RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – The Virginia House and Senate have given initial approval to budget legislation allocating billions of dollars in federal coronavirus relief money, each passing slightly different bills that lawmakers will have to reconcile.

The budget legislation would spend most of Virginia’s $4.3 billion share of American Rescue Plan funding on initiatives aimed at helping small businesses, improving air quality in public schools, bolstering mental health and substance-abuse treatment, increasing broadband access and replenishing the state’s unemployment trust fund.

The House passed its version early in the afternoon and the Senate then worked late into the night, eventually passing it with several amendments.

A key protection against evictions was restored and a new round of funding will flow to utilities to cover unpaid customer bills under legislation advancing through the Democrat-controlled Virginia General Assembly.

The special session was called to allocate billions of dollars in federal coronavirus relief, intended to meet pandemic response needs and bolster the economy.

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