eNews May 7, 2021Friday, May 07, 2021 - 04:53pm
In this issue:
- VML pushing for state-local APRA work group
- Some local governments may not receive Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund money until after July 1
- State agency to examine property tax exemptions
- Will the ban on housing evictions continue?
- Is COVID-19 loosening its grip on the economy?
- JLARC releases 2021 study workplan
- Deeds’ Commission workgroup looks at impact of ECO/TDO backups on individuals and local law enforcement
- Community Resilience Data Tool now available from U.S. Census Bureau
- Solar equipment tax exemption policies online tool now available
- Unemployment insurance fraud information from the VEC
- DEQ now accepting grant applications for the Clean School Bus program
- Results of Vaccine Hesitancy Study: May 13
- Safety Camera Programs: May 19
- Improving Walkability and Health Equity in Virginia: May 20
- Resiliency Funding: May 27 and June 17
- ARPA Funding and Broadband: June 9
VML pushing for state-local APRA work group
The Virginia Municipal League continues to advocate for the establishment of an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) work group, comprised of representatives from Virginia’s local governments, the Governor’s office, and the Virginia General Assembly.
VML has had productive discussions with the Governor’s office, which sees the merits in forming such a collaborative work group. VML also sent a letter on April 5, 2021, to key members of the General Assembly touting APRA collaborations, underscoring our desire to be a constructive partner to get as big a bang for our ARPA bucks as possible.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch covered VML’s efforts (“Federal aid poses ‘extraordinary opportunity’ for state, local governments to plan together” by Michael Martz, April 6, 2021).
As the Commonwealth and localities are set to receive an unprecedented amount federal funds – some $3.8 billion to the state, nearly $3 billion to localities, $2.1 billion for K-12 schools, more than $222 million for broadband and other infrastructure, and even more in other specific funds – an ARPA work group could help leverage this opportunity to secure far-reaching benefits beyond perhaps what could be achieved through immediate one-time spending.
As envisioned, this state-local work group would first develop a common understanding of the federal ARPA guidance (once it’s issued), and then begin discussing how the state and localities might focus ARPA funds in complementary ways. Especially critical is avoiding redundancy.
We expect to hear very soon from state leaders about our proposed state-local work group – its formation, goals, and kickoff.
VML continues preparing to provide localities with comprehensive APRA guidance so that each locality can make the most informed decisions possible for spending these federal funds. Visit our ARPA Resources page regularly and stay tuned to eNews for updates as they become available.
- Neal Menkes, email@example.com
- Michelle Gowdy, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Janet Areson, email@example.com
- Jessica Ackerman, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Preston Bryant, email@example.com
- Margaret Rockwell, firstname.lastname@example.org
Some local governments may not receive Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund money until after July 1
The American Rescue Plan Act provides $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency, or its negative economic impacts. Spending purposes include:
- providing assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries, such as tourism, travel, and hospitality;
- responding to workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing premium pay to eligible workers;
- ensuring that government services continue, to the extent COVID-19 caused a reduction of revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year; and
- making necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.
The first tranche of money for states and localities is supposed to be released by the U.S. Treasury no later than May 11. Many of Virginia’s local governments will receive the funding directly from the federal government but not all localities will be so fortunate. Towns and so-called “non-entitlement” cities* will not directly receive the money. Instead, the funding will go to the states for distribution to towns and “non-entitlement” cities.
The first question that needs answering is will the Treasury Department meet next week’s deadline? The answer may well depend on the feds finalizing their calculations on the dollars to be allocated to states, cities, towns, and counties and the progress made by federal bureaucrats to finish the guidance on the eligible uses of the money.
There are also a series of questions that must be addressed at the state level. The first asks when will the General Assembly meet again? This is critical because the General Assembly and Gov. Northam approved a budget amendment in the Special Session that requires federal financial assistance passed by Congress after January 1 of this year to be appropriated by the legislature in a general appropriation act. No one is predicting that the General Assembly will be called into a special session next week or before the Republicans and Democrats conclude their respective nominating processes for the general election in November.
Because the American Rescue Plan Act charges the states with the responsibility to allocate the federal assistance to non-entitlement cities and towns, none of the money will get to these localities until after the General Assembly appropriates the funds, meaning the money could likely arrive after July 1 when the new fiscal year begins. This could, at the very least, force these localities to go through budget development a second time and delay the implementation of services needed to combat the impacts of COVID-19.
