Ralph Northam

Governor Northam Announces Efficiency Efforts Have Saved Virginians $1 Billion in Energy Costs

Virginia is the second state to achieve this milestone

RICHMOND—Governor Northam today announced Virginia has reached more than $1 billion in energy savings through the Virginia Department of Energy’s Energy Savings Performance Contracting Program. More than 30 states have similar programs, and Virginia is only the second state to accomplish this milestone.

“Achieving this impressive level of energy savings shows that Virginia is ready and poised to be a national leader on clean energy,” said Governor Northam. “Energy efficiency is one of the most cost-effective ways to meet energy needs. These savings are a huge win for sustainability and reaching our ambitious clean energy goals.”

Virginia Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Performance Contracting Support program was created in 2001. Through the program, state agencies, higher education facilities, and other public bodies enter into a contract with an energy services company to significantly reduce energy costs through one or more conservation or operational measures. The cost of the project must equal the projected savings. The program has helped save $1,011,581,170 in energy costs since it was created.

“Working closely with state agencies, local governments, utilities, and the private sector, Virginia Energy has administered this important program, helping Virginia establish itself as a national leader in the expansion of energy efficiency,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “These efforts and others are part of Virginia’s commitment to clean energy, and I commend Virginia Energy and those that worked with the agency for meeting this outstanding goal.”

“This significant milestone shows what we can accomplish when our public bodies work together with our vendor community to achieve common goals,” said Secretary of Administration Grindly Johnson. “Through innovative contracting, strategic management and collaboration, we’re able to once again show why Virginia is a leader in business and energy efficiency.” 

Since 2001, Virginia Energy has completed 271 energy efficiency projects: 166 for public bodies, 50 for state agencies, and 55 for higher education systems. The average project value was $3.7 million. Annually, Virginia Energy completes projects totaling an average of $50.5 million. To learn more about the program, click here.

“The General Assembly and Virginia Energy saw the rewards of energy efficiency improvements early—creating an avenue to facilitate those improvements through our agency in 2001,” said Virginia Energy Director John Warren. “Our team has spent many hours visiting localities throughout the Commonwealth to ensure successful projects, and the results speak for themselves. We are excited to see what the results of the next 20-years of work will be as more public bodies realize the benefits of the program.”

This announcement comes on Energy Efficiency Day, designated annually on October 6 and celebrated by a nationwide network of energy efficiency groups and businesses. More than 80,000 Virginians work in the energy efficiency sector in high-skilled, good-paying, clean energy jobs that cannot be outsourced.

Governor Northam Celebrates New Virginia Department of Energy

New name for team leading Commonwealth’s transition to clean economy

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced on October 1st that the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy is now the Virginia Department of Energy (Virginia Energy). The name change was passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Northam in April 2021. It became official today, October 1st, 2021.

“Virginia is all-in on clean energy,” said Governor Northam. “We've passed one of the most sweeping clean energy laws in the country, and we are transitioning our electric grid to 100 percent clean energy. These are exciting changes, and they mean new jobs, new investment, cleaner air, and a stronger economy.”

The agency's name change and reorganization follows the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act. The act establishes a mandatory renewable portfolio standard to achieve 30 percent renewable energy by 2030, a mandatory energy efficiency resource standard, and the path to a carbon-free electric grid by 2050. The bill also declares that 16,100 megawatts of solar and onshore wind, 5,200 megawatts of offshore wind, and 2,700 megawatts of energy storage are in the public interest. This provides a pathway for clean energy resources to be constructed, while ensuring that the investments are made in a cost-effective way. The Virginia Clean Economy Act protects customers with a program that helps reduce electricity bills and brings energy efficiency savings to low-income households.

The legislation also changed the former Division of Energy to Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency and the former Division of Mined Land Reclamation to Mined Land Repurposing.

“The Virginia Department of Energy has a long history of working with partners across the energy sector and across government at all levels in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Collaboration between the agency and these partners will be critical to meeting the climate goals that are so important to all of us. This change reflects the agency’s mission to support clean energy programs and energy infrastructure development.”

The Virginia Department of Energy was reorganized to increase the agency’s focus on clean energy in January 2021. Resources were shifted toward development opportunities associated with the repurposing of previously mined sites. Projects include those in the solar energy, agriculture, recreational, cultural, and industrial sectors.

