We’re all hard at work here to pass legislation to support our working families throughout the COVID pandemic. Next Friday, February 5th, is designated as this year’s Crossover. This deadline means the House must complete all its legislation that needs to be sent over to the Senate for their action on it, and vice versa. Our bills are on track to meet this deadline, and we’re looking forward to making progress for VA families.
Introducing and passing legislation
As a single mom who was trying to make ends meet working at a gas station when my first child was born, I know the struggles that a lot of our families are facing right now because I’ve lived them. That is why I am focusing this session on passing legislation that will provide much-needed support during the crisis and ensure more families have the economic security they need as we recover. I have already passed 4 out of the 7 bills that I am the Chief Patron of this year. They are here:
- HB 1891 passed out of the House unanimously on Friday evening! We’ve heard from several constituents and local leaders that continued education around public safety, which is why we introduced this legislation. HB 1891 will train our Commonwealth’s employees on public health and safety to ensure that our employees are healthy and safe during and after COVID-19. We know that during COVID-19 education is an important piece to stop the spread.
- I carried HB 1892 on behalf of the State Corporation Commission since it will protect and help our consumers during COVID-19. This bill removes the 30 day waiting period for auto insurers to give their policyholders adjustments and refunds. This bill will put more money into the pockets of Virginians quicker. Delegate Ayala is proud to carry this bill that will help deliver faster results for Virginians during the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill passed the House unanimously earlier this week. It is now in the Senate’s Labor and Commerce Committee.
- HB 1923 will expand broadband to communities throughout the Commonwealth. It expands the Dominion and Appalachian Power pilot program by allowing municipal and other public broadband authorities to participate. We know that broadband is as essential utility as electricity in the 21st century, and this bill will help close the gaps. Delegate Ayala will continue to prioritize ensuring every Virginian has access to broadband. This bill just passed the House on a unanimous vote on Friday.
- I worked on HB 1950 with NARAL Virginia and Birth in Color RVA. HB 1950 requires the Virginia Department of Health and the Office of the Medical Examiner to establish a workgroup to make a detailed plan to establish a Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Team in Virginia. The substitute eliminates the feasibility study from the requirements and reorganizes the language as suggested by the VDH to help with their guidance. This work is necessary. Virginia currently ranks 21st in infant mortality rates as compared to other states according to the CDC. Black women are 9 times more likely than white women to lose their pregnancies in Virginia. Governor Northam announced his goal to address maternal mortality disparities in Virginia by 2025. But it is impossible to address maternal mortality while ignoring preventable fetal and infant deaths since we know the rates are mirrored. A Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Team is an essential tool to address these disparities and preventable deaths. This bill passed out of the House’s Labor and Commerce committee and is on the House floor. We hope to pass it on Tuesday!
Coming out of Committee:
- My bill, HB 2266, passed out of General Laws with broad bipartisan support. This bill creates outdoor refreshments areas. This bill will allow folks to drink alcoholic beverages outside certain areas. This will help our restaurants, breweries, and wineries out during COVID-19 as it provides more opportunities for outdoor services that are socially distanced.
Off to Appropriations:
- HB 2015 passed out of Labor and Commerce on a 13-9 vote late Thursday night. HB 2015 is a bill that is both great for workers and for business. This bill will provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and hazard pay for our essential workers. Our essential workers are at the epicenter of the pandemic. The health threats that face workers now are just as real as they were at the beginning of the pandemic. Many essential workers hold several jobs to just cover living expenses, increasing their exposure to COVID-19 even more. Our essential workers are majority-minority — communities that have been disportionately hurt during COVID-19. HB 2015’s relief provides equity and protection throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. I have partnered with SEIU, AFL-CIO, and the Prince William Professional Firefighters to make sure that we pass these essential protections for them.
- Paid family and medical leave is supported by more than 80% of Virginians, so I was very excited that HB 2016 passed out of Labor and Commerce on Thursday night. This bill creates a paid family and medical leave program for the Commonwealth. Paid Family and Medical Leave is an issue that is near and dear to my heart. I have co-patroned this bill in previous years, and I am so excited to be able to lead the fight in the House this year. And this policy isn’t just good for workers--it’s great for business too! A majority of small business owners in Virginia support establishing a paid family and medical leave program in the Commonwealth. They see it as essential to their ability to compete, recruit and retain top talent. They just can’t compete with the benefits packages that larger employers offer without the backing of a statewide program. Furthermore, paid leave policies reduce employee turnover, increase productivity, and improve loyalty and morale -- all of which save businesses money.