Tell your senators and delegates…
Virginia’s local governments cannot effectively plan and budget until the federal government and the Commonwealth first do their jobs. When will that happen? VML asks members to explain the situation to their state delegates and senators. The public health and economic challenges must be confronted now, not some time convenient to election schedules.
*Non-entitlement cities: The ARP Act designates the approximately 18,000 cities, towns, and villages with less than 50,000 residents as non-metro, non-county units of local government and makes the states responsible for passing through all federal funds that non-metro localities are entitled to.
VML Contact: Neal Menkes, email@example.com
Economy & Budget
State agency to examine property tax exemptions
Tucked away in the 2021 Appropriation Act is a language amendment directing the Commission on Local Government (CLG) to study mandatory real property tax exemptions imposed on local governments. The study is to be completed prior to the 2022 General Assembly Session.
For over ten-years the General Assembly has spearheaded a series of state constitutional amendments to exempt certain disabled veterans as well as the surviving spouses of first responders and soldiers killed in action from paying real estate taxes. These constitutional amendments were approved by overwhelming margins by Virginia voters.
Although no new constitutional proposals on the issue were approved this year by the General Assembly, state legislators are clearly interested in pushing for more tax exemptions. Why? The answer is twofold: 1) Virginians want to help those who sacrificed so much for the country and 2) the tax exemptions fall completely on local taxpayers. The state contributes nothing to help localities cope with the revenue losses estimated by the Commissioners of the Local Revenue at almost $100 million per year in fiscal year 2020.
The purposes of the study are to identify the fiscal impacts of these exemptions on local governments in terms of raising sufficient revenues to provide essential services and to develop recommendations that could mitigate these impacts.
Your comments are encouraged
To that end, the CLG is soliciting public comments at its next meeting on Thursday, May 13, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. Interested parties may pre-register their request to testify by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Written testimony will also be accepted and entered into the record provided that the agency receives such comments no later than 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 20, 2021. Written testimony can be emailed to email@example.com.
VML urges members to weigh in on the issue. Simply put, if the Commonwealth believes the exemptions are important public policy, then the state should assume some portion of the cost now borne completely by localities.
VML Contact: Neal Menkes, firstname.lastname@example.org
Will the ban on housing evictions continue?
A federal judge earlier this week ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) overstepped its legal authority when it issued a nationwide eviction moratorium. More than 10 million Americans are behind on rent, according to Moody’s, easily topping the 7 million who lost their homes to foreclosure in the 2008 housing bust. The eviction ban issued by the CDC expires on June 30 of this year.
U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich’s 20-page order says that the protection, first put in place during the coronavirus pandemic under the Trump administration and now set to run out on June 30, goes too far. Landlords and property owners have consistently challenged the CDC order, arguing the policy puts an undue financial burden on business owners.
However, this is not the only federal court ruling. Since last year, six federal judges have weighed in on the ban, with three ruling it illegal and three supporting its legality, meaning that federal policy is fragmented.
As part of the American Rescue Plan Act enacted in March, the federal government is doling out $21.6 billion to local and state governments for rental and utility relief.
That money joins the $25 billion in aid set aside in December by Congress to help renters hit hard by the pandemic’s economic consequences. Having different federal judicial orders in effect will put pressure on the Biden Administration to appeal these decisions and/or seek specific congressional approval to continue the eviction pause.
In Virginia, Gov. Northam and the General Assembly crafted last year and again this year during the special session a state-driven policy to address the problem. Other states and some cities across the country have set up their own patchwork of policies and rental assistance programs.
“Beginning January 1, 2021, notwithstanding any other provision of law, upon the declaration by the Governor of a state of emergency pursuant to § 44-146.17 of the Code of Virginia in response to a communicable disease of public health threat as defined in § 44-146.16 of the Code of Virginia, no landlord shall terminate a residential tenancy, or take any action to obtain possession of a dwelling unit, for non-payment of rent due to lost income or additional expenses resulting from the declared state of emergency until such time the declared state of emergency ends.”