“This agency will continue to provide a high level of service to our traditional customer base, while enhancing the communities we serve,” said Virginia Energy Director John Warren. “The well-timed clean energy movement has allowed us to respond and realign our staff, enabling us to work on new initiatives while keeping our continued customer service.”

The agency’s new website went live today at energy.virginia.gov. Staff emails will also reflect the change, as their domain names will now be “@energy.virginia.gov.”

Virginia Energy was created in 1985 as the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. At that time, the agency mostly served the mining industries, ensuring the safety of coal, mineral, gas, and oil workers and environmental compliance at each site. It also housed the state’s energy office, which has expanded significantly after the passing of the Virginia Clean Economy Act in 2020.

Virginia Energy has nearly 200 employees across the Commonwealth, with offices in Big Stone Gap, Charlottesville, and Richmond. The agency serves as the U.S. Department of Energy’s Virginia State Energy Office and manages state-based clean energy policy and deployment initiatives. Virginia Energy serves as the regulatory agency for coal and mineral mining, as well as natural gas production. Federal grants are administered by Virginia Energy staff to reclaim historic mines through the Abandoned Mine Land program. It also houses Virginia’s Geology and Mineral Resources program.

Clean energy means jobs, a strong economy, and a future for our children.

Governor’s High School Voter Registration Challenge Starts Today

Schools across Virginia set goal to register 65 percent of eligible voters

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced the start of Virginia’s sixth annual Governor’s High School Voter Registration Challenge.

“Our democracy depends on voting, and it should be as easy as possible,” said Governor Northam. “Our landmark 2021 Voting Rights Act of Virginia makes voting easier and more accessible. This challenge helps ensure young people have the resources they need to become active and civic-minded citizens for life.”

The Governor’s High School Voter Registration Challenge encourages schools to register as many of their voting-age population as possible. High schools that register at least 65 percent of their eligible senior class will receive a congratulatory certificate from the Governor. The annual competition, created in 2016, is the result of a collaboration between the Office of the Governor, the Secretaries of Administration and Education, the Virginia Department of Elections, and the League of Women Voters of Virginia.

The Governor’s Challenge helps high schools comply with a 2020 law that requires Virginia public high schools to facilitate voter registration during the school day. Students born on or before November 2, 2003 can register to vote in this year’s November 2nd general election.

“We are always excited to be a part of this event,” said Secretary of Administration Grindly Johnson. “This contest is a great way to introduce the next generation of Virginia voters to the electoral process. We hope that it continues to encourage students to be enthusiastic about making their voices heard and contributing to our democracy.”

There are many ways to register to vote. Volunteers or local election officials will provide voter registration opportunities for students in public and private high schools. Virginians are automatically registered when they access services at a Department of Motor Vehicles office or on the DMV website. Additionally, Virginians can register to vote by submitting paper applications to their local general registrar by mail, in person, or by completing the online form on the Department of Elections’ website.

“We remain committed to assisting high schools throughout the Commonwealth in meeting their obligations to register qualified students, whether in person or virtually,” said League of Women Voters of Virginia President Deb Wake. “We believe each qualified high school student who registers to vote is given a strong start to exercising and understanding their valuable rights as a citizen of Virginia. We encourage high schools to give students an opportunity to register before the October 12 deadline for the November 2nd general election.”

Resources to help schools educate and register students are available through the Department of Elections and the League of Women Voters of Virginia. Schools participating in the Governor’s Challenge can get credit for each student who registers to vote via the Department of Elections’ Citizen Portal by using their school’s unique URL that can be found on the League of Women Voters of Virginia website. For more information, contact Janet Boyd, Voter Services Director for the League of Women Voters of Virginia, at HSVRChallenge@lwv-va.org.

The Governor's Challenge will conclude in the last week of April 2022.

Virginia Launches Expanded Train Service from Downtown Richmond to Washington, D.C., on to New York and Boston

New Amtrak train is first step in statewide rail expansion program

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced the launch of expanded rail service from Richmond to the Northeast corridor. The Amtrak Northeast Regional Route 51 will now offer early morning service from Main Street Station, getting travelers from Downtown Richmond to Washington D.C. when the workday begins or to New York for a lunchtime meeting. The new train is the first expansion of service under Governor Northam's Transforming Rail in Virginia program to significantly expand rail infrastructure throughout the Commonwealth. 