Right now the Commonwealth receives about 105,000 vaccinations per week, and all of them have been distributed to the 160 health districts throughout the Commonwealth. We’ve administered more than 697,914 doses to 599,429 people. In Prince William County, 23,208 doses have been administered, and 3,449 people have been administered both doses of the shot. Additionally, all of Virginia is now
- Adults aged 65 and older.
- People 16-64 with certain conditions or disabilities that increases their risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
- People living in correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and migrant labor camps.
- Essential workers including:
- Police, Fire, and Hazmat
- Corrections and homeless shelter workers
- Childcare, Pre-K through 12th grade Teachers, administrators and supportive staff
- Food and Agriculture, including veterinarians
- Grocery store workers
- Public transit workers
- USPS and private mail providers
- Officials needed to maintain continuity of government, including judges and public facing judicial workers
To find out which phase you fall into, please use this website from the Department of Health to figure out which category you are in.
Currently, Prince William County has a waitlist for the vaccine. To sign up for the vaccination in Prince William, please use this link. If you live outside of Prince William County, please contact your local health district to see how you can schedule your appointment when it’s available.
Eviction Moratorium and Housing Support
President Biden extended the federal ban on evictions through March 2021 through an executive order on Wednesday. The extension of the moratorium will provide continuing temporary relief to tenants who have faced economic hardship.
If you are in need of financial assistance for your rent or mortgage, you may be eligible for support from the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program. You can check your eligibility and apply online here.
Additional Data and Information
- According to the VDH website, these are the most recent statistics about the spread of COVID-19:
- 463,751 persons have tested positive for COVID-19.
- 20,544 of those individuals have been hospitalized.
- 6,022 of those individuals have lost their lives to this virus.
- This virus has been shown to disproportionately affect the African American and Hispanic/Latino population throughout the country. As such, Virginia has begun to collect race/ethnicity information. With the cases we have racial and ethnicity data on, 76,674 are African Americans and 66,540 are Hispanic or Latino.
- According to the VDH website, these are the most recent statistics about Virginia’s vaccination effort:
- 1,176,350 doses have been received by the Commonwealth
- 697,914 doses have been administered
- 599,429 people have received at least one dose of a vaccine
- An average 28,457 vaccines are being administered per day
- 98,485 people have been fully vaccinated
COVID-19 Resource Page
I have a page on my website dedicated towards providing resources from the state, local government, and other entities to those who need it. If you need assistance please visit the webpage now!
Additionally, there are other helpful, informative links that I would recommend you take a look at so you can stay up to date on this dynamic situation. You can visit the webpage here.
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Emergency Contact Information
While we enjoy this time of year with our family and friends, it is always important to make sure we stay safe from inclement weather or any other danger.
Here is a link to Prince William County’s Emergency Services: PWC Emergency Link
Additionally, you can find information on Prince William County school delays, closures or emergencies here: PWCS Closure, Delays, and Emergencies
Winter Travel updates, suggestions and contact information: VDOT Winter Travel
This weekend we have a winter storm watch advisory that has been issued for our area. The advisory states that there will be heavy mixed precipitation with snow - near 6 inches of accumulation. Note that snow storms may create hazardous conditions to include power outages. Please look out for one another and check on your neighbors. If you have pets, please keep them indoors. Here is a great article on pet do’s and don'ts during a snowstorm. Also for storm preparations, here are some helpful tips!
For more information on this watch, please visit the National Weather Service website.
Here is some information for your ready reference to reach state and local agencies and utilities in the event of power or service outages. You can also see where the plows are after the snow has stopped falling by visiting VDOT's Plow Tracker page.
Public Safety Non-Emergency: (703) 691-2131 | TTY (703) 204-2264
Washington Gas: 1 (800)-752-7520 or (703) 750-7944 | TTY 711
Dominion Virginia Power 1 (866)-366-4357 | TTY 711
NOVEC (Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative) 1 (888)-335-0500 or (703) 335-0500 | TTY 711
Pepco Outages: 1 (877)-737-2662
My Contact Information
Email to: email@example.com, or call my office at: (804) 698-1051.
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In closing, I am here for you as is our Governor and our government agencies who are readily available to help during this tough time. It is important we prevent the spread for the safety of everyone, especially those who are most vulnerable. In addition, let's focus on caring for one another and beating this virus together.