Virginia paid out $153.6 million worth of rental assistance between last July and early April to households facing eviction, according to figures provided by the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Between the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan Act, DHCD will receive close to $1 billion for rental and utility assistance programs to be spent before 2025.
The payments have helped about 30,000 households settle delinquent balances that accrued during the COVID-19 pandemic and avoid losing their homes. However, there is a 29,000-case backload. And, between March 2020 and March 2021, 17,125 eviction judgments were issued across the state, according to figures in a quarterly report published by the RVA Eviction Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University. If Gov. Northam lifts the state of emergency on June 15, as he recently stated, it is unclear if the action will trigger a countdown to the resumption of evictions.
A strong rebound in job growth along with a decrease in the spread of COVID-19 could help many Virginians to find their own financial resources to begin paying rent again. Until such time, however, federal and state leaders will continue struggling to manage and administer an incredibly complicated financial assistance program.
VML Contact: Neal Menkes, email@example.com
Is COVID-19 loosening its grip on the economy?
Weekly jobless claims are beginning to tumble (four straight weeks!) according to the federal Labor Department. Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2021, according to the “advance” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter of 2020, real GDP increased 4.3 percent.
This good news is shaded by the fact that some 17 million Americans continue to draw unemployment compensation.
A closer look reveals poverty rose to 11.7 percent in March, the highest level of the pandemic, according to research from the University of Chicago and University of Notre Dame, as Americans awaited the next round of stimulus relief. Children and women were hit the hardest by the spike, researchers said.
Although the U.S. economy added back 916,000 positions in March, only about a third of these were regained by women. Women would need nearly 15 straight months of job gains at last month’s level to recover the more than 4.6 million net jobs they have lost since February 2020, according to the National Women’s Law Center.
However, the signs of economic recovery are easy to find. Americans’ spending on durable goods — cars and furniture and other goods meant to last a long time — rose at a stunning 41.4 percent annual rate in the first three months of the year. Spending on cars and trucks is 15.1 percent higher than it would have been if 2019’s two percent growth in GDP had continued into 2020 and 2021; spending on furnishings and durable household equipment is 16.6 percent higher; and spending on recreational goods is a whopping 26 percent higher.
The housing sector is experiencing nearly as big a surge. Residential investment was 14.4 percent above its pre-pandemic trend, representing $90 billion a year in extra activity. And that was surely constrained by shortages of homes to sell, and lumber and other materials used to make them. It is poised to soar further in coming months, based on forward-looking data like housing starts.
Another bright spot is business investment in information technology. The tech industry has been comparatively unscathed by the crisis. Spending on information processing equipment in the first quarter was 23 percent higher than its pre-pandemic trend, and investment in software 7.4 percent higher.
Consumer confidence rebounded to pre-pandemic levels in April, according to the Conference Board, as stimulus and improving labor market conditions left households feeling better about their incomes.
The recovery is not shared across the board, especially in the travel, leisure, transportation, and restaurant industries. Consumer spending on gasoline and other energy goods is down 11 percent from its pre-pandemic trend line. And business spending on structures is down 19 percent, which reflects a pullback in investment by both the oil extraction industry and the commercial real estate sector.
The nation’s economic revival is beginning to rattle the nerves of those who worry about inflation. U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen said this week that higher interest rates might be needed to keep the economy from overheating given the large infrastructure investments that the Biden administration is proposing.
However, the Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Jerome Powell and other Fed officials have said they believe any price spikes will be temporary and will not be sustained. On Monday, John C. Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said that while the economy is recovering, “The data and conditions we are seeing now are not nearly enough” for the Fed’s policy-setting committee “to shift its monetary policy stance.” The Fed does not expect to raise interest rates for the remainder of this year and next.
How this will all play out at the local level is uncertain. It is likely that the need for a social safety net will not abate for some time. Virginia’s local governments will continue to find themselves on the front line between economic recovery and economic hardship.
VML Contact: Neal Menkes, firstname.lastname@example.org
Vacancies posted for three newly established cannabis boards
The Secretary of the Commonwealth has posted vacancies for positions on three of the newly established boards related to cannabis: The Cannabis Control Authority Board of Directors, the Public Health Advisory Council, and the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Board.
To apply for a position on any of the below boards, use this link and click on the tab for “Agriculture and Forestry” in the menu. Select the relevant Board or Council and follow the instructions and provide the necessary documentation as prompted in the application portal.