Governor Northam celebrated the milestone this morning from the tracks at Main Street Station as the first train departed at 5:35am. 

“If you've ever been stuck on I-95, you know we can't pave our way out of congestion,” said Governor Northam. “This new train offers quick, reliable service from the Commonwealth's capital to Washington, D.C., connecting our two cities and making it easier for thousands of Virginians to get to work in the morning. Virginia is leading the nation in expanded access to high-performance rail—and I look forward to many more milestones ahead.” 

The newly expanded service has stops at a variety of destinations in the Northeast corridor. Travelers can choose from three daily departure times, two in the morning and one in the evening.

“Originating more trains from Main Street Station will connect our vibrant capital city to Washington D.C. and population centers along the East Coast,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine.  “This extension will bring trains closer to where people live and work, expanding access and economic opportunity.” 

The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority supports four Northeast Regional routes. Service originates in Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, and Roanoke. These routes allow passengers to travel to cities along the East Coast without needing to change trains.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, service to and from Richmond’s Staples Mill Station was suspended in March 2020,” said Virginia Passenger Rail Authority Executive Director DJ Stadtler. “Today’s resumption of this service, which includes the extension to Main Street Station, marks the return to pre-pandemic service levels in Virginia.”

Main Street Station is a National Historic Landmark located in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom district. It is served by Amtrak, GRTC, RVA Bike Share, and Megabus. The station’s Virginia Welcome Center is stocked with information about local and statewide tourist destinations.

Amtrak service was restored to the station in 2003. The train shed opened in 2018 as a 47,000 square foot event space. This station serves a variety of transportation needs. Most recently, a Pulse bus rapid transit service stop was added at the entrance.

“We are pleased to partner with Virginia to bring additional Amtrak service to the Main Street Station,” said State Supported Services at Amtrak Vice President Ray Lang. “As people feel comfortable traveling again, we are honored that our customers trust us on their journey as we are excited to welcome them onboard.”

“CSX is proud to partner in this Transforming Rail in Virginia initiative, which is enhancing passenger and freight rail service from the Commonwealth of Virginia into the District of Columbia,” said CSX Vice President Tammy Butler. “This is just the first step in creating safer, more efficient service while easing congestion in the region.”

Tickets are now available for purchase. Amtrak worked with a medical director and partnered with the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health to ensure proper health and safety protocols were implemented.

Transforming Rail in Virginia is a $3.7 billion program to expand and improve passenger, commuter, and freight rail in Virginia. It will connect the Northeast and Southeast corridors in America’s national rail network. In partnership with CSX, Amtrak, and VRE, Virginia is constructing a new Long Bridge over the Potomac dedicated to passenger and commuter rail. 386 miles of rail right-of-way and 223 miles of track were acquired, and more than $1 billion was invested for additional rail infrastructure.

Over the next ten years, these investments will result in nearly hourly Amtrak service between Richmond and Washington. Amtrak service will also be enhanced for Newport News and Norfolk. VRE services will increase by 75 percent along the I-95 Corridor and weekend service will be added.

Governor Northam Announces Major New Produce Packing Facility in Brunswick County

Partnership and facility to help former tobacco farmers seize fast-growing market for organic vegetables

RICHMOND—Governor Northam today announced Southern Virginia Vegetable Packing, LLC has partnered with Brunswick County Industrial Development Authority to construct a new, 45,000 square-foot, $4.2 million produce processing and packing facility.

Old Dominion Organic Farms, a member of Southern Virginia Vegetable Packing, will operate the facility. Over the next three years, 40 new jobs will be created and the facility is expected to process nearly $24 million Virginia-grown vegetables, approximately 80 percent of which will be certified organic. The new facility will support more than 22 farmers located in Amelia, Brunswick, Dinwiddie, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Prince George, and Surry Counties during its first season.

“As the Commonwealth’s largest and oldest industry, agriculture is an integral part of Virginia’s economic wellbeing—especially in rural areas,” said Governor Northam. “I commend the members of Southern Virginia Vegetable Packing and all of the public and private sector partners who have made this project a reality. They have set an example for how we can all work together to support Virginia agriculture and the communities that rely on this important industry.”

