You are invited to attend a virtual panel discussion with representatives of NOVA Community College and Virginia Career Works - we will focus on finding a job and workforce education programs. The discussion will be livestreamed on my Facebook page. You can fill out this google form to send me questions you would like me to ask the panel: https://forms.gle/3M6Y4CyXNUJ7TnL4A.
On Tuesday evening, I was at the Loudoun County School Board Meeting to present much deserved commendations to Loudoun County school staff who worked harder than ever before to meet the needs of our students and their families during a worldwide pandemic, providing food, computers, enhanced cleaning and teaching students both virtually and in person. You can read the commendations at lis.virginia.gov.
SR 538 Commending Loudoun County Public Schools custodians and maintenance technicians.
SR 552 Commending Kirk Dolson.
SR 553 Commending School Nutrition Services and Transportation Division of Loudoun County Public Schools.
HR 568 Commending Loudoun County Public Schools educators and support staff.
HR 579 Commending the Loudoun County Public Schools Education Technology Team and Department of Digital
HR 587 Commending the staff of the Loudoun County Public Schools COVID-19 vaccine point of distribution.
While at the meeting, I heard members of the public speaking passionately regarding LCPS work to bring equity to our schools. I am grateful that I was allowed to make a statement and address some of the misinformation. These changes are in part the result of legislation that I passed in the General Assembly and also a response to the Attorney General’s investigation of human rights violations. I applaud the work that LCPS is doing to ensure that all students are treated fairly in our schools.
It is important that the public understand that the new policy undertaken by LCPS to protect our transgender students is mandated by the Department of Education. VDOE worked for more than a year to implement my legislation, taking public comment and working with many teachers, parents, and other advocates from all corners of Virginia to determine how transgender students should be treated at school. Every child should feel welcome, safe, and valued at school.
I would also like to address the concerns regarding critical race theory. LCPS and the Virginia Department of Education have not called for teaching critical race theory. I passed legislation creating the Culturally Relevant and Inclusive Education Practices Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee’s mission is to advise VDOE as part of the process of revising the Standards of Learning for history and social science. The goal is for our curriculum to tell the stories of all of the people who live in Virginia. We have a robust group of educators on the Advisory Committee and have taken comments from people throughout Virginia. There will be additional opportunities for public comment throughout the SOL revision process.
I appreciate the efforts of LCPS to ensure that all students feel valued and welcome. I am concerned about the enormous amount of misinformation, fear mongering, and scare tactics regarding efforts to bring equity to our schools. We have seen this all over the country.
People are being taken advantage of. The COVID pandemic has been a difficult and frightening time. People are angry, frustrated and scared. Getting people riled up is not helpful for our students, our teachers, our school board or our families. I encourage you to learn more about the curriculum changes and VDOE programs on equity - you can find recordings of webinars and meetings on the VDOE YouTube Channel.
As you know, I sit on a number of boards and commissions. Even though we are not in session, I continue to work hard to address the many issues our community faces. Just yesterday I participated in the Unemployment Compensation Commission, the Culturally Relevant and Inclusive Education Committee, and Northern Virginia Transportation Authority meetings where we are hashing out challenges and issues. All of these meetings are public and can be accessed by residents who are interested in listening in and providing public comment.
Many of the bills passed during the session will be going into effect on July 1st. For special high profile bills Governor Northam conducts a special signing ceremony gathering stakeholders and patrons of the bills. I was pleased to join him for the signing of Delegate Kathleen Murphy’s bill, which will take guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. On Wednesday, the Governor signed the bill that Delegate Roslyn Tyler and I carried to expand broadband access into rural parts of unserved Virginia. I am the Chair of the Broadband Advisory Council and Delegate Tyler is the Co-Chair. On Wednesday Governor Northam also signed the long-awaited Greenway Toll Road bill sponsored by Senator John Bell and Delegate Suhas Subramanyam, of which I served as chief co-patron. Each member of the Loudoun Delegation signed onto that important effort. Next week I will be joining Governor Northam as he signs the bill I carried with Delegate Alfonso Lopez and Senator Ghazala Hashmi to increase access and affordability for tuition assistance for our DREAMers. And later in the week, he will join us to sign the bill I carried with Delegate Hala Ayala to provide contraceptive access for Medicaid and FAMIS recipients.
The Democratic primary was this past Tuesday. Congratulations to all of the candidates who won their primaries this week. I look forward to working for each of you. It’s incredibly difficult to put yourself out there before the public and I thank each and every candidate, win or lose for your efforts. The Democratic statewide candidates are as follows: Terry McAuliffe for Governor, Hala Ayala for Lt. Governor, and Mark Herring for Attorney General. The 86th District, my home district and former seat, had a primary as well. I strongly supported Irene Shin who was victorious and will face the Republican candidate in the fall. I will be working hard for the Democratic ticket so that we can continue our good work in the General Assembly.