Virginia Cannabis Control Authority Board of Directors
Purpose: The Authority Board is responsible for the control of possession, sale, distribution, and delivery of marijuana and is charged with promulgating regulations to control the retail trade of marijuana and marijuana products.
Membership: The Board of Directors has five citizen members appointed by the Governor and approved the General Assembly. Members must be residents of the Commonwealth for three years prior to their appointment and during their tenure, hold at least a bachelor’s degree in business or a related field of study, at least seven years of direct experience and demonstrate expertise in the direct management, supervision, or control of a business or legal affairs. Appointees must reflect the racial, ethnic, gender, and geographic diversity of the Commonwealth and will be subject to a background check.
Cannabis Public Health Advisory Council
Purpose: This advisory council advises the Authority Board and is responsible for assessing and monitoring public health issues, trends, and impacts related to marijuana and marijuana legalization and is tasked with making recommendations regarding health warnings, retail marijuana and marijuana product safety and product composition, and public health awareness and related needs.
Membership: The Advisory Council has 21 members comprised of 14 non-legislative members and seven ex officio members. One member must be a representative from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Medical Society of Virginia, the Virginia Pharmacists Association, a representative of a community service board, a person or health care provider with expertise in substance use disorder treatment and recovery, a person or health care provider with expertise in substance use disorder prevention, a person with expertise in disability rights advocacy, a person with expertise in veterans’ health care, a person with a social equity or health equity background, a representative of a local health district, a representative of the cannabis industry, an academic researcher knowledgeable about cannabis, and a registered medical cannabis patient. The Advisory Council members are to be reflective of the racial, ethnic, gender, and geographic diversity of the commonwealth.
Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Board
Purpose: This board created is to directly address the impact of economic disinvestment, violence, and historical overuse of criminal justice responses to community and individual needs by providing resources to support local design and control of community-based responses to such impacts. The Board is responsible for supporting individuals, families, and communities disproportionately impacted by the prohibition on marijuana which includes developing and implementing scholarship and educational programs, awarding workforce development grants and programs, and administer the cannabis equity reinvestment fund.
Membership: This board will have 20 total members with 13 non-legislative citizen members and seven ex officio members. Board members must include by statute a formerly incarcerated person convicted of marijuana related crimes, a public health official with experience in trauma informed care, an education expert with a focus on access to opportunities for youth in underserved communities, an expert on Virginia’s foster care system, an expert in workforce development, a representative of Virginia’s historically black colleges and universities, a veteran, an entrepreneur with expertise in either emerging industries or access to capital for small businesses, a representative of the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission, and four community based providers or community development organization representatives who provide services to address the social determinants of health and promote community investment in communities adversely and disproportionately impacted by the criminalization of marijuana. Non-legislative members must be citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia and reflect the racial, ethnic, gender, and geographic diversity of the Commonwealth.
VML Contact: Mitchell Smiley, email@example.com
Registration open for May 12 redistricting workshop
OneVirginia2021 and the League of Women Voters of Virginia will be hosting a virtual webinar exploring how to execute a fair and effective redistricting process. Open to participants at both the state and local level, this forum will be an excellent opportunity for officials involved in redistricting to hear from national experts in the field and from those who have been through the process before.
The webinar will be hosted on Wednesday, May 12 from 10:00 am – 2:00 p.m. Registration is free to VML members and others who are interested in taking a deep dive into Virginia’s state and local redistricting process.
Click here for a link to the registration page.
Can’t make it? OneVirginia2021 will post a recording of the webinar at www.onevirginia2021.org/events
VML Contact: Jessica Ackerman, firstname.lastname@example.org
Health & Human Services
JLARC releases 2021 study workplan
Transportation, juvenile justice, and housing to be addressed
Transportation infrastructure and funding, the progressivity of state taxes, affordable housing, and the state and local juvenile justice system are among the studies to be undertaken by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) in the coming year, and in some cases, continuing into 2022.
JLARC staff briefed Commission members on the workplan at its May 3 meeting. The complete workplan can be seen here >.