During Governor Northam's administration, the Commonwealth has brought in a record-breaking $48.2 billion in capital investment and created over 91,500 new jobs, including over $8.4 billion and 21,500 jobs in distressed communities.

Since 2001, the price and volume of tobacco sales in Virginia have decreased by nearly half, forcing many Southern Virginia farmers to find new markets or close down their operations. By contrast, the market for organic produce has boomed over that same period, with annual growth frequently exceeding 10 percent. Southern Virginia Vegetable Packing is taking advantage of this market opportunity by leveraging its existing land and labor assets, investing in organic certification, and partnering with farmers across the region to provide wholesalers with a stable and abundant supply of organic and conventional produce. 

Over the next five years, Southern Virginia Vegetable Packing expects to make more than $60 million in produce sales, with $42 million being returned directly to individual farmers. A non-profit has been created to assist prospective farmers with growing these crops and obtaining organic certification, so they too can participate in this market.  

“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. “I am pleased that Brunswick County’s first Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development award is being used to partner with Southern Virginia Vegetable Packing to create new markets and support local farmers and producers with creative ways to maintain and grow their farming operations.”

“Access to a facility that provides efficient packing, cooling, and distribution of vegetables for local farmers will create access to markets previously unavailable to them,” said Jordan Brandon of Old Dominion Organic Farms. “This was the key component farmers were lacking to capitalize on the land, equipment, labor, and farming experience they already possess.”

The Brunswick County Industrial Development Authority and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services worked closely with Brunswick and the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission to secure the project for the Commonwealth. The architectural and engineering work needed to move the project forward was supported through a $35,000 Planning Grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund awarded in June to Brunswick and Lunenburg Counties. To assist the county in securing this project for Virginia, Governor Northam awarded Brunswick’s Industrial Development Authority a $400,000 Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Facility Grant, the county’s first-ever Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development award.  The project is also supported by a $500,000 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission.

“The Brunswick County Board of Supervisors is excited to see this project come to fruition as it capitalizes on our existing agricultural community, aligns with our Board Vision 2035 to create new business opportunities, and will result in more job creation for our citizens,” said Brunswick County Board of Supervisors Chair Dr. Barbara Jarratt Harris. “We look forward to a continued partnership with the Brunswick County Industrial Development Authority, the Brunswick County Agriculture Task Force, and other stakeholders to redefine our niche and help our agriculture industry thrive in new markets.”

“Three years ago, the Industrial Development Authority convened an Agricultural Task Force comprised of state and local leaders in agriculture, education, business, and economic development to leverage our farming heritage to create a new vision for development in the county,” said Industrial Development Authority of Brunswick Chair Gloria Meneweather-Woods. “This project is an outgrowth of that vision, and I sincerely thank the task force for their leadership. While there is still much to do, we know collaborative efforts like this offer us a pathway to continued success.”

“I am delighted that this project will draw on the farming expertise and experience of local folks in this effort to supply fresh, wholesome food to Virginians,” said Senator Frank Ruff.

“Supporting our local farmers and producers is every bit as important now as it has always been for our region,” said Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission member Delegate Roslyn C. Tyler. “This facility will enable local farms to reach new customers and pursue new wholesale opportunities that will increase profitability and help ensure that these farms remain operational for generations to come. This is a big win for agriculture in our region and I’m pleased the Commission chose to support this important project. I look forward to seeing construction get underway on this new facility as soon as possible.”

The Northam administration has funded an historic number of projects through the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development fund. As of today, 109 businesses have received Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development grants, investing nearly $10 million in businesses all over the Commonwealth, helping them create more than $1 billion in new investment, nearly 3,500 jobs, and over $1 billion in commitments to purchase Virginia-grown products.

Governor Northam Appoints Ann Jennings as Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources

Appointment announced ahead of Chesapeake Bay Executive Council set to meet October 1 in Virginia Beach

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today appointed Ann Jennings as the new Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources.

