RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam signed House Bill 5005, Virginia’s revised biennial budget Wednesday . The Governor called the General Assembly into special session on August 18 and has worked with legislative leaders to enact a spending plan that protects key priorities, preserves the Commonwealth’s financial options, and addresses critical challenges that Virginians are facing amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The signed budget finalizes previously announced funding allocations that Virginia received under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, including:
- Vaccination Program: $22 million for the Virginia Department of Health’s vaccination preparation and planning through the end of 2020
- K-12 Schools: $220 million for COVID-19 preparedness and response efforts in K-12 public schools, with all 132 school districts receiving at least $100,000
- Higher Education: $116 million to support ongoing COVID-19 response at public colleges, universities, and medical schools and $22 million for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to provide payments to private institutions of higher education
- Child Care: $65.8 million to increase access to child care and continue child care incentive grant program established in April
- Small Business Assistance: $70 million to establish the Rebuild VA economic recovery fund providing grants to small businesses and nonprofit organizations impacted by the pandemic and $30 million in additional funds to continue the program
- Broadband Accessibility: $30 million to fast-track broadband projects in underserved localities
- Home Health Workers: $73 million to provide hazard pay to home health personal attendants who served high-risk populations during the early months of the pandemic
- Workforce Training for Unemployed Virginians: $30 million to established the Re-Employing Virginians initiative providing scholarships to individuals who enroll in programs in high-demand fields
- Rent and Mortgage Relief: $12 million to expand the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program launched in June
- Food Banks: $7 million to help Virginia food banks meet increased demand for food assistance
- Medicaid Day Support Providers: $25 million to fund monthly retainer payments for day support programs that provide services for Virginians with developmental disabilities.
- Free Clinics: $3 million to reimburse members of the Virginia Association of Free and Charitable Clinics for COVID-19 expenses
Utility Shutoff Protections
The budget includes $100 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) to support jurisdictional and municipal utility customers facing financial hardship due to the public health crisis. It also directs the State Corporation Commission to establish an application process for distributing the funds to utilities so they can efficiently provide direct assistance to eligible customers.
The budget also puts in place a moratorium on utility disconnections, including water and electricity, which will remain in effect until the Governor determines that the economic and public health conditions have improved such that the prohibition does not need to be in place or until at least 60 days after the declared state of emergency ends. The budget includes protections for utility providers dealing with revenue shortfalls and establishes a repayment plan to give customers the opportunity to pay off back debt over a longer period.
The budget prohibits evictions for non-payment of rent through December 31, 2020, which is stronger than current federal protections. Landlords and tenants must cooperate and apply for rental assistance through the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP) administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development. After January 1, 2021, the budget requires landlords and tenants to work together to access rent assistance, including through the RMRP, before proceeding with an eviction.
On a local note, Governor Northam changed his mind on funding for a new hangar at the Melfa Airport after removing it from the budget twice.