The transportation study will look at the condition of Virginia’s highways and transportation infrastructure, funding of the system, the trends in vehicle miles traveled and commuter patterns, and the impact of the increasing use of fuel-efficient and alternative fuel vehicles on transportation funding sources. Staff will look at needs and trends regarding infrastructure and funding, and the sufficiency and sustainability of funding to meet needs.
JLARC will review the state and local/regional juvenile justice – the intake, petition, detention and adjudication and disposition processes; racial or regional disparities in treatment; youth with cognitive or behavioral health disabilities; the status of recent system reforms; future facility needs, including placement of youth relative to their primary residence; and educational and training services. Staff will compare Virginia’s processes and conditions to best practices; examine dispositions and outcomes by various demographic measures; educational requirements and costs; and facility requirements, costs, and location.
The study of the state’s income tax progressivity will focus on that tax alone – no local taxes will be considered.
JLARC will conduct a review of the Commonwealth’s housing needs. This study will be completed by June 2022.
Factors to be examined include the number of households that are “housing cost burdened” and how this varies by region and demographic characteristics; the social, financial, and economic impacts of a lack of affordable housing; the state and local programs and initiatives used to increase the supply of affordable housing and financial assistance to homeowners and renters and their effectiveness; the barriers to expanding the supply of affordable housing, including local zoning ordinances.
This housing study is being conducted at the same time as a study by Virginia Housing and the Department of Housing and Community Development.
Other areas being considered
Along with these studies, JLARC’s work this year will include examinations of the Virginia Employment Commission and guardianship and conservatorship programs.
VML Contacts: Janet Areson, email@example.com; Mitchell Smiley, firstname.lastname@example.org; Michelle Gowdy, email@example.com
Deeds’ Commission workgroup looks at impact of ECO/TDO backups on individuals and local law enforcement
A workgroup of the Joint Subcommittee to Study Virginia’s Mental Health System in the 21st Century (known as the Deeds’ Commission) met May 4 to further discuss issues raised in the full Subcommittee’s meeting in the previous week regarding the long stays in hospital emergency rooms for individuals needing mental health treatment and the requirement that local law enforcement stay with the individual until a temporary detention order and treatment placement can be fulfilled (see eNews item from April 23).
The workgroup, chaired by Senator Monty Mason, heard from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS), the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA), and the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association (VSA) about the various factors causing the delayed access to treatment for adults and children and the impacts from those delays.
Both the state and private hospital systems cited the unprecedented challenges on staffing and safety measures due to COVID-19. Sheriffs cited the impact on local departments and deputies who sometimes spend multiple days in an emergency room until the individual they are supervising can get a treatment placement.
Each speaker offered ideas for addressing the short- and long-term issues, including expanding the contract with the state’s alternative transportation provider group to include staying with an individual until a placement can be obtained rather than turning this responsibility to local law enforcement; providing emergency contracts with providers to divert hospital admissions or provide step-down options; improving the processes and pace of state hospital discharges to free up space for others; and implementation of a full crisis continuum.
The workgroup will meet again in the coming weeks to continue the discussion of options and how they can be implemented.
VML Contact: Janet Areson, firstname.lastname@example.org
FOIA Council and Joint Commission on Technology and Science hold meetings
During its April 28 virtual meeting, the Virginia Freedom of Information Council agreed to continue last year’s Meetings subcommittee and created an Issues subcommittee as well. The Meetings subcommittee will review HB1997 (Murphy) which deals with the definition of “meeting.” The bill defines a “meeting” as four people rather than the current three. The Records subcommittee will study HB2000 (Roem) which proposes changes to the charges for the production of records as well as HB2196 (Mullin) which proposes to require the release of law-enforcement disciplinary records.
A copy of the agenda from the April 28 meeting along with a video and written public comments are available here >.
The Virginia Joint Commission on Technology and Science met on Tuesday, May 4 to hear a presentation from WING which is a drone delivery company operating in Christiansburg as well as a board update on HJ47 which is a study of the safety, quality of life, and economic consequences of weather and climate-related events on Coastal Areas in Virginia.
It is important to note that Delegate Davis and Senator Favola noted that local government was not fully involved in the HJ47 study and that it is an academic paper rather than a consensus of recommendations. They asked that a disclaimer to this effect be added to the paper which is to be finished by the end of May.
Copies of the May 4 presentations are available here >.
