I want to express my gratitude to all who are working together to see our communities through this troubling time. Thank you to our dedicated health care providers, first responders, and essential workers for the personal sacrifices they are making on our behalf. I am also appreciative of everyone social distancing and doing your part to keep us safe and healthy.

May is National Infant Immunization Week. NIIW is observed annually to highlight the importance of protecting children two years of age and younger from vaccine-preventable diseases. It is crucial to keep up with childhood vaccinations during the COVID-19 outbreak. You can find more about this initiative here.

Upcoming Elections

Virginia’s upcoming municipal elections have been moved from Tuesday, May 5 to Tuesday, May 19. In the 52nd district, this change impacts the mayoral and Town Council elections in Occoquan. The deadline to request an absentee ballot has been pushed back to Tuesday, May 12. Absentee ballots must be returned by 7 pm on the new Election Day, May 19.

Governor Northam initially proposed holding the May elections concurrent with November’s General Election; unfortunately, Virginia’s state Senate did not approve this measure. For the safety of our voters and poll workers, I strongly encourage everyone voting in Occoquan to absentee vote by mail. You can request an absentee ballot here. Everyone may use option “2A: My disability or illness” on the form as a qualifying reason to vote absentee.

The governor has also moved June’s congressional primary elections from June 9 to June 23. The deadline to register to vote or update a registration for the primaries is May 26. The new deadline to request an absentee ballot for the primaries is June 16.

Veto Session

Last Wednesday, the General Assembly returned to Richmond for the annual Reconvened Session to address Governor Northam’s actions on legislation passed earlier this year. Much of the new funding included in the budget passed in March is on hold until the full economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is understood. These changes include funding for the minimum wage increase, which is now effective May 2021. The governor plans to call a special legislative session later this summer to revisit the spending pause. I will inform you when this special session is announced.

The ban on “gray machines” (unregulated video gambling devices, similar to slot machines) has been postponed. While I am opposed to gray machines, I supported the governor’s amendment after receiving his assurance that these machines will be regulated by the Alcohol Beverage and Control Board and that proceeds would be directed to COVID-19 Relief funds.

On a positive note, funding was retained in the budget for Prince William County’s new public defender office, which should open on-schedule this fall. The General Assembly also agreed to move up the enactment date of a bill from Delegate Bagby and Senator Locke that will protect Virginians from predatory lending. Effective January 1, 2021, lenders that offer “payday” and title loans will have their interest rates capped at 36%. This new law will help borrowers avoid being trapped in cycles of debt.

COVID-19 Updates

As of Friday, there were 1,781 coronavirus cases, 174 hospitalizations, and 28 deaths in Prince William County. It is now recommended that we wear cloth face masks that cover the nose and mouth when leaving home for essential tasks. This week Virginia’s Supreme Court extended the state of judicial emergency through May 17; this order delays civil and traffic cases, including evictions. Please visit the Prince William County coronavirus website and Virginia’s coronavirus website for more information on staying healthy and for resources such as unemployment insurance, food assistance, or small business loans. You can also always dial 2-1-1 or the coronavirus hotline: 1-877-275-8343.

2020 Census

Remember to complete the 2020 Census! The results of the 2020 Census will help to determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding flows into our communities. This includes funding for hospitals, fire departments, schools, and roads. Census results also impact your government representation. Completing the Census is easy and confidential, and you can do it online in just a few minutes.

Next week I will be sending out a survey to obtain your ideas on how our office can best support the PWC community through this challenging time, so keep an eye out for another message. In the meantime, stay safe and contact me with any questions, comments, or concerns. Ramadan Mubarak to those observing the holy month.