I hope you are enjoying the first days of fall. In the Virginia General Assembly this past week, the Appropriations Committee reported its updated budget while the House continues to review Senate bills. See below for more details on the newly released budget, which will be voted on by the full House of Delegates on Tuesday.
On Friday, the House Appropriations Committee reported House Bill 5005, the reworked biennial budget. The General Assembly had first frozen most new spending in the Fiscal Year 2021-2022 budget during April’s reconvened session. Further changes were necessary to account for the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and for criminal justice reform. We entered this Special Session with the mandate to balance a budget facing significantly reduced revenues while funding new policies that will make Virginia a safer, healthier, and more just Commonwealth. The budget approved by the committee on Friday meets our goals.
We are protecting our public schools by restoring previously reduced K-12 funding and providing new flexibility to local school divisions. As students across Virginia are tackling virtual schooling, we are taking steps to expand internet access by cutting red tape around broadband infrastructure projects related to online learning and telehealth. The budget supports our health care system, directing Coronavirus Relief Funds toward the overburdened sectors caring for the most vulnerable Virginians. This budget meets the challenges of the current moment and looks toward Virginia’s future. We are accounting for new criminal justice reform measures such as the Marcus Alert and restoring funding to the Pre and Post Incarceration Services program. We are doing all this while protecting Virginia’s AAA bond rating under a diminished revenue reforecast.
We were proud of the historic budget we passed earlier this year. Unfortunately, the economic crisis requires us to defer many of the initiatives we adopted last March. We will reconvenein January with a formal forecast and the opportunity to make further strides toward achieving this majority’s priorities.
HB5005 follows the standalone budget passed in August that funds voter access measures for November’s elections. The separate funding bill allowed voter access changes such as prepaid postage, secure ballot drop-off locations, and an absentee ballot “cure” process – necessary in light of the pandemic – to be put in place as early as possible to allow Virginia’s registrars adequate time for implementation.
Care Safe Update
The budget reported by the House Appropriations Committee on Friday contains several important wins for our Care Safe initiative and the providers caring for our most vulnerable. In addition to the Personal Protective Equipment newly available to home care agencies, this budget would direct $56 million in federal relief funds to personal care attendants in the form of hazard pay. Nursing homes would receive an additional $20 per day to stabilize an industry under extreme stress. Organizations supporting Virginians with intellectual and developmental disabilities would receive immediate retainer payments and a higher reimbursement rate next fiscal year. Our aim is to keep these providers safe and healthy while preventing closures that would disadvantage their patients.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office with any questions or comments. As always, thank you for your support.