VML Contact: Michelle Gowdy, email@example.com
Resources & Opportunities
Community Resilience Data Tool now available from U.S. Census Bureau
As information collected from the 2020 Census begins to filter out, localities can use that information to make strategic choices about spending and planning, particularly when thinking about putting the coming influx of federal resources to good use. The Community Resilience Data Tool provides indicators to estimate how localities will be able to perform in the face of different challenges – floods, economic changes, and, more recently, pandemics. For a glimpse into the data on your community, check out the data tool here on the U.S. Census Bureau website.
For more tools and helpful facts from the latest preliminary Census results, or to see how Census data can help you think about Coronavirus impacts and planning, please visit https://www.census.gov/.
VML Contact: Jessica Ackerman, firstname.lastname@example.org
Solar equipment tax exemption policies online tool now available
the Virginia Solar Initiative at UVA has published a new online tool to help explore and compare the various solar energy equipment tax exemption policies adopted by Virginia localities.
Code of Virginia § 58.1-3661 allows localities to adopt by ordinance a full or partial property tax exemption for certified solar energy equipment, facilities, and devices. As Virginia pursues meeting its clean energy mandates, localities may want to explore ways to encourage distributed generation. One way is to incentivize solar development with a local property tax exemption. Currently, nineteen localities have adopted tax exemption policies. Our new tool provides a one-stop shop for the public and policymakers to examine and compare the solar energy equipment tax exemption policies that have been adopted across the commonwealth.
The tool provides summaries of the existing policies, links to adopted ordinances (when possible), locality websites, and relevant forms. Users can search and sort by type of exemption or locality, or choose several localities to compare side-by-side. A two-page summary describing the tool in more detail is available here.
The tool will be updated each year when the Weldon Cooper Center publishes a new Annual Tax Rates Survey Report, or, when changes are reported to us.
UVA Contact: Senior Project Coordinator Elizabeth M. Marshall, email@example.com
Unemployment insurance fraud information from the VEC
The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) wants you to know that while it is committed to ensuring unemployment benefits go to individuals who are eligible to receive them, fraud does occur. The current worldwide pandemic has resulted in an increase of potential fraud cases reported to the VEC.
Types of Fraud include:
- Identity theft related to unemployment insurance: usually not the fault of the claimant or the employer and happens when someone illegally files for unemployment benefits using someone else’s identity.
- False information: which is knowingly submitted to receive unemployment benefits. An example would be a claimant who has returned to work but continues to file weekly claims for benefits without reporting wages earned.
- Overpayments: can happen when a claimant receives more benefits than they are entitled to.
Upon suspicion of fraud, all individuals should complete the Fraud/Theft/Overpayment Form on the VEC website, or mail or fax it to:
Virginia Employment Commission
Attention: Benefit Payment Control
P.O Box 27887
Richmond, VA 23261-7887
If you need assistance completing the form, VEC agents are available at 1-800-782-4001. This telephone number is only for assistance to complete the form online. With any other issue, the Customer Contact Center is 1-866-832-2363.
The Benefit Payment Control unit of VEC is notified of fraud reports and takes action to stop any further activity and suspend the claim. Federal regulations, 20 C.F.R. Part 603 prohibits disclosure of claims information, except in very limited circumstances. Therefore, the alleged fraud will be investigated by a VEC fraud investigator and/or law enforcement. Often, reporters will not receive follow up contact or information regarding the fraudulent claim, the VEC unit will proceed with the investigation.
An additional result of the pandemic is the increase of potential scammers attempting to defraud users applying for unemployment insurance. The VEC reminds everyone that VEC has only one official website: https://www.vec.virginia.gov/.
VEC Contact: Jason Padgett, Policy Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
DEQ now accepting grant applications for the Clean School Bus program
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is accepting grant applications from localities to purchase battery electric and propane school busses. $20 million will be distributed in two rounds of a competitive application process. The grants assist with the purchase of battery and propane powered school busses as well as the installation of equipment necessary to operate battery or propane powered school busses.
Applications are due by June 25, 2021 by 5 p.m. and awards will be announced in July. Webinars for interested applicants will be held on May 10, 2021 and May 17, 2021.
