of providers and partners to distribute and administer doses as quickly as they are provided by the federal government.

Virginia has focused on equity throughout its vaccination program by providing targeted resources in multiple languages, scheduling clinics in collaboration with community partners, performing grassroots outreach to drive pre-registration and scheduling, and implementing large, state-run Community Vaccination Centers in areas with vulnerable populations. These efforts will continue with expanded eligibility in Phase 2.

All COVID-19 vaccines are free regardless of health insurance or immigration status. Assistance is available in English, Spanish, and more than 100 other languages. Videoconferencing in American Sign Language also is available by videophone at 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682) or online by clicking the “ASL Now” button at vaccinate.virginia.gov.

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