I hope you are staying safe and healthy! We made some terrific progress for our Commonwealth during this first week of special session. I am happy to report that nearly all of my bills have already passed the Senate unanimously and are heading to Governor Northam’s desk. I am thrilled to see that all of my bills have earned overwhelming bipartisan support.
We also passed a historic budget this year that included funding for several of my legislative priorities, including an actuarial study for my proposed Paid Family and Medical Leave program, funding to assemble a workgroup to examine the disparities in fetal and infant mortality rates in Virginia, and a historic 5% teacher pay raise. I am so honored to be a part of this historic session in our majority, and I look forward to completing this great work over the coming days.
Passed the Senate!
I have been hard at work over the last few weeks pushing forward my bills that will provide much-needed support during the crisis and ensure more families have the economic security they need as we recover. I am so proud that nearly all of my bills have reported out of the Senate unanimously!
- HB 1891 passed the Senate unanimously, and we are now awaiting the Governor to sign this into law. 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 Senate unanimously on Thursday.
- 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 passed the Senate unanimously on Thursday afternoon.
- My bill, HB 2266, passed out of the House 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. It passed the Senate unanimously. HB 2266 is currently in conference as there are some differences in the version passed by the House and by the Senate, so we are looking forward to sending this bill to Governor Northam once both versions conform!
Sitting in the Senate
- 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 Senate Education and Health committee unanimously. It was on its 2nd reading in the Senate, and we are hopeful that it will pass on Monday.
Passing a historic budget
Our House’s historic budget shows that we are focused on providing our Commonwealth the support that is needed for Virginians during this crisis. It ensures that more families have the economic security they need as we look to recover from the pandemic. I know the struggles that a lot of our families are facing throughout COVID-19 because I’ve lived them. Our budget will help our families and small businesses weather this crisis and move Virginia forward.
Looking at the budget, we have so many firsts to celebrate. My legislation, HB 1950, will fund for the first time a plan to create a Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Team to investigate racial disparities in fetal and infant deaths. The budget also includes another first: an actuarial study of our proposed universal paid family and medical leave program — a historic effort that would ensure no family has to choose between the health of a loved one and their economic security. I want to thank our partners at NARAL, Birth in Color RVA, Family Friendly Economy, and so many other advocates for their dedication to ensuring that our budget includes these priorities, which will help families, workers, and small businesses across our Commonwealth.
Furthermore, I am appreciative that the Appropriations committee included funding for several of my legislative priorities, including raising teacher pay by a historic 5%, implementing Governor Northam’s G3 program to make college more affordable, providing additional support for our COVID vaccination implementation to speed our recovery, and expanding access to broadband across the Commonwealth to help close the digital divide.
The Commonwealth will receive about 213,000 vaccinations next week, and all of the current vaccinations have been distributed to the 160 health districts throughout the Commonwealth. This week we surpassed more than 1.5 million doses administered in the Commonwealth. Virginia has consistently been a leader throughout the COVID-19 crisis, and our vaccination process is no exception. As we break 1,500,000 doses administered, I am grateful for Governor Ralph Northam, Dr. Norman Oliver, and Dr. Danny Avula for their continued leadership throughout the pandemic. From the beginning, we knew that it was going to take time to ensure every Virginian had the chance to be vaccinated, but our Commonwealth is moving quickly to keep every person in our Commonwealth safe and healthy from this pandemic. We’ve administered more than 1,541,772 doses to 1,101,443 people, putting us at 9th in the nation for the percent of the state population that has been vaccinated. In Prince William County, 55,508 doses have been administered, and 14,478 people have been administered both doses of the shot. Additionally, Virginia is now in Phase 1b:
- 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. Please be advised that the Virginia Department of Health believes that we will fully finish vaccinating Phase 1-B by late April.
Our Commonwealth has also created a pre-registration site to ensure that we are moving through our vaccination waitlist. You can pre-register for the vaccine here.
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 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:
- 561,812 persons have tested positive for COVID-19.
- 23,812 of those individuals have been hospitalized.
- 7,197 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, 94,063 are African Americans and 74,379 are Hispanic or Latino.
- According to the VDH website, these are the most recent statistics about Virginia’s vaccination effort:
- 1,766,575 doses have been received by the Commonwealth
- 1,541,772 doses have been administered
- 1,101,433 people have received at least one dose of a vaccine
- An average 36,172 vaccines are being administered per day
- 440,339 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
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.