The Request for Applications provides an overview of the application timeline and process, information on applicant and project eligibility, available funding, reimbursement requirements, scoring and selection criteria, and award process. The applications and required attachments are available on DEQ’s Volkswagen webpage.
- May 10, 2021 – 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. Webinar for potential applicants (Register here)
- May 17, 2021 – 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. Webinar for potential applicants (Register here)
- June 25, 2021 – Applications due by 5 p.m.
- July 2021 – Awards announced
- To Be Determined – Second round of applications
VML Contact: Mitchell Smiley, email@example.com
Upcoming (free) webinars
Results of Vaccine Hesitancy Study: May 13
Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center, Bennett Midland and ZenCity with the support of the RWJ Foundation, conducted one of the largest studies to date around COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in 19 cities and counties across the country. The study analyzed over 3.5 million data points and brings forth actionable takeaways to fight hesitancy in local communities.
Join the virtual event presenting the study on Thursday, May 13th, at 12pm ET
ZenCity Contact: Director of Urban Policy & Partnerships Assaf Frances, firstname.lastname@example.org
Safety Camera Programs: May 19
As leaders strive to make their communities safer and smarter, there are new tools in the toolbox, including road safety cameras. Join the team at Verra Mobility for a webinar at 11:00 AM on Wednesday, May 19th, to learn how communities like yours are leveraging the benefits of road safety camera programs to make their communities safer and also fund smart city initiatives, including AI-driven license plate and vehicle recognition technology, high-definition video solutions, roadside traffic analytics, as well as school zone and school bus safety solutions.
VML is hosting this event.
Free registration is available here >.
VML Contact: Mitchell Smiley, email@example.com
Improving Walkability and Health Equity in Virginia: May 20
Join the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Traffic Engineering Division on May 20, 2021 from 2-3 pm EST as they discuss improving walkability and its relationship to health equity in Virginia.
In November 2020, VDH and VDOT hosted an initial webinar about the topic. After the webinar, a survey was launched for regional and local stakeholders. The feedback from this survey has helped the VDH and VDOT teams shape their approach to walkability, and develop resources to support stakeholders, which is now the PATHS initiative.
On May 20 Traffic Engineering Division representatives will discuss the results of those survey responses, the PATHS work, and further engagement with each of you in the work of integrating health equity and walkability into decisions affecting access to transportation and recreation.
Sign up for the webinar here >.
VDOT Contact: HSIP Planning Manager Stephen Read here >
Resiliency Funding: May 27 and June 17
While many communities realize the need for resiliency planning and programs, funding is often a roadblock. Resilient Virginia presents options for communities to explore to help finance these initiatives.
May 27, 1:00-2:30 pm EST: Funding for Resilient Buildings and Renewables + Storage
Information and resources on making our buildings and energy systems more resilient to climate change and other disruptions. Session will feature speaker presentations, followed by Q&A. Speakers include:
- Dan Farrell, Associate Director of Energy Efficiency, DHCD Housing Innovations in Energy Efficiency (HIEE) Program.
- Abby Johnson, LEED AP O&M, Executive Director, Virginia PACE Authority
- Cliona Robb. Esq, Director, ThompsonMcMullan, P.C. and Board Chairman, VA-Renewable Energy Alliance
June 17, 1:00-2:30 pm EST: Funding for Economic Recovery, Jobs, and Justice
An overview of funding opportunities for advancing job creation, economic recovery, and social and environmental justice in the state and nationwide. Session will feature speaker presentations, followed by Q&A. Speakers to be announced.
Click Here to register for the Resiliency Funding Webinars!
Resilient Virginia Contact: Tracy Garland, Director, Events and Social Media, Garland@resilientvirginia.org
ARPA Funding and Broadband: June 9
Through the American Rescue Plan Act, Virginia localities will be receiving an estimated $1.6 billion in funding. Uses for this flexible funding include investments in broadband infrastructure and many localities are interested in using these funds to expedite universal broadband coverage in unserved communities.
On June 9, you are invited to join the Virginia Local Broadband Network (VLBN), in partnership with the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo), the Virginia Municipal League (VML), and the Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions (VAPDC), for a webinar discussing this funding and broadband.
Registration is available here >
Please note, the one-hour webinar will be presented at two times (11:00 AM and 4:00 PM). You only need to select one time when registering.