On June 23rd, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam issued a proclamation calling the members of the General Assembly into 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 new opportunity for growth to continue Virginia’s back-to-back titles as “America’s Top State for Business.” The Hampton Roads Chamber has focused on three main priorities: Tourism and Hospitality Recovery, Unemployment Insurance, and Assist Small Businesses.
Tourism and Hospitality Recovery
The Hampton Roads Chamber is supportive of the $291 million relief request that would appropriate funding for lodging, restaurants, tourism authorities, campgrounds, attractions, wedding venues, and more to aid in the economic recovery of hospitality and tourism in the Commonwealth. The Tourism & Hospitality industry in Virginia lost over 200,000 jobs at the height of the pandemic, accounting for almost half of total jobs lost. Nearly 90,000 of the lost jobs during the pandemic remain unfilled today.
We are and will be supportive of the Virginia Restaurant Lodging Travel Association’s funding request to truly assist in the recovery and digging out of a $14 billion deficit.
As the 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 recommends that the state allocate significant funds to the unemployment insurance trust fund.
Assist small businesses
Before the pandemic, over 95% of all employers were small businesses with 50 employees or less. Many of these small businesses are struggling to recover from the economic effects of COVID-19. Unfortunately, a major factor that is currently inhibiting business operations is a lack of a workforce. During the special session, we recommend that the Governor and General Assembly develop an incentive program that encourages individuals to reenter the workforce without increasing operational costs on employers.