General Assembly Heads into Special Session on ARPA funding
August 2, 2021
August 2, 2021
On Monday, the Virginia General Assembly gaveled into what will be the second special session of the year. This special session will focus on the allocation of 4.3 billion in American Rescue Funds and fill judicial vacancies.
President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 into law in March, directing $350 billion in economic recovery funding for state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments.
The special session budget bill, HB 7001/SB 7001, was prefiled on July 30, 2021, to allocate American Rescue Plan funds. The budget package contained in HB 7001 is limited to appropriating only federal COVID-Relief Funds made available through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and includes proposed allocation of just more than $3.1 billion of the $4.3 billion ARPA State and Local Fiscal Relief Funds. No General Funds are included in the budget proposal.
After several minutes of debate on the inability of members to offer amendments to the budget bill, the Senate Finance committee voted 14-2, and the House Appropriations Committee voted 18-2 with 1 abstention to advance the budget proposal. The budget package includes many of the priorities advocated in the Fund Our Schools Coalition memo sent to lawmakers earlier in July. Some of the budgeted items include:
The budget package also includes policy language to continue Virginia’s current rent relief policy by requiring a tenant or landlord to apply for rental assistance prior to proceeding with an eviction for non-payment of rent.
There is a very important item that the General Assembly has failed to address and consider as a part of the allocation of American Rescue Plan funds. Many of our school employees, primarily school bus drivers, that applied, in good faith, to receive unemployment benefits during the pandemic due to lose of summer employment, are now being asked to repay the benefits received through the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.
Now, many of them are receiving letters from the Virginia Employment Commission stating that they weren’t entitled to the benefits and demanding that they pay the money back.
This is an enormous injustice to some very dedicated school employees. The VEA is asking that lawmakers support holding school employees harmless from repayment and advocate for a complete waiver of repayment. It’s clearly the right thing to do.
Please take a moment to support our education support professionals and urge lawmakers to incorporate more one-time ARP funds to remedy this issue. Take Action Here.