“Virginia’s water and air are cleaner today because we have made historic investments in Virginia's natural resources over the past four years,” said Governor Northam. “We have secured more funding for the Chesapeake Bay than any previous administration. We are all-in for clean energy, with the country's largest offshore wind development rising off the coast of Virginia Beach. We are breaking new ground in coastal resilience and environmental justice. Ann Jennings has been a leader in this work, and as Secretary, she will make sure Virginia continues this momentum.”

Jennings has served as the Deputy Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources with primary responsibility for the Chesapeake Bay. She also has served as the Virginia Director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tri-state legislative commission created to advise the General Assemblies of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia on matters of Bay-wide concern.

The appointment comes as the Chesapeake Executive Council prepares to meet in Virginia Beach next week. The Council includes the governors of the six watershed states, the mayor of the District of Columbia, the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, and the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The panel establishes the policy direction to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay.

Before joining state government, Jennings served as the Virginia Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Her career also includes work as a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Originally from Virginia Beach, Jennings received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Virginia Tech and a master’s degree in wildlife and fisheries sciences from Texas A&M University. She is a graduate of the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute and the Sorensen Institute’s Political Leaders Program.

Matt Strickler, the outgoing Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources, is pursuing new opportunities where he will continue his excellent work of protecting our nation’s resources. He began working with the Governor in 2008 as a legislative assistant in the office of then-state Senator Northam. Strickler had served on the cabinet since Governor Northam took office in 2018. 

“We will miss Secretary Strickler, and wish him well in his future endeavors,” said Governor Northam. “I want to thank Matt for all that he has done for the people of the Commonwealth while serving in this administration. His work to clean up Virginia’s air and water over the last four years has directly benefited the health, wellbeing, and lives of all who reside here.”

Governor Northam Announces New Grant Program Supporting Local Food and Farming Infrastructure

Local governments can apply for grants to support farmers markets and small-scale agricultural facilities October 1 through November 15

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced a new grant program designed to support equitable and sustainable local food systems for small-scale agricultural producers, farmers markets, and food hubs. It is a new component of the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund.

This Infrastructure Program competitively awards matching grants of up to $25,000 in partnership with local governments for community infrastructure development projects that support local food production and sustainable agriculture. Special reduced match requirements are available to projects in economically distressed localities, underserved communities, or for those benefiting multiple small-scale producers.

“Ensuring equitable access to healthy and affordable food for all Virginians has always been a priority of this administration,” said Governor Northam. “One of the best ways we can do this is by partnering with local governments to make strategic investments in our local food systems.  The local infrastructure created by this new program will enable Virginia’s small-scale farmers and food producers to thrive, grow local economies, and improve food access.”

“One of the greatest strengths of Virginia agriculture, the Commonwealth’s largest private sector industry, is its diversity,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “I am pleased that the new Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Infrastructure Program provides another economic development tool for localities. These resources make funding accessible to communities that need it most and benefit farmers and producers, as well as our local food systems.”

Delegate Sam Rasoul’s House Bill 2068 created this grant program during the 2021 General Assembly session. The legislation authorizes the Governor to award grants of up to $25,000 to political subdivisions.

The reimbursable grants are primarily for capital projects at new and existing food hubs, farmers markets, commercial kitchens and other value-added facilities such as those for the processing and packaging of meats, dairy products, produce, or other Virginia-grown products. Small farmers, food producers, local food systems advocates and others interested in building their community’s local food and farming infrastructure are encouraged to learn more about the program and work with their localities to identify and develop suitable projects.

Applications for this funding can be submitted October 1 through November 15. Final award announcements will be made no later than December 31 of this year.   

“The Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Infrastructure program, with its focus on supporting local food and farming, benefits both our communities and farmers,” said Delegate Rasoul. “The money spent with local farmers and growers stays close to home and is reinvested with the businesses and services in our communities.”

The new Infrastructure Program joins two other the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development funded programs, all of which are administered by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The Facility Grants Program is a Governor’s discretionary economic development incentive for new and expanding facilities that, in addition to creating new jobs and investment, add value to Virginia-grown products. The Planning Grants Program funds a wide range of activities that support agriculture and forestry-based industries more broadly and is designed to empower localities to develop creative solutions tailored to their unique needs.

Additional information about the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Infrastructure program is available here. Questions about the program and upcoming application workshops should be directed to Jennifer.Perkins@vdacs.virginia.gov.

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.”

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Ralph Northam