COVID-19 Business Recovery
COVID-19 Business Resources
Impactful Advocate Special Session II 2021

Impactful Advocate Special Session II 2021
Impactful Advocate Special Session II 2021
Impactful Advocate Special Session II 2021
June 23rd, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam issued a proclamation calling the members of the General Assembly into a special session on Monday, August 2, 2021. A special session is necessary to fill judicial vacancies and allocate more than $4.3 billion in federal relief funding. This is a unique opportunity to utilize the American Rescue Plan Act funding to fast-forward the recovery of our economy and provide a new opportunity for growth to continue Virginia’s back-to-back titles as “America’s Top State for Business.”

The Hampton Roads Chamber’s Government Affairs team traveled to Richmond to ensure the voice of business was heard and focused on three main priorities: Tourism and Hospitality Recovery, Unemployment Insurance, and Assist Small Businesses.

The House passed their budget bill, HB7001, on a vote of 71-Y 25-N. The Senate passed their budget bill, SB7001, on a vote of 22-Y 18-N. The Senate adopted line amendments to their bill making the Senate version slightly different than the House’s version. Due to this difference, both bills have gone into a committee of the conference where budget conferees are listed below. The General Assembly will convene Monday, August 9th, 2021 to continue the business of the special session.

Senators

Delegates

Howell (D)

Torian (D)

Barker (D)

Sickles (D)

Saslaw (D)

Carr (D)

Locke (D)

Tyler (D)

Lucas (D)

Bulova (D)

Deeds (D)

Knight (R)

Hanger (R)

Austin (R)

 

Below is a list of important language located in the budget bill that is of interest to the business community.   

  1. LINES 50- 56 a. Unemployment Assistance

1) $73,600,000 to the Virginia Employment Commission (182) for information technology modernization, call center improvements, security, and claims adjudication. Information technology improvements shall include a customer relationship management system and other such communication tools to better serve Unemployment Insurance clients.

2) $862,000,000 to the Virginia Employment Commission (182) for deposit to the Unemployment Trust Fund.

As a result of the pandemic, the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) has processed over 1.6 million unemployment claims over the last 15 months. As a result, the Unemployment Trust Fund is now nearly depleted, and employers face a potential steep increase in payroll taxes. To ensure that future unemployment insurance taxes do not stifle employer hiring or become a drain to our economic recovery, the Chamber supported the allocation of significant funds to the unemployment insurance trust fund.

2.      LINES 64-91 b. Broadband

1) $500,000 to the Department of General Services (194) for legal and real estate transaction support for agencies that own property to support broadband expansion.

2) $479,000,000 to the Department of Housing and Community Development (165) to support broadband access managed and awarded through the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative grant making process; however, the agency may adjust the criteria to reflect the provisions established by the U.S. Department of the Treasury's rules and regulations regarding the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds established under the American Rescue Plan Act.

3) $8,000,000 to the Department of Housing and Community Development (165) for the Line Extension Customer Assistance Program to support the extension of existing broadband networks to low to moderate income residents.

The COVID pandemic exposed the need for this critical infrastructure tool as schools transitioned to virtual classrooms, more employees worked from home, online commerce increased, and many medical appointments were held in virtual environments. Broadband has become a key undergird of support to other sectors of Virginia’s economy. The Chamber supported additional funding for broadband infrastructure to ensure businesses can reach markets, regions are economically competitive, and citizens have access to jobs, health care, information, and commerce.

3.       LINES 92-103 c. Rebuild VA

1) $250,000,000 to the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (350) for the Rebuild VA program. In awarding these funds, priority shall be given to qualifying applications received by the Department on or before June 30, 2021, for which a grant has not been awarded. The Department shall solicit new applications to allocate any balance that remains from this appropriation. In allocating funds to support grants for applications solicited by the agency after June 30, 2021: (1) the Department shall prioritize funding for businesses in the hospitality and tourism industry, that includes, but is not limited to hotel and lodging establishments, restaurants, and entertainment and public amusement venues; and, (2) in awarding these funds to restaurants, funds shall be reserved for restaurants that have not received federal assistance through the Small Business Administration's Restaurant Revitalization Fund or loan forgiveness from the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program.

While the Chamber was happy to see additional money being allocated to help support small businesses through the Rebuild VA program, the words in red symbolize the language that the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging, Travel Association, and the Hampton Roads Chamber advocated to be stricken. Approximately 7,000 restaurants will be ineligible for the Rebuild program when it opens up for hospitality businesses. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund was created to help restaurants recoup the losses. However, the Paycheck Protection Program was set up to help businesses keep staff on payroll.  

 4.       LINES 178-180 f. Tourism

1) $50,000,000 to the Virginia Tourism Authority (320) to support local domestic marketing organizations, as well as the Authority's marketing and incentive programs.

For almost 16 months in 2020 and 2021, the tourism, travel, and hospitality industries saw a stark plunge in visitors and travelers. This multi-billion industry in Virginia was the hardest hit sector of Virginia’s economy. To help this important part of Virginia’s economy rebound, the Chamber supported additional investments in this industry to help it recover from the pandemic-induced downturn in the economy.

Summary

The Hampton Roads Chamber believes that fostering a climate for economic growth is achieved by consistently championing the free enterprise system's principles.  The Chamber's governmental affairs team will continue to provide policymakers with the information and perspective necessary to advance sound public policy that supports strong economic growth and Virginia's number one ranking as "Best State to do Business."

 

Archive
Join Us
Youtube Icon
Linkedin Icon
Instagram Icon
Contact Icon