PS. If you are able (and only if it does not cause a hardship) and if you appreciate my work, please consider contributing so that I can continue the good work in our community.
Progress Fighting the Covid-19 Pandemic
The Governor lifted the social distancing and capacity restrictions effective May 28. The details can be found in Executive Order Number 79 (2021). The latest updates from the Governor’s team can be found on the Commonwealth of Virginia's coronavirus website.
Mask requirements continue for unvaccinated people. Earlier this month, Governor Northam lifted the state’s universal indoor mask mandate in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. Businesses retain the ability to require masks in their establishments. Employees who work in certain business sectors—including restaurants, retail, fitness, personal care, and entertainment—must continue to wear masks unless fully vaccinated, per CDC guidance. Those who are unvaccinated or not fully-vaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear masks in all settings.
The state of emergency in Virginia will remain in place at least through June 30 to provide flexibility for local government and support ongoing COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Governor Northam will take executive action to ensure individuals have the option to wear masks up to and after that date. Masks will continue to be required in K-12 public schools, given low rates of vaccination among children.
Cases in Virginia
The Virginia Department of Health website continues to update the status of cases in Virginia. As of 5 pm yesterday, the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Virginia is 677,744 with 73 new cases in the past 24 hours. Case numbers are climbing more slowly now as the number of vaccinated Virginians also increased - 47.4% of our population is now fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 Vaccine Update - Now Available for Everyone, Ages 12 & Up
Schedule appointments directly through the Vaccinate Virginia vaccine system by visiting vaccinate.virginia.gov or by calling 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1).
All COVID-19 vaccines are free regardless of health insurance or immigration status. Assistance is available in English, Spanish, and more than 100 other languages. Videoconferencing in American Sign Language also is available by videophone at 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682) or online by clicking the “ASL Now” button at vaccinate.virginia.gov.
The free COVIDWISE app can be downloaded in the App Store and Google Play. Virginia is the first state in the country to design a COVID-19 app using Bluetooth Low Energy technology developed by Apple and Google, which does not rely on personal information or location data.
Free COVID-19 Testing in Loudoun County
Loudoun County offers free drive-thru COVID-19 testing events at multiple locations. Click here for more information including locations.
You can also use this website to find additional testing sites.
Mental Health Support - Virginia COPES Warm Line
Many people are experiencing anxiety, depression and other health effects from the ongoing stresses of the pandemic. Please continue to take care of yourself and check on others. Please reach out if you need support and share this resource with others.
Call or TEXT Toll Free: 877-349-6428
9 am - 9 pm Monday - Friday
5 pm - 9 pm Saturday - Sunday
You can find more information on Virginia COPES and other resources available to Community Service Boards from state agencies here.
Unemployment Assistance, Resources for Job Searchers, and More
VEC now requires that people receiving unemployment benefits show proof of job searches each week. Join me on Facebook Live at 6:30 pm this Wednesday to hear directly from Virginia Career Works and NOVA Community College representatives as we talk about looking for work and workforce education.
This past week, Governor Northam launched the Return to Earn Grant Program. More than $3 million dollars has been set aside for this new grant program to help Virginians in the return to work. The Commonwealth will match bonuses of up to $1,000 to new hires earning at least $15 per hour from eligible small businesses. More information can be found here.
The Re-employing Virginians initiative will also help Virginians impacted by the pandemic. To qualify for REV funds for high-demand workforce education programs at NOVA, you must certify that you meet one of the following criteria: a Virginia resident who lost his/her job due to COVID-19 and received unemployment benefits on or after Aug. 1, 2020 or a Virginia resident who was laid off from a full-time job due to COVID-19 and now works part-time, earning less than $15/hour.
This is also a good time to visit the NOVA Community College website and look into the “Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back” initiative, or “G3” program, which makes tuition-free community college available to low- and middle-income students who pursue jobs in high-demand fields. The tuition-free community college initiative targets key industries, including health care, information technology and computer science, manufacturing and skilled trades, public safety, and early childhood education. On average, students in these high-demand degree programs increase their wages by 60 percent upon program completion and double their individual state tax contributions.
I know that many of you are still struggling to pay bills. Please visit the CommonHelp website to figure out if you qualify for assistance. You can also reach out to your county - your local government will review your financial situation and connect you with resources. In Fairfax County, contact Coordinated Services. In Loudoun County, contact Information and Referral. Here are additional resources for food.
Many of the calls and emails to my office are from constituents who are frustrated and struggling because of the break in benefits that has occurred as they exhaust benefits under regular unemployment and move to benefits under one of the federal programs enacted to help those who are unemployed due to the pandemic. VEC has been ordered to speed up the processing of unemployment claims as a result of a lawsuit brought by the Legal Aid Justice Center, Legal Aid Works, the Virginia Poverty Law Center and others.
