I hope you’re doing well and staying safe. I wanted to reach out and share information on the special session, other upcoming events, the Rebuild VA program, COVID-19, and more.
Before I jump into the rest of this newsletter, I want to tell you a bit about the upcoming special legislative session that will begin on August 18th. The General Assembly has important work before us during the Special Session. We’ve got to review the budget and determine what changes must be made due to the impact of COVID-19 on Virginia’s economy. We’re also going to address issues of criminal justice and policing reform. As part of our preparation to tackle these issues, the House has scheduled three joint public hearings of the House Courts of Justice and Public Safety Committees, the third of which is scheduled for tomorrow at 10 AM. During these meetings, we’ve heard from experts and members of the public on some of the most important criminal justice and policing reform issues that face us today. As a prosecutor, I’ve seen many of the flaws in our criminal justice system firsthand and I’m proud to be part of the effort to enact meaningful reforms to the system here in Virginia. Not every issue can be addressed during the Special Session, so the effort won’t stop there. We’ll continue to work on these issues and develop legislative reforms so that we’ll be ready to continue this effort when the 2021 regular legislative session begins.
Final Joint House Courts of Justice and Public Safety Meeting Tomorrow
Like I mentioned above, the House Courts of Justice and Public Safety Committees have held three virtual public meetings over the past several weeks.The last of these three meetings will take place tomorrow, August 6th, from 10 AM to 1 PM. You can click here to find the meeting agenda, submit a comment, and access the meeting live stream.
Over the course of these meetings, experts and members of the public have shared testimony on issues ranging from law enforcement decertification and training standards to the creation of civilian review boards. Did you miss the chance to watch the July 22nd and July 29th meetings live? You can find the archived video footage by clicking on this link, selecting the “Archives” button over on the left-hand side, and then scrolling down until you find the links to the July 22nd and 29th meeting videos.
The Sales Tax Holiday Weekend: August 7th-9th
Virginia’s annual sales tax holiday weekend will run from this Friday, August 7th, through Sunday, August 9th. The sales tax holiday is a great opportunity to stock up on qualifying school supplies, emergency preparedness products, and Energy Star™ and WaterSense™ products without paying sales tax. Wondering what items are eligible? Here’s a short list of some of the eligible items:
- Qualified school supplies: $20 or less per item
- Qualified clothing and footwear: $100 or less per item
- Portable generators: $1,000 or less per item
- Gas-powered chainsaws: $350 or less per item
- Qualifying Energy Star™ and WaterSense™ products purchased for non-commercial home or personal use: $2,500 or less per item
You can find guidelines that provide specifics on what’s eligible, as well as information on retailers, by clicking here. The video below provides a great summary of the sales tax holiday weekend.
Rebuild VA Grant Fund
Virginia has established the Rebuild VA Grant Fund, which will begin accepting applications on August 10th. The program is designed to assist small businesses and non-profits who were negatively impacted by COVID-19 and fall into one of the following business categories: restaurant and beverage services; non-essential brick and mortar retail; fitness and exercise facilities; personal care and personal grooming services; entertainment and public amusement; and private campgrounds and overnight summer camps.
You can read more about the program’s eligibility requirements, find out how to apply, and access helpful FAQs here. I strongly encourage you to share this information with any businesses or non-profits who may benefit from the program.
Virginia just launched the COVIDWISE Exposure Notifications app to help stop the spread of COVID-19 here in Virginia. The app uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to notify users who have been exposed to COVID-19 positive individuals. Since the app uses BLE technology, your location is never used or collected. You can click here to learn more abut how the application works and how to download it.
Earlier this week, Virginia joined a bipartisan, interstate compact aimed at expanding our rapid antigen testing capacity. Rapid point-of-care antigen tests deliver results in 15-20 minutes and will likely play an important role in the fight to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This interstate cooperative purchasing agreement will let the participating states combine their purchasing power and push antigen test manufacturers to step up their production. Joining this compact is a really important step towards further increasing our testing capacity. You can read more about this announcement here
Our region continues to see high numbers of COVID-19 cases and we have got to get those numbers down. That means wearing a mask when we’re around other people, washing our hands frequently, avoiding large social gatherings, and continuing to social distance. Remember, for a mask to be effective it needs to cover your mouth and your nose. So keep on wearing a mask, washing your hands, take advantage of the free COVIDWISE app, and following other public health guidelines.
The past several months have been difficult ones for many households in our community. If you’ve been hit hard, know that there are assistance programs that you may be eligible for. My office is always here to help in any way that we can, so please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.
- The Virginia Rent Relief and Mortgage Assistance Program (RMRP) launched at the end of June and will provide $50 million in CARES Act funding to assist households facing eviction or foreclosure to due COVID-19. You can find information on the program, eligibility, and more by clicking here.
- The Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS) is accepting applications from households for cooling assistance through August 17th. Folks who need help paying for their energy needs can find more information on this program and how to apply here.
- DSS has also set up a website to provide information on various available resources. You can find that information here
- Local non-profits are also providing various forms of assistance. That includes the United Way of the Virginia Peninsula (UWVP) can provide you with information and assistance if you need help with your rent, utilities, food, or other services. If you live in Newport News, lower York County, and Hampton, then you can call UWVP’s First Call information and referral line at (757) 594-4636. If you live in Williamsburg, James City County, or upper York County, then you can call the United Way Community Resource Center at (757) 229-2222.
- The City of Newport News launched the Supplemental Assistance Funding for Emergencies (SAFE) Program on July 27th to provide assistance to residents who have been hit hard financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can call the Newport News Department of Human Services at (757) 926-6161 to learn more and to apply.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope that it’s helpful to anyone who may need it. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office if you have any questions or need assistance finding more information on any of these programs.
Thank you for reading this through to the end. If you have any questions about the information included in this newsletter, feel free to reach out. I’ll be sure to continue sharing updates on the special session and other developments throughout the month. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if I or my office can be of assistance.
Michael P. Mullin