Please contact my office if you have filed for unemployment benefits and have not received a decision regarding your eligibility or are still waiting for payments.
Further guidance is expected from VEC regarding Applications for Waiver of Overpayments. I expect this section of the VEC website will be updated, VEC Application for Waiver of Overpayment. Claimants with outstanding balances will receive written notice with instructions on how to apply for the waiver of overpayment.
Get Help with Your Broadband Bill
Eligible households for Emergency Broadband Benefits can enroll through a participating broadband provider or directly with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) using an online or mail in application. Eligibility and enrollment information is available by visiting www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit, or by calling 833-511-0311.
Health Insurance is Now More Affordable in Virginia
There is a new enrollment period for insurance available through the Affordable Care Act which does not require a qualifying life event. If you need health insurance, go here or call 1-888-392-5132. You have until August 15 to enroll.
There are also changes to Virginia’s Medicaid program. You can apply again to see if you now qualify. There is no longer a ten-year work history required for Virginia’s immigrant community. Rules have changed for green-card holding adults and many more are now eligible for Medicaid in Virginia.
Free Help with FAFSA Applications Thru 6/30/2021
Initial eligibility for the G3 program is determined through the submission of applications for federal and state student financial aid, including the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. To address pandemic-related declines in FAFSA completion rates, Governor Northam recently announced a statewide effort to offer free, one-on-one FAFSA advising. Through June 30, 2021, Virginia students and families can go to virginiacan.org/fafsa to schedule a virtual meeting with a FAFSA advisor.
Loudoun Freedom Center’s Juneteenth Celebration: Reclaiming The Promise of A People starts at the Loudoun County Courthouse at 9:30 am on June 19 followed by a march to the Orion Anderson Lynching Memorial Site (at the corner of the W&OD Trail and Harrison Street) for a Juneteenth Ceremony.
Juneteenth Celebration at Claude Moore Park, Sterling, VA on Saturday, June 19th beginning at 11 am with a car caravan from Belmont Country Club to Claude Moore Park. Activities begin at noon at Claude Moore Park with the traditional flag raising ceremony by the legendary Buffalo Soldiers.
As Covid-19 restrictions are lifted and the region continues to reopen, transit is moving toward full service. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority expanded late-night bus services for 36 of its busiest routes on June 6th. The WMATA will further be increasing late-night rail routes in July and improving both bus and rail services in the Fall. Click here for more information.
The Department of Rail and Public Transportation is attempting to improve transit in urban areas and reduce barriers of access to lower income individuals. Public comment is available on their plan until June 18th.
In the News
Your donation will go towards feeding food insecure families, buying school supplies for children that do not have them, helping students with social and emotional wellness, and providing connectivity for students that do not have access to the internet. The Loudoun Education Foundation (LEF) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation that supports Loudoun County Public Schools’ mission to empower all students to make meaningful contributions to the world.
Donate here to support the Foundation for FCPS. Programs include Kids in Need, teacher grants, Michael J. Marshall Fund for Music Education, Access for All and more. With your help, FCPS has provided internet connectivity, laptops, school supplies, grocery gift cards, adult meals at our grab and go site, and other basic needs to students, so they can continue to be connected to their classrooms and learning environments.
Saturdays, year round, 8 am- noon (May – Oct), 9 am – noon (Nov – April)/Leesburg Farmer’s Market, located at the Virginia Village Shopping Center, 30 Catoctin Circle, SE, in Leesburg.
Sundays, April - December 2021, 9 am - 1 pm/Cascades Farmer’s Market, located at 21060 Whitfield Drive (Parking lot of the Senior Center) in Sterling, VA.
Thursdays, April 22 - November 4, 8 am - 12:30 pm/Farmer’s Market in Old Town Herndon By the Red Caboose.. See here for information on all of Fairfax County Farmer’s Markets.
Starting July 7/Fairfax County Summer Entertainment Series
Thursday, June 17 at 11 am/webinar discussion with Ms. Opal that centers the history of Juneteenth in her life and focuses on her personal journey to establish Juneteenth as a national holiday. Ms. Opal will be joined by Harvard University professors Evelynn Hammonds and Annette Gordon-Reed; Gordon-Reed is also the author of the new book, On Juneteenth.
We welcome notices about events that are free or very low cost.
Keep in Touch
I am back in District 33. My team includes my Chief of Staff Karen Harrison, and aides, Kathy Shupe, Alec Fischbein, Lucy Greenman, Claire Ross and intern Mary Decker. For constituent services, appointments by telephone, and to schedule meetings with your community group, please call (703) 437-0086 or email email@example.com. Friend me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.